Books on the Square welcomes home local author Hester Kaplan
by Melanie Rainone
Books on the Square has been a Providence staple for over 20 years. Located on Wayland Square, they offer a large selection of new and used books, as well as a book club, story hour for children, and book readings. As a part of their June line-up of authors, Books on the Square welcomed local author Hester Kaplan for the inaugural reading of her new collection of stories, Unravished.
Kaplan expresses positive feelings toward not only Providence, but also the bookstore in which she now stands. “Books on the Square has always been great with local readings, it’s very supportive of local authors.” For Books on the Square, the feeling is mutual. “We do tend to support local authors,” said the organizer of the reading, “Here in Rhode Island the local connection is of greater importance.”
The store serves as an integral part of the community, an importance that is evident in the familial atmosphere. “The store is part of a larger community. A place where we know our customers and they know us. Aside from book events, the local neighborhood association holds its meetings at the store. They support candidate debates at election time, using our space. The store is part of and partners with the Wayland Square Association to promote Wayland Square with numerous activities throughout the year,” said the organizer.
Kaplan’s reading was only one of the many events happening at the store during the month of June, but it proved to be a popular one, no doubt a result of its local flavor. Everyone walking into the store knew each other, brought together not only in support of Kaplan as an author and community member, but of a familiarity with Books on the Square. People meandered around like it was a friend’s home rather than a bookstore. One woman, clutching her plastic cup of wine from the refreshment table in one hand and a copy of Kaplan’s book in the other, said, “There are people I don’t know here,” sounding perplexed.
A group of patrons talked about how crowded it typically gets on the nights of readings such as this, and how they purposely got there early because the last time it had been a struggle to find a seat. They were soon proven right. Seats filled quickly and more had to be brought out.
The reading began, and proved to be far from formal. Kaplan began by saying, “I’m going to stand, not because I’m authoritative, but because the sun is in my eyes.” This elicited a laugh from the crowd, the first of many to be heard throughout the night.
Kaplan read one of the four stories from her new book, “The School of Politics.” The story is set, as Kaplan put it, in “No medium sized city in particular.” Again, laughter ensues.
For anyone not from the area, sitting in the audience of a reading of “The School of Politics” would have seemed like sitting through a prolonged inside joke, but, for Rhode Islanders, it was a reminder of many jokes that they had once laughed at together as a community.
When asked what made her choose her hometown as the setting, Kaplan said, “It’s an irresistible cast of characters – colorful.”