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Caroline Leavitt’s new novel, Pictures of You, explores the aftermath of a terrible accident in which a woman named April is killed. As her young son Sam and husband Charlie try to pick up the pieces of their lives, the photographer, Isabelle, who was accidentally responsible for April’s death is drawn to them. And as Isabelle and Sam get to know each other, he turns to photography as a way to process his grief.
We asked Leavitt what her favorite photograph is, and to tell us a little bit about it. Below is the story she shared with us – and what a story. Thanks, Caroline!
For most of my life, my mother told me there were no photographs of her as a child. One of eight kids, born to Russian immigrant parents, she never would say anything about her childhood except that it had been ordinary. But ten years ago, when her sister died, this incredible photograph was discovered in a basement. Taken by a studio photographer, it shows my mother’s whole family, and right there, in the right hand corner, with dirty knee socks falling down, in a rumpled dress, a tentative expression on her face, is my mother at eleven.
I love this photo, and not just because it’s so fabulously old-fashioned, with the bobbed haircuts and the knickers on my uncle. I love it because of that haunting young girl, unhappily pushed off outside the boundaries of family, almost like an afterthought. When my mother saw the photo, it unlocked something in her, and all that night, she told my sister and me stories about her past. How unloved she always felt. How unwanted. How she hated that hand-me-down velvet dress. But then she talked about how she had gone on to get married and have a career, how she had had my sister and me shockingly late, which was unthinkable for women back then. That photograph makes me see my mother differently. It makes me want to hug that young girl and tell her everything’s going to work out, and it makes me love and admire my mother for whom she is today. It’s a piece of her past, but to me, it shines in her present. – Caroline Leavitt
The holiday season must be here — otherwise, we are listening to Run-D.M.C.’s Christmas in Hollis for no good reason. (Other than the hell of it.)
Last night’s event with Skippy Dies author Paul Murray was, in a word, epic. Murray is impressively entertaining and well-spoken, and kept the crowd nodding and laughing throughout his reading and interview with Ed Champion. We’ve got a limited number of signed copies of both editions, so get ‘em while the getting’s good.
And then, of course, there’s this coming weekend’s Annual Holiday Open House to look forward to. The list of participating authors just keeps on growing, and we’re planning some fun goodies and surprises, so definitely stop by sometime Saturday and/or Sunday between noon and 4 p.m. (If you’re on the Facebook, you can RSVP!)
Let’s see, let’s see — oh, right, the gift guide! Let us make your shopping easier: just buy these books. And! We are now the exclusive source for signed and personalized books from local romance author and WORD favorite Sarah MacLean. You just try getting Stephanie and Jenn to shut up about her, go ahead. We dare ya.
As always, feel free to stop in and let us know your own gifty favorites, be it here in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, or (GASP) in person. Happy holidays!
The holiday season has arrived! The gift guide will be appearing in your inbox this coming week — if you’re not already signed up, now’s a great time (we only send one email a month, pinky swear). And while our December events schedule is nowhere near as full as Novembers, it is equally awesome:
Sunday, December 5, at 7 p.m.: Paul Murray, Booker Prize-longlisted author of Skippy Dies, will make a very rare New York appearance at WORD in conversation with Edward Champion, host of the quirky radio program, The Bat Segundo Show. Expect the unexpected; Ed avoids routine questions wherever possible, so it should be an unforgettable interview. Murray will read and sign afterwards. Skippy Dies is one of Stephanie’s favorite books of the year (which is not something you should take lightly, because she is picky as all get-out), and Murray is from Ireland, so to say that we’re excited about this is a gross understatement.
Then, on Saturday and Sunday, December 11 and 12, from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., we’re having our second annual Holiday Open House. What is this, you ask? Nothing less than some of our favorite authors coming to the store! They’ll be on hand recommending books, gift-wrapping, signing, and generally taking part in the holiday fun. We’ve got some plans in the works (more details soon!) but suffice it to say: a good time will be had by all.
