BELFAST — The public is invited to a virtual conversation on Tuesday, June 29, at 7 p.m., when Gigi Georges, author of the just-released nonfiction book “Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America,” talks with John Zavodny, president of the Maine Seacoast Mission. The free event is being co-hosted by Left Bank Books in Belfast and The Bangor Daily News. To register for the event, visit

Over the course of four years, Georges followed the lives of five teenage girls who lived in Washington County in Maine’s far northeast corner. Although the villages and towns they grew up in were only an hour’s drive from the heart of bustling and famed Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, they lived a world away. The girls’ stories reveal surprising truths about rural America. “It’s almost impossible not to care about these fierce young women and cheer for their hard-won successes” (Kirkus) in this “heartfelt portrait” and “worthy tribute” (Publishers Weekly).

Willow lives in the shadow of an abusive, drug-addicted father. Vivian, a gifted writer, feels stifled by her church and town. Mckenna is a softball pitching phenom whose passion is lobstering. Audrey is a beloved high school basketball star who earns a coveted college scholarship but questions her chosen path. And Josie, a Yale-bound valedictorian, is determined to take the world by storm.

All five girls live in a region marked by a dwindling population, vanishing jobs, and pervasive opioid addition. Their stories remind us of the value of timeless ideals, including strength of family and community. Georges writes, “Together, they carved a communion with the land and sea around them, and it sustained them.”

Georges holds a PhD from New York University and is a former White House special assistant to President Clinton and communications director for the New York City Department of Education under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She has taught political science at Boston College and Saint Anselm College and served as program director for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Innovation Strategies Initiative. Her commentary and research-based articles have appeared in The New York Times and multiple international prestigious scholarly journals. She is a longstanding advisory board member of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Zavodny, who holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Tennessee, spent 20 years in higher education before joining the Maine Seacoast Mission. He grew up in Cleveland, the youngest son of a sharecropper’s daughter from the deep South and a first-generation American from eastern Europe. The son of a U.S. Navy sailor, Zavodny is proud to be a small part of the Mission’s seagoing history. He is the first member of his family to complete college and understands first-hand the transformative role education can play.

For more information, call 207-338-9009 or email

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