In 1968, SE Library's Architect, Romaldo Giurgola, Proposed a Building with a Lower-level Children's Room Overlooking a Sunken Courtyard; an Entrance on Tremont Street; and Two Large Reading Rooms

Dan Kelley, principal in MGA Partners, the Philadelphia architectural firm that succeeded the award-winning Mitchell/Giurgola firm when they moved to Australia. Kelley gave a presentation at the South End library on March 12 about the architectural history of the South End branch.

Dan Kelley, principal in MGA Partners, the Philadelphia architectural firm that succeeded the award-winning Mitchell/Giurgola firm when they moved to Australia. Kelley gave a presentation at the South End library on March 12 about the architectural history of the South End branch.

An early proposal by Romaldo Giurgola for a sunken courtyard next to the South End library, with a dug-out lower level

An early proposal by Romaldo Giurgola for a sunken courtyard next to the South End library, with a dug-out lower level

Some of the surprising details that came out during a captivating talk and PowerPoint presentation on March 12 about the architectural history of the South End library: Now located on West Newton Street’s corner, the building could have been sited on the Rutland Square side; the library entrance might have been on Tremont Street; the proposed design included a lower-level Children’s Room (now the basement) that overlooked a sunken courtyard; and there could have been two large reading rooms instead of the one cramped space the library offers today. What might have forced the decision to go for the current, arguably lesser, design? The 1960s budget, for one, suggested architect Dan Kelley in his presentation called Beyond City Hall. It was a grand total of $225,000.

A view from the interior of the library onto a proposed sunken courtyard

A view from the interior of the library onto a proposed sunken courtyard

Kelley, a principal in MGA Partners, who worked closely with Romaldo Giurgola, the library’s architect, traveled to the South End from Philadelphia at the invitation of FOSEL’s advisor (and assistant professor of architecture at Northeastern) Michelle Laboy. Kelley’s talk focused on the genesis of the library’s architecture and the Philadelphia School, based on research he did in the Giurgola archives at the University of Pennsylvania. The award-winning architectural firm of Mitchell/Giurgola, which in the 1980s built the Parliament Building in Canberra, Australia, was part of a group of architects of he 1960s and 1970s that helped rebuild the city of Philadelphia. .

The 1962 Mitchell/Giurgola proposal for a new Boston City Hall. It came in second.

The 1962 Mitchell/Giurgola proposal for a new Boston City Hall. It came in second.

How Giurgola got the assignment for the South End library is a matter of some speculation, said Kelley. Giurgola, who was awarded the AIA Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects in 1982, came in second in the competition to design a new Boston City Hall in 1962. Some think that the South End library assignment a few years later was the consolation prize. Progressive Architecture magazine wrote in 1963 that the Giurgola proposal should have won the City Hall competition as it succeeded better than the winner in proposing a design that was “an intimate part of the restructurization of the area, and not an isolated monument.”

Early designs for the branch showed the building on different sides of the lot on Tremont Street

Early designs for the branch showed the building on different sides of the lot on Tremont Street

In his talk, Kelley compared Boston and Philadelphia as two cities dating from America’s Revolutionary era that were similar in their once-upon-a-time history of wealth and glory followed by urban decline during the 1950s and 1960s. The Philadelphia School architects were recruited by George Holmes Perkins, dean of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. They were assisted in the realization of their so-called Post-Modern approach to urban architecture by Edmund Bacon, Philadelphia’s city planner, who wanted to rebuild the city in a progressive way. That meant, among other things, to take into account the context, surroundings and social needs of where the buildings were located, as if they were “a fragment” of a larger whole, rather than an isolated structure imposed on an urban environment, explained Kelley.

The final design for the South End library, approved in 1970; it opened in 1971.

The final design for the South End library, approved in 1970; it opened in 1971.

The tight budget for the construction of the South End library probably reduced the chances for the more attractive but expensive options of the sunken courtyard and the two large reading rooms on top of a dug-out lower level. Deficient site preparation led to the collapse of a trellis that surrounded the green space in the final design, making it unstable within a short period of time. An abutter to the library attending the presentation reported that refrigerators and other debris were thrown “down there.” In the 1990s the green space was replaced with a park surrounded by an iron fence, which is still there, today. 

Romaldo Giurgola (L) walking past the South End library’s construction site

Romaldo Giurgola (L) walking past the South End library’s construction site

The presentation was well attended by a number of local architects, as well as David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library. Leonard commented that three ideas struck him: First, the centrality of Library Park to the building’s design; second, the evolution of the library’s architecture and the possibility that the final version of the proposed designs was perhaps not the stronger one and, finally, the question of how the form that suited the function of the library then, is different from what would be the case today, now that libraries have changed so dramatically in how they provide services to library users. Other architects in the audience also expressed interest in Giurgola’s initial designs for the library, especially the ones that included the sunken courtyard, lower level windows overlooking green space, and a library entrance on Tremont Street.

The South End branch of the Boston Public Library is on track for a major renovation and expansion in the next five years, which will begin with a $100,000 Programming Study sometime after July 1, so the history of its current design comes at an appropriate time. In the immediate future, the library will receive a so-called “refresh,” with new carpeting, fresh paint, additional electrical outlets, a reconfiguration of the furniture and new seating arrangements paid for by FOSEL’s private fundraising last year.

Zeitgeist Stage's Director David Miller and Playwright Jacques Lamarre Take on Staging a Play about Mass Shootings from the Perspective of the Family's Shooter in "Trigger Warning"

How does a play go from the pages of a script to a full-blown performance on stage? Last February 26, award-winning director of the Zeitgeist Stage Company, David Miller, took a stab at answering that question. Seated in a semi-circle with Miller and playwright Jacques Lamarre, three actors cast in his play, Trigger Warning, read through scenes that took a look at how a mass shooting impacts one family, that of the shooter. Two of the actors were part of earlier Zeitgeist plays: Steve Auger in Vicuna; Kelley Estes in Far Away, Hiding Behind Comets, Cakewalk, and Tigers Be Still. For Liz Adams Trigger Warning will be her first Zeitgeist show.


Trigger Warning’s genesis was a Boston Foundation announcement that it wanted to award grants to the Boston theatre community for new work, explained Miller, who contacted playwright Lamarre to commission the play. Lamarre had just finished reading the memoir by Suzanne Klebold, mother of Columbine’s High School mass shooter, Dylan Klebold. Lamarre asked Klebold if he could adapt her memoir. She declined. Zeitgeist did not get a grant from the Boston Foundation, either. But the play will open on April 12 at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Lamarre lives in Hartford, CT, the town where Colt Manufacturing Company created the town’s gilded age by producing weapons for the Civil War and later, as Lamarre commented wryly, guns for the country itself, including mass shootings. He lives minutes from the site of the Hartford Distributors shooting where nine people were killed in 2010; Newington, where five Connecticut Lottery employees were murdered in 1998; and one hour from Newtown, CT,  the site of the Sandy School Elementary School shooting of 20 students and six teachers by Adam Lanza, who also killed his mother earlier that same day at the home they shared.

