Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: The Sea Garden

The Sea Garden
Deborah Lawrenson
Harper Collins
hardcover, 310 pages
a review copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours

The Sea Garden is an atmospheric novel composed of three sections, each telling a separate story. "The Sea Garden", the first section, is set in 2013 and begins with a garden designer, Ellie Brooke, arriving on a Mediterranean island off of the French Coast. The second section, "The Lavender Field", takes the reader to the village of Cereste in Provence during World War II, where the French are living under Occupation. And the third section, "A Shadow Life", centers on World War II in London and France. Each section focuses mostly on the character of a young woman: in "The Sea Garden" it is Ellie Brooke; in "The Lavender Field" it is Marthe Lincel, a blind woman who has found work blending scents for Distillerie Musset; in the last section, it is Iris Nightingale, a British woman working for a secret government spy organization called F Section. It is Iris's love affair with a mysterious French spy called Xavier that links the three stories together, although it isn't until the very end of the novel that the connections become clear.

The tone of the first section of The Sea Garden is quite different from the following two sections, and the reader must be patient, because initially this different mood and atmosphere doesn't make much sense. Ellie Brooke arrives at the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles to meet with a prospective client, Laurent de Fayols, owner of an estate called The Domaine. Even before Ellie arrives on the island, a disturbing incident sets a Gothic and mysterious mood amid the sunlit beauty of her surroundings. On the voyage to the island, Ellie witnesses a distressing and seemingly inexplicable death. And Ellie already has her moments of darkness: after two years, she is still grieving the death of her boyfriend, a military doctor killed in Afghanistan.

Lawrenson displays one of her strengths as a writer in this first section: she is gifted at evoking the beauty of the island landscape, and describing the lush gardens that Ellie has been hired to restore. But Lawrenson also develops a sense of mystery, and an almost Gothic feeling of foreboding and darkness beneath the brilliant sunlight. Laurent de Fayols seems like a likely prospect as a client, although his imagination may be a bit untamed. But Madame de Fayols, Laurent's elderly mother, is sinister and possibly demented. And Ellie keeps glimpsing a stranger who is both mysterious and elusive--as well as extremely attractive.

The mood Lawrenson creates in the "The Sea Garden" reminded me strongly of Wilkie Collins: a sort of Gothic mood of mystery, coupled with psychological insights and and isolated location. The next two sections, "The Lavender Field" and "A Shadow Life" are substantially different in mood. Both of the later sections of the novel focus on the activities of the French Resistance. Lawrenson moves around in time--sometimes going backward, and other times moving forward--all to great effect. In fact, time is one of the themes of this novel, and to fully grasp the story, the reader has to journey through both time and space. A quote from the first section, when Madame de Fayols is interrogating Ellie about her plans for the garden, hints at what the author's intentions are:
You seem young. You do realize that to create a garden is to work with tie, don't you? .....Those who make gardens to last must understand the past and see into the future.

To understand the mystery of Xavier, a French Resistance fighter, spy, and possible double-agent, the reader must go back and forth in time--and even then, the mystery ends on a note of ambiguity. For this reader, the sections that really were gripping and engrossing were "The Lavender Field" and "A Shadow Life." In "The Lavender Field," Lawrenson brings to life the dangers and sacrifices that ordinary people endured as fighters in the French Resistance. Marthe, a blind woman who is thrilled to find work in the soap factory and perfume distillery of Victor Musset, finds herself drawn into the Resistance--at the risk of her own life and the lives of others. In "A Shadow Life," in London, Iris Nightingale works in a secret agency, preparing spies (male and female) to travel to France to work with the French Resistance. She meets and falls in love with a handsome, charming spy known by the code name Xavier, and spends the rest of her life wondering who he really was, and what happened to him. Lawrenson doesn't definitively answer every question raised in her novel, but ends with a note of ambiguity.

