Speakeasy Series tonight at State Road Restaurant

Speakeasy Series tonight at State Road Restaurant

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Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks begins the Speakeasy Series.

Two authors and two poets will participate in a fundraising series for the West Tisbury Library’s extensive renovation and expansion project. On three evenings throughout the fall and winter, State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury will host informal talks with writers of note in a series entitled Speakeasy.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks will be the speaker and guest of honor, followed by her husband, author/journalist Tony Horwitz on November 29, and a pair of poets, Fanny Howe and Jennifer Tseng, on January 4. The evenings will include a short talk by the authors followed by passed hors d’oeuvres and other refreshments and a meet and mingle with the authors. Tickets must be purchased for the entire series and are $125/per event or $300 for the entire series.

Ms. Brooks says she will speak on “the process of writing historic fiction with particular reference to my book ‘Caleb’s Crossing.’” The Australian-born author has written four historical novels, including two bestsellers and the Pulitzer Prize-winner “March.” Ms. Brooks is a former journalist, who among other things, worked for The Wall Street Journal covering crises in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. Her latest novel, “Caleb’s Crossing,” published earlier this year, is based partly on the story of a local Wampanoag man who was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665. The story is told from the perspective of a young Puritan girl. The New York Times praised the book and “Caleb’s Crossing” has received a lot of attention, particularly here on the Island.

The Speakeasy series will be a final fundraising push to raise the matching funds necessary to qualify for a provisional construction grant awarded to the library in July. The state has put up close to $3 million towards the expansion project, which will essentially double the size of the small library, contingent on the remainder of the $6 million estimated cost of construction being raised.

According to library director Beth Kramer, the library hopes to raise a quarter of the total through fundraising and private donations by January 31 and will seek the balance from the town during the April town meeting. The fundraising campaign is just past the half-way mark ($750,000).

Ms. Brooks and Mr. Horwitz live full-time on the Island and recently moved, along with their two young sons, from Vineyard Haven to West Tisbury. When asked to participate in the fundraiser, the couple agreed enthusiastically. Says Ms. Brooks of the fundraising efforts, “It’s thrilling to see how the community is pitching in and contributing according to their ability. Whether it’s an event with locals baking cookies or musicians donating their time, we’re all doing what we can and hopefully we’ll get there.”

Ms. Brooks notes that the library project is one that is near and dear to her heart. “When I was growing up the library was absolutely fundamental to my family,” she says. “We went to the library every week. We didn’t have much money and it was indispensable to be able to access all of the riches of the library.”

Mr. Horwitz, November’s featured author, is also a Pulitzer Prize winner for National Reporting. A former journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and as a staff writer for The New Yorker, Mr. Horwitz has written six books, four of which have been national and New York Times bestsellers.

In January, the series will conclude with an evening with two poets — Ms. Tseng and Ms. Howe. Between them, the women have won numerous awards for their work. Ms. Tseng has been published in a number of the country’s preeminent poetry journals, and Ms. Howe has published more than 20 volumes of poetry and a similar number of works of fiction.

Mary and Jackson Kenworth, co-owners of State Road Restaurant, offered some time ago to produce and host the Speakeasy Series in support of the library. Says Ms. Kramer, “Mary’s concept was to have these very intimate evenings with these really outstanding literary people who also want to help the library.”

The Kenworths hope to continue the series in the spring. In an email statement, Ms. Kenworth says, “There is no place like a library. It connects us with knowledge, cures our curiosities, and inspires our dreams. Our love for the Town of West Tisbury and our commitment to its future could not be better honored than by supporting the Library.”

Speakeasy Series with Geraldine Brooks, 5:30 pm, Wednesday, Oct. 26, State Road Restaurant, West Tisbury. Series continues Nov. 29, Jan. 4. $125/each; $300/series. Sign-up: 508-693-3489.