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Hermione is their hero
May04

Hermione is their hero

Teaching a writing class for grades 3-5 recently, I asked the students to answer the following question: If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why? The most popular answer (from the mostly female class): Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. And of course. Why wouldn’t they admire and wish to meet this smart, confident, unflappable girl? She’s proud of her intelligence, often using it to save them from dangerous situations, she’s comfortable with herself, she’s unafraid of the unknown and loves a good adventure… what could be better? She’s a great role model! Recently I was doing research for a talk on Louisa May Alcott, and I came across a similar sentiment among women of a different generation for the fictional Jo March of Little Women. She too is smart, fearless, bold, and unafraid of being judged by others. And she also had, and has, a huge influence on readers. A large number of writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Simone de Beauvoir, Ursula K. Le Guin, Cynthia Ozick, Anne Quindlen, and – look at that! – J.K. Rowling, have said they became writers because of Jo March. How about you? If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and...

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Actress by Anne Enright
May01

Actress by Anne Enright

Eavan Boland, the revered Irish poet who taught at Stanford University for decades, died recently. In a country where male authors often dominate the literary landscape, she was noted as one of the premier Irish women writers. Several years ago, when she appeared at the Free Library of Philadelphia, I covered the event for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and I had the opportunity to interview her (you can read my Inquirer article HERE). She was kind, thoughtful articulate, and insightful. And when I asked who her favorite contemporary Irish writers were, without hesitation she said Edna O’Brien and Anne Enright. I say all of this first of all, as a tribute to Boland’s life and work, and also as a lead-in to writing about Enright’s new novel, Actress. Anne Enright’s method of telling a story will never take you on an easy path from point A to point B. As Ron Charles says in his review in The Washington Post, “The chronology would appear no more ordered than the flow of anecdotes around a dinner table, but there’s always a design to Enright’s novels, a gradual coalescing of insight.” We gather information as we go along and, in some ways, the reader is left to figure it all out once they finish the book. Her writing gives us a slow accrual of brilliant insight. Norah’s mother was the famous Irish actress Katherine O’Dell, she of the glorious hazel eyes and red hair (and whose secret, that Norah guarded, was that she was actually born in England), a star of many years of stage and screen. But no, not a star… “We did not use the word star,” Norah tells us. Stars are made; actresses are born. Norah grew up in a household in Dublin with her mother and a longtime housekeeper. She did not know who her father was, and she had a loving, if tumultuous, relationship with her mother. And while Norah was able to have a somewhat ordinary upbringing, for her mother: “… she walked out the door and was famous all day.” We learn early on that Katherine is no longer alive. In fact, Norah is now the age that Katherine was when she died: 58. Norah, unlike her mother, is in a longterm loving marriage; Enright makes a point of exploring the ups and downs inherent in such a relationship, the emotional aspects as well as the physical intimacy of it. In part, Enright has said, this book is not just an exploration of a mother/daughter relationship but also a “conversation about marriage,” and she hopes to “reclaim ideas of agency in desire.” As the person...

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Study Hall: Literary Lectures for Thoughtful Readers
Apr29

Study Hall: Literary Lectures for Thoughtful Readers

Later in Life: Women Aging into AbundanceDATE: Tuesday, June 2, 2020TIME: 7pm – 8:30pmNote: This class will meet virtually via Zoom. As several new books reinforce, women become more authentic as they age. There is less concern about saying or doing the right thing, and women feel freer to do and think as they please. As Mary Pipher says in Women Rowing North, “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skillfully, we will experience a joyous time of our lives.” In this talk we will explore the positive side of growing older and into our power by taking a close look at new books the explore the topic of women aging in the past, present, and future, including: In Our Prime by Susan J. Douglas Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher No Stopping Us Now by Gail Collins REGISTRATION COST: $40To sign up, click HERE.Note: cost does not include books. Books are available at a discount with class registration; please inquire to lynn@lynnrosen.com THE STUDY HALL LECTURE SERIES Open Book Productions launched this new series of literary lectures in early 2020. Each lecture, given by Lynn Rosen, addresses a different writer, theme, or group of books. Past topics included: Louisa May Alcott, Philadelphia Writers, Self-Help books, and the Literary Canon. These standalone talks don’t require preparation or reading ahead of time. They simply require you to come with an expectation of learning something about the particular writer or topic of the month. You’ll be able to ask questions, participate in discussion, and talk with other like-minded passionate readers. ABOUT LYNN: Lynn Rosen runs Open Book Productions, an extensive program of classes, workshops, and events for readers, writers and thinkers. Lynn is a long-time book publishing industry professional with many years of experience as an editor, literary agent, teacher, and author. For the past five years, she has been co-owner of Open Book Bookstore. She has served as Editorial Director of Book Business magazine, and Director of Graduate Publishing Programs at Rosemont College. Prior to that, she was Editorial Director at Peter Pauper Press, a Senior Editor at Running Press and, earlier in her career, an Editor in the Trade Division of Ballantine Books (Penguin Random House). In 1991, Lynn launched Leap First, an independent literary agency, which she ran until 1999. She is the author of Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests (Clarkson Potter). Lynn graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an Honors degree in English, and holds a Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She teaches writing and publishing classes at Open Book, and has been a...

