Suzy’s Personal Note to the Selection Committee

Note: This personal letter to the Selection Committee was written by former Co-op employee and bookseller Suzy Staubach and was attached to the proposal. We share it here. And please, if you have not yet signed the petition, take a moment and do so now. And share.

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Dear Martha Bedard, Alan Calandro, Eliza Conrad, Patti Fazio, Michael George, Robert Hasengratz, Mike Kirk, Kyle Muncie and Sally Reis,

As a former longtime employee of the Co-op and member of the community, I am writing to ask you to Choose the UConn Co-op.

As you read and consider the proposals that have been presented to you and deliberate amongst yourselves, I would ask you to bear in mind, that the UConn Co-op’s sole purpose is to serve its members, all of whom are affiliated with the University of Connecticut. The UConn Co-op is here for UConn. The Co-op and all the people who make up the Co-op, love and celebrate UConn. For the corporate entities that you may be contemplating, the University of Connecticut is only one school in a harem of schools across the country. No matter what their representatives tell you or the Administration during this courtship period, and perhaps further during a honeymoon period should they prevail, the University of Connecticut does not come first with them and never will. They “serve many masters,” but primarily they must serve their own corporate bottom line. In their portfolios, UConn would merely be one of many. Nothing special. For the UConn Co-op, UConn is not only number one, but the only one.

I recognize that there have been some problems with the Co-op in recent years, some frustrations with the Co-op’s top management, and some misunderstandings between the Co-op and UConn. Communication has not been what it should have been. But these problems can all be, and indeed are being, addressed and solved. Locally owned and operated, the Co-op brings much to the University that a corporate entity could not and would not bring. I ask that you choose the UConn Co-op to continue as your partner. There is, as the saying goes and a senior faculty friend pointed out, no need to throw out the baby with the bath water. Let the Co-op fix what’s not working for UConn. But lets also keep the magic, keep what makes having a cooperative for a bookstore special.

In this letter I will not tell you in detail what you have already read or will read in the Co-op’s proposal: that the Co-op is indeed solvent; that the Co-op collaborates deeply and personally across disciplines with the English Department, School of Fine Arts, faculty, student organizations, departments and institutes, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, Dining Services, and cultural centers; makes thousands of dollars of contributions to student groups each year; works closely with the local community including area schools, art galleries, organizations, and libraries including Hartford Public; has lower textbook prices than the lease operators; keeps money in the community; provides jobs, brings writers to campus, is a good citizen.

Instead, what I will focus on here is some of what you get with the UConn Co-op that you will not get with a distantly managed corporate entity.

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Sharon Ristau, Children’s Buyer

I will start with buyers. The bookstore employs professional staff, some of whom are buyers. With the lease operators, all buying decisions are made centrally in the corporate offices. A handful of remote buyers select and buy books, clothing, supplies, technology and gifts for all their stores. Why does this matter? Let’s look for a moment at Sharon Ristau, the Co-op’s Children’s Buyer who is also responsible for customer orders and much of the backlist. Why is a children’s buyer important to UConn? As you know, UConn offers classes in children’s literature and illustration, and is home to the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, all constituents for a good children’s book department. The UConn Co-op is a place to discover new authors and illustrators. But UConn also has young faculty with young families and married graduate students with young families. These families are served by the children’s department of the UConn Co-op Bookstore. It makes them feel welcome. With an in-house buyer, the Co-op can adapt to the needs of the UConn community and respond. Sharon is actually on the floor much of the time. She interacts with customers: young faculty, grad students, area teachers, parents, children, and the many UConn students who read teen fiction. She listens. Additionally, Sharon works with area schools, not only ordering books for them, but bringing them authors, providing advanced reading copies and occasional posters and literacy promotion items from publishers. The Co-op’s children’s book department serves as a town-gown bridge. And like all of the buyers at the Co-op, Sharon can react to a request, or help solve a problem, with great speed. She does not need corporate approval from Chicago or New York to order books by an author who has decided to visit a UConn class or local school at the last minute. She does not need corporate approval resulting in a time lag of weeks to create a display of books that support a performance, conference or workshop at the Ballard Institute.

Similarly, other buyers and staff members in the Co-op can and do react to special needs, demands and situations. When a teaching assistant or adjunct is hired days before classes start, the Co-op’s text buyers immediately respond to assure the books are on the shelves for the students without delay. When Athletics turns in the list for scholarship students scarcely a week before classes, the UConn Co-op’s Julie Laumark does not say that getting the books ready for the first day of classes “Can’t be done.” She goes to great lengths to accommodate the late request, so that the athletes have their books on time. With centralized buyers in corporate headquarters, this is not only impossible, but to them, not desirable. They have their layers of protocol and procedures in place. There is no local buyer to deal with the situation, listen to a request, or remember a customer’s taste.

