Donna Gordon at Harvard Book Store


What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me

in conversation with VIRGINIA PYE


June 8, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes fiction writer and visual artist DONNA GORDON for a discussion of her new novel What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me. She will be joined in conversation by VIRGINIA PYE—author of Shelf Life of Happiness and River of Dust.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to re-introduce in-person programming this season. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me

What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me explores the story of Lee, a vibrant thirteen-year-old boy who is facing premature death from Progeria (a premature aging disease); his caretaker TomÁs, a survivor of Argentina's Dirty War, who is searching for his missing wife, who was pregnant when they were both "disappeared;" and Lee's single mother, Cass, overwhelmed by love for her son and the demands of her work as a Broadway makeup artist. When a mix-up prevents Cass from taking Lee on his "final wish" trip to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to pursue his interest in the life of Ben Franklin, TomÁs--who has discovered potential leads to his family in both cities--offers to accompany Lee on the trip. As one flees memories of death and the other hurtles inevitably toward it, they each share unsettling truths and find themselves transformed in the process. Set during the Ronald Reagan presidency, this lyrical novel transcends an adventure story to take the reader on an unforgettable journey.

Praise for What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me

"This largehearted, beautifully written novel takes us on an unforgettable quest with an unforgettable character. Lee, the charming, vibrant, dying child at the novel’s core, reminds us that the true source of light is in the people around us and that each moment offers us the choice of how best to spend our precious hours on this earth. Compassionate, funny, and deeply moving, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me is full to the brim with intelligence and love." —Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of The Five Wounds

"This story belongs to Lee, a child whose questioning mind and uncanny eloquence will teach you how to die and how to live, and ultimately how to survive beyond the final pages of Donna Gordon’s astonishing novel, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me." —Pamela Painter, author of Fabrications

"What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me is a fascinating, heartrending novel that will challenge what you thought you knew about the human condition." —Rachel Weaver, author of Point of Direction

Donna Gordon
Donna Gordon

Donna Gordon

Donna Gordon is a fiction writer and visual artist from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Ploughshares, and The Boston Globe Magazine. Her work with former political prisoners culminated in “Putting Faces on the Unimaginable: Portraits and Interviews with Former Prisoners of Conscience,” exhibited at Harvard’s Fogg Museum. In addition to writing short stories, she has completed a novel, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me.

Photo Credit: David Kurtis

Virginia Pye
Virginia Pye

Virginia Pye

Virginia Pye’s collection, Shelf Life of Happiness, won the 2019 IPPY Gold Medal for Short Fiction. Her novels, River of Dust and Dreams of the Red Phoenix, have also received literary awards. Her essays have appeared in Literary Hub, New York Times, The Rumpus, Huffington Post and elsewhere. She’s taught writing at NYU and UPenn and most recently at GrubStreet in Boston. Her next novel, The Book Lovers, is due out in October 2023.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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