In my humble opinion

Don’t judge a book by its cover

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 11/23/22

While I most certainly would not describe myself as judgmental, I am often quick to make snap decisions about a person, place or thing without any basis in fact. Pure supposition, founded on nothing …

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In my humble opinion

Don’t judge a book by its cover

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While I most certainly would not describe myself as judgmental, I am often quick to make snap decisions about a person, place or thing without any basis in fact. Pure supposition, founded on nothing whatsoever. As I type these words, it’s easy to see the folly of my ways, but old (bad) habits die hard, and I’m no spring chicken.

Just when I think I’ve seen it all in the Upper Delaware River region, along comes a new person, place or thing, so I happily accepted an invitation from One Grand Books’ Aaron Hicklin last Sunday. He was hosting an afternoon at the Seminary Hill restaurant called “Writers at Lunch,” featuring authors Brahna Yassky and Priya Doty. I’d never heard of either, and knew virtually nothing about Seminary Hill, but that is part and parcel of why I love my job.

Naturally, I turned to the Google for a little background.

Skimming the plethora of information available online, I learned that Seminary Hill is “a Catskills hotel, restaurant, and private event space; the first Passive House-certified, orchard-driven cidery that lets you experience the agricultural heritage of Callicoon, New York.”

The website (www.seminaryhill.co) is chock-full of information, and I’m still learning what a “passive house-certified cidery is” but what I can tell you is that the place is gorgeous, and the views are out of this world.

I also learned that the Tasting Room is a full-service restaurant serving seasonal, farm-to-table dishes. “We host local arts and cultural events, too,” its Facebook page informed me, and that of course, is why I was there.

After some opening remarks from Hicklin, he introduced the local authors, both of whom have published for the very first time, with Yassky having written an intensely personal memoir titled “Slow Dancing with Fire,” while Doty’s novel, “Finding Warrior Pose,” is a work of fiction.

Did I have preconceived notions of the people, place and things? I’m sure I did, but can’t recall what they were, since all three were captivating, and any previous thoughts flew out the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Delaware River valley from Seminary Hill. Seriously, the view is breathtaking.

Doty, who now calls Barryville, NY home, read brief selections from “Finding Warrior Pose.” She described the book as encompassing multiple themes—including travel, suspense, yoga and the exploration of American-Indian culture. An intriguing combination, to be sure, and since I know very little about several of those things, I’ll look forward to reading her book in its entirety during the long, cold winter of my discontent.

While some of the themes of Doty’s novel might be foreign to me, Yassky’s memoir instantly conjured up personal, private thoughts that resonated in a visceral way.

Her story is one of tragedy and resilience, packed with giddy highs and incredibly sad lows that unbeknownst to her, spoke to me in ways I could not have predicted simply by looking at Yassky from across the room.

In between excerpts, Yassky spoke about her career as a “visual artist,” which began at San Francisco State University and California College of the Arts. She shared some anecdotal history—until recently, she has predominantly worked as a painter, and she also wrote and directed a short film, “Frozen Moment,” which was shown at several film festivals.

It’s clear that both writers have something worthy to say, and that their stories needed to be told. By all appearances, they look like ordinary everyday women—and if I were to hazard a guess before meeting them, one would be a young professional mother and wife with whom I likely had little in common, while the other would be a contemporary with whom I might have crossed paths in New York City, possibly dancing the night away at Studio 54, back in the day.

As it turns out, both have secrets that they divulge through the creative process. One uses flights of fancy that reveal inner desires, tinged with cultural gender-based disparity, and the other bares her soul, revealing both real and metaphorical scars that have shaped who she is today. One would not know those things by simply observing from the outside, but then again, I’m reminded not to judge a book by its cover.

FYI—One Grand is a “curated bookstore in which celebrated thinkers, writers, artists, and other creative minds share the ten books they would take to their metaphorical desert island, providing the audience a window into the minds of some of the world’s most engaging people.”

Called one of the best 25 new stores in the world by GQ Magazine in 2017, One Grand is also quoted in The New York Times as being “Everything that Amazon is not - [a] modern, yet intimate, 550-square-foot space perched above the Delaware River, with a beautiful view of the water.”

For store locations and more info, visit www.onegrandbooks.com or call 718/812-8039.

the Tasting Room, One Grand Books, Aaron Hicklin, Brahna Yassky, Priya Doty

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