The Co-op can say “Yes” without the red tape of corporate distant management. Hang up the Teale lecture poster and keep it up all year? The answer is “Yes.” Can a student group hold a poetry slam in the theater? The answer is “Yes.” Can the town’s Santa have a spot in the bookstore? The answer is “Yes.” Can the jazz band store their drums in the bookstore between performances? The answer is “Yes.” Can athletics use the conference room before a game? The answer is “Yes.” Can the Community School for the Arts have a student art show and reception in the bookstore? The answer is “Yes.” All these yeses are made quickly, in order to best serve UConn.

There are many everyday small things that the Co-op does that, in the larger world, go unnoticed. For instance, when a Ballard performance attracts a larger audience than anticipated, Co-op staff cheerfully move fixtures away from the folding doors between the theater and bookstore and help set up chairs in the cleared space. During the design process, it was Co-op staff, myself actually, who asked for this flexibility. For a corporate lease operator, however, sales per square foot are the holy grail, not the success of a UConn puppetry performance.

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Or think about the mural on that same wall I just spoke of. The architects were going to put a commercial wallpaper design on it. But we thought: we are surrounded by art students and faculty, let’s ask them if they would like the opportunity to design a large mural. The result was a wonderful collaboration between the bookstore, the museum, and the illustration students in the School of Fine Arts and resulted in a spectacular mural, but more importantly an extraordinary learning experience for the students. In fact, the faculty shared that it was a learning experience for them too. Had the bookstore been run by a lease operator, the mural would not have happened.

I also want to point out to you, that when we talk about what the Co-op does, and will continue to do should you choose the Co-op, and what the lease operators say they will do, we are not talking about the exact same things. For instance, one collaborative project, of which I am personally proud, is the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair. This is a project of the UConn Libraries and the UConn Co-op, as Martha will tell you. It has been suggested to me, that a Barnes & Noble College Division store or Follett could replace the Co-op in this endeavor. Sure, they order books. But the Co-op’s role is far greater than buying and selling books. The Co-op was not only an initiator and founder of the Fair, but Co-op staff members are deeply involved, through personal relationships with publicists and authors and illustrators in bringing authors and illustrators to the book fair. Co-op staff write and produce the programs, obtain costume characters, create the autograph and presentation schedule, handle autograph lines, order, receive and display the books, handle all the sales, go into the schools with books and authors, take photos, write thank you letters, report to the New York Times Bestseller List (very important to authors & publishers), work with media, whatever else needs to be done, and take a leadership role. The Co-op devotes substantial resources – staffing, equipment, and money – to the Book Fair. And on top of this, it donates 20% of the gross sales to the Book Fair and NCLC. Without the Co-op, the UConn Libraries would have to vastly increase the resources and staffing it devotes to the Fair. In fact, there are no state level book fairs that are supported by lease-operated bookstores. Independents have a good reputation and the Co-op in particular has a good reputation when it comes to treating authors and illustrators well. Authors and illustrators participating in the book fair need to know in advance that they will be pampered. And that special pampering that the Co-op provides, reflects well on UConn and the Collection. And authors and illustrators gossip. Word gets out.

Not only would B&N or Follett or Amazon, not be able to bring to the Book Fair what the Co-op has brought these past 24 years, executives in their corporate headquarters would not embrace such a labor intensive and non-income producing enterprise with the devotion and fervor that the Co-op has.

The UConn Co-op is about personal commitment. It is about many relationships with students and faculty. I was honored by the many relationships and collaborations I enjoyed during my tenure at the bookstore. I will always cherish my UConn friends and experiences. Today, the UConn Co-op staff is deeply committed to continuing to foster these relationships and partnerships.

We all want what is best for the students and what is best for UConn. I think letting the students keep their co-operative bookstore is in their best interest. UConn can choose B&N for 5 years and change to Follett at the end of the contract if they are not pleased. But UConn cannot choose a B&N or Follett and then say at the end of five years, it wants the Co-op back. There would be no Co-op to bring back.

I have been very impressed with the present Board, and especially the Chair Tim Dzurilla, that the Co-op has had in place since September. Their work has been impressive. They are exactly the kind of students and young faculty that would make any university proud. How wonderful that they are part of UConn. I am confident in their leadership, dazzled, actually, at the work they have done, and appreciate the plans they have put in place to conduct a search for the general manager who will guide the Co-op in the next years. I am confident in the UConn Co-op’s ability serve and thrive going forward. I hope that you and the Administration see the performance of this Board as a huge step forward for the Co-op. I am pleased, too, that they are putting in place measures that will ensure this continued good work.