The Sea Garden is lushly written, and blends elements of mystery, romance, and history to create a very engrossing story. I would recommend this novel  for those interested in World War II, especially stories of the French Resistance. My favorite character in the book was definitely Iris, but all of the characters of the Resistance fighters were compelling. I was fully caught up in The Sea Garden, and loved the way Lawrenson wove her three narratives together. Lawrenson is a skillful storyteller who writes a lush and painterly prose. The Sea Garden draws the reader into a thrilling tale that is hard to put down. The narrative structure is clever and original, and for those who enjoy some ambiguity in a book, leaves the reader thinking about the novel long after the book is closed.

Deborah Lawrenson's facebook page and her blog have some beautiful photographs of the Porquerolles.
More information about the author and her books is available at her web site.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Losing Touch

Losing Touch
Sandra Hunter
One World Books
213 pages
a review copy of this book was provided by TLC Book Tours

Sandra Hunter's debut novel, Losing Touch, tells the story of a family who have emigrated from India to London after Indian independence. The novel begins in September of 1966 with a funeral: Jonti, a young assistant architect, brilliant, a family man, has been cut down in his prime by an unknown disease. The reader is introduced to Jonti's brother, Arjun, and Arjun's family in the brief funeral vignette, and then the next scene is more than a year later. The novel uses this unusual structure to depict the family structure, repeated patterns of behavior, and deeply rooted conflicts. Each chapter takes place at least a year later than the preceding chapter, and sometimes the gap is multiple years...in one case, there is a twenty year gap.

Initially I found this structure puzzling and a little disorienting: in a traditional narrative structure, the reader settles into a rhythm that somewhat resembles daily life, and gets to know a set of characters this way. In Losing Touch, the chapters have a much more fragmentary feel, and there is definitely a sense of time passing over the course of years. But as I settled into the rhythm of Hunter's novel, I found that the narrative distance was delicate and sensitive, and the characters began to feel like neighbors I had been seeing grow and change over years.

Arjun is a character who is not easy to like: he is rigid, judgmental, and not always kind to his wife and children. His marriage to Sunila seems to be mutually unhappy. Sunila, a devout Christian, dares to day the word "divorce" only in the privacy of her own mind. It is clear that the marriage is occasionally abusive, and that Arjun suffered abuse himself as a child, and unkowingly passes this dysfunction on. The children, Murad and Tarani, are not close: Murad is twice privileged, being male and the oldest. And Tarani takes much of the brunt of her father's bitterness and dissatisfaction. Arjun, meanwhile, wishes he were closer to his children, sees only the bad in his wife Sunila, and quietly lusts after his widowed sister-in-law, Haseena.

Hunter builds her story slowly, with details plucked from daily life: meals, family gatherings, Tarani's forays into fashion: platform shoes and bell bottoms that make her look like a "dolly bird." Interspersed, chapter to chapter, are Arjun's symptoms, which begin in chapter one, but are slow to make themselves known. The chapter titles read like a list of symptoms: "a tendency to fall," "complications," "tremors when the patient's hands are held out." Another writer might have made Arjun's symptoms and illness a dramatic cusp, but Hunter wisely weaves Arjun's illness into the fabric of the novel. The illness is just another pattern, like the family's inability to communicate, and their tendency to lose one another in a maze of inarticulate communication.

For a relatively slim book, Losing Touch takes an extreme long view of its character's lives. Hunter follows Arjun and Sunila into their old age, as Arjun slowly succumbs to the disease which has been his fate. The novel builds to a surprisingly poignant finish. Losing Touch is very much like life: filled with errors and regrets, but astonishingly sweets and filled with love and joy. Losing Touch has a quiet power, and is the work of a highly accomplished writer--its hard to believe this is Hunter's first novel.

The author has a website here:

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? Summer TBR

One month into summer, and I'm a reading machine. Summer reading is the best!

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a readerly meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.

