Kathy Johnson & Joan Dempsey Reading & Conversation: “This Is How It Begins”

Joan and Kathy

Author Joan Dempsey (pictured above left) will read from her debut novel, This Is How It Begins (She Writes Press, Oct. 3, 2017), a timely novel about free speech, the importance of empathy, and the bitter consequences of long-buried secrets. The main character, Ludka, is a Polish immigrant who hid art from the Nazis and is now reeling (the novel takes place in 2009) that her grown grandson was fired from his teaching job for being gay.

Kathy Johnson (pictured above right), co-founder / partner of CQ Strategies, LLC and senior training consultant for the Anti-Defamation League, will facilitate a conversation about the novel and it’s relevance to our current political and cultural climate--with a focus on ideas about dealing with bias.

With refreshments, Q&A, and book signing. Free and open to the public.

About the Book


In 2009, eighty-five-year-old art professor Ludka Zeilonka gets drawn into a political firestorm when her grandson, Tommy, is among a group of gay Massachusetts teachers fired for allegedly silencing Christian kids in high school classrooms. The ensuing battle to reinstate the teachers raises the specter of Ludka's World War II past―a past she's spent a lifetime trying to forget. 

Radio host Warren Meck has been leading the Massachusetts campaign to root out anti-religious bias in public schools―but he believes in working respectfully within the political system, so he's alarmed and offended when his efforts are undermined by someone inciting violent action. Even worse, he fears the culprit is among his inner circle.

As Ludka's influential family defends Tommy under increasingly vicious conditions, a stranger with connections to her past shows up and threatens to expose her for illegally hoarding a valuable painting presumed stolen by the Nazis. Only one other person knew about the painting―a man Ludka's been trying to find for sixty years.

“In a time when religious liberty is on trial, [this] is an extraordinarily pertinent novel dripping in suspense and powerful scenes of political discourse … a must-read ....” —FOREWORD (starred review)

“… Dempsey’s fine first novel [is] notable for the evenhanded way it addresses hot-button issues. The result is a timely and memorable story.” BOOKLIST

“A gripping and sensitive portrait of ordinary people wrestling with ideological passions.” Kirkus Reviews

"Beautifully written, This Is How It Begins wrestles with the fundamental questions of our existence on this earth together. An ambitious and moving debut novel.” —Lily King, author of the award-winning national bestseller Euphoria

"Dempsey brings her characters to life with equal parts empathy and tough-mindedness, from the three generations of the Zeilonka family—refugees, artists, politicians, teachers—to the pastor and radio host striving together to remake the United States into a Christian nation. A riveting story of the clash between LGBT and fundamentalist Christian cultures, and the way its violence reawakens historical trauma, this striking debut is essential reading for our times."
—Judith Frank, author of All I Love and Know, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist

About the Author

New England native Joan Dempsey received an MFA and teaching certificate in creative writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her writing has been published in The Adirondack Review, Alligator Juniper, Obsidian: Literature of the African Diaspora, and Plenitude Magazine, and aired on National Public Radio. Dempsey was the recipient of a significant research grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation for her work on This Is How It Begins. She lives in Maine with her partner and their family of animals. Find her online at www.joandempsey.com and on Facebook.

About the Facilitator

Kathy A. Johnson is an educator and consultant on equity, inclusion, and creating positive climates free of discrimination and stereotyping. Kathy is Co-Founder & Partner of CQ Strategies, LLC (www.cqstrategies.org), a collective of 5 partners providing training and consulting services on cultural competency, implicit bias, and organizational change. Since 2000 Kathy has served as a Senior Training Consultant for the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE ® Institute of the New England Region Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  She has worked with thousands of middle and high school students across Vermont to help them become leaders in anti-bias efforts in their schools and communities.

Kathy moved into Montpelier last year after having lived in Worcester since 1987 and having raised her daughter Aly there alongside the North Branch of the Winooski River. Aly recently graduated from college and is making Montpelier her home, as well. Kathy is passionate about the need for us all to do what we can to reduce bias and promote justice for all people. She enjoys meeting people, biking, hiking, doing yoga, and reading.

Event date: 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 7:00pm

Event address: 

77 Main St
Montpelier, VT 05602
United States
This Is How It Begins Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631523083
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: She Writes Press - October 3rd, 2017