All posts by Jessica FitzHanso

Henry David Thoreau turns 200!

Henry David Thoreau, one of our most important and treasured local authors, would have been 200 years old on Wednesday July 12. Numerous events and celebrations are taking place in and around Concord to commemorate his life and legacy. His works are always relevant to our understanding of the environment and nature and our role as citizens of the world, but perhaps his guidance has never been as crucial as in recent times (Read Douglas Brinkley’s essay in Sunday’s NYT Book Review for more on that.) I’ve highlighted some of the important works below. Pick one up and head down to Walden for a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.

Walden, or life in the woods: Thoreau’s most well-known work accompanied by beautiful full color photographs and annotations, published to commemorate the work’s 150th anniversary (2004).
 

Cape Cod: A perfect book for a New England summer, Cape Cod chronicles Thoreau’s travels along the “bare and bended arm,” complete with full color photographs of many of the features Thoreau observed.

 

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Thoreau’s first work describes a trip Thoreau took with his brother in 1839 from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire by boat. In addition to poignant descriptions of the nature observed along the way, Thoreau weaves in discussions of culture, religion, personal relationships and his philosophy.

On Civil Disobedience: Thoreau’s famous treatise on the rights of citizens to resist peacefully in the face of injustice by government institutions. The text of this essay if free to read online courtesy of the American Studies department at the University of Virginia.

Other works of fiction and nonfiction displaying Thoreau’s influence:

A Fugitive in Walden Woods, by Norman Lock (Adult Fiction): Samuel Long escapes slavery in Virginia by traveling the Underground Railroad to Walden Woods, where he encounters Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Lloyd Garrison, and other transcendentalists and abolitionists. While Long will experience his coming-of-age at Walden Pond, his hosts will receive a lesson on human dignity, culminating in a climactic act of civil disobedience
Walden Warming: Climate Change comes to Thoreau’s woods, by Richard B Primark (Adult nonfiction): Scientist Richard Primark uses Thoreau’s texts to show the dramatic changes taking place in the environment since Thoreau’s investigations.
 

Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead (Young Adult Fiction): “Seventeen-year-old ‘Hank,’ who can’t remember his identity, finds himself in Penn Station with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden as his only possession and must figure out where he’s from and why he ran away.”

 

Thoreau at Walden, by John Porcellino (Children’s graphic novel): Perfect for budding Thoreauvians! This graphic novel, narrated in Thoreau’s own words, weaves together elements from “Walden,” “Civil disobedience,” “Walking,” and Thoreau’s journals to tell the story of his two years in the woods and of the night he spent in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wednesday Morning Book Group reads Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

The Wednesday Morning Book Group met to discuss Me Before You , by Jojo Moyes on June 21st.

***PLEASE NOTE BEFORE CONTINUING THAT THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes is classified as a contemporary romance novel, or a Women’s Lives and relationships book, a tag that rankles me, but the book is really much more than that. After a thorough discussion among members, my personal opinion of the book changed, swayed by the opinions of those that felt strongly about the book’s real message.

Will Traynor is a young man who has become a quadriplegic after having suffered a car accident two years prior to the start of the novel. Louisa Clark is a young woman, in between jobs and a little lost in life, who takes on the task of paid carer for Will, charged with keeping him company and improving his mood. It is of course, not entirely disclosed to Louisa at the start that her purpose is far more important than just making tea at opportune points in the day, though she finds out soon enough that she must work especially hard to keep her charge positive and upbeat.

To do this, Lou plans all sorts of activities and outings, some more successful than others. It should be noted that Will is not exactly the easiest person to please. Prior to his accident, he was a high-flying jet-setting risk taking wonder-boy, complete with a highly lucrative career in Mergers & Acquisitions and a Barbie doll girlfriend. While he can no longer partake in many of the activities that used to occupy his schedule, he does still have a highly functioning mind, and this seems to be both a blessing and a curse for him. The group agreed that Lou’s job as carer for Will was very difficult, that it would take a very special sort of person to stick with the job. Louisa is that special someone, as written by Moyes. She’s a free and friendly spirit, hampered only by her family’s financial woes. She jumps in to Will’s care, and, once the true nature of her position is revealed, does not shy away but rather increases her impact, in vain hopes of changing his mind.

