Lorna Goodison is one of the Caribbean’s most distinguished contemporary poets, yet one of writing’s least heralded. With the highly praised collection of short fiction “By Love Possessed: Stories” (Amistad, $14.99), the writer’s writer is waiting to be discovered. These tales demonstrate why she may be one of literature’s best kept secrets.
In the Pushcart Prize-winning title story, humble Dottie thinks her luck has turned when she meets Frenchie, the best-looking, if not most reliable, man in the whole of Jamaica.
In “The Helpweight,” an accomplished woman must bear the burden of an old flame’s renewed affections when he returns from a life abroad with his Irish bride in tow.
And in “Henry,” a young boy turned out of his house to make way for his mother’s lover sells roses on the street to survive. On a whim, he bites off a bloom, which he can feel burning inside his mouth like a red pepper light, hoping it will take root and beautify his own life.
Poetically rendered, these and over a dozen other evocative stories create a world in which pride can nourish a soul or be its ruin and where people are in turn uplifted and undone by love.
Goodison’s powerfully moving stories in explore the pain, the struggle, and the triumph of Jamaicans — particularly women — those still living on their Caribbean island and those who have emigrated elsewhere. Making dazzling use of the Creole patois of Jamaica, Goodison outlines the beauty and despair of the human condition and explores the unique power of love to both uplift and destroy.
The internationally recognized poet has published nearly a dozen books of poetry, two collections of short stories and the accalimed “From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island.” In 1999, she received the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and her work has been widely translated and anthologized in major collections of contemporary poetry. Born in Jamaica, Goodison now teaches at the University of Michigan and divides her time between Ann Arbor, Michigan and Toronto, Canada. “By Love Possessed” is a beautiful gift from an extraordinary writer.
The last thing Lisa Edwards needed was a new dog. But when she came across an abandoned litter on Halloween, her heart went out to the runt who walked into walls and couldn’t steady his feet. Edwards — healing from past abuse and battling constant pain from a chronic medical condition — saw a bit of herself in little Boo. And when he snuggled, helpless, against her, she knew he was meant to be hers.
“A Dog Named Boo: How One Dog and One Woman Rescued Each Other — and the Lives They Transformed Along the Way” (Harlequin, $21.95) is Edwards’ story about the amazing bond between a dog and its owner. Over 70 million Americans are dog owners who consider their dogs to be more than just pets: they are their friends, confidants, healers, therapists and so much more. Having a dog gives a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life. The profound experience of interacting with dogs, discovering their talent, seeing them learn new things and growing to love them more day by day, makes the animal–human bond so powerful.
For Edwards it was a little black Lab named Boo that changed her life in unexpected and meaningful ways. Edwards, a certified, full-time dog trainer, worked diligently with Boo — the runt of an abandoned litter — to train him to become a therapy dog, but she never imagined that he would transform countless lives, including her own. Edwards has been on hundreds of therapy visits with Boo, where she gets to experience the animal’s healing powers firsthand and witness how he gives others the courage to overcome their challenges — from the 94-year-old nun with Alzheimer’s to a six-year-old boy who spoke for the first time in his life after working with Boo. Boo even had a profound impact on his adoptive family as Edwards and her husband, Lawrence, were able to heal from past abuse and mustered the courage to start a family of their own.
With his unflappable spirit and boundless love, Boo proves to be “the little dog who could,” and Edwards’ story demonstrates the power of faith as she chronicles her pet’s journey from abandonment to miracle worker.
In 1990, Anthony Zuiker was just another Hollywood wannabe — a balding, overweight guy driving a tram in Las Vegas for eight bucks an hour, telling his friends about the screenplay he was writing, dreaming of fame. He’d grown up in Vegas, where his mother worked the blackjack table at a casino, while his father flitted back and forth from investment schemes that didn’t seem to go anywhere. His friends figured Anthony wouldn’t either.
