fb-pixel Skip to main content
New England Literary News

A pirate graphic novel, the BPL celebrates Black History Month, Brookline Booksmith expands event accessibility

The Brookline Booksmith's new street-level event space makes it accessible to all.Brookline Booksmith

Debunking the pirate myth in graphic novel form

The pirate archetype lives in our minds — the eye-patched, peg-legged, parrot-shouldered rogue, swashbuckling across the seas, making mischief (and worse) under the flapping black Jolly Roger skull-and-crossbones flag. A new graphic novel by David Lester, “Under the Banner of King Death: Pirates of the Atlantic” (Beacon), adapts the work of historian Marcus Rediker and gives a look into pirate life — focusing on its golden age from 1660-1730 — that has little to do with treasure chests and ghost ships. The book shows the perilous, violent, unpredictable life on a ship, and the ways sailors were propelled toward illegal action in the service of fighting for safer and more just conditions. “Rage and humor were key elements that characterized these outlaws,” Rediker writes. “Burning anger against the powerful, and the humor of men who chose freedom over servitude at any cost.” With expressive swooshes of ink that evoke both lashings of the whip and the splashings of the sea, the book follows an African American fugitive, a Dutch seaman, and a woman who disguises herself as a man, and the mutiny against their sadistic captain, a social rebellion that made way for the “merry life” of the pirate — an atmosphere of democratic elections of officers and captains, an egalitarian distribution of resources, and a welfare system wherein shares of loot were offered to those who couldn’t work because of injury or illness. Peace-and-love it was not, and Lester mixes the drinking and dancing with canons, swords, nooses, and storms. As editor Paul Buhle notes in his afterword, these pirates are “not romanticized, not glamorized, not slurred, but pirates as they lived and acted and for the most part, died soon enough.”


Black History Month at the Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library will celebrate Black History Month with its annual “Black Is...” booklist, a list of 75 titles selected by librarians and staff at Boston libraries that “commemorate the achievements, complexities, struggles, and culture of the Black experience.” The list includes a range of books for kids, teens, and adults, including Elizabeth Alexander’s “The Trayvon Generation”; “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire,” the journals of Alice Walker; poet Joshua Bennett’s “The Study of Human Life”; Michael K. Williams’s “Scenes from My Life”; and Raphael Warnock’s “A Way Out of No Way.” The BPL will also host a number of events — film screenings, lectures, readings, panel discussions, craft workshops, performances — over the course of the month. Some highlights include a panel discussion on “Black Boston Stories: Growing Up,” on Thursday, February 9, in which longtime Boston residents will look back on what it was like to grow up here. A screening of the documentary “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975″ will take place on February 7. And Yolanda Oliveira, Boston Youth Poet Laureate finalist, will lead youth poetry workshops on February 21-23. For more information, visit bpl.org/events.


Brookline Booksmith expands event accessibility

The Brookline Booksmith, which has expanded its space and added a cafe over the past few years, recently made another important update. Events at the store had long been held in its lower level, down a set of stairs, and inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities. The Booksmith recently announced that all of their events will now take place in the main street-level part of the store. Their first event in the expanded space took place earlier this month with a reading from the Black Seed Writers, a group of unhoused writers led by local writer James Parker. The Booksmith is looking for ways to expand access to its lower level, where used books are sold, and plans to work closely with the community to continue to develop solutions for expanding its accessibility. “We have the fortune of having a great community,” says events director Alex Schaffner. “And this space feels even warmer and livelier.” Hosting readings on the main floor “means that everybody can get a sense of books and authors as an active, audible, physical thing, not shut away, but alive and here and happening.”


Coming Out

“Our Share of Night” by Mariana Enriquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell (Hogarth)

“Brutes” by Dizz Tate (Catapult)

“Couplets” by Maggie Millner (FSG)

Pick of the Week

Stan Hynds at Northshire Bookstore in Northshire, Vermont, recommends “Solito” by Javier Zamora (Hogarth): “Zamora’s first work of prose is a stunning, nearly moment-to-moment recounting of his seven week, 3000-mile journey as a nine-year-old from El Salvador to the Arizona desert. Led by one coyote or pollero after another, Javier joined a group of strangers who traveled by bus, boat and foot, on a harrowing, traumatizing journey to join his parents in the United States. Through a nearly unbelievable force of will and the care of three strangers who became his second family, Javier made it. An incredible, unforgettable work of literature.” by Mariana Enriquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell (Hogarth)