Spencertown Academy Presents Alexis Portillo and Jana Laiz Book Launch

SPENCERTOWN — Spencertown Academy Arts Center, in collaboration with Chatham Bookstore, presents Alexis Portillo and Jana Laiz in an event celebrating their new book, “Thirty-Five Days To Baltimore/35 Días de Camino a Baltimore” (Crow Flies Press, 2022) on Monday June 20 at 7:00pm. Tickets ($10) are available at www.spencertownacademy.org and will be available at the door pending availability. Housed in a landmark 1847 Greek Revival schoolhouse, the Academy is located at 790 State Route 203 in Spencertown, New York.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to present Alex and Jana here at the Academy. We must not hide from hearing immigrants’ stories—they need to be told repeatedly until we understand the truth about them, and the responsibility we have to respond to their needs,” says Academy Board Member Jill Kalotay. “I am looking forward to learning more from this personal story. We will be donating ticket proceeds from this event to the Berkshire Immigration Center.”

In 2004, seventeen-year-old Alexis Portillo embarked on a harrowing journey from Honduras to Baltimore in the hopes of starting a better life. Over a decade later, he recounts his story to author and activist Jana Laiz in this bilingual retelling. The book gives readers insight into the power the American dream holds for those suffering the hopelessness and violence of extreme poverty. This is a modern day odyssey of what one immigrant faces as he makes the treacherous journey out of unfathomable living conditions.

Jana Laiz is a writer and educator living in the Berkshires. She is the author of the award-winning novels “Weeping Under This Same Moon” (in development for film), “The Twelfth Stone,” “Billy Budd in the Breadbox,” and “The Story of Herman Melville & Eleanor.” She is the co-author of “A Free Woman On God’s Earth: The Story of Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman” (in development for film), “Blanket of Stars, and “Simon Says.” Laiz is a writer with a purpose, believing that honoring diversity and teaching stewardship for the planet can change the world. She is writer-in-residence emeritus at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead home.

Alexis Portillo is a Honduran immigrant with a story to tell. This is his first book.

Books will be for sale and the authors will be available for signing after the conversation. Ticket holders will receive 10% off books purchased at the event. The Academy has installed multiple Blueair HealthProtect 7470 air purifiers and limited seating in its auditorium. Academy leadership is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Columbia County, as well as recommendations from health authorities, and will adjust protocols as necessary.

This program is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Spencertown Academy arts organization, and the 175th year since the Academy was built as a school in 1847. Now an all-volunteer organization, it offers a varied schedule of concerts, lectures, classes, and gallery shows. Its signature events—Hidden Gardens, Revels, and the Festival of Books—are yearly highlights. This summer, the anniversaries of the building and the organization will be celebrated together with a day-long community festival on July 9.

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