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To demonstrate a play’s evolution, the three actors read from two scenes, the first followed by a discussion with the library audience about the main subject of the play, the role of guns in the American family and its consequences. In the scene, the parents of the shooter, Travis, who has fatally shot a number of people, injured his 16-year-old sister and killed himself, are alone for the first time at the home where the shooting took place. The father, a contractor, is a gun owner whose guns, though locked away, had been used by his son for the mass shooting. The injured daughter had left her parents’ house to live with her aunt.  The parents bantered back-and-forth in a manner that at some level felt surprisingly normal, the way any couple will go back and forth, but with comments and questions that alluded to the devastating turn their lives had taken and to their having entered the unknown territory of being shunned by their community, the fictional town of Plainville.

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“What’s going to happen to us,” they asked each other, and “I lost two clients today” and “should we sell the house?”  and “did you love Travis?” and the answer: “Yes, but I wish he’d never been born.” Playwright Lamarre talked about the killers’ families, the other victims of shootings who generally are not acknowledged even though their lives, too, have been destroyed by the shooter.  They become families at war with themselves: What could they have done differently? The mother of Dylan Klebold, for example, went from a well-respected member of the community to someone who had to go into hiding to mourn the loss of her son who had killed the children of families in that same community. At some point, she had to acknowledge her son had become “a monster.” Likewise, the mother of Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook’s mass shooter, had lived in fear of her son. But the fictional parents of Travis in Trigger Warning had known something was wrong, and had taken Travis from therapist to therapist, without finding something that helped their son. No one had an answer. 

Director Miller, whose plays were nominated last month for nine Small-Stage awards by the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE), told the audience that Zeitgeist Stage always produced plays that reflect “the spirit of the times,” so mass shootings was a relevant subject. There had been numerous documentaries, and plays, but never from the perspective of the shooter, he said. The initial title, Thoughts and Prayers, as in the usual comments offered, was determined to be too passive. Trigger Warning is both a general warning for events that may trigger trauma but, in this case, the word “trigger” has a more appropriate duality, he said.

After the cast held a read-through of the play’s first draft in December, followed by an in-depth discussion with Lamarre, the playwright returned two weeks later with a revised draft. “It evolved organically,” he said. “You never see the shooter. He had added several characters who each represented another aspect of the story: A  minister, who asked the shooter’s mother not to come to church anymore to avoid upsetting the other parishioners; and a lawyer, to fend off the lawsuits by enraged parents.  The Klebolds were bankrupted by their son’s ass shooting at Columbine, as was their insurance company. Scenes evolved further with the mother talking to the minister and the father to the lawyer, each describing from different points of view being cast out from the community they were a part of.  The daughter, living with the mother’s sister, moreover, attends a “Never Again” rally in town, multiplying the arguments for a law suit against the parents. 

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Lamarre said he wanted to capture the depth of the rejection by the community of the parents of the shooter: How can you go on when no one is on your side and there is no spiritual comfort or legal protection, and relentless media coverage turning the violence into entertainment? He noted that in Columbine, fourteen trees were planted to memorialize all the students killed, including the shooters, but those trees were cut down.

Director Miller said Zeitgeist Stage had once before staged a play about a school shooting, called Punk Rock. It was 2015 and the company was in rehearsal for it when the Marathon Bombings occurred. When the play went on stage, three weeks later, there were numerous discussions about mass shootings after the performance. “People felt they wanted and needed to talk about it,” Miller said. 

At the library’s Page to Stage discussion, several audience members brought up a 1,000-page book by Andrew Solomon, titled Far From the Tree. Miller and Lamarre had read it as part of the preparation for Trigger Warning as it deals with so-called expectations violation, when parents find themselves in a situation through their children that is not the norm. “No parent wants to be seen as a failure,” Lamarre said, but what do parents do when they experience expectation violation, whether through their children’s mental health issues, dwarfism, or mass shootings?

Trigger Warning will be performed at the Boston Center for the Arts from April 12 through May 4 and will be the last play of the last season of Zeitgeist Stage Company which has announced it will close. The staff and the cast will leave a big hole in the South End theatre community. Lamarre’s next play is an adaptation of Wally Lamb's holiday novella., called Within’ & Hopin.’

The Boston Center for Adult Education Is This Month's Local/Focus Subject in the Tremont Street Window, With a 30 Percent Discount Offered for New Registrations by South End Library Friends

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When the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) was established in 1933, our founder, Dorothy Hewitt, envisioned a place where people would meet to learn, discuss, and create for the sheer pleasure of it. More than 85 years later, the BCAE remains committed to enriching lives and creating community in a dynamic facility located at the heart of Boston. If you sign up before May 5 for first time registrations at the BCAE, you will receive a 30 percent discount. All you have to do is enter the code SELIBRARY at the checkout.

More than 10,000 students are served each year through 1,200+ exciting classes offered across a wide range of disciplines, including technology, languages, creative writing, arts, crafts, photography and food & wine. In addition, the BCAE regularly presents exhibits, lectures, and special events that draw new audiences and ensure our organization’s enduring relevance. The BCAE is proud of its successful track-record in providing opportunities for personal growth and professional development that are affordable and accessible so that everyone has the opportunity to expand their mind and explore their passion.

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 1.      fun and affordable classes in art, crafts, photography, food & wine, computers, writing, languages, and more

2.      smart and engaging instructors

 3.      a dynamic facility right in the neighborhood

 4.      unique experiences to share with friends

 5.      creative date night activities

 6.      thought-provoking lectures

7.      eye-opening exhibits

 8.      hands-on opportunities to create

 9.      new possibilities for recharging a career

 10.   an enthusiastic community of learners




Award Winning Books Display in the Library's Parkside Window Features the 2018 Edgar Awards Given by the Mystery Writers of America.

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The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, popularly known as the Edgars, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America. Since the 1950s, they’ve honored the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television. Past winners include leading authors  like Raymond Chandler, John Le Carre, Dick Francis, Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane and Stephen King. FOSEL’s second display of Award Winning Books in the library’s parkside window show the 2018 winners, also listed below.

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Edgar Allan Poe, for whom the award is named, was a writer, editor and literary critic best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. Poe has a local connection; he was born in Boston in 1809 near what is today the intersection of Boylston and Charles Streets. A statue of Poe is located at that corner.


 Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (novel)

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper (first novel)

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (paperback original)

Killers of the Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann (fact crime)

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson (critical/biographical)

Spring Break by John Crowley (short story)

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Vanished ! by James Ponti (juvenile, 7-12 years old)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (young adult)

Somebody to Love by Noah Hawley (episode in a TV series)

The Queen of Secrets by Lisa D. Gray (Robert L. Fish Memorial (Award for best first short story by an American writer)

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman (Mary Higgins Clark (Award for a suspense novel most closely written in the MHC tradition)

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Joan Diver, a Subject of J. Anthony Lukas's "Common Ground," and Author of "When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey," Finds a Spiritual Common Ground as a Faith Healer

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January 15 was an auspicious day for claiming to be “on common ground.” It was the day of a reading by a distinguished former South End resident, Joan Diver, who returned to her former neighborhood’s library to read from her debut memoir, When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey. January 15 also would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th birthday and, as Rev. Tim Crellin of St. Stephens Church who introduced the author pointed out, the towering figure in American civil rights history also claimed common ground, for humanity regardless of the color of their skin. And then there was the award-winning book by J. Anthony Lukas about the South End’s struggle with school integration and forced busing, titled Common Ground, in which the story of the Divers’ experience when they lived on West Newton Street in the 1970s was the title of its very first chapter.

