Monday, October 4, 2021

Boswell This Week: Sara Biren, Matt Siegel, Amor Towles, Zoraida Córdova, Jessica Anya Blau

Here's what's happening on the Boswell events front. No in-person events this go around.

Monday, October 4, 7 pm
Sara Biren, author of Bend in the Road
in conversation with Andrew DeYoung for a virtual event.
Register for this event here.
Looking for a little farm-fresh contemporary romance? Boswell presents a special YA, Boswell! evening with Wisconsin author Sara Biren for a conversation about her latest novel about a teen rock star who returns home to Minnesota and finds himself falling for a local farm girl. If you love Sara Dessen, then... (you know how to complete this sentence.)

For this event, Biren will be in conversation with Andrew DeYoung, author of The Exo Project, winner of the Minnesota Book Award. This event also features Wyatt Kuether from The Production Farm, which provides mental health services for youth in both traditional and innovative, hands-on ways.
From School Library Journal: "Biren's novel is set in the Midwest and is a slow simmer. What appears to be a novel about farming and gardening turns out to focus on relationships and grief. Readers who are musically inclined will appreciate the side story of Gabe's rocky music career. The characters, who are light skinned, are likable and complex in this heartwarming romance that slowly develops between Juniper and Gabe, who seem to have realistic difference."
Marisa Reichardt, author of Aftershocks and A Shot at Normal calls A Bend in the Road "a beautiful and tenderhearted exploration of the meaning of home, Sara Biren's Bend in the Road will stick with you like a favorite song that instantly transports you to a place and time you always want to remember."

Sara Biren is author of The Last Thing You Said and Cold Day in the Sun. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Andrew DeYoung is author of the forthcoming book The Temps (forthcoming) and The Exo Project, which won the Minnesota Book Award. Can you read between the lines to figure out that Biren moved to Wisconsin from Minnesota?

Tuesday, October 5, 7 pm
Matt Siegel, author of The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat 
in conversation with Kyle Cherek for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Boswell presents an evening with food and culture writer Matt Siegel for a conversation about his new book with Milwaukee culinary historian Kyle Cherek. The Secret History of Food offers up an irreverent, surprising, and entirely entertaining look at the little-known history surrounding the foods we know and love. This is one of my sleeper picks for fall. I read it off our break room galley shelf (it's a thing) and loved both the delicious food minutiae and Siegel's fresh-picked voice. I'm going with food imagery here - is it working?

Publishers Weekly
offers a rave: "The food-related trivia surprises throughout, such as the tumultuous history of the tomato, including a fruit-versus-vegetable debate that ended in the U.S. Supreme Court and its long suspected poisonous attributes thanks to its connection to its cousin, the lethal nightshade. An invigorating culinary romp through time, this is a cheeky treat for history buffs and foodies alike."

Here's my recommendation: “Vanilla ice cream, breakfast cereal, corn, tomatoes, and several other foods become the jumping-off point for Matt Siegel’s meandering and quirky food history. How is honey kosher if most samples likely have traces of unkosher insects? Why did Nathan’s Famous employ college students who dress like doctors? Could it possibly be true that the USDA is responsible for open-faced sandwiches, but the FDA monitors closed-faced ones? So much food ephemera!0

"Best of all, there are often interesting points to be made about human nature slathered between the easily transportable iceberg lettuce and tasteless-but-great looking tomato. A multi-course feast of delights! (Daniel)

Matt Siegel has written about food and culture for publications including the Atlantic and the Paris Review. Previously an English professor, he now writes full time and consults with brands in the food and beverage industries. His dog’s name is Waffles. Kyle Cherek was the host of Wisconsin Foodie on PBS and has twice been awarded the Wisconsin Broadcast Association Award for his compelling essays on food culture.

Wednesday, October 6, 7 pm
Amor Towles, author of The Lincoln Highway
in conversation with Ann Patchett for a virtual event
Purchase your ticket here. Book on sale tomorrow.

