Becoming the person you want to be

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This week at the Gilpin Library

by Larry Grieco, Librarian

Claire Messud has won numerous writing awards, and her latest book, The Woman Upstairs, is sure to garner a few more. Nora Eldridge is an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but before that she dreamed of becoming “a successful artist, mother and lover.” One day she realizes she is simply the “woman upstairs, a reliable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements.” This all changes when she meets the Shahids, newly arrived in the U.S. from Lebanon. She teaches their son, Reza, “a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale.” His father, Skandar, is “a dashing professor who has come to Boston for a fellowship at Harvard.” And then there is Sirena, “an effortlessly alluring Italian artist.” A schoolyard incident draws Nora into the world of the Shahids, and she finds herself “falling in love with them, separately and together.” Suddenly she begins to feel a new self emerging from the shadows. She feels like the Nora she dreamed of becoming before the dream was lost, and now she is awakening to find it real. The New York Times Book Review: “Masterly, penetrating, splendid…A novelist of unerring talent.”

Transformation is the theme in another book as well. First-novelist Amy Brill has written a daring story of a woman who longs for recognition beyond her assigned station in life. In 1845, Hannah Gardner Price is a young woman who comes from an “insular and rigid” Quaker community in Nantucket. She is taught that simplicity and restraint are valuable assets, and “a woman’s path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood.” Hannah is also a brilliant amateur astronomer who dreams of “discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark.” One day she meets Isaac Martin, “a young dark-skinned whaler from the Azores,” who also has ambitions beyond his expected station in life.” His natural curiosity is such that Hannah takes him on as a student of astronomy, but their shared interest in the stars turns into something deeper, a relationship which makes her the target of gossip and ill will in the community. The Movement of Stars is a unique love story and a “spectacular debut novel” that is sure to enchant.

I saw a movie a few weeks ago, first released in 2011, and was so impressed I purchased it for the library. It’s called Paris, Je T’Aime, and consists of 19 short, artistic pieces, each directed by a premier director in the world. These are “stories of love from the city of love,” and you will see numerous, well-known actors and actresses, including Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands, Elijah Wood, and many more American and European stars. The directors list includes the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Gus Van Sant, and Christopher Doyle. Every one of these stories is brilliant in its own way, and several have powerful political statements, but all of them are about love. Paris itself provides the backdrop and provides the atmosphere for each story, and you may well find yourself falling in love with the city in the course of viewing the film. Most of the segments are in French with English subtitles, while a few are in English. Enjoy, as I am pretty sure you will.

Don’t forget the big, delicious Ice Cream Party that every year marks the end of the Summer Reading Program (and heralds the beginning of the new school year soon to follow.) The party will be Saturday, August 10, from 10:00 a.m. to noon. As usual, lots of ice cream and grand prize drawings will be offered. Kids, remember you have to be present to win. So it is recommended you arrive in the first hour and be sure to sign up for the drawings as soon as you get here.

Then, keep in mind another one of our big summer events: A Midsummer Night’s Poetry Reading on Saturday evening, August 31, from 7:00 to 9:00, with special guest Robert King, an outstanding writer from Greeley, CO. Bob will be joined by some of Gilpin County’s best poets: Christine Weeber, Marcelo Games, and Burt Rashbaum, and by Karla Schorzman, a fine poet and an honorary Gilpinite. There will be an opportunity to join in with your own poems during an open mic session.

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