one of America's best novelists

Leah Hager Cohen, a member of the EXPLO faculty from 1986 to 1994, continues to achieve great success and recognition as a writer. Cohen, a graduate of Hampshire College and the Columbia University School of Journalism, has written several non-fiction books and novels. Her most recent work, The Grief of Others, has been receiving press and praise across the country. In addition to being on the “year-end best” lists in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, it was the “book of the week” at the Fiction Writers Review and in O Magazine. Grief was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and in the corresponding article, Cohen is heralded as “one of America’s best novelists.”

In this latest novel, which immerses itself in intense tragedy, loss of others and self, and how we all cope differently—ineptly, incompletely, inelegantly—Cohen writes with candor, depth, darkness, and an ironic yet ever-present beauty.

In addition to writing novels and works of creative non-fiction, Cohen maintains a blog, contributes to the New York Times Book Review, teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Lesley University in Cambridge, and serves as the Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. She has also recently been selected to participate in the “Distinguished Writers Series” at the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College.

About the series:
“The [Distinguished Writers] series reminds the world that reading, writing, conversation, and laughter are related arts. The format is simple, the emotional reward complex. The writers read, have a conversation with a faculty member, and then engage in open dialogue with the audience.”

Cohen is slated to share her work on Tuesday, March 23rd at 4:30 PM on the Wellesley College campus.

Bestselling Book

Congratulations to former EXPLO faculty member Amor Towles on his best selling debut novel, Rules of Civility. The book, published in August, has received widespread critical acclaim—topping the charts in The New York Times and The Boston Globe book reviews, and earning glowing reviews in O Magazine, People, and publications in every major U.S. city.

Towles, who grew up in the Boston area, lives in Manhattan with his family. In addition to writing fiction, this accomplished EXPLO alumnus works in the financial industry as a principal in an investment firm.

To read reviews and learn more about Rules of Civility (and Towles himself), visit his website.

The first Dick Steele Scholars are off to top colleges

The first group of Dick Steele Scholarship Fund recipients fared very well in the college process this year—through their own hard work, and with the support of Exploration in navigating the landscape of college admissions. After spending a summer at the Senior Program on the campus of Yale University, the three Northern Maine Scholars received professional college guidance from Exploration’s college counselor, Carlene Riccelli, and Exploration’s Executive Director, Moria Kelly. Together, the students received acceptance letters and financial aid packages from Bates College, Bowdoin College, Brigham Young University, College of the Holy Cross, Fordham University, Mount Allison College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stonehill College, and the University of Maine (Honors College). Fortunate to be able to choose among highly selective institutions, the scholars made thoughtful decisions based on a combination of their academic interests and financial support. Victoria Winslow will matriculate at Brigham Young University (Idaho) in the fall, while both Ezra Duplissie-Cyr and Brandon Ouellette will start their college careers at Bowdoin College.

on the big screen

The newest work from filmmaker Lisa Gossels [daughter of Exploration Trustee Nancy Gossels], My So-Called Enemy, is touring the United States and winning awards at just about every stop. The feature-length documentary looks at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a unique way and from multiple perspectives. It weaves together the stories of six young women—three from Israel and three from Palestine—who first met at a women’s leadership program called Building Bridges for Peace. The film follows the girls over a seven-year period and is ultimately about how they get to know their “enemies,” and how doing so impacts their lives in their home countries in the midst of constant turmoil and an ever-changing world. The film has been very well received and is sparking meaningful and necessary conversation.

Gossels recently returned to her home state of Massachusetts to screen My So-Called Enemy in front of a multicultural audience at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, the synagogue that Gossels attended growing up and where her parents remain congregants. More than 250 people attended the screening, including several members of the year-round Exploration staff. Afterward, there was an interfaith panel discussion featuring the filmmaker as well as Rabbi Neal Gold of Temple Shir Tikva, Reverend Frederick Moser of the Church of the Holy Spirit, and Dr. Asif Razvi of the Islamic Center of Boston. As it has across the country, the film had a powerful impact at this Massachusetts gathering. It is an intense, stirring work, and audience and panel members alike were deeply moved from the experience.

My So-Called Enemy took 8 years to complete, due to the complexity of the issues, the number of voices and perspectives involved, and a desire to stay true to those complexities and perspectives while simultaneously staying “current” in a world that is changing daily. Gossels became deeply connected to all of the girls featured in the film and remains in contact with many of them today.

The film has had 24 screenings as of early May 2011, and is next showing at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 5th and 6th. It will also make its way to Exploration this summer. My So-Called Enemy will screen at the Senior Program on July 6th (first session) and August 2nd (second session), and will include a processing discussion with Gossels at its conclusion.

To learn more about the film, visit the website, follow the progress on facebook, and watch the trailer here.


Lisa Gossels

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brown University, Lisa’s first film, The Children of Chabannes, heralded as “one of the most heartening Holocaust films every made,” won an Emmy Award in 2001 as well as 10 film festival awards. She also directs and produces educational films through her company, Good Egg Productions.


Building Bridges for Peace

Now under the umbrella organization of Seeking Common Ground, Building Bridges for Peace is a program that works with American, Israeli, and Palestinian teens and seeks to “equip them with the skills to manage conflicts and become leaders in creating more peaceful, equitable, and just communities.” Through a methodology called “intergroup intervention,” Building Bridges is designed to “lead participants through both interpersonal and personal processes, to increase their capacity to feel compassion and empathy, and to humanize the ‘other.’”

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