I'm halfway through my summer break, and it has been a productive time for reading. Here's a peek at the books that are sitting on my TBR pile, as well as a few I've recently finished:

Recently Completed

Here's what I've read in the last week or two:
Hue and Cry by James Alan McPherson (short stories)
Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson  (Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of short stories)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (WOW)
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (a quick read, but very informative....Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did the same)
Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter (for TLC Book Tours, review tomorrow)

Now Reading

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (working away on my Classics Club list). Dickens is one of the big authors on my Classics Club list. I'm reading the Signet Classic edition, which has a nice introduction by Frederick Busch. Here's a quote from the introduction:
If we combine marital misery, a wretched searching for something nameless, elusive, but essential, and the idea of lovers separated by great gulfs of time and space, we have almost arrived at the critical mass of elements that resulted in the dark, brilliant Tale of Two Cities.
As Dickens began writing A Tale of Two Cities, he had already fallen in love with eighteen-year-old actress Ellen Ternan, and separated from his wife. 

And About to Begin

East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  I'll be rereading Steinbeck's classic novel based on the story of Cain and Abel for my Classics Club list, and as a read-along with the Estella Project.

So....it's Monday! What are you reading?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Because lists are fun.

I've been feeling just a little bit guilty because I haven't posted in a week. Every blogger out there knows the feeling. Hey, no one asked me to do this, so why should I feel guilty! Also, how many angsty posts have we all read about how a blogger is thinking about giving up her blog? Too many, am I right? This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic might be the best one ever: confessions of a blogger, about blogging--you know, that totally voluntary activity that no one ever asked us to do? Yeah, but we love it! Because this is where we talk about our obsession as if it were completely normal to own more books than....anything. This is where there is a general understanding that yes, we all have a TBR bookcase (forget the TBR pile). But still, it gives us angst and stuff. Here are my top ten blogging confessions:

1. The more I love a book, the harder it is for me to write a review. Books that I just sorta like....those reviews practically write themselves. But a book that I underlined, argued with, and cried over--that review takes me a loooong time to write. And maybe (Cormac McCarthy, I'm looking at you) I just never write it.

2. I know I sound like a schoolmarm sometimes and I hate it. This blog is where I indulge my reader self. But I've been teaching high school English for more than a decade, and sometimes I read my posts and go ugh, there's the schoolteacher voice!

3. I've never done a vlog, and the idea both intimidates and intrigues me.

4. I get comment envy. One of the best things about blogging is the conversation, and I'm disappointed when a post doesn't get many comments.

5. E-books leave me cold. I'll read them, because they are convenient, but it is my last choice. Thus, Netgalley and I just didn't get along.

6. Review copies make me anxious. Eww, I just broke out in a cold sweat. They're looking at me--make them stop!

7. My book hoarding/book buying tendencies are worse than I admit.

8. My blog impresses my mother more than almost anything else I've ever done. This is puzzling to me, since Mom doesn't even own a computer. I think she saw and read a post or two on a friend's computer, or at my sister's. But my mother acts as if writing this blog is a huge accomplishment. The only explanation I can come up with is that movie, Julie and Julia. And by the way, my mother would like Meryl Streep to play her in the movie about me and my blog. The fact that my mother looks nothing like Meryl Streep is irrelevant.

9. It still surprises me that I have readers. When I started this blog I knew nothing--nothing! And when I started to have a few followers I was shocked. I still remember the moment that I realized that twelve total strangers were following my blog. I felt like a rock star! And I am still very grateful for anyone who takes the time to read what I write here.

10. I want to write books. I can't think of a higher calling. Nothing gives me more pleasure than writing and reading, and the two are completely intertwined. When I review any book, I'm always aware of how difficult it is to write a book, let alone bring a book to publication.

What are your blogging confessions?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a list of my favorite classics. At first I thought this one would be easy; after all, I've been working on my Classics Club list (slowly), and classic novels make up a major part of my reading life. The problem is, I have too many classics that are very close to my heart. So I will have to leave off some of my favorite writers and books..... this list is not just my favorite classics, but those classics that I have either read multiple times or will be rereading. Any book on this list has stayed with me over the course of years or even decades.

