Rose City reading

My sister Jean just did a reading from her new book, Rose City: A Memoir of Work at First Unitarian in New Bedford. OK, I’m biassed because she’s my sister, but I really enjoyed hearing her read from her book.

Here’s what I said about her book when it came out:

“Just got your book…I like the way you write about work from the inside, not like John McPhee or Tracy Kidder who never really have to do the work they write about, much as I do appreciate their books. Your book is more like Mark Twain’s book, ‘Old Times on the Mississippi,’ about learning to be a river boat pilot; I think Twain gets it right in that book, about what it means to work. So do you. Now that I’m a minister, I’ve decided that work and working is one of the top three spiritual problems I see people facing: meaningless jobs, jobs that deny who you are as a person, not having a job. It’s good to read someone (you!) write about work as it really is.

“What really got to me in your book, I guess, was the bits on worker safety; because of my own memories of worker safety. I remember seeing a guy’s foot pulled off by a forklift. I remember seeing an old-time house painter, his hands all knarled from using lead paint. I remember standing in a 52′ trailer unloading insulation, lungs filled with itchy little fiberglas fibers that can cause silicosis. I remember choking on bronze fumes at the foundry. I remember always always always worrying about getting hurt when I was a carpenter, every single frickin day. On the funny side, I remember the carpenter I worked for climbing up into the cupola of the old Emerson School, in order to put up chicken wire to keep the pigeons out, but when he popped up the hatch all the pigeons flapped their wings covering his head in pigeonshit. In spite of all that I love to work, I have loved every job I ever had, at least at some level. You get at that in the book: the work can kill ya, but ya love it anyway.”

From the Los Angleles Times book reviews:

Rose City is a remarkable contribution to the literature of labor, a working woman’s portrait of an industry that has virtually disappeared from the United States…. Nowadays, should you want to bring your love a bouquet of red roses, be advised that such blooms have been coaxed by pesticides illegal in the United States, tended and picked by even lower-paid, less-protected laborers (most of them women)…. Perhaps a book about roses—grandifloras, hybrid teas with ‘the faintest of fragrances, like clean-washed hands,’ sweetheart Minuettes with vanilla petals ‘dipped in ruby sugar’ — a story of love made manifest in the work of roses, is a better gift.