Press Room

Karin Tanabe Discusses “The Gilded Years” at BPL

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by rlavery in General
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img_1869The Gilded Years author Karin Tanabe visited the Central Library on Thursday, September 15 to discuss her historical fiction work, which tells the story of Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to attend and graduate Vassar College by passing as a white woman in the late 1890s. Anita has local ties – she grew up in Roxbury and worked at the Boston Public Library as a cataloguer, and likely met her husband at the BPL. Tanabe is a Vassar alumna and first got the idea for the book in 2014, when she flipped through her alumni magazine and saw mention of Anita. She began researching the woman and quickly found that not too much information could be found, but the subject of her next book was quickly brewing in her head.

Tanabe and some of her friends visited Vassar to search through their archives to find correspondence and details about Anita Hemmings. She was active in school, a member of the debate club and choir, and a very intelligent woman. Though no “majors” existed at Vassar at the time, Anita focused on languages and wanted to be a teacher. The year after she graduated, her college roommate of two years leaked the news that she was an African-American woman after her suspicions were raised in their senior year. After college, Anita married and lived with her husband in Tennessee before relocated to New York City. Anita did not pursue a teaching career after marrying and having children.

A question and answer period followed the reading of a passage. Audience members were curious to know if Anita was related to Peter or Sally Hemmings (maybe), and if Tanabe had communicated with any of Anita’s ancestors; Tanabe has been in touch with Anita’s great granddaughter. Listeners also asked if Anita was involved in civil rights issues, and Tanabe said she was not, to her knowledge, but Anita had a best friend who went to Wellesley College who was. One of the most challenging aspects of writing this book, Tanabe said, was tracking down the name of Anita’s roommate; she wrote most of the book without knowing. Tanabe also discussed how the book has relevance today, as racial tensions and acceptance of others is still an issue more than 100 years later.

Tanabe concluded the talk by signing books and showing photographs of Anita and others related to The Gilded Years.

The next Author Talk is Tuesday, September 20, at 6 p.m. in Rabb Hall at the Central Library in Copley Square, featuring Stacy Schiff, author of The Witches: Salem, 1692.

Boston Public Library Loans Centuries-Old Illuminated Manuscripts for Collaborative Beyond Words Exhibition

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by rlavery in Media Releases
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januarius_0212Exhibitions opening this month at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the McMullen Museum at Boston College, and Houghton Library at Harvard University

Boston Public Library is loaning 36 medieval and early Renaissance manuscripts and printed books from its collections to three area cultural institutions, part of an ambitious collaborative project entitled Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. The largest ever exhibition of medieval and Renaissance books held in North America, the BPL items date from the 10th century to the early 16th century, part of the Library’s Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection of Distinction. The materials will be featured at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the McMullen Museum at Boston College, and Houghton Library at Harvard University from September 2016 to January 2017. For more information about the exhibitions, visit

“These illuminated manuscripts and bound books represent a crucial period in the Western evolution of writing and reading,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library. “This first of its kind collaborative exhibition is an exciting opportunity for the Boston Public Library to put our collection on display, and make these objects viewable and easily accessible to the public.”

“The Boston Public Library’s early manuscripts collection is astounding in its breadth and overall quality. Scholars come to Boston from around the world in order to study these artifacts,” said Jay Moschella, Curator of Rare Books at the Boston Public Library and one of the facilitators of the exhibition for the library. Read more »

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated at Boston Public Library with Booklist, Programs

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by rlavery in Media Releases

latinolife2016Boston Public Library honors Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) annually through publishing the Latino Life booklist, a list of recent books concerning the Hispanic experience. A wide range of genres are included, such as biography, historical and contemporary issues, and fiction. Sandra Cisneros’ A House of My Own: Stories from My Life, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero, former Glee star Naya Rivera’s Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, and What We Become by Arturo Pérez-Reverte are just a sampling of the list of over seventy titles.

“I am thankful to the members of the committee who curated this excellent book list and am confident the variety of recommendations for Hispanic Heritage month will be enjoyed by readers; I encourage library users to share feedback on the titles and their favorite authors,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library.

Each book on the list is briefly summarized. This work was performed by a committee of Boston Public library staff members. Copies of the booklist will be available next week at all Boston Public Library locations across the city, and themed programs and activities celebrating the month can be found through searching the BPL calendar.

Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit


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Discussion: Public Art and Irish Influence on Art in Boston

Posted on September 15th, 2016 by rlavery in Media Releases
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Featuring artists Caoimhghin Ó Fraithile and Michael Dowling at the Central Library in Copley Square

On Sunday, September 18, at 2 p.m. Boston Public Library President David Leonard will welcome Caoimhghin Ó Fraithile (Ireland) and Michael Dowling (Boston-US/Ireland) to the Central Library in Copley Square for a discussion about public art, the Irish influence on art in Boston, and their work which is featured in the temporary public art project, Tír na nÓg, now on view in the Back Bay Fens.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen incredible energy around public art installations in Boston,” said Julie Burros, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston. “Projects like Tír na nÓg promote public discourse, bringing people together in conversation and helping us reach the goals of the Boston Creates Cultural Plan. We are thrilled to see it in the Fens and look forward to hearing from the artists.” Read more »

Michael Patrick MacDonald Kicks Off Fall Author Talk Series

Posted on September 14th, 2016 by kmiller in General
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mpm_1Michael Patrick MacDonald, the author of All Souls and Easter Rising, spoke to a captivated audience that filled the newly renovated Rabb Hall at the Central Library in Copley Square last night. MacDonald spent the hour reading from his debut novel All Souls and exploring his emotional journey and experience in South Boston during the 1980s and 1990s. A slideshow of his family and the South Boston Old Colony Housing Project where he grew up played in the background, giving a quiet but powerful context to the memories MacDonald related.

The first reading included an ode to the time MacDonald spent at the Boston Public Library during his high school years. He described the library as his shelter and safe haven. He spent so much time at the library, he added, that he eventually got a job shelving books—an anecdote that garnered applause from the audience. Fond memories of the library segued into his relationship with the world of punk rock. MacDonald’s story of stalking the band Sex Pistols, who were staying at the Central Library’s neighbor the Lenox Hotel, illustrated his sense of living in two worlds: South Boston and the punk rock scene, which allowed him to escape the harsh realities of Southie life.

MacDonald also explored the tragedies that took the lives of four of his eleven siblings and informed the writing of All Souls. His grief over these losses manifested as physical ailments. After going to see doctors all over the city, MacDonald finally was recommended to a therapist, an experience that made him realize that what happened to his family and his circumstances in Southie were not “normal.” Even more importantly, it helped MacDonald acknowledge the tragic events in his life.

The night concluded with numerous questions from the audience. MacDonald talked about his community organizing and the importance of that work as a way for him to transform his pain into good. MacDonald’s new book, with the working title The Echoes, focuses on the heroin epidemic in South Boston and Charlestown in the 90s and is slated for release in 2017.

This talk is part of the Boston Public Library’s Lowell Lecture Series and is generously sponsored by the Lowell Institute, established in 1836 with the specific mission of making great ideas accessible to all people, free of charge.

The next  Author Talk is on Thursday, September 15, at 6 p.m. featuring Karin Tanabe, author of Gilded Years, and takes place in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square.