Summer is right around the bend, and for me, that means it’s reading season.
This blog is to announce I’m kicking off a summer book club (mostly to incentivize myself to read titles I’ve been begrudgingly putting off due to grad school). And while I’ll have to stuff Games of Thrones and Harry Potter onto the back shelf just a little bit longer, the following titles will be paired with interesting guest speakers to accompany what’s most likely to be engaging and spirited conversation!
The plan is to meet up once per month to discuss a title. We’ll do it in the office, as with our Speakeasy and with snacks and beverages provided. We’ll kick each event off at 6 p.m. to give people more time to unwind after a long day. I have three guest speakers lined up. I’ll even turn on the a/c!
Here are the titles – dates and times to follow soon, but get cracking on the first – we’ll do the craic’ing in July (Irish joke. Not funny).
July: The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan
The Immortal Irishman is the Irish-American story, with all its twists and triumphs, is told through the improbable life of one man. A dashing young orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s, in which a million of his Irish countrymen died, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony. He escaped and six months later was heralded in the streets of New York — the revolutionary hero, back from the dead, at the dawn of the great Irish immigration to America. Meagher’s rebirth in America included his leading the newly formed Irish Brigade from New York in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War — Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg. Twice shot from his horse while leading charges, left for dead in the Virginia mud, Meagher’s dream was that Irish-American troops, seasoned by war, would return to Ireland and liberate their homeland from British rule. The hero’s last chapter, as territorial governor of Montana, was a romantic quest for a true home in the far frontier. His death has long been a mystery to which Egan brings haunting, colorful new evidence.
In addition to a discussion, we’ll have a thought leader from the Portland chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to share news of fundraising efforts for Portland’s Famine Memorial – currently the only such memorial located on the West Coast.
August: Hard to Grip by Emil DeAndreis
In 2008, after a record-breaking career as a D1 college baseball player, Emil DeAndreis’ life seemed set: He was twenty-three, in great shape, and had just been offered a contract to pitch professionally in Europe. Then his body fell apart. It started with elbow stiffness, then swelling in his wrist. Soon, his fingers were too bloated to grip a baseball. He had Rheumatoid Arthritis, a disease that causes swelling and eventual deterioration of the joints, mostly targeting old people and women. Hard To Grip tells the story of a young man’s body giving out when he needs it most. It chronicles an ascending sports career, the ups and downs of life in the NCAA, and the challenges of letting go of pro baseball due to a dehumanizing condition. In a series of humorous anecdotes, Emil takes the reader on his bittersweet journey of a young man’s having to grapple with an “old woman’s disease.” From striking out future major leaguer All Stars, to sitting in support groups; from breaking university records, to barely making it up the stairs; from language barriers with Chinese healers to figuring out how to be employed as a vegetable, this book unveils the disease with humor and fearless honesty through the eyes of an unlikely victim. This memoir is an honest, rueful and at times hilarious story about learning to come to terms with a new reality, and an inspiring account of how Emil learned to run with the disease and not from it.
Emil will be joining us during the second week of August. More details to come!
September: Eve of a Hundred Midnights by Bill Lascher
Eve of a Hundred Midnights is the unforgettable true story of two married journalists on an island-hopping run for their lives across the Pacific after the Fall of Manila during World War II—a saga of love, adventure, and danger. On New Year’s Eve, 1941, just three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were bombing the Philippine capital of Manila, where journalists Mel and Annalee Jacoby had married just a month earlier. The couple had worked in China as members of a tight community of foreign correspondents with close ties to Chinese leaders; if captured by invading Japanese troops, they were certain to be executed. Racing to the docks just before midnight, they barely escaped on a freighter—the beginning of a tumultuous journey that would take them from one island outpost to another. While keeping ahead of the approaching Japanese, Mel and Annalee covered the harrowing war in the Pacific Theater—two of only a handful of valiant and dedicated journalists reporting from the region.
Bill Lascher is a local Portland author and irregular Speakeasy attendee. He’ll join us during the second week of September. More details to come!