The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Big Read supports organizations across the country in developing community-wide reading programs which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Find out more here.
The Big Read: Kate Manning & Natalee Caple
Wednesday October 30, 2013
As part of the Center's Big Read for Luis Alberto Urrea's novel Into the Beautiful North, we're presenting a series of events that take inspiration from the book. Kate Manning, author of My Notorious Life, joined In Calamity's Wake author, Natalee Caple, to talk about strong female characters in literature, and in their own work.
About My Notorious Life
A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages. Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day. In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.” When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear. Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mystery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present.
A former documentary television producer (for WNET-13, where she won two Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Brotherhood Award), Kate Manning has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Glamour, and More. She is the author of the novel, Whitegirl, and is an adjunct faculty member of the English Department at Bard High School Early College. She lives with her family in New York City. My Notorious Life is her new book.
About In Calamity's Wake
Miette has no desire to meet the mother who abandoned her, a woman she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker, and exhibition shooter: Martha Canary, made notorious as Calamity Jane. But Miette’s beloved adoptive father makes a deathbed request that the two be reunited. Set in the Badlands of the North American West in the late 1800s, In Calamity’s Wake tells the story of Miette’s quest across a landscape occupied by strangers, ghosts, and animals. On her journey she meets an old lover of her father’s, a man who claims to be her brother, an imposter she thinks is her mother, Negro minstrel Lew Spencer, a kind madam who is her mother’s best friend, a wolf who longs to protect her, and many others. Woven into Miette’s story are the stories of Jane as told in legend, history books, dime store novels, and by the woman herself. When Miette and her mother finally meet, the many threads of these tales come together and Miette must decide whether to forgive the woman who had forsaken her for a life of danger and adventure.
Natalee Caple’s previous novels, Mackerel Sky and The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World, earned high international praise. Her collection of poetry, A More Tender Ocean, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Caple’s work has been optioned for film and nominated for a National Magazine Award, the Journey Prize, the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, and the Eden Mills Fiction Award. She lives in Ontario, Canada. Her latest book is In Calamity's Wake.