In "Charity Girl," a new novel set in Boston, Michael Lowenthal unearths a shameful and little-known chapter in American history. During World War I, the US government incarcerated thousands of American women suspected of having venereal diseases to stop the spread of these infections among Army recruits . Lowenthal stumbled upon this fact in "AIDS and Its Metaphors," by Susan Sontag. In "Charity Girl," Frieda Mintz, a 17-year-old bundle wrapper at Jordan Marsh, spends a night with an infected soldier. He names Mintz as his last sexual contact, and she is hauled off to a detention center. The novel isn't unrelentingly grim. Lowenthal, who lives in Roslindale, works in details of the triumphant Red Sox season of 1918 .
Lowenthal speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brookline Booksmith , 279 Harvard St., Brookline . PEN New England hosts a reading by Lowenthal at 6:15 p.m., Feb. 7, at Hotel Marlowe, in Cambridge.
Frank Kramer, owner of Harvard Book Store, the event's sponsor, said the price of admission to appearances by some high-profile authors will climb this year as the store seeks to cover the costs of its reading series. "Look what it costs to go to a ball game or to go to a concert," he said. Still, the public expects readings to be free. Both he and Dana Brigham, manager and co-owner of Brookline Booksmith, acknowledge that.
Typically, only 10 percent of attendees buy the book, Brigham said. Sponsoring readings requires money and staff, to say nothing of lugging around cartons of unsold books.
"The Song Is You," by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
"Breakpoint" by Richard Clarke (Putnam)
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.