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Dorothy Lazard Discusses Her New Book at Pegasus

July 13, 2023 | 7:00 pm

Pegasus Downtown welcomes public historian and beloved Oakland librarian, Dorothy Lazard, in celebration of the release of her new book, What You Don’t Know Will Make a Whole New WorldLazard will read from, discuss, and sign her book. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

About the book:

What You Don’t Know Will Make a Whole New World is Dorothy Lazard’s autobiographical coming-of-age story as a young Black girl navigating race and embracing the world-expanding power of the written word in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1960s and 70s. Transplanted to the West Coast by way of segregated St. Louis, this engrossing memoir offers Lazard’s account, told through her adolescent and teenage eyes, of her dawning consciousness of the dynamics of racism in America and the worlds that opened to her through the sanctuary of public libraries. 

“The library was a great, seductive classroom,” writes Lazard of her first heady encounters with the stacks, where she, like Malcolm X, vowed to become an autodidact. “It was during this honeymoon with the public library that I began to see how my life could be radically different from my mother and grandmother’s lives,” writes Lazard, “I could be my own something if I only learned enough.”

Lazard’s journey to become her own something takes us through some of the most tumultuous chapters of the Black liberation struggle—from the assassinaton of Martin Luther King Jr. to the flowering of the Black Arts Movement. Against this backdrop, Lazard points to her intellectual guideposts—James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield—who guide her quest toward self-determination.

Today the deeply beloved and now retired doyenne of the Oakland Public Library system, Lazard has built a career carrying the torch for the potent role of libraries as a haven for the ever-curious, the underserved, and the often marginalized. This memoir is her origin story, charting her journey from a Missouri orphanage to her adopted hometown of Oakland, revealing along the way how her early love of learning opened her young eyes to herself, her society, and ultimately her future as a change-maker and memory-keeper.

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About the Speaker

Dorothy Lazard

Dorothy Lazard

Dorothy Lazard was born in St. Louis and grew up in San Francisco and Oakland. A librarian for forty years, she joined the staff of the Oakland Public Library in 2000. From 2009 until her retirement in 2021, she was the head librarian of OPL’s Oakland History Center, where she encouraged people of all ages and backgrounds to explore local history. Lazard was the 2023 recipient of the Oscar Lewis Award in Western History from the Book Club of California. She lives in Oakland. Photo by Gene Dominique.


P.O. Box 9145Berkeley, CA 94709(510) 549-3564

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