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Salon El Zaguán Sarah Stark: Why We Read Political Novels

Historic Santa Fe Foundation presents Why We Read Political Novels. Talk and Conversation with Sarah Stark as part of our Salon El Zaguán monthly lecture series. The talk is scheduled for Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 3:30 in the sala of HSFF offices located at 545 Canyon Road, Suite 2, Santa Fe.

There is no charge for admission for members and the non-members entry fee is $5. RSVP is required to 505-983-2567 or


Sala of El Zaguán with the exhibition Jack Stark Dudzik and Sarah Stark: Mother-Son on display until March 3

Sala of El Zaguán with the exhibition Jack Stark Dudzik and Sarah Stark: Mother-Son on display until March 3

We are awash with the news of the world. Information comes at us today via a wide variety of social media and serious journalistic sources. There have never been more nonfiction books being published—both by traditional publishing houses and self-publishers—on an ever-expanding range of topics. In this sea of reading material when, it is said, television is better than ever, why is it important to read novels? And, in particular, the political novel?

Drawing on her background as a political scientist, a teacher and a novelist, Sarah Stark will discuss her feelings about the importance of reading works of fiction in general, and in particular, works of a political nature. She will draw on the work of Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders, Gabriel García Marquéz, Nadine Gordimer, and Virginia Woolf. The salon will include a short reading from her new novel, Finding Michael Finnegan, and will close with an opportunity for participants to share important political novels they've read and how those works have shaped them.

Sarah Stark is a mother, teacher and writer curious about the ways human beings learn and re-learn how to love and care for one another throughout dark times. She has a background in political science and foreign affairs, and worked in the early years of her career as a defense analyst in Washington, DC on issues concerning nuclear nonproliferation and peacekeeping. She currently teaches English at Santa Fe Preparatory School, and taught creative writing previously at the Institute of American Indian Arts for many years. Her novel, Out There (Leaf Storm Press, 2014) was selected as a Top Book by Publishers Weekly for 2014 and received a starred review. Out There was also selected as the winner of the INDIEFAB Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction Book of the Year, 2014. Sarah lives with her son, Jack, as a writer-in-residence at Historic Santa Fe Foundation’s El Zaguàn.

Sarah Stark’s new novel, Finding Michael Finnegan presupposes the breakdown of an American family, the Finnegans, in the almost two decades following the bombing of Baghdad and the outbreak of the Iraq war. It begins with the oldest daughter, Sallie, attempting to reconnect with her aging father, Michael, who has left the U.S. in disgust to live on the western shore of Ireland. Other members of the family have similarly exiled themselves from one another in the decade following the war. There has been divorce and suspected dementia and, in one case, the smoking of a lot of pot. All five also remember the particularly sour family Christmas celebration in 2002, and use it as an excuse never to gather as a family again.

However, as politics and the general state of affairs in the country appear to be getting worse rather than better in 2016, the mother (Joan), the younger sister (Anne) and the younger brother (David) find that they are drawn back to one another through their old home in Arlington, Virginia, and by their nostalgic, complicated memories of family and what it means to love again.

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