A large portion of our discussion concerned the decision that Will had made about his life before Louisa came into it, and the decision he maintains despite the joy he finds in Louisa’s company. Will has decided to undergo clinical suicide, or assisted suicide at a facility in Switzerland because he feels that his life will never be the life he wants now that he is a quadriplegic. At the time of the movie made from the book, there were protests by advocates for disabled persons that this represented yet another negative, debilitating view of life as a disabled person. The book, unlike the movie, includes  great deal of alternative perspectives, and does not treat the decision lightly. The group agreed that this was a very subjective decision, that this choice was made because Will was the person he was. Louisa seems by the end to come to terms with the fact of Will’s choice, and the final passage of them together is a real tearjerker.

Moyes wrote the book after learning about a real-life case of a 23-year old Rugby player that had decided, after his injuries had rendered him paralyzed, that he would take his own life at an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland. The family tried everything to change his mind, but ultimately went with him to see him through. Moyes, seems to think that this choice, while not palatable to everyone, should be a choice for individuals and should not be considered a crime. It was suggested by the group that this book could be used as a great ice breaker to a general discussion about death and dying and the choices that people have available to them and the impact these choices have on loved ones left behind.

The sequel to this novel came out about a year ago, and Moyes’ other novels are available from the library. Here are the links to the books mentioned during the discussion:

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind and After You, by Jojo Moyes

Interview with Jojo Moyes about Me Before You

Vanity Fair article about the backlash against the Me Before You movie

To find out what else the Wednesday Morning Book Group will be reading, or any of the other book groups at the library, go to www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/book-groups/. On July 19, the Morning Book Group will be meeting to select the books for the coming year, so it would be a perfect time to jump in, bring a book suggestion, and join! No registration is necessary, just drop in.

June Local Authors event this Saturday!

Are you looking for a new summer read? Do you love to hear writers talk about their work and inspiration? Come and check out our Summer Local Author Market this Saturday! Ten authors will present their work and sell their books at this annual event. We’ll begins at 2PM in the large meeting room, followed by an open market-style session around the main floor of the library until 4PM.

Read more about the authors that will be joining us!

June Local Authors Market – Meet Ursula Wong

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.

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Ursula is a retired engineer who writes gripping stories about strong women struggling against impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Her work has appeared in Everyday Fiction, Spinetingler Magazine, and the popular Insanity Tales anthologies.

About her novels:

Her debut novel, Purple Trees, exposes a stark side of rural New England life in the experiences of a young woman who struggles for normalcy despite a vicious and hidden past. After losing her parents, Lily Phelps tries to build a future, but her secrets threaten every one she loves. Purple Trees is the second-place winner in the 2015 E-Festival of Words Best Fiction Category.

Ursula taps her Eastern European heritage in her upcoming WW II novel, Amber Wolf. Destitute after her parents are taken by Russian soldiers, young Ludmelia Kudirka joins the farmers who trade pitchforks for guns in a David-and-Goliath struggle against the mighty Soviet war machine. Rich with scenes and legends of Lithuania, Amber Wolf gets the turmoil of 1944 into the story of a family torn apart by the Soviet occupation.

Come meet Ursula and check out her novels when she comes to the library on Saturday, June 24.

June Local Authors Market – Meet Glenn Davison

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.

Glenn Davison is a kite designer, kite builder, workshop leader, author, and flyer.  Glenn has been an invited guest for worldwide kite events in the USA, Canada, India, Taiwan, Colombia and the Virgin Islands.

Glenn is the past chairman of the Kite Education committee for the American Kitefliers Association.  He is President of the club called Kites Over New England and he has appeared in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.