Jonathan Safran Foer‘s latest, Tree of Codes, immediately set off some heated discussions here at WORD and, we’re sure, at bookstores across the country. Here’s a round-up of our staff’s thoughts!
Jenn (events manager): At first glance, a customer and I agreed: it’s an amazingly cool concept, but we can’t imagine actually trying to READ it. Since then, however, several very smart people have talked me into the belief that if I gave it the time, it would probably be worth it.
Stephanie (manager): Is reading something from beginning to end really the only purpose of a book? And if it is now, should it always be? I would be sad if our industry only ever focused on either content or on what readers are asking for and never did anything else. That would get very, very boring.
Christine (owner): It’s so interesting to see where print is taking risks in the ominous ‘books are dying’ climate. I love that JSF takes those risks, it’s why I’m a huge fan of his to begin with. So I am very excited about it.
Dustin (bookseller): It’s an astounding sculptural argument for the joys of dead-tree tech, and JSF chose a truly interesting foundational text for it. But the real beauty of the book, to my mind, is that because its pages are literally transparent it makes more obvious the terrible dialectic between depth and opacity in any book.
What’s your take?
WORD is pleased to welcome Jo Karaplis, author of Fractured: Happily Never After?. In her book, she ponders the questions: What would happen if Snow White were around today? Would Cinderella still need a fairy godmother? Would the Little Mermaid show up on YouTube? She agreed to answer a burning question of ours…
WORD: Which fairytale characters would fare best in today’s world?
JO KARAPLIS: If the heroines from popular fairytales were suddenly dumped into today’s world, I think they’d have a pretty tough time. Cinderella would be called a gold-digger, and the prince would probably make her sign a pre-nup. (The odds that she’d end up with a prince in the first place are pretty slim, of course.) Beauty would be pressing assault charges against the Beast (and she’d probably be suing her father, too, for selling her!). And poor Sleeping Beauty: left in a coma, she’d probably end up in a nursing home somewhere. Snow White would be busy cleaning up after a house full of messy fraternity brothers, waiting for her prince to come yet dating jerks in the meantime.
However, I have a lot of faith in Rapunzel. She was locked up by a bitter old woman, but she managed to plan and execute a successful escape. In today’s world, she’d probably have been kidnapped as a child and kept in captivity for years, only to finally escape and then write a bestselling memoir about her experiences. After all that time spent growing out her hair, I’d also love to see what she’d end up doing with it: hack it all off into a funky bob? Keep it long and wear a different elaborate style every day? After the success of her memoir, I bet she’d go to university and become a criminal justice lawyer or a political activist or something. Or maybe she’d study fashion and become a designer. One thing’s for sure: she wouldn’t let her past hardships define her, and she’d achieve whatever goals she set for herself. She’d be a fun woman to hang out with: the kind that always has a good book to recommend, and will kick you in the butt if you need a little motivation. If she wrote a blog, it would be outspoken and hilarious.
Jo is on a blog tour! You can catch her at the following locations:
Steph Su Reads
Word of Mouse Book Reviews
The Reading Girl
Between the Pages
Tahleen’s Mixed-Up Files
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YA Book Shelf
Highlights from the past week:
- The fabulous ladies of Passion (Rachel Kramer Bussel, Monica Day, Emerald, and George Storey) along with historical romance author Sarah MacLean, kept the crowd laughing (and rapt) during their reading this past Thursday. I also had the best cupcake of my life, in celebration of Rachel’s birthday, thanks to the Kumquat Cupcakery.
- Local illustrator Lucy Ruth Cummins and author Shrill Travesty (The Taking Tree) proved to both be entertaining and talented. Mr. Travesty regaled us with some (unrepeatable) stories from the underbelly of the children’s book industry (NO SERIOUSLY), and Lucy did a speed drawing from crowd suggestions that is now proudly hanging on the wall of our basement.
