The South End Knitters Strike Again with a Street Art Installation that Celebrates the Culture of Bikes, Books, Colors and Fiber in the Library’s Tremont Street Windows

The fabulous South End Knitters have installed their first exhibit in the Tremont Street windows of the South End library, a show that features a popular urban art form that counterveils the often harsh contours of our public streets’ furniture to give it a more welcoming, exciting and colorful profile. They are part of a legacy of guerilla, graffiti and stealth knitters that can be traced to Magda Sayeg, whose work with the group Knitta Please (founded in Houston in 2005) is credited with bringing sewing from the domestic circle to the street. 

Describing themselves as urban artists, the  South End Knitters’ vibrant fiber creations have beautified local fences, lamp and bicycle posts for years. The artful geometric patterns and  fiber-teased pom-poms covering the knitted bike frame in the library’s Tremont Street window combine with a quilt-shaped seat and fabric-patched bike lock, paying homage to what was generally considered a domestic form of art now claiming its rightful place in art on display in the public square. Also known as yarn bombers, the  group participated in the deCordova Museum Biennial in 2012 for which the press release read, “When they secretly slip their colorful hand-sewn creations on fences, statues, street signs, hydrants, bicycles, and buses under cover of darkness, they humanize and prettify the urban realm; they decorate, swaddle, and in some cases, protect. They call attention to the forms they cover and remind us about our relationship to our surroundings in ways that seem far more innocuous and temporary than their painted graffiti counterparts.

The South End Knitters are a revolving group of fiber artists of all ages, female and male, who gather in various public spaces and informal restaurants to knit, crochet and sew. Once-upon-a-time they met at Flour Bakery + Cafe on Washington Street, but more recently they have come to the Prudential Center across from the Post Office, or b.good on Dartmouth Street on Thursdays after work.  

This installation will be up for the next few weeks. It is one of a series of Tremont Street window exhibits of the Local/Focus project sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to visually connect the library community with local artists, non-profits and creative entrepreneurs.

 

Dramatic reading by author Stephen Kinzer brought a 19th-century debate about America’s role in the world to a 21st-century library audience

Who knew that the mother of Boston Globe foreign-policy columnist Stephen Kinzer was an actress? The family gene revealed itself when Kinzer, the author of The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the birth of American Empire slipped seamlessly behind the lectern at the South End library’s community room, filled to capacity by a history-hungry audience, and  dramatically performed parts of the great debate of more than a 100 years ago about what exactly America’s role should be in the world, isolationist or imperialist.  The US government had settled the West, and the end of the Spanish-American War opened up the opportunity for the US to control territories that had once belonged to Spain, like Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. What should be done with them? And what was the mission of America?

For Kinzer, who scrolled endless hours through microfiche records of  late 19th-century newspapers and pamphlets in the Boston Public Library to research his book, the remarkable fact of what he calls  “the mother of all debates” was the sheer brilliance of the arguments by  intellectual and political leaders on all sides of the question. “All the speeches were printed in newspapers and reprinted. They were read around the world, he said. “I envy people of that era,. We don’t dare to discuss these important issues with senators today. We talk about whether we should have 8,000 or 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, but not why we are there.

Previewing the importance of the 19th-century polemic while introducing his longtime friend whose arrival was slightly delayed, WBUR OpenSource host, Christopher Lydon, talked about his personal hero from the pacifist side of that debate, William James, brother of Henry,  “the greatest Boston brother act in history,” as he put it. Lydon, who described Kinzer as a journalist in the David Halberstram tradition for his in-depth and uncompromising reporting, had met Kinzer when the latter was New York Times bureau chief in Berlin and, later, in Turkey.  “There should be more of Henry James in your book, however,” he told Kinzer.

 Kinzer agreed, up to a point, but focussed his attention on the role of many others, like Mark Twain, who had traveled the world and developed empathy for those seeking freedom, and Theodore Roosevelt, who had traveled, too, but mostly to shoot large animals. Twain reportedly thought TR was “clearly insane;”  TR had said about Twain he’d like to “skin him alive.” Then there was William Randolph Hearst, who needed a “running story” for his newspapers to thrive: war stories about anti-colonial and anti-imperialist wars in the territories would best fit the bill. Henry Cabot Lodge, for his part, felt many nations were “unequipped to govern themselves.” In the end, President William McKinley used the Lodge rational when he asked the US Senate to ratify the Treaty of Paris. It passed. The US took control over former Spanish territories, and became an empire.

The 1899 debate preceding the ratification lasted 32 days and, as Kinzer pointed out, the very arguments first formulated then, primarily in Boston’s political circles, are the same we heard when debating Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  This led to a question by Lydon about whether President John Kennedy, at the midpoint between that 19th-century political fight and now,  would have stayed in Vietnam or  pulled out. Both Kinzer and Lydon agreed the Warren Commission report left out important information, but that Kennedy himself had told the editor of the Boston Globe at the time, Bob Healy, also a former Globe Washington bureau chief,  that he would pull out of Vietnam after his reelection.