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Professor Martha Ackmann on the life and work of poet Emily Dickinson
Apr20

Professor Martha Ackmann on the life and work of poet Emily Dickinson

DATE: May 6thTIME: 7PMFree event via Zoom: RSVP required. To RSVP email: lynn@lynnrosen.com We are thrilled to have Professor Martha Ackmann join us virtually to talk about her brand new book, These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson.  The New York Times chose the book as one of their top picks of the week of April 16th, saying that Ackmann evokes Dickinson’s life with “a storyteller’s flair” and that she has deep knowledge of the poet’s life and work, giving us a book that is: “thoroughly researched, and yet, with Ackmann’s evergetic storytelling, alive.” This event will take place via Zoom. Lynn Rosen will interview the author and attendees can ask questions via chat. It’s a free event, but registration is required so we can send you the Zoom link. Please RSVP to lynn@lynnrosen.com Here is a rave from KIrkus Reviews: The subject of many biographies, critical studies, and a one-woman show, as well as the protagonist of several novels, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) has remained an enigmatic figure: a shy wraith, dressed in white, refusing to allow publication of her poems—nearly 2,000, discovered after her death. Guggenheim fellow Ackmann, who has taught a Dickinson seminar at Mount Holyoke College, persuasively counters that view with a fresh approach to Dickinson’s life and work. Focusing on 10 turning points, she creates in each chapter “a snapshot” of that moment “with the past in dissolve like a multiple exposure.” Drawing largely on Dickinson’s poems and letters, the author portrays the young Emily, surrounded by family, corresponding with friends, growing into self-awareness of her creativity. “She wanted to understand the particles of moments that others could not see or grasped with a faith she found too easy,” writes Ackmann. When she was pressed about her religious conviction, Dickinson admitted doubt: “I both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an Hour.” Her poetry, though, probed the ineffable, aiming for “evanescence like the brilliance of lightning, the flash of truth, or a transport so swift it felt like flight.” By the time Dickinson boldly sent four poems to Atlantic editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, she was composing nearly a verse a day: “My business is to sing,” she announced. . . .Radiant prose, palpable descriptions, and deep empathy for the poet’s sensibility make this biography...

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American Dirt
Apr09

American Dirt

The novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was the topic of the first meeting of the new Open Book Productions Virtual Book Discussion Class. This is a book for which there are two main topics to discuss: the book itself, and the public response that the book has received. First the book. In the dramatic opening scene, which takes place at a home in Acapulco, Lydia and her eight-year-old son Luca are the sole survivors of a brutal massacre. After this horrific event, fearing for their lives, they must escape.  The rest of book follows them on the challenging and often frightening journey which they must take to flee first Acapulco, and then Mexico. They ultimately wind up riding “La Bestia,” the freight trains which many refugees ride on top of to escape to “el norte.” Have you seen these trains? If not, I encourage you to Google pictures of the hordes of people fleeing hardship by hitching rides on top of trains. You will find them to be very disturbing photos. Back to the book itself… did the group like it? Some yes, some no. Some found it to be a very well-told, compelling, page-turning story. Others found flaws in the characterization of the son (too smart and articulate for an eight-year-old), or other aspects of the storytelling. Overall, we thought, for those who are not aware of what is happening in Mexico and other countries to these refugees, that the book was a good starting place to becoming aware of the problem, something that will lead them to investigate other books, and sources of information. And there, as they say, is the rub. The controversy around this book has to do with the reaction from Mexican writers and other writers of color saying: why is this white woman telling our story, and getting paid megabucks by the publisher to do so?  They also picked up on several missteps by the publisher in their initial promotion of the book: a letter that says that the author said “…migrants were being portrayed at the Mexican border as a ‘faceless brown mass'” and that she wanted to “give these people a face”; a launch party where photos were leaked of the centerpieces that mimicked the book’s cover design, complete with barbed wire. We were fortunate to have a Mexican writer join our conversation at this point. Carlos José Pérez Sámano is a Mexican literary fiction and non-fiction author, and teacher of Creative Writing Workshops in Mexico, U.S.A., Kenya, and Cuba. The book was picked by several major outlets as a featured book of the month, including by Barnes & Noble...

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