Culture Roundup: Sept 14, 2020

Here is a roundup of upcoming virtual events from near and far that may be of interest to our readers:

Pollard Memorial Library

Jenna Blum Author Talk
Sept 15 at 6pm

This is the Pollard Memorial Library Foundation’s Meet the Author event featuring Jenna Blum, the author of Those Who Save Us, Stormchasers, and The Lost Family. Blum is a New York Times bestselling author and is one of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers. The suggested donation for this event is $30 which may be paid via Eventbrite.

Contradiction on the Merrimack: Cotton Mills & Anti-Slavery in Lowell
Sept 24 at 7pm.

UMass Lowell Distinguished University Professor of History Bob Forrant will give a talk on the decades-long conflict in Lowell between the economic interests in the flow of raw cotton picked by enslaved Africans in the American South and the realization that slavery was a moral wrong. Forrant’s Lowell Walks tours on this topic regularly draw more than 200 attendees. This virtual event will feature a talk and then a question and answer session. Free but advanced registration required.

Venessa Veselka Author Talk
Sept 25 at 7pm

Venessa Veselka is the author of the recently published The Great Offshore Grounds which has been described as “A wildly original, cross-country novel that subverts a long tradition of family narratives and casts new light on the mythologies–national, individual, and collective–that drive and define us.” Veselka’s previous novel, Zazen, won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. This virtual program is part of a national book tour; registration is required.

David Moloney Author Talk
Oct 15 at 7pm.

David Moloney will discuss Barker House, his first novel, during this virtual event. Moloney is a graduate of UMass Lowell. Paul Marion did a profile of Moloney on this blog in December 2018. Barker House had not yet been published but was already receiving terrific advanced reviews. Here’s one that Paul quoted: Tony Tulathimutte says, “At a time when mass incarceration is increasingly a feature of American life, David Moloney’s Barker House is a great and important book. Without romanticizing, demonizing, or candy-coating the work of his corrections officers, this book offers an experienced insider’s view of their lives, in stainless-steely prose that easily matches the best of Raymond Carver and John Fante.” This event is free but advance registration is required.

Free Soil Arts Collective – “Vital Voices”

Free Soil Arts Collective is an arts organization based in Lowell. Its mission is to amplify and strengthen voices of artists of color. Beginning this month, and continuing on the third Saturday of the month through February, the Collective will present a Zoom-delivered talk or presentation by a local artist of color. The first session, on September 19 at noon, features illustrator and storyteller Veronica Holmes. The event is free but you are asked to RSVP in advance. Here are the remaining sessions and artists:

OCTOBER – Marlene Marmolejos, Co-founder & Motion Designer of Motion Mami

NOVEMBER – Henry Marte, Owner of Marte Media

DECEMBER – Sam Stevquoah, Creative Director at Mill City’s Finest

JANUARY – Princess Moon, Poet

FEBRUARY – Thaddeus Miles, Author & Photographer


Boston Book Festival 2020

This year’s Boston Book Festival is free and entirely online from October 5 to October 25. It will feature 140 authors and moderators in 55 different live and prerecorded events. The full lineup of authors was recently posted on the Festival website. I attended my first Boston Book Festival in 2017, mostly to see a group of Lowell High students discuss their Defining Diversity book (which I wrote about here) but caught a number of other author talks and just enjoyed the vibe of being around thousands of people who wrote, published, read and bought books on a beautiful fall day in and around Boston’s Copley Square.

The New Yorker Festival

I’ve long been intrigued by the annual New Yorker Festival but because of the cost and logistics never imagined being able to attend. However, this year’s Festival is all-virtual and, with an all-access VIP pass costing $49, it is now accessible and (relatively) affordable. The events take place evenings from October 5 through October 11 and the roster of speakers is impressive and includes, among others, the following notable individuals:

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Margaret Atwood
Chris Rock
Ira Glass
Malcolm Gladwell
Emanuel Ax
Yo-Yo Ma
Maya Rudolph
Fiona Apple
Eric Holder
Sherrilyn Ifill
Jelani Cobb
Jonathan Franzen
Elizabeth Kolbert
Bill McKibben
Bryan Stevenson
Elizabeth Alexander

Kurt Vonnegut Library and Museum

The Kurt Vonnegut Library and Museum has a number of virtual programs to celebrate Banned Books Week (Sept 27 to Oct 3). The museum is in Vonnegut’s hometown of Indianapolis. I’ve long been aware of Vonnegut but became especially interested in Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s anti-war novel that was based on his experience as an American soldier captured by the Germans in World War II, when I served with the U.S. Army in Germany in the 1980s. Someone – Paul Marion, most likely – recently made we aware of the museum which has a superb online presence and seems to do many interesting in-person and online events. But my primary interest in the Vonnegut Museum is one of envy: Why doesn’t Lowell have something similar for Jack Kerouac who is, arguably, a more prominent writer with greater international reach than Vonnegut (which is not intended as a slight to KV).

Support Local Authors

Loom Press has four books coming this fall including poetry by Tom Sexton and Chath pierSath, and a biography by UMass Lowell professor John Wooding. Check out the Loom Press website for news about these and other books by local authors.

City of Lowell Wayfinding Master Plan

Wayfinding is the word used in urban planning to describe a system of signs, symbols, maps and markers that help people find their way around a certain place. The city of Lowell, in collaboration with Lowell National Historical Park, is developing a Wayfinding Master Plan for downtown. An important part of the process is to obtain input from citizens. To do that, here is a simple online survey that you’re invited to answer.