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Sara Paretsky figures she'd seem lily-livered to her fictional offspring, a bold detective who has gotten roughed up in the course of righting wrongs. The white-haired author herself is tall and lean, and appears almost fragile.
But she spoke with muscle on the U.S. government's recent expansion of powers, the erosion of personal privacy, and the “daunting subject” of free speech last night at the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater.
“Silence,” said the 55-year-old Chicagoan, “does not mean consent. Silence means death.”
At the conclusion of her wide-ranging Authors! Authors! talk, the majority of the 350 people present, stood and applauded.
When an audience member asked her why dissenters risk being labeled un-American, she quoted Teddy Roosevelt when he commented on criticism aimed at President Woodrow Wilson's efforts to involve the country in World War I: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
Fine literature is not built on good sentiments, she said. Books provide comfort, particularly when a person feels alone.
“My own stories come to me by the events around me,” said the soft-spoken Paretsky, whose parents were harassed for protesting racial injustice and segregation in eastern Kansas.
She expressed outrage that libraries are required, under the USA Patriot Act of 2001, to give to police the records of who's reading particular books.
The speakers' series is sponsored by Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and The Blade.