Stories to tell

Tales of our Cities book event was a lesson in history and more

This year’s Tales of Our Cities event, a celebration of local authors and their works, was held on Sept. 23 along the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza. Tents lined both sides of the plaza, offering reading material from a host of local authors.

The public reading portion of the event led off with a history lesson on Jersey City. David Goodwin, author of “Left Bank of the Hudson,” talked about the demise of the legendary 111 First St. artist colony. He was inspired to write the book after reading a story published in The Hudson Reporter.

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The book traces the roots of an early arts movement along the waterfront, betrayed — in Goodwin’s opinion — by a lack of leadership and a number of other factors. His book talks about more than just the building, and portrays the artistic community that popped up and promised to serve as the foundation for an artistic renaissance in Jersey City.

Louis Manzo, a former assemblyman, freeholder, and health officer in Jersey City, talked about his novel “An Irish Lullaby,” which in a large part recreates the Irish Catholic culture on the west side of Jersey City. While the novel deals with bigger issues, such as a woman’s right to choose abortion, it also captures a time and place that no longer exists except in the memory of people who grew up there years ago.

“It was a great time to grow up,” Manzo said. “We would go out in the morning and stay out all day. I can’t see this happening today.”

Broad range of subjects

The lineup of authors and books covered a wide range of subjects from many genres, from poetry to page-turner fiction.

“In Something Better than Home,” Jersey City author Leona Beasley presented a coming-of-age novel about a young lesbian growing up in the south.

Weehawken author Theresa Borrelli explored the concepts behind standing out or being different in her book “Is Alicia Different?”

But the book fair was not limited to history, fiction, or social struggle. Other volumes offered practical advice, such Saideh Brown’s “Courage to Climb,” which talks about how to succeed in business and in life.

The fair included books ranging from the murder mysteries of Jeff Cohen to the flash fiction of Joe Del Priore.

Some of the more moving works included Marsha Cole-Trice’s book “Give Me My Flowers Now,” which depicts a girl caring for a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Sayantani DasGupta, in “The Serpent’s Secret,” explores the fantasy genre.

Each year, writers apply to be included in the lineup of local authors featured at the festival, which is sponsored by the Jersey City Free Public Library. Those selected are given 15-minute time slots.

Most of the writers who participate in “Tales of Our Cities” have self-published their work, but a few were published by major houses. Others often read from completed manuscripts they hope to shop through an agent and get published through traditional channels.
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