Glenn is an American national champion and has won many awards for building and flying kites.

About his latest book:

 Mr. Davison’s  latest book describes innovative new ways to build kites for free using recycled, organic, or found materials so the kite costs little or nothing to build and fly! “…a wonderful invitation to build a kite limited only by imagination and materials on hand.” “…a source of inspiration for any aspiring kite builder.” The book includes 12 kite plans to make and fly. Find it in our library here.

 

 

Learn more about Glenn’s books, and see some of his kites in action when he comes to the Chelmsford Library on Saturday, June 24.

June Local Authors Market – Meet Steve O’Connor

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.
Stephen O’Connor is a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, where much of his writing is set.
He is the author of Smokestack Lightning, a collection of short stories, and two novels. The first, The Spy in the City of Books is historical fiction set in Lowell, Mass, and in WWII France. It is based in part on interviews with a former OSS operative who served in Occupied France. The second, The Witch at Rivermouth, has been described as “a cerebral mystery.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lucinda Franks called it, “rich, eerie and intriguing.”
 
O’Connor has published stories in The Massachusetts Review, The Houston Literary Review, Lodestone Journal, Dimeshow Review, Sobotka, and elsewhere. His story “The Hipster’s Hopper” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize; “Work, Music and Love” won the Helen Literary Award for Best Short Story; “St. Lucy’s Day” received special mention in a contest in the British journal Open Road Review.
 About his latest: The past has caught up with Martin LeBris. During World War II, he served the Office of Strategic Services as a spy and saboteur in Lyon, France. Nearly sixty years later, Lowell cop Gerry O’Neil is trying to unravel the mystery of why an assassin is stalking LeBris. The answer to that question lies buried in the dark days of Nazi Occupation, and in the unforgiving memory of The Spy in the City of Books.
About his short story collection: In his first collection, Stephen O’Connor arrives fully formed as a writer–with 13 memorable stories filled with characters pulled from the streets, bars, and parishes of his historic mill-city: Lowell, Mass. He digs deep and find the essential humanity in the high and low of our daily rounds. Admired for his clear narrative style and fine ear for dialogue, O’Connor invents a world in these stories that lets us see and hear the essential drama in what might appear to be undramatic lives at first glance. His characters arise from the people whose stories often go untold. His readers are richer for the encounters in these pages.

Come speak with Rick about his experiences and check out his works when he comes to the library on June 24!

June Local Authors Market – Meet Zachary Watson

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.

Zach has over 26 years of life experience and teaches 8th grade Math in Lowell. He has a YouTube channel for his students, “Zach’s Daily Think Share” to teach them the lessons he doesn’t have time for during school. He has a second channel (Just search his name) with all sorts of things including eating challenges with students, origami tutorials, MCAS practice tutorials, car radio sing-alongs, book reviews and one of his students giving him an award-winning haircut. At the end of every video he tells the audience “Stay weird” in efforts to have people appreciate their true, authentic, weird selves. He recently did a Tedx talk on taking steps toward reaching dreams and avoiding the pitfalls of reaching goals. He does workshops for goal setting and you can find more at www.zachwatsonspeaks.wordpress.com.

He has a Bachelor’s in Engineering from UMass Amherst and a Masters in Education from UMass Lowell. Zach proposed to his wife after dating for 93 days and has a mathematical explanation for it. He is an avid hiker, origami specialist and poet. His book, Ideas over Coffee is a collection of 104 ideas he’s learned in the post-college world of personal development. He has completed the curriculum for living with Landmark Worldwide and has read or listened to around 70 books in the past 4 years. “It’s sort of my own textbook for success in life every day.”
About the Book: People are constantly meeting up at their favorite local coffee shop to share stories, share opinions, laughs and ideas. This book was inspired by what I constantly found myself sharing with others, whether it was coaching to a friend, advice for a student or simply something I couldn’t wait share with my wife for pillow talk. As I’ve gotten feedback on these ideas, many people have loved them and I have loved sharing them. These ideas have helped me flip conventional wisdom I’ve taken over the years, and brought me to living and leading rather than surviving and following. What idea will dump some of the conventions you didn’t know you could leave, and try new thoughts, take new actions and live a new experience? While Zach will be unable to attend on Saturday, he will be sending a video and some of his books for purchase.

