Saturday, Jun 15th

BrooksCGeraldine Brooks, the Pulitzer-prize-winning, bestselling author, came to the Scarsdale Library on Friday evening, June 16th, for a conversation with New York Times journalist, Sarah Lyall. Their talk was centered on Horse, Geraldine Brooks’ most recent novel, but the fascinating and moving discussion ranged across many topics including race relations, loss, grief, the current state of publishing, and more. And as anyone who has read her works of historical fiction (March, Crossing Caleb, Year of Wonders, People of the Book) knows, Brooks is a master of researching undiscovered stories and filling in the blanks to build characters and weave rich tales, based in truth and enhanced by her vivid imagination and evocative writing.

In Horse, Brooks, who was an international correspondent for the Wall Street Journal for about a decade, intertwines historical periods, geographic locales, the art world, horse racing, slavery and racism. The reader is taken from the Civil War to present day Washington D.C. as Brooks illuminates themes that resonate through time.

Elyse Klayman, who serves on the Board of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library who sponsored the event, introduced the witty and empathetic Lyall by saying she covers sports, culture, media and international news–or “everything all over the map.” Lyall then called Brooks, “one of her personal heroes,” who writes “books that resonate,” bringing us “right inside the historical characters’ lives.”She produces worlds, she said, that feel so alive and uses interesting points to bring the past to the present.”

Lyall opened up the interview by asking Brooks where the inspiration for Horse came from–and the conversation was off and running.LyallandBrooksSarah Lyall and Geraldine Brooks

In her charming Australian accent Brooks explained, “It’s better to become horse obsessed when you are 5 or 15 years old. It happened to me when I was in my fifties at a writer’s retreat in Santa Fe where I was admiring the horses. I was invited on a trail ride and I had never ridden a horse. I grew up in the city and the only horses I knew were for the mounted police. So I went on a horse ride where we took off through the arroyos.”

She was hooked after that. And a friend actually gave her a horse, believe it or not.

But how did she come to focus on Lexington, the famed racehorse who stars in her book? Brooks said she was at a fundraiser when she met a man who had delivered the skeleton of a famous racehorse to a museum. He then told her the story of what had happened to the horse during the civil war, and she realized she had to know more, and that she had found the subject of her next novel.

In the course of telling the tale of this grand racehorse, Brooks would be led to writing about slavery and racism before the Civil War. She explained that during that era, “horse racing was big; it was like the NFL. There were three newspapers that reported only on horseracing – which was built on the backs of Black men.” Brooks said, “I had to do a deep dive into Black lives of the 19th century. … Black trainers, jockeys and the grooms who cared for these horses and made them excellent.”

Brooks went to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington and to Lexington, Kentucky where there is a library dedicated to horseracing. The horse was so famous, she found, that his obituary was six pages long, but, tellingly, the Black groom who played a pivotal role in the horse’s life, Jarett, was not mentioned. Lexington, she learned, was the fastest horse that ever lived. In those days, she told the crowd, horses raced over four miles, cooled out and ran it again. It was a test of speed, stamina and race tactics.

KlaymanElyse KlaymanAfter he retired,” Brooks went on, “Lexington became the greatest stud sire in American history; all the famous horses we know today, including Seabiscuit, and Aristedes, who won the first Kentucky Derby, are his descendants.”

While Brooks was in the process of writing Horse, her husband, Tony Horwitz, also a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, died suddenly during a book tour. “I was very sad when I wrote the second half of this book,” Brooks confided. “I didn’t write for months, but then got some advice from Nina Totenberg who got it from Ruth Bader Ginsberg when she had been grieving the loss of her husband: “You should do your work,” she said.It might not be your best work, but it will be good work and it will save you.” “That’s quite a lineage right there,” quipped Sarah Lyall, remarking on the pedigree of that shared wisdom.

About her husband’s role in the book, Brooks said, “Tony loved 19th century American history.” He found the artist Thomas Scott, who did an oil painting of the horse that figures prominently in the story. “The second half of the book is about grief,” she said. “I finished the book so I could dedicate it to Tony.”booksigning
And why did Brooks make the transition from journalism to writing novels? In 1994, the Wall Street Journal sent her to Nigeria to investigate a massacre. The Ogoni people were protesting the actions of Royal Shell Oil who had despoiled the tribe's lands when excavating for oil. She asked the military for comment and was promptly thrown into jail. During the (blessedly brief) three days she was held, Brooks had time to take an accounting of her life and determined she would change course.

