Editor’s letter

Friday, March 09, 2018

Hi, friends:

There are prolific authors, and then there’s Ilan Stavans … he somehow manages to be everywhere at once. Readers of this magazine know Stavans as a regular contributor to “Friday Takeaway.” He’s also the publisher of Restless Books, based in Brooklyn, a host of the podcast “In Contrast” on NEPR, and a professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College.

In his first essay for this magazine, published in June, Stavans introduced himself as a teacher (he prefers that word, which brings to mind a humble vocation, over “professor” or “academic”) and shared some thoughts on the role of the classroom, a place “where we fine-tune our better selves,” as he wrote. “It is where we discover what we don’t know and where we question everything. Doubt rules in the classroom because doubt is the door to knowledge. And knowledge must be won.”

And what makes a classroom? The simplest answer is a teacher and students sharing a space together. That space could be on the grounds of a prestigious, private liberal arts college, like Amherst. Or it could be inside the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction, where Stavans has been teaching Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to a group of “inside students” (inmates) and “outside students” (mostly Amherst College students). 

As reporter Steve Pfarrer explains in his page 12 story,  “The Bard — Behind Bars,” class members are identified simply as inside/outside — not inmates and college students — and only first names are used to protect the privacy of those involved. Generally, we don’t use first names only in the newspaper, but we’ve made an exception in this case.

This week, Bill Dwight returns as our “Friday Takeaway” columnist, writing about our age of anxiety.

And on a lighter note, Emma Kemp is back with a new interview: She checked in with Joan Holliday, of 93.9 The River, for “People Watching.”

Finally, make sure to check out Steve Pfarrer’s “Book Bag” column. He writes about two new titles by local authors: Tom Weiner’s “Photographed Letters on Wings: How Microfilmed V-Mail Helped Win World War II,” published by Levellers Press of Amherst; and “Meet Me at the Well: The Girls and Women of the Bible,” written by Jane Yolen and Barbara Diamond Goldin. 

In fact, Hatfield’s Yolen might be the one of the few authors around who’s just as prolific as Stavans. She has written a book for every day of the year — that’s right, 365. You can learn more at her website, janeyolen.com/yolen365.

Brooke Hauser