Authors bring authentic, homespun narratives to Luncheon With the Authors
Concepts of Home, Healing, Happiness, Coming of Age Explored and Embraced at Society of the Arts Fundraiser
Oct. 9, Macungie, PA – Three novels, read on a tablet or pages turned by hand, and three authors, from different backgrounds, masters of different conversations, forged powerful bonds with close to two hundred Lehigh Valley women Friday during the Society of the Arts (SOTA) annual Luncheon With the Authors.
“What we wanted to do was have books for different reading interests, but we also realized that there is a common thread of celebration of humanity in its joy and in its sorrow. There are some painful moments in these novels, but there is also resilience and compassion. Those are the things we share,” said SOTA member Carol Shiner Wilson. Wilson, Betty Moran, the luncheon committee co-chair, and Terri Bartholomew serve as lead members of the SOTA committee that selected the novels and authors for the 2017 event. The committee sought authors who brought local and global perspective to their works. Luncheon emcee Ashley Russo, two-time Emmy® award-winning executive producer and host of The PEAK TV, steered the author conversation with questions about writing style, inspiration, family, honesty, happiness, and authenticity.
Narges Mohammad Mahdi, a Muhlenberg College senior, sat at a table with author Hala Alyan who wrote Salt Houses, a novel about four generations of a Palestinian family in exile and the generational differences that mold the meanings of home, displacement and the historical context of immigration.
“Her experience in life resonates a lot with mine,” said Narges, who was a refugee in Pakistan for ten years and is from Kabul, Afghanistan. “The biggest thing for me is to meet the amazing women contributing to literature. To get a glimpse of their lives in their stories,” she said.
Hala Alyan is a Palestinian-American author and psychologist who works with survivors of sexual violence, asylum seekers and prisoners and is liaison with the Islamic Center at NYU.
“Places that were once refuge and havens have become, in the blink of an eye, places people are fleeing from,” she said. “One of the best examples right now is Syria. Syria for a long time, during civil war in Lebanon, for Palestinian refugees, was where people went to seek refuge and now is a place people are fleeing from. I am interested in the psychology of what happens when there is no safe refuge,” Alyan said.
“I grew up loving books and loving words,” Egan said. “Turning to books throughout my life especially in the form of self-help. Pretty much whatever stage of life I find myself in I’m always looking for the novel that reflects where I am. A couple of years ago I found myself in a moment of life when I couldn’t find the book that reflected where I was,” she said. Hence the inspiration for her novel A Window Opens about a woman who straddles the challenges of motherhood, career and family.
Local author, Karen Katchur, who now lives in Bethlehem, grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and uses the mountains, trails, lakes, the Delaware River and the beauty of the region as the basis for her mystery novels.
“I think of how we played in the woods, we hiked the trails, we fished in the lakes, we swam in the lakes, we tubed down the Delaware River. I even swam in the slate quarry. Everything that we did was in such a beautiful area, but there was always an element of danger. And I think that is just built in with nature. I think it’s that juxtaposition of nature, the beauty of where we lived, and this danger that really inspired me to write mystery suspense novels.” Her most recent novel, The Sisters of Blue Mountain, takes place in a fictional town in the Pocono Mountains.
Luncheon With the Authors is the annual fundraiser sponsored by the Society of the Arts (SOTA) of the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley. Friday’s luncheon at Brookside Country Club in Macungie brought together close to 200 women from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
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