Boston Public Library author talks feature a wide range of talented writers. Hear authors read from their books, purchase a copy, get it signed, and learn about the creative process that gets such magnificent stories told. To look for even more author talks taking place Boston Public Library locations, please use our calendar of events.
In this sensitive and compelling biography, historians Karen Corsano and Daniel Williman shed new light on John Singer Sargent’s art through an intimate history of his family, including the never-before-told story of his niece and muse, Rose-Marie Ormond. The book braids together the lives and families of Rose-Marie and John Sargent and spans their many worlds – Paris, the Alps, London, the Soissons front, and Boston. Drawing on a rich trove of letters, diaries, and journals, this beautifully illustrated history brings the world of John Singer Sargent to vivid life.
Bees are crucial to the reproduction of flowering plants, and the economic contributions of these irreplaceable insects measure in the tens of billions of dollars each year. Yet bees are dying at an alarming rate, threatening food supplies and ecosystems around the world. In this richly illustrated natural history of the bee, Noah Wilson-Rich and his team of bee experts provide a window into the vitally important role that bees play in the life of our planet. Wilson-Rich is the founder and chief scientific officer of the Best Bees Company, a Boston-based beekeeping service and research organization.
Set in Paris, The Spirit of Josephine explores the expatriate experience, the social mobility of African Americans, and the dynamics of family reunions. Violet Fields, a black American singer in Paris clubs and music halls, is occasionally visited by the spirit of famed entertainer Josephine Baker. She reflects on her life after decades of separation from her Louisville, Kentucky origins. Florence Ladd is a psychologist, fiction writer, and essayist. Her novel Sarah’s Psalm received the 1997 fiction award from the American Library Association’s Black Caucus. Educated at Howard University and the University of Rochester, she has taught at Simmons College, Robert College, and the American College for Girls in Istanbul.
In Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, Matthew Pratt Guterl highlights a little-known side of the dancer, singer, and actress, showing how her ambitions in her later years were even more daring than the youthful exploits that made her the first African American superstar. Guterl is the author of The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940; American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation; and Seeing Race in Modern America.
Jim Vrabel’s A People’s History of the New Boston provides a grassroots perspective on the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, when residents of the city’s neighborhoods engaged in a level of activism unprecedented in Boston since the American Revolution. Vrabel recounts protests against urban renewal, highway construction, and airport expansion; fights for civil rights, school desegregation, and welfare reform; and uprisings over Vietnam and busing. He also explores how the legacy of that era is present in Boston today. Vrabel is a longtime Boston community activist and historian. He is the author of When in Boston: A Time Line & Almanac and Homage to Henry: A Dramatization of John Berryman’s “The Dream Songs.” This talk is also part of the Local & Family History Lecture Series.
In The Map Thief,award-winning investigative reporter Michael Blanding tells the true story of map dealer-turned-criminal E. Forbes Smiley III, who stole more than three million dollars’ worth of antique maps from rare-book libraries including the Boston Public Library. Smiley was ultimately caught in 2005 when an attentive librarian spotted a razor blade he dropped on the floor, leading to the ultimate unraveling of his deceptions. Drawing on an exclusive interview with Smiley as well as in-depth investigations involving map collectors, dealers, curators, and law enforcement, Blanding paints a compelling psychological portrait of an obsessive man who committed daring crimes against the backdrop of a quirky and cutthroat subculture. He also looks at the backstories of the explorers and mapmakers who charted the history of North America through their maps, many of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars today. Blanding is a regular contributor to publications including the Nation, Boston Globe Magazine, and Boston Magazine, and is the author of The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink.
In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson takes readers on an intimate journey into the broken American criminal justice system. After Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School, he started the Equal Justice Initiative, a law practice dedicated to defending some of America’s most marginalized people. Among the first cases he took on was that of Walter McMillian, a black man from Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, who was sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn't commit. Just Mercy follows the battle to free Walter while telling other dramatic stories of men, women, and children, innocent and guilty, who found themselves at the mercy of a system often incapable of providing justice. Stevenson is a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”
In A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience, Emerson W. Baker describes how conditions in the Bay Colony in the 1690s set the stage for the dramatic events in Salem. He engages a range of perspectives to address why the Salem tragedy unfolded as it did and to explore its enduring legacy. Baker is a professor of history at Salem State University. He is the author of The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England and coauthor of an award-winning biography of Sir William Phips. Baker has been featured as an expert consultant on the PBS series Colonial House and has provided historical consultation for Parks Canada, National Geographic, Plimoth Plantation, Historic Salem, Inc., and other historic district commissions. This talk is also part of the Local & Family History Lecture Series.
In 1983, Ron Capps enlisted in the United States Army, and in the early ’90s he joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer while remaining in the Army Reserve. That unusual combination set the stage for a unique career during which Capps functioned at times as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, investigating some of the bloodiest war zones in recent history. This distinct perspective informs his book Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years, a work that is part soldier’s memoir, part story of the toll extensive exposure to war can take on the psyche, and part inspirational tale of the power of the written word to lift us out of the darkest of places. Capps is the founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project, a non-profit program that provides no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and their family members. Capps’ policy writing and commentary have appeared regularly in Time’s blog Battleland, Foreign Policy, and NPR’S All Things Considered.
How do wars end? Why are some societies capable of peaceful political transitions while others descend into violence? In this compelling narrative, Timothy Phillips draws on twenty years of experience on the front lines of peace negotiations around the world to offer lessons for societies currently struggling with conflict. He relates stories of six individuals who stood up to dictatorship and sat down with their enemies to pave the way for lasting reconciliation. In an era in which war and devastation dominate the headlines, Beyond Conflict: 20 Years of Putting Experience to Work for Peace is a timely reminder that peace is not an illusion, but a reality. Phillips is the co-founder of Beyond Conflict, a non-profit global initiative for conflict resolution. He has advised the United Nations, the U.S. Department of State, and the Council of Europe.