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Conversations both personal and political in Peabody

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“Intersections” by Anila Quayyum Agha at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

By Jan Gardner

Globe Correspondent

Islam and art

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is hosting an afternoon with an artist and a writer that promises to be personal and political. Carla Power, a journalist who spent a year studying the Koran, and Anila Quayyum Agha, an artist whose installation "Intersections" is on view at the museum, will be in conversation at 1 p.m. Feb. 7 about bringing together opposing forces and inhabiting a sacred space.

Power, who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, was a 2015 National Book Award finalist for "If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran" (Holt), praised for its insights into bridging the divide between the West and Islam. Agha, who grew up in Pakistan and now lives in the United States, explores themes of inclusion, exclusion, women, and Islam in her art. Illuminated by a 600-watt light bulb, her one-room installation creates a host of shadows based on the geometric patterns associated with Islam.

At 2:30 pm., the two women, joined by Kirun Kapur, a poet and founder of the Tannery Series, will lead a writing workshop about drawing on opposing forces, such as alienation and belonging, shadow and light. Preregistration is required only for the workshop. Call 978-745-9500. Both events are free with museum admission.


Honoring Aczel

A collection of acclaimed scientists and authors will celebrate the life of the late Amir D. Aczel at 7 p.m. Thursday at Brookline Booksmith. Aczel, who died in November at the age of 65, wrote more than 20 popular math and science books tackling subjects as diverse as Fermat's Last Theorem, infinity, the invention of the compass, and why science doesn't disprove God.

Among the speakers will be Aczel's wife, Debra Aczel; MIT scientist and novelist Alan Lightman; science writer Douglas Starr; British geologist-turned-author Simon Winchester; Nobel Prize winner Jerry Friedman; and physicist Tasneem Zehra Husain. Also speaking will be Emory University math professor Ken Ono, co-author, with Amir Aczel, of "My Search for Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count" (Springer) being published in March. It is a paean to mathematics prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan.


Aczel's most recent book "Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers" (St. Martin's) details his search for an ancient stone containing an inscription with the oldest zero ever found. His widow and daughter Miriam Aczel are soliciting donations through the Amir D. Aczel Fund for Mathematics to install the stone in Cambodia's National Museum. Donations can be made online at gofundme.com.

Words, wine, & music

The Back Porch Collective is hosting an evening of words, wine, and music at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Middle Gray, a cafe and art gallery at 6 Station St., Brookline. Stacy Mattingly, founder of the Sarajevo Writers' Workshop; Dariel Suarez, a founding editor of Middle Gray Magazine; and George Clements of the Lonely Heartstring Band will be among those taking to the stage.

Coming out

 “Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack” by Robert Knott (Putnam)

 “How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life” by Caroline Webb (Crown Business)

 “Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran” by Laura Secor (Riverhead)

Pick of the week

Bill Carl of Wellesley Books in Wellesley recommends "Black-Eyed Susans" by Julia Heaberlin (Ballantine): "After a young girl left for dead by a serial killer in a field of the eponymous flowers testifies in court, the man is convicted. Years later, as he is about to be executed, she begins noticing black-eyed Susans near her home. Threatening notes follow, and she must search through her murky past in case she is sending the wrong man to his death."


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.