Boswell Book Company is thrilled to present a virtual event with Amor Towles, the bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility, for a conversation about his new book, a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America. Towles will chat with Ann Patchett, author of novels such as The Dutch House and Commonwealth. Patchett's Nashville bookstore Parnassus Books is co-hosting this event, along with The Book Stall of Winnetka, Blue Willow Bookshop of Houston, and Boswell.

Each ticket costs $30 and includes a copy of The Lincoln Highway and admission for one electronic device. $5 from each ticket will be donated back to BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which helps booksellers in need. Shipping and pickup information on the ticketing website.

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future, one that will take them all on a fateful journey in the opposite direction - to New York City.

Advance praise for The Lincoln Highway is glowing. From Publishers Weekly: "Towles's magnificent comic road novel (after A Gentleman in Moscow) follows the rowdy escapades of four boys in the 1950s and doubles as an old-fashioned narrative about farms, families, and accidental friendships... Towles is a supreme storyteller, and this one-of-a-kind kind of novel isn't to be missed."

Amor Towles is the author of The New York Times bestsellers Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow. The two novels have collectively sold more than four million copies and have been translated into more than thirty languages. Ann Patchett is author of seven novels, including The Dutch House, Commonwealth, and Bel Canto, as well as three books of nonfiction. She’s been awarded the Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among many others.

Thursday, October 7, 6 pm
Zoraida Córdova, author of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina
in Conversation with Valeria Cerda of La Revo Books and Daniel Goldin for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Enjoy an evening with Zoraida Córdova, author of a contemporary fantasy drama that follows three cousins who retrace their family lineage from Four Rivers, USA, to Guayaquil, Ecuador, in an attempt to discover the source of their power and why their family is being murdered by an unknown entity. 

This event is cosponsored by La Revo Books, a new Milwaukee bookstore (online and pop-up) focused on carefully selecting new and used books for and by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). More on their website. They'd also like you to know that we were using a placeholder logo. Their fresh new logo is below.

From my recommendation: "In the remote town of Four Rivers, the matriarch Orquídea Divina has called the family together one last time, including raised-together cousins Marimar and Rey. They’ve been promised an inheritance, but their grandmother isn’t dead yet. There are complications, likely connected to a deal Orquídea Divina made when she was a young woman with a traveling circus. And then the relatives start dying. Just what is the family secret? And how is connected to the flowers that begin to grow out of their bodies? For the answers, they wind up journeying to Ecuador to unlock their grandmother’s past. This bewitching blend of family drama, adventure (the descriptions of Guayaquil had me contemplating packing a suitcase), and romance, is blended with enough magic to set hearts ablaze. " (Daniel) 

From the starred Booklist review: "The latest from Córdova is a spellbinding immigrant story that follows an Ecuadorian American family as they delve into their ancestry and roots. Told in the past and present from multiple perspectives, this beautifully written generational novel full of magical realism will enchant fans of Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, and Alice Hoffman."

Zoraida Córdova is the acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels and short stories, including the Brooklyn Brujas series, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate, and romance novels under the name Zoey Castile. In addition to writing novels, she serves on the board of We Need Diverse Books, and is the coeditor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, as well as the cohost of the writing podcast Deadline City.

Friday, October 8, 2 pm
Jessica Anya Blau, author of Mary Jane
in conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

The October entry in the locally loved Readings from Oconomowaukee virtual event series presents Jessica Anya Blau, whose latest novel is a 1970s coming-of-age novel about a girl nannying for a progressive couple who are secretly hiding a rock star for the summer. It's set in Roland Park, the Baltimore neighborhood made famous by the novels of Anne Tyler. 

Boswellian Margaret Kennedy loves this book! Here’s her take: “Amidst the clashing viewpoints and lifestyles of 1970s America one teen girl tries to make sense of it all and find out who she wants to be. Mary Jane is surprised and strangely delighted when the Cones turn out to be a bohemian, openly amorous rock n' roll couple with a rock star and his famous wife living in the attic. Throughout the summer, Mary Jane encounters and embraces new music, new clothes, and a new way of looking at herself and what she wants to be, all while inadvertently helping the Cone family and their guests grow as well. A wonderful read about found families and finding yourself - this is already one of my favorites of the year!"