I was startled to hear Scott Jordan characterize the University’s relationship with the Co-op as a “real estate deal.” We have never understood it to be that. The Co-op was not founded or designed as a “real estate” deal. Indeed, from the founding, the mandate was for the Co-op to be far more than merely a venue for retail. The Co-op was instead given a mission of service to students and has taken that charge seriously, working hard to add to the cultural life of students and faculty.

Friends and Committee Members, I ask you to Choose the Co-op, UConn’s devoted friend and supporter; UConn’s partner of forty years; UConn’s locally owned and operated, student-run Co-op, as the bookstore. I ask you to say Yes to the UConn Co-op and No to outside corporate entities. I ask you to support a future in which the UConn Co-op and the University of Connecticut work together for the good of the entire “UConn Nation.”

Thank you!

Suzy Staubach

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Save the Co-op! What You Can Do

Important Letter From Tim Dzurilla, Chair Board of Directors UConn Co-op

Dear Fellow UConn Co-op Members,

As you may know, the University is currently considering a corporate replacement for the UConn Co-op as the official campus bookstore.

If we cannot save the Co-op, then members can expect higher costs, lower services, and a lack of community loyalty.

Without the Co-op, costs will go up.

The UConn Co-op provides affordable pricing of textbooks to keep costs as low as possible for students.

Further, students can compare prices and order directly through price comparison software, Verba, that the UConn Co-op began subscribing to this Spring.

Textbook prices are outrageous. Since 1975, the estimated price of textbooks has increased between 800% – 1000% far out-pacing the 271% increase in the average public university’s tuition, room, and board. The trend is expected to continue because as students buy fewer of their textbooks because of limited budgets, publishers increase the price per textbook and find new ways to force students to buy the latest edition.

Because the Co-op is run by and committed to students, the organization will always try to find ways to provide affordable options by working with faculty to raise awareness of lower cost options, offering a range of affordable textbooks and rentals, and collaborating with the library to provide free access to the most costly books. The Co-op’s primary, legally-binding purpose is to serve you, our members, not a distant, faceless corporate entity.

Without the Co-op, services will be reduced.

You may be aware of the great educational and cultural events the Co-op offers including music, arts, and speakers events. The Co-op encourages student groups to host events, free of charge, such as the poetry slams, comic book signings, and film screenings last semester at the Downtown Storrs location. Another bookstore will not be as willing to trust students to run their own events with minimal restriction and oversight.

The Co-op provides extra services such as tech repair, shipping services, Apple computer support, orientation packages, graduation ticket sales, bus ticket sales, and, much, much more. Each of these services require staff and financial resources which other bookstores would eliminate to save costs and maximize profits. The Co-op is committed to providing the services students and faculty want and need to thrive in a campus community.

The Co-op is there for students and the University. When pipes burst in a dorm and students lose all their stuff, the Co-op is there to donate all new educational materials. When the University wants a bookstore in the new Downtown Storrs development, the Co-op is there to absorb the costs of starting a new store. When students and faculty are frustrated with finding and ordering textbooks, the Co-op is there to give individualized attention to make sure everyone gets what they need. These are not the most cost-effective ways to do business; they are the right ways to do business. As a not-for-profit organization, the Co-op is able to prioritize service over bottom lines.

Finally, without the Co-op, community loyalty will disappear.

The Co-op has had a couple of financially difficult years. It was expected with the costs associated with expanding to our brand new Downtown Storrs location in an area that is still building up. This was an anticipated loss that ended up being much less than expected.

As mentioned above, the Co-op is a member-owned, member-run organization which allows students, faculty, and alumni direct control over management. This means, the Co-op is dedicated to this community during good times and challenging ones. The organization used this unique structure to incorporate customer feedback, innovate new services, eliminate out-dated practices, and further develop relationships across campuses and communities. In other words, the Co-op becomes more deeply committed to the success of the community in the face of challenges.

Corporate bookstores face challenges differently. The Bookstore Industry is a tough one right now. Remember Borders? Corporate bookstores respond to unprofitable locations by liquidating assets, closing stores, paying off top managers, and maximizing stockholder profits. It has happened at dozens of universities across the country that switched to corporate partners. This has left universities without a bookstore and millions of dollars in unpaid renovation costs.

An independent, member-owned structure ensures the Co-op can meet student needs, adapt to a rapidly changing industry, and stay financially and socially sustainable regardless of what the future brings.