- Last night, Greenpoint rooftop farmer Annie Novak interviewed author Katherine Leiner (Growing Roots) on the new faces of food activism. It was a great discussion about where our food comes from, who grows it, what we should be thinking about when we buy it, what we can do to keep our food supply sustainable and healthy, and so on. We highly recommend stopping by Eagle Street Rooftop Farm to get great food (and/or get your hands dirty); if you see Annie, tell her we say hi!
We’ve got more event awesome coming up; check out our event calendar for the full details. See you there!
Lauren Grodstein’s second novel takes the family drama and turns it up a notch:
A skilled internist with a thriving practice in suburban New Jersey, Pete Dizinoff has a devoted wife, an impressive house, and a son, Alec, on whom he’s pinned all his hopes. But he never counted on the wild card: Laura, his best friend’s daughter—ten years older than Alec, irresistibly beautiful, with a past so shocking that it’s never spoken of…
Bouncing between the mundane and the creepifying, and blurring the lines between them, this novel is surprising and engaging, and we’re thrilled to offer you a behind-the-scenes look at A Friend of the Family.
WORD: The New York Times Book Review blurb describes the book as “Suspense worthy of Hitchcock.” Who/what were your influences during the writing process?
LAUREN GRODSTEIN: This might sound corny – okay, I’m sure it sounds corny – but I honestly felt like Richard Ford’s Independence Day held my hand throughout the writing of this novel. Whenever I felt stuck or lost, I opened to any page in that book, which I’ve always admired, and delved into the rich and idiosyncratic voice of Frank Bascombe, the protagonist. I especially liked the passages in the book where he’s trying to sell a problematic house to a problematic couple. Ford really let himself go when he was writing these scenes, indulged in long descriptions, rounds and rounds of dialogue, and to me it all works beautifully. So I used those chapters to give myself license to try to do similar things, explore the workplace environment a little bit, place one chatty scene after another.
W: In the “Short Note from the Author” at the end of the book, you talk about getting into the mindset of Pete (the narrator). Personally, I’m curious about what it was like to get into Laura’s head — she was a character I found unnerving and terrifying, but also creepily sympathetic.
LG: In order to moderate or complicate Laura’s evilness (is that a word? Evility? Evilitude?) I tried to give her certain characteristics that were very similar to my own – our names are similar, for instance, and we’re the same age, and we both grew up and went to high school in northern New Jersey. I think by keeping her experiences close, in certain ways, to my own, I was able to keep her from being a cartoonishly horrible person. I empathized with her, and I knew her very well. And when you know someone well and empathize with her it’s hard not to see her in three dimensions, even if two of those dimensions are pretty horrible.
W: What do you think of the cover? It features an extreme close-up of a young woman, presumably Laura, rather than a man like Pete or a family shot, which would also be appropriate.
LG: I really love it. But I also loved the first cover, the hardcover jacket, which depicts a man wading into an ocean, looking for all the world like he’s about to go in over his head. It’s a metaphoric cover but I think it works really nicely.
W: The novel revolves around the choices parents make in order to protect their children. You’re a parent yourself — how did your own relationship with your c
What do you call a month in which 18 special events happen? How about when 13 of them happen in a row? Here at WORD, we call it: November. We’ve got an events line-up that is PACKED with awesome. Full details are, as always, up on the WORD Events Calendar, but here’s the scoop:
- Wednesday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. & Saturday, Nov. 6, 12 noon: WORD Book Group meets to discuss In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
- Thursday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.: Be the first to see Janice Shapiro and hear her read from Bummer at our pre-release party!
- Friday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.: Vol. 1 presents “Civic Pride,” a new Reading Series. This first installment features Chicago-born authors Adam Levin (The Instructions), Jami Attenberg (The Melting Season), Molly Tolsky, and free beer. (Yes, really!)
- Saturday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.: L’Aura Hladik presents Ghosthunting NYC and hosts a Haunted Open-Mic! Halloween candy guaranteed, costumes encouraged.
- Sunday, Nov. 7, 11:30 a.m.: Illustrator Stephen Savage presents an interactive storytime for The Fathers Are Coming Home.
