THE RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES
Cassidy Freeman as Amber Gemstone
Actor Cassidy Freeman ’04.5 has played a number of impressive roles in various films and series over the years, and now she has added another must-see role to the list as Amber, the wife of Jesse Gemstone in The Righteous Gemstones. This HBO series is about a famous and dysfunctional family of televangelists and megachurch pastors led by patriarch Eli Gemstone, played by actor John Goodman. Described as darkly hilarious, the show is in its third season and has a solid audience following. Amber is one of a cast of quirky characters, which include Eli’s three children, Jesse, Judy, and Kelvin, each more immature than the last, who lead opulent lives funded by church donations. Freeman brings a depth to Amber’s complicated relationships with both her husband and his family. From being the trophy wife in season one to becoming a “total badass,” as Freeman calls her, in season two, Amber is a fun character to watch develop under Freeman’s expertise.
In this evocative historical novel, Kate Manning ’79 introduces us to Sylvie Pelletier, a feisty 17-year-old who travels with her French-Canadian family from Vermont to the wilds of Colorado in the early 1900s to live in a marble-mining town. Richly descriptive, Manning’s prose brings alive the hardships of the landscape and the disparities between the miners and those who employ them. While Sylvie goes to work in the manor of the owners of the marble quarry and is awed by their wealth and luxury, her father works long, hard hours in the quarry and soon sets about trying to unionize the workers. Life changes for Sylvie when she begins working for a local newspaper that exposes the harsh working conditions of the miners, and she feels compelled to join the fight against the injustices she witnesses all around her. Manning skillfully weaves Sylvie’s story around the social issues of the time, including labor issues, women’s rights, and the freedom of the press.
Before writing his first book, Expanding Literacy: Bringing Digital Storytelling into Your Classroom, Brett Pierce, MA English ’85 asked himself this question: If today’s global dialogue is happening mostly inside digital platforms, are we preparing students to meaningfully participate in this expansive sphere of knowledge? Answering with a no, he produced a guide with tools and projects to help teachers reinvent curricular content that brings the world of digital story creation into the classroom. Teaching meaningful, thoughtful digital storytelling to middle and high school students seemed so important to Pierce 10 years ago that he began Meridian Stories, a nonprofit that seeks to do just that, and he has spent the years since working with middle and high school teachers. This book is a product of what he has learned and is a valuable resource for educators who want to help their students learn to use and understand digital platforms in creative ways.
THE FAMILY COMPOUND
In her second novel, Liz Parker ’07 once again tackles all the complexities and challenges of family dynamics that she handled so well in All Are Welcome, her first novel. When the patriarch and owner of a family compound suddenly dies too young at 70, five cousins must decide what to do about the family property they have inherited. Each one comes to the table with their own set of issues and motivations, and making agreements is anything but easy. As the drama unfolds, the power of family to infuriate and hearten plays out in their relationships, and the five realize they must rely on one another if they have any hope of holding onto their inheritance and all the memories it contains. Telling each chapter from a different cousin’s voice, Parker fleshes out the characters’ circumstances and needs, and her sympathetic portrayals lend an authenticity to the struggles the five face to come to consensus.