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When the Island Had Fish: The Remarkable Story of a Maine Fishing Community

The tiny island of Vinalhaven, Maine, has been home to fishermen for more than 5,000 years, and still today, lobstering is the primary source of employment for its 1,100 year-round residents. Islanders harvest lobster at a rate almost unrivaled nationally. When the Island Had Fish is a meditation on America's past and future. It's the story of habitation by Native peoples and European settlers, their use of natural resources, their communities and kin, and their efforts to find ways to thrive in a harsh environment.


This story of Vinalhaven offers a close look at the significant history of Maine fishing in particular, but also offers perspectives on the impact of industrialized fishing on small communities all over the United States and the world. Investigating the changing notion of what it means to be a "fishing community" and community members' changing relationships with the natural world and with industry and commerce, it shines a broader light on the way that species, including humans, are impacted by—and contribute to—climate change, environmental degradation, and sustainable resource use. Anyone interested in creating a viable collective future will learn much about the Penobscot Bay fisheries and about Vinalhaven fishermen's expansive knowledge of craft, self-government, independence, and interdependence.

An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery

“’One pleasure of art making is its resolute inefficiency.’ This is an insight in a book bursting with insights, and recognizing its truth may help writers stop regretting the hours that a single sentence requires. Making art often requires ruthlessness, too; and the remembrance of and reenactment of shame (the chapter on Charlie Chaplin is one of the best in the book); and the avoiding of friends and even family. Janna Smith both warns and reassures us as she explores these difficult truths with compassion and wit.” —Edith Pearlman

My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud

"Candid yet sensitive, this memoir by clinical social worker Smith exquisitely captures "the particular psychic pleasure and confusion" of being the daughter of novelist/short-story writer Bernard Malamud... the portrait here reveals mutual affection and commitment... Above all, Smith enhances our understanding of how the larger themes of Malamud's fiction mirror his concern with imperfect people balancing moral responsibility against the desire to transcend pitiless circumstance. The author amply demonstrates that she has inherited her father's unblinking moral scrutiny and sympathy for the yearning heart." - Kirkus Reviews

Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life

(Hardcover: Addison Wesley, 1997: Updated Paperback: Seal Press, 2003)

A New York Times “Notable Book” for 1997. Private Matters explores privacy, particularly as it affects human freedom, dignity and creativity. Various chapters look at privacy and the press, privacy and the presidency, privacy and sexuality, privacy and psychotherapy. The paperback addition features a new chapter on privacy post - 9/11.

A Potent Spell: Mother Love and the Power of Fear

(Houghton Mifflin, 2003; paperback, Mariner, 2004)

A New York Times “Summer Book” for 2003. "A fervent examination of the powerful, visceral anxiety of mothers for their children's lives and welfare, and of its exploitation by experts and authorities."
--New York Times Book Review