Massachusetts Author Karen Shepard At Eight Cousins Books
By: ENTERPRISE STAFF, August 7, 2014
Karen Shepard will discuss her book “The Celestials,” and the historical facts behind it, at Eight Cousins Books on Falmouth on Tuesday, beginning at 7 PM.
“The Celestials” is the fictional account of a little-known event that took place in North Adams in June of 1870. Seventy-five Chinese laborers arrived there to work for Calvin Sampson, one of the biggest industrialists in that busy factory town. Except for the foreman, the Chinese did not speak English. They did not know they were strikebreakers. The oldest of them was 22, the youngest 16.
Combining historical and fictional elements, “The Celestials” reimagines the story of Calvin Sampson’s “Chinese experiment” and the effect of the newcomers’ threatening and exotic presence on the New England locals. When Mr. Sampson’s wife, Julia, gives birth to a mixed-race baby, the infant becomes a lightning rod for the novel’s conflicts concerning identity, alienation, and exile.
“Celestial” is a term referring to Chinese emigrants to the United States, Canada, and Australia during the 19th century, and was widely used in popular mass media of the day.
Karen Shepard is a Chinese-American, born and raised in New York City. She is the author of three novels, “An Empire of Women,” “The Bad Boy’s Wife,” and “Don’t I Know You?” Her short fiction has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Tin House, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction has appeared in More, Self, USA Today, and the Boston Globe. She teaches writing and literature at Williams College in Williamstown, where she lives.
Eight Cousins Books is at 189 Main Street in Falmouth.