We’re getting ready for Somerville Reads 2013 – our next One City, One Book program, which will take place in the early Fall – and we need your input! Which of these books would you most like to read and discuss as a community? You can read about each book below, then vote for your pick at the bottom of this post.
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. It’s a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas. [publisher's description]
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
This is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Boo’s (The New Yorker) first book. She takes a look at the stark lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum across from Mumbai’s Sahar Airport, to reveal the wrenching inequality and urban poverty still endemic in India’s democracy. Using recorded and videotaped conversations, interviews, documents, and the assistance of interlocutors, Boo profiles the lives of some of the slum dwellers from November 2007 to March 2011. There is Abdul, a young adult scavenger with a profitable trade in recyclables. The one-legged Fatima’s home is divided from Abdul’s by merely a sheet. Readers follow the treacherous paths of these and other lives. A fateful chain of events leads to a criminal case against Abdul and his family. Boo presents glimpses of the corrupt police who feed on those without political power or education. She claims she witnessed most of the events described in the book. A tour de force, this book is powerful yet far from harrowing. Highly recommended. – Library Journal
The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken
The year is 1950, and in a small town on Cape Cod twenty-six-year-old librarian Peggy Cort feels like love and life have stood her up. Until the day James Carlson Sweatt–the “over-tall” eleven-year-old boy who’s talk of the town-walks into her library and changes her life forever. Two misfits whose lonely paths cross at the circulation desk, Peggy and James are odd candidates for friendship, but nevertheless they find their lives entwined in ways that neither one could have predicted. And as James grows–six foot five at age twelve, then seven feet, then eight–so does Peggy’s heart and their most singular romance. Named one of the 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta, Elizabeth McCracken is a writer of fabulous gifts. The Giant’s House, her first novel, is an unforgettably tender and quirky novel about the strength of choosing to love in a world that offers no promises, and no guarantees. [publisher's description]
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The first immortal human cells, code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, growing with mythological intensity. Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta’s family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. – Booklist
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
In his most compelling chronicle to date, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner
Tracy Kidder investigates a far harsher world in the company of Paul Farmer, a radical
public health reformer devoted to providing medical care to the poor, mainly in Haiti. A
Harvard-educated medical anthropologist, TB expert, and MacArthur genius gifted with an unshakable moral imperative, an ardent imagination, and limitless energy, compassion, and chutzpah, Farmer created Partners in Health, a renegade yet hugely influential organization. A powerful presence, this uncompromising visionary is too spectacularly impressive not to be disconcerting, and Kidder shares his puzzlement over and occasional discomfort with this charismatic and tirelessly giving man who eschews personal comfort to care for the underdogs of the underdogs. As Kidder accompanies Farmer on his exhausting and risky daily routines and epic travels, he parses the cruel realities of deep poverty and the maddening politics of international health care. Most importantly, Kidder portrays a genuinely inspired and heroic individual, whose quest for justice will make every reader examine her or his life in a new light. – Booklist
Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by
encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss the same book.
As usual, there’s a lot going on at the Library and all over the City this weekend!
* Saturday at the Central Library from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., we invite you to join us for the Somerville Reads Potluck Celebration featuring great food, prizes, and music by the Michael J. Epstein Library. This is part of the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Initiative – you can read about related events happening around the City here.
* Sunday at the Walnut Street Community Garden at 1:00 p.m., Cathy Piantigini and Jim Boyd host an all-ages discussion of Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks. Full information can be found here.
* Also on Sunday, at the Central Library at 2:00 p.m., Paul and Rachel Revere will ride again, in a performance by Lee Riethmiller and Jessa Piaia. More information on this program can be found here.
Will the weather cooperate? We don’t know, but either way, it’s SPRING!!! and that in itself is something to be glad about. Here’s a spring song to get you in the mood:
This Saturday, April 21! Join us as Somerville celebrates its third “one city, one book” campaign, Somerville Reads 2012, a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. This year’s theme is food—local, sustainable, and delicious! We’ve chosen two books for discussion: Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. Copies of both books are available for check out at all Somerville Public Library locations.
As part of our Somerville Reads programming, the library hosted an Open Mic Storytelling event on Wednesday.
It was a great event, hosted by Tom Champion, also known as the “Voice of Somerville.” The stories covered a lot of ground and used different mediums for sharing. For more information about the event look at the Somerville Reads Blog.