Kinzer’s  hero in the fiercely debated question was the abolitionist Carl Schurz, a German immigrant who became a Civil War general, a US senator, Secretary of the Interior and a friend of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain. The title of Kinzer’s book, The True Flag, was taken from a speech by Schurz in which he declared “the true flag” of America was of the one of “government of, for, and by the people,” and “the flag of civilization, peace, and goodwill to all men.”

Local/Focus Presents Six paintings by the prominent African-American artist, Paul Goodnight, on display until May 9

Six striking works of figurative art by the longtime South End resident of the Piano Factory, Paul Goodnight, now grace both  of the South End library’s Tremont Street windows. Goodnight, born in Chicago but raised in Boston and Connecticut, has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He teaches at the MFA’s Museum School and received and MFA from Mass. College of Art in 1975. His work has been on displaying many places, including  the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Schomberg Institute in New York City. His paintings are included in many private collections and institutions, including the Smithsonian Institute and  Hampton University Museum.

Goodnight is currently focused on creating a large public sculpture representing the life of social reformer, abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass ,which will become the centerpiece of a to-be-renovated Frederick Douglass Square off Tremont Street in Roxbury. Due to a heavy work schedule, Goodnight was unable to give a lecture about his work while his exhibit is at the library. He promised he will do so later in the year when the Frederick Douglass project is completed.

 The work on display is for sale. A portion of any sale will be donated to benefit the South End library and its programs. For inquiries, please contact Anne Smart, head librarian, at asmart@bpl.org.

 

Mel King, Boston’s Icon for Community involvement and Racial Justice, Will talk about his Life’s work on Tuesday, May 23rd at 6:30 PM

 Mel King, former state legislator, school board member, community organizer, writer, poet, and the keeper of perhaps the largest memory bank of South End’s turbulent history will be at the South End library on May 23rd at 6:30 PM. He will be introduced by State Rep. and Assistant Majority Leader, Byron Rushing.

King was raised in the New York Streets area  of the South End by immigrant parents from Guyana and Barbados in the 1930s. He was the first African-American who made it to the primary in the race for mayor of Boston. Although he lost the election (to Ray Flynn), he became, among other things, an adjunct professor in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. This led to the founding the South End Technology Center at Tent City, which gives the opportunity to young people aged 7 to 13 to acquire the latest computer and technology skills. In the late 1960s, his opposition to urban renewal and evictions of local residents led to the eventual construction of Tent City, which offers mixed-income housing for hundreds of Southenders. He is the author of Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development and several collections of poetry.

The South End Library is fully handicapped accessible. Seating is limited. The event is free. Seating is limited. We offer refreshments. Books will be available for sale, signing, and borrowing from the library. 

 

To the Galapagos: Renowned Naturalist, David Clapp, and “Talkin’ Birds” Radio Host, Ray Brown, will talk about the Galapagos, on Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30 PM

On Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30 PM, two serious birding specialists, renowned researcher, lecturer and naturalist David Clapp and Ray Brown, host of Talkin’Birds and WCRB classical music programs, will treat you to a lecture with slides about the birding environment in the Galapagos. Clapp, who has led Smithsonian Journeys trips for many years, has taught at Northeastern University and worked with conservation organizations worldwide for decades. He has been with the Massachusetts Audubon Society most of his professional career,  trained  up-and-coming naturalists, and studied many species of the avian population.

Brown, who joined the  WGBH many years ago, is a regular contributor  to NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon where he illuminates the audience about the latest news in the world of birding. Last year, Brown gave a very well-received presentation at the South End library about bird migration patterns, called The Magic of Migration, as part of the Local/Focus Urban Birding installation in the library’s Tremont Street windows. This year, he organized a birding tour to the Galapagos in late September with the Sunrise Birding nature company, and will have information available for anyone who might want to join to fill the last two cabins.

Brown is a longtime South End resident. His Talkin’ Birds show is now heard on 16 stations around New England, and in the larger world through streaming and podcasts.  Guests on his show include avian aficionados and birding luminaries like David Sibley, Sy Montgomery (Birdology) and Donald Kroodsman (The Singing Life of Birds) as well as experts from birding conservation organizations such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Birding Association.

The Galapagos talk is free to all. Refreshments are served.

Foreign-policy journalist Stephen Kinzer to discuss his latest book, “True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire,” Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 PM

Stephen Kinzer will be at the South End library with his latest book, “True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire,” Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 PM, and an Introduction by WBUR Radio Host Christopher Lydon

 Award-winning foreign-policy journalist, Boston Globe contributor, and former New York Times bureau chief in multiple locations, Stephen Kinzer, will talk about his new book, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire on May 9 at 6:30 PM. This event is rescheduled from March 14, when a snowstorm closed the city down. In his latest examination of the US role abroad, Kinzer, a Senior Fellow in International and Foreign Affairs at the Watson Institute of Brown University,  reframes a perennial question raging again today: Should the US be an imperialist nation or take care of its own problems first?