But 20 years later, Zuiker stands as the mastermind behind the most popular television show in history, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and its spin-offs: “CSI: Miami”and “CSI: NY.” How he got there — a remarkable rise from nothing to something — is the narrative lifeblood of “Mr. CSI: How a Vegas Dreamer Made a Killing in Hollywood, One Body at a Time” (Harper, $26.95), only, like the show itself, there’s a catch. On a January morning in 2005, Zuiker got a call from the Las Vegas Police Department while he was working at his desk on a script for “CSI: NY.” His estranged father, whom Zuiker hadn’t seen for a decade, had put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
So begins “Mr. CSI,” a book that frames Zuiker’s astonishing ascent to fame and fortune with an unsettling and honest appraisal of his father’s suicide. Like a script for one of his TV shows, the book opens with a Crime Scene Investigation Summary from the Las Vegas Police Department, detailing the discovery of an apparent suicide. The report is real: the body belongs to Zuiker’s father, Eddie, dead from a self-inflicted shotgun wound. It is the morning after “CSI’s” triumphant win at the People’s Choice Awards that Zuiker gets the call from the Vegas police. Yes, he tells them, Eddie Zuiker is his father and, as his sole next of kin, he has no choice but to fly to Vegas to handle the affair.
“I’d spent five years writing about dead bodies, but now I had no idea what to do with my father’s,” recalled Zuiker. “I mean, I understood it procedurally, but not emotionally. What frightened me was the business of dealing with his life, of having to confront this man whom I’d avoided my entire adulthood. Who knew what I was going to learn about him. Who knew what I was going to have to face about myself.”
“Mr. CSI” is a non-conventional memoir that uses the conventions that have made “CSI” a worldwide success to tell a far more personal story, of what one man left behind in his success and what he gained when he returned.
In celebration of First Person Arts’ 10th Anniversary, the First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art is taking over Old City for an unprecedented 11 days with theater, storytelling, documentary film, workshops, author readings and more — all inspired by real life experience. First Person Arts was founded in 2000 as Blue Sky by Vicki Solot, in response to the burgeoning interest in memoir and documentary art forms. Solot appreciated the resonance of real stories and recognized their value as a means of bridging cultural and ethnic divides. This year, one of the featured presentations is April Yvette Thompson’s powerful one-woman show, “Liberty City.” The story takes place at the end of the 1970’s Black Power Movement in Miami. Thompson weaves a rich story of family, race and the value of understanding one’s history while forging one’s own path.
“I originally started this as a research project on slave narratives, and I wanted to do a one-person show where I dramatized real slaves’ narratives," recalled Thompson. “I did a ton of research because I was interested in the first person art form, and I’m always interested in how history impacts people’s lives, politicizes them and forces them to take a stand in real life—and of course, being enslaved is one of the institutions that forced us to make some stands.”
Thompson credits span film, television and theater. She has appeared Off Broadway in the New York premiere of “The Exonerated,” which ran for a year and half and was named the No. 1 play of 2002 by The New York Times. She also starred in the television version for “Court TV.” Her film credits include “Phoebe in Wonderland,” “Accidental Husband” and “Bernard & Doris.” As a playwright, Thompson is currently working on part 2 of her Miami Trilogy of plays, that began with “Liberty City” and continues with “Good Bread Alley.” With chameleon-like skill, Thompson deftly brings to life the many people that shaped her experience, including her progressive, Cuban-Bahamian father and African-American mother. “I grew up in a household where my father was black-listed because he demanded that the fight continues and you have to bring Black businesses into the community” explained Thompson. “We need to tell this story. How did the ’70s became the ’80s? What happened to our leadership? What is it that they were asking for in the ’70s that was different and America was not willing to give — and what is the toll that it took on those families?”
