Monday, February 15, 2016

This Week's Events! Robin Pickering-Iazzi, Kenneth Kapp, and John Hagedorn, Plus a Head Start on Brandon Sanderson Next Week.

Here's what is going on this week! And if you like your event calendar seasoned with some book recommendations and heads up on other things going on around town, check out our most recent email newsletter, which went out today. Oh, and Happy President's Day.

Wednesday, February 17, 7 pm, at Boswell
Robin Pickering-Iazzi, author of The Mafia in Italian Lives and Literature: Life Sentences and Their Geographies.

Please join us at Boswell Books as Robin Pickering-Iazzi, professor in the Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and editor of Mafia and Outlaw Stories from Italian Life and Literature, presents her latest book, which draws on a wide variety of documents and texts from 1990 to the present to measure the size of the mafia’s real-life impact and how Italian and Sicilian culture are depicted in popular culture.

Published by the University of Toronto Press, it's interesting to see that sometimes the press matters more than author, as the book has gotten more pickup in Canada than you'd normally expect for a Whitefish Bay writer. For example, here's Jack Batten writing about the book in the Toronto Star: "In this absorbing collection of tales about the Mafia in Sicily, most taken from Italian fiction but a significant few from the personal experiences of real people, "life" emerges as the winner over "literature." Measured in drama and in acts of remarkable bravery, the stories told in their own words by a handful of Sicilian women who dared to resist the Mafia are far more compelling and tragic than anything dreamed up by the novelists and short story writers."

We obviously have an unofficial organized crime week emerging.

Thursday, February 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kenneth Kapp, author of The Slow and Painful Awakening of Herr Wilhelm Neimann: A Morality Story.

Over the years, Kenneth M. Kapp has worked in turns as a researcher and teacher of mathematics, an artist, and as an industry professional at IBM. These days he is a writer and yoga instructor in Shorewood. Here's a little more about the book.

Wilhelm Neimann returned from the eastern front in 1944 shattered on many levels. He was a hero but the medals could not make up for the life he had planned as a teenager, the university position he had hoped for was now beyond his reach. He teaches history in a gymnasium in Schweinfort, a small village in southwestern Germany. As he becomes part of this small community -- one where Jews always found refuge and rescue -- he must find his own final solution.

He and the villagers are challenged by a small group of students, the Jugendknote. One of them is convinced that the ashes from the crematoria have entered into the food chain making all Germans Jewish -- from the inside out. Two others are determined to find the SS officer that killed their uncle during the war. Schweinfort has its own stories going back centuries

Friday, February 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Hagedorn, author of The In$ane Chicago Way: The Daring Plan by Chicago Gangs to Create a Spanish Mafia.

This Glendale writer has been covering the sociology of gangs for many years, having previously written People and Folks: Gangs, Crime and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City and A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture. Now he turns his attention to Chicago, and the attempt by Latino gangs in the 1990s to build a modern Chicago-based organization that would reduce the violence between gangs and help "business."

As Hagedorn tells Annette Elliot in the Chicago Reader, his source about the building of Spanish Growth and Development (SGD) was the unnamed "Sal Martino," which you should all understand is an alias. Elliot notes that "The Insane Chicago Way posits that the Mafia exerts a larger influence on contemporary gangs than law enforcement believes, mostly through a complex network of 'associates' who act as middlemen between the two criminal organizations." So the structural similarities were more than homage.

Our original event was postponed due to a conflict with a community policing meeting, but second time's the charm. And there won't be a snow emergency either - we're expected to reach fifty degrees on Friday.

Coming next week:

Tuesday February 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Brandon Sanderson, author of Calamity, the third novel in The Reckoners, a #1 New York Times bestselling series. I should also note that fans of Mistborn series are celebrating the release of both the fifth and sixth books, most recently The Bands of Mourningjust released on January 26.

Sanderson will be speaking and taking questions, followed by a signing. We'll start giving out line letters at 5 pm. He'll personalize up to three books, and will sign memorabilia and pose for photos. Please note, you must buy a copy of Calamity to get other books signed.

Here's Mel Morrow's recommendation for Steelheart, the first book in the series. Being rather linear, I like to recommend that folks begin at the beginning:

Steelheart rec: "Never before has the post-apocalyptic struggle for human survival been so riveting or uplifting. Sanderson has unparalleled gifts of fantastic world-building and the creation of complex, believable characters. He brings these gifts to Newcago, the setting of his new novel Steelheart, where the sun never rises and the super-human Steelheart holds the entire city of humans and super-humans hostage. All over the post-Calamity world, humans bow to Epics, allowing them to pillage, kill, and destroy at their leisure...until The Reckoners decide to take the power back. Can six humans defeat a hundred invincible villains? Is there any good left in the hearts of super-humans? Follow 18-year-old David through the steel catacombs of Newcago and into the fray as The Reckoners tip the scales in an anti-Epic battle for the fate of humanity. Sparks, Steelheart is a fun read!" (Mel Morrow)

We should also note that tickets are still available for the LeVar Burton talk at the UWM Union on February 24. Tickets are $10 for non-UWM students, $12 for UWM faculty and staff, and $14 for the general public, with a $2 discount for purchasing early, but they are free for UWM students so you might want to lock your ticket in now. Alas, no online sales for this one.

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