The Best Boston Book You'll Buy This Year

boston book

It’s a well-worn cliche that Boston is a literary city, but that doesn’t make it any less true, considering the number of authoritative authors have come from the banks of the Charles (not to mention the banks of the Merrimack and Neponset). But enough of the adults, it’s long been time for the kids to show their stuff, and that’s what we’ll get when the nonprofit writing center 826 Boston hosts its release party for a new book, A Place for Me in the World: People Talk About the Work They Love, on Monday, June 11. If you show up at the Mission Hill School Library at 7 p.m., you’ll be sure to find the most heartwarming book signing of the year, for sure.

Okay, that’s the pitch, here’s the info: Author David Eggers is certainly most famous for his journal McSweeney’s and his Pulitzer Prize–finalist memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but he’s actually shaping up to have a vastly larger legacy with the 826 National organization he co-founded. With its first location in San Francisco and named after its address there, 826 Valencia Street in the Mission District, 826 is a series of nonprofit writing centers around the country that teach, tutor, and actually publish kids ages 6-18. Five years after the original one opened in the Bay Area, we got one here in 2007, located in Egleston Square in Roxbury. (Other chapers are in Brooklyn, Chicago, Seattle, D.C., L.A., and Ann Arbor.) It’s a truly wonderful organization, devoted to giving kids who may not have the resources or encouragement otherwise to truly love creating things with words. Its sheer existence makes me happy.

So I’m even happier to report that 826 Boston has a pretty cool book to promote here. In short, A Place for Me in the World features 44 interviews written by Mission Hill Middle School kids about people talking about their work. Think of it as a highly Bostonian take on Studs Terkel’s Working (one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books), but with some pretty accomplished kids handling the microphones and pens. It’s 240 pages, and packaged in the funky but elegant design that graces so many of Eggers’s books and McSweeney’s issues. Inside the kids interview a huge range of people in our workforce: the drummer for Blue Öyster Cult (who happens to be the uncle of 14-year-old interviewer Maurice Bouchard), a baker, an exotic animal handler, someone in MBTA human resources, a ventriloquist, plus many more … and of course, Mayor Menino, who is expertly grilled by teens Malick Niane and Sela Winder about his work day and Occupy Boston, as well as how he might plan to improve their schools.

Each of the 44 chapters features a linocut illustration of the worker interviewed, as well as an “author reflection” where the young writer can stretch out and give more thoughts and information about the subject. Then there’s a photo and mini profile of each teenager, so you can see just who the talent is. Oh, and there’s a nice intro by Governor Deval Patrick.

It’s just a great project, but also a handsome one showing the mosaic of our city, and produced by the people who not only represent the future of it, but also have a perspective on it that we adults too often ignore. Thanks to 826 Boston, here’s one lovely reason to plug back in.

826 Boston’s book release reading and book signing for A Place for Me in the World: People Talk About the Work They Love, takes place at 7 p.m., Monday, June 11, at the Mission Hill School Library, 67 Allegheny St., Roxbury. Books will be on sale at the event for $15, and will also be available online at 826boston.org; at 826 Boston’s storefront at 3035 Washington St., Roxbury; at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge; and at other independent sellers.

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