During the Q&A session, a member of the audience asked Geraldine Brooks about the difference between reporting news and writing fiction. Brooks explained that fiction allows her “license” to make up the stories she can’t corroborate. “When you are convinced that you have the real story but you don’t have two sources to quote, you can’t write it for a newspaper.” Brooks said she found that frustrating at times as a journalist, and loves using her imagination to fill in the details now that she’s writing fiction.

Brooks is currently writing a memoir about what happened when her husband Tony died called Memorial Days. “It’s shocking,” she said, “how bad we are at dealing with loss and grief.” She has an upcoming fellowship at New HorseCollege in Oxford where she will work on her next historical novel, which she has already begun. Ever courageous, and determined and passionate about her work, Brooks spent three weeks in a shack on a remote island off Tasmania writing last year. The population of the town where the shack was, she said, was “nil” and it was 35 miles to the nearest store. “Weekly shopping lists needed to be thorough,” Brooks said, laughing, and telling the enchanted attendees about solitary happy hours watching the sun set with dozens of Wallabees.

One thing’s for sure: a lot of us can’t wait to read Brooks’ next historic novel, and while we are girding for a tough read when Memorial Days is published, no doubt Brooks will move us, and inspire us both to consider the fragility of life, and to appreciate the world around us.

Photo credit: Jay Cohen. See his work here.

DaraandBarbaraDara Gruenberg interviewed author Barbara Josselsohn at Scarsdale LibraryWhat is historical fiction and how broad can the definition be for “historical fiction?” That was a subject of discussion of a conversation between Scarsdale author Barbara Josselsohn and moderator Dara Gruenberg at a book party for Josselsohn’s new book, “Secrets of the Italian Island,” at Scarsdale Library on June 5, 2023.

The reception and conversation were held in a grassy knoll outside the library, just a day before the smoke descended and forced everyone inside. The audience was filled with Josselsohn’s friends from the Scarsdale Library’s Writers Center, friends, readers and even her agent.

Mark Fowler from Bronx River Books was on hand to provide copies of the new book which the author signed for admirers following the talk.

The book is a “dual timeline” novel, based in 1943 and in 2019, following a present day heroine investigating mysterious circumstances of her grandmother’s life during World War II in Italy. Following the death of her grandmother, Mia, the present day protagonist, is going through the contents of her grandmother’s house when she learns that her grandmother has been accused of a crime and discovers some mysterious artifacts.

Anxious to learn more about her grandmother’s past and to clear her name, Mia travels to a celebrated private island off the coast of Italy that is the scene of the wartime drama.

Josselsohn was asked for the source of her inspiration for the book and she shared some surprising news. The island and magical castle where the action takes place, are actually based in France, off the coast of Brittany. That island was acquired by a Polish mathematician and inventor who invited many talented artists, writers and scientists to work there prior to World War II.

As in the book, the island was invaded by the Nazis and there are few historical records about what took place. The inventor’s daughter was killed at Auschwitz. Now it is again a private island so there’s been little written about it.

How did she research a story about a fictional island during World War II? Josselsohn explained that she began her research at the Scarsdale Library and accessed resources from here and around the country. She used Pinterest boards to form a visual picture of her story and her imagination to construct the plot.secrets

Asked if she worried about historical accuracy, she said she did try to write in keeping with the era but does not get hung up on small points of fact. She says her proofreader and copyeditor did a wonderful job of fact checking and reviewing her manuscript for accuracy.

The reception to this book has been so good that Josselsohn is now writing a second book in the series called, The Lost Gift to the Italian Island. This one focuses on the grandmother’s younger sister Guilia.

Josselsohn closed with a reading from the book which whet the audience’s appetite for more.

