TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, 6:30 PM Virginia Pye, whose award-winning short stories have been featured in various literary magazines, published her first novel, River of Dust, three years ago. Daughter of the late China scholar, Lucian Pye, who himself was born in China as the son of Congregational missionaries, River of Dust was partially inspired by her grandfather's journals, and set in Northwestern China after the Boxer Rebellion in the early 1900s. The powerful but harrowing description of the drought-stricken landscape in which an American missionary couple tries to find their young child, kidnapped by Mongolian war lords who oppose Western influence of any kind, won Pye the Indie Next Pick and made the book a finalist for the 2014 Library of Virginia Literary Awards. Her most recent novel, Dreams of the Red Phoenix, is also set in a missionary compound, but in the 1930s when North China was occupied by Japan and Communism was on the rise. Asian-American author Gish Jen called Pye's second novel, inspired by diaries of her grandmother, "gripping, convincing and heartbreaking" and "a real page-turner."
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 6:30 PM
Pulitzer-prize-winning editor and investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian will talk about his recent book, Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World's Greatest Art Heist, which describes the mind-boggling theft of some half a billion dollars worth of 13 priceless art works by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet and Vermeer, among others, stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in March 1990. The paintings have not been found despite the offer of a $5 million reward. Kurkjian's continued reporting about the theft, describing a September raid by the FBI on the Suffolk Downs Race Track, and, recently, the unusual sentence reduction by a judge of one of the suspects in the theft, might lead one to speculate some denouement may yet be coming. Kurkjian is one of the founding members of the Boston Globe's Spotlight Team which, among its most powerful investigations, shone a long-overdue light on the sex abuse practices in the Catholic Church's corps of priests, first in Boston and, then, everywhere else in the world. (He joined that particular investigation after its first stories came out.) A graduate of Suffolk Law School, Kurkjian has been the Boston Globe's Washington bureau chief. Of Armenian descent, the award-winning journalist has written numerous articles about the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
TUESDAY, MARCH 8, 6:30 PM
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is the Emily Hargroves Fisher professor of Education at Harvard University who also happens to be a South End resident; she is returning to her local branch to read, this time from her latest published work Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free. For this book, Lawrence-Lightfoot traveled the country for two years, listening to the many tales people told her about their partings, forced or voluntary, and studying the ways endings intertwine with the fabric of our days. The renowned sociologist has written almost a dozen books, with the next one due out at the end of 2016. They 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 this author 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.
TUESDAY, APRIL 5, 6:30 PM
What do you do when your seven-year-old daughter is diagnosed with a potentially fatal blood disease about which you know nothing and which requires decision-making that may determine her living or dying? Paul McLean, a former sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, one-time arts editor at the Boston Herald and a stay-at-home father after his daughter was born, courageously fought to protect his child, preserve his sense of self even when it seemed everything changed by the day and, with his wife, made those difficult decisions. He also took meticulous notes, and wrote about his searing experience. Blood Lines: Fatherhood, Faith and Love in the Time of Stem Cells is the harrowing and honest account of who he once was, a regular guy with a regular family, and who he had to become as a result of the existential threat to his child. McLean is the social media coordinator for the Harvard Community Ethics Committee (CEC), a former fellow in the Center for Bioethics program, a current community member of the Ethics Advisory Committee at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Research Subject Advocacy Board of Harvard Catalyst, as well as a social media contributor to The Hastings Center.
TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 6:30 PM
What Does China Want? you may have asked yourself watching the latest military and economic developments involving America's most important trading partner and not-infrequent political adversary. Renowned China specialist Ross Terrill, will be at the South End library to talk about what he calls The China Challenge, and touch upon the latest conundrums posed by the once-locked-away empire that is now deeply intertwined in the global culture. Terrill, a South End resident, is the author of innumerable articles and many books, including, among other works, The Biography of Mao; China in Our Time: The Epic Saga of the People's Republic from the Communist Victory to Tiananmen Square and Beyond; Madame Mao; and The New Chinese Empire --winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2004. A Research Associate at Harvard's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Terrill was a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly in the 1970s, when he won the National Magazine Award for Reporting Excellence and the George Polk Memorial Award for Outstanding Magazine Reporting for writings on China. Raised in rural Australia, he also wrote The Australians. He has visited China almost every year for many years; within China, his biography of Mao, in Chinese translation, has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Terrill has recently been visiting professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and at Monash University in Australia.
TUESDAY, MAY 3, 6:30 PM
Michelle Hoover's two novels are both set in America's rural heartland in the early 20th century. Her first one, The Quickening, based on a great-grandmother's journal, described an unlikely friendship between two women in a time of harsh economic realities. It was widely praised and, in addition to being shortlisted for the Center for Fiction's Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, it was a Massachusetts Book Award Must Read pick. Her latest, Bottomlands, is the story of a German-American family living in the time of strong anti-German sentiments after the First World War, struggling to survive as farmers and trying to piece together why their two teenage daughters vanished in the middle of a night. Hoover is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University and teaches at GrubStreet, where she leads the Novel Incubator program. She is a 2014 NEA Fellow and has been a Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, and a winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Born in Iowa, she lives in Boston.
TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 6:30 PM
Jenna Blum, the acclaimed author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller, Those Who Saved Us (2004), and The Stormchasers (2010) will talk about her latest work, a novella published in the anthology, Grand Central. An collection of stories related to the Holocaust by ten bestselling female writers, Grand Central features Blum's The Lucky One. The daughter of a Jewish father and part-German mother, Blum reports on her web site that she had been reluctant to return to the subject of the Holocaust after the searing experience of the research and writing of Those Who Saved Us, which explored how non-Jewish Germans dealt with the Holocaust. But she remembered one story she 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, set, like each of the other 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 she was fourteen, and her first short story won a third prize when it was published in Seventeen Magazine. 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.