Monday, July 30, 2012

Them: A Nook Farm Book Talk

Them, a novel by Nathan McCall, will be the topic of Nook Farm Book Talks at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center from 5:30-7 p.m. on Aug. 9.  The discussion will be facilitated by Michelle McFarland, or the Hartford Public Library.
Participants may arrive at 4:30 p.m. for free admission to the exhibit, THEM: Images of Separation, on loan from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. 
In McCall's story, 'Them' refers to both the black residents of an inner-city Atlanta community and the young white families who buy properties and move in, changing the character of the neighborhood.  Through characters that capture the country's struggles with the realities of gentrification, the book tackles the complex interplay of class, race and economics in urban America. 
Both the book and the Stowe Center's exhibit show how groups of people can be marginalized for being "different".  While McCall's book focuses on the separation of blacks and whites, THEM: Images of Separation shows artifacts that target Asian-Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, poor whites, women, and people marked as "different" because of how they look, their body type or sexual orientation.   
According to Katherine Kane, Stowe Center Executive Director, the book discussion and exhibit are designed to call attention to intolerance, promote discussion and encourage action.  "We use Stowe's story to inspire positive change," says Kane.  "We hope to encourage tolerance and promote social justice." 
Note that the exhibit is appropriate for ages 13+.  Registration is suggested:  Call (860) 522-9258 ext. 317 or e-mail
The book is available for purchase in the Stowe Visitor Center. 

Battlegrounds: America's War in Education and Finance

Todney Harris
"...Those youngsters wanted to learn so badly that they risked life and limb to do it."

The name Todney Harris will resonate in history books for years to come. It will capture the life an educator who made a positive difference in the lives of young students in Hartford, Connecticut and many more around the world. Battle grounds: America's War in Education and Finance- A View from the Frontlines, written by Harris is a movement that mirrors marches led by strong, influential leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Benjamin Banneker and Ida B. Wells. As a leader of the march, he is ready and willing to fight for educational reform, a necessity amongst all students.

The pursuit of education has always been paramount in Harris's life. While attending Central Connecticut State University, Harris majored in United States
History and Business Management with dreams of becoming a corporate researcher in New York City. After graduating, Harris interviewed with companies throughout Manhattan, New York. Although, he was offered his dream job in his dream city, Harris declined the offer due to the city's high cost of
living. After declining the job offer, he continued working at the Hartford Courant as a customer service representative and a dispatch driver. During this
time he found himself weary about his future endeavors.

Due to Harris's uncertainty about his career goals, he addressed his concerns to his alma mater's History Department Chair and confidant, Dr. Felton Best. The conversation changed Harris's life forever, which developed an interest in teaching. Upon graduating from Quinnipiac University with Master of Arts
degree in teaching, his successful career began.

Throughout Harris's teaching career, he witnessed the students depreciation of education leaving them unmotivated to reach their highest potential. As a result, Harris shares his passion, love and quest for learning by emphasizing the Civil Rights Movement and the risks students took in order to receive an education.

Harris's ultimate goal is to increase both students and parents' interests and involvement in the educational curriculum. One step that has peaked students' interest to learn is incorporating technology and other effective methods into daily lesson plans. Students are constantly improving their technical, written and oral communication skills by presenting projects using PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher and creating mini movies using Windows software. Harris is a strong advocate for technology and believes that students who have a strong grasp on technology will be well equipped for society's competitive career markets. Parents are highly encouraged to play an active role in their child's education by attending project presentations and educational field trips.

Harris's uncertainty about his life's journey led to a conversation that would change his life and the lives of others forever. He is the epitome of an educator

and a pioneer who is wiling to go above and beyond the distance to improve our leaders of tomorrow, current and future opportunities and success.

Middletown author debuts fiction novel

Silver VengeanceWere-witches. These hybrid creatures stalk the earth with the raw, primal power of the werewolf and the cunning, dark magic of the witch. They're deadly hunters with the capability for both bloodthirsty vengeance and an unwavering loyalty to their own.

Gabrielle Gayle is an ambitious chef in one of New Haven's trendiest restaurants. Her concerns consist of getting ahead in her career, dodging barbed insults from her sharp-tongued mother, and dealing with the nagging certainty that she has always had powers. However, when the Clan of were-witches seeks revenge for her mother murdering one of their own, she and her sister are brutally attacked. With nowhere else to go, she turns to Nick, a Hunter of witches, werewolves, demons, and any combination thereof.

However, Gabrielle learns that she has much more in common with the Clan than she ever imagined. And, in order to save herself and her family from being destroyed, she must embrace her powers and become the very creature she fears the most.

See what others are saying about Silver Vengeance.
"This can't-put-it-down tale of magic and mystery will have you turning pages as fast as you can. The plot grabs you from page one and draws you into the story of Gabrielle Gayle and her sister as they fight for their lives against other-worldly creatures. The characters are memorable and the pacing of the story is damn near perfect. Scary, bloody, thrilling and fascinating, this is a first-rate urban fantasy. Highly recommended."
-JM Dattilo

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Labyrinth of Kingdoms traces incredible expedition

A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa, written by Steve Kemper will be featured at the Blue Back Square Barnes & Noble store with an appearance by the book’s West Hartford author from 6-7 p.m. on Aug. 24.