The show climaxes with the infamous Liberty City riots and the journey a young girl must take to protect her family. “‘Liberty City’ is a history play and a memory play happening in real time but on the non-linear template,” notes Thompson. “It looks at real events through the eyes of interrelated characters whose responses have been shifted and sent through the sieve of memory and under the critical eye of the child of flawed and compassionate radicals of the ’70s whose sacrifices allowed her access to a world of unencumbered intellectual exploration of the very rights and ideas they fought to access. It is a meditation on how the voices of the past have guided me: their limitations, their scope and how they’ve led me to a clearer understanding of the politics of power, race, gender and culture.”
The 10th Anniversary First Person Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art runs from Nov. 10–20 and will feature April Yvette Thompson’s One-Woman Show Liberty City on Nov. 11–12 and Nov. 18–19 at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street.
You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be yourself — that’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere and is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” (Workman, $10.95), is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.
When Kleon was asked to address college students in upstate New York, he shaped his speech around the 10 things he wished someone had told him when he was starting out. The talk went viral, and its author dug deeper into his own ideas to create “Steal Like an Artist,” the book.
“When it was clear that the talk should become a book, I took my own advice from point three — ‘write the book you want to read’ — and just tried to write a book that I could stick in a time machine and send back to a younger version of myself,” recalled Kleon.
The result is inspiring, hip, original, practical and entertaining. The book is filled with new truths about creativity: Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine, to discover your own path. Follow your interests wherever they take you. Stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring — the
creative you will need to make room to be wild and daring in your imagination.
“The biggest response I get from people is something like relief — they thank me for assuring them that they don’t have to live this insane artistic life in order to be creative. They realize that the way we portray ‘the creative genius’ in our culture is a myth — you don’t have to starve for your passions, but rather, can live for them. You can take care of yourself, you can have a good day job, have a nice family and still do the kind of work you want to do. You just surround yourself with the right influences, work hard and play nice.”
Most every woman has found herself with a closet full of too many clothes or surrounded by brand-new items that somehow never get worn. Instead she gets stuck wearing the same few familiar pieces from a wardrobe that just doesn’t feel right. In the new self-help guide, “You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You” (Lifelong Books, $16), Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner argues that all those things are actually manifestations of deeper life issues.
What if you could understand your appearance as a representation of your inner, unresolved conflicts and then assemble a wardrobe to match the way you wish to be perceived? Baumgartner explains how our appearance — and specifically, our wardrobe — reflects our inner struggles, fears, desires and dreams. The book is divided into nine chapters and diagnoses nine distinct shopping complaints and wardrobe mistakes, including everything from “over shopping” and stagnant closets, to baring too much skin and failing to dress your age, to living in “mom jeans” and being a slave to labels.
Not only does Baumgartner give an analysis of the problem from a stylistic and psychological perspective, she offers a treatment plan and fashion remedies. Her psychological fixes run the gamut: from examining the message your clothing sends to others, to determining (and then accentuating) the attribute you love most about yourself, to learning the importance of deflecting would-be fashion critics.
In this fashion guide that is like no other, readers begin to recognize their own fashion ruts and errors — and make positive changes in all areas of life with a true inside-out makeover.
There’s a crime taking place at The Franklin Institute, and you are invited to solve it. The region’s latest exhibition, “CSI: The Experience,” is completely immersible and invites visitors to step into the world of cutting-edge forensic science and employ actual investigative techniques. Guided by investigators from the hit television show along with their real-life forensic science counterparts, visitors will investigate a crime scene, formulate a hypothesis, collect and analyze forensic evidence, validate their findings to build a case — and see if they can solve the crime.
As visitors enter the “Experience,” they take on the role of forensic scientists and are directed into a crime scene and challenged to identify and gather evidence. Once complete, they analyze those findings in two highly interactive labs, each featuring multiple stations that allow for a variety of evidence testing. Visitors will get one last look under the skin as the medical examiner goes over their case in the autopsy room. Finally, they use the scientific information gathered throughout the exhibit to answer a series of questions on touch screens. After completing the survey, a case summary is generated and they can compare their scientific findings to those of expert crime scene investigators.
