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Posts Tagged ‘Dartmouth College’

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Both of the Lisa’s found their ways to wonderful memoirs over our “Gone Reading” hiatus. One is about hunger, the other about being hungry for Vermont. Happy reading and welcome autumn!

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FC9780062362599.jpgHunger by Roxane Gay (2017) – I don’t think I have ever read such a well-written, honest, and brutal account of sexual assault and its aftermath. This sounds like a horrific reason to pick up a book; and, it is horrid to think that the author endured a brutal and life-altering assault at age 12. Her analysis of her life after assault, as a morbidly obese woman in a society that abhors fat people, is brutal and punctuated with self-loathing. That said, her story and Ms. Gay’s candid insight offer much more than horror; this memoir is also filled with hope, self love, professional accomplishments, friendships, mistakes, social commentary, and always, always her body and her relationship with it. If you have ever tried to explain your relationship with your own body, Ms. Gay will help. If you have never understood this relationship, Ms. Gay will help. If you want to better understand how people who are obese often feel, Ms. Gay offers this gift to you. If you have a complicated relationship with your body, Ms. Gay shows you are not alone. If you just want to spend some time with a talented writer of insight, Ms. Gay’s Hunger is your chance. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781681370743.jpgThe Farm In The Green Mountains by Alice Herndan-Zuckmayer (2017) –  As an immigrant to Vermont myself, I immediately fell in love with this sliver of a memoir. Written originally as a series of letters in the 1940’s to her husband’s parents back in Europe, Herdan-Zuckmayer chronicles the five years her family spent on “Backwoods Farm” in Barnard, Vermont. She and her husband,  both intellectuals in Germany,  were exiled by the Nazis to America due to their political views. This book was a best seller in Germany after World War II and a new edition has bee published this year by The New York Review of Books. Herdan-Zuckermayer’s writing style feels like a cheerful, warm embrace and her insights into American culture are poignant. I appreciated reading  about big snows, little general stores, shared telephone party lines, raising depressed ducks, and the family’s first American Christmas.  Not to be missed are her descriptions of Dartmouth’s Baker Library (and American libraries in general) and the many pilgrimages she made there during her time in America. Alice and her husband both felt they had found a true home in this remote corner of the world, and it truly comes across in this charming account of their life in the Green Mountains. ~ Lisa Cadow

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PS — Happy Anniversary to Lisa and Ken!

 

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This week’s “3 Questions” features Alexander Chee, a writer, poet, journalist, and reviewer. Both his latest book, The Queen of the Night and his Edinburgh have been bestsellers.  The Queen of the Night was a NYT Book Review Editor’s Choice and named a Best Book of the Year by NPRThe Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Chee is an Associate Professor at Dartmouth College.
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Mr. Chee will appear on July 27 at the 1793 Meetinghouse in Canaan, N.H.’s Historic District as part of the The Meetinghouse Readings in Canaan. He will be accompanied by Major Jackson, a poet and professor of English at the University of Vermont in an event moderated by Phil Pochoda.

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The Canaan readings are held at 7:30 pm on four Thursday evenings in July. These events are free and open to the public; no reservations needed. Please note that this event is not held at the Norwich Bookstore. For more information, visit meetinghouse.us or call the Canaan Town Library (603) 523-9650.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?
I think we have books we hoped influenced us. I don’t know if we get to know the ones that really did influence us. Plainwater, by Anne Carson, and in particular, her essay, “Kinds of Water,” was a book I read and re-read for a decade, as if it could be a whetstone. The intense compression of the voice, the angular qualities of it, the humor, the playfulness–all were, are, qualities I aspire to. The Evidence of Things Not Seen, by James Baldwin, also left a profound mark on my imagination. The way he uses a series of murders as a lens to look inside the way the country functions, this changed my sense of what was possible in writing. But when I think back to the book’s that gave me a sense of permission, David Leavitt’s Family Dancing, his debut story collection, and Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, in particular, both left me feeling as if someone had opened a door–the door to the road that led here.
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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?
David Wojnarowicz. I have a copy of his collection of essays, Close to the Knives, signed to me, and yet I have no memory of him directly. The younger me had the wisdom to get his signature on the book, but lacked the foresight to remember the day–he wasn’t as important to me until after I read the book, when he became, for a while, the single most important writer in my life. So, a coffee in order to rectify that, that is what I want most.
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3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
The Little Virtues, by Natalia Ginzburg, Logical Family, the new memoir from Armistead Maupin, and The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich.
NOTE: As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore or bookstore related venues. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.

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Today, we feature Noah Isenberg and his work We’ll Always Have Casablanca.

Mr. Isenberg is director of screen studies and professor of culture and media at The New School, the author of Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins, editor of Weimar Cinema, and the recipient of an NEH Public Scholar Award. He lives in Brooklyn, New York and will be in the Upper Valley for the summer teaching at Dartmouth College.

