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Book Buzz and Lawrenceville Zombies

on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 09:52

For Karen Brooks, part of her mission as manager of the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) is to engage young readers and make the public more aware of the library’s many attributes. “If you walk into most public libraries, you’ll see a lot of children, parents and older adults,” she explains. “What you see less of in many places is younger adults—the 18-35 demographic. We wanted to create some programs that would engage college students and young professionals. Personally, as someone who not only works but also lives in the relatively trendy Lawrenceville neighborhood, I wanted to raise Library awareness throughout the community. CLP-Lawrenceville has been on Fisk Street since 1898, yet I still regularly have customers who say, ‘I had no idea there was even a library here!’ I never want to hear that again.”

To facilitate these goals, Brooks and a group of fellow librarians launched Book Buzz, a book discussion group geared towards a younger demographic that takes place in drinking establishments, coffee shops and retail stores throughout the Pittsburgh area. “The first round of Book Buzz started in July 2012 and met at bars and restaurants in East Liberty, Polish Hill and Lawrenceville,” Karen Brooks says. “In October, we expanded our reach to Beechview, Highland Park and Mt. Washington, and did two book discussions each month. The relative success of these programs encouraged us to meet more often, hence the Book Buzz programs in the South Side and the twice monthly discussion in Lawrenceville.”

The Lawrenceville events have a bit of a twist as the first meet-up of any given month takes place at the community’s Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branch and centers on a classic work of fiction, while the follow-up gathering is at a local business establishment with a more contemporary title. On April 8, 2013, for instance, Book Buzz met at CLP-Lawrenceville to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which has been coupled with Mira Grant’s zombie-filled Feed. That April 22nd group discussion will be held at House of the Dead on Butler Street—a local store that specializes in zombie-themed apparel, novelties and gift items.

“I love House of the Dead, I love its owners, I love Lawrenceville, and I love zombies,” Karen Brooks explains in regards to the next installment of Book Buzz. “Seriously, I really love zombies, and some really amazing zombie literature has been published in the past several years. And there’s such a strong attachment to zombies in Pittsburgh that some of our neighbors actually started a store dedicated to the undead. How could we not partner with them?”

Feed takes place in the year 2040, twenty-six years after a virus that turns people into the “walking dead” has infected the human race. The book follows a group of online bloggers as they tag-along with the presidential campaign of Senator Peter Ryman, only to find themselves caught up in a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of government. “Feed is more than just a zombie book,” Karen Brooks says. “It’s a serious look at politics and the media wrapped into a fantastically fun package. The origin story of these zombies is believable and unique. Plus, like so many zombie books, it’s as much or more about the people and their relationships than about the undead themselves. There’s a lot to discuss.”

Although Feed was written by California-native Seanan McGuire under the pseudonym Mira Grant and primarily takes place in the mid-west, Pittsburgh plays a role within the narrative nonetheless. In the post-“Rising” world that the book envisions, “Georgia” and “Georgette” have become the most popular names for females born during the era—after local filmmaker George Romero of Night of the Living Dead fame. “Most people wouldn’t have had the first idea of how to deal with the zombies if it weren’t for the lessons they learned from Romero’s movies,” it is explained in Feed of the “accidental savior of the human race.”

Pittsburghers, of course, already recognize George Romero as the man who reinvented the zombie-genre, and thanks to Karen Brooks, Book Buzz and House of the Dead, young adults of all ages can experience a fresh take on the classic zombie narrative—and enjoy the wonders of reading in the process.

Anthony Letizia (April 18, 2013)

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