The author says: The book recreates an incredible expedition by a 19th-century scientist/explorer of Africa named Heinrich Barth. He should be as well-known as Livingstone, Burton, and Stanley, but because of British politics and his prickly personality, he fell through a crack in history. Barth still has much to tell us about north Africa and Islam. To research the book the author spent time in northern Nigeria, Timbuktu, and London. 
You’ve heard of Burton, Stanley, and Livingstone and their Victorian-era adventures in Africa. But you probably don’t recognize the name of Heinrich Barth. His five-year, 10,000-mile journey through North and Central Africa in 1849 ranks among the greatest in the annals of exploration.

Told for the first time in A LABYRINTH OF KINGDOMS: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa [W. W. Norton & Company; June 25, 2012; $28.95 hardcover], the story of Barth’s survival and triumph rivals Burton or Stanley for excitement and surpasses them in scientific achievements.
For decades, Britain’s attempts to explore Africa were haunted by disaster, disease, and death. Gaps on the map were filled in by armchair geographers. To remedy this ignorance and to scout potential markets for British commerce, the Foreign Office commissioned an expedition to the central Sudan, a vast area south of the Sahara that today includes Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, and northern Nigeria and Cameroon.
Barth was just the man for the job. The idiosyncratic German scientist meticulously, obsessively noted everything he encountered, from the number of trees in a palm grove to the types of roasted locusts served in the market. Unlike previous explorers, he did not assume that Africans were barbaric. Though Christian, his ultimate faith was in the power of scientific observation. Barth spoke Arabic and learned seven other African languages, which allowed him to talk to everyone from camel drivers to sultans, imams to slaves. He could discuss Ptolemy with a learned Muslim vizier and then join a band of marauders or a salt caravan for the next leg of the journey.
Barth mastered the complex economy of gifts, protection, and information necessary to pass through the kingdoms of Bornu and Sokoto and through the strongholds of the nomadic Tuareg, the mysterious “blue men” of the Sahara. He made the first accurate maps of the region as well as important geographical discoveries about Lake Chad and the Niger’s main tributary, the Benue. In the storied crossroads cities of Kano, Kukawa, and Timbuktu, he drew new cultural connections between disparate peoples that altered our understanding of Africa. He poured all this knowledge into his monumental, five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa.
But politics ran ahead of science. The age of European imperialism in Africa was about to begin, and Barth’s findings—and his thorny personality—were unwelcome in Britain. He has been almost forgotten. His discoveries are considered indispensable by scholars, but his great book is rare, even in libraries. Though he made his journey for the British government, there are no books about him in English. Suspenseful and sensitively told, A LABYRINTH OF KINGDOMS tells a forgotten story of survival, adventure, and scientific discovery by a remarkable man.

Photo credit: Robert Benson

Steve Kemper is the author of Code Name Ginger. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Smithsonian and National Geographic. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.

“Steve Kemper’s elegant, richly rewarding biography should go a long way toward correcting that. On one level, the book is a superb chronicle of Barth’s travels, from the harrowing heat and physical danger to the dazzling diversity of people he encountered on his path. It’s also an astute character study of a relentlessly curious scientific personality.” --Kate TuttleBoston Globe
"Heinrich Barth belongs in the ranks of the greatest explorers of Africa. But unlike most of the others, he was less interested in imperial conquest and self-promotion than in the cultures, the peoples, the languages, and the ancient manuscripts that he found there. It's a pleasure to see a lively, readable biography of him in English at last."  --Adam Hochschild,author of King Leopold's Ghost and To End All Wars
“Sometimes a book grabs you by the throat and won’t let you put it down. I recently experienced that with Steve Kemper’s A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa. I got so wrapped up in the story that I broke my long-standing rule about traveling with hardcover books because I wanted to finish it. I read on the plane. I read whenever there was a pause in vacation activities (and sometimes when there wasn’t). I read on the train from the airport and was so engaged that I almost missed my stop.” –Pamela Toler, History in the Margins
“Mr. Kemper has written an enjoyable account of Barth's great journey packed with arresting details.” –Tim Jeal, Wall Street Journal
“If you have an ounce of historical exploratory curiosity in your veins, course through this forgotten tale. Timbuktu awaits.”  -Robert F. Wells, Expedition News

The Storm Rider offers crime, intrigue

The Storm Rider is a tale about how a deceitful man’s sins literally come back to haunt him. 
Early on the morning of August 28, 1935 in Savannah, Georgia, a tycoon named Patrick O’Keefe brings his daughter, Carmen, to the railroad station. He has entrusted her with $40,000 to secure tool and food contracts from the purchasing agents of the railroad company operating in the Florida Keys. The contracts will bring Patrick profits many times the original investment. 
There is no doubt that Carmen’s task is quite important. However, since she is quite a free spirit, it is anyone’s guess why Patrick chose her to carry it out. He has only himself to blame when Carmen botches her mission in the worst way imaginable. 
Shortly after arriving in Florida, Carmen enters a bar where she meets a hustler named Joe Bono. In spite of how aggressive and headstrong Carmen is, Joe eventually manages to disappear with Patrick’s money, leaving Carmen to die in a devastating hurricane. But Carmen’s spirit will search for him, find him, and exact her revenge. 
The Storm Rider appeals to readers seeking elements of crime, intrigue, the supernatural and the hope of romance. This is a tale no “Parrot Head” should miss. 
The story takes place over two great storms: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  
About the Author: Thomas L. Fish is a native New Englander who enjoys sea kayaking, hiking and the company of his friends and family.