This year’s winners of the New England Book Awards are an eclectic bunch: a novel take on Jane Eyre, a memoir about a mother’s final years, and a children’s book about the hazards of clutter.
In “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” (Harper) by Margot Livesey, a young woman, orphaned at 10, accepts a position as an au pair on a remote island. Livesey, a Cambridge resident, set her novel in Scotland, where she was born.
Centerville resident Kate Whouley’s “Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words” (Beacon) chronicles her mother’s descent into dementia and how their relationship evolved in the face of death.
“More” (Houghton Mifflin) is a picture book (right) about a mouse and a trash-picking magpie whose junk-filled nest comes crashing down. Writer I.C. Springman is economical in her choice of words, and Massachusetts illustrator Brian Lies draws items from the real-life clutter of his own house to convey the “less is more” message.
The annual prizes, to be presented by the New England Independent Booksellers Association next month, honor fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books that are about New England, set in New England, or by a New England author. Nominations are now open for the 2013 awards.
Harding on fathers and children
Literary sensation Paul Harding’s follow-up novel to his 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Tinkers” won’t be published until next summer, but he will read from “Enon” later this month at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. On Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., he will join Gregory Spatz and Tim Horvath, two other fiction writers also published by Bellevue Literary Press, for a discussion about why the relationships between fathers and their children figure so prominently in their work and why that’s so rare.
“Tinkers” takes place in the fictional setting of Enon, Mass., modeled on Harding’s hometown of Wenham. As George Washington Crosby awaits death, memories of his youth and his father wash over him.
From parent to school activist
During the eight years Jamaica Plain resident Susan Naimark served on the Boston School Committee, she was an outspoken advocate of giving parents and the community a greater role in making decisions about the city’s public schools.
Now this mother of two children educated in the city’s schools has written a memoir, “The Education of a White Parent: Wrestling with Race and Opportunity in the Boston Public Schools” (Levellers). Naimark writes about what she calls “the unexpected life trajectory that took me from innocent young adult to concerned parent to activist to public official.” She admits she “stumbled a lot. And I became convinced that we will never unravel the obstacles to our public schools working well for all children without addressing the legacy of racism.”
Naimark will be speaking about her book at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the South End branch of the Boston Public Library.
■ “The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?”by Doug Saunders (Vintage)
■ “Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Philip H. Sheridan”by Joseph Wheelan (Da Capo)
■ “Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America” by Jonathan Kozol (Crown)
Pick of the week
Darwin Ellis of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Conn., recommends “Vengeance” by Benjamin Black (Holt): “If you haven’t yet discovered Benjamin Black (a.k.a. John Banville) and his irresistible character Dr. Quirke, then you are missing some first-rate writing and entertainment. ‘Vengeance’ is the fourth in a mystery series set in Dublin in the late 1950s featuring the somewhat grumpy pathologist and his drinking and sleuthing companion Inspector Detective Hackett.”