Monday, March 31, 2014

Event Post--Joel Greenberg at the Rverside Park Urban Ecology Center Tonight, Joe Ganzer at Boswell on Wednesday, Crystal Chan on Thursday, Rabih Alameddine at UWM Friday, Scott Jacobs at the central Milwaukee Public Library Saturday.

Monday, March 31, 7 pm, at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Pl. 53211: Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.

The Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center is located at 1500 E. Park Place in Milwaukee. This event was made possible by co-sponsors Christi and John Clancy. Admission is $10, or $5 for UEC members.

How could a species that numbered in the billions as late as 1860 completely disappear by 1914? What does that say about our current relationship with the natural world? With the centenary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction quickly approaching, Joel Greenberg wanted to mark the event, which led to the writing of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction and a broader hope that the anniversary could be a vehicle for informing the public about the bird and the importance that its story has to current conservation issues.

In fascinating detail, Greenberg explains that the pigeons’ propensity to nest, roost, and fly together in vast numbers made them vulnerable to unremitting market and recreational hunting. The expansion of railroads and telegraph lines created national markets that allowed the birds to be pursued relentlessly. Human beings destroyed passenger pigeons almost every time they encountered them, and they used every imaginable device in the process. Unrelenting carnage reduced the population to the point where it began its inexorable spiral to obliteration. Whether a concerted effort could have reversed the decline and altered the outcome was a question asked far too late for any attempt to have even been tried. A Feathered River Across the Sky paints a vivid picture of the passenger pigeon’s place in literature, art, and the hearts and minds of those who witnessed this epic bird, while providing a cautionary tale of what happens when species and natural resources are not harvested sustainably.

Joel Greenberg is a research associate of the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum. Author of three books, including A Natural History of the Chicago Region, Greenberg has taught natural history courses for the Morton Arboretum, Brookfield Zoo, and Chicago Botanic Garden. He helped spearhead Project Passenger Pigeon to focus attention on human-caused extinctions.

Wednesday, April 2, 7 pm, at Boswell: Joe Ganzer, writing as J. Thomas Ganzer, author of Chicago Secrets.

Joe Haise is a bland, bow tie-wearing Assistant US Attorney in Chicago handling low-level fraud for the federal government. His stable job and stable marriage provide him a predictable—perhaps even boring—life. But one evening he scoops up his wife Tina's phone by mistake and reads a cryptic text from an unknown number. Joe's world descends into chaos when he pieces together several random events and discovers Tina is moonlighting as a high-priced escort for Chicago's jet set. In his fervor to uncover the seedy details of her secret life, Joe must confront a dark secret of his own. Can Joe use his knowledge of the law to manipulate those around him to do his bidding? And what could one do, a federal prosecutor no less, if one had no conscience?

Joe Ganzer, writing as “J. Thomas Ganzer,” is an attorney practicing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Armed with a diverse career, J. Thomas offers his readers a unique perspective on the traditional legal thriller, focusing on the odd characters and constant one-upmanship lawyers, clerks, and judges know all too well. He has tried cases in both civil and criminal matters in private practice and at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. He currently practices civil litigation for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Thursday, April 3, 7 pm, at Boswell: Crystal Chan, author of Bird.

It’s only natural to have silence and secrets in your family when you’re born on the same day that your brother died. At least, that’s sure what it seems like for twelve-year old Jewel. Add to that the fact that you’re the only mixed-race family in your rural Iowan town, and well, life can get kind of lonely sometimes. But when a boy named John moves into her town, his courage and charisma immediately stand out and the two kids instantly click. John’s presence, however, has an unsettling effect on her family. As the thick layers of silence in her family begin to unravel, Jewel finds that her life is not as stable nor her family’s expectations as certain as she once thought. Suddenly, Jewel needs to choose whether to stay loyal to the person her family wants her to be or to claim her own identity, no matter the cost.

“Crystal Chan has written an enthralling first novel about the darkness, light, and beauty that make up the human condition.” —Cynthia Kadohata, author of Newbery-winner Kira Kira

Crystal Chan grew up as a mixed-race kid in the middle of the Wisconsin cornfields (near Oshkosh) and has been trying to find her place in the world ever since (after graduating from Lawrence). Over time, she found that her heart lies in public speaking, performing, and ultimately, writing. She has published articles in several magazines, given talks and workshops across the country, facilitated discussion groups at national conferences, and been a professional storyteller for children and adults alike. In Chicago, where Crystal now lives, you will find her biking along the city streets and talking to her pet turtle.

Friday, April 4, 3 pm, at UWM Curtin Hall, 3243 N. Downer Ave. 53211: The Arab and American reading, talk, and panel discussion, with Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman.

The celebrated author of five novels, Rabih Alameddine presents his latest as part of the UWM series “The Arab and American,” which includes a talk and panel discussion. An Unnecessary Woman is a coming-of-age story in reverse, celebrating the singular life of an obsessive and passionate introvert, revealing Beruit’s beauties and horrors along the way.

A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, in An Unnecessary Woman, the prodigiously gifted Rabih Alameddine has delivered a nuanced rendering of one woman’s life in the Middle East. Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s “unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read—by anyone. In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.

“For years, I have been heralding the work of Rabih Alameddine, a Lebanese-American writer. His prose is gorgeous, his approach irreverent, and the ideas in his stories are sometimes comical or fantastical, but always deadly serious—very relevant to understanding the complex history behind multiple holy wars today.” —Amy Tan, in The New York Times Book Review

Saturday, April 5, 11 am, at the Mozart's Grove reading area (first floor) at the Milwaukee Public Library, 807 W. Wisconsin Ave. 53233: Scott Jacobs, author of Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin: (And Other Delusions of Grandeur)

Reporter, filmmaker, political consultant, community activist, and the author of several books, Scott Jacobs brings his unique brand of humor to the Milwaukee Public Library for a talk and signing that will convince you that Wisconsin is not a state—it’s a state of mind.

Just on the other side of Lake Wobegon lie the famous ski hills of Wisconsin, the jumping off point for Scott Jacobs’ funny and poignant stories about growing up in the Midwest. In this wide-ranging collection of humorous essays, Jacobs turns a wry eye on Wisconsin’s favorite pastimes, its plank road breweries, vacation resorts, and family reunions. Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin is about the little things in life that matter—and some that don’t.

Bill Janz, a career columnist for The Milwaukee Journal Senitnel writes: “Jacobs shows us the evolution of a boy, a time, an era…He was a Wisconsin kid who typed his way into the future with great heart, adventure, and the gentleness of a dreamer.”

Scott Jacobs is a reporter, filmmaker, and author of five books. He has written for The Milwaukee Sentinel, Chicago Sun-Times, and Slate.

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