Monday, February 29, 2016

Events This Week: Matthew Desmond, Loung Ung, Mary Rickert, Doug Bradley and Craig Werner, Peter Hatch, Plus Juan Felipe Herrera at UWM and Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee Next Week.

Monday, February 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Doug Bradley and Craig Werner, authors of We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War.

You must forgive me if I sometimes wrote that Bradley and Werner were the editors of We Gotta Get Out of This Place. In fact, their achievement is a modern hybrid, a book they wrote that nonetheless has featured contributors. So really, they truly should be listed as writers and editors of this book.

In a sense, this book came out of a course that Bradley and Werner teach together at University of Wisconsin-Madison called "The Vietnam Era: Music, Media and Mayhem.” They place popular music at the heart of the American experience in Vietnam, exploring how and why the troops turned to music as a way of connecting to each other and the world back home. As the publisher notes, they demonstrate that music was important for every group of Vietnam veterans - black and white, Latino and Native American, men and women, offers and grunts.

You may remember that Doug Bradley last appeared at Boswell for his collection of short stories, Deros Vietnam: Dispatches from the Air-Conditioned Jungle. He is a lecturer for the Department of Integrated Liberal Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Craig Werner is part of the Department of African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America and Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul.

For this event, Bradley and Werner will be joined by "solo act" Bill Christofferson, whose work appeared in We Gotta Get Out of This Place.

Tuesday, March 1, 7 pm, at University School of Milwaukee:
Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, as well as her subsequent memoirs Lucky Child and Lulu in the Sky. Ung will appear at the Virginia Henes Young Theater, 2100 W. Fairy Chasm Rd., just north of Brown Deer Rd. in River Hills.

Ung is appearing in conjunction with USM's Global Fest, which also involves a day of visits with students at the school. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. One of the complications of helping other folks publicize events is that we're not always aware of changes - at first we were told that reservations weren't necessary. I totally understand this desire for registration, especially when we're in a situation like Desmond where we may reach capacity. But in years past, we've also run into problems with free registrations where a large percentage of the folks who registered did not show up, after the event was "sold out." Hey, you can register here and do a good deed for the folks gauging attendance at this powerful event.

When the book first came out in 2000, it received wonderful reviews and recommendations. For example, Queen Noor of Jordan wrote: "This book left me gasping for air. Loung Ung plunges her readers into a Kafkaesque world—her childhood robbed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge—and forces them to experience the mass murder, starvation, and disease that claimed half her beloved family. In the end, the horror of the Cambodian genocide is matched only by the author’s indomitable spirit.”

And the late Iris Chang wrote: "This book left me gasping for air. Loung Ung plunges her readers into a Kafkaesque world—her childhood robbed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge—and forces them to experience the mass murder, starvation, and disease that claimed half her beloved family. In the end, the horror of the Cambodian genocide is matched only by the author’s indomitable spirit.”

We should also note that that Ung's memoir is still slated for adaptation to the big screen by Angelina Jolie Pitt.

Tuesday, March 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
This event is free. We'll close to the public if we reach capacity until after the talk; I would come early. Also please note that Desmond's conversation with Mike Gousha is sold out. Our event is cosponsored by Community Advocates Public Policy Forum.

Speaking of Madison (see Bradley and Werner above), Matthew Desmond was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when he started this assive project to document the relationship between private housing and the poor. He noticed that studies focused on public housing, but most poor people don't live in public housing. So for his fieldwork, he set up to live in a South Side Milwaukee trailer park and a North Side rooming house. From there, he met the folks whose lives are profiled in Evicted.

Here's the opening of Barbara Ehrenreich's review in The New York Times Book Review: "Lamar, his sons and some other adolescent boys from their Milwaukee neighborhood are sitting around, playing cards and smoking blunts, when there is a loud and confident knock on the door, which could be 'a landlord’s knock, or a sheriff’s.' Mercifully it is only Colin, a young white man from their church, who has come to read them passages from the Bible, most of which Lamar knows by heart. The subject wanders off to God and the Devil, with Lamar adding, 'And Earth is hell.' 'Well,' Colin corrects him, 'not quite hell.' An awkward silence falls. The burden of Evicted, Matthew Desmond’s astonishing book, is to show that the world Lamar inhabits is indeed hell, or as close an approximation as you are likely to find in a 21st-century American city."

It was in Ehrenreich's review that I learned that Desmond had a previous work called On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters, which came out in 2009. It's net priced and thus will not be at our event.

From Jim Higgins in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Evicted should provoke extensive public policy discussions. It is a magnificent, richly textured book with a Tolstoyan approach: telling it like it is but with underlying compassion and a respect for the humanity of each character, major or minor. Desmond presents the two landlords, whom he calls Sherrena and Tobin, as hard-nosed entrepreneurs pursuing profit, but he doesn't demonize them, just as he refrains from airbrushing the tenants, who sometimes make their lives even more difficult through impulsive acts or poor choices."