The Somerville Public Library and the Somerville Reads team are pleased to introduce guest blogger Sarah Wolf. Sarah is a library volunteer who attended last Thursday night’s book discussion of Farm City, led by Jessie Banhazl. Many thanks to all who attended and especially Jessie and Sarah. Read Sarah’s post on the Somerville Reads Blog here.
Farm City may be described as a memoir about urban farming, city dwelling, urban plight, at-risk populations, food and nutrition, land rights, social justice, or adulthood and identity formation. These important issues could and should be discussed at length (the author gently raised questions on these issues through her self-exploration and experience). The sense of beauty and enjoyment that I derived from this good read, however, came from the quirky people who lived in or were somehow touched by GhostTown.
The narrator Novella herself, ardently claims she is not a hippie like her parents who lived off the land in Idaho, but she does follow some of her parents actions, such as tilling the land and raising, killing, and eating animals. She feels compassion for her neighbors and farm animals yet kills slugs and an opossum with angry zeal. And Novella and her auto-mechanic love, Bill, dumpster dive to feed their farm animals. Along the way they run into other dumpster divers and Novella forms a friendship with chefs and foodies who are passionate about making pickles and prosciutto. Other characters with quirk include Bobby, who lives on the street with his large collection of found cars and other stuff (until his stuff gets removed by law enforcement) and Lana, a vegetarian who runs a speakeasy in her warehouse.
For me, the characters with their unique personalities, passions, and idiosyncrasies, made Farm City come to life. They waved their freak flags by simply being who they are. I found them inspiring, indeed.
Somerville Reads 2012, our third annual community reads program, is coming this spring! The theme is food, and we’re asking for your help with two things: recipes and stories.
We will compile a community cookbook so we all can share some of our favorite dishes with our neighbors. A few ideas for recipes you might like to submit include: cooking for a crowd; kid favorites; local roots/ingredients; or family heritage. We’re going to print copies and sell them at our kickoff event, which will be a potluck meal. We hope that people will bring lots of the dishes featured in the cookbook. Proceeds from the sale of the books will go toward future programming at the Libraries.
Here are three ways to submit your recipe:
drop it off at any Somerville Public Library location, care of Ellen Jacobs or
e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or
mail it to:
Somerville Public Library
79 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA 02143
Attention: Ellen Jacobs
We don’t know if we’ll be able to print all of the recipes – it depends on how many submissions we get and whether there are duplicates – but we’ll use as many as we can. If you didn’t invent the recipe yourself, please make sure that you include credit where it’s due (ie: “found this recipe in my mother’s old Fanny Farmer” or “clipped this out of the Globe Sunday magazine years ago”.) The deadline for submissions is March 1st – we hope you’ll send an idea for something yummy our way!
We’re also asking you to share your stories. We’re planning an open-mike night for people to tell food-themed stories 5 to 10 minutes long. Do you have a good one – maybe a personal experience of trying an exotic dish in a foreign land, a reminiscence of learning to make a family favorite with a grandparent, or a familiar folktale you’ve always loved? Come tell the tale, and hear others tell their stories too!
More details about the kickoff, open-mike night, and other Somerville Reads programs will be coming soon.
We’re getting ready for Somerville Reads 2012 and we need your input! This time, instead of choosing just one book, we’ve decided to offer a choice of readings and programs on a single theme. Which of these topics would you most like to read about, learn about, and discuss as a community?
Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same topic.
Tomorrow is the kickoff event for this year’s Somerville Reads. It starts at 2 pm at the East Branch (115 Broadway). There will be Nepali dancing, Bollywood music, opportunities to get a henna tattoo and help make an immigration quilt. We hope you can join us!
The kickoff for Somerville Reads is this Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the East Branch Library. There will be lots to see and do – a dance performance, henna art, music, yummy food – but one of the things we’re most excited about is the communal art project we have planned.
We’re going to work together to create a paper immigration “quilt” that will tell the stories of the people who make up our City. Everyone is invited to make a square – or more than one – to add to the quilt. Above are a few examples to inspire you. The one on the right represents the Ganguli family, the protagonists of this year’s Somerville Reads book, The Namesake. The one on the left shows some of my own ancestors. We’ll supply all of the materials you need, but if you’d like to include personal items – photos, maps, documents – please bring them along. Make sure the things you use are copies (we have a copy machine at the East Branch if you need it) because we won’t be able to return them. They’ll become part of the quilt which will be displayed at all Library locations over the coming weeks.
We hope you’ll add your own family’s immigrant story to the quilt – the more the better! I can’t wait to see how it turns out!