Reportback: Our Inspiring February 6 Book Party

by Barbara Beckwith

Our book party zoom-gathered dozens of writers and other book lovers, here in New England and beyond, to celebrate Boston Chapter members whose books were published in the past 12 months. The 13 authors’ titles ranged from fiction and poetry, mystery and crime, science and media, memoir and women’s history, travel and environmental advocacy.

After a brief PowerPoint highlighting our chapter’s activities, nine of the authors read five-minute excerpts to give us a “taste” of their books. Which helped five lucky attendees (names “picked from a hat”) choose one of the books, which the chapter will buy and mail them. Happily, each chose a different title!

Guest speaker Renee Graham, Boston Globe columnist and associate op-ed editor, spoke of the escalating collapse of news outlets nationwide (“1800 staffers lost their jobs in 2020-2021”) and especially the dire diminishment of local outlets upon which our democracy depends. Graham, who grew up in a family that read four newspapers a day, noted with dismay that now 77 percent of people get their news from Facebook. “I love this industry,” she said, even as she faces an “onslaught of misogyny and racism.” She’s had to disable the comment function but continues to receive hate email: “Every norm has been broken.”

“Where is the anger, where is the urgency?” she asked.

“This is a baby democracy. The idea that ‘it can’t happen here’ is a fantasy,” was a warning that Wendy Sanford called “powerful and sobering.” “With Renee Graham’s presentation and the Q&A that followed, my attention was held for the full three hours,” said Joyce Harvey.

And Susan Pollack thanked all the party organizers: “What an extraordinary book party, with excellent readings thoughtfully organized, a riveting talk by Renee Graham, and conversation between her and Charles Coe who addressed the issues that keep so many of us up at night, and the crucial role of the press in seeking to maintain our increasingly fragile democracy.”