Read. Walk. Talk! This year’s Summer Reading theme — for adults as well as kids and teens — is “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” We’re organizing programs about fitness and wellness, as well as meeting challenges of all kinds, mental and physical.
As part of Summer Reading, we’ll be hosting a walking book club at the Columbia Public Library on the second Wednesday of the month throughout the summer. This club combines three necessities for a healthy brain: mental, physical and social activity. Participants will take a 30-minute walk, leaving from the library, followed by a book discussion. Here are the book selections and meeting times. All sessions will start in the Friends Room. Mark your calendars now!
Wednesday, June 8 › 6:30-8 p.m.
June’s selection is “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” by Ben Montgomery. Not only did this mother of 11 and grandmother of 23 hike the Appalachian Trail solo once (the first woman to ever do so), she did it three times. Conducting interviews with those who knew Gatewood and drawing on her diaries and correspondence, journalist Ben Montgomery shines a welcome light on the amazing Emma Gatewood’s life in this delightful book, exploring why she did what she did and looking at her efforts to bring public attention to the poorly maintained 2,050 mile trail. At this kick-off meeting, Annette Triplett of PedNet will give a brief talk about that organization’s programs and the benefits of walking.
Wednesday, July 13 › 6:30-8 p.m.
July’s selection is the inspiring “Find a Way” by Diana Nyad. On September 2, 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad emerged onto the shores of Key West after completing a 110 mile, 53 hour, record-breaking swim through shark-infested waters from Cuba to Florida. Her memoir shows why, at 64, she was able to achieve what she couldn’t at 30 and how her repeated failures contributed to her success. A copy of “Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites” will be given away at this meeting!
Wednesday, August 10› 6:30-8 p.m.
Join us for a discussion of the novel “Bill Warrington’s Last Chance” by James King. Bill Warrington is a retired salesman, a widower and a recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s sufferer. His relationships with his children are fraught — one son is a wanderer, the other estranged; his daughter is a single mother struggling to raise a stubborn 14-year-old, April. But Bill has vowed to repair these relationships by kidnapping April, driving to California, and leaving clues intended to force his children to overcome mutual distrust and work together.
A Charm for Spring Flowers
Who sees the first marsh marigold
Shall count more wealth than hands can hold.
Who bends a knee where violets grow
A hundred secret things shall know.
Who finds hepatica’s dim blue
Shall have his dearest wish come true.
Who spies on lady-slippers fair
Shall keep a heart as light as air.
But whosoever toucheth not
One petal, sets no root in pot,
He shall be blessed of earth and sky,
Till under them he, too, shall lie.
Oh, the magical charm of wildflowers, especially the earliest ones, which rise up through the woodland leaf litter to sing, when winter is gone. If you’ve spent any time in the woods hunting down or chancing upon these fleeting beauties (in our local area, bloodroot, wake robin, Dutchman’s breeches, etc.), you know how bewitching they can be. I was 15 years old when I found and identified wild columbine flowers. We were on a spring road trip, my mother and I, headed to Georgia via Skyline Drive to visit my grandmother, when we stopped for a break. I wandered off for a short walk and found columbine growing on a sunny hillside. The blossoms, with their complex structure formed in bright red and yellow, were stunningly beautiful and unlike any flower I had ever seen before. They most certainly cast a spell on me, propelling me on a lifelong quest to find and identify more wildflowers. It is a sweet and happy hobby.
The first week of May is National Wildflower Week, and what a worthy group to showcase and celebrate. In case you didn’t know, native wildflowers are plant species that were growing in specific regions before humans came in and added foreign plants from other countries to the vegetation mix. Besides the obvious beauty wildflowers offer (which may be a human-centric feature) wildflowers are beneficial to all living things and serve many vital and practical roles in the planet’s ecosystems.