“CSI: The Experience” was developed by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Bob Weis Design Island Associates with support from CBS Consumer Products, the cast and crew of the television show and the National Science Foundation. The “Experience” brings to life fundamental scientific principles, numerous scientific disciplines and the most advanced technology and techniques used today by crime scene investigators and forensic scientists. Through hands-on activities with real equipment, as well as multi-media presentations, guests will sample the following science fields and understand their role in cracking crimes.
After exiting the crime scenes, guests will refer to a large wall of crime scene photos and clues they may have missed — then begin to analyze evidence in two highly interactive lab areas, each featuring multiple stations that allow for various evidence testing.
Guests who are investigating “A House Collided” will compare fingerprints of the victim to the evidence, examine blood spatter patterns, observe the shoes of the victim and tracks found in the room, compare fibers on the victim’s clothes with fibers in the room, analyze the victim’s blood-alcohol level, compare DNA of the victim with evidence and eventually discover the cause of death. Those examining the “Who Got Served?” crime scene will review evidence within the cell phone, examine the contents of the handbag, inspect the purse and headshot for fingerprints, establish the time of death, review DNA samples and test powder from various items at the scene, all to help determine the cause of death. Visitors analyzing “No Bones About It” will scrutinize the bullet from the found skull, study hairs found with the body, examine a seed found in the fabric of the tattered shirt, test the DNA of an animal’s hair and compare dental records to the victim, in order to discover the cause of death.
At the end of the exhibit, visitors present their findings in a recreation of the office of Gil Grissom — the enigmatic CSI Supervisor. They’ll be asked to answer a series of multiple choice questions, based on their scientific findings, on touch screens located in this area. After completing these questions, they’ll receive feedback and see if they have cracked the case.
“CSI: The Experience” runs from Oct. 1 to Jan. 2 at The Franklin Institute, 222 North 20th Street. Tickets are timed and dated, and advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended. For more information on purchasing individual tickets, call (877) TFI-TIXS or visit www.fi.edu. Information on discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more is available at (800) 285-0684.
While exploring the hidden conversation on race unfolding in America in the wake of President Barack Obama’s election, Michele Norris discovered that there were painful secrets within her own family that had been willfully withheld. These revelations — from her father’s shooting by a Birmingham police officer to her maternal grandmother’s job as an itinerant Aunt Jemima in the Midwest — inspired a bracing journey into her family’s past, from her childhood home in Minneapolis to her ancestral roots in the Deep South. “The Grace of Silence: A Memoir” (Vintage, $14.95), is an exploration in self discovery as the acclaimed reporter examines her own racial legacy and what it means to be an American.
Norris began to write, through original reporting, a book about “the hidden conversation” on race that is unfolding nationwide. She would, she thought, base her book on the frank disclosures of others on the subject, but soon she was forced to confront the fact that “the conversation” in her own family had not been forthright.
“For me it should say ‘an accidental memoir’ because this isn’t the book I set out to write,” explained Norris. “I wanted to listen to people around the country as I traveled around and listened to the way people talk about race — an issue that people talk about in the public sphere, but in private sometimes we're afraid to talk about it. They’re afraid that they might step on a landmine or that they might say something that would lead people to think that they were insensitive. I felt that if I listened to the hidden conversation, the way people talked about it in private spaces, I could put together a book of essays that would reveal something about how we talk and think about race. The problem was when I tried to tune in the frequency and pick up this conversation I started to pick up on things in my own family. I realized that there was a hidden conversation about race among the people who raised me — the people I loved — the people I thought I knew so well.”
As a media veteran, Norris has received scores of accolades and was chosen in 2009 as Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. Norris’ informed curiosity is on display daily in her role as a popular host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Her role on the flagship afternoon radio program subtly reveals to the breadth of her award-winning new career: ABC News correspondent; contributor to The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times and guest commentator on “Meet the Press,” “The Chris Matthews Show” and “Charlie Rose.”