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Middlemarch is still my favorite book of all time. I've read this novel at least six times, and I will probably read it again this year. I'm not the only reader who feels strongly about Middlemarch: writer Rebecca Mead made it the subject of her own book (My Life in Middlemarch). Middlemarch is a book you can read over and over because it will speak to you in a different way each time. It is a tale of a woman (Dorothea Brooke) and the choices she makes in her life, and it is a panoramic view of small-town life in Victorian England.
2. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. This is undoubtedly the Victorian novelist's masterpiece. All of Dickens's usual themes and characters are here, but he touches his themes more deeply: moral corruption and the conflict between good and evil are at the heart of this novel, but so is love, of course.
3. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I first read this novel when I was in high school, and it triggered my absolute adoration of Russian literature. Prince Myshkin is either an idiot or a saint--or maybe both.
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It took me two or three attempts to read this novel, but then suddenly I was in. On my list to reread.
5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This remarkable novel was written in a white heat: Hurston was getting over a love affair with a much younger man, and she wanted to recapture some of the passion she had felt. This is also a remarkable story of a woman's journey. I don't know how many times I've read this book, but probably at least five.
6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This is the novel that started my Bronte obsession. I first read it as a teenager, but have reread it many times since then.
7. The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. This narrative by a man who was born a slave, learned to read and write, and became a leading abolitionist is inspirational. Every time I read it I feel in awe of Douglass's genius.
8. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. Anthony Trollope is one of my favorite writers because of his characters and his ability to convey so much about the English class system in Victorian times. The Palliser novels are my favorite of Trollope's series books, but this is considered Trollope's finest novel.
9. The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This novel is so deep that a single reading probably isn't enough to do it justice. Jones is the author of two short story collections; The Known World, his only novel, won the Pulitzer Prize. It is the story of a black slave owner and the slaves who live under his control.
10. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath is my other Steinbeck choice--either or both belong on this list. I sincerely wish that John Steinbeck were still alive, because we need him.

I really want to know--what are your favorite classics? Do you have a classic book that you've read over and over, or one that you just can't live without?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We'll Go to Coney Island: My Mother Made Me Read This Book....And I Loved It

We'll Go to Coney Island
Barbara Scheiber
Sowilo Press
paperback, 234 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9844727-9-6
source: my Mom

Have you ever had a reading experience where you were so intensely involved in what you were reading that you could feel your pulse racing, and maybe you were just a little bit on fire?

That's how I felt while I was reading We'll Go to Coney Island, and I never would have read this book if it weren't for my Mom. Or: She Who Must Be Obeyed. We can just call her SWMBO.

So I saw Mom at the beginning of June, and she gave me this book: We'll Go to Coney Island. And she was like: "I can't wait to hear what you think of it."

She meant that all too literally. Every phone conversation started with: "Have you read that book yet?" Remember, this is SWMBO. I knew I'd better read that book.

A couple of things Mom kept mentioning: the author is old. Like, really old (Barbara Scheiber was ninety-two when We'll Go to Coney Island, her first novel, was published). And Mom kept talking about how fascinating that was, and wondering why she didn't publish until so late in life. I read the back cover, and told Mom over the phone: "Well, it says here she had four children. Maybe she took time to raise her children. Maybe she worked."

"You know," Mom said, "maybe you could write a book."

Hmmm, maybe I could. (Note: I am nowhere near 92 years of age)

Before I tell you all about We'll Go to Coney Island, I want you to know that Mom doesn't have the internet. She doesn't believe in computers. She does have a cell phone, but she keeps it turned off and zipped up in a little case. If she wants to call someone, she pulls out the case, unzips it, and turns on the phone. If someone wants to call her, well, too bad. She has a life, you know.

So I did a little research, and when I call her tomorrow, I'm going to read her these articles over the phone:

Seeing the Whole Picture in We'll Go to 'Coney Island'

In a Walker Evens photograph, author Barbara Scheiber saw her family history

We'll Go to Coney Island is a novel in stories, a genre I happen to love. But honestly, this book holds together as well as any traditional novel I've ever read. It's true that each chapter is fairly short, and the chapters have the shape and closure of stories. But We'll Go to Coney  Island tells a single unified narrative, a story of inter-generational love and conflict, filled with the kind of pain, bitterness, and betrayal that you can only find at home. But at the same time, in the very same place, is the kind of redemptive love you can't find anyplace else.