First of all, wildflowers attract and support pollinators of all kinds (bees, wasps, butterflies, etc.), which are absolutely key to generating food supplies, for humans and other creatures alike. They provide habitat for myriad smaller critters and also prevent soil erosion. Wildflowers work very hard to keep the whole show of life running. To give you an example, consider the trout lily. This precious woodland beauty grows in colonies of deeply rooted systems of corms that help stabilize the forest floor, and their blossoms provide an early food source to pollinators that farmers depend on for pollination of late spring crops. To read more and understand the complex interrelationships between this flower and other life on earth, read the chapter “Trout Lily” in “The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-known Facts, Folklore, and History“ by Jack Sanders. There are many equally fascinating essays in this book on a huge bouquet of other wildflowers.
If you’d like to meet some local wildflowers face to face, there is ample opportunity to make this happen. Right here in town you can take hikes along the MKT trail or in Rock Bridge State Park (RBSP). If you’d like to explore with a group of people, you can avail yourself of the wildflower walks, led by an expert, along RBSP trails. The guide will help you identify the flowers and fill you in on folklore about the ones you find. If you want to venture a little further afield, there is the magical wonderland, Prairie Garden Trust, in New Bloomfield, MO; you need to call them to arrange a visit. To make the most of your venture out, plan to take a wildflower identification guide with you. There are many decent ones, but my favorite is “Missouri Wildflowers: A Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Missouri” by Edgar Denison.
Since native plants have adapted over eons to local growing conditions, they are better able to thrive in their original territory. This means, in their natural ranges (or zones), they are easier to establish, need less water and fertilizer, and are more resistant to indigenous pests and diseases. The upshot of all of this is they require less money, physical effort and natural resources to grow and maintain. Since wildflowers of all kinds are endangered due to habitat destruction, competition from invasive species and modern farming practices (heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides), growing wildflowers is a very concrete way to help restore and maintain the healthy ecosystems we need to sustain all life on earth. So, one of the best ways to celebrate National Wildflower Week is to grow native wildflowers. If you are looking for sources for wildflowers, local farmers’ markets are often good places to find them. You can also search the Internet for “Missouri wildflowers” to find other suppliers. Wishing you lots of spellbinding wildflower cheer!
- Spicebush Swallowtail and Aphrodite Fritillary via Flickr (license)
- Columbine, open and closed via Flickr (license)
- Trout lily via Flickr (license)
I have vivid memories of sitting by my boom box listening to American Top 40 on the radio, my finger poised over the record button, so I could capture Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” on cassette tape. This legendary’s musician’s work was the soundtrack of my adolescence, and I was among the many shocked and saddened by his sudden death on April 21.
If you feel moved to revisit Prince’s music, the library has not only physical CDs for checkout, but also more than 15 albums you can stream or download from Hoopla. If you are new to this service, visit the library’s website for more information. You can be singing along to “Purple Rain” in no time if you have a library card.
If you want to read more about the complicated person Prince was and his enormous impact on music and popular culture, check out “Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks” by Ronin Ro. This is an authoritative portrait that documents his rise from an unknown musician to a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, offering insight into his role in confronting labels and fostering other young talents.
“Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain” by Alan Light celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of Prince’s most popular album and provides delicious insights into the making of the movie and music that launched Prince to superstardom. This enjoyable read not only illuminates Prince’s early career but also the context in which he created and the transformations happening in pop music and entertainment at the time.
Finally, if you need to rock away some of your sorrow, seek out the recording of Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, arguably one of the best there has ever been.
RIP, Prince. You and your music will be missed.
Bringing endangered species back from the brink has long been a concern of scientists and conservationists. Check out these documentaries that not only explore several endangered species, but also explore some of the people interested in preserving them.
“The Chances of the World Changing” (2006)
An artist abandons his life’s work to build an ark filled with hundreds of endangered animals. But his growing “ark” and preservation efforts are threatening to exhaust him, both mentally and financially. A story about time, death, art, love and turtles.
“Ghost Bird” (2009)
Set in a murky swamp full of birders, scientists and reporters, this thrilling eco-noir investigates the strange but true story of a small town in Arkansas overrun by a nation of birders all in search of the Holy Grail with wings, the ivory-billed woodpecker.