Mr. Isenberg will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 6 pm on Thursday, June 29th to discuss We’ll Always Have Casablanca. Please note that this event is a discussion circle, a more informal event than the store’s Wednesday evening speaker series. However, advance reservations are still recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

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Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which I first read as a teenager living in Stockholm, Sweden (it was part of the International Baccalaureate course in world literature), taught me the power of storytelling. Susan Sontag’s Under the Sign of Saturn introduced me to the exquisite craft of the essay and the central role of the critic in cultural, aesthetic, and political debates. And Franz Kafka’s The Trial for its ability to haunt, to transport, and to captivate the reader.

2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

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I’d like to have (had) coffee with Susan Sontag, to discuss with her the life she led during her years as a novelist, playwright, critic, and filmmaker. I’d want to know more about her teens in North Hollywood and about her college friendship, at Chicago, with filmmaker Mike Nichols, and about her extraordinary work as an essayist.

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

A Stricken Field Cover ImageSick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy Cover ImageMy Brilliant Friend, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence Cover ImageModernism in the Streets: A Life and Times in Essays Cover ImageMother's Tale Cover Image

Martha Gellhorn, A Stricken Field

Judd Apatow, Sick in the Head

Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend

Marshall Berman, Modernism in the Streets

Phillip Lopate, A Mother’s Tale

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This “3 Questions” features Jackson Wright Shultz author of Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities . Mr. Shultz has long been a mentor for youth with behavioral disorders and serves as the Education Director and an executive board member of the non-profit organization, TEACH Alliance. Originally from Washington State, Mr. Shultz recently completed his master’s degree at Dartmouth College and now teaches creative writing and composition at New England College, where he is working toward his doctorate in higher education administration.

Mr. Shultz will be visiting the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 20th to discuss his latest book, Trans/Portraits: Voices from TransgenderCommunities . In this work, Mr. Shultz gives voice to people who are often silenced as he records the stories of more than thirty Americans who identify as transgender. His subjects range in age from fifteen to seventy-two; come from twenty-five different states and a wide array of racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds; and identify across a vast spectrum of genders and sexualities.

The event with Mr. Shultz is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

2) What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

My favorite genre is historical fiction and I love books that eschew conventional writing expectations, so Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is one of my favorite examples of creative prose. Another favorite is Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. Not only do I relate to Feinberg’s protagonist more intensely than any other character I have ever come across, but the writing is enviably beautiful in its frank vulnerability. On the flip-side, I think it’s crucial to avoid taking oneself too seriously, so David Sedaris’ hilarious Me Talk Pretty One Day is a work I’ve read repetitively over the years.

2) What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Both as a writer and as an activist, Janet Mock’s work is critical in the ongoing push for transgender rights. Her book, Redefining Realness, is a poignant autobiography of transition and transformation. I would dearly love to discuss the politics of gender liberation with her over a macchiato.

3) What books are currently on your bedside table?

The number of books I have in my to-read queue roughly equates to the size of the Library of Congress. As I pluck away at my doctoral dissertation (in education), I am currently reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The next in my line-up is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, about which I have heard nothing but praise. And, for a considerably lighter read, I await the opportunity to finish S. Bear Bergman’s Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter.

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In Vermont, the beginning of March means town meeting day, and because we live near Dartmouth College it also heralds the birthday of one of the college’s most famous students and benefactors, Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss).  But in addition to our valley community, millions of people across the country also celebrate his books and birthday in early March as part of the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.

To honor the child in all of us, the ever-growing world of picture books, and as a shout out to one of the fathers of the genre on his special day, we’ve selected a few of our favorites from the crop of new picture books to share with you.  (Thank you Susan Voake, retired children’s librarian extraordinaire for getting us started in our selection.) Even if you don’t have kids – or if  you do and they are beyond picture books – you may have nieces and nephews in this age set, christenings to attend, or perhaps you just might want to make a spontaneous gift to your local public library, children’s hospital, and/or homeless shelter.

And because we couldn’t resist sharing something for our always hungry adult readers, a new book, an international best seller The Dinner by Herman Koch, is also reviewed below.

A Hen for Izzy Pippik by Aubrey Davis and Marie LaFrance (March 2012)- An old-fashioned fable, based upon Jewish and Islamic folklore.  We interpreted this story as a tale about being rewarded for doing the right thing even when the world is pressuring you to act differently.  You may have other interpretations.  Since the setting is a village facing hard economic times, many of the villagers’ arguments and situations might ring true for many readers.

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp !Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis and Paul Rogers (Oct. 2012) – The music of everyday items truly sings on every page in this funly (Yes, we are also making up words in honor of Dr. Seuss with this post.) illustrated book.