The Co-op needs your help! If you believe that the UConn Co-op is the best operator for the UConn Bookstore, then please share your support by writing a letter or email to:

Members of the selection committee: (martha.bedard@uconn.edu; alan.calandro@uconn.edu; eliza.conrad@uconn.edu; patricia.fazio@uconn.edu; robert.hasenfratz@uconn.edu; michael.kirk@uconn.edu; kyle.muncy@uconn.edu; sally.reis@uconn.edu)

Martha Bedard, vice provost for University Libraries

  • Alan Calandro, senior advisor and director of special projects, Office of the Executive Vice President for Administration
  • Eliza Conrad, student
  • Patti Fazio, assistant vice president for brand strategy
  • Michael George, alumni
  • Robert Hasenfratz, professor of English and chair of the English department
  • Michael Kirk, deputy chief of staff, President’s Office
  • Kyle Muncy, associate director of athletics for trademark licensing & branding
  • Sally Reis, vice provost for academic affairs, Letitia Neag Morgan Chair in Educational Psychology, & Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor

President Susan Herbst: (president@uconn.edu)

Members of the UConn Board of Trustees: (boardoftrustees@uconn.edu)

Further, our proposal for Making the Future together will be publicly available on our website so that you can see exactly how the Co-op plans to move forward. We will host a public event Monday Feb. 8th from 10 AM – 12 PM to demonstrate public support during our presentation to the university, followed by a forum to listen to your feedback and discuss further ways to support our selection as UConn’s official bookstore. Keep an eye out on @UconnCoop, Facebook page, and #SaveTheCoop for further details.

Finally, share this message via your social networks both on-line and off-line.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment over the years. Please let me know if you have any further comments, questions, or concerns.

In service and solidarity,

Tim Dzurilla

Board Chair

UConn Co-op

timothy.dzurilla@uconn.edu

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Response to UConn

The UConn Co-op Responds to UConn’s Decision to Issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) 

STORRS, CT – “We believe the UConn Co-op is the best choice,” said Timothy Dzurilla, the Chair of the Board of the UConn Co-op in response to UConn’s announcement that it has put out an RFP for a bookstore operator.

 

For the past forty years the UConn Co-op, an independent member-owned non-profit co-operative, has served the UConn community including students, faculty, alumni, scholars, Husky fans, readers, local families and people of wide and diverse backgrounds and interests with deep dedication and professionalism. Though disappointed that the University administration is seeking proposals to possibly replace the UConn Co-op, the Board of Directors and staff of the Co-op fervently believe that the Co-op can far better meet the needs of students, faculty and staff than a for-profit national corporation head-quartered in a distant city.

 

The UConn Co-op is widely considered a leader in collegiate retailing and is held in high esteem by publishers and colleagues throughout the nation, including members of the National Association of College Stores and members of the American Booksellers Association. The Co-op will continue to innovate and change as the needs of academia evolve.

 

Today the Co-op offers students a variety of choices in how they can obtain their course books including rentals, used books, e-books, physical books available throughout the semester, and Verba, a service that enables students to comparison price and shop. For students’ convenience, the Co-op maintains a bricks and mortar bookstore at each regional and professional campus of the University of Connecticut as well as an online presence.

 

The Co-op offers the largest selection of UConn gear ranging from Husky tees with student-friendly pricing to top of the line apparel. The Co-op not only sells computers, but also has a professionally trained staff of technicians, including certified Apple technicians ready to meet any repair need or emergency.

 

The UConn Co-op is an integral member of the UConn community. The Co-op brings authors to the various campuses, works with student organizations, and collaborates with faculty, departments, institutes and cultural centers. The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center is a world-class bookstore with a lively roster of events that serves as the anchor to Storrs Center. In addition to serving the UConn community, the bookstore at Storrs Center serves schools and organizations in the surrounding towns.

 

“Before ‘locally-owned’ was the trend, UConn lead the way with a locally-owned bookstore,” said Dzurilla. “Local ownership allows the Co-op to be more responsive to the needs of students, faculty and staff than a distant, profit-focused corporation. The UConn Co-op puts service, not profit, first.”

 

The UConn Co-op will submit a proposal to continue its service to the University of Connecticut and looks forward to working with its many constituents to show those making the selection that the Co-op is the best choice.

 

The UConn Co-op is a cooperative corporation established to provide bookstore services for its members and the University of Connecticut community. It is owned by its members and governed by an elected board of directors. At present, there are approximately 35,000 members, primarily students, faculty and staff of the University of Connecticut. The UConn Co-op is open to the public. In addition to the bookstore on the Storrs campus, Storrs Center, five regional campuses of the University throughout the state, the UConn School of Law, MBA Shop and UConn Health in Farmington.

