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The Literary Hill – December 2017

The Gift of Reading
Local writers have been busy this year. Make your friends and family the beneficiaries of their hard work by giving books this holiday season. And don’t forget to buy a few for yourself!

Jonathan Bardzik’s cookbooks offer much more than recipes. Filled with warm anecdotes, suggestions for entertaining, beautiful photography, and kitchen tips, they make for delightful browsing. They’re so attractive that it would almost be a shame to get them spattered with sauce—except, of course, that they make you want to cook what’s on every page.

Bardzik is a big fan of seasonal ingredients fresh from the farmer’s market and he provides clear but flexible steps to help you make the most of them. His recipes and stories reflect his philosophy, as well as his infectious joy at preparing delicious food for friends and family. The luxurious “Seasons to Taste,” the tasty “Simple Summer,” and the new stocking-stuffer sized “Vinaigrettes” would be welcome additions to any cook’s kitchen bookshelf.

Bill Gourgey’s new Cap City Kids Novel, “Court Kasie,” completes a trifecta of young-adult suspense reading.

Bill Gourgey gets teenagers. From a homeless tech prodigy fleeing an abusive home in “Capitol Kid” to a preternaturally talented young artist escaping foster care in “Attic Ward,” he masterfully portrays the lives of kids living on the edge.

In his latest book, “Court Kasie,” the issue is immigration. Kasie is a young student at Eastern High School whose parents were rousted in the middle of the night by “the Iceman” and deported them to Mexico. She eluded capture, but knows it’s only a matter of time before immigration catches up with her as well. Meanwhile, she hasn’t heard from her parents in three weeks. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see my parents again,” she muses, “but I do know that I don’t want to share their fate because that would mean that the Iceman—and everything he represents—will have won. And that’s just not acceptable to me.”

Gourgey’s Cap City Kids novels provide not only adventure and suspense, but also a firm sense of social conscience. His bright, resourceful characters are frequently forced to battle injustices not of their making and an establishment stacked against them. Young adult readers will enjoy the well-plotted stories while learning a little about the world and about people whose lives may be different from theirs.

New books published by local authors this year explore the lives of a classical soprano, a retired Marine Corps general, and a family of pioneer women.

Personal stories with universal resonance always make for welcome reading. In “The Encore,” Charity Tillemann-Dick writes of her resilience in the face of a devastating diagnosis, surviving two lung transplants to continue her career as a classical soprano. “I’m performing the opera of my own life,” she writes, and her inspirational struggle and triumph are worthy of a libretto.

“What Now, Lieutenant?” concerns a battle of a different sort. Four-Star General Richard “Butch” Neal relates his experiences over a 35-year career in the Marine Corps, including a pivotal moment in Vietnam that defined his sense of service. He went on to become a spokesman for General Schwartzkopf during Desert Storm and retired as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Barracks here on Capitol Hill.

Louise Farmer Smith, author of two acclaimed collections of short stories (“One Hundred Years of Marriage” and “Cadillac, Oklahoma”) made her first foray into nonfiction this year with “The Woman Without a Voice.” Using journals, historical documents and photographs, she returns to her roots in Oklahoma and Nebraska, exploring the lives of her own pioneer ancestors and those of the many voiceless women who ventured into unknown territory to help settle our country.

Colleen Shogan’s Washington Whodunit series features a Capitol Hill staffer and sleuth extraordinaire.

With the recent addition of “Calamity at the Continental Club,” Colleen Shogan has hit a triple play in her Washington Whodunit series. Her intrepid Hill staffer Kit Marshall has a penchant for stumbling across dead bodies and a knack for finding their killers. In “Stabbing in the Senate,” it’s her senator boss who’s the victim—and Kit herself is the chief suspect. She’s working for a representative in “Homicide in the House” when she discovers the corpse of the Speaker of the House on the floor of the Capitol rotunda. Suspicion falls on her boss, who is found standing over the body.

The latest adventure finds Kit enmeshed in the doings of the Mayflower Society at an elite DC club, where all fingers point to her future father-in-law as the murderer of an obnoxious multimedia tycoon. Once again, it’s up to Kit to ferret out the truth.

Filled with loads of insider dope about the workings of DC, and featuring a recurring cast of endearing characters (including a goofy dog named Clarence), Shogan’s smart and entertaining whodunits are just the ticket for the mystery lover on your list.

Nick Mann’s prequel, “Wounded,” rounds out the story of a group of DC friends he began in “Forgetful”

Nick Mann’s latest novel goes back in time to fill in the background to his earlier book, “Forgetful,” which found Dr. Benjamin Parks, a professor at a historic black DC university, fearing that he was losing his memory.

In “Wounded,” Mann reveals the back story of Ben and his two lifelong friends who grew up together in the Michigan Park neighborhood, following them through the trials of military service, failed marriages, urban renewal, and alcoholism.

Together, the two books provide a compelling and eye-opening picture of the experience of growing up black in the nation’s capital, and they speak volumes about the importance of friendship and the possibilities of redemption.

On the Hill in December
East City Bookshop presents readings by Pamela Ehrenberg (“Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas”), Dec. 3, 3 p.m., and Richard McGregor (“Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century”), Dec. 7, 6:30 p.m. www.eastcitybookshop.com.

Folger Shakespeare Library hosts the PEN/Faulkner Fiction PEN/Malamud Celebration, honoring Jhumpa Lahiri, Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; and O.B. Hardison Poetry’s Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute with Sandra Gilbert, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information at 202-544-7077 or  HYPERLINK “http://www.folger.edu” www.folger.edu.

The Hill Center and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation co-host a screening of “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story,” a documentary about the WPA’s Writers’ Project (1935-1942), Dec. 12, 7 p.m. Free but register at www.hillcenterdc.org or 202-549-4172.

Smithsonian Associates continues its “American Novels of the ‘20s” series with “Plum Bun” by Jessie Redmon Fauset, Dec. 18, 6:45 p.m., and its “Tea With a Bookseller” series with Brennan Baker from The Potter’s House, Dec. 3, 4:00 p.m.; and offers a day-long seminar, “Write the Stories of Your Ancestors,” with Hill author and genealogist John Coletta, Dec. 2, 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m, and “Dickens Without the Humbug,” a reading with author Daniel Stashower and actor Scott Sedar, Dec. 5, 6:45 p.m. www.smithsonianassociates.org.

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