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.

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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 www.marianneakinzer.com.

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.

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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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SOUTH END OBSERVATIONS

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).

 

 

 

A Refreshed and Much-improved Library Park Has Been Reopened, but New Park Furniture Is Still on Back Order and Trees Are Awaiting their Pruning

A broad plaza/walkway leads from the South End branch to the park entrance at Rutland Square. The chairs in the image were in good-enough condition to preserve for the newly improved park.

A broad plaza/walkway leads from the South End branch to the park entrance at Rutland Square. The chairs in the image were in good-enough condition to preserve for the newly improved park.

Library Park was reopened to the public featuring a beautiful wide concrete walkway plaza with new paver detail strips that have replaced the broken bluestone surface and worn-out concrete-and-brick benches of previous decades. Four black single seats that were in Library Park before have been re-installed, and as soon as new park benches and cafe tables arrive from the back-order planet they, too, will become part of the green space's landscape. 

The new furniture for Library Park will be added to the already installed chairs saved from the previous park layout.

The new furniture for Library Park will be added to the already installed chairs saved from the previous park layout.

The contractors laid down a new sub-base for the plaza and amended the impoverished soil where plantings struggled to live. A huge load of mulch has topped off the garden areas to help new plantings thrive and shine. How to landscape the park will be the subject of discussion this fall with the Parks Department, the BPL (which officially owns the site) and the FOSEL board.

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There are still several projects left to be done, including the pruning of the trees which. according to Lauren Bryant, the Parks Department's project manager for Library Park, will be done in the next couple of weeks. The brick edging along Rutland Square will be reset for a smooth transition into the park. In addition, the two LightWells, for which the electrical wiring has been placed underground by the contractors, will need to be refurbished and the areas around them re-landscaped.  Once upon a time, before the rats chewed through their wiring and vandals tried to skateboard over them, they were nicely landscaped seating areas that glowed in a series of hues through the night.

 

 

In the New Era of #MeToo, Author Karen Day Describes her 2018 Debut Novel, "I'll Stay" as a 'Testament' to a Time when Girls Stayed Quiet

Author Karen Day signing copies of her debut novel,  I'll Stay.

Author Karen Day signing copies of her debut novel, I'll Stay.

Karen Day, a successful author for middle-grade readers (A Million Miles from Boston, No Cream Puffs, and Tall Tales), spent the better part of the last decade writing a novel about close friendships between young women and young women and their mothers. Day's 2018 debut novel for adults, I'll Stay, examines the relationship between Clare and Lee, college friends who on a vacation experience a traumatic event that negatively changes Lee's life forever, while Clare, the daughter of a famous mother, is able to flee to safer grounds. In the novel, the friends went back to school. They didn't talked about the event. The story is narrated by Clare at three different times, 1983, 1986 and 1991.

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The plot was based very loosely on an incident in Day's own life when she and three college friends went backpacking. They found themselves in a scary situation, surrounded by men, but were able to escape unharmed. They returned to school and never talked about it, either. "It was as if nothing happened," said Day, who ever since wondered why not. "We didn't do it because in those days we didn't do things," Day says now. "We blamed ourselves:  We said it was our fault because we flirted with those guys. We questioned our behavior."

Enter the #MeToo era, when Day's book, written before it was okay for women to publicly point the finger at men behaving badly, but published after. Day, a frank and engaging speaker who appeared unafraid to re-examine the premises of her own work, told the audience at the South End library in June that in writing I'll Stay, she explored where stories come from beyond the words on the page, looking to discover who she and her friends were, and how conflicts between them affected their friendships. She now sees her novel as "a cautionary tale about the impact of split-second choices" and a "testament to how easy it is for girls to stay quiet." 

Novelist Day describing her search of where stories come from and how they evolve.

Novelist Day describing her search of where stories come from and how they evolve.