“Racing Extinction” (2016)
Academy Award-winning filmmakers expose the forces that are leading our planet to its next mass extinction, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species. This film reveals how creatures that have survived for millions of years may be wiped from Earth in our lifetime.
Supernatural thrillers, compelling historical fiction and a boatload of mysteries? Summer reading must be coming! Enjoy this month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing next month that librarians across the country recommend.
“Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman
“Britt-Marie is a woman who is used to her life being organized. But when she leaves her cheating spouse and takes a temporary job as caretaker of the recreation center in the tiny town of Borg, her life changes in unpredictable ways. With its wonderful cast of oddball characters and sly sense of humor, this novel is sure to capture readers’ hearts. Highly recommended.” – Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA
“The Fireman” by Joe Hill
“’The Fireman’ is a novel that will keep you up reading all night. No one really knows where the deadly Dragonscale spore originated but many theories abound. The most likely is that as the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere. Harper Willowes is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend to others.This is her story and I loved it! This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans.” – Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX
“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave
“Set during World War II and loosely based on the author’s own grandparents, this was a strikingly honest look at the changes that war creates on a country’s landscape and its people. These changes were so strongly shown by the progressive style of this novel. Bit by bit, we are privy to each character’s transformation. What a great tribute to what they endured. War gives birth to many endings, also to many beginnings. Bittersweet.” – Lori Elliott, Kershaw County Library, SC
Here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:
- “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler
- “I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh
- “Smoke” by Dan Vyleta
- “Redemption Road” by John Hart
- “City of the Lost” by Kelley Armstrong
- “Wilde Lake” by Laura Lippman
- “Sweet Lamb of Heaven” by Lydia Millet
Many here in Missouri don’t know, but I used to be an environmental microbiologist in another lifetime. It seems so long ago! Consequently, I am always very excited when Earth Day approaches. I usually try to read new environmental books as soon as they hit the shelves, but they seem to come faster and faster these days. One that slipped by me is “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation” by Adam Rome, published in 2013, so I picked it up this year to get me in the spirit. There’s so much I didn’t know!
Rome reports that before the first Earth Day in 1970, there was not an official environmental movement. Climate change was not yet a popularly known concept (scientists already knew but they were being cautious). The environment was actually considered “women’s work” as a part of housekeeping and was championed primarily by housewives and groups like the League of Women Voters. Other groups, like the Sierra Club and The National Audubon Society, came at the environment from a different perspective — conservation for the purposes of outdoor recreation. There were individual groups in different cities working on issues like smog and different polluted sites. Rome writes, “Earth Day did not just mobilize activists to demonstrate the growing power of their cause. In several ways, Earth Day helped to create the movement. Earth Day gave environmental activism a name. Earth Day also convinced many Americans that pollution, sprawl, nuclear fallout, pesticide use, wilderness preservation, waste disposal, and population growth were not separate issues.”
Events of the late 1960s made the time right for a cohesive movement to form. The war in Vietnam was raging on with all of the environmental destruction that went with it. Rachel Carson’s iconic book “Silent Spring” came out in 1962 and sent shock waves. The Civil Rights movement was heating up, many facets of which involved environmental issues. But the idea of Earth Day grew out of the interest and passion of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Nelson decided to bring the environment, overall, to the public’s attention with a “teach in.” He wisely decided to not go with a top-down approach and began involving different groups on campuses and in various cities. From there, it exploded. From the very first Earth Day, there was not just one event, but somewhere between 12,000-13,000 events! Although many colleges were included in some of the initial planning, it wasn’t long before high schools and elementary schools began to request information and ask to be included. Some of the most successful events (not all of them were successful) were in New York, Cleveland, Miami, Birmingham and Salina. Yes, you read that correctly. Salina, Kansas.