Rev. Tim Crellin of St. Stephen’s Church introducing Joan Diver.

Rev. Tim Crellin of St. Stephen’s Church introducing Joan Diver.

Father Crellin captured the anticipation in the room where Joan Diver explained her quest for a spiritual life after devastating pain from an injured back forced her to seek relief in non-traditional venues and methods in cultural settings of both East and West. “Some of you may be joining us this evening because you know Joan from her days living just around the corner from where we are right now,” Rev. Crellin said, “or from her nearly two decades leading the Hyams Foundation, or from her leadership on boards like the Associated Grant Makers, the United Way and countless others. Perhaps you came because you know at least part of her story from reading Tony Lukas’ now classic book.  Or maybe you came out tonight because you’ve heard about Joan’s commitment to healing: physical, emotional, spiritual. Regardless of why you’re joining us tonight, you’re in for a treat.”

Joan Diver answering questions from an engaged audience about her spiritual voyage

Joan Diver answering questions from an engaged audience about her spiritual voyage

Diver, who with her husband Colin, had hoped to raise their two boys in the South End in the 1970s but was thwarted by the constant battle over street crime and school choice, said she will always be connected to the South End. Moving to Newton for a better schools for their sons was traumatic. They grieved over it and felt guilty for not staying to face the challenges of raising a family in the South End.  When Lukas sought them out to profile their experience, she was very reluctant at first but then relented. “Tony told our story, which was a healing experience for us,” adding, “I could never have written my story of healing without the Boston story.”

Longtime South End resident Ann Hershfang reconnecting with Colin Diver, who became Dean of the U. Penn. Law School after leaving the South End, and subsequently served as President of Reed College (OR)

Longtime South End resident Ann Hershfang reconnecting with Colin Diver, who became Dean of the U. Penn. Law School after leaving the South End, and subsequently served as President of Reed College (OR)

She fondly remembers the rich diversity of the South End, and then requested a few moments of silence. “I want to talk about why I left a job I loved to write my healing story,” she said. “It was both an adventure and a love story and a tale of discovery of universal love that connects us and is the ultimate common ground. The adventure took me from West Newton Street to Newton Corners, from convicts hanging out on our street corner to watching people led to their execution in China, from an operating room at Beth Israel to a healing room in Santa Fe. These were never planned events but ones that called on me.”

Her medical crisis led her to surgery, after which she experienced certain phenomena when back at home, like a blinding white light that came and went, and a growing psychic awareness of “some challenges that come from dimensions that we’re not familiar with”  as she put it, as well as a growing sense of the existence of “a universal consciousness.” A friend, a psychic, told her this was part of a re-balancing of physical, mental and psychological energy. Diver became convinced that turbulent times, in a personal and a broader sense, represented “a great breaking open,” something that is “coming up for its healing, like a boil.”

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On various trips she took after her surgery she became familiar with members of  healing communities with whom she was able to communicate in a spiritual understanding. She  experienced a crossing of boundaries into previous lives she may have lived, including ones where she had been raped and committed suicide. “I felt love and forgiveness after that,” she said, “like I had become a different person, one with more confidence.”  Lurching from painful medical crises to recovery and back again several times, Diver traveled a parallel path of the mind that led her to want to train as a healer, hoping to heal others who were in psychic and physical pain. She participated in healing initiations that took her to Egypt, India, China and Mount Sinai. She became convinced  that “we were all led in some way, in our mind or by something beyond our minds,” but kept wondering, “what was driving me?” 

 Diver began to connect a new-found spirituality to certain decisions she had made,  including of a medical procedure that she had suspected she did not need but left her in pain for nine months. She focused on whether there are “multiple messages” to help determine what one should do but concluded that “you need to open up to it.” 

Southenders standing in line to buy a copy of Joan Diver’s book and having her sign it…

Southenders standing in line to buy a copy of Joan Diver’s book and having her sign it…

Members of the audience asked her to expound on this, pointing out that some people may see signs that lead to good places and others to bad ones. “How do you know the difference?” Diver answered that “everyone has their own path but if each of us, and enough of us, open our hearts a whole population can shift. It’s a shift of consciousness.”

Diver described how a certain incident had caused her family to leave the South End: husband Colin had hit a burglar with a baseball bat, and became terrified he would hurt someone even worse in the future.  “But now you see it as a call,” someone asked her. “Whether we are led or called, we all have these signals,” she said. “Some see it, others don’t.”

For Joan Diver, the theme in her life is the common ground of a common consciousness.

The January Local/Focus Installation of Crime Fiction in the Tremont Street Window Features Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Novels by Local Writers or Tales Set In or Around Boston

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 FOSEL advisory board member, Nick Altschuller, has compiled a selection of mysteries, suspense novels and thrillers to get you through the dark season and into the light of spring. The  stories either take place in or around Boston or are written by people from the area. Here’s Nick’s take on it:

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 The mystery genre is impossible to pin down to just the usual suspects. Even the protagonists are slippery. Detectives can be a Holmesian men of society, dressed in tweed and smelling of fine tobacco. Or they can be the exemplars of noir: hardboiled, hard-drinking and reeking of unfiltered cigarettes. Spies can come besuited at a baccarat table or bespectacled behind a desk. Heroes don’t even have to be good; they can be decidedly “anti.”

 Even narrowing the scope to Boston doesn’t limit the genre’s breadth. The writers themselves come from all walks, as former prosecutors (Margaret Mclean, Raffi Yessayan), medical examiners (Patricia Cornwell) and cops or criminals (or in the case of David Marinick, people who were both). Their stories can be suspenseful and brutal, or cozy, focusing on housework, crochet or cats (Barbara Neely). 

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 The novels of Robert Parker and Tess Gerritsen have spawned television shows. The works of Dennis Lehane, Chuck Hogan and George Higgins are the basis of movies. Exhilarating tales can come in fiction (The Art Forger) and non-fiction (The Gardner Heist), even when taking place in the same peaceful setting, like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

 The genre has something for every reader. (You could say it has us all figure out.) With so much variety, the thrill lies in narrowing down which types of mysteries are for you. 



Foreign Affairs Journalist, Stephen Kinzer, Believes Ayanna Pressley and Her Freshman Colleagues Need to Try and Change U.S. Defense Priorities to Pay for the Domestic Programs They Champion

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Stephen Kinzer, a former bureau chief for the New York Times in the Middle East and current world affairs columnist for the Boston Globe, addressed a large audience at the South End library in December by saying he was “very impressed” with the new crop of Congressional representatives elected in 2018. A longtime critic of America’s interventionist foreign-policy, Kinzer’s talk focused on what would be a sensible US relationship with Iran and Syria. The concern he expressed, however, was that the new representatives are “too focused” on domestic issues and not enough on foreign policy. Taking as an example Ayanna Presley, the new congresswoman from the South End who defeated Michael Capuano, Kinzer said she “has not said a word” about the outside world.