- Thursday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.: Rachel Kramer Bussel is joined by several fellow authors, including Sarah Maclean (Ten Ways To Be Adored When Landing a Lord), to celebrate Passion: Erotic Romance for Women. Also: there will be cupcakes!
- Friday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.: Shrill Travesty and Lucy Ruth Cummins dish on the sleazy world of children’s books, in honor of The Taking Tree.
- Saturday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m.: Rooftop Farms’ Annie Novak interviews author Katherine Leiner on Growing Roots and the new generation of food activists.
- Sunday, Nov. 14, 4 p.m.: Restaurateurs/chefs/authors Haley and Lauren Fox present a special Tea Time for Alice’s Tea Cup. (Plus, whimsical apron contest!) Tickets required, see our site for more details.
- Monday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.: The Greenpoint Writers Group presents LOCAL ORGANIC, a reading for their new unpublished works.
- Tuesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.: WORD hosts the new Candlestick Reading Series; at this first event, Justin Taylor (Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever) leads a discussion on Richard Price’s Lush Life. 10% off the book for attendees at WORD!
- Wednesday, Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.: Contributors to Bound to Last speak on the book as object, their favorite books, and the future of reading.
- Thursday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.: The Association for the Betterment of Sex
In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and gamely set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent for Outing magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg. He never made it. His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz’s trail.
David Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist and chronicler of Lenz and Sachtleben’s amazing story, dishes with us on the writing process, bicycling then and now, and more.
WORD: How did you first learn about Frank Lenz and his disappearance?
DAVID HERLIHY: It’s been about 20 years since I first delved into bicycle history. I began to read cycling literature from the 1890s, and would often come across the name of Lenz. He was something of cycling celebrity even before he embarked on his world tour in 1892, having completed several long distance rides on a high-wheeler with his pal Charles Petticord. And of course he became a national figure once he began his round-the-world journey in May 1892. He became an international figure two years later when he disappeared in Turkey.
W: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the research for the book?
DH: I was surprised at how much information turned up, not only about Lenz but also about the book’s second major character, William Sachtleben. When I first contemplated writing a book on Lenz, I wasn’t sure if I could find much beyond his own published reports in Outing magazine. But, in large part thanks to the Internet, I was able to turn up a great deal of new information, including dozens of unpublished photographs taken by Lenz before and during his world tour, and important materials relating to Sachtleben as well.
W: How do you think the interest in cycling of the late 1800s, when it was still a novelty, compares to our interest today in, say, the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong?
DH: There are some parallels. Cycling was a very new proposition to the millions of Americans who took to the wheel in the1890s, thanks to the introduction of the pneumatic safety bicycle. True, the highwheel sport had already been around
for at least a dozen years, but it appealed almost exclusively to athletic young men of certain means who were willing to mount the thing and take a few spills. Many Americans today are re-discovering the joys of cycling, and realizing that it’s not just for kids, and that it can, in fact, provide very practical and economical transportation under certain circumstances.
One might even draw a parallel between Lenz and Lance. Lenz helped bring the new safety bicycle to the attention of the American public by embarking on his tour, while Lance certainly did much to publicize the sport to the American public, which may indeed have helped to spark a renewed interest in cycling. On a personal level, they both came from broken homes and turned to cycling as a “way out.”
W: The book includes photos taken both of and by the two c
Every now and then a completely unexpected book grabs (and holds) your attention. Kim Dana Kupperman’s I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is that book. A collection of essays that, together, make up something akin to a memoir, Kupperman hits notes that are almost obligatory in the genre: crazy mother, a difficult childhood, travels far and near, torrid affairs, strange jobs. But in her hands and through her eyes, these oft-told stories become fresh and gripping. We’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to her in the below interview — and thanks, Kim!
WORD: Your book is labeled as an essay collection, but reads not unlike a memoir. Many of the pieces have been previously published. What was the “assembly” process like?
KIM DANA KUPPERMAN: [I'll answer this question with parts of a talk I gave at last year’s AWP conference, from a panel called "The Essayist's Dilemma," which was moderated by Marcia Aldrich, editor of the journal Fourth Genre and included Lucy Ferriss and E. J. Levy.]