A longtime South End resident and the author of numerous books about the unintended consequences of American military intervention, (including All the Shah’s Men and The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and their Secret World War), this is Kinzer’s third appearance for the South End Writes series: He previously discussed his book about the Dulles brothers, and more recently a trip he and colleagues took through Iran, just before the nuclear containment agreement was signed. He will be introduced by his admirer and friend, WBUR’s OpenSource radio host, Christopher Lydon. Lydon interviewed him on the subject on February 7.

Acclaimed Harvard Sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Will Discuss her Latest Work, "Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers," on Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30 PM

In March a year ago, the MacArthur Genius award-winning Professor of Sociology at Harvard, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, held the crowded room spellbound when, at the end of her talk about Exits: The Endings That Set Us Free, she SANG her goodbye to the audience with the Song of Jeremiah from Iliad. Will she sing us a farewell again on Tuesday, April 18 when she is back at the South End library with her most recent book, Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children become Our Teachers?

The longtime South End resident who, by her own count lives 142 steps from the library, has made the developmental process of child-rearing in which parents are transformed by their children the subject of her latest book. It is based on many in-depth interviews across the country, and highlighted by her own experience of raising a son and a daughter. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Lawrence Lightfoot suggests that what is generally assumed to be the one-way support system that parents provide for their offspring is more likely an exchange, wherein parents learn from their children about the future they represent, the world they experience, and how that often doesn’t quite jive with what the parents have come to believe. Keeping our hearts open, is the mantra for good inter-generational relationships, she counsels.

Lawrence-Lightfoot is the Emily Hargroves Fisher professor of Education at Harvard University, and a fellow at the Bunting Institute and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.  The renowned sociologist’ books include, among others, Beyond Bias: Perspectives on Classrooms (1979) (with Jean Carew); The Good High School: Portraits of Character and Culture(1983), which received the 1984 Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association; Balm In Gilead: Journey of A Healer (1988), which won the 1988 Christopher Award, for literary merit and humanitarian achievement; I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation (1994); and The Third Chapter: Risk, Passion, and Adventure in the Twenty-Five Years After 50 (2009). Upon her retirement from Harvard University, the endowed chair currently held by Lawrence-Lightfoot will officially become the Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot Endowed Chair, making her the first African-American woman in Harvard’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor.

The South End Library is fully handicapped accessible. Seating is limited. The event is free. We offer refreshments. Books will be available for sale, signing, and borrowing from the library. 

 

 

Jenna Blum, Best-selling Writer of Holocaust-themed Fiction (“Those Who Save Us,” “The Lucky One,” and her 2018 Novel, “The Lost Family”) to Talk on Tuesday, April 4 at 6:30 PM

 

Jenna Blum, the award winning author of the  New York Times bestseller, Those Who Save Us (2004), and The Stormchasers (2010), will talk about her latest work: a novella called The Lucky One,  as well as  her upcoming 2018 novel, The Lost Family. The Lucky One was published in a 2016 anthology, called Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion, a collection related to the Holocaust by ten bestselling female writers. Blum’s contribution was one she had been reluctant to write as it meant returning to the subject of the Holocaust. She says on her web site that the research and writing of Those Who Saved Us, which explored how non-Jewish Germans dealt with the Holocaust, was a searing experience. But she remembered one story she had heard when she worked for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, where she interviewed Holocaust survivors. It had struck a cord with her, she said, and became the genesis for The Lucky One. It is set, like each of the stories in the anthology, on the same day in Grand Central Terminal right after the Second World War.

Blum’s successful writing career began when, at fourteen,  her first short story, published in Seventeen Magazine,  won the third prize.  Another short story, The Legacy of Frank Finklestein, won first prize two years later. Since that time, Blum’s work has been featured in Faultline, The Kenyon Review, The Bellingham Review, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and The Improper Bostonian. Blum has taught creative writing and communications writing at Boston University, was the editor at Boston University’s AGNI literary magazine for four years, and led fiction and novel workshops for Grub Street Writers in Boston since 1997. The event is a reschedule from last year when the author had to cancel her booking due to a family emergency.

The South End Writes is sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. All the events are free. Books by the speakers will be available for borrowing, sale and signing by the author. The branch is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. Seating is limited.

Gish Jen, the Award-winning Novelist, Will Read from her New Book, “The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap,” on Tuesday, March 28 at 6:30 PM

In a recent interview with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on WGBH radio, author Gish Jen commented on efforts by the show’s previous guest, Police Commissioner Bill Evans, to attract more Asians to the Boston police force . Jen, whose humorous view of life’s perplexing questions shines through much of her work, half-jokingly confessed on the show that she briefly considered becoming a police officer (“It’s a great day job”) but quickly added that not just her editor’s apoplexy would stand in the way but also the Police Department’s physical exam, which requires applicants to scale a five-foot wall.  It would be a barrier, she said, “for those of us who are only five feet tall.” These human differences  between East and West, of size, perception and approach to the communities we live in, have been the literary domain of Jen since she first dropped out of the Stanford Business School and entered the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop in the 1980s.