“She defeated someone who did,” Kinzer added. “Her goals are domestic ones, free Medicare and so on. But the enormous outlays required for defense will be used to deny her the funding for the domestic programs she would like to see. We have to work on Ayanna Pressley to make sure she understands the linkage between domestic and foreign policies. Our job is to keep asking questions.” As a “refreshing example” of a new approach to world affairs Kinzer referred to Rashida Tlaib (D. -Michigan), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, who is not going to take the traditional freshman trip to Israel sponsored by AIPAC but instead hopes to take a trip to Palestine and highlight the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and provide an alternate perspective.

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Kinzer was introduced by the widely admired radio host of WBUR’s Open Source, Christopher Lydon, who also reported for the New York Times, before he started The Connection on WBUR in the 1990s. Lydon said that during the 2016 presidential campaign both he and Kinzer thought Hillary Clinton’s approach to foreign policy was “a problem” and that Trump at that time seemed to be sending a different signal, among other things, by calling the Iraq invasion, and Hillary’s support for it,  ‘catastrophic.’ “He doesn’t seem so bad,” Lydon recalled they thought.

“But now,” he asked, “should we repent?”

The background for the invasion of Iraq, which Kinzer and Lydon agreed was the worst policy decision by any American president ever, was the Carter Doctrine. Laid out in the 1970s by National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, it proclaimed that the US would use military force, if necessary, to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf. The 1978 revolution in Iran, which overthrew the US-backed Shah, and the 1979 hostage crisis is what set the stage for a hostile relationship with Iran, as far as the US is concerned. But says Kinzer, for the Iranians, it began much earlier, in 1953, when the US overthrew their democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the Shah of Iran. 

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Now, for the US, Iran is a red flag. “ They are considered the demons in the world. If a country is a friend of Iran, the US can lay waste to them,” said Kinzer. “The US is so deeply involved in Yemen because the Saudi and US justification is that there’s a group in Yemen that likes Iran.” Similarly, he said, negotiations sponsored by the United Nations under Kofi Annan and the Arab League to end the Syrian war early on didn’t proceed because Secretary Clinton would not sit down with Assad. There was little recognition that Iran supports Syria for fear that if it doesn’t, ISIS will take over Syria, remove Assad, kill his (Alawite) supporters, and Iran will next have a Sunni state on its border. “For Iran, there are two existential threats,” Kinzer explained. “Their environmental problems related to lack of water and droughts is one, and the Jihadists under ISIS is the other. This is why Iran would not allow for the destruction of Syria and Assad. We’re now six years into the Syrian war which might have been avoided.”

Kinzer’s position is that we should align ourselves with those countries whose goals are similar to ours. “Why are we in the Middle East at all, we should ask ourselves. Iranian society looks so much more like ours than Saudi society. We have similar goals: They hate ISIS and Al Queda even more than we do.” He suggested we need to “reassess our misunderstanding about Iran after two generations of misguided obsession.”  

Having taught journalism, political science, and international relations at Northwestern University and Boston University, Kinzer appreciates news sources that offer a broad and varied perspective on news. They include TomDispatch (for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of our post-9/11 world and a clear sense of how our imperial globe actually works); Lobelog (A Different Perspective on Foreign Policy): and Consortium News (An Investigative Journalism and Political Review Since 1995). “The lack of agility in American foreign policy is remarkable,” he commented. “The world has changed but our foreign policy goals have not. Iran is a big country in the middle of the Middle East: We can’t ignore it.” He acknowledged that there are terrible dictatorships in the Middle East but the US has not been able to make better countries out of any of them by being concerned about human rights.

In 2006 Kinzer published Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq  which describes the 14 times the United States has overthrown foreign governments, why these interventions were carried out and what their long-term effects have been. He has made several trips to Iran, and is the author of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Word has it, this book was part of John Kerry's library when he was Secretary of State under the Obama administration. It described, among other events,  how the CIA overthrew Iran's elected government in 1953.

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Kinzer, a South End resident, said that Congress appears to be waking up from its “Iran coma” and show the beginnings of a rebellion against our involvement in the Saudi war with Yemen, as a result of the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But, he warned, the US arms industry is very powerful and has Congress in its grip. “Not just the individual members of Congress are in their corner with contributions, but when Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors get a large contract, it is subbed out to many districts in the US and provides jobs,” Kinzer pointed out. “Cutting back on defense means loss of jobs and politically difficult decisions for politicians.”

Answering a question from the audience about how to make things better, Kinzer circled back to the newly elected members of Congress, including Ayanna Pressley. “We need to make sure that she will advance on her victory and articulate the foreign policy goals that she would pursue that would not be a waste of money. We have to build on their success by encouraging them to do so.”

Kinzer is a Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, where he teaches International and Public Affairs. “I love my students,” he said. He is currently working on a ne book that will be out in October. It is called, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb, MK-ULTRA, and the CIA Search for Mind Control, about the American chemist and spymaster who was involved in the CIA's assassination and mind control program, known as Project MKULTRA, in the 1950s and 1960s. Kinzer promised he would be back at the South End library to talk about it. Stay tuned…



Award-winning Books by Massachusetts Authors on Display in a New Project Sponsored by FOSEL Featuring the Best Authors and Illustrators Selected by Different Organizations in a Range of Subjects

The first display in the South End library’s Book Award window. FOSEL has ordered window banners for the project, which will be installed as soon as they come in.

The first display in the South End library’s Book Award window. FOSEL has ordered window banners for the project, which will be installed as soon as they come in.

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The Friends of the South End Library has initiated a new project to highlight award-winning books in the South End library’s park-side window to the left of the entrance. FOSEL board member Reinhold Mahler has worked closely with library volunteer, Jenni Watson, to install the first display, of the 2018 winners for books authored in 2017, selected by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Our goal is to connect local residents to a diverse group of organizations that recognize outstanding literary work in a broad variety of categories and..if inspired, to apply.

The Massachusetts Book Awards recognize significant works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s/young adult literature published by Massachusetts residents. They are sponsored by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and have been awarded since 2000. Winners are selected for originality, liveliness and engaging presentations, as well as for the quality of their publication. 

The winners of books (published in 2017) are: Mercury, by Margot Livesey (fiction); A World of Color: The World of John Singleton Copley, by Jane Kamensky (non-fiction); Vivas to Those Who Have Failed, by Martin Espada (poetry); and The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial, by Susan E. Goodman (children’s).

Any individual, organization or company can nominate a book for these awards. The deadline for the 2018 awards is December 31, 2018. Selections are made by a panel of judges from across Massachusetts. Prize-winning books are added to the Special Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts and promoted throughout the state. 

For more information visit or call 617 872-3718.


Delicious Platters of Food, Fabulous Jazz Music by the Pat Loomis Band & Trombonist Jeff Galindo, and a Crowd of Library Supporters Made the South End Library Holiday Party the Best Ever

FOSEL board members, library staff and volunteers dishing out delicious dinners for all

FOSEL board members, library staff and volunteers dishing out delicious dinners for all

Saxophonist Pat Loomis and Special Guest Jeff Galindo on trombone

Saxophonist Pat Loomis and Special Guest Jeff Galindo on trombone

Each year, the South End library’s holiday party gets bigger and better: time for a bigger library to accommodate it all. On December 18, a crowd of more than sixty people stood in line for a holiday dinner featuring platters of delicious food prepared by the chefs at the South End Food Emporium on Columbus Avenue, generously donated as their holiday gift to the South End library. In addition, library supporters, Friends of the Library’s board members and library staff brought cheese platters, scrumptious appetizers, (non-alcoholic) mulled wine, jambalaya, hot chocolate with all the trimmings and an outstanding selection of cakes and desserts.