 

 

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Letter from Suzy

Greetings,

I have decided to leave bookselling and the UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center sometime between the end of June and the beginning of August. It has not been an easy decision. It is a job I have dedicated myself to, and one that I have loved. My years at the bookstore have been filled with literary pleasures and wonderful friends. It is a job that has brought the most amazing and wonderful people into my life: fellow booksellers across the country, many of whom I have become very close to, publishers and publishers’ reps who work so hard to bring us all good books, the many talented authors whom I’ve met over the years, the faculty and members of our local community who come through our doors, and of course the people I work with every day here in the bookstore. No one has had better fortune in friends than I have. I am so grateful.

My decision has been precipitated by recent events in my family these past several months: the loss of my mother who lived to an old age, and the loss of my sister, who did not. In such times, it is impossible not to think about one’s own mortality and wonder what time one has left. I have already been graced with two more years on earth than my sister.

Bookselling, especially the way I have done it, requires long days and long weeks. And that has been fine. I have truly and passionately loved every minute of it. Now it is time to turn my attention and focus to my family and my own work, to make some big jars and dinner sets and finish the long overdue book on sunken gardens and maybe host a party or two. I look forward to taking my granddaughters to the Smithsonian and to being able to do more things with Joe. There are books all over my house waiting to be read. The gardens need freshening. Perhaps I will even catch up on the teetering stack of New Yorkers that weigh down the dinner table.

Over the years, the bookstore and I have enjoyed wonderful relationships with the cultural centers and institutes. Those partnerships will continue. We have had close ties with the English Department, especially Creative Writing, with Fine Arts and Music and the UConn Libraries. Partnering with the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and with Dining Services here at Storrs Center has made every day fun. There is nothing more magical than a place with books and puppets and art and music. With everyone’s help, we have created a lively bookstore, a cultural hub. Our shelves are filled with ideas and wisdom and knowledge. I think of the authors who have read for us, the music we have been able to host, the art we’ve shown, and I smile. I hope you do too. How fortunate we have all been.

We think – I think– books and a vibrant bookstore enhance the college experience. It is our gift to the community. It is the Co-op’s intention for all these things to continue, but your support is needed. A vibrant bookstore requires vibrant customers. I ask you to become evangelists. Tell your friends. Shop local. Please buy your books from your member-owned independent bookstore

I will continue with the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair at least for the next year. The Fair, a project of the UConn Co-op and the UConn Libraries brings highly respected authors and illustrators of books for children and teens to campus and attracts thousands of visitors. It is a truly amazing event of which I am deeply proud. Even if you do not have children in your life, you will find the talks our guest artists and authors give very interesting. I will also continue with Poetry in the Park, a project of the Curbstone Foundation. These readings take place in the Julio de Burgos Park the fourth Thursday throughout the summer.

And I invite you to stay in touch with me after I have left the bookstore. My pottery email is suzy@willowtreepottery.us and my personal email is suzannestaubach@sbcglobal.net. My website is http://www.willowtreepottery.us and that’s also where my blog BiblioPotter resides. You can also sign up for my occasional newsletter on pot making and gardening. And I am on Facebook. But your visit does not have to be virtual. I participate in Connecticut Open House Day June 13 and Artists Open Studios every fall. Take a ride out to beautiful downtown Ashford and say hello.

And of course, I will come into the bookstore to shop and attend events. Maybe I will see you there.

Thank you!

Suzy

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UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center

http://generalbooks.bookstore.uconn.edu

860-486-8525

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Win a Weekend in Vermont – Enter Ellen Stimson’s Contest

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Ellen Stimson, author of the hilarious memoir Mud Season, will be here for her new book, equally hilarious, Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village. In Mud Season we saw Stimson pack up her family and move to a badly-in-need-of-repair old house, and purchase a quaint country inn. Many misadventures ensued. Now, in Good Grief her madcap life continues. One of her sons pees on his teacher’s chair. On purpose. Worse, the governor questions her about this. And she finds her ex-husband, whom she tells us she was married to for “fifteen minutes,” naked in her backyard. And then there’s the matter of packing for vacation and why the cop pulled her over. Of course, he ended up helping her rearrange the things in her trunk. Join us for a light-hearted evening with Ellen Stimson. You will laugh out loud. You will feel you have made a new friend. Ellen will be here at the

UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center on FRIDAY, SEPT. 19 at 7:00 pm.