In her exploration of the “things left unsaid” by her father and mother when she was growing up, “The Grace of Silence” discloses a reporter's discovery of how her character was forged by both revelation and silence.
Heavenly music, breathtaking dances, enchanting landscapes and timeless legends are hallmarks of Shen Yun Performing Arts. Based in upstate New York, the company is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the Chinese classical performing arts to the level of artistry and dignity it had achieved before the communist takeover of mainland China. As part of the company’s unique approach, the dances and scores lend an artistic treatment to legendary tales and ancient themes, as well as important social issues in contemporary China.
Since its inception more than five years ago, Shen Yun Performing Arts has done more to promote traditional Chinese culture than any other performance company in the world. Classical Chinese dance, which is Shen Yun’s trademark, is one of the most expressive — and most demanding — art forms in the world. Every year Shen Yun creates a whole new production with original dances and costumes and music. By adding the distinctive melodies of ancient Chinese instruments over Western orchestration Shen Yun brings together two of the greatest musical traditions the world has ever known. The intricate costumes and headpieces offer a glimpse into the richness and diversity of China’s past. Skilled designers create large scale digital backdrops that whisk the audience off to faraway lands. After countless hours of training and rehearsal, and after each piece has been crafted down to the minutest detail, Shen Yun is ready to embark on a world tour.
“We want to provide our audiences with an experience of consummate beauty and goodness,” said Timothy Wu, a principal dancer from North Wales, Pennsylvania. “We want to bring out what is timeless and most precious from the culture.”
The year 2012 will be off to a dazzling start locally, as this season’s all-new program will showcase ancient legends, new ethnic and folk dance selections and other stories depicted through exuberant and technically superlative Chinese dance ensemble work, accompanied by the Shen Yun orchestra, which blends Eastern and Western instruments through original scores. Featured virtuoso vocal and instrumental soloists will also perform new and original works. Since the company’s public debut in 2007, this year marks Shen Yun’s sixth consecutive appearance in Philadelphia.
Shen Yun Performing Arts returns to Philadelphia on Friday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad Street. Ticket prices start at $90. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts at www.ShenYun2012.com. For ticket orders, call (215) 893-1999 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org.
What if you woke up one morning to discover that you were royalty and your destiny had changed overnight?
“King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village (Doubleday, $25.95)” chronicles the astonishing journey of Peggielene Bartels, who suddenly finds herself king of a town of 7,000 souls on Ghana’s central coast, half a world away. Upon arriving for her crowning ceremony in beautiful Otuam, she discovers the dire reality: There’s no running water, no doctor, no high school, and many of the village elders are stealing the town’s funds. To make matters worse, her uncle (the late king) sits in a morgue awaiting a proper funeral in the royal palace, which is in ruins. The longer she waits to bury him, the more she risks incurring the wrath of her ancestors. Bartels’ first two years as king of Otuam unfold in a way that is stranger than fiction.
Now known as “Nana” (a title reserved for royalty), the new king embarks on a new life mission: She sets up a bank account for the town; empowers local women by creating a new borehole for village water; buys a new ambulance and creates a new library. In essence, this is a true-life modern-day Cinderella story. Bartels was born in Ghana in 1953 and moved to Washington, D.C. in her early twenties to work at Ghana’s embassy. Her initial intention was to stay in America for a year or two and then return to Ghana. Instead, she married and became an American citizen in 1997. In 2008, when she was chosen to be king of Otuam, a Ghanaian village of 7,000 people on the west coast of Africa, she decided to become a commuter king. Today, Bartels lives in Silver Spring, Md., still works at the embassy, and spends several weeks each year in Ghana.
In the end, a deeply traditional African town has been uplifted by the ambitions of its headstrong, decidedly modern female king. And in changing Otuam, Bartels is herself transformed, from an ordinary secretary to the heart and hope of her community.
“King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village” is available at major bookstores and online at Amazon.com.