May 7th, 2014

A Night with Writer/Cartoonist Tim Kreider

cover_welearnnothing_pbRecently I found in my attic a large box of letters I had received from West Coast friends and family in the 1970s and 80s. Not being one to ignore such an unexpected treasure-trove, I spent many hours reading the letters and reliving those days. Each one was like a decades-old time capsule that made me long for the nimbleness of unencumbered youth, when all my belongings could be moved in two carloads.

I had such a good time reading those letters that I figured some of my friends would enjoy the experience, too. How they would laugh at the memories! I mailed each friend a couple of their letters and waited expectantly for their responses. None came. In fact, when I did talk to some of them many weeks later, they admitted that they hadn’t finished reading the letters, but didn’t say why.

Maybe I’m too sentimental. Or perhaps, unlike my friends, I’ve conveniently forgotten the poverty and angst that accompanied the fun and freedom. I know we all change over time, but does everyone just want to ignore the past? I don’t understand–where did I go wrong?

Maybe I should ask Tim Kreider.  Tim—a writer and cartoonist–has an uncanny knack for peeling back the layers of a situation one-by-one until a nugget of truth is revealed. Here’s a paragraph from his “Chutes and Candyland” essay, as he describes how he was influenced by his older friend, Jim:

“He introduced me to music whose genre I could not even identify, like the Penguin Café Orchestra. I remember listening to what he had to say to someone who was chronically ill, taking mental notes on how to be kind in such a situation. For a while my laugh even started sounding like his—I was at an age when the tics and mannerisms of people we admire are as infectious as chicken pox among toddlers.”

Tim’s scathing political cartoons were published in Baltimore’s City Paper for 12 years, followed by his first book of essays, We Learn Nothing, in 2012. He has also been published in various magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Men’s Journal, and The New Yorker online.

I ran across Tim’s book of essays last year and was quickly drawn in by his nuanced and insightful observations of life, particularly his own. Whether they were funny or frank, reflective or literary, I loved his visual descriptions and often found myself nodding in recognition as he analyzed his escapades and interactions with family, friends, or nature. He’s mellowed since his political cartoon days and seems to regret the intensity of his scorn. In fact, I found myself thinking that it might be interesting to hang out with Tim one evening, chatting about life in general, and solving the problems of the world. Maybe he would have some ideas about where I went wrong with the letters.

It turns out that Tim Kreider is from Cecil County. He winters in New York City, but spends the warmer months getting away from it all in a cabin on the Chesapeake Bay. He also frequents the Perryville Branch Library, which is where he has agreed to do a program for us on May 13th at 7 pm. He’ll tell us a little bit about how he got started, and give us a sneak peek at his second book of essays, I Wrote This Book Because I Love You, which is due out later this year. I hope you’ll join us. Please register on our website, or by calling the branch at 410-996-6070, extension 3.



October 28th, 2013

World-Famous Brain Surgeon to Speak at Perryville Branch Library

Becoming Dr. Q BookI grew up smack dab in the middle of the long, fertile central valley of California–the area where many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown. We even had a tiny orchard in our suburban backyard where, as a kid, I often climbed up into our peach tree to read. I especially loved the spring, when my airy arboreal perch was surrounded by colorful blossoms. When the family station wagon traveled down Highway 99 to visit our grandparents, there were agricultural fields as far as the eye could see. The valley summers were hot, hot, hot, and I felt sorry for the many migrant workers who were doing such dusty, back-breaking work in that unrelenting sun.

Years ago, after moving to Maryland, I happened to watch a documentary on phantom limb pain. I can pinpoint that moment as the start of my interest in the human brain.  From that time on, I read books written by brain surgeons and enjoyed stories about people who had overcome learning disabilities or illnesses. Modern medicine has made great strides in understanding the workings of the brain, but there is always more to learn.

Imagine my jealousy earlier this year when a coworker mentioned that she had heard a very inspiring speaker at her daughter’s middle school. The speaker was Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a world-renowned brain surgeon at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Known as “Dr. Q,” he is a standout in his field—a skilled and passionate surgeon who is dedicated to finding innovative ways to treat and prevent brain tumors. His cutting-edge research in neurosurgery is augmented by international care missions and the mentoring of students.

But what makes Dr. Q’s story even more amazing is the fact that he started out as an undocumented migrant farm worker in California, like the ones I noticed as a kid. He hardly spoke English when he arrived, but in less than 10 years, was at the top of his class at Harvard Medical School.

Due to his own bad judgment, Dr. Q nearly died when he was 22; it was his experiences in the hospital that made him want to be a doctor. In the years that followed, and even today, he has drawn on all the experiences of his life to provide solutions to problems. Dr. Q’s background and the discrimination he sometimes still encounters make him aware that every person, no matter what role they play or what skills they have, can make valuable contributions. He has incorporated multidisciplinary collaboration into his research lab, including input from the patients themselves.

I’m thrilled to share that the Perryville Branch Library will be hosting a special evening with Dr. Q on Tuesday, November 12th at 7pm. This is a free opportunity to listen to and talk with this brilliant and down-to-earth man. And who knows? Maybe this encounter will touch your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined. Click here to sign up or call 410-996-6070 ext. 3


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