Ellen is also hosting a CONTEST:

Enter to win an all expenses paid Weekend Getaway for Two in Vermont. Three nights and four days at historic, luxury Equinox Resort in glorious Manchester Vermont. The countryside is pure Vermont—rolling meadows, covered bridges and soft round mountains. Indulge in a maple sugar massage at the spa or just sit by one of the many giant fireplaces and enjoy the view. You’ll enjoy dinner at the Downtown Grocery in Ludlow with Chef Rogan and his wife Abby— passionate chefs cooking local, seasonal— really good food. And breakfast one morning at Up For Breakfast where you will climb the steps and settle in for a cozy homemade breakfast with Bonnie and all the locals who know where to eat.

All you need to do is buy a copy of Good Grief from the UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center. You’ll receive an entrance form at the time of purchase. Simply use the form to email or mail your entry. You’ll write a paragraph or two about how humor helped you or someone you know grieve the loss of a loved one. This contest is a national one, and anyone who buys a book on Ellen’s fall tour has a chance to win! Ellen will choose her favorite entry from all those submitted. And the lucky winner will spend a fabulous weekend in VERMONT.

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September Literary Events at The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center

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Join us for talks, readings, booksignings, musical performances and more. Check the Events link on our website for additional events. If you would like an autographed book but cannot attend, give us a call and we will arrange it.

Book Launch for The University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts: A History of the First Fifty Years: 1961-2011
Thursday, September 4, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Professor Emeritus Dr. Donald L. Murray has chronicled the fascinating history of UConn’s School of Fine Arts from its inception to the 50th Anniversary in 2011. Please join Dean Brid Grant, distinguished faculty and guests in welcoming Dr. Murray back to campus for a Book Launch. Reception to follow, including UConn Jazz Night.

UCONN Jazz Night
Thursday, September 4, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Live music with UConn Jazz Studies Director Earl MacDonald and the UConn jazz students. Coffee, espresso and pastries are available for purchase at Le Petit Marché Café.

Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh on Piano
Tuesday, September 9, 12:30 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh will play musical favorites from the first half of the 20th century. Hartunian-Alumbaugh, a board certified and registered music therapist, performs at weddings and social gatherings. She shares her music here on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 12:30. Requests welcome. Shop while you listen, enjoy a bite in Le Petit Marché, or sing along.

Matthew Hughey on The White Savior Film
Wednesday, September 10, 4:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Matthew W. Hughey is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. He is the author or coauthor of seven books, including White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race. Daniel Bernardi, author of Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future writes, “In The White Savior Film, Matthew Hughey offers an insightful, thorough and well-written analysis of a key trope in America’s racial formation: cinematic representations of noble saviors—from Sandra Bullock to Kevin Costner—fighting to save Others. This important book offers its readers a timely analysis of how contemporary cinema continues to perpetuate racism by eliding historical specificity.”

Jason Koo author of America’s Favorite Poem
Wednesday, September 10, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Jason Koo is the author of two collections of poetry, America’s Favorite Poem (C&R Press, 2014) and Man on Extremely Small Island (C&R Press, 2009), winner of the De Novo Poetry Prize and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award for the best Asian American book of 2009. He has published his poetry and prose in numerous journals, including the Yale Review, North American Review and Missouri Review, and won fellowships for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center and New York State Writers Institute. An assistant professor of English at Quinnipiac University, Koo is also the founder and executive director of Brooklyn Poets, a nonprofit organization celebrating and cultivating the poets, poetry and literary heritage of Brooklyn, where he lives.

This reading is jointly sponsored by The Creative Writing Program, The Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, the English Department Speaker’s Fund, and the UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center.

UCONN Jazz Night
Thursday, September 11, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Live music with UConn Jazz Studies Director Earl MacDonald and the UConn jazz students. Coffee, espresso and pastries are available for purchase at Le Petit Marché Café.

Meet Cookbook Authors Mark Scarborough and Bruce Weinstein
Saturday, September 13, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, ECSU Church Farm Center for Arts & Sciences, Ashford, CT
Mark Scarborough and Bruce Weinstein will autograph copies of their book, Vegetarian Dinner Parties: 150 Meatless Meals Good Enough to Serve Company. Scarborough and Weinstein have written more than 20 cookbooks including The Great American Slow Cooker Book, Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It, and Grain Mains. We will be participating in the Friends of the Babcock Library Annual Wine Tasting for this booksigning. Wine and beer tastings, art, music and more.

Launch for Caragh O’Brien’s The Vault of Dreamers
Sunday, September 14, 3:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Ever since Caragh O’Brien’s award winning and wildly popular Birthmarked Trilogy came to a conclusion, her fans, including our entire staff of booksellers, have eagerly anticipated her next book. The wait is over. The Vault of Dreamers is here! We meet O’Brien’s new character, Rosie Sinclair who is attending the prestigious Forge School of the Arts to learn filmmaking. But things are not as they seem. Indeed, at Forge your dreams are not your own. Fast paced. Psychologically taut.

Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Caragh M. O’Brien grew up in a family of seven children and learned early how to embrace chaos and daydream. She attended the Visitation of the Convent School, which had salamanders in the playground, and later St. Paul Academy and Summit School, where she was active with the school chorus, the orchestra, and the volleyball team. She earned her B.A. in Physics from Williams College and her M.A. in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. While raising her kids, she published half a dozen romance novels. Recently, Caragh resigned from teaching high school English in order to write young adult novels. She also leads a writing workshop at Journey House, cantors at her church, and enjoys discussions with her book group. Caragh now lives and writes from her home in Connecticut.

Poetic Release: Poetry Slam Featuring Nate Marshall
Monday, September 15, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Nate Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. He was the star of the award winning full-length documentary “Louder Than A Bomb” and has been featured on HBO’s “Brave New Voices”. He is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan and received his BA at Vanderbilt University. His work has appeared in Muzzle, Learn Then Burn, Vinyl Poetry, The Spoken Word Revolution: Redux, on Chicago Public Radio and in many other publications. Nate has been a teaching artist with organizations such as Young Chicago Authors, InsideOut Detroit, and Southern Word. Nate is the founder of the Lost Count Scholarship Fund that promotes youth violence prevention in Chicago.

Krista Bremer: My Accidental Jihad: A Love Story
Wednesday, September 17, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Krista Bremer grew up enjoying a comfortable, secular middle class American life, visiting Disneyland and learning to surf. She never expected to fall in love with Ismael, the child of a large Muslim family from a poor Libyan fishing village. In My Accidental Jihad: A Love Story Bremer tells how the two came together, despite huge cultural differences. “The story Krista Bremer tells–one of radical foreignness between a married couple,” Haven Kimmel author of A Girl Named Zippy writes, “could be a metaphor for all committed relationships.” Bremer is the associate publisher of The Sun and the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award.

David K. Leff: Finding the Last Hungry Heart
Thursday, September 18, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
David K. Leff is a freelance writer from Collinsville, Connecticut. His essays, poems and fiction have appeared in newspapers and magazines. He is the author of the nonfiction works, The Last Undiscovered Place, which was a Connecticut Book Award finalist, Deep Travel and Hidden in Plain Sight. He has also penned three volumes of poetry, The Price of Water, Depth of Field and Tinker’s Damn. Leff will be reading from his most recent book, FindingThe Last Hungry Heart, A Novel In Verse.

UCONN Jazz Night
Thursday, September 18, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Live music with UConn Jazz Studies Director Earl MacDonald and the UConn jazz students. Coffee, espresso and pastries are available for purchase at Le Petit Marché Café.

Ellen Stimson: Good Grief
Friday, September 19, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Ellen Stimson, author of the hilarious memoir Mud Season, will be here for her new book, equally hilarious, Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village. In Mud Season we saw Stimson pack up her family and move to a badly-in-need-of-repair old house, and purchase a quaint country inn. Many misadventures ensued. Now, in Good Grief her madcap life continues. One of her sons pees on his teacher’s chair. On purpose. Worse, the governor questions her about this. And she finds her ex-husband, whom she tells us she was married to for “fifteen minutes,” naked in her backyard. And then there’s the matter of packing for vacation and why the cop pulled her over. Of course, he ended up helping her rearrange the things in her trunk. Join us for a light-hearted evening
with Ellen Stimson. You will laugh out loud. You will feel you have made a new friend.

Celebrate Mansfield Festival
Sunday, September 21
For the first time, the annual festivities will be held on the Square and downtown sidewalks! Parade, music, exhibits, giveaways, and more.

Banned Books Week September 21 – 27
Celebrate the Freedom to Read. Fight Censorship. Join us for a Virtual Read Out.
We support the First Amendment and Freedom of Expression. Once again, with booksellers and librarians across the country, we will be participating in a Virtual Read Out. We invite you to visit the bookstore and read out loud from a book that has been challenged (we will have a display of those books for you to choose from. We will make a video of your reading and post it to the Banned Books Virtual Read Out site. You can come in anytime during the week to do your reading. Or come during the Celebrate Mansfield Festival on September 21.

UConn Jazz Showcase
Sunday, September 21, 3:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
All the UCONN jazz groups unite to perform a beautifully diverse concert spanning a wide range of eras, styles and instrumentations – from bebop-infused quintets to big band swing! 
Gregg August, Earl MacDonald & John Mastroianni, directors.

