Tal Birdsey's Hearts of the Mountain: Adolescents, a Teacher, and a Living School sketches an utterly unique entity: an independent and virtual one-room middle school in the Green Mountains of Vermont: The North Branch School. Head teacher, co-founder, and director of the school, Tal Birdsey will present his new memoir of a year in the life of the school. We will be joined by Cassie Fancher, a graduate of the North Branch School and author of Street of Widows, her debut collection of stories in which small town American women navigate grief and loss and consider home from afar, from close up, from the past and the present.
“If education interests you—if kids interest you— this is a magical story.” —Bill McKibben
“I promise you, from the first page, the first few paragraphs, you will be captured by this book. Birdsey is a beautiful writer, and he tells a story of great power and beauty —the story of a year in the life of a rural school and the lives of twenty-seven memorable students, their time together rendered with a novelist’s skill and a true teacher’s wisdom.” —Mike Rose, author of Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America
TAL BIRDSEY co-founded the North Branch School in 2001. Prior to that he taught as an ESL teacher in Taiwan and for ten years at the Paideia School in Atlanta. At NBS he is headmaster and teaches writing, literature, humanities and history, ethics, art, theater, and edits the newsletter, The Current, and the student literary magazine, The Undercurrent. In 2009, St. Martin's Press published Tal's first book, A Room for Learning: The Making of a School in Vermont, which tells the story of the founding and first year of the North Branch School. Tal and his wife and fellow NBS teacher Rose McVay live in Ripton, Vermont, just down the road from the school, with dogs Wallace and Jasper and an assortment of bedraggled chickens.
Cassie Fancher grew up in New Haven, Vermont. She is a graduate of Hampshire College. This is her first book and it was the 2018 winner of the annual Howard Frank Mosher First Novel or Short Story Collection Book Prize judged by PEN-New England winner Robin MacArthur.
You move away, but spend whole days thinking of your hometown. Up the hill, past the gravel pit, an Elvis impersonator is leaning on his parked car. On Memorial Day, you put flowers on your great grandmother’s grave and spend an afternoon wondering about her life. In your sister’s first apartment, there are terrible figures drawn on the walls with Sharpies. You take a figure drawing class and the model, a skinny blonde woman, opens her mail and cries while you draw her. You learn that your great grandmother was a widow, that her town was a community of widows, a whole street renamed in their honor: La Strada Delle Vedove, the Street of Widows.
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