Day has been writing since she was a child growing up in Indiana, and came East to go school. She was a journalist for newspapers and magazines in the 1990s, and among other articles secured the last interview with tennis champion Arthur Ashe. She has a BA in Journalism, an MA in English Literature and taught undergraduate composition when studying for her doctorate at NYU. With her husband, she raised three children, getting up mornings at 4:30, often with her kids next to her in the beanbag chair, she said. It took her twenty years just to learn how to revise.

I'll Stay was the 2017 winner of BUZZ  Books; a  previous speaker at South End Writes, Jenna Blum, the author of Those Who Save Us, and The Lost Family, called it a “smart, compassionate, psychological spellbinder” with “one of the scariest scenes you’ll read anywhere.” The novel got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Local/Focus Puts the Spotlight on the South End's Union United Methodist Church Celebrating the 200-year Anniversary of its Congregation

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The Union United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American United Methodist Congregation in New England. This year, 2018, the Congregation is celebrating its 200-year anniversary, and a distinguished history committed to Christian love, social justice and “radical hospitality,” that is, a welcoming of strangers that is deep and spiritual.

Union is located at 485 Columbus Avenue, in a magnificent Gothic Revival-style building designed by Alexander R. Estey in the 1870s. It anchors one of the South End’s most popular green spaces, Titus Sparrow Park. The park’s playground was built on land donated by Union.

The Congregation was organized in 1818 out of the Bromfield Street Methodist Episcopal Church by Pastor Samuel Snowden, a former slave turned abolitionist. The Union story had begun earlier, in 1796, with a group of African-American believers on Beacon Hill who formed the May Street Meeting House. David Walker, who published the radical and influential anti-slavery ‘An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World’ in 1829, was a member of its congregation.

The church moved to Revere Street, a station along the famed Underground Railroad, and next to Shawmut Avenue in Roxbury in 1911, where it was known as Fourth Methodist Episcopal. That is where in 1916 the Hattie B. Cooper Center for Children first opened its doors to 69 children; it was named after the first chairperson of the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

The current Local/Focus installation features a slide show about its congregation on FOSEL's flat screen.

The current Local/Focus installation features a slide show about its congregation on FOSEL's flat screen.

In 1949, Union moved to its current home on Columbus Avenue, a site previously occupied by the New England Home for Little Wanderers, a charity that cared for children orphaned and made homeless by the Civil War. On its Inaugural Day, May 18, 1949, the keynote speaker was Mary McLeod Bethune, the prominent civil rights activist and educator who was an advisor to both President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1950, Union hosted the 1950 NAACP convention that voted to pursue Brown v. Board of Education. In 1966, it showcased a performance by the legendary Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Sacred Jazz Orchestra during the liturgical phase of Ellington’s music. In 1968 after the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Union helped create Boston’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial BreakfastNow in its fortieth year, the annual event is the nation’s oldest continuous celebration of Dr. King’s life and attracts leaders from the business, civic and educational community state-wide.

In the 1970s, Union developed the Meth-Union Manor, a four- building affordable housing cooperative in the South End. In the 1980s and 1990s, Union was active in local and national efforts in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and for economic equality at home. In 2000, Union’s Congregation became the first historically Black church to vote to formalize what it had been for decades: a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

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     Gary Bailey, a FOSEL board member and a trustee of Boston’s Union United Methodist Church, in front of the UUMC installation for Local/Focus. He is holding a picture of easier congregants of Union United. Bailey is a professor of Social Work at Simmons College. 

Gary Bailey, a FOSEL board member and a trustee of Boston’s Union United Methodist Church, in front of the UUMC installation for Local/Focus. He is holding a picture of easier congregants of Union United. Bailey is a professor of Social Work at Simmons College. 

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).

Whoops and Cheers for Internationally Acclaimed Saxophonist Elan Trotman Accompanied by Pat Loomis and his Friends Playing a Celebratory Jazz & Blues Concert, the Last One in the 'Old' Library Park

The last (and best?) performance before the reconstruction of Library Park

The last (and best?) performance before the reconstruction of Library Park

Pat Loomis and Friends brought best-selling recording artist and internationally acclaimed saxophonist, Elan Trotman, to Library Park on July 10. The concert elicited loud applause and cheers from a large crowd of Southenders who on the hot and sultry summer night also celebrated the upcoming and long-overdue park's reconstruction, which since has begun. The band included Pat Loomis, alto saxophone;  Antonio Loomis, guitar; Amy Bellamy, keyboards; Daniel Day, bass; Zeke Martin, drums; and Zayra Pola Ocasio, percussion. Elan Trotman played tenor saxophone. 

Alto-saxophonist Pat Loomis, on the left, with Elan Trotman, on tenor-saxophone

Alto-saxophonist Pat Loomis, on the left, with Elan Trotman, on tenor-saxophone

The Friends of the South End Library have sponsored four Summer Jazz & Blues concerts in Library Park for more than a decade, raising money for the musicians from local benefactors and library supporters, including the Ann H. Symington Foundation. This year, FOSEL and Pat Loomis agreed to upgrade the concerts with 'Special Guest Performers;' Elan Trotman was the first.

He will not be the last: Every musician in the Loomis band was energized and inspired by Trotman's performance, which turned the South End library part of Tremont Street into a party scene. The audience whooped and cheered as the band played The Chicken (Pee Wee Ellis);  Can't Hide Love (Earth, Wind, and Fire); Never Too Much (Luther Vandross); Georgia On My Mind (Ray Charles); Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder); Europa (Carlos Santana);  Spain (Chick Corea); and ended with Happy People (Kenny Garrett). 

Happy neighbors on both sides of the fence at Library Park

Happy neighbors on both sides of the fence at Library Park

Regrettably, the July 10 performance may be the only outdoor concert this year as Library Park will be under reconstruction for the next three months. The traditional Holiday Concert inside the library, usually held around mid-December, may well feature another special guest, details of which event will be publicized as soon as we know who it will be. 

 

 

From left to right: Zeke Martin, drums; Daniel Day, bass; Zayra Pola Ocassio, percussion; Antonio Loomis, guitar; Pat Loomis, alto sax; and Elan Trotman, tenor sax.

From left to right: Zeke Martin, drums; Daniel Day, bass; Zayra Pola Ocassio, percussion; Antonio Loomis, guitar; Pat Loomis, alto sax; and Elan Trotman, tenor sax.

Mayor Walsh Adds Funding to FY19 City Capital Budget to Keep Renovations of South End Library and Library Park on Track

Mayor Marty Walsh speaking at a Coffee Hour in Titus Sparrow Park in early May about his commitment to South End's needs, including the renovations of Library Park and the South End Branch Library of the BPL

Mayor Marty Walsh speaking at a Coffee Hour in Titus Sparrow Park in early May about his commitment to South End's needs, including the renovations of Library Park and the South End Branch Library of the BPL

The proposed layout of the South End library's downstairs interior representing Phases One and Two by architect and FOSEL board member Michelle Laboy

The proposed layout of the South End library's downstairs interior representing Phases One and Two by architect and FOSEL board member Michelle Laboy

Library Park's redesigned space, for which construction will commence the week of July 16, 2018. In addition to the design above, enthusiastically approved by the South End Landmark District Commission in April, the work will include major infrastructure work to remove any obstacles still buried underneath from the early 1970s when it was first built, and re-grade the park's surface.

Library Park's redesigned space, for which construction will commence the week of July 16, 2018. In addition to the design above, enthusiastically approved by the South End Landmark District Commission in April, the work will include major infrastructure work to remove any obstacles still buried underneath from the early 1970s when it was first built, and re-grade the park's surface.

Library Park in its previous state, with a large area of broken pavement and limited usage options. The new design, featured above, will have multiple seating arrangements. The construction, which began late July, may take three months.

Library Park in its previous state, with a large area of broken pavement and limited usage options. The new design, featured above, will have multiple seating arrangements. The construction, which began late July, may take three months.

 The Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) is very happy to report that, late last week, capital funding of $400,000 was restored in the FY 2019 budget for Phase Two of the South End library's interior renovation. This means that our efforts to quickly improve a cramped and outdated branch by means of a pubic/private partnership between the Boston Public Library (BPL) and FOSEL will succeed. It is the first  partnership for a Boston branch library in the history of the BPL in which private contributions raised by FOSEL from local library supporters combined with a dedicated BPL capital allocation is used for an accelerated library renovation. In addition, money was added to the Parks Department budget to start the reconstruction of Library Park. 

The current 2019 city budget, linked here, shows two capital allocations for the South End branch, $100,000 for a program study leading to a major overhaul and expansion of the library; and $400,000 to be spent on short-term improvements outlined in Phase Two. Both projects will be subject to public hearings. The proposed redesign for Phases One and Two is illustrated in the drawing above. Further details are on our website, linked here.

There are many people to thank, but first and foremost Mayor Marty Walsh, who visited the library several times since his election and each time pledged his full support for the branch's renovation, and for the redesign of the library's adjacent green space, Library Park. This spring, both library and park projects were suddenly delayed, each for different reasons, but both were put back on track with the same solution: the Mayor's strong support for more funding for these two important and long-neglected civic spaces in the South End. 

The unwavering efforts on our behalf by District 2 Councilor, Ed Flynn, was another key factor. Flynn and his staff rallied the South End's other two councilors, Frank Baker (District 3) and Kim Janey (District 7), and all at-large councilors (Michelle Wu, Ayanna Pressley, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty), to sign their letter requesting the necessary funding from BPL President David Leonard and Mayor Walsh. Flynn met separately with the Mayor, as well, to plead FOSEL's case. The signature of City Council President, Andrea Campbell, who grew up in the South End, moreover, was at the top of the list.

Faisa Sharif, the South End's liaison to the Mayor's Office, performed a yeoman's job going through the budget details with David Leonard to secure city dollars for park and library, and kept FOSEL in the loop at all times. Our State Rep., Byron Rushing, a BPL trustee since 2009, assured audiences at several South End events recently that 'all would work out fine.' Did he know something we did not? Who knows: He was right. 

Our BPL partner in the public/private enterprise, President David Leonard, has reached out to us to plan the next steps in the library project in meetings that will include Faisa Sharif, Ed Flynn and Byron Rushing. We are looking forward to continuing our productive relationship to benefit the South End library and its users. You will be kept apprised of important details.

Last but not least, we thank you, our loyal supporters, and every member of the FOSEL board, for emailing and phoning our elected representatives and the BPL. The turnaround could not have happened without you.
 

 

DO YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES ONCE A WEEK? South End Wire Sculptor, Will Corcoran Has Installed a New Local/Focus Display in the Library's Window

Recent studies have shown that the power of being read to at any age changes the brain’s chemistry in such a way that the power of recall is greatly enhanced. Will Corcoran can still vividly remember the books read to him by his mother for fifteen minutes, once a week, fifty years ago. Corcoran is a South End artist whose wire sculptures have been on display for years in front of his home, at the corner of Pembroke Street and Warren Avenue. All outside pieces are made of hex wire. Some art works are ‘spinners’ which literally (spin) in the breeze. Most Installs happen at noon when the collective buzz of people, nature, trucks and taxis create a breeze that bring them to life. The collective movement of the city becomes an integral part of the piece.

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Sculptures are changed twice a month year-round. “Kids wait and wonder about the next install,” he says. For most interior pieces aluminum screening is used. This affords a transparent   effect by day and solid sculptures at night, “with amazing shadows,” he says.

Corcoran creates his works standing at a table in the bay window of his home overlooking Harriet Tubman Park. “The screening material is delicate to work with,” he says. “It is unforgiving and evanescent, much like the energy of the street scene below. There are patterns of light and dark that come and go and are never repeated the same way. Loud music floats up from moving cars. Motorcycles hum at the red light. There’s a dry cleaner’s, a liquor store, an ATM, a convenience store, a restaurant, a park: The buzz!”

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The artist "tumbled into" wire sculpture a few years ago, and has participated in shows in Provincetown, Truro, and in various locations in Boston, including SoWa. He previously displayed his work in the Tremont Street window of the South End library in April 2016, in an exhibit inspired by the tales of Edgar Allen Poe and the Brothers Grimm. You can follow his spinners, yard mobiles, and more on Twitter (PembrokeYeah!), Instagram (will02118), or his website  www.willcorcoran.com

 “ So pick up a classic and read to someone you Love”

 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).

 

Harvard Public Health Professor, David Hemenway, Believes the CDC Can Help Prevent Gun Violence With a Campaign Similar to the One That Cut Fatalities from Car Crashes by 85 Percent in the 1950s

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The numbers are mind-boggling: Since 1968, more Americans have died from guns in the United States than on battlefields of all the wars in American history. And if we do nothing about it, one million Americans will be shot in the next decade. Thus according to the June 5 speaker at the library's South End Writes series, David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University, and Director of its Injury Control and Research Center. He presented a picture of a gun culture in the United States that he, and many of his public-health colleagues, believe is unnecessarily violent and destructive. He proposes a multi-faceted public-health approach of changing laws and norms that would reduce the lethal consequence of Americans' affinity for gun ownership to more acceptable levels. 

Hemenway's public-health mantra is: Make it easy for people to stay healthy and difficult too become sick or injured. In other words, focus on prevention to benefit the entire population and switch the focus on gun-violence reduction from the curative (actions to heal individuals after gun violence has occurred) to the preventive (forming a broad and inclusive coalition with shared responsibilities to eliminate harm to the population at large). 

David Hemenway, economist and Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University's Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, wants to switch the gun debate from 'who's to blame' in gun fatalities to 'what causes the injuries?' and find broad-based solutions to cut the death and injury rates

David Hemenway, economist and Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University's Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, wants to switch the gun debate from 'who's to blame' in gun fatalities to 'what causes the injuries?' and find broad-based solutions to cut the death and injury rates

The author of Private Guns/Public Health and While We Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention, Hemenway has solid reasons to believe he is right. He cites the powerful example of the US Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s great public-health accomplishment of the 20th century, namely the 85-percent reduction in deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents. In the 1950s and 60s, public-health physicians changed the question from "who caused the fatal car crash?" to "what caused the injury?" Instead of blaming the driver every time for drinking while driving or running a red light, just as today 'irresponsible'gun owners are blamed for gun violence, researchers in the 1950s looked at what caused the injuries. They found that the quality of the vehicles and the prevailing condition of the roads and highways were sub-par, and often major factors in the fatalities. Resulting safety mandates for automobiles (seatbelts, car seats, head rests, safety glass) and highways (removal of telephone and light poles, trees and better signage) eventually cut the death rate of car fatalities by four-fifth. 

Boston police Commissioner, Bill Evans, who introduced David Hemenway, had to leave early: Someone had been shot....

Boston police Commissioner, Bill Evans, who introduced David Hemenway, had to leave early: Someone had been shot....

"Just as banning cars was not an option then, neither is banning guns now," Hemenway points out: More than a third of American households own guns. But the unrestricted use of guns and weak gun-control laws that prevail today come with a high cost, financially and emotionally. In the 1990s, the medical cost of gun shot injuries and death was estimated at $6 million a day. Gun injuries are the leading cause of uninsured hospital stays. The best estimate of the price tag of gun violence is about $100 billion a year. The consequences of the emotional trauma of participating in or witnessing gun violence can last a lifetime, he says, and the routine injuries to brain and spinal cord are devastating. 

