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Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Jul09

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

Mrs. Dalloway turns out to be a good choice of a book to read during a pandemic. Mrs. Dalloway, as is noted on page 2 of the book, has been ill (“…she was over fifty, and grown very white since her illness.”) She has had “the influenza,” and it has affected her heart. The book takes place in 1923, so it is likely that Mrs. Dalloway became ill during, and survived, the flu pandemic of 1918. In a recent article in The New Yorker, Evan Kindley writes about how the famous first line of the book – “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” – is being repurposed in social media for our current situation, as in “Mrs. Dalloway said she would make the mask herself,” or “Mrs. Dalloway said she would order from @Instacart herself.” (Read more HERE.) Pandemic references or not, Mrs. Dalloway is always a good choice of a book to read, for it never ceases to yield new insights, and Woolf’s prose never fails to astound (and often confound) with its brilliance. In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf gives us so much: her brilliant stream of consciousness writing, a portrait of post-war London in the midst of modernization, and the story of a 52-year-old woman trying to discern meaning in her life, while twinning this with the story of Septimus Warren Smith, a “shell-shocked” WWI veteran on the verge of madness. Clarissa Dalloway has begun the day by purchasing flowers for the fancy party she is hosting that evening, and throughout the course of the one day during which the book takes place, the chain of actions set off by this sunny June day weave their way through London’s streets and in and out of the consciousness of so may of the city’s denizens. I had scheduled a virtual class about the book as part of my Women’s Words series because: how can you teach a program on important writing by women without Woolf? I also scheduled the class as a challenge to myself: can I teach Woolf? Am I, as a teacher, ready to take this on? I think my students will tell you that that I ably guided them through a thoughtful and careful examination of the book. As one of them said the next day: “I think we did justice to Clarissa.” But, knowing Woolf as much and also as little as I do, I’m guessing we missed more than we found. Which means that Mrs. Dalloway will be ripe and ready for my next reading, whenever that may happen to...

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Jul04

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X is a young adult book by Elizabeth Acevedo. I was first alerted to this book by our wonderful local author Laurie Halse Anderson who, before the book was even published, told us: keep an eye out for this book, it’s a big one and important! The book was published in 2018 and has won many awards, including a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and, from the American Library Association (ALA), the 2019 Youth Media Awards/Pura Belpré Award, for a Latina writer who best portrays the Latino experience for children, and the Michael Printz Award for best young adult literature.  It came out in paperback in April of this year. By way of a quick plot description: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. It is the debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo. (Read more on the author’s website HERE.) It took me a long time to get to the book, but I just finished it, and wow! Actually, I didn’t read the book. I listened to it. I got the audio version of the book from Libro.fm, an audiobook provider that serves independent bookstores (you know that Audible is owned by Amazon, right?). The audiobook also won an award from the ALA. It is read by the author, and I am so glad I got to hear the poetry of the book in her vibrant voice – it added so much to the experience for me, especially the parts in Spanish. It didn’t matter a bit that I didn’t understand those parts – they sound so beautiful in her voice! The whole book is a story about poetry told in poetic form, and it’s one of those examples of young adult books that are equally enjoyable to adults. To be given a look inside this Dominican-American family, and to experience what the main character Xiomara is feeling as she struggles with her mother, who wants her to be more involved with and more loyal to the Catholic Church, and meanwhile Xiomara is burning up inside with her passion for poetry (and an emerging love interest as well). I’m in a writers group with eleven people, and some of the members are poets. For years we’ve been reading their work and those of us who feel less comfortable with poetry have been learning to read it and to understand it, and to appreciate its nuance and its flexibility as a form. Reading this book taught me why and how poetry is so powerful, and how some people...

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The Book of V by Anna Solomon
Jul01

The Book of V by Anna Solomon

The Book of Esther is part of the Hebrew Bible. If you are familiar with the tale, then you know all about beautiful Queen Esther, who is chosen by the King in a contest after he banishes his first queen, Vashti. Vashti’s offense was that she refused to appear when the king commanded her to parade before him and his drunken revelers wearing her crown (one presumes he meant only her crown). Esther goes on to save the Jewish people and vanquish the bad guys. It’s a partly-goofy and partly-brutal story that is reenacted every year in the Jewish holiday of Purim, when little girls love to dress up as Queen Esther. If you know this story before you read The Book of V by Anna Solomon, then you have a leg up on Esther’s story as it is retold here in multiple ways and eras, and if you have a feminist slant, then you will already know that generations of feminist readers, going back to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the 1890s, have asked: what happened to Vashti? Many have lamented the quick disappearance of this queen who stood up for herself. Anna Solomon is out to remedy that. Solomon’s story is in three interwoven parts. She goes back to the time of the original biblical tale for her own retelling and re-envisioning of the story of the Jews in Persia, introduces us to Vivian (Vee) Kent, a senator’s wife in the 1970s, and we also follow Lily Rubenstein, a stay-at-home mom in contemporary Brooklyn. Solomon moves back and forth between the stories masterfully, and the way she weaves in details that tie each piece to the other is just terrific. It’s a beautifully written book and a compelling story, with much fodder for discussion. And that’s all I’m going to give away! (Interested in reading this book? Purchase a copy from my online bookshop...