June Local Authors Market – Meet Dale Phillips

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our Annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.

Dale T Phillips is a New England writer, spent his formative years in Maine, and has lived and worked in a number of different places. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono, studied writing with Stephen King, and has worked for over twenty years as a Technical Writer in a number of major industries, translating the work of software developers into clear instructions for using computer software.

Before that, he’s worked as a farm laborer, entrepreneurial bait salesman, yard worker, golf pro shop assistant, factory assembler, clean room machine operator, holiday Santa, construction worker, hotel worker, office assistant, theater apprentice, busboy, waiter, bartender, wine steward, assistant maitre’d, website designer, lab experiment subject, and blackjack dealer.

He has published novels, short stories, collections, articles, jokes, and poetry, and has appeared on stage, television, and in Throg, an independent feature film.

Mr. Phillips has numerous works of short-stories, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and more. A full list of his works is available on his website at www.daletphillips.com/Stories.html. A list of books available at the Chelmsford Library can be found here.

More information is available on his website: www.daletphillips.com, but come and meet him in person when he comes to Chelmsford on June 24!

June Local Authors Market – Meet Laura Fedolfi

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.

Laura Fedolfi grew up in Chichester, NH. She attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. There she wrote a senior thesis in her dual degree of Philosophy and English. She went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. She has lived for the last 18 years in Chelmsford, MA where she has raised two children. She has held many different jobs, done a wide array of volunteer work, and is involved in the life of her Episcopal church, All Saints’.

Though she has always been telling stories, she began writing them down only recently. Revealing Hannah The Greek Myths is a series of novels. Follow the adventures of Hannah Summers as she navigates her first years after college. Imagine trying to sort out work, life and love with the added complication of having your fate entwined with the Greek gods. Each book focuses on a particular myth and takes you on an entertaining trip down the labyrinthine path of Hannah’s quest for a life of her own making…

All Ms Fedolfi’s books are available through her website, www.revealinghannah.com, or through Amazon. Revealing Hannah Book 1: The myth of Cassandra is available through the Chelmsford Public Library.

Book 1: Revealing Hannah The Myth of Cassandra, published April 2015   Illuminated Myth Publishing ISBN 978-0990979326 (available in paperback, hardcover, and kindle)
Book 2: Revealing Hannah The Myth of Arachne,  release date April 2016  Illuminated Myth Publishing ISBN 978-0990979333
Book 3: Revealing Hannah The Myth of Echo, coming in early 2017…

June Local Authors Market – Meet Rick Conti

This post is part of a series introducing the authors that will be participating in our annual Local Authors Market. Read about the authors and then come to meet them and buy their books on Saturday June 24 from 2-4PM at the Main Library.

Rick Conti has written a dozen screenplays, a hundred or so sketches and short plays, and a handful of short stories. “A Slippery Land” is his first novel. After barely surviving a career in software, a series of misadventures and one tyrannical employer inadvertently gave him the chance to try his hand at writing full time.

Rick’s love for Haiti began on a 10-day mission trip there in 2000. Suffering from a classic case of “reverse homesickness”, he has returned several times. For eight years, he served as Director of Communications for a nonprofit that helps Haitian women create and maintain their own businesses.

Rick published a second novel, A Song in the Storm, in April of 2017. The story follows eighteen-year-old Calandra, who is on the verge of becoming a professional singer when she is sent against her will from her home in Italy to marry a stranger in America. She will need all her wits, her faith, and the help of her new friends in Boston to salvage her future and pursue her dream.

Come speak with Rick about his experiences and check out his works when he comes to the library on June 24!