I second Higgins completely! But the thing to note here is that there are good sociologists and good storytellers, and it's a rare person who can do both. Desmond is that person. I should also note that if you're wondering whether this is another case of the East Coast bashing Milwaukee, Evicted makes it clear that the numbers that support his stories are comparable for many cities around the country.

Wednesday, March 2, 7 pm, at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Center:
Peter Hatch, author of A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello.
The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is located at 2220 N Terrace Ave, just south of North Ave.
Tickets are $25, $20 for Friends of Villa Terrace members.

Peter Hatch is the Emeritus Director of Gardens and Grounds where for over 35 years he oversaw the restoration, maintenance, and interpertation of Thomas Jefferson's gardens and 2400-acre landscape. Hatch has lectured in 37 states on Monticello and the history of garden plants, and is the author of four books, including A Rich Spot of Earth, an award winning study of Jefferson's vegtable garden at Monticello. He is also a White House garden consultant.

Of the book, the Monticello website notes: "Graced with nearly 200 full-color illustrations, A Rich Spot of Earth is the first book devoted to all aspects of the Monticello vegetable garden. Hatch guides us from the asparagus and artichokes first planted in 1770 through the horticultural experiments of Jefferson’s retirement years (1809–1826). The author explores topics ranging from labor in the garden, garden pests of the time, and seed saving practices to contemporary African American gardens. He also discusses Jefferson’s favorite vegetables and the hundreds of varieties he grew, the half-Virginian half-French cuisine he developed, and the gardening traditions he adapted from many other countries."

The Friends of Villa Terrace are in the midst of their Spring Garden Lecture Series. If you're interested, upcoming talks include Mark Dwyer's talk on Roatoy Botanic Gardens Past, Present, and Future on March 16, Craig Bermann and Russell Bulata's From Idea to Reality on March 30, and Bonsai: Myth Explained and Secrets Revealed, a talk by Ron Formann on April 6. All lectures start at 7, and the price is $25, $20 for FOVT members.

Wednesday, March 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mary Rickert, author of You Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories.

Many of us believe that ghosts and witches are among us. Though some still debate this, what we do know for sure is that world class speculative writers are definitely living among us. Mary Rickert, for example, received the World Fantasy Award and Crawford award for her 2007 collection, Map of Dreams, which is, according to Ingram, out of print. She's also been nominated for several World Fantasy and Locus awards. Them's big-time honors!

Time will tell whether You Have Never Been Here will follow in her predecessors' footsteps, but it does seem likely. Kirkus Reviews writes: "Short stories about people haunted by loss and transformed by grief. Ghosts walk through this collection. Witches are rumored. People collect bones, sprout wings, watch their feet turn into hooves. Above all, people tell stories]stories that cast spells, stories that change the world." And the Booklist reviewer noted: "Rickert's latest collection contains haunting tales of death, love, and loss. In stories that are imbued with mythology, beasts, and fantastical transformations, Rickert captures the fanciful quality of regret and longing" and compared her work to the great Angela Carter.

Rickert is published by Kelly Link's Small Beer Press. If you're a fan of Link's collection, Get in Trouble, Mary Rickert, who is also known as M. Rickert when she's being gender incognito, might be for you. Hey, the paperback of Link's collection is just out!

It's not our event, but don't forget about Juan Felipe Herrera's appearance at the UWM Union on March 3 7 pm. More on the UWM website.

Next week preview: Monday, March 7, 6:30 pm, at Oak Creek Public Library:
Alison McGhee and Kathi Appelt, co-authors of Maybe a Fox.
The Oak Creek Public Library is located at 8040 S. 6th Street, Oak Creek, just off Drexel Ave.

When Sylvie runs to the river she and her sister Jules are not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens ... and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that--like their mother--her sister is gone forever. At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born--half of the spirit world, half of the animal world--and she senses something is very wrong.

Though Appelt and McGhee have many adult fans, Booklist (but note that this link may not work), in their starred review, recommends the book for grades four through seven. Just a bit of the praise: "Neither author is a stranger to writing poignant animal stories that tackle weighty themes, as Appelt proved in her Newbery Honor Book, The Underneath, and McGhee showed in Firefly Hollow. Together, they create a delicate world that effortlessly impresses itself upon the reader. It is a world where bad things can happen for no good reason, where catching sight of a fox means luck, where love transcends all boundaries, and maybe death doesn't have to be an ending"

From Kathy Kirchoefer, in School Library Journal: "There are some heavy elements in this beautifully written middle grade novel: the death of Sylvie and Jules’s mother several years before the story begins, the devastating disappearance/death of Sylvie, and the grieving of a neighbor who was deployed with his best friend to Afghanistan. But despite these sad events, the descriptions of rural Vermont, the sense of caring within Jules’s community, and the relationship between the two girls and their father make for a book that is both raw and hopeful and one that readers won’t soon forget."

And if you like events for kids, don't forget that Lauren Tarshis will be at Greenfield Public Library on March 10 for her I Survived series, and Markus Zusak will be at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall for the tenth anniversary tour of The Book Thief. Wow! All three library events start at 6:30 pm.

No comments: