Kensington, Philadelphia: a place that straddles the line between the Lower Northeast and North Philly.
It’s the home to a large black, Hispanic and Polish American population and, more recently, an area marked by gentrification. Kensington is also one of the neighborhoods within Philadelphia that was hit hardest by America’s opioid epidemic.
This Friday, for 3rd in the Burg, Liz Moore returns to Midtown Scholar’s stage to read from her latest novel, “Long Bright River,” which dives into both the opioid epidemic and its effect on Kensington.
The book tells a fictional account of sisters Michaela “Mickey” and Kacey Fitzpatrick. The two are inseparable, almost like one another’s shadows, but they eventually become estranged due to one sister’s addiction. Mickey becomes a police officer who patrols Kensington, the same neighborhood where her sister works in the sex trade to fuel her addiction.
Kacey goes missing around the same time that women in the area are being murdered. So, Mickey takes it upon herself to solve the murders and find her sister.
“Most of the research [for the book] was organic,” Moore said. “I was there anyway, in the neighborhood for other reasons and other projects. So, a lot of it was just absorbing what was going on around me.”
Moore lived in Philly for a decade, and, in 2009, started a photojournalism project in Kensington, which turned into a long period visiting the area and writing nonfiction and fiction pieces about the area. She got to know more people in the community through volunteering, teaching a free writing workshop at a day shelter and just talking to people.
“As a writer of fiction, I often draw from my own life to a certain extent, but I’m also very aware of my outsider status in Kensington, which is important to point out,” she said. “I’m not from there, I didn’t grow up there. I think it’s more of, I found it an interesting place.”
Most of the research for her book came through absorbing her surroundings in Kensington. However, she also interviewed addiction counselors and people who suffered from addiction and spoke with family members of people with addiction, police officers and other people in the community. Almost everyone she talked to had some sort of connection to the opioid epidemic, whether they themselves had an addiction or had an addicted family or friend.
“My hope is that [this book] allows readers to be all the characters—characters who are suffering from addiction, characters who have lost someone from addiction,” Moore said. “Both are very very difficult positions to be in. I hope this book puts a face on something that we read a lot about in the news.”
This is Moore’s third time visiting Midtown Scholar. In 2017, she read from her then-latest novel “The Unseen World” and, in 2019, returned to moderate an event with novelist Téa Obreht.
On Friday, Moore will share a bit about her inspiration behind “Long Bright River,” do a reading and hold a Q&A session, as well as sign copies of her book.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Liz Moore back to the Scholar. She already has many devoted fans and readers here in Harrisburg. So, it’s especially exciting when she comes out with a new book,” said Alex Brubaker, manager at Midtown Scholar. “‘Long Bright River’ has so much anticipatory buzz behind it from booksellers, book clubs and reviewers that’s so well deserved. It truly is one of the must-read crime novels of the year.”
See Liz Moore this Friday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. at Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information visit www.midtownscholar.com/featured-events. For more information on Moore, check out her website at http://www.lizmoore.net.