Three local authors are scheduled to discuss their work in May and June at the South End library, with the 2014-15 speaker's series heading into its home stretch. On Tuesday, May 12, Anjali Mitter Duva will present her debut novel, Faint Promise of Rain, a coming-of-age story set in India in the 16th century. She will be followed, on Tuesday, June 9, by Harvard physician John J. Ross, who will talk about Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough, describing the physical ailments of famous authors throughout the centuries. The last speaker of the season is Adam Rothman, who grew up on West Brookline Street, but returns to the 'hood on Tuesday, June 23rd as associate professor of history at Georgetown University. In his latest book, Rothman focuses on what he calls one of the biggest challenges faced by freed slaves after the Civil War, namely their efforts to reconstruct their families. His Beyond Freedom's Reach: a Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery, tells the true story of Rose Herrera, born into slavery, but freed during the Civil War. Her battle to have her children returned from her previous owners, who kidnapped them when they fled to Cuba after New Orleans fell to Union forces, became an international incident involving members of the US Senate and the State Department. The library is fully handicapped accessible but seating is limited. The readings start at 6:30 PM. All events are free. Books will be available for purchase, signing and borrowing.
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ANJALI MITTER DUVA, an Indian-American Bostonian who grew up in France, has just published her first novel, Faint Promise of Rain. It’s a historical novel and the coming-of-age story of Adhira, a girl born into a family of temple dancers. It draws on the author’s father’s childhood in India and her personal interest in kathak dance, according to an interview with the writers’ web site Dead Darlings. Duva grew up in France with her family roots in Calcutta, India. According to a report in the Plymouth Library newsletter, she attended MIT and started a career in urban planning before finding her calling in native storytelling. Faint Promise of Rain takes place in 1554 in the desert of Rajasthan as a new Mughal emperor expands his territory. Told from the perspective of an exquisite dancer and filled with the sounds, sights and flavors of the Indian desert, the novel is the story of a family and a girl caught between art, duty and fear in a changing world.
JOHN J. ROSS, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will read from his Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough, a book about the medical lives of authors through the ages. Ross explores the likely maladies of twelve literary, but medically expired stars, ranging from Shakespeare’s syphilis, to Milton’s blindness, Swift’s vertigo, the Bronte sisters’ tuberculosis, Hawthorne’s anxiety disorder, Melville’s probable bi-polar disorder, Yeats’s Aspergers, Joyce’s gonorrhea, and Orwell’s damaged bronchial tubes. Their achievements do not surprise Ross as he believes ” literary genius is more likely to arise from disappointment and chagrin than comfort and complacency.” A Wall Street Journal reviewer called Ross “a penetrating literary critic and a perceptive and humane observer of the lives of writers and of those in their orbit.” The Washington Post‘s critic described the book as “a delicious gumbo of odd personalities, colorful literary history, and enlightened deduction.” The New York Times said the tales of the ‘wounded storytellers’ “unfold smoothly on the page, as mesmerizing as any they themselves might have told, those squinting, wheezing, arthritic, infected, demented, defective yet superlative examples of the human condition.”
ADAM ROTHMAN, associate professor at Georgetown University, whose work focuses on, among other things, the history of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world, will talk about Beyond Freedom’s Reach: a Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery. Rothman, who grew up in the South End on West Brookline Street, researched the true story of Rose Herera, born into slavery in rural Louisiana, who was bought and sold several times before being purchased by the De Hart family of New Orleans. After Union forces captured New Orleans in 1862 during the American Civil War, Herera’s owners fled to Havana, taking her three small children with them. Beyond Freedom’s Reach is the result of Rothman’s research into the story of her battle to rescue her children from bondage. Herera’s perseverance brought her children’s plight to the attention of members of the U.S. Senate and State Department, which turned what might have been a domestic conflict into an international scandal.
Rothman was invited to speak at the library by South End residents Jean Gibran and Ann Hershfang. Gibran recently talked at the library about her memoir, Love Made Visible, the story of her marriage to sculptor Kahlil Gibran; Hershfang last year brought you former New York Times reporter and bureau chief, Stephen Kinzer, who gave a riveting presentation of his latest book, The Brothers, an in-depth history of the disastrous foreign policy roles played by John Foster and Alan Dulles during the Cold War.