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Hot Off the Press Summer 2020
Jun18

Hot Off the Press Summer 2020

Join a special three-class summer session of Hot Off the Press! In this lively monthly book discussion class led by Lynn Rosen, participants read and discuss new literary fiction. Class conversations include a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the book as well as background information provided by Lynn about the author and the book’s path to publication. We talk serious book talk, but have a lot of laughs too! CLASS DATES/TIME:Class meets virtually on Wednesday evenings from 7pm EST to 8:30pm EST on:July 15August 12September 9 LOCATION: via Zoom Sign up HERE. CLASS READING SCHEDULE:  July 15Red At The Bone by Jacqueline WoodsonA spectacular novel that only this legend can pull off.” -Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of  HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST, in The Atlantic“An exquisite tale of family legacy….The power and poetry of Woodson’s writing conjures up Toni Morrison.” – People An unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other, from the New York Times-bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming.  Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child. Note: Hot Off the Press typically features brand new fiction. Our original selection was The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (an author whose earlier work, The Mothers, we read in this class when it first came out). However, the publisher is out of stock of the book, so I made a last minute change. Although Woodson’s book is no longer brand-new, it’s a powerful read from an important writer. August 12Some Go Home by Odie Lindsey Norton“… incandescent debut novel… This is a consummate portrait of human fragility and grim determination.” — Publishers WeeklyAn Iraq war veteran turned small town homemaker, Colleen works hard to keep her deployment behind her—until pregnancy brings her buried trauma to the surface. She hides her mounting anxiety from her husband, Derby, who is in turn preoccupied with the media frenzy surrounding the long-overdue retrial of his father, Hare Hobbs, for a civil rights–era murder. September 9Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle“McCorkle weaves a powerful narrative web, with empathy for her characters and keen insight on their motivations. This is a gem. ”  — Publishers WeeklyLil and Frank married young, launched into courtship when they bonded over how they both—suddenly, tragically— lost a parent when they were children. Over time, their marriage grew and strengthened, with each still wishing for so much more understanding of the parents they’d...

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Author Camp
Jun16

Author Camp

From Open Book Productions & Children’s Book World A week-long session where kids read books and meet the authors! Begins August 3rd! Discover great new books! Meet and interact with the authors! Participate in creative writing exercises! Author Camp will introduce your child to five new books and their authors! Each week-long session meets daily. There is one session for ages K-3 grade featuring picture books, and one for middle school readers. Classes are led by Lynn Rosen, owner of Open Book Productions and English, writing, and publishing instructor. (For more about Lynn see HERE.) All sessions include virtual visits from the authors! Here’s how Author Camp works: We meet once a day for an hour and a half via Zoom.The cost of the class includes a copy of each of the five books that are part of the camp. (When you sign up, we will be in touch to arrange how you will get the books.)The session begins with some ice breakers and get-to-know-you warm-up activities led by Lynn.Children then take out the book of the day and Lynn leads them in a reading. The reading is interactive, pausing along the way to point out notable parts of the story and the illustrations (for picture books), and underlining what is happening in the story. Note: for picture books we will read the entire book; for middle grade chapter books, we will read the first chapter.Lynn then leads a group discussion about the book: what’s important about the book, the plot, what we liked about it, what it makes us wonder about. Lynn will share background about the book and the author with the campers.We’ll do some activities and writing exercises related to the themes of the book.Then we prepare to meet the author. The children are guided to think of questions they would like to ask the author about the book. They may write these questions on question sheets provided with the books.Next, we meet the author! The author joins us on Zoom to answer the children’s questions and for a reading from their book.Lynn will close the class by summing up what we’ve done and then prepping them for the next day’s book, showing it to them, giving them some clues on what to look for and encouraging them to spend some time with the book before we meet again the next day to read and discuss it. Sign up HERE With any questions, email lynn@lynnrosen.com Author Camp: Picture Books SESSION 1: Week of August 3rd, meeting daily from 11am to 12:30pm (Additional sessions for subsequent weeks in July will be added.) We recommend this class for ages...

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