Awed by Authors
By Jordana Halpern
I remember my first book fair. I was just a teenager volunteering in the gymnasium at the Jewish Community Center in Ottawa (that would be Canada, eh?). The periphery of the room was lined with book-laden tables. The crowds arrived early and stayed late. People walked around looking at the book covers and by the time they had made the full circuit, they were balancing a hefty stack. That was 1974, and people bought books!
The groups walking by my table continued for hours and I was getting tired of smiling and greeting and straightening out the piles of books when an older man in a dark suit approached me. Clearly he was someone important, flanked by the JCC president and other community leaders. As he passed by, I overheard someone murmur a familiar name: Chaim Potok. It was the author of The Chosen, which I had just read and had been utterly impressed by. I sat up a little straighter, feeling honored to be in the presence of such a notable writer who clearly felt our book fair merited his presence.
Four decades later, as a planner and coordinator of the Greater Buffalo Jewish Community Center Book & Arts Fair, I am still awed by authors. If you’ve ever written or tried to write a book, you know it is no small task. It typically requires hours and hours of soul searching and soul baring, plus much research, writing, rewriting and more writing. Committing words, thoughts, ideas and often personal history to the printed page where it will be critiqued, judged and consumed by others is a brave act that authors commit with every book that they publish.
This May/June a brave and talented group that includes nine authors, one photographer and one concert pianist will help build on more than half a century of featuring authors, musicians and historians at a community-wide cultural and literary event, May 16 – June 28.
The 51st annual JCC Book & Arts Fair kicks off with Two Soldiers’ Stories, a free event in collaboration with Just Buffalo Literary Center, which takes place at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center on Tuesday, May 16, with local author Brian Castner (The Long Walk: A Story of War and The Life That Follows) and Israeli author Matti Friedman (Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War).
Events continue through May to the end of June and include:
Author Mindy Fried, Caring for Red, on Thursday, May 25. Caring for Red: A Daughter’s Memoir, is Mindy Fried’s moving and colorful account about caring for her 97-year-old father, Manny Fried – actor, writer, labor organizer, and survivor of political persecution during the McCarthy Era – in the final year of his life. Fried is a sociologist and co-principal of Arbor Consulting Partners and a teacher of Evaluation Research at Boston College. She co-produces music/arts festivals in Boston that provide opportunity to local talent, and bring people together across race, culture and class.
Gunilla Kester and Shiri Kester, Poetry Readings and Photography Show from If I Were More Like Myself, on Thursday, June 1. Gunilla Theander Kester (Ph.D.), a native of Sweden, has published and edited six books in three genres. An accomplished guitarist she often performs and also teaches classical guitar. Her CD with the late Cantor Susan Wehle was released in 2007. Shiri Kester graduated summa cum laude from the University at Buffalo with degrees in English and Media Studies. She loves to travel and has visited nearly 30 countries on six continents. She currently works with children at the Jewish Community Center and Congregation Shir Shalom. FREE
Preston (Pete) Niland, From History to Hollywood, on Tuesday, June 6. Pete Niland grew up knowing about his family's contribution to WWII and D-Day but never imagined he would one day be invited by Stephen Spielberg to attend the Hollywood opening of Saving Private Ryan, the film based on his father and uncles. Join this very special presentation to learn about the “real” Private Ryan, and this remarkable family. Niland is a native of Niagara Falls, NY whose love of sports led him to Ithaca College and later to Buffalo State College where he received a Master of Science Education. FREE
Author Daniel Horowitz,On the Cusp, The Yale College Class of 1960 and a World on the Verge of Change on Thursday, June 8. A Jewish “townie” from New Haven, Horowitz reconstructs the undergraduate career of the class of 1960 and follows its story into the next decade. He ponders the role of the university in protecting the prerogatives of class while fostering social mobility, and examines the growing significance of race and gender in American politics and culture. Daniel Horowitz graduated from Yale in 1960 and later earned a doctorate in history at Harvard. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Humanities Center; the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, Harvard; and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Barry Schonfeld, Piano Concerto, based on the artwork of Goya on Thursday, June 15. Barry Schonfeld presents a Buffalo WNY premier concert of Goyascas, pieces for the piano, inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya, the Spanish romantic painter and printmaker and composed by Enrique Granados. These wonderfully rhythmic music pieces evoke colorful imagery as they “gallop along, racing to a fantastic finish.” Barry Schonfeld’s love of music has traveled with him to the University of Rochester and the University of Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, as well as travels through Europe including Germany, France, England and Italy.
Author Dick Hirsch, A New Bathtub for the White House, on Tuesday, June 20. Dick Hirsch discusses his latest non-fiction book, a collection of 100 stories that cover a variety of topics, many of them off-beat and all of them readable. A native of Buffalo, Hirsch had a long career as a columnist, starting at the Courier-Express and currently continuing for over three decades writing the BfloTales column every week in Business First. He also spent 19 years producing and moderating weekly interview programs on WNED-TV. He is the author of The Bubble Didn’t Burst, the story of the late Nathan Benderson, Firm Beliefs, the history of Phillips Lytle, the prominent law firm headquartered in Buffalo.
Author Linda Pellegrino, Still Smiling on Thursday, June 22. A compilation of memories of a life in front of and behind the camera by one of WNY’s most known and respected reporters. Calling her experience, “The front row of life,” Pellegrino has interviewed world leaders, sports stars, Hollywood royalty and social leaders. She made her mark in Buffalo radio and television, especially as the longtime host of WKBW, Channel 7’s AM BUFFALO. Pellegrino’s work at Channel 7 has earned her awards from the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters and two New York State Emmy nominations. As a breast and thyroid cancer survivor, Pellegrino has also been a vocal advocate of women getting annual mammograms.
Author Sandra Block, The Secret Room on Wednesday, June 28. The Secret’s Out! The Secret Room, Sandra Block's third engrossing novel of psychological suspense featuring psychiatrist Zoe Goldman, rolled hot off the press on April 18th! Sandra A. Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her home town Buffalo, for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan, and lives at home with her husband, two children, and impetuous yellow lab Delilah. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. Little Black Lies was her debut novel followed by The Girl Without a Name, and now, to complete the trilogy, The Secret Room.
The JCC Book & Arts Fair is supported by the People of the Book fund, a special Jewish Community Center Endowment Fund administered by the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. All JCC Book and Arts Fair events are open to the community. Events will be followed by dessert receptions with the artists and will include book sales and signings as well as dessert receptions.