Making Literature Accessible at PEM

A recent addition to the ongoing Peabody Essex Museum’s PEM/PM program is bringing unique literary flair to an already special lineup. The Tannery Series has a simple goal when it was founded by writers Kirun Kapur and Dawne Shand. “A few years ago, Shand and I attended several readings in Boston” said Kapur, “and noticed the crowds were small and were made up– almost exclusively–of other writers and academics. Where was everyone else?” That’s when Kapur and Shand decided that things should change. “Dawne and I started talking about how we could create events that reach more people. We wanted to present literature that you might normally encounter only in an academic setting, but make it accessible and relevant to everyone.”

"Karma and Other Stories" by Rishi Reddi

The resulting discussion formed the Tannery Series which not only features unique and note-worthy authors, but also runs events in a unique fashion that is as fun as it is informative. Featuring two to four authors per event, Kapur explains that the authors are “thoughtfully combined to play off each other sparking energy, interest and depth.” Since the authors are as important as the work they feature in The Tannery series, the event makes sure to highlight the significance of each one. “Introductions play a critical role at each event” says Kapur, “it allows the audience to make connections between the literature and their lives.”

Success for the Tannery Series was founded early on and the series has since gained a significant following. “Weeks after our events, I’m often stopped on the street by people who’ve attended and they tell me how much they’ve enjoyed a certain book” says Shand “often a book that they would have never come across in a million years!” The last event was so successful that, according to Kapur, “about 130 people attended and many had to sit on the floor or in the hallway!”

"Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found" by Suketu Mehta

On February 21, the Tannery series will present authors at the Peabody Essex Museum that aren’t only telling audiences a great story but also, according to co-founder Dawne Shand, are “telling us something profound about the changing American experience.” The event, Hot Fusion: Explosive, Global India, will feature three award-winning authors from India whose stories range from reflections of suburban Boston life to present-day Mumbai.

Among the featured authors is award winner Rishi Reddi. Reddi, who now lives in Brookline, was born in Hyderabad, India and, in 2008, won the L.L.Winship – PEN/New England award for her book Karma and Other Stories. Suketu Mehta, short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, will also be featured at the event on the heels of having an op-ed article published earlier this month in the New York Times about Indian Speech Impediments. Rajesh Parameswaran, also featured at the event, has gained strong reviews for his debut 2012 short story collection I Am an Executioner which, according to Dawne, “defies classification.”

"I Am an Executioner" by Rajesh Parameswaran

Shand and Kapur were eager to bring the Tannery Series to the Peabody Essex Museum this February. “Salem—it’s a wonderful, creative, energetic town” says Kapur, “the Tannery Series will feel right at home!” Kapur hopes that people who attend will gain a strong sense of curiosity as well as “a wider sense of the world, a renewed sense of creativity, and a desire to explore”

“We are thrilled to work with the Peabody Essex Museum,” says Shand, “an institution whose vision and ambition inspires our work.”

 

Hot Fusion: Explosive, Global India will be at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem on Thursday, February 21st from 6:30PM to 9:30PM. Admission is $10 or free to museum members and Salem residents. See pem.org for more information.

 

Chris Ricci has published articles in the The Beverly Citizen as well as Cracked.com.

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