Antonio Loomis, Pat Loomis and Colescott Rubin weaving great music into the holiday party’s cheer

Antonio Loomis, Pat Loomis and Colescott Rubin weaving great music into the holiday party’s cheer

That was only the beginning: Pat Loomis and his fabulous Band of Friends managed to book a star performer, top trombonist Jeff Galindo, who graduated from Berklee College of Music, and has played with the greats, including Chick Corea, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, the Village Vanguard Orchestra and the Boston Pops, among others. The Loomis band included Pat Loomis, alto and soprano sax; Antonio Loomis, guitar; Jim Dower, piano; Colescott Rubin, bass; and Benny Benson, drums. The music they played together was fantastic.

The concert between-the-book-stacks featured O Tannebaum, Jingle Bells, the Christmas Song, Winter Wonderland, Silver Bells, Christmas Time is Here and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. By eight o’clock, all the food had been consumed and the libations had been drunk, except for what had been put aside for the musicians by vigilant food servers who ant them to return next year...

Retired library staffer Deborah Madrey returned to see her friends and supporters

Retired library staffer Deborah Madrey returned to see her friends and supporters

Young and old enthralled by the musical performance

Young and old enthralled by the musical performance

Hot chocolate with all the trimmings for the children provided by library staff

Hot chocolate with all the trimmings for the children provided by library staff

Joan Wickersham, Prize-winning Author of "The Suicide Index" and "The News from Spain," Says "Bungling" When Writing is What Writing Is About for Her

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Joan Wickersham first visited the South End library in May of this year when she introduced Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Megan Marshall who presented her acclaimed biography of the poet Emily Dickenson. Wickersham, herself an award-winning author and op-ed writer for the Boston Globe, also covers architecture and was immediately taken by the Michell-Giurgola design of the South End branch. “I am so pleased to be back in this beautiful library,” she said when she returned on November 30 to talk about her own work. “And I love the idea of writers speaking in libraries. It is the ‘backstage’ part of the book.”

The author of a short-story collection, The News from Spain (2012), and a memoir, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order (2008), was introduced by novelist Sue Miller. She described the arc of Wickersham’s work as “going from strength to strength.”

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But Wickersham would not linger on the glory: “I want to talk about the bungling that happens,” she said. “There’s a lot of bungling in writing books. When I bungle, I feel lost and stupid. But that is what writing is for me: I have to be wrong before I get it right.” To illustrate, she described how long it took to write about her father’s suicide, first as a novel, which took eight years and, as she put it, “wasn’t very good,” and then by reducing the novel’s 400-some pages to about 70. “It felt liberating,” she recalled. The process to publication of the memoir took eleven years.

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She rewrote what remained not as a ‘genre’ but as an ‘index’ with fragmentary pieces and bits of stories about the suicide, in first-, second- and third-person narratives. Some of it was dark; some of it funny, but the process was deeply personal and took a long time. “Suicide interferes with memory,” she commented, “and that always had to be factored in.” When her mother died of natural causes, she knew the person who she was missing. “But missing my father had a mystery,” she explained. “The suicide was a major piece of information that interfered with my memory of him. So while I can remember writing about a good day we had, perhaps it was not a good day for him.” Some agents she showed the manuscript to loved the material and the voice, but not the organization. “The reader needs a safe place to stand,” she was told, which is how she came up with the idea of the Index. 

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The Suicide Index was chosen as one of the year's best books by the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and New York Magazine, among others. It was an ALA Notable Book. It won the Salon Book Award, the Ken Book Awards of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and was a finalist for the National Book Awards.

The News from Spain, begun during a MacDowell Fellowship, was an easier project. She wrote three of the stories in six weeks. A collection of 17 short stories, each with the same title, Wickershim said they described thwarted love stories about feelings no one wanted to talk about. “In a sense both my books presented formal structures for messy materials, like a corset,” she commented. She read selections from a few, one about a middle-aged couple about to get engaged but not feeling any passion, yet, not wanting to be alone. The collection was named one of the year's best books by Kirkus Reviews, the San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR. Two of the stories were chosen for The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading

The author has received the Ploughshares Cohen Award for Best Short Story and has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. She has taught at Harvard, Emerson, the University of Massachusetts (Boston), and the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Wickersham is currently working on a book based on the true story of a warship built in the 17th century on the order of the King of Sweden. It was deemed unsinkable. But its bronze cannons and other extravagant features made the ship so top heavy that it sank in Stockholm harbor within minutes of encountering a breeze on its maiden voyage. Wickersham might call that a bungle, too.

Melinda Lopez, prize-winning actress and Playwright, Who Insists Plays Must Have "Heart and Compassion," Will Present Her Adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca's "Yerma" in June at the Huntington

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Prize-winning actress and playwright Melinda Lopez came to the South End library in October, on what she joked was the first “Red-Sox-free night,” to talk about her remarkable career in the theatre. She was introduced by Isabel Alvarez Borland, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, who called Lopez “one of the most exciting playwrights in the US.” They met through work at Holy Cross where Lopez was a speaker at Borland’s Transcending Borders seminar. “She still skypes with my students,” Borland noted.

Lopez grew up bi-lingual and launched her career by reading new plays at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, MN. From there, she moved to staged performances, including Romeo and Juliet at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, ME (1997); and A Month in the Country (2002); The Rose Tattoo (2004) and Persephone (2007) at the Huntington.  Attuned to dialogue, Lopez wondered if she might do more than interpret the stories of others if she had her own compelling stories to tell? 

Lopez began to write plays “to see what I had to say,” and discovered she had a lot to say. “Theatre is meant to keep a community together, like a church, where you are with your people,” she said. She writes plays with big themes, centered on Latino/Cuban women. because, as she put it, she likes to see them on stage as she sees them, flawed, complex, powerful. Although she discovered through her writing that she is “deeply political” she said she doesn’t write “political” plays. “They are plays with complicated, messy, talented women at their center,” she said. “My evil plan is, I think I can make you feel you like them.” Lopez was accepted into the MFA Playwrighting Program at Boston University where Nobel Prize-winning poet and author, Derek Walcott, was her mentor. In 2013, Lopez was named the first Playwright-in-Residence at the Huntington Theatre, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Her 2004 play at the Huntington, Sonia Flew, was awarded both the IRNE and Eliot Norton Awards for Best New Play that year. Sonia Flew has since been produced by the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, the San Jose (CA) Repertory Theatre and other theater companies. Lopez's other plays include Alexandros (2008); Caroline in Jersey (2009); and Becoming Cuba ( 2014.). Her poignant and powerful one-character play Mala, the only one of her works in which she also appears, won the 2016 Eliot Norton Award for Best New Play.  Based in part on cellphone notes taken while caring for her mother at the end of her life, Lopez wanted to remember that time, though it was difficult and overwhelming. “All plays ask intensely personal questions,” Lopez reflected, “and Mala is the most personal.” She started to create the play just before her mother died. “I was trying to be a good daughter,” Lopez said. “I did not always succeed.”

