Unity College professor Kathryn Miles will talk about 19th-century Irish famine ships as part of Left Bank Books’ Winter Lyceum Sunday, Feb. 26 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the downtown bookshop, 21 East Main St./Route 1. The program is free and the public warmly invited.

Miles, a professor of environmental writing at Unity, has a special interest in nature writing, environmental journalism and New England literature. Her latest research has focused on Irish famine ships — in particular, the Jeanie Johnston and the 2,500 immigrants it shuttled to safety. In the face of the mid-19th-century potato famine, millions of Irish immigrants were crowded on to ships bound for North America, expelled by England and promised work and a better life. In fact, tens of thousands died on such ships — “coffin ships” as they came to be called — whose conditions rivaled those of slave transports. On the Jeanie Johnston, however, decency prevailed; over the course of a decade and through 16 voyages, every one of her thousands of passengers survived.

Working from newspaper accounts, rare archival documents, personal interviews and her own sailing experience aboard a modern re-creation of the vessel, Miles tells the remarkable story of the Jeanie Johnston in a new book to be published by Simon and Schuster this summer. Her talk will be a sneak preview of the story featuring heroism, hunger, shipboard births, the founding of an Irish-American dynasty and the harrowing journey of one group of passengers from Nova Scotia to Portland, in winter, on foot.

Miles earned her Ph.D. in English at the University of Delaware. She is the author of “Adventures with Ari: A Puppy, A Leash, and Our Year Outdoors “(W.W. Norton, 2009) and editor of Unity’s Hawk & Handsaw journal, as well as Scholar-in-Residence for the Maine Humanities Council. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Best American Essays, Delaware Today, Pop! Magazine and Blackwell’s Companion to the Short Story. She lives with her family in Belfast.

Miles’ program is the second in the Winter Lyceum series; the third talk is scheduled for March 11 with Stephen Costanza, author/illustrator of the new children’s book “Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra.” All of the programs are free, but seating is limited and winter weather or unexpected illness can sometimes require a change in schedule. To reserve a seat for the talk or for more information, call Left Bank Books at 548-6400. The shop is open daily.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.