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A guest post by author Ronald Florence

Every non-fiction book has a backstory—the choice of the subject, the vagaries of research, the emergence of an individual or group, the search for authentic voices.  I had encountered the story of the effort to ransom the lives of as many as one million Jews in the Holocaust as a footnote to the trial of Adolf Eichmann, described as a Nazi plot, and called a trick played on naïve Hungarian Zionists, but as I read through the secondary literature, I found myself imagining how members of a rescue organization in Budapest would react to the possibility of saving hundreds of thousands of fellow Jews from the fate that befell the Jewish populations of occupied Europe.  The episode, and the reactions it provoked from the Allies, the Nazis, the Zionists, and relief organizations and lobbies also seemed an opportunity to examine the political complexity of the Holocaust in...

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A guest post by author Christopher White
Research for my recently published book, Skipjack: The Story of America’s Last Sailing Oystermen, required going into the trenches, into the ship’s galley if you will, getting my feet wetter than expected. Skipjack celebrates and critiques the lives and legacy of the only commercial fishermen in North America still to employ wind power. The book features a handful of captains in the Chesapeake Bay who dredge for oysters with historic wooden sailboats, called “skipjacks.” These boats are an honored piece of Maryland history; the skippers are keepers of a rich sailing tradition; and sail dredging, itself, is a surprising success for fisheries conservation. The captains, called “watermen,” are known to be shy, independent, and wary of outsiders. So, when I set out to chronicle their livelihood and traditions, I anticipated some resistance. And perhaps occasional rejection. Remarkably, my...
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Last treasure of the Chesapeake

By Ken Ringle, Sunday, December 13, 2009, The Washington Post

"For those of us who love the Chesapeake -- and others merely curious -- the ultimate Bay sourcebook remains the late William W. Warner's wonderfully readable "Beautiful Swimmers," which chronicles the biology of the blue crab and the culture of the watermen who pursue them. Surprisingly, little has been written about the Bay's other edible treasure -- the Chesapeake oyster -- or about the sail-powered wooden workboats that harvested them for more than a century.

The skipjacks are all but vanished today. Last winter only a single one hoisted its sails, and its captain was 88 years old. But 10 years ago as the 20th century drew to a close, author Christopher White moved to Tilghman Island for two years to document the twilight of oystering under sail...

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Martha A. Sandweiss's PASSING STRANGE continues to receive year-end honors as one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2009!

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Mind-boggling tale of a famous white geologist who secretly passes as black in his personal life in order to marry and father children with his true love-to whom he doesn't reveal this secret until his death."

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

"The strange and intriguing tale of a prominent white American from an old New England family who lived a double life in the 19th century, "passing" as an African American in order to marry and live with a black woman. Above all, a love story well told."

The paperback edition of PASSING STRANGE...

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Since today is "Cyber Monday," we want you to remember your local independent bookseller.  Here's a note from one of our favorites...

A Note from Jeff
Friday, November 27th, 2009
Dear Friends,
I thought I'd use...
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From Chesapeake Bay Magazine, December/January 2010:
By Christopher White. 
St. Martin’s Press.
For two years, Christopher White sailed with the last few working Chesapeake skipjacks, accompanying three captains and their crews—and sometimes as crew—as they worked the winter oyster harvest. White writes well, and his story is exciting, frustrating and poignant, as a few aging men and boats struggle to keep a remarkable way of life alive just a little longer.
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'Passing Strange'


A true story that would strain most novelists’ imaginations: the tale of how Clarence King, a blue-eyed, white Newport-bred explorer and cartographer spent part of his life as a sought-after luminary— and part of it calling himself a Pullman porter, living as the patriarch of a black family that knew nothing of his other life. (The Penguin Press, $27.95)
To view the full list, click here.
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Mass Book Award

Acceptance Speech


Thank you…
I am deeply humbled and honored by this prestigious award.
First of all, I want to thank Mass Center for the Book, the State Library of Massachusetts and their supporting organizations for creating this award, and all the panelists for their hard work. I am also happy and honored to have with us today many librarians from across the State. Thank you for being the guardians of our time- honored institution, the library.
I have always hoped there is a universal massage in my memoir, since at its surface, my book is a personal story that happened in a foreign land, and under very different social and political circumstances.
As some of you may know, Snow Falling in Spring is the story of my childhood during China’s Cultural...
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From The Times:

The internet is killing storytelling


Narratives are a staple of every culture the world over. They are disappearing in an online blizzard of tiny bytes of information

"Click, tweet, e-mail, twitter, skim, browse, scan, blog, text: the jargon of the digital age describes how we now read, reflecting the way that the very act of reading, and the nature of literacy itself, is changing.

The information we consume online comes ever faster, punchier and more fleetingly. Our attention rests only briefly on the internet page before moving incontinently on to the next electronic canapé.

Addicted to the BlackBerry, hectored and heckled by the next blog alert, web link or text message, we are in state of Continual Partial Attention, too bombarded by snippets and gobbets of information to focus on anything for very long. Microsoft researchers have found that...

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By Jonathan Meyer, Intern

November 1 marks the start of this year’s National Novel Writing Month (wonderfully abbreviated as NaNoWriMo).  The event, which challenges people from all walks of life to complete a 50,000-word piece of fiction in 30 days, is in its eleventh year.  In 2008, over 20,000 writers were certified “Winners,” meaning they met or exceeded the minimum word count, turned in their manuscript on time, and made sure their work made at least some sense.     

NaNoWriMo is the literary equivalent of Hands Across America, except with actual...

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