Now an acclaimed novelist, Jen will talk about her latest work of non-fiction, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap at the South End library on Tuesday, March 28 at 6:30 PM. The book, published last month,  looks at the different ideas Easterners and Westerners have about self and society and how this “shapes everything from our ideas about copying and talking in class to the difference between Apple and Alibaba.” Jen’s 2013 non-fiction book, Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self, based on the Massey Lectures she delivered at Harvard in 2012, also delves into East-West differences, and in particular how they affect art and literature. The novels Typical American, Who Is Irish?, The Love WifeMona in the Promised Land and World and Town (winner of the 2011 Massachusetts Book Prize) were widely praised for their often hilarious but also profound and warm descriptions of Chinese-American families adjusting to suburban life and the racial and religious divides they navigate.

A contributor to The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, Jen’s work has been included in The Best American Short Stories of 1988, 1995 and 2013, as well as The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Nominated for a National Book Critics’ Circle Award and an International IMPAC Dublin Book Award, Jen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She has been awarded a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study fellowship, and numerous other awards. In 2003, an American Academy of Arts and Letters jury comprised of John Updike, Cynthia Ozick, Don DeLillo, and Joyce Carol Oates granted her a five-year Mildred and Harold Strauss Living award.

The South End Writes is sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. All the events are free. Books by the speakers will be available for borrowing, sale and signing by the author. The branch is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. Seating is limited.

 

Suspense Writer Wendy Walker Will Be at the SE Library on Tuesday, February 7, to Read from Her Debut Thriller, “All Is Not Forgotten”

Wendy Walker’s first suspense novel, All Is Not Forgotten, is set in the small town of Fairview, CT, one of those irresistible locations for writers to explore because it seems so perfect but really isn’t. No one better to delve into this than an author who is a suburban dweller with a growing family herself, and who also happens to be a family-law attorney, likely to know some of the real-life complications simmering underneath the American suburban dream. William Landay (Defending Jacob), another attorney-turned-suspense-author who read for South End Writes in 2014, said Walker has “a polished writing style in a novel that blends suspense and rich family drama,” so chances are good you will have an enjoyable few hours with this psychological thriller, wondering whodunnit and why.

The plot revolves around a family whose secrets and unresolved tensions become sharply articulated and inflamed when a crisis  occurs, in this case, an attack on the teenage daughter during one of those parties with too much liquor, testosterone and drugs. She is given a drug to reduce the trauma, but it leaves her with feelings of anger and despair over the assault that the memory-altering drug does not alleviate. Worse, she can no longer remember the facts of the assault, which also prevents the attacker from being found. As the plot twists and turns to an unexpected conclusion, the parents are divided over what matters most, revenge, justice or…staying in tune with their town’s country club mores. Walker published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and is currently writing her second thriller. She will be introduced by her colleague an FOSEL advisory-board member, Mari Passananti.

The South End Writes is sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. All the events are free. Books by the speakers will be available for borrowing, sale and signing by the author. The branch is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. Seating is limited. Below are listed upcoming authors, whose bios will be more detailed as the dates of the talks approach.

Annual Meeting Tuesday, January 31 at 6:30 PM

You're Invited to the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the South End Library Tuesday, January 31 at 6:30 PM: Meet Your Neighbors, Participate in the Board's Election, Get an Update on Programming and Library/Park Renovation, Bring Your Ideas, and Enjoy the Delicious Refreshments

2017 Ann Mtg
2017 Ann Mtg

Snow or not, the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) will take place tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 31 in the community room of the library. Members of FOSEL will have the chance to elect to a one-year term a slate of candidates that includes current directors Marilyn Davillier, Jeanne Pelletier, and Michelle Laboy; new directors Maura Harrington and Jon Santiago, as well as Kim Clark, a current advisory-board member who has agreed to serve on the voting board. Current officers Marleen Nienhuis (president), Ed Hostetter (clerk) and Barbara Sommerfeld (treasurer) are serving a two-year term to end in 2018. The slate of Advisory Board members includes Adam Castigliani, Susanna Coit, Liane Crawford, Don Haber, Stephen Fox, Jacqueline McRath, Mary Owens, Mari Passananti, Lois Russell, Licia Sky,, Anne Smart and Karen Watson. More detailed bios are available at the meeting. In addition, there will be updates on our finances, our programs (The South End Writes, Local/Focus, Summer Jazz Concerts and the Play Reading Book Club with Arts/Emerson). Your suggestions and ideas will be warmly received.

The library is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. 

The South End Library/ArtsEmerson's Play-reading Book Group Resumes Saturday, January 28 at 10:30 AM with Unique Access to the Theatre and Viewing of the Acclaimed Play "Beauty Queen of Leenane" on February 8: Free to All

The Beauty Queen of Leenane The Play-reading Book Club sponsored by ArtsEmerson and the South End library will resume this Saturday, January 28, at 10:30 AM at the South End branch when a group of local library patrons and ArtsEmerson organizers will begin to read and discuss the script of award-winning play by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, Beauty Queen of Leenane.   The Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) is funding the three-play program, which promotes access to the theatre and community building, free to all. There are five sessions, including attending the play itself on February 8, and a final get-together on February during which the participants share their experiences with friends and family on Thursday, February 16. ( An article by theatre critic Hilton Als about playwright McDonagh and The Beauty Queen of Leenane appears in their week's The New Yorker.) The first play in the series was Mala, by acclaimed local playwright Melinda Lopez; the final play in the program will be 17 Border Crossings by Thaddeus Phillips, for which the play-reading sessions take place during April; going to the play will be on April 19 at 5:30 PM..

