Monday, May 10, 2021

Boswell week in virtual events - Joan Silber, Sanjena Sathian, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Todd Lazarski, Zhanna Slor

We start off with a cosponsorship.
Monday, May 10, 6:30 pm
Zhanna Slor, author of At the End of the World, Turn Left
Hosted by the Shorewood Public Library
Join this virtual event. No registration necessary.

Bethanne Patrick offered a glowing review of At the End of the World, Turn Left on NPR - it's thrilling to see an independently published book get a major shout out: "It's rare to find a debut mystery crafted with such elegance and authenticity, let alone in a place that has been so neglected as a literary location." 

Slor is part of the generation of Soviet Jewish emigrés who settled in Milwaukee area in the 1990s. Though the novel is set in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, the family settled in Shorewood, which of course led to the Library hosting the event. She's also a UWM alum. Slor recently moved back to town after living in Chicago. She's been a frequent contributor to The Forward and her work has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review and Another Chicago Magazine.

The placiness of At the End of the World, Turn Left is important to the novel. She spoke to Matt Wild in for Milwaukee Record about reckoning with Riverwest: "When you’re young, the friendships you make can feel like these train wrecks that you will never be able to unravel yourself from—which can be both good and bad—but then as you get older, people change a lot. It’s not necessarily the case that your college best friend remains your best friend into your thirties. It took a long time for me to understand that it’s just a natural part of growing up. I think I wanted to blame Riverwest, or the people I knew in Riverwest, but it was much more complicated than that, which is sort of what I wanted to portray through Masha’s POV in the book."
The book was scheduled to come out April 20 but had COVID-related delays. We're finding that publishers can't always get press time and a smaller press might have more troubles with this, as their booking less time that they can play around with. The books got to the distributor warehouse and we were able to push through one of our orders. So the good news is that we were able to fulfill all of our preorders and some new demand, but we're now out again. We should have more books this week. 

Monday, May 10, 7 pm
Todd Lazarski, author of Spend It All
in conversation with Justin Kern, editor of The Milwaukee Anthology
Cohosted by Porchlight Book Company
Register for this virtual event here

When it comes two novelists, home is where you aren't anymore. I've heard many writers talk about how they can't write about a place until they leave it. In the case of Slor, she left, wrote the book, and came back. In the case of Todd Lazarski, he's writing about Buffalo, the place he's from.  Spend It All features Teddy Rawski, a guy who's an obsessive eater, half-hopeful novelist, reluctant food journalist, and football fanatic who returns home for maybe the last time.

I know Todd from his day job, but you might know him as a fellow reluctant food journalist. He's reported for The Shepherd Express,  Milwaukee Record, and Eater, who used to do more multi-metro coverage, but has been cut back since Vox was folded into the New York Magazine family of websites and blogs. That said, they just did an update on where to eat here, and it came from Lazarski. 

Spend It All notes that chicken wings play a role in the book and sure enough, most Milwaukeeans are aware of Buffalo's iconic wing combo, and the more hard core know about Buffalo's official sandwich, beer on weck. But I've just discovered the ubiquitous loganberry drink and that's what I'd be talking about if I were the conversation partner. But I'll leave the questions to conversation partner Justin Kern.

Tuesday, May 11, 7 pm
Joan Silber, author of Secrets of Happiness
in conversation Marquette University's C.J. Hribal
Register for this virtual event here.

For a number of years, CJ Hribal and I have been talking about how much we love the work of Joan Silber. After she won the NBCC award for Improvement, it became a selection of our in-store book club, which along with the award, led to a nice pop in sales for us. I had previously read Fools and Ideas of Heaven. But I never thought we'd be in a position where Silber would travel to Milwaukee for an event.

And then came the pivot to virtual events. And Silber attended our event with Charles Baxter for his most recent novel, The Sun Collective. And Silber commented to CJ Hribal, who teaches with Silber at the Warren Wilson program)  that he did a great job with the interview - I concur. So when I heard that, I asked him to ask Silber if she'd like the same excellent conversation partner for her own book. And that went right into our proposal to the publisher. We're thrilled this came together. 
Here's an enthusiastic recommendation for Secrets of Happiness from me: "What I love about Joan Silber’s books is how her novel-stories rocket me through space and time without any fear of crashing. In my opinion, the connecting thread of Secrets of Happiness is Gil, a contractor in the garment business whose work takes him to wherever the costs are cheapest – Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, and most notably Thailand, where he brings back more than just the beautiful scarves he buys as souvenirs for his wife. From there, the story spins out to two of his sons (who don’t know each other), and from there to a documentary filmmaker, a librarian turned cancer patient, a labor organizer in Asia, and more than one soul who are not quite sure what they are doing. They are all searching for the happiness of the title – is it money, vocation, love, spirit, or something else?" (Daniel Goldin)

Need another take? Here's Joshua Ferris in The New York Times.

Wednesday, May 12, 7 pm
Sanjena Sathian, author of Gold Diggers
in conversation with Anuradha D Rajurkar, author of American Betiya
Register for this virtual event here

 I'm really excited about how this conversation came together. I was working with Anuradha D. Rajurkar on her virtual event for her debut, American Betiya, and that involved several trips bringing over copies for signing and personalization. That gave us the chance to chat a bit outside. Talk turned to books. I had just finished reading Gold Diggers at my rep Stefan's urging and wanted to talk to everyone about it. And as I spoke to Rajurkar, a light went off. Maybe I can pitch her as a conversation partner. Both books sort of crossed over from adult to teen, though in different directions, and there were some overlapping themes.