The arrangement of my book came about in stages, beginning with that monster called the Creative Thesis, completed after two plus years in a Master of Fine Arts program. After I graduated, I thought that all I’d need to do was write a few more essays to fill out the collection I had so diligently assembled as a thesis. And then a friend read the essay titled “Relief” and said, “This is very interesting, but what happened before the time you wrote about?” That question prompted me to take apart this particular essay and write it into a memoir. Which meant, for practical purposes, removing a piece of writing from an already slim collection. And so I spent almost two years writing a memoir. Though I published chapters from it as discrete essays, it did not sell. After sending it to agents, publishers, and contests and seeing it turned it down, I decided to take a new course of action. I dismantled the memoir, breaking it into discrete autobiographical essays and restoring “Relief,” the essay from which it germinated. I merged these pieces with the essay collection I had already written and to which I had added one or two newer pieces. It occurred to me that if I wanted to publish this book, I’d need to solve the puzzle of how to organize these somewhat-linked-but-mostly-not pieces.
Though a book of discrete essays may be opened and delved into at any given point, most readers, perhaps because we are trained by the beginning-middle-end literary schema, desire an organizing principle, a structure that imposes meaning—even if it is quite nuanced—that relates the parts comprising a whole. Using sections to group the essays would help, I thought. And, the book’s title would derive from one of the essays, and I knew that the title would, eventually, lead me to develop a suitable configuration, but which title to pick, which essay to emphasize? I identified some of the shared preoccupations among the essays—air, wind, flight—as well as some of the overarching themes—departures and disappearances (read “death”), but how to wrap it up in a neat package for the dear readers I imagined on the other side of the page?
When I decided on the title, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings, I realized I’d need a subtitle as the agent of cohesion. I thought of applying a leitmotif of correspondence, using different kinds of letters as subheadings for individual sections. I noted words and phrases that evoked the epistolary: Letters home. Missives, disp
We want you to enjoy the last lazy days of summer, really we do. (Hopefully with a good book.) But we are also just too excited about September to wait until after Labor Day to share what we have planned. So here is a preview of what we suspect will be a super September of events at WORD:
Wed. Sept. 8 at 7:30 PM: Paperback launch for The Adderall Diaries. Our pal Stephen Elliott returns to WORD to celebrate the paperback release of his book, and will be joined by Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart.
Fri. Sept. 10 at 8 PM: WORD presents an intimate conversation with John Waters. This is a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookends event – reserve your ticket now! John Waters will be interviewed by Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times and Waters will answer questions and sign books. Join us at this epic Greenpoint event on Friday night, and then come visit our booth at the Festival on Sunday, Sept. 12.
Thurs. Sept. 16 at 7:30 PM: Save the Assistants Reading + Contest with Lilit Marcus. The founder of the Save the Assistants website will read from her new book. Several actual assistants will join Lilit Marcus to share their stories too. And in the spirit of “bad bosses bring people together” we will sponsor a contest that will reward some of the very best (meaning worst) assistant stories we receive. Send stories to email@example.com by Sept. 14th.
Fri. Sept. 24 at 7:30 PM: Launch Party for Susan Henderson’s Up From the Blue. Susan Henderson, founder of Litpark, will read from her debut novel, answer questions and sign copies. We’ll have wine too!
Sat. Sept. 25 at 11:30 AM:
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Summer continues with even more fun programs to fill those long (and hopefully cooler) days. We hope to see you at the store soon for one of these upcoming events:
Friday August 6, 7:30 pm: Just Working on My Novel (JWOMN) - This month’s host is Frank Anthony Polito, acclaimed author of suitable-for-YA but-awesome-for-adults novels BAND FAGS! and DRAMA QUEERS! For this special JWOMN, while we’re not REQUIRING you to read facets of your YA work in progress, we’d like to HIGHLY encourage it! RSVP in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share the stage with the hilarious Polito. There will be wine. RSVP to read encouraged, not required.
