Author Jan Brogan stopped by the Wellesley Free Library to talk about her non-fiction book The Combat Zone, a re-examination of the 1976 murder of a Harvard football player in a semi-sanctioned red-light district in Boston. Brogan conducted dozens of primary-source interviews, which informed her understanding on how the resulting two trials related to the stabbing impacted the city, state, and ultimately the nation.
Brogan’s presentation included a slide show with lots of “before and after” shots of the bad old days of Boston’s Combat Zone, the 5.5-acre area abutting the Chinatown and Theater districts that was zoned in 1974 as an adult entertainment sector. The move was made by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (now the Boston Planning & Development Agency) in an effort to keep strip clubs, peep shows, naughty video/bookstores, and the like contained to one area. Part of the idea was to protect the Brahmins in their Beacon Hill and Back Bay brownstones from potential encroachment of such businesses in their neighborhoods. Although the Combat Zone had its inherent dangers, it was a popular spot for dates and friends’ nights out. People called it slumming back then, and considered themselves quite adventurous for spending a night out in the Zone.
Only Centerfolds and The Glass Slipper (both on Lagrange St., if you must know) carry on the tradition, and identify as “gentlemen’s clubs.” Fun fact: Brogan says the area is still zoned for such vice businesses. But if you’ve visited the once-dicey area that’s been re-branded “Midtown” by real estate developers, you’ve seen the gleaming high-rise condo buildings that have gone up in recent years. Most of the combat going on in the former Zone is currently over the asking prices for luxury units.
It was in this neighborhood on November 15, 1976, where Andy Puopolo was stabbed after a night out with a group of his Harvard football teammates. Puopolo died 31 days after the attack. Three Black men were charged with first-degree murder of Puopolo, who was white. Only one of the defendants stood accused of actually stabbing Puopolo.
The case riveted Boston and beyond at a time when racial tensions were high, and violence over busing Boston’s public school students outside their neighborhoods to achieve integration was at its peak. It took two trials to come to a verdict in the Puopolo case. The 1976 murder and those two trials forever changed the way juries are chosen in Massachusetts and the nation, and ended the once-common practice of excluding jurors based on the color of their skin.
Brogan, a journalist for over 30 years, has worked as a correspondent for the Boston Globe, and as a staff writer for the Worcester Telegram, and for the Providence Journal, where she won the Gerald Loeb award for distinguished business writing. You can buy her book here.
The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Wellesley Free Libraries.
Other author visits in Wellesley
Wellesley Books on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 10am will host children’s book author Deborah Farmer Kris, who will read two books in her “All the Time” series, I Love You All the Time and You Have Feelings All the Time. Deborah will also bring some arts and crafts. This is a free event, but Wellesley Books asks that you RSVP.
Haley Neil, author of Once More With Chutzpah, will be at Wellesley Books on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7pm to discuss her new YA romcom, Planning Perfect, a charming, heartfelt YA romcom about being on the asexual spectrum. When a girl tries to craft the perfect wedding for her mother, she discovers that sometimes the best parts of life can’t be planned.
The event, which is ticketed, will include a pizza party.
Best-selling author, philanthropist, acclaimed speaker, and senior-level executive for the likes of Monster.com, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Workhuman Steve Pemberton will appear on Monday, March 6, 7pm, at Wellesley Middle School. Steve’s story is about defying seemingly insurmountable odds to become a trail-blazing corporate executive, enlightened diversity leader, visionary youth advocate, and acclaimed speaker. His best-selling memoir, A Chance in the World, recounts his triumphant life journey and drive to become a man of resilience, determination and vision. In 2017 the major motion picture, A Chance in the World further amplified Steve’s highly motivational messages: Believe in your dreams, rise above obstacles, create opportunities for others, and most of all, persevere.
Register here. Sponsored by Wellesley Education Foundation.
On March 16, 7pm at Wellesley Books, Julie Gerstenblatt will present her debut historical novel, Daughters of Nantucket, a gripping saga of the days leading up to Nantucket’s historic fire of 1846 and its dramatic aftermath. Julie will be in conversation with Jenna Blum, author of Woodrow on the Bench and The Lost Family. Get tickets here.
Author visit beyond Wellesley
SPONSORED CONTENT: New York Times Bestselling author Bonnie Garmus will stop by Hummingbird Books at The Street in Chestnut Hill on Monday, Feb. 27, at 1:30pm and 6:30pm to promote her debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry. (Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.) This is a ticketed event.
Swellesley’s favorite books-related Instagram
If you’re looking for fiction and non-fiction reads with compelling storylines by a diverse group of authors, follow cookingthebook on Instagram. As if having a curated selection of must-reads laid out for you isn’t enough, the Instagrammer couples each book with food or drink inspired by the story.
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Things We Lost to the Water, by Eric Nguyen
When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle in to life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.
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