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new england literary news | NINA MACLAUGHLIN

Porter Square Books promotes civic-engagement in Trump era

A picture from the Boston Women’s March on Jan. 21.Scott Eisen/Bloomberg/Getty Images/Bloomberg/Getty Images

‘Be the Change’ launched

The owners of Porter Square Books in Cambridge held a staff meeting on a Sunday night late last month to discuss how to best serve the community as a bookstore in this charged, challenging political climate. “We wanted to address how to be a third space for our community,” said co-owner Dina Mardell.

The group decided to launch Be the Change, a civic engagement program, which will take place the last Sunday of every month and involve traditional author events, workshops, projects, and discussions geared at sharing the “resources to those who want to make change at all levels of government and in society in general,” according to a statement on Porter Square’s website.


The inaugural event was last Sunday, with Jen Deaderick, a Cambridge writer who founded the Equal Rights Amendment page on Facebook. She led a workshop on postcard-writing to representatives. The next event will take place March 27 with author Sheila Katz whose book “Connecting with the Enemy: A Century of Palestinian-Israeli Joint Nonviolence’’ details the grass-roots efforts of creating nonviolent measures in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The series is still unfolding, Mardell explains, and the bookstore invites customers and community members to suggest ideas for events or resources.

Images from women’s marches

An estimated 5 million people gathered at various sites on every continent for a series of women’s marches on Jan. 21, a day after the inauguration of Donald Trump. A striking book of photographs documenting that day has just been published by Abrams Image. “Why I March: Images from the Women’s March Around the World’’ teems with potent images from Getty photographers, from the pink blur of “pussy hats” in Washington, D.C., to bundled protestors in the snow in Fairbanks, Alaska, to rallies in Nairobi, Santiago, Belgrade, and Bangkok, as well as Boston. Proceeds from the sale will benefit nonprofits including the Transgender Law Center and the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.


The power of speech

Back in January, Harvard Bookstore used its print-on-demand machine to publish the farewell addresses of Barack and Michelle Obama. It was an immediate hit. “It blew up on Twitter,” said marketing and events manager Alex Meriwether, “and it just kept selling.” It caught the attention of Dennis Johnson, publisher at Brooklyn-based Melville House, who called the store to see whether it had an interest in taking it national. “I wanted to broadcast it bigger, not because it was selling, but because we’re in such a dark time right now, and these speeches are just uplifting,” he said. “Farewell Speeches’’ will go on sale this month for $10. And in exchange for the inspiration, Harvard Bookstore asked only that Melville House, which has a reputation for activism, make a donation to the ACLU.

Coming out

“Sorry To Disrupt the Peace’’ by Patty Yumi Cottrell (McSweeney’s)

“Alpine Apprentice’’ by Sarah Gorham (University of Georgia)

“American Originality: Essays on Poetry’’ by Louise Glück (FSG)

Pick of the week

Stef Schmidt of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., recommends “Pachinko’’ by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central): Based on a story Lee heard about Korean immigrants in Japan being mistreated by the Japanese, this is a powerful story about having to leave your home to survive and fighting to find a place in the world that will accept you. Lee’s writing is elegant, absorbing, and rich with detail and atmosphere. It’s a fascinating history you may not be familiar with, and a story you can get completely lost in.


Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this column incorrectly described Jen Deaderick’s involvement with Tupelo restaurant. She created the restaurant’s website and Twitter account.

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.