Secrets of the Italian Island is available in paperback at Bronx River Books and also on Kindle here:

PlaylandPoolEnjoying the adrenaline rush of the Dragon Coaster, cooling down in the new Playland Pool, and savoring bites and brews while taking in the sights and sounds of Long Island Sound, all are a sample of summer experiences at Playland, one of the nation's most beloved amusement parks since opening in 1928 with over 40 rides and attractions. Located in Rye in Westchester County, Playland is a National Historic Landmark and a summer tradition for the entire New York City metro area, which opened to the public on Saturday, May 20, 2023 through September 15, 2023. A complimentary roundtrip shuttle service from the MetroNorth Railroad station in Rye is available during the summer season, as well as regular Bee-Line bus service, which provides easy connections to an attraction that has served so many generations of families.

As one of the only amusement parks in the U.S. designed in Art Deco architecture, Playland is home to thrilling and historic rides including Whip (1929), Derby Racer (1929), Dragon Coaster (1929), The Carousel (1929), and numerous other adventures for all ages and excitement levels. The newest ride is the Old Rye Motorbike Factory, which debuted in 2022. This year, guests can expect new rides including the custom-built Jack the Puppeteer, a fun, family-friendly ride that takes the visitors on an exhilarating spinning adventure, which will be available later in the 2023 summer season.

“Playland has been a multi-generational destination for millions of visitors in the greater New York region for almost a century,” said Jeff Davis, General Manager of Playland. “As we continue to grow and build the park for the next 100 years, we are thrilled to introduce a diverse range of new experiences for all our visitors to enjoy from dining, outdoor adventures, entertainment, events, rides, and more, while preserving the incredible history of the park. In addition to our popular rides and games, our new visitors are often surprised to find direct access to our beach, pool and lake, available right on-site. We have something for everyone at all ages, so look forward to welcoming everyone this season.”

Additional NEW experiences for 2023 at Playland include the following:

· New Fountain Plaza Show – Featuring a synchronized musical, water, and light show to welcome all guests throughout the day and night.

· Create a Sensational Moment at the New Installation, “Play! Verse – An Immersive Adventure” – These installations will include other worldly environments, fantastic creatures, eye-popping optical illusions, immersive cascades of light color and sound, and even a gateway into infinity. The new Play! Verse includes different thematic rooms that feature LED light shows, interactive infinity mirror tricks, and more, creating a multi-sensory and dynamic photo ops for all. Admission tickets are $10.00 for Play! Verse.

· New Dining Experiences with Panoramic Waterfront Views – The NEW Tiki Beach is an upscale eatery with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as picturesque views of the Long Island Sound. In addition, Captain Lawrence Beer Garden is a more casual space adjacent to Tiki Beach with outdoor seating to enjoy a few brews. Come visit and taste the whipped ricotta cheese with honey and truffle sauce. Evening entertainment will also be available for a scenic al fresco dining experience.

· Explore the Picturesque Playland Beach, Lake and Edith G. Read Nature Preserve, and Cool Down at Playland Pool – The scenic on-site Playland Beach will reopen Memorial Day weekend and will debut a NEW 35-foot waterfront slide this season, as well as new amenities including volleyball, kayaking, and paddleboarding along with weekend entertainment including live steel drums performances! NEW Swan and Dragon Paddle boats are now available at $20.00 at Playland Lake alongside the historic Boathouse and near the Edith G. Read Nature Preserve – all on the shores of the Long Island Sound. The Beach Pass is $9.99 per adult and child, while children ages 2 and under are admitted for FREE. The recently debuted Playland pool with zero depth entry and state-of-the-art lounge furniture will be open for the season. The Pool & Beach Combo Pass is $14.99 per adult and child, while children ages 2 and under are admitted for FREE.

Memorable activations throughout the summer will offer special treats through a variety of major events at Playland including “Party on the Pier at Playland” on June 7, 2023 from 6-9 pm, hosted by Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Festival where guests can sample summer favorites from local restaurants and food trucks with beer, wine, cocktails, and live music, along with the 5th Annual Bartender Shake-Off. Playland will also host a Juneteenth event on Monday, June 19, 2023, complete with A Motown Concert and Dance and Drum Workshops by Bokandeye African American Dance Theater, Inc. of Yonkers, NY. Adding a spark to summer at Playland is the amusement park’s Annual July Fourth Celebration, complete with special entertainment and fireworks.

The 2023 Day Pass is $39.99, while the Day Pass for Westchester County residents is $29.99. The 2023 Season Pass includes access to all rides and is available at $109.99, while the Westchester County Resident 2023 Season Pass is $99.99 with proof of residency. Children under 3 are free. All guests must meet height and safety requirements to ride.

