Book of the Week #31

cover image - Enabling ActsEnabling Acts: The Hidden Story of How the Americans with Disabilities Act Gave the Largest US Minority Its Rights by Lennard J. Davis (Beacon Press, 2015).

NHPR's The Exchange talked with the author of this book last week and part of the discussion focused on the role of John H. Sununu, who was serving at the time as George H. W, Bush's Chief of Staff, in the fight for the ADA. 
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the widest-ranging and most comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation ever passed in the United States, and it has become the model for disability-based laws around the world. Yet the surprising story behind how the bill came to be is little known.

In this riveting account, acclaimed disability scholar Lennard J. Davis delivers the first behind-the-scenes and on-the-ground narrative of how a band of leftist Berkeley hippies managed to make an alliance with upper-crust, conservative Republicans to bring about a truly bipartisan bill. Based on extensive interviews with all the major players involved including legislators and activists, Davis recreates the dramatic tension of a story that is anything but a dry account of bills and speeches. Rather, it’s filled with one indefatigable character after another, culminating in explosive moments when the hidden army of the disability community stages scenes like the iconic “Capitol Crawl” or an event some describe as “deaf Selma,” when students stormed Gallaudet University demanding a “Deaf President Now!”

From inside the offices of newly formed disability groups to secret breakfast meetings surreptitiously held outside the White House grounds, here we meet countless unsung characters, including political heavyweights and disability advocates on the front lines. “You want to fight?” an angered Ted Kennedy would shout in an upstairs room at the Capitol while negotiating the final details of the ADA. Congressman Tony Coelho, whose parents once thought him to be possessed by the devil because of his epilepsy, later became the bill’s primary sponsor. There’s Justin Dart, adorned in disability power buttons and his signature cowboy hat, who took to the road canvassing fifty states, and people like Patrisha Wright, also known as “The General,” Arlene Myerson or “the brains,” “architect” Bob Funk, and visionary Mary Lou Breslin, who left the hippie highlands of the West to pursue equal rights in the marble halls of DC.

Published for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ADA, Enabling Acts promises to ignite readers in a discussion of disability rights by documenting this “eyes on the prize” moment for tens of millions of American citizens.


Book of the Week #30

The Governor's Lady: A biographical novel of Frances Wentworth, whose husband governed Nova Scotia but could not govern her by Thomas H. Raddall (Doubleday, 1960).
"John Wentworth had made his mark as the popular Governor of rugged New Hampshire just before the American Revolution in spite of growing colonial ferment over British rule - and in spite of his young and restless wife. But then the Revolution exploded into mob violence, and a rabble of backwoods farmers and city merchants drove the Governor back to England.
In the fashionable whirl of London, with its court intrigues and political fortune grabbers, it became evident to all but John that his wife was gambling with his future for her own ends. But it was not until he was sent to a minor post in Nova Scotia that his wife's designs came clear. There, on that sparsely settled peninsula, Frances Wentworth was to employ all her seductive charm to its limits to realize a peculiarly feminine triumph.
It is around this fascinating life, lived in a stormy period of North American history, that Thomas Raddall, author of The Path of Destiny, has written this stirring biographical novel." -Jacket flap

John Wentworth was the last royal governor of New Hampshire.  He was born in Portsmouth, he chartered Dartmouth College, and his portrait hangs in the NH State House.
Thomas Raddall is a Canadian writer of history and historical fiction. The Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award is named for him.


Q&A: Elaine Isaak

Elaine Isaak
There are a lot of wonderful writers living in our state. As the Director of the NH Center for the Book  I get the opportunity to talk to many of them. This interview series of Q&As with New Hampshire authors here on Book Notes lets me share that experience a bit with my blog readers. 
If someone hasn't read your work yet, where should they start?
The start of my current series is Elisha Barber.  This is a dark historical fantasy about medieval surgery—it was a lot of fun doing the research, but perhaps not for the faint of heart!

When did you first think of yourself as a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a writer from a very early age. I actually have a tiny Snoopy notebook with "stories" I wrote in the first grade. I was grateful to have a teacher who sometimes let me stay in during recess and hide out in the Reading Hut in our classroom to read and to write. One of the magic moments of my first book publication was when this same teacher came to a book launch event and I got to thank her in person.

How did you end up living in NH?
My folks and I moved to Hollis toward the end of junior high.  When I decided to leave college, I returned to the state, first sharing a seacoast apartment with my sister, then returning to my parents' house. I met my future husband at a poetry reading in Nashua, and we've been living in different parts of the state ever since.

Where do you like to write?
 I have a small, but dedicated writing office on the first floor, with one sunny window, sometimes distracting when birds are flying around outside, or simply when I'm thinking that it looks like a good day for a hike.

How important is place in your writing?
I do a lot of research before I write, and researching the setting is critical to that process.  Investing in the place of a story allows you to really dig in and explore the characters who live or visit there, the specific sensory details of the environment, and how its history and landscape can influence the story.  For my Elisha series, set in medieval England, I bought the Ordnance Survey maps of the specific areas where the story takes place, and also had a chance to visit many of my settings to capture the feel.  Sometimes, studying the maps gives me ideas about scenes or where to set them.  The right place adds incredible resonance to a work.

What do you do when you aren't writing?
I'm the mother of two, and I also work part-time as an outdoor guide and climbing instructor for the YMCA in Goffstown.  It's a great balance for being alone in my office, playing with my imaginary friends.  Being an adventure guide gets me outside, working with people and being active.  I'm also doing a lot of hiking with my hiking partner, hoping to do Kilimanjaro some day!

What’s the best piece of advice (writing or otherwise) you were ever given?
"There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree:  catch that first limb and climb, or find a good, healthy acorn, sit on it, and wait."  Too many people I know, especially would-be writers, choose to wait rather than to start working, but it's only when you begin, when you take chances, try and fail, that you discover your passion and you improve your art, whatever that art may be.

What books do you love and what about them speaks to you?
 Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, which blew my mind, and showed me the emotional impact a great book (conveyed through a great character) can have.
Richard Bach's Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, because it proclaims that we are capable of anything we strive to do.
Tim Powers' Anubis Gates, which is an experiment in beautiful prose and bizarre, yet effective, plotting.
Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, because inside the room of my mind, a forest grew and grew, and that is what great books are really about:  what grows inside the mind of the reader. 

What are you working on now?
I have just sent an Asian historical epic about a clockwork doomsday machine out to my beta readers, and am now developing the plot for my first action/adventure novel.

You can learn more about Elaine’s work at www.TheDarkApostle.com/books


Book of the Week #29

Of Sea and Cloud by Jon Keller (Tyrus Books, 2014)
"Nicolas Graves raised his sons to be lobstermen. Bill and Jonah Graves grew up aboard their father’s boat—the Cinderella—learning the rules and rites of the antiquated business they love. But when their father is lost at sea and the price of lobster crashes worldwide, Bill and Jonah must decide how much they are willing to risk for their family legacy.
Standing against them is Osmond Raymond— former Calvinist minister, mystic, captain of Sanctity, and their father’s business partner for more than twenty years. Together with his grandson and heir, Julius, Osmond is determined to push the Graves family out of their lobster pound, regardless of the cost or the consequences.
In the tradition of Russell Banks’ Affliction, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News or Philipp Meyer’s The SonOf Sea and Cloud is a powerful, haunting novel that, with extraordinary depth and compassion, explores the relationships between fathers and sons, tradition and change, and the surprising ways in which globalization is affecting some of the most isolated harbors on this planet." --publisher's blurb
This book (which has been getting great reviews all over the place and was launched at the Gilford Public Library) is set in Maine, where author Jon Keller lives part of the year. Lobstering goes on in New Hampshire as well and Keller will be talking about his book on Saturday, July 18, 2015 at The Country Bookseller in Wolfeboro so I decided to feature Of Sea and Cloud this week.


FNV: Lita Judge

Author and illustrator Lita Judge tells us about her inspiration for the books Red Hat and Red Sled in the video Red Hat. You might also want to check out the 2007 episode of NH Chronicle that featured Judge and her work.

The plan for this series is to point our readers one Friday each month to an online video featuring New Hampshire authors and their work. If you have a suggestion for a video we should include please let us know in the comments.