Lopez read sections from an adaptation she is working on of the 1934 play Yerma, part of a rural trilogy by Federico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated by Spanish fascists in 1936. Written in the last five years of his life to include Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba, Lopez felt the translations from the Spanish were written by academics, not by dramatists for actors who speak it. A play has to have “heart and compassion” and must “celebrate the human condition, whether it is for the author, a cast member or, as with Yerma, the translator and adaptor,” she said. The play, an adaptation with music, songs and flamingo guitars, will open in June, 2019, at The Huntington.

The dialogue Lopez presented was between two friends in the countryside, Yerma, a young woman who longs for a child but can’t have one, and her best friend, Maria, who keeps having babies. All Yerma wants is an ordinary life. It becomes her obsession. Maria tells Yerma, “but you have other things, quiet mornings. I am fed up with having them. Every day there’s more desire and less time.” Lopez feels that theater is at its best when exploring the existential questions of life and living. “We believe that if we work hard, we can achieve what we want,” Lopez says. “What if our fate and desire are in conflict? Where does desire go if it can’t be fulfilled?”

Lopez is also working on a podcast serial in collaboration with Audible, of which she has completed four episodes. The story centers on a “Big Oil” lawyer, Tony, who defends an 80-year-old man over a marijuana-related offense, someone with whom he shares a secret dating from the time of the 1980 Mariel boat lift when the Cuban government released many prisoners who then sought asylum to the United States.





South End Visual Artist Marianne A. Kinzer Has Installed a Local/Focus Window Display Inspired by Nature’s Ecology of Prairie Landscapes and Wetlands

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Marianne A. Kinzer is a German-born visual artist who works from her South End studio at 46 Waltham Street. She studied art at the College of Fine Arts in Berlin and the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, where she lived from 2000 to 2010. She spent many summers in Truro, MA, where she participated in workshops at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. She has taught art at the Oak Park Art League (near Chicago) and at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Truro, MA.

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Her work has been shown in community centers and galleries abroad (Germany and Turkey), and in the U.S., including a solo show at the Snow Library in Orleans, MA. She had various other exhibits at the J jake Art Gallery, in the South End; the Truro Center for the Arts, in Truro, MA; the Watercolor Art Gallery in Pawtucket, RI; and at the Watson Institute in Providence, RI. Kinzer regularly participates in South End Open Studios.

While living in the Midwest, Kinzer painted prairie landscapes and wetlands and learned about their vital importance to our ecology. This shifted her focus to water itself, its pattern of flow, and its meaning for mankind. Even though she has painted the figure and landscapes throughout her career, the major focus of her work now is an investigation of humankind’s relationship to nature. “Humanity needs to remember its origin and place,” she says. “All of life is connected through the water cycle.”

The artist has specialized in watercolor as her medium. Kinzer says she creates her work to look open, abstract and pleasing, thereby inviting the viewer to reflect on the central importance of water for all of life. For additional information, please visit

Jessica Keener, Author of “Strangers in Budapest,” Literary Explorer of the Human Psyche and Mysteries of Life, Believes "We're All Survivors of Silence"

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It was a rainy November night when prize-winning author Jessica Keener came to the South End library to read from her second novel, Strangers in Budapest, but some two dozen people braved the weather to hear all about it, anyway. The novel  tells the story of a young American family in the early 1990s pursuing a post-Communist-era business opportunity in the architecturally glittering city on the Danube.

Annie in her thirties and husband Will are from Boston and just adopted a baby. Annie is fleeing her painful past and hoping to create a better future for her family, but encounters a city with inhabitants that are scarred by their own difficult history, dominated by Communism and the Nazi occupation. Annie and Will are asked to check up on the tenant of neighbors in the US, Edward, who is working through the wrongful death of his daughter and trying to figure out how far revenge should take him. He digs at Annie’s secrets: In trying to help others, is she trying to help herself?

Author Jessica Keener (left) with Lynne Potts, poet and South End history scribe

Author Jessica Keener (left) with Lynne Potts, poet and South End history scribe

Boston Magazine called Strangers in Budapest “a perfect page-turner for late autumn" and the Library Journal said it was a “slow burn of an international psychological thriller.” The novel was chosen for Best New Books for November by the Chicago Review of Books and was selected as an INDIE NEXT pick for December 2017. Keener told an intent audience she was interested in “plopping Americans in a different culture and see what happens” and, more generally, in the expectations of individuals and how these interact with the norms of society. “There was a tango between the locals and the Americans where the Americans think all is possible and the Hungarians think everything is impossible,” Keener said.

Keener, who grew up in Newtonville, MA, spent a year in Budapest herself. She didn’t know the language, which felt “shocking” to her and made her feel she was “the other.” While soaking up the city’s culture, she could not escape how the gorgeous architecture of the buildings was marred by bullet holes and the ravages of war. “There’s a mystery in Budapest’s presence,” Keener reflected. “It’s a magical city in certain ways, somewhat like Boston, very walkable and with a river running through it. There are even streetcars. But the violent marking are so present. The war seemed still so close.”

At-large City Councilor, Annissa Essaibi-George, a strong library and education supporter, introduced Jessica Keener to the South End library audience

At-large City Councilor, Annissa Essaibi-George, a strong library and education supporter, introduced Jessica Keener to the South End library audience

Themes of death and violence run through Keener’s work, in part forced by her own experience as a teenager faced with a life-threatening blood disease. Keener’s short-story collection, Women in Bed, includes Recovery, a tale based on her illness, which she survived thanks to an experimental bone-marrow transplant in the 1970s. The story won Redbook Magazine's second prize in fiction. But even before that happened, Keener had become familiar with her father’s memories of helping to liberate the concentration camp, Dachau, a powerful experience he couldn’t articulate, she said, because he couldn’t understand how that could happen. “He would cry talking about it,” she recalled. “It influenced me as a Jew. And as a Jew going back to Europe I had to think about oppression a lot,” she added.


In response to a question from the audience about the menace and brooding quality of the novel, its sense of lurking danger, as well as the high, poetry-like quality of her prose, Keener answered she had to face death “for a good long time.” Poetry is an exploration of the mystery of life, she elaborated. Keener said she could not relate to reviewers’ descriptions of her novel as a thriller, either. “I see myself more as a psychological writer of suspense,” she commented, “someone who explores the urgency of the characters’ needs, the outer layer of their extreme emotions, the rage and grief that comes with facing death. I am interested in the human psyche, in the mystery of life. We’re all survivors of silence.”

Keener’s debut novel, Night Swim, was a widely praised national bestseller. Her fiction has been critically reviewed by the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Booklist, The Jewish Book Council, and Publisher's Weekly, among many others. She has taught creative writing and wrote many feature articles for the Boston Globe Magazine, Opra Magazine, Design New England and Poets and Writers, among other publications. She is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Fiction. 

Keener was introduced by one of Boston’s At-large city councilors, Annissa Essaibi-George, who said she loves to read and wished she had more time for it. Essaibi-George, the parent of four sons and a strong education and library advocate on the City Council, added she hopes her sons will become great readers, too.