From Allegra Goodman in The New York Times: "Unlike many young narrators, Mary Jane is neither angry nor rebellious nor twisted. She is a responsible girl who is “still happy helping my mother with the chores in the house,” singing show tunes and “making a simple dessert featured in Good Housekeeping.” This churchgoing teenager is innocent, but her innocence is powerful. While the summer changes her, Mary Jane changes the people she encounters as well. She introduces structure and stability to her young charge. Baths! Bedtime stories! She organizes the house and cooks dinner, charming her hard-rocking housemates Jimmy and Sheba - and the reader too. If this is a coming-of-age story, it is also a story of self-possession and common sense."

From my sister Merrill's text: "Can't stop reading Mary Jane." Lisa and I are also fans. After reading this book, I bought one of her previous novels to read too. I don't think I'll have it done by Friday, but you never know.

Jessica Anya Blau is author of four novels, including The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and The Trouble with Lexie. Her novels have been recommended and featured on CNN, NPR, the Today show, and in Vanity Fair, Cosmo, and Oprah’s Summer Reads. Anya Blau co-wrote the script for Love on the Run and has taught writing at Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, and The Fashion Institute of Technology.

Coming next week
Monday, October 11, 7 pm
Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, authors of We Are Not Like Them
in conversation with Nancy Johnson for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Join us for an evening with Pride and Piazza, coauthors of a powerful and poignant new novel that explores race in America today and its devastating impact on two childhood friends, one Black and one White. We Are Not Like Them goes on sale tomorrow, October 5. Ask for your signed bookplate.

As regular readers know, I'm a big fan of Nancy Johnson's The Kindest Lie, which was introduced to me by Christina Clancy, author of Shoulder Season and The Second Home. So I asked Johnson what she was recommending, and she mentioned We Are Not Like Them. And because we've worked with Jo Piazza before, this was the perfect match.

Like Tayari Jones's An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them considers complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it's a story of enduring friendship - a love that defies the odds even as two childhood friends, one Black and one white, face their most difficult challenges.

From my rec: "An aspiring television reporter and the wife of a policeman, friends since childhood, find their relationship frayed by the shooting of a young Black man. This powerful story is sure to start a lot of important conversations. The authors do a great job creating sympathetic characters in Riley and Jen (though to my thinking Riley is the true protagonist), with lots of interesting family dynamics and revelations both past (the revelation of a lynching Riley’s family) and present (Jen’s pregnancy complications) move the plot along. There’s some humor too, and even a little romance. I’m not giving anything away by saying there’s no way to have a completely happy ending, but maybe, just maybe, there’ll be at least understanding." (Daniel

Christine Pride has held editorial posts at imprints such as Doubleday, Crown, and Simon and Schuster. As an editor, Christine has published a range of books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. She pens the Race Matters column for Cup of Jo. Jo Piazza is author of books such as Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, How to Be Married, and The Knockoff. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Photo credits!
Sara Biren by Maris Ehlers
Matt Siegel by Kenzi Flinchum
Amor Towles by Dmitri Kasterine
Ann Patchett by Heidi Ross
Jessica Anya Blau by the author
Nancy Johnson by Nina Subin

On the social media image for the events, I usually collect either the authors for the week or the authors and their books. If we just have one or two events, I'll also include their conversation partners. Then I use a color from one of the books to make the background color. We do the same thing for the social media connected to the bestseller blog, and for any event alerts that use an image that requires a background color.

For this week, I wanted to us the record label from Mary Jane, which stands in for Atlantic Records. But I guess to avoid getting in some kind of trouble, the label is actually teal and orange, and that just seemed to be beside the point. So I pulled the background colors from the real Atlantic record label of the 1970s, specifically the one used for vinyl albums. The singles were just black and a second color, usually red. A promo copy would often be light blue instead of red.

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