At the center of the novel are Minna and Aaron, Jewish immigrants struggling to achieve the American Dream. Aaron is a brilliant and gifted speaker, forced to peddle goods from door to door. He eventually puts himself through law school, despite never having attended high school. Aaron is a complex character: darkly handsome and charismatic, honey-tongued, and yet filled with intermittent moments of self-loathing and despair. Minna is working in a sweatshop when she first meets Aaron, living on the Lower East Side in New York, and trying to avoid both poverty and the matchmaker. She has aspirations as well, and is secretly saving for college.

Some of the characters and stories in We'll Go to Coney Island are based on the author's family, but much of the novel is pure invention. But the bitter secret at the core of the story is true: Aaron's affair with his secretary (and many others) is taken from life. And the cover image for the book, a Walker Evans photograph of a couple at Coney Island in 1928, is actually the author's father with his secretary (his mistress at the time, and later his wife). Scheiber saw the photograph at an exhibition and was jolted, "thunderstruck" with recognition. The painful knowledge of her father's secret affair is something that Scheiber shares with the character of Rachel in the novel.

The interwoven stories demonstrate, without hitting the reader over the head, how patterns are repeated in families, how old hurts and injuries and griefs cause people to lash out or harm others. And the characters, especially the character of Rachel, struggle against repeating the fates of their parents and grandparents.

The format of many short chapters (or stories), often told from different narrative points of view, really quickened the urgency and sense of suspense I felt while reading this book. I was intensely emotionally involved with all of the characters, and sympathetic to each of them. And the writing is incredible: precise, understated yet intense, shimmering.

I loved, loved, loved this book. If you enjoy beautifully crafted literary fiction about the struggles of ordinary, flawed humans, you need to read this book. Read this book: my mother said so. Seriously, read this book.

And now I'm going to go call Mom and tell her just how much I loved We'll Go to Coney Island.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Waking Up White

Waking Up White
Debby Irving
Elephant Room Press
paperback, 273 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9913313-0-7
a review copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours

In Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, there is a moment when Janie, the main character tells her friend Phoeby about when she realized she wasn't white. Janie is six years old, being raised by her grandmother alongside the white children of her grandmother's employer. When she sees a photograph of herself with the other children, the mother of the white children has to point out where Janie is in the picture--and that's when she first realizes: "before Ah seen the picture Ah thought I wuz just like the rest."

Debby Irving's memoir, Waking Up White, details the writer's journey toward understanding her own place in the world: she wakes up to the fact that, far from being racially "neutral," she is white, and that with whiteness come privileges, benefits, and advantages not accessible to non-whites in this country. As Irving says in her introduction:
I thought white was the raceless race--just plain, normal, the one against which all others were measured.
What I've learned is that thinking myself raceless allowed for a distorted frame of reference built on faulty beliefs.

Irving's book describes how taking a college course on Racial and Cultural Identity awakened her to an awareness of her own racial identity, and how her own ignorance of racial privilege interfered with her well-meaning attempts at bridging racial gaps.

Irving's book is deeply personal, and excruciatingly honest. It is not simply a memoir, but Irving uses the technique of memoir to achieve her ultimate goal: to communicate the devastating effects of structural racism on all Americans, of all races, and to both model and lay the groundwork for progress toward racial justice. It is obvious from page one of this book that Irving is deeply passionate about her goals, and that she is willing to be brutally honest, exposing her own faults and flaws in order to reach those goals. By sharing her own story, Irving disarms her reader: when Irving makes such a point of dropping all of her own defenses, it is hard for the reader to be defensive about Irving's underlying message.

