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BOOK & AUTHOR TALKS: Authors Coming to Providence Public Library, April – May

Authors Coming to Providence Public Library, April – May

PROVIDENCE, RI — Providence Public Library welcomes the following visiting authors (two in conjunction with the Library’s ongoing HairBrained Exhibition & Program Series — Suzanne Scanlan and Laura Anderson Barbata).  All programs are free and open and held at the Library, 150 Empire St., Providence, in the 3rd Floor Meeting Room. Visit for details and registration.

Monday, April 16 — 6 – 8 pm

Book Talk with Art Historian Author Suzanne Scanlan

Suzanne Scanlan, RISD lecturer in the History of Art + Visual Culture, on her new book Divine and Demonic Imagery: Religious Women and Art in 15th Century Rome. In the 15th Century, when a community of nuns dedicated to Saint Frances of Rome left their shared convent, they were mandated to cover their heads, “in such a way that nothing is visible beyond the forehead.” Properly dressed, the nuns worked in local hospitals and navigated the often dangerous streets of the city in pairs (never alone) to ensure their safety and to protect their good reputations. The virtues and vices of life in Renaissance Rome were graphically documented in two remarkable series of paintings commissioned by the nuns — most notably for their dining hall where terrifying scenes of muscular nude demons attacking Saint Frances covered an entire wall.  In this talk, we examine depictions of hair and head coverings in the convent paintings, at a time when a veil represented the line between the salvation of a woman’s soul or eternal damnation in Hell.

Books available for sale and signing.


Monday, April 30 — 6 – 8 pm

Author Talk: Pulitzer Awardee David Kertzer

Pulitzer awardee David Kertzer reading/signing his new book The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe. In 1846, Pope Pius IX’s election triggered a wave of optimism across Italy. Italians saw the youthful, benevolent new pope as the man who would, at last, bring the Papal States into modern times and help create a new, unified Italian nation. But Pius was caught between a desire to please his subjects and a fear—stoked by the conservative cardinals—that heeding the people’s pleas would destroy the church. Two years later, the wave of revolution that had swept through Europe in 1848 now seemed poised to end the popes’ thousand-year reign over the Papal States, if not to the papacy itself, and Pope Pius IX found himself a virtual prisoner in his own palace. Disguising himself as a simple parish priest, Pius escaped through a back door into a fateful exile. The resulting drama—with a colorful cast of characters, from Louis Napoleon and his rabble-rousing cousin Charles Bonaparte to Garibaldi, Tocqueville, and Metternich—was rife with treachery, tragedy, and international power politics.

Books available for sale and signing.


Wednesday, May 2  6—8 pm

Artist Laura Anderson Barbata on “The Eye of the Beholder: Julia Pastrana’s Long Journey Home»

Julia Pastrana (1834–1860), an indigenous woman born in Sinaloa, Mexico, was a gifted singer, musician, and dancer who could converse in English, Spanish, and French. From birth, Pastrana’s face and body were covered with thick hair, and her jaw was disproportionately large, all due to hypertrichosis terminalis. Throughout much of her life her American manager and husband Theodore Lent supervised Pastrana’s tours through North America and Europe, billing her as “the ugliest woman in the world.” Nonetheless, audiences found her affable and intelligent (though she met with very contradictory reactions).

After her death, her embalmed body continued to be exhibited for more than a century, until it disappeared from public view into the Schreiner Collection in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Oslo. In 2003 visual artist Laura Anderson Barbata learned of Julia Pastrana’s extraordinary history and set out to repatriate and bury her remains, a quest she accomplished in 2017. Pastrana’s story highlights deeply relevant human issues related to science and racism, the nature of attraction and exploitation, indigenous rights, memory, and cultural sensitivity. Barbata’s book, The Eye of the Beholder: Julia Pastrana’s Long Journey Home brings together contributors from a wide variety of fields to explore these and other issues, providing the fullest account available of Pastrana’s remarkable life.

Join us to hear the story of Pastrana and of Barbata’s quest to repatriate her.

Books available for sale and signing.


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