Oliver by Birgitta Sit (Oct. 2012) – This almost sparsely illustrated book shows you a boy who is a little bit different and slightly lonely.  Along the way you see his adventures, and his discovery that he is pretty OK.  And then, you smile as he embarks on the greatest adventure of all – friendship.

Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein (Sept. 2012) – A gorgeously illustrated book shows the power of a smile to charm.  It also demonstrates in a silly manner how interconnected the world is today.

Grumpy Goat by Brett Helquist (Jan. 2013) – Yes, this goat is cranky, he’s hungry, and he’s never had a friend.  But, humorous illustrations show the power of positive thinking when growing something and making friends.

Now one pick for grown-ups.  At first, this may seem a bizarre fit in a post crafted as a tribute to a man who wrote books for children. However, we believe Geisel, who created biting cartoons for Dartmouth’s humor magazine Jack-O-Lantern and during his early career, would have appreciated the darkly satirical writing in this riveting book.

 The Dinner by Herman Koch (2012) – This page-turner kept me up all night as I raced to finish it.  Now, it will probably keep me up for many nights going forward as I think about the very disturbing traits and situations this plot unearths.  Amidst the dark, dark satire are very uncomfortable truths; it is these and to be honest – the entire premise  – that left me slightly reeling when I finished. (Of course I could be reeling from the lack of sleep reading this caused.)  The book’s plot poses the question – how far would you go for your family?, as it eavesdrops on a dinner between two couples in a trendy Amsterdam restaurant.  As their conversations turn from the mundane – what to order, to the ultimate situation that brought them together, you really do feel like a fly on a wall watching a disaster in the making.  I can’t say any more because revealing any plot items would be unfair to any future readers.  But note, this would be a GREAT book club book because you are going to need to talk with someone about it.  Plus, it is a very quick read – a bonus when cramming for book club discussions. ~ Lisa Christie

And one last thing, happy first day in her new job to Lisa Cadow.  She is turning her many talents to coaching people in an exciting new health care model.  Don’t worry, she will still review books and be the co-blogger for the Book Jam, she has just added a new aspect to her professional career starting today. So, please join me in wishing her well in her new endeavor. This new job seems especially appropriate in a post honoring a literary “Dr.”  ~ Lisa Christie

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We are thrilled to welcome professor, writer, and Norwich resident Chris Trimble  to The Book Jam. He will be discussing his latest book, Reverse Innovationwith co-author Vijay Govindarajan at a reception being held at the Norwich Bookstore

on Thursday, April 12th from 7 to 8 pm. This is an exciting work that focuses on the increasing number of innovations emerging from the developing world and how it will be these leading edge ideas that lead the way in the next phase of globalization. During the gathering the authors will hold a brief discussion of their findings, take questions from the audience, and then enjoy wine and appetizers with attendees as they celebrate the publication of their latest release from Harvard Business School Press.  Unlike most Norwich Bookstore events, this reception does not require a reservation.

1. What three books have shaped you into the author you are today, and why?

Michael Lewis, The Big ShortPaul Krugman, Peddling Prosperity; and James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science. I could have picked several other books by any of these three authors.  All have a gift that I aspire to: the ability to tackle complex subjects in business, economics, science, and technology in a way that is a joy to read, both because the ideas are presented elegantly and because the ideas are delivered through compelling narrative.

2What author, living or dead, would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Natalie Angier (Pulitzer Prize Winning science writer for the New York Times). Outstanding science writer whose quirky observations and gift with language would almost certainly mean a darned entertaining cup of coffee.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

I just finished Walter Isaacson’s autobiography of Steve Jobs. It’s a fabulous piece of work that is sure to be widely read and talked about in business circles. The only unintended consequence may be that a large number of readers may all-too-quickly conclude that what worked for Apple will work for them.

Point of disclosure, Professor Trimble is married to Lisa Christie of The Book Jam.

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A friend of ours recently announced that his family is moving to South Africa as part of his new job as COO of  Grassroot Soccer – a Norwich based organization that uses soccer to promote HIV/AIDS education in Africa, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.  His mother-in-law asked us for great reads that would tell her more about the African countries where Grassroot Soccer (GRS) works. (We are guessing she is already planning a trip to see her grandchildren.)

We thought this offered The Book Jam a great opportunity to talk about exceptional books about Africa and to mention the important work of GRS.  Unfortunately, there is simply too much information for one post.  So we’ve split it into two.  Part Two will take a closer look at AIDS and its impact through the lens of literature, and have more information about the work of GRS.  It will post in May to coincide with the publication of John Irving’s new novel – In One Person – which while about a lot is at some level about the impact of AIDS on 1980s America.

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Until then, Part One — sixteen books (the number is an homage to March Madness we suppose) we can recommend that deal with the African continent in some form or fashion.  The first four have our usual review length, the rest are a list for those of you looking for more titles.