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Hemenway, who won the Excellence in Science Award from the American Public Health Association and has been recognized by the CDC as one of the twenty most influential injury and violence prevention professional, proposes a multifaceted approach of harm reduction in which no one is blamed but everyone involved in the gun debate participates to find a broad-based solution. The goal is to reduce fatalities by, among other things, lifting the ban on research into gun usage, now mandated by the Dickey Amendment, in place since the mid-1990s. This would produce solid statistics as to why in the US the suicide rate is 12 higher than in similar developed countries, or why homicides here are 18 times higher. "Outside the US, countries have similar rates for violence, crime, bullying and aggression/depression rates among children," Hemenway says. "The only difference seems to be that Americans own an enormous number of fire arms." However, the CDC's so-called Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) which collects state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, can't include questions about gun ownership or gun violence in their interviews, or risk losing CDC funding.

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Hemenway's response to 'what we need to know about fire arms research'  can be answered in one word: Everything.  Specifically, the subjects to be researched include gun theft, gun training, open gun carrying, gun storage, gun suicide, gun accidents, gun threats, gun use in self-defense, gun use to intimidate, guns in intimate partner violence, straw purchasers, smart guns, effect of gun laws, gun law enforcement, gun transfers, gun shop practices, concealed gun carrying, guns on college campuses, guns at work, guns and alcohol, police and guns, assault weapons, Saturday night specials, penalties for illegal gun use, gun trafficking, liability laws and guns, insurance for gun owners, women and guns, children and guns, minorities and guns, Second Amendment, gun ranges, guns and hearing loss, guns and lead poisoning, gangs and guns,  background checks, police discretion, machine guns, burglary, home protection alternatives, and so on.

Boston's Police Commissioner, Bill Evans, a strong proponent of strict gun laws, who joined the Boston Police Department as a rookie in 1980, introduced Hemenway for his talk at the South End library. Regrettably, the Commissioner could not stay long after his introduction. He was called away to a public-safety emergency..someone had been shot.

 

Acclaimed Novelist and Short-story Writer, Allegra Goodman, Delves into the World of Teachers and Gamers, the Focus of her Latest Book, "The Chalk Artist"

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When the acclaimed author of short stories and novels, Allegra Goodman, came to the South End library in May, she pointed to a list of 20 names at the beginning of her latest novel, The Chalk Artist. "These are all my teachers," she said. "The first one was Dana Izumi, my Kindergarten teacher; the last, Stephen Orgel, was my dissertation advisor at Stanford." Listing them wasn't just because she ran out of relatives to thank, she joked: "Think of who was your best teacher: probably the one who was toughest on you," she said. "I was not a good student. I was left-handed. I had terrible handwriting. Miss Izumi used her blue pencil freely but she never gave up on me. Actually, I was in love with her. She had a page haircut. She was beautiful."

Author Allegra Goodman with FOSEL board member, Maura Harrington

Author Allegra Goodman with FOSEL board member, Maura Harrington

Now a prize-winning author whose Kaaterskill Falls novel about a reclusive Orthodox-Jewish community summering in upstate New York was a finalist for the National Book Award, Goodman's research for The Chalk Artist took her to public high schools in Boston, where she found classrooms that were chaotic and problematic with overwhelmed teachers. She saw the demoralization of the teachers, which was also reflected in the students. "No one wanted to be there," she commented. One of the characters in the novel, a young teacher from a wealthy family who wanted "to give back" finds herself having to teach students obsessed by gaming, lured away from 'real life.' To explore that angle of The Chalk Artist, Goodman studied gaming, even creating her own graphics for invented games. As a traditionalist who, when interviewed by The Boston Globe, said her favorite app is a book, and, no, she doesn't text, she was an unlikely person to dive into that world. She concluded that gaming is more social than anything, with a massive audience and multi-game players. "Gamers look for community on-line and engage in elaborate role-playing on-line," she observed. "My book is not about 'literature is good and screen time is bad," she added, "but about the importance of imagination and the push and pull between words and images." 

