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Lost in a Book is out Jan 31!

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June 16-17, 2017
Mare di Libri Book Festival in Rimini, Italy

August 4
Hotchkiss Library in Sharon, CT

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Clinton Community Library in Rhinebeck, NY

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NEWSLETTER


October 12, 2005

Dear Readers,

So...I was going to give you a bit of an update on my own work, but that can wait a minute because I'm bursting to tell you about someone else's work. Actually, eight someone elses. Their names are Avijit, Gour, Kochi, Manik, Puja, Shanti, Suchitra, and Tapasi. They are children who live in Calcutta's red light district and they're the subjects of a stunning documentary called Born into Brothels.

This amazing film came about when a photographer named Zana Briski went into the brothels to live among the prostitutes and document their lives. It took her a while to gain the trust of the women, but their children took to "Zana Auntie" immediately, fascinated by her camera. Poor, marginalized, often brutalized, these children face a life of dead ends. By the time they reach their teenage years, most of the girls will be prostitutes, the boys pimps and drug addicts.

When Zana began shooting, the children followed her as she worked and some became so eager to take a picture that they snatched the camera from her hands. Although she had not come to Calcutta to teach, she decided to set aside her own work and show the children how to take pictures. She gave them point and shoot cameras, taught them how to compose a shot, and how to criticize their work. Realizing that an amazing story was unfolding right before her eyes, she invited her friend, film maker Ross Kauffman, to capture it. The result shows what is possible when children discover the beauty and power of their own voices.

I watched the DVD two days ago, and I still see the children's faces and hear their voices. I think about them, and worry for them, and applaud them. And I think about Mattie Gokey, from my book A Northern Light, and how children – no matter when they live, or what their circumstances are – hunger for self-expression and validation. Born into Brothels is harsh and heartbreaking, but it's also one of the most beautiful, inspiring, hopeful films I've ever seen. Taught by Zana to value themselves and their expressions, the children kept at their art. They kept taking pictures. Word got out. Their pictures were published by national newspapers, and exhibited in Calcutta and New York. The film won an Oscar and a zillion other awards, but best of all – some of the children were able to leave the brothels and find places at good schools.

One of my favorite sayings is this one by Ghandi: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Zana Briski and the children of the Calcutta brothels personify this. She is only one woman, they are so-called throwaway children, and yet together they sent a message of hope and defiance that has been heard around the world.

Zana founded a non-profit organization called Kids with Cameras to carry on the legacy of the Calcutta workshop. Through the organization, she continues to help marginalized children. To learn more, go to www.kids-with-cameras.org. You can meet the children on the site, view their work, and purchase prints.

A note to younger readers: Although Born into Brothels is about children, it addresses adult subject matter and is rated R. An R rating means anyone under 17 wishing to watch this film needs to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. So, if you're under 17, please ask permission.

NEW WORK

Now for the promised update on my own work. I'm emerging from a bad bout of writing (which is better than a bout of bad writing) and can report that work is proceeding on the sequel to The Tea Rose. So many of you have written asking "Will there be a sequel?" and then "When will there be sequel?" and then "Are you sure there will be a sequel?" that I feel I must give a progress report.

I now have a first part and a second part completed – hurray! – and am working feverishly on the third and last part. My due date is December, and it looks like I will actually make it. I also have a title for the book – The Winter Rose.

The book begins in London in 1900. Fiona and Joe and Seamie are all back, but center stage in this story goes to Sid Malone, Fiona's blacksheep brother, and a brilliant young doctor with whom he falls in love, India Selwyn Jones. As the book opens, Malone, a feared London crime boss, is protecting his waterfront turf and India, an idealistic social reformer, is being graduated from the London School of Medicine for Women. Unbeknownst to either of them, they will soon meet and that meeting – in the squalid rooms of a Limehouse opium den – will change both of their lives forever.

Will the course of true love run smoothly? I wish I could tell you, but I haven't finished the book yet! I can tell you that I've fallen in love with India and Sid, and I hope that you will, too. I don't have publication dates for The Winter Rose yet, but as soon as I do, I will post them in the Calendar section of the website. Hyperion is publishing the book in the US, HarperCollins in the UK, and Piper in Germany.

OLD WORK

I am very pleased and proud to announce that A Northern Light has been selected as the feature book for two New York State reading programs in 2006 – North Country Reads and A Tale for Three Counties.

North County Reads is a new community-based literature program serving the residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties – counties with lands in or near the Adirondacks, where A Northern Light is set. Spearheaded by the Flower Library and the Jefferson Community College, both in Watertown, NY, the Watertown Daily Times, and North Country Public Radio, North Country Reads aims to encourage residents in this tri-county area to read and share their experience of one book, forging new connections across the community.

A Tale for Three Counties, a reading initiative in western New York that encompasses Genessee, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, has also picked A Northern Light for its feature read. A collaboration among twenty public libraries, school libraries, The Daily News in Batavia, and Genessee Community College, A Tale for Three Counties will take place on March 23, 24, and 25 of 2006. I'm honored to be following in the talented footsteps of Leif Enger, Howard Frank Mosher, and Julia Spencer-Fleming, all of whom have participated in this renowned program. Info on both programs can be found in the Calendar section of this website.

MY READING

One of my favorite lines from a book is this one: Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all. Do you know it? It's from Toni Morrison's Beloved.

I feel the same way about books. Thin books ain't books at all. It's not a size thing. Page count has nothing to do with it. Richness and boldness and fearlessness and generosity do. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is just such an un-thin book. I read it in bed. At breakfast and lunch. While cooking. And when I was supposed to be working.

Forget the flap copy. There's no way one can explain this book in a few stubby paragraphs. It'll tell you that the book's about the Reverend John Ames writing a letter to his young son, trying to give an account of himself and his forbears. It is that, but it's also history, life, and a human soul written on the page. It's just stunning. And captivating, unsettling, haunting, and affirming. It's really, really, really good. It won the Pulitzer prize, so there are bigger dogs than me who say so. I've read it once and plan to read it again. Two total strangers who saw me with it told me they'd read it and plan to read it again, too. I hope you like it.

DAISY'S READING

Kuplink! Kuplank! Kuplunk!

Proust had his madeleines; I have Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Reading that book with my daughter brings me right back to my own childhood, sitting on the floor in the Rye Public Library, spellbound by the adventures of Little Sal and her mother. I can see the other kids, the swirly carpet, and the librarian's knobby knees. I can hear the rain pattering against the windows and smell that sweet, comforting, slightly grubby smell of little kids mixed with books.

Daisy and I picked some blueberries of our own this summer. Or rather, I picked, Daisy ate. And when we were done, we both went running down the hedgerows yelling Kuplink! Kuplank! Kuplunk! Other pickers smiled. Obviously, they'd met Sal, too.
It's amazing the dialogues books open between readers. Daisy and I talk about the characters we read about with great interest and concern. We talk – some might say gossip – about Miss Suzy and Captain. Remember them? They're from another classic, Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and Howard Lobel.

"Miss Suzy has acorn cups," Daisy says. "The red squirrels are bad."

"Yes, they are," I reply. "Do you think they'll get married? Miss Suzy and Captain?"

"Miss Suzy likes to cook," Daisy says.

"Wish I did," I sigh.

For Daisy, Miss Suzy is nearly as real as I am. So are Sal and her mom, Max and his wild things, Miss Twiggley, and Ping. What a joy to know that my old friends are now her new ones.

Books live, and the good ones live forever.

Happy reading!