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Nick Bunker's YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (w/ George Boudreau)

Please join us for a reading and discussion with Nick Bunker—author of Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity—in conversation with George Boudreau!

In YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: THE BIRTH OF INGENUITY, Pulitzer Prize finalist Nick Bunker presents a fresh account of one of the most important figures in American history. From the fascinating story of the first 40 years of his life, Franklin emerges as a complex, even conflicted human being: ambitious, tough, and even ruthless as he picks his way through a harsh colonial world, but also poetic and imaginative, with strong emotions and a rebellious streak.

This is an athletic young Franklin, very different from the familiar image of the elder statesman with long grey hair and spectacles. He cuts his teeth as a journalist by apprenticing at his brother’s newspaper, writing satirical articles under the pseudonym “Silence Dogood” and angering the authorities. Fleeing the confines of Boston, he survives a storm at sea and then walks across the wilderness of New Jersey to his new home in Philadelphia. He bucks social norms to embrace a vegetarian diet, he collects relationships with clever and eccentric people, and by the age of 21 he has already spent an adventurous eighteen months in London—the empire’s capital—meeting scientists and free thinkers and perfecting his skills as a printer.

Bunker draws on untapped archival material about Franklin’s ancestors—the Franklins in England—whose own ingenuity led them to become highly skilled craftsmen and to establish themselves in society. Far from being completely self-made, as Franklin claimed in his later years, he was a man whose drive and talents had a solid foundation in his family history. Bunker also depicts Franklin’s early relationships with mentors and other powerful people of the time, some of whom took advantage of the brilliant young man’s ambition and taught him important lessons about whom to trust. He covers the darker sides of Franklin’s ambitions, including his indifference to the horrors of slavery during his early business partnerships. Finally, Bunker provides careful analysis of the key turning point in Franklin’s life in the 1740s when he made his decisive turn toward scientific research.

YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN contains a host of new discoveries about the people and incidents described in Franklin’s memoirs. Through meticulous research, Nick Bunker provides readers with a broader and deeper awareness of the world from which Franklin emerged, the early political climate of the American colonies, and the dawning of an age of science in the New World.

NICK BUNKER is the author of three non-fiction books, including An Empire On The Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for History and won the 2015 George Washington Prize. His current book, Young Benjamin Franklin: the Birth of Ingenuity, tells the story of Franklin’s origins and early life and his emergence as America’s first great scientist. Born in London and educated in the UK at King’s College, Cambridge and then in New York at Columbia University, Bunker started out as a newspaper reporter in Liverpool in the 1980s and then moved to the Financial Times. After leaving journalism he worked in the stock market and in corporate finance, chiefly for the HongKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. A keen mountain walker, he now lives in the English cathedral city of Lincoln with his wife Sue and their otterhound, Mercury.

GEORGE BOUDREAU is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, and public history. He has published extensively, and his 2012 book Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia (Westholme 2012, paperback 2016) explores the sites related to the nation’s founding and the diverse people who lived within them. Penn State Press will release his co-edited collection, A Material World: Culture, Society, and the Life of Things in spring 2019. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to educate teachers about Benjamin Franklin and the eighteenth century. In addition, he has been awarded research fellowships from the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He a postdoctoral fellow at Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg in fall 2018.

Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101874417
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - September 18th, 2018

Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594162596
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Westholme Publishing - April 10th, 2016

Event date: 
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Rabeah Ghaffari's TO KEEP THE SUN ALIVE

Please join us for a reading and discussion with Rabeah Ghaffari—author of TO KEEP THE SUN ALIVE—who will be in conversation with Bill Figueroa!

The year is 1979. The Iranian Revolution is just around the corner, as is a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. Meanwhile, in the northeastern city of Naishapur, a retired judge and his wife, Bibi, run an ancient orchard, growing apples, plums, peaches, and sour cherries, and looking after several generations of family members. The days here are marked by long, elaborate lunches on the terrace and arguments about government corruption and the rise of religious fundamentalism, peppered with tales of ancient Persia that foreshadow the seismic political changes to come. And yet life continues. Bibi, the matriarch, struggles to keep her family together. Her young nephew goes to university, hoping to lead the fight for a new Iran and marry his childhood sweetheart. Another nephew surrenders to opium, while his father longs for a life in Europe. Her brother-in-law evolves into a powerful Islamic cleric while her husband retreats into intellectual reflection. Told through a host of vivid, unforgettable characters, ranging from children to servants to friends of the family, To Keep the Sun Alive is the kind of compelling, rich story that not only informs the past, but also reminds us of the human aspirations that animate historical events.

“How do we recognize the moment our future has been written for us? In To Keep the Sun Alive, as the Islamic Revolution looms just outside the gate of an Iranian family orchard, Rabeah Ghaffari has built a world so lush, so precise that you will find yourself rewriting history if only to imagine it could still exist.”
—Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

“A mother struggling to keep her family together despite the ravages of religious and political differences. A young man in search of love in the midst of social upheaval. An exile in Paris, condemned to wrest his beloveds out of dreams. Rabeah Ghaffari’s flawed and beautiful characters will tether you to the tiny, lush orchard in Iran where they begin and end their lives with uncommon grace.” 
—Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane

RABEAH GHAFFARI was born in Iran and lives in New York City. She is a film editor and writer, whose collaborative fiction with artist Shirin Neshat was featured in Reflections on Islamic Art, and her documentary, The Troupe, featured Tony Kushner. To Keep the Sun Alive is her first novel. 

BILL FIGUEROA is a graduate student currently pursuing a PhD in the history department at University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on global Cold War history, and in particular the relationship between Iran and China. Currently, he is working on completing his dissertation on the impact of Chinese political thought on the Iranian revolution and the rise of explicitly Maoist Iranian communist organizations in the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split.

This event is co-sponsored by the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania!

To Keep the Sun Alive Cover Image
ISBN: 9781948226097
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - January 8th, 2019

Event date: 
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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