17 Border Crossings

If you would like to participate in the Play-reading Book Club for The Beauty Queen of Leenane starting this Saturday, January 28 at 10:30 AM, please get in touch with Anne Smart at the South End library at 617 536-8241, or by email at asmart@bpl.org. You can also contact Akiba Abaka at ArtsEmerson at 617 824-3071, or by email at akiba@artsemerson.org. Tickets to the play are at a vastly reduced $15. However, if you can't afford it, the tickets will be complimentary.

 

 

Celebrated Author Junot Diaz, Drawing a Record Crowd, Praises Libraries

Celebrated Author Junot Diaz, Drawing a Record Crowd, Praises Libraries, Cajoles the Audience to Become Actively Engaged Citizens, and Reads a Vivid Passage from "Nilda," a Story in His Latest Collection, "This Is How You Lose Her"

Author Junot Diaz talking about the importance of libraries at the beginning of his talk on January 10/17
Author Junot Diaz talking about the importance of libraries at the beginning of his talk on January 10/17

The audience coming to hear Junot Diaz, the award-winning writer of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Drown and This Is How You Lose Her, had filled every seat 45 minutes before the program started, yet more people kept streaming through the South End library's Tremont Street doors. The South End Writes author series fielded large crowds before,  (Jack Beattie, Jamaica Kincaid, Chris Kimbal, Police Officer John Sacco, Dennis Lehane, Joanne Chang, Edith Pearlman, Bessel Van Der Kolk and Steve Kurkjian) but this January 10 event felt different. More as if a prophet had arrived who also happened to be a literary icon, someone who might speak to the sense of political  foreboding many in the audience expressed, days removed from a controversial new President's inauguration. "Are you worried?" asked Diaz, holding a cup of coffee mid-drink, scanning the audience that stood layers deep in the stairwell, moving into the middle of the community room so all could hear him. Many affirmative sounds and groans ensued.

Junot Diaz reading a passage from Nilda, a story in This Is How You Lose Her
Junot Diaz reading a passage from Nilda, a story in This Is How You Lose Her

Before launching into audience existential anxiety, Diaz eloquently expressed his deep gratitude for libraries. "I am a creature of the library," he said. It gives you access to everything poverty strips you of. Poverty is profoundly undemocratic. It narrows your world. The library's ethos is fundamentally democratic, fundamentally contemplative, a place that itself is concerned with citizenship and civic good--everything that poverty tends to strip from people's minds," he suggested. "I wonder if it had not been for libraries, would there have been anything left from the childhoods some of us have had?" Diaz, who reportedly often walked four miles to his public library to borrow books when he was growing up in a poor immigrant family in New Jersey, emphasized that "we are born in these places and certainly the part of me that led me here to this moment was born in my public library under the tutelage of my librarian."

Junot Diaz speaking to a long line of admirers
Junot Diaz speaking to a long line of admirers

Introduced by author and poet Pablo Medina (Cubob City Blues), Diaz was described as one of the very few writers who use a particular voice to distinguish themselves from everyone else, much like Mark Twain, Toni Morrison and Faulkner did. “He opened a voice and way of life that had not been explored before and brought Latino life into the mainstream,” Medina said. Diaz, winner of numerous awards and honors including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, commented that the strange thing about being known as a writer in any way is that you are "standing in for better artists who haven't been given the acclaim they deserve," and thanked Medina and his contemporaries for the enormous influence and genius he received from them.

Head librarian Anne Smart and one of her admirers
Head librarian Anne Smart and one of her admirers

Turning back to the moment of political gloom, Diaz asked what people in the audience themselves were doing about it. “I wanna know what are you gonna do,” said Diaz, who is active in the Dominican American community.“I’ve been doing my community work forever. If you feel you've been hit by a Mac truck, you can appreciate the life that many of us artists have been reporting, and the diabolical forces in American society that have plagued us and made us miserable for so long." He said he is “intentionally activist"  and not interested in his work as an artist taking the place of his civic responsibility. "Being an artist doesn’t excuse you from your civic responsibility,“ he said, observing that artists are "more inclined to the febrile excuse of ‘my art is my politics.' Investment bankers," he added, "not so much. You see them volunteering in soup kitchens."

