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Disease, Argentina's 'dirty war' forge unlikely friendship in 'What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me'

Author Donna Gordon and her new novel "What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me."
Author Donna Gordon and her new novel "What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me."

Donna Gordon describes her debut novel, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me, as a love story. The novel is based on two people who left a profound impact on Gordon. The two inspirations never met in real life, but they both met Gordon around the same time, and their influence on her can been seen in the characters in the book.

Gordon used their stories to bring awareness to the "dirty war" in Argentina — and the human toll and trauma of that war— and progeria, a genetic disorder that causes the body to age prematurely.

Gordon tells Vermont Edition how she met the real people whose lives became part of the characters in her book. The book's themes include time and coming to terms with what we do with the time we have left. The two main characters are Lee —a 13-year-old boy who suffers from progeria and looks like he's 80 — and Tomas, the caregiver who is looking for answers about the wife he lost during the war.

Gordon said ys the two characters didn't get along at first, but they ended up needing each other.

Gordon will be at Bookstock in Woodstock on Saturday, June 25.

Broadcast at noon on Tuesday, June 21, 2022; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontedition.

Connor Cyrus joined Vermont Public as host and senior producer in March 2021. He was a morning reporter at WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island. A graduate of Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University), he started his reporting career as an intern at WPTZ, later working for WAGM in Presque Isle, Maine, and WCAX Channel 3, where he covered a broad range of stories from Vermont’s dairy industry to the nurses’ strikes at UVM Medical Center. He’s passionate about journalism’s ability to shed light on complex or difficult topics, as well as giving voice to underrepresented communities.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.