When the National Writers Series switched to virtual author interviews, we had no idea Zoom could be so fun.
A retired English teacher popped up during a recent author event to greet Yaa Gyasi, her former AP English student and now the bestselling author of “Transcendent Kingdom.”
“I want y’all to know how very, very proud I am of her,” said Janice Vaughn, who shared with an audience of 350-plus Yaa kicking off her shoes at her desk in her Hunstville, Alabama, classroom.
Minutes later, we brought Gyasi’s parents into the spotlight. Guest host Rochelle Riley asked if they’d like to ask a question.
“Yes! When is she coming down here to Huntsville?” asked her mom, plaintively.
“You need to ask the pandemic that, I think,” Yaa said with a smile.
Our virtual events have drawn people from all over the nation and even the world. I’m hoping to get a big cross-county crowd when Jordan Blashek and Christopher Haugh take the “stage” on Sunday. These two former Yale Law School buddies — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — took road trips through 44 states to better understand each other and their fellow Americans.
They attend a Trump rally, shoot guns together and revel in their front-seat banter despite their political differences. But at page 75, the lively debate morphs into an angry volley of facts aimed to hurt. It takes a few more pages, but they do make up. A good thing, too, because otherwise readers could never enjoy their valuable insights in “Union: A Democrat, A Republican, and a Search for Common Ground.”
I especially liked this piece of advice: “As long as we listened, we could make each other better.”
Alice Hoffman will Zoom in on Thursday, Oct. 29, to talk about her new book “Magic Lessons,” a tale of lovelorn witches, healing herbs and the thin gruel of life in 1600s Salem, Massachusetts. New York Times reviewer Edan Lepucki recently wrote that for all its delights, “Magic Lessons” carries a dark message:
“Witch after witch suffers at the hands of ignorant, cruel men. ‘It was a dangerous world for women,’ the narrator declares, ‘and more dangerous for a woman whose very bloodlines would have her do not as she was ordered, but as she pleased.’ That this novel is both fantasy and history is crucial. Actual women in Salem, Mass., and, before that, in Essex County, England, were murdered. ‘There were other ways to be rid of a woman who didn’t behave,’ Hoffman writes. ‘You held her head under water until she could no longer speak.’
“Witchcraft comes at a price to those who practice it, and with this novel, Hoffman reminds us that every woman, magical or not, pays, be it with her life, or how she must dress, or whom she must marry. We’ve always known that, for certain women, the cost is higher.”
We no longer drown strong, independent women, of course, but the latest real-life story of a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor and put her on trial brought to mind Mark Twain’s famous quote: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”