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Posts Tagged ‘concord festival of authors’

I usually try to get to an event or two at the annual Concord Festival of Authors, and one year I ended up attending readings by new novelists held at Kerem Shalom temple.

Iris Gomez, an immigration lawyer, was one of them, and I bought her novel Try to Remember. The protagonist’s Puerto Rican/Columbian childhood in Miami was fascinating, but hard for me to relate to. Why, for example, would the family not seek help for a clearly deranged parent? Painful to observe.

I passed the book along to a colleague from the Dominican Republic, who immediately got what Gomez was trying to convey. She said, “Omigosh! This is the story of my life.” When the Latino employee group was looking for speakers, Gomez was chosen to join WBUR radio’s “Con Salsa” host José Massó for a lunchtime presentation.

It was interesting to learn about Gomez’s other life, as an immigration lawyer, and to hear her describe the duality of the immigrant experience. She grew up trying to bridge her family’s world and that of the new country. Today she bridges the worlds of  novelist and a lawyer, in both cases trying to build understanding.

From the website at her day job: “Iris Gomez joined [Massachusetts Law Reform Institute] as an immigration attorney in March 1992, is a nationally-recognized expert on asylum and immigration law, and directs MLRI’s Immigrants Protection Project. Prior to joining MLRI, she was a Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. She also worked as a law school lecturer, a public defender, a farm worker lawyer, and has been the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Law Center. She graduated from Boston University School of Law.”

José Massó was a dynamic and entertaining speaker. With both humor and seriousness, he told us about his culture shock coming from Puerto Rico to a supposedly liberal college on the mainland and about how he developed his concept of a third way for immigrants, one that takes from the two cultures but makes something new.

Photograph of José Massó: WBUR

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We had a great time at the Concord Festival of Authors Friday night. The brainchild of book maven Rob Mitchell, the festival has been going strong for about 20 years and lasts a month. The authors and topics are always amazing.

The event we most wanted to see this year featured a panel of mystery writers: Archer Mayor,  Spencer Quinn, and one whose books I know well, S.J. Rozan. The fans of these three novelists — and of Concord-based moderator and author Mark De Binder — filled the lobby of the Concord Library to overflowing.

I already knew from the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mysteries that S.J. had a wacky sense of humor, but Mayor and Quinn also were hilarious in talking about their work and their lives. My husband said, “Who knew mystery writers were funny?”

Read about S.J. at the festival here and at her own site here.

“In her new novel, Ghost Hero, American-born Chinese P.I. Lydia Chin is called in on what appears to be a simple case. An art world insider wants her to track down a rumor. Contemporary Chinese painting is sizzling hot on the art scene and no one is hotter than Chau Chun, known as the Ghost Hero. A talented and celebrated ink painter, Chau’s highly prized work mixes classical forms and modern political commentary. The rumor of new paintings by Chau is shaking up the art world. There’s only one problem—Ghost Hero Chau has been dead for twenty years, killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising.” We enjoyed hearing S.J. read a passage from Ghost Hero, in which she had Bill Smith adopt her grandfather’s Russian accent and locution.

Quinn made me envious of his blog’s success. It attracts hordes of people who love his canine protagonist so much that they upload photos of their  pets to be the dog detective’s friend. Perhaps if I weren’t such an eclectic blogger …

If I had one reliable focus, though, I’d get bored.

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