I have four books by western MA author Judith Sessler- Saints and Sinners or short stories from the bizarre to the sublime, Fifty Shades of Green Coffeehouse Confessions of the Uncommon Joe, Fifty-One Shades of Green The Emerald Inn Behind Closed Doors, and The Legacy of Aidan McManus. I have read and enjoyed them all, and am looking forward to her next story collection.
I first met her last December during a pop-up shop event at the local indie book shop in town. We chatted a little bit, but I knew another author there, Melissa Volker, better so spent the majority of my time chatting with her and her mother who designs t-shirts with book themes.
I have wanted to meet Judith (Sandy) though. We've been friends on facebook since December, and she's sent me stories to beta read and provide feedback on, which I've thoroughly enjoyed doing for her. We laugh at one another's posts and chat message occasionally.
Yesterday I had the chance to really meet her at her book event for The Legacy of Aidan McManus. This book is resonating with me on many levels as it is a story of immigrants coming to America in the late 1800's thru 1900's, settling, struggling, establishing themselves, raising their families, hoping and praying for a better future for themselves and their children. The majority of her characters are of Irish descent, but there are some Italians in the mix because America is the great melting pot of blended cultures, after all.
I am a product of that blending of cultures. My father's family immigrated from Poland in the late 1800's, settling first in Suffield, CT where relatives had already established themselves as farmers. They moved to Hatfield, MA known for its onion, potato and tobacco crops. This is where my father, a first generation Polish American was born in 1928. He couldn't speak English when he started school and was sent home to learn English, which he did. His older brother played the accordion and had his own band on the radio that also played local weddings in the Greenfield/Northampton area.
The paternal side of my mother's family immigrated from southern Italy- Naples and Palermo areas. My grandfather was a first generation Italian American born in Greenfield, MA in 1905, in the middle of a pack of thirteen children. It's from this grandfather, a great oral storyteller, that I've inherited my ability to tell a story.
My maternal side grandmother was from French Canadian stock that immigrated to Canada from France, then migrated south into Maine where some of them remained while others traveled further south into western Massachusetts to work in the mills in Colrain (Kendall Mills) MA. My Mom was born in the little village of Griswoldville, MA in 1930, a second generation Italian/French Canadian American.
I am second generation Polish American on my Dad's side, third generation Italian/French Canadian on my Mom's side. I grew up listening to my grandparents talk about their families. My Italian relatives first settled on Mulberry Street in New York City where they all were barbers. My great-uncle Alfred and his son Donald, and my great-uncle Nino were barbers in Orange, MA and Pittsfield, MA. My uncle Nino had a purple Cadillac that my brother, swears he drove down the sidewalk when he took him and my Dad to get haircuts when we were visiting my great-uncle George who worked for GE in Pittsfield in the 60's. (My brother later drove his AMC Javelin down the sidewalk in Greenfield, MA when he went to college there- wonder where he learned that bad behavior from?)
Getting back to the point, The Legacy of Aidan McManus, was like reading history that had a personal meaning as well because her characters experienced things, lived in tenements, struggled, shared triumphs and tragedies just like my real life ancestors did. The only native Americans are Native Americans, the rest of us all immigrated from somewhere. Although the characters in the book are Irish and Italian, they could be Lithuanian, Czechoslovakian, English, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Australian, Chinese, etc.
Judith has a way of breathing life into her characters, making them feel like people you might know from your own life. Her stories move along quickly and flow smoothly.
I really enjoyed meeting her again yesterday and having a chance to talk to her more about writing, our shared "hobby" of writing and being authors, our families, and projects we're working on. I firmly believe in supporting local authors and writers and try to make it to as many local events as I can. I've discovered many amazing books. Large publishing houses pick and choose and tend to go with established big name authors. I follow one author, who is up to book 11, about to release book 12 in the same series with the same characters basically rehashing the same thing. I would love to see something fresh and new from her, not the same thing only changed up a tiny bit from book to book. The horse is getting tired and this rider is about to fall out of the saddle and look for a fresher ride.
Judith offers a lot of variety in her writing. She even has some young readers in The Travel Kids series. She's versatile and entertaining. I highly recommend her.
Her books are available on Amazon and at Blue Umbrella Books here in Westfield and can be ordered from either location. Blue Umbrella's phone number for orders is 413-579-5383.
I am now happy to say that Judith (Sandy) and I have a bond as authors and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing her again at the Southwick Public Library's first Local Author event on June 17th from 10:30AM-12:30PM in Southwick, MA on Route 57.
Five stars for local author Judith Sessler from me, an avid reader and fan and it's not just because I'm an author and her friend. I've been a prolific reader forever so know a good book when I read one!