Kenya: West with the Night (1942, 1983) by Beryl Markham. This incredible book shows how an amazing woman lived, rode, flew, loved and laughed in Africa in the early part of the 20th century.  This book may start out in Kenya, telling of Markham’s first passion (horses) but it then lifts the reader up, up, away, and into Northern Africa as Markham prepares to fly to Britain, and then finally to set records crossing the Atlantic solo. A fantastic piece of literature. As Hemingway said of Markham, she “can write rings around the rest of us who consider ourselves writers…it really is a bloody wonderful book.” A GREAT read and a superb book club book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Kenya, Zimbabwe (and the former Rhodesia),and Zambia: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (2011) and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight  by Alexandra Fuller (2003). Alexandra Fuller is simply one of the best memoir writers around. The stories of her British/Scotch family’s life in Africa are so outlandish, funny, and tragic that they could only be true. But it takes a writer of tremendous talent to bring the damaged characters, the exotic landscape, and the complex, violent history of so many countries  so fully to life. “Cocktail Hour” is Fuller’s love letter to her heroic, larger than life mother who after living in, farming in, and losing so much in Africa for all of her adult life is still there, still loving the continent, and finishing out her final expatriate days on a thriving fish farm. “Don’t Let’s Go“, Fuller’s earlier book about growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s will take your breath away and make you marvel at the resilience and adventurous spirit of this very special family.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow for the 2003 book. Only Lisa Cadow has read the 2011 book

Rwanda: Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (2012) – For me, this author’s amazing gift is that she makes a book about a country torn apart from genocide somehow hopeful, without flinching from the awful truths contained in Rwanda and in the world’s lack of response to the horrors there.  My theory of how she manages this is that you care for her hero, Jean Patrick, the Tutsi boy who anchors this narrative and his dream to run in the Olympics. And you care for all the unique characters he encounters while maturing from boy to young man, especially his girlfriend Bea and his room mate Daniel.  The story effectively illustrates the strong ties of family and friendship, and the love that can overcome hatred even as all hell breaks loose – even if ultimately, that love can not save everyone.  Since it is the second of the two winners of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction that I have truly enjoyed, I vow to add the annual winners to my annual reading lists. ~ Lisa Christie

Kenya: Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood by Elspeth Huxley (1959, 2000) This is a classic in the genre of white women with African childhoods, right up there with West With the Night and Out of Africa. I had never heard of it (really!) – surprising given that I’m a huge fan of this kind of literature – and, even though it is told from the perspective of a very young Elspeth, it was a joy to come to this tale in my 40’s. Elspeth’s voice is clear, amusing, innocent, and yet also somehow wise. She tells of her family’s moving to a remote area of Kenya to grow coffee in 1912 when she was just 5 years old. There are stories of snakes, the travails of building shelter in such a foreign land, and of her family’s encounters with the Masai, the Kikuyus, plus the various European and British “tribes” (the Scots, the Dutch) that struggled to settle in this unforgiving and forever challenging environment  ~ Lisa Cadow

BRIEFLY, More Titles to Enjoy

Bostwana: Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith. You will fall in love with Mma Ramatswe’s common sense approach to life and to solving mysteries in an everyday Botswana setting.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Kenya: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (1927) – Yes, Meryl Streep comes to mind, but this is a powerful piece of literature set in colonial Kenya even without an academy award-winning movie.  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

NigeriaTiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson (2011) and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (2010) – One, a coming of age novel that examines the complex political and economic problems of oil-rich Niger and another that (often humorously) explores the complexities of polygamy. Please refer to our October 11, 2011 blog for a more detailed review. ~ Lisa Cadow

South Africa: Books by Booker and Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer, including July’s People (1982) or The Pickup (2001). Insight into Apartheid and often erroneous expectations and misunderstandings among blacks and whites. ~ Lisa Christie

Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2012) -Two forms – one for kids and one for adults – of the remarkable story of William Kamkwamba, a boy from Malawi who dreamed of building a windmill to help his country. ~ Lisa Christie

Ethiopia: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Gorgeous gorgeous writing and a story that spans years and continents.  Truly memorable.

For teens

South Africa: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – A powerful (pun intended) tale of what one person can do in their own life to affect injustices. Last read years ago with young teens who loved it and the movie it inspired. ~ Lisa Christie

Two More for Kids

Malawi: Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg (June 2012) – Clare is recovering (as much as one can) from her mother’s death when her father relocates them from Boston to Malawi. This kids’ book illustrates the power of friendship and cultural exchanges. ~ Lisa Christie

African continent: The Boy Who Biked the World: On the Road to Africa by Alastair Humphreys (2011) – The journal entries with drawings and “actual handwriting” in this are clever, and the moral that with hard work and enduring some tough situations you can reach your dreams is important.  ~ Lisa Christie

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