Erik Grau, Visual Artist and Inclusion Kindergarten Teacher, Puts His Sculptural Interest in Crystals and Minerals on Display in the Tremont Street Window

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Erik Grau, whose artwork is on exhibit inside the South End Library during November, moved to Boston a decade ago from Wisconsin to pursue a MFA in sculpture. In addition to his career as a visual artist, he works full time as a board-certified Behavior Analyst and Kindergarten Inclusion teacher at the Henry L. Higginson Inclusion School in Roxbury.

As a teacher, he found that the home environment became increasingly more important in his life. “The need for quiet stillness has motivated me to curate a home filled with objects of importance that, when viewed together, address repetition and order,” he says. His paintings focus on the positive energy associated with the crystals and minerals he collects. “They incorporate my specific interest in cats in the forms of accumulated knick-knacks and the depictions of my two companion animals,” the artist explains. 

Grau holds an MFA from Boston University and a Master’s of Education from UMass, Lowell.  His work is in the permanent collection of the Wisconsin Artists Collection in Waukesha, WI. His paintings and sculptures have been featured in a number of exhibits in the Midwest, as well as in art spaces on the East and West coasts. 

He is a member of Boston’s Musa Collective, a gallery space on Braintree Street in Allston, owned and operated by artists. Most recently, Grau was the artist-in-residence at Room83Spring in Watertown, MA. He is the President of the Board of the Piano Craft Gallery, the Tremont Street artists community located in the former Chickering Piano Factory.

Odyssey Opera Backer, Randolph Fuller, Delivers Another Passionate Talk at the South End Library about his Favorite Subject: Great Opera in Boston

Randolph Fuller,  Odyssey Opera  founder (with composer/musical director Gil Rose), ready to treat the audience to a talk about his favorite subject

Randolph Fuller, Odyssey Opera founder (with composer/musical director Gil Rose), ready to treat the audience to a talk about his favorite subject

South End resident Randolph Fuller, whose unflinching enthusiasm for opera in Boston was on full display in an October 9 talk, described the mission of the Odyssey Opera company he founded with conductor Gil Rose as “staging important but unheard masterpieces by famous composers,” or by others who are not so well known. ”There’s no Grand Opera’ House here In Boston,” said Fuller, a longtime financial backer of local opera, “so you can’t hear them live other than at Odyssey.” Fuller graciously replaced Gil Rose, who had been scheduled to speak, but was unable to due to an unexpected scheduling conflict.

19th-century French composer Charles Gounod

19th-century French composer Charles Gounod

Rose and Fuller began the Odyssey Opera series in 2013, the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth, with his opera Rienzi, inspired by the tale of rebellion by a 14th-century army officer against the nobility. Rose and Fuller like to have a theme for the season, such as was the case in 2016-17’s Wilde Opera Nights, when three of the five operas that season touched on the life and work of Oscar Wilde: Lowell Liebermann’s semi-staged The Picture of Doran Gray; Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s sung The Importance of Being Earnest; and the Arthur Sullivan/W.S. Gilbert fully staged Patience; or Bunthorne’s Bride. Last year’s season, Trial by Fire, focused its five operas on the life and trials of Joan of Arc.

This year, Odyssey Opera features two works by Charles Gounod in what they call the Goun-Odyssey, on the composer’s 200th anniversary of his birth. For the well-reviewed October performance of The Queen of Sheba, months of detective work was required by Fuller and Rose to get the original score, including a search of the archives Library of Congress. “The last piece was found in a trunk in Italy,” Fuller reported.

An illustration of the final scene of Charles Gounod’s  Faust , with the Devil, Faust and Gretchen (or Marguerite).

An illustration of the final scene of Charles Gounod’s Faust, with the Devil, Faust and Gretchen (or Marguerite).

Gounod, who Fuller described as the greatest French composer of the 19th century, produced twelve operas, including what was perhaps the most popular ever written, Faust, the subject of Fuller’s library talk. “The Faust legend had been irresistible since the late Middle Ages and was reflected in all aspects of art,” Fuller said, including literature and the visual arts. However, the greatest impact of the Faust legend was in music and opera, as in the Franz Liszt symphony, Faust; Wagner’s Faust Overture; Robert Schumann’s Scenes from Faust, and in the operas of, among others, Hector Berlioz The Damnation of Faust and Gounod’s Faust. At the library, Fuller played the Gounod orchestral prelude of Faust for the audience, pointing out the unresolved harmonies and not-quite-clear melodies at the beginning of the piece, resolving themselves into Gounod’s most famous melody at the end when sung by the trio representing Faust, the Devil and Gretchen.

On November 9 and 11, Gounod’s comedic opera will be staged at the Huntington Theatre, based on Moliere’s The Doctor in Spite of Himself.

Local/Focus Presents Visual Artist Elizabeth Taylor's "South End Observations," Portraits of People and Nature in an Urban Setting

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Elizabeth Taylor is a visual artist who has been living and working in the South End for the past 20 years. She received a BFA from Mass College of Art and Design and later studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) where she focused on painting and photography. She has exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), SMFA and SOWA’s Open Studios, among other locations, and worked as a visual arts educator at MFA, ICA, the Blackstone School, and at the Brookline and Susan Bailis Senior Centers.

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Taylor’s work in photography and these gouache paintings (opaque watercolor) touch on themes of natural preservation in the urban landscape and beyond. The Fens, Back Bay and South End are her favorite places to draw, inspired by the diversity of its people and the beauty of its environment. She often participated as an artist-at-work during the South End Garden Tours, after which the art work was auctioned off to benefit the organization.

The spark that ignited Taylor’s passion for portraiture and art began when she was a teenager and discovered Vogue Magazine, which had big glossy photographs by artists like Irving Penn and others. They would shape her interest in portraiture, photography and still life for years to come. The photographs were taken at the 2010 Gay Pride Parade in Boston.

The sketches of flowers in the current Local/Focus exhibit date from last summer when Taylor would seek out a shady spot to paint and sketch, often on a scorching hot day with the sun beating down on the concrete of Tremont Street, and find a beautiful flower in its natural setting. “I found it intriguing to study how the flower sits on the stem, or how the stems angle to create amazing compositions,” she says.




Sewing for Success for Teens and Tweens on Six "Sewing Fridays" from 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Call to Register.

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So your teens and tweens don’t know how to sew? The South End branch will offer six one-hour “sewing Fridays” in October and November for teens and tweens. Kelli Bos (Sewing for Success) has installed a lovely display about sewing in the library’s park-side window, featuring a sewing machine, many books about sewing, fabrics, samples of finished pieces and various props.

The first session will be on October 12, followed by instruction hours on October 19 and 26 and November 2, 9 and 16. All dates are on Fridays, from 3:30 to 4:30 PM. Fabrics and sewing materials will be provided. For further information or registration, contact Anne Smart or Margaret Gardner at the South End branch at 617 536-8241. Or call Kelli Bos at 617 455 4547, extension 800, or #sheiskellibos.

The Acclaimed Author of "The Widow of Wall Street," Randy Susan Meyers, Says her Little Branch Library in Brooklyn, NY, Is the First Place Where She Lied...

