New CLSC Selection Announced: When Crack Was King

When Crack was King by Donovan X Ramsey with CLSC badgeThe Department of Education has announced When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era by Donovan X. Ramsey as a new Week Three selection for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle:

This previously announced program is now a collaboration between the CLS and CLSC.

The crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s is arguably the least examined crisis in American history. Beginning with the myths inspired by Reagan’s war on drugs, journalist Donovan X. Ramsey’s exacting analysis traces the path from the last triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement to the devastating realities we live with today: a racist criminal justice system, continued mass incarceration and gentrification, and increased police brutality.
Longlisted for the National Book Award, a Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, one of the New York Public Library and Vulture’s Ten Best Books of the Year, and named a Best Book of the Year by Time, The Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Public Library, Publishers Weekly, She Reads, Electric Lit, The Mary SueWhen Crack Was King follows four individuals to give us a startling portrait of crack’s destruction and devastating legacy. Weaving together riveting research with the voices of survivors, When Crack Was King is a crucial reevaluation of the era and a powerful argument for providing historically violated communities with the resources they deserve.

Donovan X. Ramsey is a journalist, author, and an indispensable voice on issues of identity, justice, and patterns of power in America. His reporting has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, GQ, WSJ Magazine, Ebony, and Essence, among other outlets. He has been a staff reporter at the Los Angeles Times, NewsOne, and theGrio. He has served as an editor at The Marshall Project and Complex. Ramsey’s writing career has been focused entirely on amplifying the remarkable unheard stories of Black America. He believes in people-first narratives that center individuals and communities—not just issues. He was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he concentrated in magazine journalism, and Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta. Today, he calls upstate New York home.

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When Crack Was King: A People's History of a Misunderstood Era By Donovan X. Ramsey Cover Image

2024 Chautauqua Prize Winner

CLSC Prize Winner, The Reformatory, with CLSC Prize shortlistChautauqua Institution has announced The Reformatory: A Novel (Saga Press) by Tananarive Due as the 2024 winner of The Chautauqua Prize.

Awarded annually since 2012, the Prize celebrates a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. As author of this year’s winning book, Due receives $7,500, and will be presented with the Prize during a celebratory event and public reading at 5:00 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 19, in Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy.

The Reformatory is a genre-defying work that is equal parts historical fiction, magical realism, supernatural horror, and speculative fiction. In this gripping, page-turning novel set in Jim Crow Florida, readers follow Robert Stephens Jr. as he’s sent to a segregated reform school where he sees the horrors of racism and injustice — for the living, and for the dead.

The Reformatory is a novel that deserves to be celebrated by enthusiasts of literary, historical, cultural, and mainstream circles alike,” noted Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill.

“With eloquence, poignancy, and great care, Tananarive Due has crafted a book that thrills, enchants and haunts you,” Hill said. “What is truly remarkable about the work is how it expands the horror novel’s audience, welcoming new readers to the genre with her accessible — even addicting — prose. This means as many people as possible can engage in the act of collective remembering, ensuring that stories such as these will not be forgotten.

“Ultimately — and serendipitously, considering we celebrate the seasons and stories of Chautauqua during this 150th anniversary summer — The Reformatory is a narrative about the power of story. It’s a master class in the infinitesimal and expansive impact a story’s telling can have on an individual, a community, and a nation, just as much as it is about elevating stories that have been silenced.”

Due’s book is “a touching, heartbreaking, and tragically powerful story about a horrific episode in American history,” said Kwame Alexander, the Michael I. Rudell Artistic Director of Literary Arts and Inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Chautauqua. “Truly magical, this novel will bring about the kinds of honest conversation that will haunt and heal readers at Chautauqua and beyond.”

Tananarive Due is an American Book Award and NAACP Image Award-winning author, who was an executive producer on “Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror” for Shudder and teaches Afrofuturism and Black Horror at UCLA. She and her husband, science-fiction author Steven Barnes, cowrote the graphic novel The Keeper and a second-season episode of “The Twilight Zone” for Paramount Plus and Monkeypaw Productions. Due is the author of several novels and two short story collections, Ghost Summer: Stories and The Wishing Pool and Other Stories. She is also coauthor of a civil rights memoir, Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights (with her late mother, Patricia Stephens Due).

Read the full press release on

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The Reformatory: A Novel By Tananarive Due Cover Image

New CLSC Selection Announced: How Far the Light Reaches

How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler, with CLSC badgeChautauqua Institution's Department of Education has announced How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures, by Sabrina Imbler, as a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for Week Eight of the 2024 Summer Assembly Season.


A queer, mixed-race writer working in a largely white, male field, science and conservation journalist Sabrina Imbler has always been drawn to the mystery of life in the sea, and particularly to creatures living in hostile or remote environments. Each essay in their debut collection profiles one such creature, including: the mother octopus who starves herself while watching over her eggs, the Chinese sturgeon whose migration route has been decimated by pollution and dams, the bizarre, predatory Bobbitt worm (named after Lorena), the common goldfish that flourishes in the wild, and more.  


