Walking into an art gallery opening, you aren’t normally greeted with the smell of sweat and ketchup while men in flannel stare at still-life paintings, holding a Big Mac in one hand and a Coors Light in the other. The burger was snatched from a towering shrinelike art piece and the ketchup was dripping steadily from a fountain. But this isn’t an ordinary show, and the folks behind it aren’t an ordinary gallery.
Since 1994, California-based photographer Robert Dawson has been travelling across the country, capturing images of public libraries—those hallowed, endangered urban oases of learning and contemplation. The result of his eighteen-year pilgrimage have now been collected into a handsome tome, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, which is simultaneously a visual record of America’s libraries, an examination of the manifold functions such institutions perform, and an impassioned lamentation over their steady decline from public consciousness. In the book’s foreword, veteran journalist Bill Moyers writes, “when a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open, too.” Dawson, in effect, presents a poignant argument for what’s at stake. He’ll be in conversation with Diane Cardwell, business reporter for The New YorkTimes.
As a gay American-Iranian, Abdi Nazemian couldn’t escape the feeling that his viewpoint was not one oft-represented in popular culture. His debut novel,The Walk-In Closet, seeks to rectify that—using a straight white female main-character called Kara Walker as an entry point into the lives of the Iranian-American elite. The book traces the close friendship between Kara and Bobby Ebadi—a gay man whose Iranian-American family welcome Kara to the intoxicating fold as Bobby’s girlfriend. Sooner or later, the truth must emerge—with raucous results. Abdi will be in conversation withStacey Vanek Smith, a senior reporter at Marketplace.