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Randy Susan Meyers, known for her novels of domestic drama (Accidents of Marriage; The Murderer’s Daughter; The Comfort of Lies), told the audience at the South End library in late September that she was “raised by a library” and “worshipped at its altar.” It was an old, shabby public-library branch in Brooklyn, NY, “as small as my hand,” she recalled. But that’s where she discovered Betty Smith’s 1943 coming-of-age novel about Francie Nolan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. “I must have read it 10 or 20 times,” she said. Herself the daughter of a single mother with a challenging history of domestic violence, Meyers felt she was not alone any more.

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That little library was also the first place where she lied, Meyers confessed: She would get a ‘smart’ book that she knew she’d never read and put it on top of the pile of books she really wanted. “I didn’t want the librarian to think I was a dope,” she said. “But I didn’t really read smart books.”

It was perhaps the first step on a long road of better lies and other misdeeds like regular shop lifting when a teenager. This was followed by years of working with families impacted by violence, counseling convicted criminals out on probation and coming to terms with a father who tried to murder her mother that helped her write the fictionalized character of her latest book, The Widow of all Street. Based on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the novel’s character, Jake, was a nasty guy. “I had to find a way to get into his head,” Meyers said. Focusing on her life experience, including her own transgressions, made that possible for her.

Meyers published her first novel at fifty-seven, her version of winning the lottery. The Widow of Wall Street, her fourth, is told from two points of view: Jake, a man with a criminal lust for money, and Phoebe, his wife, who had no idea. What would it be like to be Madoff’s wife? Meyers asked herself, to be married to a man who pulled the wool over the eyes of the Securities and Exchange Commission and many captains of industry? “What I learned is how different one spouse’s idea of a marriage can be from the other, and how often the children are collateral damage,” she said. The arc of her fictional themes represents her personal long journey from idolizing “bad boys” to “loving a good man.”

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The Widow of Wall Street, was called an “engrossing emotional journey” by Kirkus Review, and “compelling” by the Associated Press. Library Journal wrote it was  “full of deceit, scandal, and guilt" and that it "expertly explores how rising to the top only to hit rock bottom affects a family. The consequences will leave readers reeling.” Meyers, who describes her latest book a roman à clef, in which real people or events appear with invented names, is a form of fiction she enjoys reading herself. The author won the 2015 Must Read Fiction Massachusetts Book Award for her earlier work, Accidents of Marriage. The Boston Globe reviewer said Accidents, which explores emotional abuse in an educated but stressed-out family living in a Jamaica Plain Victorian, a 'complex, captivating tale.'  It was chosen by People Magazine as "Pick of the Week."  

Iory Allison, Blogger, Collage Artist and Author of "Glamour Galore Trilogy" Calls Libraries "the Great Cultural Achievement of Our Country" and Public Lending "An Invention"

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Iory Allison, whose profile’s adjectives include world traveler, blogger, and husband to Leo Romero of Back Bay's Casa Romero where he was a host for 20 years. He came to the South End library in early September to talk about his Glamour Galore Trilogy , newly completed with Book Three, titled The Mermaid and the Sailor? 

He described it as a sequence of mystery, farce and romance, a set of gay novels “to escape from the mundane drudgery.” Each book shows different characters, starting with those in an old Bostonian family which loses its jewels, and the subsequent books in the series shifting locale to gay clubs and its visitors.

Iory Allison speaking about his life’s work at the South End library in September

Iory Allison speaking about his life’s work at the South End library in September

Allison grew up in New Canaan, CT, with a father plying his trade as an advertising man who wrote theatre and nightclub reviews for local papers on the side, in a house where family life “was centered around the library.” He began his trilogy in 1990 in the Boston Atheneum, where he wrote mornings, five days a week. Relying on his imagination but using material from his own life, he took three years for each novel in the series. Exhibiting an affinity for words, which he describes as “ancient magic,” he suggested that “the history of a word will reveal much of its meaning to you.” The name “Iory” is Welsh, Allison explained, with an original meaning of ‘fair lord.’

Almost two decades ago, Allison learned how to build a website from a certain Vlad, who he described as ‘a tech-savvy refugee from the newly collapsed USSR.’ Acquiring website skills allowed Allson to develop a blog and, eventually, another skill, namely digital collages. The blog illuminates “subjects near and dear to me,” Allison said, including adventures by himself and husband Leo. The collages can be found on the covers of his books which he designed himself but were influenced by, among other artists, Joseph Cornell. Once familiar with it, he found himself able to work more precisely and to discover a treasure trove of images to use. “So after resisting it for a long time, I’m now ok with digital collaging,” Allison said. “I especially like edges that are faded out.”

In this being, at the end of his talk, Allison wanted to say something about libraries: “Libraries, public or private, are the great cultural achievement of our country,” he said. “And free public lending is an invention.”


The Ayer Mansion, the Only Surviving Building Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Is the Subject of This Month's Local/Focus Installation

The September Local/Focus installation in the Tremont Street window of the South End library

The September Local/Focus installation in the Tremont Street window of the South End library

Since 1998, Jeanne Pelletier, Esq. a longtime South End resident active in numerous local community projects, has been the Preservation Advisor to the Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, the only surviving mansion designed entirely by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Known mostly as the creator of magnificent stained-glass windows and luminous stained-glass lamp shades, Louis Comfort Tiffany was also an amateur architect and a talented decorator who pioneered interior design as a profession. He designed five houses in New York City, none of which survive today. The Ayer Mansion, located at 395 Commonwealth Avenue on the outbound side, is the only Tiffany-designed building that remains.

The Ayer Mansion at 395 Commonwealth Avenue, the last surviving mansion designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany

The Ayer Mansion at 395 Commonwealth Avenue, the last surviving mansion designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany

 With architect A.J. Manning, Tiffany created the mansion for Frederick Ayer and his second wife, Ellen Banning Ayer. Born poor, Ayer founded a patent medicine company with his brother James, and became fantastically rich from marketing such products as Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral and Ayer’s Hair Vigor. Ellen Banning Ayer was a trained actress and socialite who likely pushed Frederick to create a home in Boston where she could be closer to the theater and social events. Built between 1899 and 1902, the Ayer Mansion was unlike the conventional brick-and-brownstone Boston townhouse or the European revival styles prevalent at that time. Tiffany created a striking white granite and limestone façade punctuated with Moorish stone mosaic panels, elaborate, stained-glass screens, massive bright copper-clad doors, and grand stone columns embedded with glass and gold foil.  The interior of the mansion builds on this palette, with lavish glass and gold mosaics and grand architectural flourishes. 

One of the Tiffany-designed windows at the Ayer mansion

One of the Tiffany-designed windows at the Ayer mansion

Tiffany’s approach aimed to ensure that the Ayer Mansion and its nouveau-riche owners would not be overlooked. It might also have been a snub to the old Boston society the Ayer couple couldn’t join. After the Ayers’ death in 1918, the house was sold to a succession of businesses, and the Ayer Mansion’s lavish stained glass and magnificent Tiffany interior and exterior artwork began to quietly decay. In 1998, new owners, Bayridge Residence and Cultural Center, together with the Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, began to restore this hidden gem.  In 2005, the house was named a National Historic Landmark, the nation’s highest ranking for historic properties.

 The house is open for public tours and events. For more information, click here.

 Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).