Lost Stories: An Interview with Laurie Gwen Shapiro
I met Laurie Gwen Shapiro in Northern California one fall evening. In a cozy courtyard on the University of California-Berkeley campus, I was chatting with an editor from The New Yorker when, mid-conversation, we got interrupted by a dark-haired woman.
When I learned she was writing about a teenager who stowed away on a 1928 expedition to the Antarctic, I forgave her interruption. I love a good adventure story to remote places, and the unbelievable tale of how teenager Billy Gawronski jumped into the Hudson River to sneak aboard Rear Admiral Richard Byrd’s ship triggered my imagination.
Read the full interview here
The Little Mayors of the Lower East Side
My ninety-seven-year-old father Julius recently amazed me by describing how, when he was hungry during the Great Depression, he would get an occasional free slice of salami from Izzy Pinkowitz, the “official” mayor of East Broadway, who happened to own the Hebrew National sausage factory on his Lower East Side block. How official? “Back then it was official,” he answered, after finishing his favorite old-fashioned cookie, the chocolate-covered Mallomar. “Look into it if you are so curious. The old street mayors of New York would make a good story.”
Father knows best. It is a good story.
Read the full story at Lapham’s Quarterly
I’ll be on three panels at the James River Writers conference this October.
16th Annual James River Writers Conference
Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14, 2018
Pre-conference Master Classes on Friday, Oct 12, 2018
More information and schedule
How an Author Used the Polar Archives in Ohio to Write about an Antarctic Stowaway
A few months after I began to research The Stowaway, my narrative non-fiction book about the teen stowaway on Byrd’s first expedition, I thought I had enough material to write my book. In March of 2013, I had stumbled upon the story while researching the history of St. Stanislaus Church in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which is the first Polish Catholic church in all five boroughs of the Big Apple. The stowaway, William “Billy” Gawronski, and his family were parishioners there, and I located the records of Billy’s celebration by the church.
Read the full story
I have a read up today at Aeon that looks at the long history and appeal of stowing away — from Balboa, to Shackleton’s stowaway Blackborow, to interplanetary stowaways of the future. (Think Mars.) Hope you’ll give it a read! Not long! (This picture is of stowaway Perce Blackborow and Mrs. Chippy aboard Shackleton’s Endurance.)
Read the article at Aeon
Wonderful adventure story for adults! Great page-turner for middle readers and young adults, as well!
A spectacular, true story of a scrappy teenager from New York’s Lower East Side who stowed away on the Roaring Twenties’ most remarkable feat of science and daring: an expedition to Antarctica. Releasing in April in our Narrative and Popular Nonfiction plan.
Order your large print copy today!
Back in 1988? (I believe the year) I was a high school volunteer for the first Pen World Voices festival held in NYC and had the great thrill to get Kurt Vonnegut a sandwich and Norman Mailer a coffee! Moving on up! Very honored and thrilled to be moderating a panel for PEN America and PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature on the theme of persistence! April 21 5pm-630 at Dixon Place – I hope you will come – PLEASE COME! This is my favorite festival of the year – and the rest of the line up is really superb.
April 21, 2018
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
161A Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10002
Where do people find the inner resources, the determination, the doggedness and the sheer physical wherewithal to keep going in the face of adversity and torment? Each of these writers tells compelling stories of epic feats of persistence. Sharon Bala’s boatload of Sri Lankan refugees lands in Canada but instead of receiving sanctuary, they are imprisoned because of fears that their group includes terrorists; their quest for freedom moves to the courts. In Without a Country, Ayse Kulin’s characters flee Nazi Germany and find safe haven in Turkey. But that safety evaporates for their descendants as military coups and encroaching anti-Semitism threaten their future in the place they call home. Marcos Aguinis tells the extraordinary story of the Jewish intellectual who resisted the tortures of the Spanish Inquisitors in 17th-century South America and fought to retain his faith. The common theme is the almost superhuman effort of individuals to persist in the face of danger and death. They talk to Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author of The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica about the almost superhuman effort of individuals to persist in the face of danger and death.
The Man Who Made Violins Out of New York City Buildings
In the 1940s, luthier Samuel Stochek created stunning instruments from the wood of demolished houses.
Read the full article at Atlas Obscura
How a teenage stowaway made it to Antarctica 90 years ago
On August 24th, 1928, a 17-year-old high school kid jumped into the Hudson River and snuck inside a ship that was soon headed to Antarctica. Billy Gawronski, the son of Polish immigrants, wanted nothing more than to go to the ice continent with his hero, explorer Richard Byrd. But he was caught — and sent back home.
Read the interview at the verge.com
How A Teenage ‘Shabbos Goy’ Stowed Away On America’s First Antarctic Exploration
Teenagers dream about running away. They always have; they likely always will; often, when they do, the results are decidedly weird. (See: Haight-Ashbury circa the 1960s.)
But there’s packing a knapsack and setting out for the Summer of Love, and then there’s swimming across a major river intending to hitch a ride on a boat to Antarctica. In August of 1928, Billy Gawronski, the son of Polish Catholic immigrants, a Yiddish-speaking former “Shabbos goy” and a library-frequenting fan of adventure tales, did just that.
Read the interview at the Forward