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Karma Kitaj to discuss new novel at Toadstool


Thursday, June 28, 2018 3:47PM

Regional author Karma Kitaj will talk about her new historical novel Beguiled on July 7 at 11 a.m. at The Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough. Kitaj will be interviewed by Peterborough artist Jessie Pollock followed by an open discussion with those attending this free event.

Kitaj’s mother Jeanne Brooks Kitaj became the inadvertent muse for her first novel. The author’s initial thought was to write a story about the life of a woman such as Jeanne might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not. So, Beguiled is purely imagination, a story that “just wrote itself, as if I were channeling it,” says Kitaj, who is not at all a woo-woo person.

The setting is early 1900s Boston’s old West End, that was erroneously razed by redevelopment, even though it was a vibrant multi-ethnic community. The protagonist is Miriam Levine, first-generation Russian Jewish girl who was taught to be someone special by her cultured Pop, who took her to theatrical performances weekly. This incited beautiful, bright and talented Miriam to dream of leaving her tenement neighborhood to be on stage, a dream that materialized only after a major error almost derailed her.

The story proceeds to Greenwich Village and Provincetown during the Roaring 20s where Miriam meets bohemian literati, who befriend and mentor her. She encounters many obstacles, not so different from girls of our day, but as she matures into a thoughtful young woman, the life of the stage fails to glitter.

The twists and turns of the story will keep one reading all night long. It brings the reader squarely into the life of a girl with aspirations who loved more than 100 years ago. The social-cultural milieu is surprisingly contemporary, reflecting some of the dilemmas that the US faces today as it grapples with individualism vs. social responsibility.

Although there are a few biographical markers of Jeanne’s life, Beguiled is a work of fiction. It became a story of the life a woman like her could have lived, had she had the gumption.

Curious about the topic of resiliency against odds, Karma had published two nonfiction books, Women Who Could... and Did (2002), based on interviews of high-achieving women over age 65 in the arts and sciences and Women Riders Who Could... and Did (2010), based on equestriennes of note. Each of the women survived and flourished, despite cultural and family roadblocks.

At 50, Karma started riding horses in earnest, although she had never been athletic as a child. This became a passion that she and her husband share together. She also found the art of encaustic painting, which led to a new career as an artist.

For more information call the bookstore at 924-3543. More about Karma Kitaj is available at her website KarmaKitaj.com.