Monday, November 10, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Sapna E. Thottathil, author of India's Organic Farming Revolution: What It Means for Our Global Food System.
Should you buy organic food? Is it just a status symbol, or is it really better for us? Is it really better for the environment? What about organic produce grown thousands of miles from our kitchens, or on massive corporately owned farms? Is “local” or “small-scale” better, even if it’s not organic? A lot of consumers who would like to do the right thing for their health and the environment are asking such questions.
Sapna Thottathil calls on us to rethink the politics of organic food by focusing on what it means for the people who grow and sell it - what it means for their health, the health of their environment, and also their economic and political well-being. Taking readers to the state of Kerala in southern India, she shows us a place where the so-called “Green Revolution” program of hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and rising pesticide use had failed to reduce hunger while it caused a cascade of economic, medical, and environmental problems.
In their debates about how to solve these problems, farmers, environmentalists, and policymakers drew on Kerala’s history of and continuing commitment to grassroots democracy. In 2010, they took the unprecedented step of enacting a policy that requires all Kerala growers to farm organically by 2020. How this policy came to be and its immediate economic, political, and physical effects on the state’s residents offer lessons for everyone interested in agriculture, the environment, and what to eat for dinner.
An advocate of sustainable food systems, Sapna E. Thottathil is currently a senior program associate for Health Care Without Harm/Physicians for Social Responsibility, where she promotes sustainable food purchasing by health care institutions and organizes medical professionals around environmental policy.
Tuesday, November 11, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Miriam Toews, author of All My Puny Sorrows.
Tonight is the Scotiabank Gillerprize, where we'll find out just much we have to congratulate our author, who has already won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for her latest novel. Doesn't it just seem like yesterday that I went on and on about this book on the blog? Thanks for all the kind words about my impassioned plea, by the way. But today let's link to a few other voices.
As we also noted, Mike Fischer reviewed All My Puny Sorrows in the Journal Sentinel yesterday. Here's his note on the title: "Toews' title comes from a Coleridge poem in which the narrator recalls the 'puny sorrows' confided to a beloved, now-dead sister, and so it is here: Difficult as Yoli's life may seem, she's able to cope with life's slings and arrows. Elf — who had always protected her sister, even as she herself was trying to stare down darkness — cannot."
Long-time bookseller Michele Filgate (she's said to have put Paul Harding's Tinkers in the hands of the critic who set the ball rolling on his Pulitzer Prize win) reviews AMPS for the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Her take: "At its heart, All My Puny Sorrows is a bittersweet story about those who survive and those who can’t fight the current." I would like to argue that phrases are clichés but I'm not sure that concepts are.
And jumping across the pond, Matt Thorne in the (London) Express writes: "What is most affecting about the novel is the way that Yoli worships her sister and takes her suicidal impulses as an essential part of her humanity that she does not want to change and yet, more than anything, she longs to keep her alive. This must have been an impossibly painful book to write but it is nothing but pure pleasure to read."
Wednesday, November 12, 3 pm and 7 pm (note: two times), at the UWM Golda Meir Library Conference Center, 4th floor, 2311 E. Hartford Ave. 53211.
Joe Sweeney, author of Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business, and Life!
Moving the Needle provides both the motivation and the game plan many of us need to break out of the rut and get moving to achieve our goals. CEOs, vice presidents, professionals, military personnel, and even college students frequently express frustration at the entrenched status quo, in which initiating progress feels like moving mountains. This highly practical guide outlines a change process that can be applied to professional or personal goals, giving readers a concrete plan for making big things happen. Rather than blindly shooting for the moon, readers will formulate a solid, systematic, actionable plan that can only result in progress. Moving the Needle helps readers clarify their current position, identify their optimum position, and formulate a workable strategy for getting from here to there.
Over the course of his 30-year career, Joe Sweeney has served on 28 boards of directors, was president of the Wisconsin Sports Authority and has owned more than 12 companies, including the sports marketing agency, Sports Marketing Group, which he founded when three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre signed on as the first client. Today, in addition to his work as an equity partner and investment banker with Corporate Financial Advisors, Joe founded Pay Forward Enterprises and travels the country as a speaker and business coach, where he has helped everyone from corporate CEOs to Navy Seals move the needle.
For the 7 pm presentation, there is a low-priced surface meter lot on the north side of Hartford. It is a permit lot that converts to public use at 3 pm, which means you can also use it and come slightly late to the earlier presentation.
also on Wednesday, November 12, at Boswell:
Lil' Rev, creator of Harmonica Americana.
Harmonica Americana is a joyful collection of mouth organ music dedicated to roots-based styles and regional traditions. Performing on diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, Lil’ Rev offers up an eclectic mix of pre-war blues, country-western, spirituals, Celtic, minstrel and string-band music. Consider this a melting pot of harmonica's finest moments, reinterpreted for a new generation.
Lil Rev grew up in Milwaukee, WI where he still resides today. Growing up in the shadows of American Motors Corp, Briggs N Stratton, and A.O. Smith, he was inspired by the sights and sounds of an industrial powerhouse in flux. His music is infused with a strong sense of humility for the common man. His heroes include: Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Sonny Terry, Cicso Houston and Leadbelly. In addition to his virtuoso stylings on the ukelele and harmonica, he is equally adept at old time banjo, flat-pick guitar and blues mandolin.
Here's an older video of Lil' Rev playing "Shake That Thing":
Thursday, November 13, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A Ticketed event with Chris Hadfield, author of You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes, in conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn. Boswell will be closed to the public for this event, starting at 5:30 pm.