For more information and a calendar of events, visit www.playland.com and follow Playland on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Healing Tree

On May 23, 2023, Scarsdale's National Art Honor Society Club (NAHSC) unveiled a new mural in front of DeCicco Family Market. The new mural has replaced the iconic Wing the Dale mural, which has been an integral community aspect since 2019.

In the late afternoon sun, members of the NAHSC assembled in front of DeCicco's East Parkway wall, along with Mayor Justin Arest and Amy Nadasdi, the Arts Advisory Council Chairperson. Nadasdi said, "This beautiful public art project demonstrates the student's commitment to fostering a sense of pride in our community and enhancing the quality of life for all residents and visitors to our Village Center."

Mayor Arest opened the ceremony with a few words on the importance of art in the community. Arest stated that art allows "…individuals to explore diverse perspectives and engage in critical thinking while also contributing to the community's cultural identity and cohesion." The new mural continues the Healing Tree project, which started with last year's Non-Sibi Day, which is meant to convey that color and light prevail in times of darkness.

After a few words from Nadasdi and Janna Johnsen, the High School Art Teacher, Frank Decicco, and Mayor Arest unveiled the mural, and tree branches' bright, swirling colors emerged into the sunlight. Now, the Healing Tree is not only at the High School but also in the Village.

Suler Lu is a graduating senior who joined the club in freshman year when they unveiled the Wing the Dale mural. She said that "It's come full circle. When we were first freshman, they had just wrapped up Wing the Dale, which was the first mural done in the Village. Now that we're leaving, we've left a new mural in the same spot." The new mural encourages kindness and happiness for Scarsdale residents and provides a poetic end to the graduating class's high school art careers.

 

Annie5

Although the school is eerily vacant of the 2023 senior class during the day, at night, their voices carry across the auditorium as they sing and dance across the stage. For months, the senior class has been preparing the annual senior play. This year, the class will be performing Annie Jr., the story of an orphan who is eventually adopted by a great-depression-era billionaire, for the second time in their academic careers! In 2013, the class put on a production of the show in elementary school, contributing a sense of deep nostalgia to this year’s performance. Click here to see a sneak peek!

The play has been organized, directed, and produced by dedicated seniors of the drama club: Brooke Suzman, Taylor Levin, Henry Nova, Hana Pitchon, Charlie Milberg, and Colin Dunsky. The directors would like to extend “a special thank you to Mr. Kevin Viviano and Ms. Jen Wagner, who have supported the senior class tremendously as class advisors and played integral parts in making sure we can put on Annie Jr. for you tonight.” Annie3Emily Wang, Halle Jakubowicz, Colin Michael

Many seniors who are in the play have little-to-no prior experience with acting or performing but joined because of the play’s notoriously fun reputation. According to Emily Wang: “I joined because I thought it would be a great experience and a great way to keep in touch with people…. [and] although many of us have no experience, it’s been fun learning how to put on a show.” Her words were echoed by various other members of the cast and crew, who stated that the play has exceeded their expectations and been a valuable bonding experience.

Annie2Chelsea Berson (Annie), Jen Wagner (Sandy)This year, the directors have composed a cast of especially talented seniors. Chelsea Berson, who has auditioned for Bubble Guppies and met Abby Lee Miller, will be starring as Annie. Although it’s her first show at SHS, Carly Gelles will be playing the production’s main villain, Miss Hannigan. Last but not least, the talented male lead of the show is Jackson Fielding, who has been cast as Oliver Warbucks. In addition to the directors, producers, and cast, the pit orchestra, stage crew, costumers, and set designers have been essential to the success of the show. Check out the playbill here for a comprehensive cast list! 

The play carries an especially strong message that has been particularly applicable to the class of 2023. According to directors Brooke, Taylor, Hanna, and Henry, “Annie is a play about optimism, and hanging on until tomorrow. This message perfectly embodies the class of 2023, a grade that continued to grow and improve amidst whatever the world threw at us.”

The play will be hosted in the Scarsdale High School Auditorium on Friday (5/19) and Saturday (5/20) at 7:30 PM, and on Sunday (5/21) at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from the school on My School Bucks!

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