Junot Diaz receives the traditional FOSEL gift of a FOSEL library bag and copies of his event poster
Junot Diaz receives the traditional FOSEL gift of a FOSEL library bag and copies of his event poster

Answering several questions about his writing, Diaz, who is the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT, described himself as a very slow writer, very 'avoidant,' 'wildly rewarded,' and having come of age reading giants of African-American literature like Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed as well as Sandra Cisneros, Scott Momaday, Oscar Hijuelos, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin. Families are great inspiration "for the spectrum of behavior,” he said but cautioned that stories have minds of their own. “You can have wild ideas about stories,” he said, “but the stories themselves have other ideas. They happen at the levels of the unconscious. The story is the boss. It is an enormous amount of work to decipher what the unconscious wants. Every draft brings you closer and closer to the mysterious story. Every version sucks."

With that, he picked up a copy of This Is How You Lose Her, and read a richly descriptive passage from the story Nilda.  When he was done, he patiently listened to, and talked with, his admirers waiting in a long line to be photographed with him and, with a cursive flair, signed all of their books. Within days, he and four other authors --Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Colson Whitehead and Barbara Kingsolver-- would have lunch with then-President Obama, who admired them and described the writers as having helped him shape his presidency.

Meet Junot Diaz, Author of the Award-winning Works of Fiction "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," "Drown" and "This Is How You Lose Her"

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A talk by the award-winning author and MIT Professor of Writing, Junot Diaz, will launch  the 2017-18 South End Writes series on Tuesday, January 10 at 6:30 PM. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1968 but raised in New Jersey since he was six, Díaz's emotionally convincing prose is a seamless, powerful blend of his native language's descriptive richness and the high-energy, raw lingo of the American urban environment he grew up in. Add to that Diaz's passion for What Came Before (he was trained as a historian), in the form of many annotations in his work, further illuminating and contextualizing the lives of his unforgettable characters and the places they so vividly inhabit. The result is the full explanation for the dozens of high-octane prizes and honors Diaz has received for his work since stories from his first collection, Drown (1996), were published by The New Yorker in the early 1990s.In addition to a 2012 MacArthur "Genius" fellowship, they include --but are not limited to-- the Pen/Malamud Award; the Eugene McDermott Award; a Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Writers Award, a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; a US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Then there are the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; the Fellow of the American Academy Rome Prize; and the Norman Mailer Prize, among others. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The short-story collection This Is How You Lose Her (2012) was a finalist for the National Book Award. A  New York Times bestseller, it came out in paperback this year.

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A graduate of New Jersey's Rutgers College and the MFA program at Cornell University, Díaz is the fiction editor at Boston Reviewand the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He has been active in a number of community organizations in New York City, and is an outspoken critic of the illegal deportation of Haitians and Haitian Dominicans by the Dominican government. He is a member of the board of advisers for Freedom University, a volunteer organization in Georgia that provides post-secondary instruction to undocumented immigrants. He is the honorary chairman of the DREAM Project, a non-profit education involvement program in the Dominican Republic.  On January 10, he will be introduced by his friend and colleague, author and poet Pablo Medina, who read at the South End library in May 2014 from his novel, CuBop City Blues.

The South End Writes is sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. All the events are free. Books by the speakers will be available for borrowing, sale and signing by the author. The branch is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. Seating is limited.

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Also booked for the 2017/18 season are the following exciting authors:

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wendy-w
skinzer
skinzer

Suspense writer and family law attorney Wendy Walker with her debut thriller that delves into the enigma of memory and the dilemmas of using memory-altering drugs to alleviate trauma ( All Is Not Forgotten) on Tuesday, February 7;

The outstanding foreign-policy journalist Stephen Kinzer (with his new book, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire) Tuesday, March 14;

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gjen
jblum
jblum

The celebrated author of Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Independent Self, Gish Jen(with her latest book, due out in February, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap), Tuesday, March 28;

New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Saved Us, Jenna Blum(with her novella, The Lucky One, part of Grand Central Station, a collection of tales by well-known women writers, all taking place on the same day in Manhattan's iconic gateway), Tuesday, April 4;

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sllightfoot
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mking

The acclaimed sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, another MacArthur Genius fellow gracing the South End library, who will be the first African American to hold an endowed chair in her name at Harvard University upon her retirement (with her recent Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers) Tuesday, April 18.

The iconic Mel King, former state legislator, school board member, community organizer, writer, poet, and the holder of perhaps the largest memory bank of South End's turbulent history. Raised in the New York streets part of the South End by immigrant parents from Guyana and Barbados in the 1930s. Former adjunct professor in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and author of Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development andcollections of poetry, and founder of the South End's Technology Center at Tent City. Tuesday, May 23;

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sschorow

Stephanie Schorow,  journalist, journalism teacher and author of many popular books about Boston's amazing history, including The Crime of the Century: How the Brink's Robbers Stole Millions and the Hearts of Boston and The Cocoanut Grove Fire. Tuesday, June 13.

