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You think south-side private investigator V.I. Warshawski, the heroine of Sara Paretsky's mystery novels, is a tough cookie? Well, she's modeled on her creator. In her new memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence (Verso), Paretsky recounts her isolated childhood as a Jewish girl in Lawrence, Kansas, the only daughter in a family of favored boys. Her life changed in the summer of 1966 when, as a 19-year-old camp counselor at Gage Park, she witnessed ugly riots and racial hatred; she went on to spend years as a "fat, ungainly, painfully lonely" grad student at the U. of C. and wrote privately for a decade before submitting her first novel to a publisher. But this isn't just about Paretsky's search for an authorial voice: hers is also the voice of activism, on social issues from civil rights to reproductive freedom. In her closing chapter, "Truth, Lies, and Duct Tape," she scorches the Bush administration for its assault on civil liberties. Cribbing from the AIDS movement she notes, "Silence does not mean consent. Silence means death." a Sat 4/21, noon, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 W. Madison, Forest Park, 708-771-7243. Wed 4/25, 7:30 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299. Thu 4/26, 7 PM, 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, 773-684-1300.

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