Literary Night at LREI

Literary Night is one of my favorite events at our kid’s school, LREI.   Our school has tremendous amount of participation from the parent body and this is one of the events that is put on by the Literary Committee.  This is Book Week.  During the week, a variety of authors come through the classrooms and read from their books to the kids.  Depending on the age group, depends on the discussions that take place afterwards.  It is very cool.

Last nights event was called "True Grit: from suburbia to New York to Bombay".  Tom Slaughter, an author and artist and LREI parent, hosted the event. 

The first writer that spoke was Karen Shepard.  She is the author of 2 novels and is working on her third.  She teaches writing and literature at Williams College.  She chose to read a story that she had written for the Atlantic Monthly called "Popular Girls".  Karen had gone to Trinity growing up and she wrote about the 10th grade girls in 1982.  Not only was the story interesting, listening to her read it made all the difference in the world.  Her prose is moving and very modern. 

The second writer who spoke was Suketu Mehta.  He was born in Calcutta and is a graduate of NYU and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  He is currently writing an original screenplay for Merchant-Ivory starring Tina Turner.  He read from his book, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.  Wow!  He had done research on the underworld of Bombay…thugs and such.  He reads about a young dancer who seduces a thug.  The thug spends money on her and continues to see her every night at the dance club but never gets to truly have a relationship.  It is like listening to boxers circle each other in the ring.  He also read about Bombay and the 16 million people living there.  It was fascinating.

The third writer was Rita Williams-Garcia.  She is the author of four novels for young adults.  She was recently given a Coretta Scott King Honor and was chosen as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.  She read from her book No Laughter Here.  She read as if she was an actress on stage.  Facial reactions, voice inflections, etc.  This part she read from was about 2 best pals going through sex education at school.  At one point, one of the friends reveals to the other that her clitoris (she called it her raisin) was cut out by her mother and aunts in a Nigerian ritual through a doctor, in the United States, under anesthesia.  I actually want to pick up the book and read it in its entirety.  Not only was her reading seductive but the story line really drew me in. 

The fourth writer to read was Jim Shepard (married to Karen Shepard above).  He also teaches at Williams.  Jim has written 6 novels.  He read from Project X which is a story following the nerdy misfit and his friend through 8th grade.  Jim’s reading was great.  His insight into that teenage world is really good.  His writing is dark and quirky.  I laughed out loud.

The fifth writer was Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.  She is a journalist so for her speaking in front of an audience was not the most comfortable situation.  She did great and was honest about her anxiety attack up there.  She is currently doing research on Stand-up Comedians.  The book she read from was Random Families, her first and only book.  I read this book when it came out over a year ago.  It is an incredible true tale about families growing up in the Bronx amongst the drug trade and making their way through the system.  It is a must read.  As having worked with inner city schools, it is a real eye opener to how hard it is to break cycles of abuse and poverty in these neighborhoods. 

The last writer was Jim Carroll.  He is an author, poet, songwriter and performer.  He wrote The Basketball Diairies and several other books.  He is currently working on his first fictional novel.  Jim read from a story he had written for GQ about a young boy who went to camp and ends up working with bee catchers.  Funny enough, I had read this story before, totally random.  But, listening to Jim speak was a real experience.  He is funny and clever to say the least.  I am actually going to pick up Basketball Diairies again since it has been years since I read it.  He is a true artist.

That was it for the night.  Truly impressive group of people.  All connected in some way to parents at our school.  After hearing all of them read, I must now pick up each of their books because needless to say, they left me wanting more.