Local author series coming to New Salem Public Library


Staff Writer

Published: 09-13-2023 3:36 PM

NEW SALEM — The Friends of the New Salem Public Library will host a series of free book readings by local authors starting Thursday with Florence writer Celia Jeffries, who will read from her debut novel, “Blue Desert.”

All events are scheduled to run from 7 to 8 p.m. at the library at 23 South Main St., with refreshments served. The events will be in person as well as livestreamed on Zoom.

“Blue Desert” follows the story of Alice George, a headstrong young British woman, and her life among the Tuareg, a semi-nomadic tribe in Africa. While the outside world faced the catastrophe of World War I, the Tuareg continued to crisscross the Sahara as they always had. A matrilineal society in which men are veiled and women hold property, it was a world well-suited to 18-year-old Alice, who discovers a life she could never live in corseted England.

Jeffries is a writer, editor and teacher whose work has appeared in literary journals and publications, including Writer’s Chronicle, Puerto del Sol and the anthology “Beyond the Yellow Wallpaper.” Her work has taken her from North America to Africa, and places in between.

Karen Stevens, a member of the Friends of the New Salem Public Library who thought up the local author series, said her idea was born months ago after a friend gave her a copy of “Blue Desert” and told her to read the first three pages.

“I read the first three pages, and I couldn’t put it down,” she recalled.

Stevens said she was inspired to reach out to Jeffries and got a response from the author’s publicist, who sent her a list of writers in this area. That’s when it dawned on Stevens that the library could host a series of book readings featuring local authors and question-and-answer sessions.

“It just seemed like it was a win-win all around,” Stevens said.

Most of “Blue Desert” is set in Morocco, so Stevens will give attendees a list of vetted organizations they can donate to in order to help in the wake of a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that has killed at least 2,900 people. These organizations, Stevens said, can also assist the people of Libya, where flooding has resulted in at least 6,000 deaths and some 10,000 people missing.

On Oct. 26, Amherst author Faith Shearin will read from her young adult novel “Lost River, 1918,” which centers around the Van Beest family in rural West Virginia in the midst of the so-called Spanish flu pandemic. The family inherits a house at the edge of a magical forest where the dead return from the afterlife.

On Nov. 16, Florence author Michael Miller will read from his novel “High Bridge,” which centers around the unlikely friendship of future President Grover Cleveland and women’s rights activist Matilda Joslyn Gage as they try to solve a mystery and vindicate a Black man accused of murder.

All authors will have copies of their books available for purchase at their readings.

For more information or to get the Zoom link, go to nsfriendsoflibrary.weebly.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.