Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dosvedanya Brighton Beach

But only until next time.  It’s a long ride from Manhattan, but well worth the trip for a stroll on the boardwalk, a hearty Russian meal, and a visit to the shops in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  Out on the streets of this neighborhood of Russian immigrants,  also dubbed “Little Odessa”,   you hear more Russian or Ukrainian being spoken than English, but the shop keepers quickly accommodate English-only speakers.

At the St. Petersburg Bookstore at 230 Brighton Beach Avenue, you can choose from a wide variety of Russian-language books, CDs, and movies, as well as a more modest collection of English-only volumes. Part of the fun for me was trying to recognize American and English volumes in translation. The staff doesn’t approach you as you browse, though there is some silent monitoring going on.

With so many intriguing titles I couldn’t read, I was glad to find some modestly priced copies of the works of Dostoevsky and came away with this Dover Edition of the author’s “The Eternal Husband” (1869). (The novella tells the story of Velchaninov, a rich lawyer with a history of treating women carelessly and cruelly, who is unexpectedly confronted by the  husband of his late mistress, many years after the affair has taken place.)  

In addition to books on a wide range of subjects, gifts are for sale. These include an impressive selection of the nesting dolls called matryoshka in Russian, and some balalaikas.
The St. Petersburg also sells merchandise on-line.

Feeling hungry after your immersion in Russian literature?  Stop at the Ocean View CafĂ© at  290 Brighton Beach Avenue for some stroganoff, potato varnekas (dumplings) and fruit punch. The bilingual menu is extensive and the busy but polite wait staff is prepared to answer questions from newcomers. We recommend you pass on dessert, however, and cross the street to Vintage Food at 287 Brighton Bach Avenue where you can stock up on a variety of dried fruits and beautifully wrapped candies with mysterious ingredients.

Inside this wrapper--as pretty as an old-fashioned children's
book illustration--was a delicious chocolate candy!

For more on the history of Brighton Beach (the neighborhood is also the setting for Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs), go to this link, courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Teachers Among Us

Like most of the people I know, I was fortunate to grow up in a home where reading was highly valued and access to books was taken for granted.  

For the students in my friend Maribeth’s middle-school classroom, this is not the case. Many of them have more pressing concerns than reading—concerns like being homeless, having enough to eat, or missing an absent parent.

Maribeth is a dedicated teacher who year-after-year gives her children the gifts of love, respect and high expectations.  She also thinks long and hard about what it means to be a teacher and has written this essay about it.  I hope you’ll read it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Total Immersion

 One of the pleasures of attending BookExpo America is the opportunity to be surrounded by people who publish books, write books, write about books, and like nothing better than talking about books! As part of this year’s event, organizers held a special day for book bloggers.  

I’m planning to write more about this opportunity to hear from and speak with established bloggers--and those just starting out, as well as the authors I met. But in the meantime, here’s a glimpse of what was on display and under discussion.

Bloggers were given advance copies of a handful of books including novels by Jennifer Weiner (one of Chick Lit’s queens) and Amy Sohn, a book-informed memoir by Will Schwalbe, and a guide to reducing stress by Paul Huljich.

The beautifully illustrated SprinkleBakes, a dessert cookbook by Heather Baird, was also distributed.  I’m particularly impressed with the cake below.

Have your cake--and eat it, too!