Local Author Karen Shepard to Talk About New Book at MCLA


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Local author Karen Shepard will discuss the fact behind the fiction of her latest novel, "The Celestials," at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 12:30 p.m. in the campus' Sullivan Lounge in the Amsler Campus Center.

"The Celestials" (2013) is a historical novel of immigration, multiculturalism, labor, community and exclusion, alienation and reinvention, and America's particular history and relationship with all of those issues. 

Part of MCLA's "Creating Equality" series, "The Celestials of North Adams" is free and open to the public. Those who attend are encouraged to bring their lunch. Beverages and desserts will be provided.

"The Celestials" tells the story of arrival of 75 Chinese strikebreakers in North Adams in 1870, who came to work for Calvin Sampson, a shoe manufacturer and one of the town's biggest industrialists. The novel focuses on the relationships between Sampson and his wife, Julia, who has had several miscarriages over the course of their childless marriage; Sampson and his new workers, whom he comes to look upon as "sons"; and the townspeople and the Chinese, who are viewed as both threatening and exotic.

When Julia gives birth to a clearly mixed-race baby, the infant becomes a lightning rod for the novel's questions concerning identity, alienation and exile.

According to Booklist, "The Celestials" is "a mesmerizing exploration of one intriguing period in American history and the heart-wrenching consequences of actions perhaps taken too lightly."

 "A richly detailed novel" - its main characters "step straight off the page, East meeting West in Sampson's 'Chinese Experiment,'" according to the New York Times.

Shepard is a Chinese-American who was born and raised in New York City. She is the author of three novels, "An Empire of Women," "The Bad Boy's Wife," "Don't I Know You?" and the forthcoming~"The Celestials."

Her~short fiction has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Tin House and Ploughshares, among others.  Her nonfiction has appeared in More, Self, USA Today and the Boston Globe, among others. She teaches writing and literature at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass, where she lives with her husband, novelist Jim Shepard, and their three children.

"The Celestials of North Adams" is sponsored by the History, Political Science and the Public Policy Department, and by the Department of Languages, Interdisciplinary Studies and Philosophy at MCLA.

Through the "Creating Equality" series, the MCLA community will examine and honor the dedication, leadership and sacrifice that make social change possible. Through courses, conversations, cultural programs and leadership opportunities, faculty, staff and students will consider the accomplishments and challenges associated with all dimensions of human rights, including racial equality, women's rights, gay rights, immigrants' rights and economic equity.

MCLA is proud to honor these movements and the individuals who have led and supported them, and to provide a platform for discussion of these important issues. "Creating Equality" will celebrate the progress that has been made and challenge the community to understand and become involved with the ongoing national debate about civil rights.

For more information and a complete listing of "Creating Equality" events, go to creatingequality, gallery51, presents and notablespeakers/publicpolicylecture.