Wednesday, August 11, 7:30 pm: BORN TO RUN with Christopher McDougall *Ticketed Event* - Join us for a evening with the author of Born to Run, A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. An inspiration to amateur and professional runners alike, Christopher McDougall has forever changed the way we experience and enjoy running. (Our store manager was so moved by this book that she started WORD’s weekly running group, which meets in front of the store every Sunday morning to run around Greenpoint.) **Due to McDougall’s popularity and our limited space, this is a ticketed event. The ticket price of $25 includes one copy of Born To Run, which guests will receive at the door that evening.
Thursday, August 12, 7:30 pm: Short & Sweet: An Evening of Readings and Drinks – Come listen to half a dozen of New York’s best up-and-coming writers from all genres as they read brief selections from their latest work at WORD, then join them for drinks and discussion at nearby Shayz Lounge. Featuring work from: Carter Edwards, Allen Houston, Joshua Malbin, Cameron Page, Weatherly Ralph, Colin Spoelman and Jack Kelley.
Thursday, August 19, 7:30 pm: The Chairmen of the Bored Storytelling Night – Every story’s got a hook. For the next 5 Minute Series event, we’re supplying one for you. “And That’s When I Knew…” is the theme behind this storytelling night. Come up with something to share, or just stop by for a beer and a high-five! http://chairmenofthebored.com
Monday, August 23, 10:30 pm: Release Party for MOCKINGJAY – First it was The Hunger Games. Then it was
Hey, we know you have too many books. It’s a common problem around these parts. But you still want more books. Because books are fantastic. And also you love libraries. Whatever can you do?
You can attend our first-ever book swap this Saturday, 7/31, from noon to 4pm!
As part of the Greenpoint Business Association’s Last Saturdays of Summer promotion, we’ll be hosting a book swap outside (if weather permits; if not, we’ll take it into our basement). Here’s the deal:
- Bring up to five books
- Take up to five books
- Leave a suggested donation of $1 per book
All donated money will go directly to the Greenpoint Public Library, the better to help them when the re-open after their renovations are complete.
So spread the word! Especially amongst your friends with great book collections. If this one goes well, we will definitely have more in the future.
We’re taking a break from events until after the July 4th holiday, but we’re so excited to be starting off our mid-summer programming with a bang next month: Chuck Klosterman is coming to Greenpoint! Here are details about our ticketed event with him, as well as the rest of our July schedule:
Tues, July 13, 8 pm at Lulu’s:
Paperback Release for Chuck Klosterman’s EATING THE DINOSAUR
Chuck Klosterman in conversation with his pal Rob Sheffield. We’re hosting an intimate event at Greenpoint bar Lulu’s. There are only 50 tickets being sold for this event. You and 49 of your closest friends will get to see Chuck shoot the shit with Rob Sheffield, author of LOVE IS A MIXTAPE and the newly-released TALKING TO GIRLS ABOUT DURAN DURAN. Chuck will take questions from the audience and sign books as well. Tickets are $20 and include one copy of EATING THE DINOSAUR. Tickets can be purchased here.
Wed, July 14, 7:30 pm:
Reading, conversation and book signing with Matt Gallagher, author of KABOOM: EMBRACING THE SUCK IN A SAVAGE LITTLE WAR. Matt will be joined by Philippe Dume and Joe Dougherty. Philippe was a Specialist in Iraq, Joe a Sergeant.
Sat, July 17, 2 pm *Event for Kids & Families*
Jason Fry, Brooklyn-based author of the Star Wars Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia will be on hand signing copies of the book and answering questions from the audience. We’ll also have costumed Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion, giveaways, raffle, crafts and more. Recommended for kids ages 5 and up.
Tues, July 20, 7:30 pm
Launch party for MEEKS by Julia Holmes, complete with “Independence Day” cake and drinks. Reading and book signing too. MEEKS (Small Beer Press) evokes the strange charm of a Haruki Murakami novel in a dystopic setting reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Thurs, July 22, 7:30 pm:
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