South End Library's 2016 Holiday Party

South End Library's Holiday Party Offered Home-cooked Dinner by John Hampton, Great Jazz Holiday Music by Pat Loomis and Friends and a Long Line of Celebrants Who Came to Enjoy Food, Friends, Music and Cheer

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xmas-sel-6

Each year, the lines are longer, the holiday meal more tasty, and the music better than ever. That's the story of the annual holiday party sponsored by the staff of the South End library to celebrate religious and secular good cheer between the book stacks, with the long library tables pushed aside to accommodate the musicians and instruments of Pat Loomis and his Friends, instead lined up to offer a delicious array of Southern-style dishes. “Next year, it’ll have to be someone else,” announced John Hampton, the husband of library staffer Carol Glass who has valiantly manned the stove for many years to produce the feast. His health is not what it used to be, so this year’s meal for the library’s party was his last. A long line of expectant diners stretched all the way into the Children’s Department, and included several reporters for local papers.

Pat Loomis (from the back) watching drummer Zeke Martin throw himself into it
Pat Loomis (from the back) watching drummer Zeke Martin throw himself into it
Chef John Hampton's last supper prepared for the SE library's holiday party
Chef John Hampton's last supper prepared for the SE library's holiday party

Loomis's band outperformed itself with what otherwise would have been old standards of the holiday season but, instead, offered the appreciative audience their fine jazz and blues versions of it. Drummer Zeke Martin did a spectacular job, as did Loomis himself on the alto-sax, his son Antonio on guitar and Daniel Day on bass.

Happy holidays to all.

Mayor Marty Walsh, Visiting the South End Library for a Neighborhood Meeting, Expresses Support for the Renovation Plans of Both the South End Branch and Library Park; "I Saw It," the Mayor Says, Responding to Concerns about Homeless Patrons Overwhelming the Branch's Cramped Space

Mayor Marty Walsh at a recent event. Boston Herald. Mayor Marty Walsh, in a meeting held at the South End library on December 8, responded positively to efforts by the library's Friends' group to renovate and redesign the branch library and its adjacent Library Park, which is used extensively for children's programming and the popular summer Jazz & Blues concerts by Pat Loomis and his Friends. The meeting, the third annual "conversation with the Mayor" on a number of topics sponsored by  the South End Forum, brought Mayor Walsh in direct visual contact with the cramped condition of the branch, where as little as 4,000 square feet is divided between children and adults, many of them homeless, a number of them suffering from mental health and addiction problems. "I saw it," the Mayor said when the Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) pointed out the difficulty for the staff to manage the adult population seated in close proximity to the children's room. The South End's teenage patrons, moreover, have no space available to them at all at this branch.

Homeless library patrons and their possessions make an already cramped seating area seem even smaller; creating storage during library visits would help the homeless and preserve room for other patrons

As mayor, Walsh has been very supportive of the long-neglected Boston Public Library system, and was one of the state's Boston  legislators who in 2010 halted the attempted  closing of up to a third of BPL branches proposed by his predecessor, Mayor Thomas Menino. After his election, Walsh funded the massive, more than $80-million renovation of the Copley Library's Johnson building, then in its planning stage. The building, redesigned by William Rawn Associates (who also renovated the outstanding Cambridge Public Library) reopened to rave reviews last summer. The Walsh administration also put in place a more than $90-  million five-year capital plan to bring BPL's branch libraries into the 21st Century. As a result, for example, the Jamaica Plain branch library will reopen this spring with a $10-million overhaul, including a new wing; other branches, including those at Adams Street, Dudley, Parker Hill and Roslindale have substantial capital projects and/or renovation plans underway, as well. Recently added to the list by BPL President David Leonard were long-overdue projects related to library services in Chinatown and Uphams Corner.

But, as FOSEL pointed out at the South End Forum meeting, the South End library is not yet on the current list  for capital improvements. "You will be," Mayor Walsh said, adding he would bring it up with BPL's David Leonard, with whom FOSEL has been in discussion about the South End library's urgent needs since earlier this year. In addition, Mayor Walsh promised he would bring up Library Park's planned redesign with Parks Department Commissioner, Christopher Cook, especially important in the effort to resolve the sticky question as to who actually "owns" Library Park, the BPL or the Parks Department. In the past, the lack of clarity about ownership has been one of the factors that led to the lack of capital investment or repair of the small but prominently located park.

Library Park during one of the Pat Loomis Jazz and Blues concerts, Summer 2016

Under the current plan proposed by FOSEL, an immediate reconfiguration of the ground floor would open up the adult area by moving bookcases to the side; situate  computers at the back wall with a library-wide electrical grid upgrade to replace the warren of electrical extension cords; turn the area underneath the stairs into a space for teenagers; and create more diversified seating arrangements for all library patrons. Subsequent renovation phases would build on the immediate reconfiguration, as part of a capital plan that would be subject to public hearings and suggestions. Library Park's redesign would also require a public process, with the aim of uniting the library's functions with park usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The South End Library's Holiday Party Is Upon Us with Jazz & Blues Band Pat Loomis and his Friends, and a Home-cooked Meal by Staff: Tuesday, December 13 at 6:30 PM, Welcome to All

xmas3It's that time of year again for a home-cooked meal, a fine jazz & blues interpretation of holiday music by Pat Loomis and his Friends, all of it taking place between the book stacks of the South End library on Tuesday, December 13 at 6:30 PM. As always, John Hampton, husband of library staffer Carol Glass, will prepare the delicious Southern-style meal of chicken and trimmings, and volunteers plan to bring xmas-2home-made desserts. (More desserts are always welcome.) Pat Loomis will play the alto-sax. His son, Antonio Loomis, will be on the guitar, while Daniel Day mans the bass and the fabulous Zeke Martin will ply his drums.

xmas-1The event is free and open to all. The South End library is fully handicapped accessible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The South End Library's Local/Focus Holiday Window Display Encourages You to "Make Tracks to the Library" and Enjoy the Holiday Season

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The SE library's Tremont St window at night, with Will Corcoran's wire sculpture installation.
The SE library's Tremont St window at night, with Will Corcoran's wire sculpture installation.

