Renowned author to speak about 1863 New York draft riots at Fairfield University's DiMenna-Nyselius Libary


BakerMore than 100 years ago, hundreds of people were killed as New York City burned when thousands of working-class New Yorkers rioted in protest of a Civil War draft law.

Recounting the brutality of the riots and many true stories from the massacre, author Kevin Baker weaves a fictional tale of three women caught up in the horror in his new book Paradise Alley (HarperCollins 2002). Baker will read a portion of the book on Tuesday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the multimedia room of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library at Fairfield University. A reception and book signing with refreshments will follow the reading.

Sparked by the passage of the National Conscription Act for the Civil War, thousands of people, mainly Irish immigrants, erupted in riot for three days in the summer of 1863. The immigrants, often already struggling to survive, were enraged by the draft law and its provision that the rich could buy their way out of the draft with $300.

Paradise AlleyBaker's book covers the same period and some of the same events as "Gangs of New York," a novel that has spawned a new Oscar-nominated movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis. Baker's book is the second in a trilogy, City of Fire, about Civil War-era events in New York. The first book in the set, Dreamland, was set at Coney Island around 1910, and deals with the fire that destroyed the Dreamland Amusement Park and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

Michael White, Ph.D., professor of English at Fairfield University, said, "The novel is a magnificent blending of history and fiction, a grand story of vast scope, peopled by compelling characters and riveting in its portrayal of 19th century New York."

"Baker intertwines love, violence, history, adventure and social commentary to give readers an invigorating, heartbreaking tale of the immigrant experience," Publishers Weekly wrote about Paradise Alley.

Born in Englewood, N.J. in 1958 and raised in Rockport, Mass., Baker received his bachelor's degree in political science from Columbia University in 1980. Baker was the chief historical researcher for Harold Evans' history, "The American Century" (1998). He has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and Harper's, and writes a column for American Heritage, about the parallels between events today and those of yesteryear.

Sponsored jointly by the English Department, American Studies, and Irish Studies, the lecture, which is part of a celebration of Connecticut Arts Week, is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 14, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 201