WAKEFIELD — Wakefield’s  first 2023 Sweetser Lecture will present famed journalist and non-fiction book author Tracy Kidder.  Kidder’s topic is “Rough Sleepers” based on his book about Dr. Jim O’Connell’s urgent mission to bring healing to homeless people.   

Kidder is an American writer of books about serious social issues.  His Lecture will be on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7:00 p.m., in The Savings Bank Theatre, at Wakefield Memorial High School, 60 Farm St, Wakefield.

Kidder received the Pulitzer Prize for his second book, the 1981 work, “The Soul of a New Machine,” about the creation of a new computer at Data General Corporation. It is an account of the complex community and environment of programming.  

Other works include “House,” a “biography” of a couple having their first house built and the people involved in the project.  “Among Schoolchildren,” a 1989 work, is set in an elementary school in Holyoke, and reflects on US education through the lives of 20 children and their teacher.

Kidder has explored a wide range of topics.  His books have made “Notable” annual lists of The New York Times and received  praise from critics.  He is considered a literary journalist because of his strong story line and personal voice in his writing.

Born in New York City, the author graduated from Phillips Academy and Harvard University. He served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam and received an MFA degree through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974.

Two of his other books are “The Road to Yuba City:  A Journey into the Juan Corona Murders” and “Among School Children” and “Old Friends.”

Two weeks later on Wednesday, Oct. 18, Ilyon Woo, PhD, will offer “Master Slave Husband Wife:  An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom.”  Her book of the same name is a New York Times best-seller.  Woo’s writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and The New York Times.  She has received support for her writing from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Her BA in the Humanities is from Yale College and her PhD in English from Columbia University.

The third Lecture on Wednesday, Nov.  1, will be a collaborative effort between historical novelists Jane Healey and William Martin.  They will discuss “December ’41:  FDR, Churchill, and the Fearful Days After Pearl Harbor,” respectively.   They will present two separate half-hour Lectures that evening and then join each other for a discussion with the audience.

Healey is the author of “Dreamtown Girls” and “The Secret Stealer,” both of which have made several best-seller lists.  Her works are founded in strong historical research, and she is the host of “Historical Happy Hour,” a monthly webinar and podcast featuring interviews with premier historical fiction authors about their latest novels.

Martin, a Boston native, graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English. He has worked as a historical research assistant and directed theater in the evening. He was a construction worker to raise money to go to Hollywood and then studied motion pictures at the University of Southern California. Martin wrote two screenplays to get into the writing business.  His agent and producers suggested he should write a novel to best take advantage of his writing style. Historical novels he has written are “Back Bay,” “Harvard Yard,” “The Lost Constitution,” “The City of Dreams,” “The Lincoln Letter,” and “Bound for Gold.”

All three 2023 Lectures will be at The Savings Bank Theatre at Wakefield Memorial High School, 60 Farm St., Wakefield, and will begin at 7:00 p.m. the evening of each Lecture.  (Note that this is a half-hour earlier than previous years.)

Tickets are available at the following locations:  Sweetbay, 478 Main St., Wakefield, Whitelam Books, 610 Main St., Reading, and The Book Oasis, 311 Main St., Stoneham. You may also purchase tickets from the Sweetser Lecture Committee, P. O Box 1734,Wakefield, MA 018890.  Please enclose a check and a self-addressed stamped envelope.  Tickets will also be available at the door the evenings of the Lectures.  Ticket prices this year are $15 for a single Lecture or a discounted price of $40 for all three.

The Sweetser Lecture is a Wakefield tradition dating to 1881.  Cornelius Sweetser, a wealthy local shoe manufacturer bequeathed to the town of Wakefield a substantial sum of money to organize a series of programs for the education and uplift of the residents of Wakefield.  Any excess proceeds after expenses are expended for the benefit of needy residents of Wakefield.  Recipients of his generosity in 2021 were the Wakefield Food Pantry, the Wakefield Branch of the Salvation Army,  and the Mystic Valley Elder Services (Wakefield residents only).

In addition to ticket sales and the bequest of Mr. Sweetser, the Lecture Series has been supported by generous donations from The Savings Bank of Wakefield.