Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow's new book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, chronicles their decade-long friendship and reminds readers why BFFs are important

By Morgan Smith
July 14, 2020 05:15 PM
Milan Zrnic

It's a strange time for friendships.

As much of the world swaps hugs for socially distant high-fives and contemplates bailing on Zoom happy hours, the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic begs the question: "How do you keep your friends through this?"

Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, hosts of the wildly popular Call Your Girlfriend podcast, have long-distance friendship down to a science.

The pair have run the fun podcast (along with friend and producer Gina Delvac) remotely for about six years now as Sow, 35, lives in New York and Friedman, 38, is in California.

In their new book, Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, Sow and Friedman tell the story of their decade-long friendship, sprinkling in anecdotes and social science encouraging readers to invest in "society's most under-appreciated relationship," as they would call it.

Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson

They also offer practical advice for how to stay connected to far-flung friends.

"Every time you have a thought in the back of your mind that reminds you of them or remember a joke that you two have together, make it a practice to communicate that to them," Friedman says. "It really makes a big difference in making you feel like you're in each other's lives in a daily way, rather than saving conversation up for that one Zoom call a month or whatever it may be."

Still, long-distance friendships take work. Writing the book took long phone calls and about "approximately one billion Google Docs," Sow tells PEOPLE. They also went on several writing retreat-style trips together, hashing out chapters in Vermont, New York, even Palm Desert.

"It was really fun," Friedman tells PEOPLE. "We have never been roommates but it was like part-time roommates for the year, getting to the grocery shop together, do laundry together and make meals together."

Sow adds: "We're a really good team in the grocery store, and those trips always made me feel like, 'Okay great, the book is going to be really hard, but the meals are going to be delicious.'"

Much of Big Friendship was inspired by honest, in-depth conversations between Friedman and Sow about things that have happened in their friendship, and reflecting on their own personal growth.

The pair met at a Gossip Girl watch party as twenty-somethings in Washington, D.C. and have weathered breakups, life-threatening health scares, career changes and more together.

Describe the Fauna

In Big Friendship Sow and Friedman also speak to the unique challenges that come with an interracial friendship — differences that people are grappling with — some for the first time — in the wake of George Floyd's death and subsequent protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

But Sow and Friedman acknowledge that the important time for conversations about race is every day.

"This moment might pass in the media but the fact that one of us is Black and the other is white in our friendship will never go away," Sow says.

She continues: "One of the reasons Ann and I were drawn to each other at the beginning of our friendship is because we are both women who believe in a world that is anti-racist, so we've been having these conversations for a while. But it also means more than just talking, and actually living out the values of people who believe we can't live in a world with racism."

Friedman adds: "If you are in ongoing friendships or relationships with people of different races, it's an ongoing conversation and work that requires different things from both people."

Checking in with friends is a good start.

"At the end of their lives, people are always trying to reconnect with long lost friends — nobody is sad about the job they never finished doing," Sow says. "I want people to feel that on a molecular level: it is really worth making friends and fighting to keep them in your life."