Tickets are $30, and include a copy of You Are Here and all taxes and fees. $3 from each ticket will be donated to Wisconsin Public Radio. We are not yet sold out, but it's very possible we will be by Thursday, so purchase your tickets now. Note that buying the ticket from us does not get you admission to the event.
Colonel Chris Hadfield’s You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station is a gorgeous book of photographs that encapsulates Hadfield’s singular eye for our world as it appears from above. Divided by continent, You Are Here represents one (idealized) orbit of the International Space Station from its former commander. This planetary photo tour—surprising, playful, thought-provoking, and visually delightful—is also punctuated with a fun, fascinating commentary on life in zero gravity. In the spirit of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, You Are Here opens a singular window on our planet, using remarkable photographs to illuminate the history and consequences of human settlement, the magnificence (and wit) of never-before-noticed landscapes, and the power of the natural forces shaping our world and the future of our species.
Chris Hadfield is one of the world’s most seasoned and accomplished astronauts and the author of the #1 international bestseller An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Among his many accomplishments, Hadfield most recently served as commander of the International Space Station, where, while conducting a record-setting number of scientific experiments and overseeing an emergency spacewalk, he gained worldwide acclaim for his breathtaking photographs and educational videos about life in space.
Kathleen Dunn has been a voice on Wisconsin Public Radio for 21 years and before that, was heard on WTMJ for 18 years. Per the Milwaukee Press Club, "In 2010, she was recognized by the University of Wisconsin Colleges and UW-Extension chancellor with the title of distinguished broadcaster at WPR." And this year, Dunn was inducted into the Milwaukee Media Hall of Fame by the Milwaukee Press Club.
Speaking of videos, we've yet to post the famous Space Oddity video posted by Chris Hadfield, which has now gotten over 28 million views.
Here is the link to purchase tickets.
Friday, November 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This.
Since Justin Campbell’s disappearance four years ago, his family has been stuck in the grooves of grief, unable to comfort themselves, let alone one another. His mother, his father, and his younger brother each have been living in a dream world for the last 4 years, coping the best they can. And then the call from the police: Justin has been found and he is okay. It is a miracle. But instead of righting the imbalances within this struggling family, Justin’s return only lays bare the effects of his trauma, both on himself and his family, threatening to snap the last threads that hold the Campbells together. Johnston’s brilliant debut begins where others novels end, exploring not the crime of the abduction, but all of the unresolved questions about what really happens when a family’s prayers have finally been answered and togetherness is restored.
In the New York Times Book Review, Eleanor Henderson called Remember me Like This "enthralling and skillful." She continues: "Remember Me Like This isn’t a novel about a kidnapping. It’s not a psychological study of Stockholm syndrome or a victimology. It’s not a thriller, and it’s not even really a mystery, unless it’s an unsolved one, the exquisitely moral mystery of how we struggle to accept and love the people we call family, even when we can’t fully know them."
From Ron Charles in The Washington Post: " I’m worried that despite extravagant blurbs from John Irving, Alice Sebold, Tom Perrotta and others, Remember Me Like This might fall down the crack between thrillers and literary fiction. That would be a shame because there’s real humanity in Johnston’s writing, and it’s heartening to spend time with these folks as they relearn how to be a family. Rendered in these compassionate, candid chapters, theirs is a struggle that speaks to those of us who have endured far less."
Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the story collection Corpus Christi, and the editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. He teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Harvard University, where he is the Director of Creative Writing.
Sneak peek at next week with Monday, November 17, 7 pm:
David Bezmozgis, author of The Betrayers.
This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Stahl Center for Jewish Studies.
David Bezmozgis’ latest novel, The Betrayers, is an incandescent novel set in present-day Crimea that looks at the point on the historical grid where the future intersects most dramatically and evocatively with the past. Baruch Kotler, a Soviet Jewish dissident who afterward becomes a much-beloved and then disgraced Israeli politician, is the stubborn, self-knowing hero at the heart of our story. When he refuses to back down from a contrary but principled stand regarding the West Bank settlements, his political opponents expose his affair with a mistress decades his junior. He and the fierce young Leora escape the scandal for Yalta, the faded Crimean resort of Kotler’s youth. There, shockingly, Kotler encounters the former friend who denounced him almost forty years earlier to the KGB. In a whirling twenty-four hours, Kotler must face the ultimate reckoning, both with those who have betrayed him and with those whom he has betrayed, including a teenage daughter, a son facing his own moral dilemmas in the Israeli army, and the wife who once campaigned tirelessly for his freedom.
The Betrayers is also up for the Scotiabank Giller Prize (awarded tonight!). Boris Fishman (who is also coming to Boswell, on Thursday, February 26, 7 pm) reviewed David Bezmozgis in The New York Times Book Review. His take: "When was the last time you tore through a work of literary fiction at the rate of a Tom Clancy thriller? Personally, when I discover I’m holding a smart novel that’s also a page turner, I get punchy. Not only have I spotted a unicorn; we are gamboling down the dale hand in hand. A novel of ideas and an engrossing story? It’s the umami experience: salty and sweet, yin and yang, the rocket scientist who is also a looker." This quote says as much about Mr. Fishman as it does about Mr. Bezmozgis.
David Bezmozgis is an award-winning writer and filmmaker whose fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, and Best American Short Stories. He is the author of one previous novel, The Free World, and Natasha, a collection of stories.
Right now there are also tickets available to our Monday, November 17 dinner with Gabrielle Hamilton, inspired by Prune, her new cookbook, based on her East Village restaurant for which she won a James Beard award for Best Chef New York City. Assuming here are still tickets tomorrow (I'd reserve mine by calling Bacchus now at (414) 765-1166), I'll be writing more about Gabrielle Hamilton, the cookbook, and her memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter.