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You Can Go Home Again

By Pat Hirschl

“I couldn’t wait to get away from my hometown,” Elizabeth Rosner admitted on Books and Authors. “I graduated from high school a year early, and set off at 16 as a Rotary scholar to the Philippines — as far from home as possible without leaving the planet.” During that year far from anything familiar, she discovered what would be a recurring theme in her work: home goes with you wherever you roam.

Elizabeth Rosner, You Can Go Home Again
Tue, Feb 3, 6pm
Bellas Artes Auditorium
Hernández Macías 75
100 pesos, includes a free glass of wine with supper at Vivali’s after the event

In her most recent novel, Electric City, Rosner returns to the hometown she fled, after 30 years of living in California. That town is Schenectady, New York, nicknamed “Electric City” when Thomas Edison established Edison Machine Works there in 1892. However, “the city that lights the world” did not shine for young Rosner.

A character in Electric City recreates an incident in Rosner’s junior high days: he refuses to say the pledge of allegiance in class. About her real life refusal, Rosner says, “I felt really deeply connected to my beliefs. How could I pledge to a flag representing ‘liberty and justice for all’ in a country that bred racism and sexism?”

Electric City follows two earlier novels and was released at the same time as Gravity, a collection of poetry Rosner refers to as “the backstory of my novels.” Her debut novel, The Speed of Light, received numerous awards, including Hadassah’s Ribalow Prize. It has been translated into nine languages and is being produced as a movie.

BBC Cultural named Electric City one of the 10 Best Books of 2014, alongside books by such giants as Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Marilynne Robinson, and Colm Tóibín. BBC’s take: “Through layers of time ‘sticky like amber,’ Rosner etches images of family, community and the electric power of love.” From Elle magazine: “Rosner beautifully bridges past and present in the dynamism of her historical descriptions, capturing the dangers and excitement of invention, the complex play between generations of American’s immigrant populations and its native peoples, the wonders of young love and the insatiable spark of curiosity that is a calling card of scientific inquiry, and a hallmark of the human heart.”

Electric City is a vital, pulsing, epic novel of America, of its great scientific ingenuity and its emotional ambition. One that frames the birth and evolution of its towns against the struggles of its indigenous tribes, the immigrant experience, a country divided, and the technological advancements that ushered in the modern world.

Rosner’s talk on Tuesday, February 3, in Bellas Artes Auditorium at 6pm is another in PEN’s 2015 series. Tickets available at the door or earlier at the Biblioteca Ticket Central are 100 pesos, which includes a free glass of wine with supper at Vivali’s after the event. Proceeds support PEN’s fight for freedom of expression around the world.


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