Being that the event is on Wednesday, our proposal was successful. Gold Diggers has been getting a lot of great reviews, including Ilana Masad in NPR, Ron Charles in The Washington Post, and Constance Grady in Vox. There's also this New York Times profile from Alisha Haridasani Gupta. And did we mention that Mindy Kaling is adapting Gold Diggers for television/streaming? More from Peter White in Deadline.

I was going to include my recommendation, but I'm using fellow bookseller Jenny Chou's instead. - you can read mine on our web page Here is Jenny: "Sanjena Santhian draws readers effortlessly into the magical world she’s created where parents are so desperate to bring success to their children that they turn to a powerful and dangerous alchemy. What started in India continues in Atlanta as teenaged Neil Naryan, who lacks the drive of his overachieving sister, discovers his neighbors Anita and her mom are not only gold thieves but have also managed to siphon off the ambitions of the smarter, more motivated kids in their close-knit but competitive Indian community. What follows veers between hilarious and tragic, and the results haunt Neil for the next decade, until he and Anita reunite for one final heist. The actual drinking of gold is a symbol, of course, of the hopes, dreams, and ultimately the fears of Asian immigrant parents. How will their kids survive in a cut-throat America without a prestigious degree and job? This novel will leave you with lots to consider about the price of ambition. Neil’s slightly cynical voice mixed with his never-ending longing for an Anita, who’s always a bit out of reach, make this story of love and aspiration so much fun to read."

Thursday, May 13, 7 pm
Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of The Five Wounds
in conversation with Jennifer Morales, author of Meet Me Halfway
Register for this virtual event here

When events are in person, I can beg all I want, but unless the author happens to live here or being within commuting distance, or maybe has a relative or close friend in town, the business of events can be quite limited. Even Chicagoans don't always want to come up to Milwaukee. But once again, a great read set in motion a proposal and the right conversation partner took it to another level. 

In this case, the read was from fellow bookseller Jen, who had been talking the book up to me for a while. Of course our rep Dave was also a fan. And when I read the book, I also fell in love. It turned out that I was working on another event with Norton, our joint program with Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for Michelle Nijhuis's Beloved Beasts, and I asked if I could write a proposal to add Kirstin Valdez Quade to the tour. And lucky for me, same publicist! And since I was working with Wisconsin Public Radio on underwriting the Larry Meiller book club, I knew their next selection with Jennifer Morales's Meet Me Halfway, so I asked Morales to take part and she agreed. It turns out their work had some overlapping themes - I feel like one of those professional dinner party organizers. I think it's going to be great!

Kirstin Valdez Quade received the NBCC John Leonard Prize for Night at the Fiestas, her debut story collection. The Five Wounds is getting great press! Here's Hamilton Cain in the Star Tribune, Mark Athitakis in USA Today, and a starred review from Publishers Weekly. I'm guessing there is still more to come. 

Once again, I've got a staff rec you can read on the book's web page, but I'd prefer to reprint Jen Steele's recommendation. Here it is: "A poignant novel set in New Mexico, The Five Wounds follows the lives of the Padilla family: 33 yr. old Amadeo, his pregnant 15 yr. old daughter, Angel, the family matriarch Yolanda, and Tio Tive, who has initiated Amadeo into the hermandad and casted him to portray Jesus in their reenactment of the crucifixion. Jobless, living with his mother, and estranged from his teenage daughter, Amadeo searches for purpose and perhaps redemption. His daughter Angel has shown up unannounced and eight months pregnant, and Yolanda returns home with a life-altering secret. 

"Amadeo and Angel’s fragile relationship starts to mend as they navigate through daily life and welcome the newest member into the family. Kirstin Valdez Quade tells a captivating story about family, loss, redemption and the power of faith. I could not put this book down! You will laugh, cry, get angry, and want to hug these characters. Masterful storytelling!"

But wait, there's more. One lucky attendee of our event on Thursday will get a pair of evenings inspired by cover of The Five Wounds. Beautiful, right?  You're automatically entered into the drawing when you sign on. We'll just make sure you want them.

Preview for next week!
Monday, May 17, 7 pm
Nicholas D Hayes, author of Frank Lloyd Wright's Forgotten House: How an Omission Transformed the Architect's Legacy
in conversation with Catherine Boldt
Cohosted by Shorewood Public Library and Shorewood Historical Society  
Register for this virtual event here

Shorewood author Hayes joins us for a conversation about his latest book, which chronicles an oft-overlooked part of Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy - his forays into affordable housing. 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Forgotten House includes a wealth of drawings and photographs, many of which have never been previously published. Historians, architecture buffs, and Wrightophiles alike will be fascinated by this untold history that fills a crucial gap in the architect’s oeuvre. 

More on Boswell's upcoming events page.

Photo credits:
Joan Silber by Shari Diamond
Sanjena Sathian by Tony Tulathimutte
Kirstin Valdez Quade by Holly Andres

*The only problem with the review was that Patrick listed two other Milwaukee novels - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and American Gods, only neither book is actually set in or near Milwaukee. 

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