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‘Defying the Nazis’ and book fest in P-town

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Martha and Waitstill Sharp are the subject of Ken Burns’s new film “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War.”
Martha and Waitstill Sharp are the subject of Ken Burns’s new film “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War.”(Sharp Family Archives)

Story of the Sharps

In 1939, a Unitarian minister and his wife, a social worker, left their two children home in Wellesley and traveled to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to provide assistance in the face of the mounting refugee crisis. On the eve of World War II, they put their own lives at risk to save refugees, Jews, and political dissidents. Their mission, expected to last a couple months, endured for two years.

The couple, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, are the subject of a new Ken Burns film bearing the same title as the new book "Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War" (Beacon) by Artemis Joukowsky. The Sharps's grandson, Joukowsky researched their story for decades, finding oral histories by his grandparents and his grandmother's unpublished manuscript. A 90-minute documentary Burns and Joukowsky co-directed will be aired on PBS on Sept. 20.

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Provincetown book fest

The Provincetown Public Library is hosting its first Provincetown Book Festival this Friday and Saturday. Featured authors include Paul Lisicky, author of "The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship" (Graywolf); historical novelist and Cape Cod resident Sally Cabot Gunning whose new novel is "Monticello: A Daughter and Her Feather" (Morrow); and Tim Murphy, whose "Christodora" (Grove) is a sprawling novel of gay life in New York beginning in the 1980s. Also appearing are Nicole Dennis-Benn, whose novel, "Here Comes the Sun" (Norton), investigates the tensions between tourists and year-round dwellers on her native Jamaica, Eric Jay Dolin, whose newest book is "Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse" (Norton), and Alexander Chee, whose new novel is "The Queen of the Night'' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

On Friday, there will be an event honoring the late Provincetown preservationist and author Josephine Del Deo. She died at age 90 on Aug. 25. Del Deo played a key role in establishing the Cape Cod National Seashore and preserving the dune shacks in Provincetown. A resident of the Cape since the 1950s, she is the author of "The Watch at Peaked Hill: Outer Cape Cod Dune Shack Life, 1953-2003" (Schiffer). The library trustees had voted earlier this year to honor Del Deo with the Provincetown Public Library Rose Dorothea Award.

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Works to premiere in Concord

Robin Coste Lewis, winner of the 2015 National Book Award for poetry, and Kevin Young, author of 11 books and the newly named director of the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, have composed new works for a reading in Concord. The two, along with fellow writer and poet Tisa Bryant and Boston poet laureate Danielle Legros Georges, will read their pieces during a gathering at The Old Manse, Ralph Waldo Emerson's home, from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 24.

The four were given a prompt asking them to respond to the town's literary, political, and social history. Sponsored by Trustees of Reservations, the reading is part of the organization's efforts to foster discussion about race and social justice.

Coming out

"Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay" by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam)

"The Sleeping World" by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes (Touchstone)

"Intimations: Stories" by Alexandra Kleeman (Harper)

Pick of the week

Ellen Burns of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Conn., recommends "Loner" by Teddy Wayne (Simon & Schuster): "Harvard freshman David Federman, who is socially awkward and emotionally immature, falls obsessively in love with the beautiful and sophisticated Veronica Morgan Wells. David, by turns sympathetic and repellent, starts stalking Veronica. This novel is a complex portrayal of alienation, gender politics, and class at the highest echelons of American academic life."

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