The 2016 Holiday Local/Focus display in the Tremont Street window of the South End library has for its theme, Making Tracks to the Library. It's another brainchild of FOSEL board member Karen Watson, who was inspired by a playful set-up of painted car tires she saw somewhere else. Barry Steinberg, of Direct Tire, graciously selected five old wheels for the project. Volunteers Liane Crawford and Maura Flaherty painted them. Thrift store finds and greens cut from backyards and fields were combined with holiday craft and culinary books from the library's collection. Gently used bows from other lives were dusted off and refashioned onto the refurbished tires.

Since early this year, the Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) has used the library's grand windows on Tremont Street to showcase local artists, creative entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations. The library has featured a range of displays, including one by local wire sculptor, Will Corcoran; cheerful children's dresses inspired by nursery rhymes, hung by Caroline Leed of the South End on-line enterprise Smiling Buttons; bird nests by the Boston Nature Center's Mattapan bird sanctuary and artistic nests made by the children enrolled in the USES Children's Art Centre on Rutland Street.

Ceramic books for artful decoration, by Lori Pease
Ceramic books for artful decoration, by Lori Pease
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smiling buttons -2-

There was an installation about Library Park's LightWells and sustainable groundwater efforts; a powerful photography exhibit of poet portraits by Greg Jundanian; an exhibit  of ceramic book covers and books by Cambridge artist Lori Pease; folded book art by New Hampshire librarian Veronica Mueller; and a Thanksgiving window display by FOSEL.

If you know of someone who'd like to used the windows for a display of interest to the South End community, please contact head librarian, Anne Smart, at asmart@bpl.org or 617 536-8241. 

Dina Vargo, Author of "Wild Women of Boston: Mettle and Moxie in the Hub," Will Talk About Her Illuminating Book Detailing a Parade of Reformers, Socialites, Criminals and Madams, at the South End Library on Tuesday, December 6, at 6:30 PM

dv-flyer-2Dina Vargo writes in her introduction to Wild Women of Boston that filling two or three volumes with the stories of Boston's female firebrands is "almost a no-brainer." A tour guide for the Boston By Foot, Vargo became interested in off-beat walking tours that revealed a hidden history of people and places which led her to the stories about women not so well known but revolutionary in their own right. An African-American abolitionist, Sarah Parker, refused to give up a seat in a play about a hundred years before Rosa Parks did. Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall wild-womenhanded the Audubon Society leadership to men so as to not cross prevailing boundaries of female comity, but at the same time brought the fashion industry to its knees when they led a boycott against plumage in ladies clothing.  And then there was Rachel Wall, a pirate, and  Ann Hibbing, who dared to take on a contractor who she felt charged her too much. Both Wall and Hibbing were hanged. Fargo will tell you all about it, and more. Her books will be available for sale and signing. The South End Writes is sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library. All the events are free. Books by the speakers will be available for borrowing, sale and signing by the author. The branch is fully handicapped accessible. We serve refreshments. Seating is limited.

This will be the final author talk of the 2016-17 season. 

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The 2017-18 South End Writes series begins on Tuesday, January 10 when the 2008 Pulitzer-prize and National Book Critics Circle award-winning author and MIT professor, Junot Diaz, will be at the South End library. Recipient of the MacArthur Genius Fellowship, among many other honors, Diaz is known for his fiery, exuberant prose and empathetic descriptions of his characters (in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Drown, and This Is How You Lose Her) that are rooted in his early childhood in, and memories of, the Dominican Republic, where he was born, and New Jersey, where he grew up. He will be introduced by his friend and colleague, author and poet Pablo Medina, who read at the South End library in May 2014 from his novel, CuBop City Blues.

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Also booked for the 2017/18 season are the following exciting authors:

Suspense writer Wendy Walker (with the widely praised All Is Not Forgotten) on Tuesday, February 7;

The outstanding foreign-policy journalist Stephen Kinzer (with his new book, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire) March 14;

The celebrated author of Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Independent Self, Gish Jen (her latest book coming out in February is The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East West Culture Gap), March 28;

New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Saved Us, Jenna Blum (a collection of tales by well-known women writers, all set on one day in Grand Central Station, called Grand Central Station: Blum’s novella is called The Lucky One), April 4;

The acclaimed sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, another MacArthur Genius Fellow gracing the South End library, (with her recent Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers) April 18.