Many Friends Seminary alumni and faculty have published books over the years, and Friends Faculty Emerita Margaret Gonzalez intends to read them all.
In 2017, Marge, a former Friends French teacher, parent of an alumna, and a former Trustee, set out on a journey to read all the literature she could find from Friends alumni, faculty and staff. At first she thought it would be a short trip, but soon learned the vast talents of her peers would take her in another direction. Two years later, she has read 118 books by 93 writers!
To organize her project and to share her literary adventures, she created an online forum (margegonzalez.net) where others could discover the works from Friends Seminary community members past and present and offer open and honest opinions and questions. The collection of books is organized online by traditional categories such as memoir, novels, nonfiction, poetry and more. Visitors may select a category to display the works and associated commentary. She said she hopes the forum will help the community “discover the joy of reading works by people you know or almost know,” noting that she honestly feels each work is a wonderful achievement. “This project has been wonderful in renewing old friendships and making contact with members of the community I never knew,” she said. “And, it’s another crack at filling the gaps in my education.”
The forum highlights the incredible breadth of writing expertise in the community that spans generations; from Hilary Knight ’45, who illustrated the Eloise books, to Caleb Carr ’73 who authored The Alienist, which was spun into a popular TNT TV series, to younger alumni works such as Daring Democracy, co-authored by Adam Eichen ’11. Marge describes the latter as “a work I considered so important in the present climate that I gave two presentations on it at my local humanist forum.”
Marge also has her own story to tell. She was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey before attending Muhlenberg College and earning a PhD at Emory. She lived in France and Switzerland, first as a student and then as a director of a Junior Year Abroad Program before coming to Friends Seminary to teach French. She remained at Friends for the duration of her career, retired in 2003 and was honored with the distinction of Faculty Emerita.
Marge is not only an avid reader, but also an accomplished writer. In December 2018, she published the memoir Body in Space: My Life with Tammy, which is the story of Tammy, a four-year-old child living in the precarious world of foster care, and Marge, who took her in and eventually adopted her. When Marge met Tammy, she could not say her own name, and was diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum. “It’s the story of one child, who came to me with deep emotional scars, profound speech impairment, and odd and destructive behaviors,” Marge said. “I hope I can shine a light on the foster care system, which is shrouded in darkness, because its victims are children who cannot advocate for themselves.”