Seniors Book Club February Selection

And after the fireThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, February 13 in the second floor Training Room to discuss the novel  And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer.

About the book …

Susanna has the perfect New York City life: a great job, a loving husband and a beautiful apartment. But when a random act of violence tears it apart, she’s left to pick up the pieces alone. Just as she begins to feel whole again, her beloved Uncle Henry commits suicide—leaving behind a cryptic note that alludes to his haunting WWII experience as an Allied soldier in Germany . . . and something he took from the devastated country before returning home.

The daughter of the king’s Jewish banker, Sara is among the elite of Enlightenment-era Berlin. Beautiful, intelligent and a gifted pianist, she hones her musical talents under Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. They share a special bond, but while her life is just beginning, his is coming to an end. On his deathbed, Wilhelm bequeaths Sara the score of one of his father’s cantatas. Sara is stunned to see its violently anti-Semitic lyrics. Why did her beloved want her to have this horrifying document?

Weaving together the stories of Susanna and Sara, Lauren Belfer creates a majestic narrative that spans lifetimes and continents, encompassing both the best and the worst of the human spirit. The cantata’s troubled, riveting journey reveals that the two women have more in common than the score, and what Susanna learns may be the thing that can, finally, allow her to heal and move on.

About the author …

Lauren Belfer was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in Buffalo, where she attended the Buffalo Seminary. At Swarthmore College, she majored in Medieval Studies. After graduating, she worked as a file clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University.

Lauren decided to become a writer when she was six years old. By the time she was in high school, her literary work was receiving rejection letters from all the best publications. Her first published short story was rejected forty-two times before it found an editor who loved it. Her second published story was rejected only twenty-seven times.

Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book of the Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into six languages.

Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010 and an NPR Best Mystery of 2010.

Her third novel, And After the Fire, received a 2016 National Jewish Book Award.

Belfer’s fiction has also been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere.

She lives in New York City.

A Conversation with Lauren Belfer

An interview with the author (Laurenbelfer.com)

Reading Group guide

Awards and reviews

Real People and Places in And After the Fire

Music from the novel

Was J.S. Bach anti-Semitic? A CBC Radio/Sunday edition interview

A Literary Couple grapple with Bach and his God (NYTimes article)

History of Anti-Semitism (Wikipedia)

 

Monday Evening Book Club February Selection

Born a crimeThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, February 11 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the memoir Born a Crime : stories from a South African childhood by Trevor Noah.

About the book…

One of the comedy world’s fastest-rising stars tells his wild coming of age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Noah provides something deeper than traditional memoirists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives. Trevor Noah is the host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where he gleefully provides America with its nightly dose of serrated satire. He is a light-footed but cutting observer of the relentless absurdities of politics, nationalism and race–and in particular the craziness of his own young life, which he’s lived at the intersections of culture and history. In his first book, Noah tells his coming of age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal–the son of a white, Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life–a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom. The stories Noah tells are sometimes dark, occasionally bizarre, frequently tender, and always hilarious–whether he’s subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty or making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world; whether’s he’s being thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn’t commit or being thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters.

Trevor Noah’s website

NPR interview highlights

Interviews on Youtube

A “Guardian Live” interview

“The View” interview

Discussion questions

A Huffington Post book review

A Guardian review

Map of South Africa

History of Apartheid

 

Monday Evening Book Club January Selection

Lillian Boxfish takes a walkThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday January 14 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the novel  Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

About the book…

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop. (Author’s website)

Meet Chicago’s modern-day flaneuse: an interview with Kathleen Rooney

Interview with author Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney describes the process of writing Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

The real Lillian Boxfish: Margaret Fishback 

New York City in the 1980’s 

In praise of walking (and witty women) 

Chicago Tribune review

 

 

Seniors Book Club January Selection

Mr. Dickens and His Carol - Silva, SamanthaThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, January 9 in Forsyth Hall on the main floor to discuss the novel  Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.

About the book …

Samantha Silva’s fiction debut offers a take on how Charles Dickens came to write his famous holiday story, A Christmas Carol. Dickens has just excitedly finished his latest installment of Martin Chuzzlewit and welcomed his sixth child when his publishers inform him that Chuzzlewit isn’t selling and he needs to write a Christmas story or lose money from his advance. Dickens is adamantly opposed, but with family depending on him, he accepts the challenge. Beset by demands from everyone he encounters, he struggles to write the story. Finally, he’s captivated by an unexpected muse and his holiday spirit comes back, inspiring the much-loved and enduring classic. (Library Journal)

About the author…

Samantha Silva is an author and screenwriter based in Idaho. Mr. Dickens and His Carol is her debut novel. Over her career she’s sold film projects to Paramount, Universal, New Line Cinema and TNT. A film adaptation of her short story, The Big Burn, won the 1 Potato Short Screenplay Competition at the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2017. Silva will direct, her first time at the helm. 

Silva graduated from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, where she studied in Bologna, Italy and Washington, D.C. She’s lived in London three times, briefly in Rome, is an avid Italophile, and a forever Dickens devotee.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: A timeline of Charles Dickens life

Dickens’ London

An interview with Samantha Silva (Los Angeles Public Library)

Conversation with Samantha Silva (International Press Agency)

Book review (Washington Independent Review of Books)

Mr. Dickens and His Carol: The Ghosts of Dickens and Grenfell

 

Seniors Book Club November Selection

ForgivenessThe Seniors Drop-In Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 14 in the second floor Training Room to discuss this year’s winner of Canada Reads, the memoir Forgiveness : a gift from my grandparents by Mark Sakamoto.

About the book …

When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean traded his quiet yet troubled life on the Magdalen Islands in eastern Canada for the ravages of war overseas. On the other side of the country, Mitsue Sakamoto and her family felt their pleasant life in Vancouver starting to fade away after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ralph found himself one of the many Canadians captured by the Japanese in December 1941. He would live out his war in a prison camp, enduring beatings, starvation, electric feet and a journey on a hell ship to Japan, watching his friends and countrymen die all around him. Mitsue and her family were ordered out of their home and were packed off to a work farm in rural Alberta, leaving many of their possessions behind. By the end of the war, Ralph was broken but had survived. The Sakamotos lost everything when the community centre housing their possessions was burned to the ground, and the $25 compensation from the government meant they had no choice but to start again.

Forgiveness intertwines the compelling stories of Ralph MacLean and the Sakamotos as the war rips their lives and their humanity out of their grasp. But somehow, despite facing such enormous transgressions against them, the two families learned to forgive. Without the depth of their forgiveness, this book’s author, Mark Sakamoto, would never have existed.

Author website

Author biography

Forgiveness on Canada Reads

A Maclean’s interview

A CBC Books interview

A National Post book review

A Ripple Effects Blog book review

A CBC Q Radio interview with Mark Sakamoto and Joy Kogawa

Mark Sakamoto about “Where I Write”

“Why Mark Sakamoto’s father got emotional reading his son’s memoir”

Architect Raymond Moriyama on Internment

Mark Sakamoto on YouTube

A Globe and Mail article by Mark Sakamoto