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Goodman grew up in Hawaii, in a conservative Jewish family of academics who taught at the University of Hawaii. She attended the same exclusive school as did President Obama, though at a different time. Her early stories about intricate family dynamics were published as The Family Markowitz. Her recent ones, Apple Cake and F.A.Q.s came out in The New Yorker, as she focuses her attention on different members of the fictional Rubinstein family of Boston, in clear-eyed but compassionate and often hilarious descriptions of long-buried grudges and unexplored conflicts that can surface unexpectedly at inconvenient times. 

How belief systems are challenged by life's changes is the recurring theme in Goodman's books. Her earlier novel, Intuition, delves into the world of cancer researchers whose particular belief systems are challenged by the 'professional betrayal' of a post-doc whose girlfriend  thinks his data are too good to be true. "The book came about when I was considering the various aspects of marital betrayal and began to wonder, 'what about professional betrayal'?" she explained.

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Goodman described herself as an American Jewish woman writer, but elaborated that "we all own the language we share." She pointed to George Eliot wrote about doctors and Jews but was neither. "It's true that you need to know what you write about," she said "but you need to expand what you know." 

A resident of Cambridge whose fourth child is about to leave the parental home, Goodman is about finished with another novel. A textbook she co-wrote with a colleague about the craft of writing will be published in the next year. Charmed by the South End where she now takes her youngest child to dance lessons, she promised to be back with her new book. 

 

 

The Latest Local/Focus of the Tremont Street Window Displays the Wonders of Coding and Technology Available at the South End Technology Center and its Sibling, the Fab/Lab

THE SOUTH END TECHNOLOGY CENTER/FAB LAB is the brainchild of longtime South End community activist, Mel King. The former state legislator and mayoral candidate founded SETC in the late 1990s together with the Tent City Corporation and MIT, where King was an adjunct professor. SETC’s mission is to enable all young Bostonians to become “producers of knowledge and sharers of ideas and information.” SETC provides free or low-cost access and training in most aspects of computer-related technology with volunteer staff highly skilled in computer technology and its applications. 

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Located at 395 Columbus Avenue at the corner of Yarmouth Street, SETC serves 900 children and adults each year. It offers numerous opportunities to people of all ages, including Open Access to computers and internet; Technology education; Free wireless internet service to residents; an Audio Recording studio; Information on how to use a flatbed scanner, a digital camera, and how to burn CDs and DVDs; a Youth Media Producers program; a Fab Lab Inventer Lounge stocked with laser & vinyl cutters, a milling machine, a 3D printer, a CAD embroidery machine; and free tutoring by appointment, among other services. The Center is supported by foundation grants and individual contributions. It is open to the public Monday thru Thursday, 5 PM to 8 PM; Friday 4 PM to 6 PM; and Saturday 1 PM to 4 PM.  For more information, please contact Susan Klimczak at klimczaksusan@gmail.com or by phone at  SETC at 617.578.0597 or cell 617.817.2877.

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).

 

Megan Marshall's Acclaimed Biography/Memoir, "Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast," Illuminates the Sestina, a Poetic Measure Used by Marshall in the Biography and by Bishop in her Poems.

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Acclaimed biographer Megan Marshall, who first visited the South End Writes in 2014 to read from her Pulitzer-prize-winning biography of Margaret Fuller, returned on May 8 to find a room full of Southenders eager to hear all about her most recent, and widely praised, biography, Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast.  She was introduced by her colleague, author Joan Wickersham, who described Marshall  as a "peerless biographer who does meticulous scholarly research so that you, as a reader, get to know her subject deeply." 