Margaret Gibson Poetry Reading: Broken Cup
Monday, September 22, 6:30 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Margaret Gibson is the author of eleven books of poetry and one book of prose, a memoir. In Broken Cup, her most recent book (published this fall by LSU) she writes eloquently of her husband the poet David McKain and the progression of his Alzheimer’s disease. “Among its many virtues,” Stephen Dunn writes, “Broken Cup is a great love story, and I’m using the word ‘great’ both carefully and precisely…Her poems have an exquisite lyrical intelligence; they probe with a hard-won delicacy.” Eamon Grennan writes, “Imagination and many kinds of love tune these poems, which chart an experience of being in the world in a radically new and unforeseen way, and manage to achieve, often against the odds, the best kind of affirmation—that of the undeceived.”

Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh on Piano
Tuesday, September 23, 12:30 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh will play musical favorites from the first half of the 20th century. Hartunian-Alumbaugh, a board certified and registered music therapist, performs at weddings and social gatherings. She shares her music here on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 12:30. Requests welcome. Shop while you listen, enjoy a bite in Le Petit Marché, or sing along.

Dr. Phil Nel: “Not So Simple: The Genius of Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.”
Wednesday, September 24, 4:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center,
Philip Nel is the University Distinguished Professor of English and Director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature. His Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (2012) was nominated for an Eisner, and was named an Honor Book by the Children’s Literature Association. He is the author or co-editor of eight other books, including Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Volume Two: 1944-1945 (co-edited with Eric Reynolds, 2014) and Barnaby Volume One: 1942-1943 (co-edited with Reynolds, 2013), Keywords for Children’s Literature (co-edited with Lissa Paul, 2011) Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature (co-edited with Julia Mickenberg, 2008), The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats (2007), Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004). Since 2011, he has been General Editor of Routledge’s Children’s Literature and Culture Series. He blogs at Nine Kinds of Pie.

Novelist Vanessa Manko: The Invention of Exile
Thursday, September 25, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Vanessa Manko graduated from UConn in 1998 and received her MFA from Hunter College. The Invention of Exile is her first novel. Salman Rushdie wrote his first letter of public recommendation for this book. He writes, “This beautifully written and deeply affecting first novel is the story of a man stranded by history in a strange land, torn away by politics and paranoia from the people he loves, exiled and trapped behind an invisible frontier he dares not cross. Manko ranges expertly between Russia, the USA, and Mexico to weave her absorbing tale of emigration, deportation, desperation, paranoia, and finally, improbably, love. The novel reminds one, at times, of Kafka, Ondaatje, and even, in its powerful evocation of marooned isolation, Robinson Crusoe. A brilliant debut. I commend it to you all.” The novel is based partially on Manko’s family history and the life of a grandfather she never knew.

UCONN Jazz Night
Thursday, September 25, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
Live music with UConn Jazz Studies Director Earl MacDonald and the UConn jazz students. Coffee, espresso and pastries are available for purchase at Le Petit Marché Café.

Daniel Levitin on The Organized Mind
Sunday, September 28, 1:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
New York Times Bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin will join us to talk about his new book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Levitin is the author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. He is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and behavioral science at McGill University. In The Organized Mind, he used neuroscience to understand how some people become quite accomplished at managing information flow despite the unprecedented deluge of data that the world is awash in. This is a big and thoughtful book, packed with research and information.

William J. Hall on The World’s Most Haunted House
Sunday, September 28, 3:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center
In The World’s Most Haunted House: The True Story of the Bridgeport Poltergeist on Lindley Street, William J. Hall looks at the much reported 1974 haunting that had people in Connecticut talking. More than 2,000 people gathered to watch the jumping furniture, floating refrigerators and attacking entities. There were nearly forty newspaper accounts of the events. What was going on? Why were there rappings on the wall? What caused the chairs to levitate? After much investigatory work, Hall discovered the truth.

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra- Blog Review

Published in 2013 this was Anthony Marra’s debut novel, and one of my favorites last year.  This was the second novel I read during 2013 which was written by an American author and each setting was unfamiliar.  Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Orphan Master’s Son was set in North Korea.  Anthony Marra’s book takes place in Chechnya.  Both are creative masterpieces.  Chechnya was thrust into the forefront of our consciousness as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a great title for a book, with three powerful words strung together and yet providing no clue as to what the book is about.  The story mainly takes place over five days in 2004 during the second Chechen war.  However, every other chapter moves back a decade in time, and there are flash-forwards into the future.

The title is taken from a Russian medical dictionary for the word “life.”  Ah life, it is a constellation of vital phenomena isn’t it.  From the dust jacket:  “In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home.  When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives.  He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.  For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise.  Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on the additional risk and responsibility.  But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate.

Reviewed by Larry

 

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