Imbler discovers that some of the most radical models of family, community, and care can be found in the sea, from gelatinous chains that are both individual organisms and colonies of clones to deep-sea crabs that have no need for the sun, nourished instead by the chemicals and heat throbbing from the core of the Earth. Exploring themes of adaptation, survival, sexuality, and care, and weaving the wonders of marine biology with stories of their own family, relationships, and coming of age, How Far the Light Reaches Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science & Technology and a Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award is a shimmering, otherworldly debut that attunes us to new visions of our world and its miracles.    


Sabrina Imbler is a staff writer at the worker-owned site Defector, where they cover creatures and the natural world. Their first full-length book, How Far the Light Reaches, won a Los Angeles Times book prize in science and technology. Their chapbook, Dyke (geology), was published by Black Lawrence Press, and was selected for the National Book Foundation Science + Literature Program. Sabrina lives in Brooklyn with their partner, cats Melon and Sesame, and a school of fish. 

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How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures By Sabrina Imbler Cover Image
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How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures By Sabrina Imbler Cover Image

2024 Chautauqua Prize Shortlist

2024 Chautauqua FinalistsChautauqua Institution has announced 7 exceptional books as the 2024 finalists for The Chautauqua Prize, now in its 13th year.  Awarded annually since 2012, The Chautauqua Prize draws upon Chautauqua Institution’s considerable literary legacy to celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and to honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts.  Read the full announcement on

Congratulations to all the finalists!

(A note to CLSC members: remember that while the prize-winning selection counts toward graduation requirements, the rest of the list will not.  We're excited about all of them, though, and you should read them anyway!)

Chain Gang All Stars: A Novel By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593469316
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - January 23rd, 2024

Chain Gang All Stars: A Novel By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593317334
Availability: Not on our shelves, but we can order this for you!
Published: Pantheon - May 2nd, 2023

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The Reformatory: A Novel By Tananarive Due Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982188344
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: S&S/Saga Press - October 31st, 2023

Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country By Patricia Evangelista Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593133132
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - October 17th, 2023

Enter Ghost By Isabella Hammad Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802163301
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - April 9th, 2024

Enter Ghost By Isabella Hammad Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802162380
Availability: Not on our shelves, but we can order this for you!
Published: Grove Press - April 4th, 2023

This Other Eden: A Novel By Paul Harding Cover Image
ISBN: 9781324074526
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - December 19th, 2023

This Other Eden: A Novel By Paul Harding Cover Image
ISBN: 9781324036296
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 24th, 2023

White Cat, Black Dog: Stories By Kelly Link, Shaun Tan (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Kelly Link, Shaun Tan (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780593449974
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - October 24th, 2023

Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History By Emily Strasser Cover Image
ISBN: 9780813197197
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University Press of Kentucky - April 4th, 2023

SKU: 2024PrizeFinalists

New CLSC Selection Announced: Future Tense

Future Tense by Martha Brockenbrough with CLSC BadgeChautauqua Institution's Department of Education has announced Future Tense: How We Made Artificial Intelligence--and How it Will Change Everything, by Martha Brockenbrough, as a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for Week Two of the 2024 Summer Assembly Season.

Human history has always been shaped by technology, but AI is like no technology that has come before it. Unlike the wheel, combustion engines, or electricity, AI does the thing that humans do best: think. While AI hasn’t reproduced the marvelously complex human brain, it has been able to accomplish astonishing things. AI has defeated our players at games like chess, Go, and Jeopardy!. It’s learned to recognize objects and speech. It can create art and music. It’s even allowed grieving people to feel as though they were talking with their dead loved ones. 
On the flip side, it’s put innocent people in jail, manipulated the emotions of social media users, and tricked people into believing untrue things. 
In Future Tense, acclaimed author and teacher Martha Brockenbrough guides readers through the development of this world-changing technology, exploring how AI has touched every corner of our world, including education, healthcare, work, politics, war, international relations, and even romance. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how artificial intelligence got here, how to make the best use of it, and how we can expect it to transform our lives. 


Martha Brockenbrough graduated from Stanford University, where she studied English and Classics and was the editor in chief of the Stanford Daily. She has worked as a journalist, a teacher, the editor of, a question writer for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit, and now teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she served as co-chair of the Writing for Children Young Adults department. A lifelong Seattle resident, Martha has written two books for adults and 24 books for young readers. 

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Future Tense: How We Made Artificial Intelligence—and How It Will Change Everything By Martha Brockenbrough Cover Image

Hours for Monday April 8th

Display of moon products at Chauatuqua Bookstore 

We are open Monday April 8th, but will be closed between 2:45 and 3:45 to view the eclipse.

It sounded as if the Streets were running
And then—the Streets stood still—
Eclipse—was all we could see at the Window
And Awe—was all we could feel.

By and by—the boldest stole out of his Covert
To see if Time was there—
Nature was in an Opal Apron,
Mixing fresher Air.