Marshall, who also wrote The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 and winner of several other awards prestigious awards, had been accepted in 1976 in Elizabeth Bishop's last verse-writing class before the poet died, in 1979 at age 68. Bishop also had been a guest speaker in a Robert Lowell poetry workshop Marshall had attended in the early 1970s when she had hoped to become a poet herself. By that time, Bishop had been the Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress in 1949-1950, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956, the National Book Award in 1970, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1976.

Author Joan Wickersham introducing biographer Megan Marshall

Author Joan Wickersham introducing biographer Megan Marshall

The personal connection provided Marshall with the opportunity to innovate the biography of Bishop by interspersing it with her own memoirs, in short sections, as she moves through the biography, said Wickersham. "It is a meditation on how we know another person," she commented. "The memoir part is about Marshall NOT knowing Bishop because, in life, you know people by their role, but not the real stuff. After reading this book, I really knew Bishop."

Wickersham noted the structure of the Bishop biography echoes the sestina, a French poetry measure dating to the 12th century. It consists of six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet, and uses six particular words in a certain pattern. This is a form Bishop used in, among other poems, A Miracle for Breakfast, with the words Balcony, Crumb, Coffee, River, Miracle and Sun. Marshall took those very words to name the six chapters in the biography, using the sestina's poetic form, "to tell the story about the poet," as Wickersham put it. 

Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall speaking to admirers at the South End library

Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall speaking to admirers at the South End library

Bishop wrote both poetry and short stories, many of them published in The New Yorker,; since she produced only 100 poems, Marshall confessed she had thought hers would be "a short biography."  But in 2011, archives no one knew existed suddenly became available after Bishop's last partner, Alice Methfessel, died. It Included letters of passionate love between Methfessel and Bishop, as well as four letters Bishop wrote to her psychoanalyst, Ruth Foster.  “So the book became longer,” Marshall said. And darker.

The archives threw a new light on Bishop's harrowing childhood: her father's early death; her mother's confinement and death in an insane asylum; the molestation by an uncle. Bishop was raised by a succession of relatives in Great Village, Nova Scotia, and Worcester and Revere, MA. She attended Saugus High School, then Walnut Hill School in Natick and Vassar College in New York. Her well-to-do Bishop grandparents (their contracting company built the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Public Library) provided her with a financial stipend and paid for the custodial care offered by her mother's sisters in Revere.

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Bishop was plagued by shyness, asthma, alcoholism, and a deep frustration that her poems took so long to produce. Marshall speculates the drinking bouts were perhaps a desire for oblivion over the pain caused by the tragic separation from her mother. A get-together her father's relative once had organized for her was so traumatic to even contemplate that Bishop fled. But in January 1977, Marshall and a few other students were invited by Bishop to a party at her home on Lewis Wharf in Boston“Bishop was shy but had parties for friends," Marshal said. "The condo overlooked the harbor where, once "her great-grandfather may have landed." 

Bishop did not see her love for women as problematic, nor, Marshal said, did her analyst, Ruth Foster. She even lived as a married couple in Brazil for more than a decade with the architect, Lota de Macedo Soares. "Bishop found ways to live near, or with, her lovers. She lived as she chose," said Marshall, 'but even though gay liberation had begun in the 1970s, neither she nor her later partner, Alice, were ever really 'out.'"

“There are always things I can identify with,” Marshall said of the subjects of her biographies. “Bishop’s unruly hair reminded me of an elementary school report I received where the teacher asked, 'Can’t Megan ever comb her hair?' And I did not know until I began to research the book that Bishop was interested in Early Music," she added, revealing she studied piano and harpsichord for many years herself.

Marshall, who is currently exploring the women in the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, was asked what question she'd have for Elizabeth Bishop, if she were alive today. Marshall wondered about the letters to her analyst: Why did she write them? Were they ever sent? Did the analyst ask her to? Reading them, Marshall said, "was as if I was sitting in on the sessions.”