Reading memoir often gives me a queasy feeling: contemporary memoir brings the reader so close to the storyteller that you can feel as though you are right there inside the writer's skin. This can be deeply discomforting--as if reading a book about race in America isn't discomforting enough to begin with. Race is such a highly charged topic, one that often reduces participants to divisive language. The truth is that in our culture, it is very rare for people of different races and cultures to have deep, meaningful conversations and relationships across this divide. And when the conversations do take place, they are often conducted in a tentative way, folks on both sides fearful of misunderstanding, ready to pull back.

Debby Irving shares a story that will probably feel familiar to many white readers, and shock readers of color. She tells of a childhood almost entirely insulated from any understanding of the Civil Rights Movement, racism, or the experiences of people unlike herself, a white, wealthy child of privilege. This may seem extreme and maybe even unbelievable to some readers, but it is her journey, her experience, and she shares it unflinchingly.

The writer also tells of her longing, after reaching adulthood, for more diversity in her friendships and other relationships. But her total lack of awareness, her ignorance of her own privilege and entitlement, and her urges toward doing good and "fixing" people of color frustrated her attempts. It is only after examining her own racial story, with an unpacking of both her privilege, and the systematic, structural racism experienced by others, that Irving is able to form true friendships and work relationships, or even have authentic conversations with people of color.

Waking Up White has very short chapters, and each chapter addresses a basic principle or idea of race and identity. Irving uses abundant examples from her own life in each chapter. She is courageous in doing so: many of the incidents she relates are cringeworthy, embarrassing, and humiliating. One that really stands out is when Irving is attending a conference recommended by a racial justice colleague, a conference by and for professionals of color. During the first session Irving attends, she stands up and makes some comments that were probably perceived as "whitesplaining." In her recollection of the incident, Irving is unsparing as she relates her own missteps, and the backlash of anger from attendees as her intent does not match the impact of her words with this audience. Then she relates the kindness and compassion of a half-dozen black attendees who stay after the session to comfort her in her meltdown. Irving's own insecurities are laid bare here, and she shows the reader just how easy it is for even well-intended words and actions to have a hurtful impact. It is impressive to me that Irving always seems to use such experiences to learn--she never just wallows in her own pain.

It is Irving's deep sense of humility and purpose that awed me while reading this book. She puts herself entirely out there, showing the reader mistakes and missteps on her journey toward understanding how deeply white privilege has implicated her and all whites in the history of racism in this country. At the end of each chapter, there are brief exercises, mostly intended for white readers.

It is impossible to read this book and not examine your own racial identity, your understanding of race and privilege in this country, and your own steps toward developing equity. Irving's goal is to work toward racial justice and understanding, but any reader, of any race, might want to examine how our personal and professional relationships might be improved.

As a white woman married to a black man, I have, as Irving puts it, a foot on each iceberg (the iceberg metaphor has to do with outward behaviors, which are shallow, and the ideas and experiences behind those behaviors, which are deep). Because I operate in two worlds that overlap, much of my reading is on racial topics: fiction, essays, classic and contemporary writers.I'm just fascinated by the topic of race in America: to me it is the subject, unavoidable, and deeply and inextricably bound in the life of every American. Waking Up White is one of the best books I have read on this topic because it is so relentlessly honest. Because I know I can always do better, I can always learn to listen more compassionately, and I will always have behaviors that could be improved, I found Waking Up White to be extremely useful for examining my own behaviors and attitudes. As a high school teacher, I can never be too thoughtful in the way I approach conversations with my students, their parents, and members of our community.

I recommend this book to everyone, honestly. It is real, and it is true. Some readers might want to focus on the personal details of Irving's story; white readers might want to distance themselves from this story, telling themselves I'm not like that. But no matter what your racial identity is, everyone has one, and if the enormous force of structural, systematic racism is going to be dismantled, we all have to share in the work.

Waking Up White is available from Debby Irving's website, which also has a number of excellent resources for readers and educations, and from independent booksellers, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Debby Irving works as a racial justice educator and writer; she has worked as an arts administrator, a classroom teacher, and a board member. She and her husband Bruce live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with their two daughters.