-Emily Dickinson



2024 Chautauqua County Book Read

Apple: Skin to Core by Eric Gansworth, with CLSC badgeThe Institution has partnered with the YWCA of Jamestown and 20+ other local organizations to offer the Third Annual Chautauqua County Book Read.

Apple: Skin to Core by Eric Gansworth has been selected as the common read book. The purpose of this shared book read is to engage Chautauqua County residents, businesses, nonprofits and organizations to help heal our divides and propel participants to be engaged citizens working towards a more inclusive and just society. 


Those interested in participating are invited to register via this link. register via this link. Each participant is also encouraged to attend one book discussion group between April 15 - 26, 2024. In-person and online book discussion groups will be offered. Information on the times and locations of the book discussions is available via the registration link and at 


Additionally, participants are invited to attend a live lecture on Thursday, August 1st  with the author, Eric Gansworth, at 3:30pm at the Hall of Philosophy on the Chautauqua Institution grounds. This day has been designated as “Chautauqua County Day” at the Institution, and all Chautauqua County residents are eligible for free admission and parking. Information on how to order complimentary gate and parking passes for this event will be posted in the coming weeks at 


Books do not need to be purchased to take part in the program, but please note that many of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System libraries already have a limited supply of this book.

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Apple: (Skin to the Core) By Eric Gansworth Cover Image
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Apple: (Skin to the Core) By Eric Gansworth Cover Image

New CLSC Selections Announced: World of Wonders & Mexican WhiteBoy

The Department of Education has announced several new selections for the 2024 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and CLSC Young Readers programs. 


World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, with CLSC badgeWorld of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, is a Week Seven CLSC Selection.


As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted—no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape—she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance. 


“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts. 


Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of the New York Times best-selling illustrated collection of nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks & Other Astonishments. She also wrote four previous poetry collections including Oceanic. Her most recent chapbook is Lace & Pyrite, a collaboration of epistolary garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. She is poetry editor for Sierra magazine, the story-telling arm of The Sierra Club. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program and her forthcoming book of food essays is called Bite By Bite (Ecco, May 2024). 


 Mexican Whiteboy, by Matt de la Pena, with CLSC badgeMexican WhiteBoy, by Matt de le Peña, is a dual CLSC and Young Reader Selection for Week Seven.


Danny’s tall and skinny with arms long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. A 95-mph fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound, he loses it. But at private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny’s brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blonde hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. 

Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico. And that’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. Only, to find himself, he might just have to face the demons he refuses to see right in front oh his face. And open up to a friendship he never saw coming. 

An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults (Top 10 Pick) and a Junior Library Guild Selection, Mexican WhiteBoy serves as a joint selection for the CLSC and the CLSC Young Readers program. His picture book, Milo Imagines the World, also serves as an Early Reader selection for Week Seven. 


Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, and Superman: Dawnbreaker) and six picture books (including Milo Imagines the World and Last Stop on Market Street). In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. In 2019 Matt was given an honorary doctorate from UOP. de la Peña currently lives in Southern California. He teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges throughout the country. 


Celebrating the awe this world inspires in all things big and small, the wonder literature encourages us to pursue in our everyday lives as we seek to build a greater understanding of our shared humanity, and the significance of our shared reading experiences, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Matt de la Peña will be featured together in conversation during our Week Seven CLSC Lecture on August 8, 2024, in the Hall of Philosophy. 

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World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments By Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Fumi Nakamura (Illustrator) Cover Image
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Mexican WhiteBoy By Matt de la Peña Cover Image

New CLSC Selection Announced: Lost Children Archive

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, with CLSC badgeChautauqua Institution's Department of Education has announced Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli, as a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for Week Four of the 2024 Summer Assembly Season.

In Valeria Luiselli’s fiercely imaginative follow-up to the American Book Award-winning Tell Me How It Ends, an artist couple set out with their two children on a road trip from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. As the family travels west, the bonds between them begin to fray: a fracture is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet.

Through ephemera such as songs, maps and a Polaroid camera, the children try to make sense of both their family’s crisis and the larger one engulfing the news: the stories of thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States but getting detained—or lost in the desert along the way. A breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, Lost Children Archive is timely, compassionate, subtly hilarious, and formally inventive—a powerful, urgent story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world.

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in Costa Rica, South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of Sidewalks, Faces in the Crowd, The Story of My Teeth, and Tell Me How It Ends (An Essay in Forty Questions). Her most recent novel, Lost Children Archive was an international critical and commercial success. It was a New York Times 10 Best Books of 2019, won the Rathbone Folio Prize 2020, the Dublin Award 2021, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and the Booker Prize 2019 among others. In 2019 she was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for “challenging conventional notions of authorship in fiction, essays, and inventive hybrids of the two that pose profound questions about the various ways we piece together stories and document the lives of others.” Her work is published in more than thirty languages. She is a professor at Bard College.

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Lost Children Archive: A novel By Valeria Luiselli Cover Image