I find it incredible that Earth Day has become so huge, so expected, considering where it began. Columbia’s Earth Day celebration is this weekend, Sunday, April 24. (The event will be moved to May 1 if it’s raining – but the weather looks clear so far!) I love that it’s in Peace Park. On a related note, you can pick up a free tree seedling from the Missouri Department of Conservation for Arbor Day on Saturday, April 23, if you stop by the Columbia Public library from 10 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. or the Callaway County Public Library in Fulton from 9 a.m.- noon.
As usual, I have made a list of all my favorite environmental books (and a couple of DVDs) from the last several years. Happy Earth Day!!!!
Image credit: Designed by Freepik
“Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears.” Thus speaketh Luke Skywalker during a rousing oratory in “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”
400 years after his death, on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare continues to inspire new generations of writers. Arguably, everyone writing in English has been influenced by him, as he added so many new words and expressions to the language. Many authors have penned books in direct homage to his work.
Ian Doescher, for instance, has rendered the first six “Star Wars” movies into stories written in Shakespearean style. Iambic pentameter has never been more exciting. Action sequences are narrated by a chorus. Just as in the movies, many of the best lines go to C-3PO. “Fear has put its grip into my wires,” the droid laments. Each volume is a quick read and faithful to the related film’s plot.
“A Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley, is a late twentieth-century retelling of “King Lear.” Smiley’s tale is set on an Iowa farm, where Larry Cook has decided to divide his estate among his three daughters. The story is told from the point of view of Cook’s oldest daughter, Ginny. Unlike Lear’s oldest, Ginny is a sympathetic, mostly non-treacherous character (with the exception of one notable episode.) But much like Lear, Larry seems to be losing his mind, perhaps to dementia, perhaps to long-held guilt. “A Thousand Acres” won multiple awards, including the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.
Any guesses as to which Shakespeare play inspired Matt Haig’s 2007 novel, “The Dead Father’s Club”? 11-year-old Phillip’s father recently died in a car accident. Or was it murder, as his dad’s ghost claims? Phillip is tasked with the job of exacting revenge against his uncle, who appears to be making moves on both Philip’s mom and the family business, a pub called the Castle and Falcon. Sounds a lot like “Hamlet” to me. Except contemporary, funny and — if possible — even more tragic in some ways.
In “The Dream of Perpetual Motion,” Dexter C. Palmer presents a steampunk version of “The Tempest.” Like Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s play, Harry Winslow finds himself stranded with a character named Miranda. But instead of a desert island, the setting is a perpetually orbiting zeppelin. The zeppelin has been designed by Miranda’s father, Prospero Taligent, who mirrors Shakespeare’s Prospero in his possession of abilities beyond the ordinary, creating mechanical beasts and people to do his bidding.
Shouldst thou further wish to pursue literature inspired by the Bard of Avon, look to the reading list contained in yon catalog.
John Wray’s latest awesome novel, “The Lost Time Accidents,” begins with its narrator declaring that he has been “excused from time.” Most readers will assume that he is waiting on a tardy chauffeur or a pizza delivery, but this statement is quickly clarified: Waldy Tolliver is literally outside of time. It’s 8:47 and he’s stuck in his aunt’s apartment, a shrine to the act of hoarding. Towers of newspapers threaten to crush careless occupants, and there are rooms divided into smaller rooms via walls of books with openings only large enough to barely crawl through. But this is more than a book about a man with a lot of a lack of time on his hands being stuck in a super cool house. It’s about his family, and their obsession with time, and the Holocaust, and a fairy that visits one half of a profoundly eccentric set of twins, and physics, and pickles, and the narrator’s doomed love affair with Mrs. Haven, and his father’s prolific career as a science fiction writer, and the powerful cult that his science fiction inadvertently spawned, and whether time is a sphere and other stuff too.
(While reviews for this novel are positive, some downright glowing, there are also a few that, while admiring Wray’s ambition and skill, don’t love its length (roughly 500 pages), nonlinear structure and tendency to meander. This gentleman enjoys a good meandering, though, and Wray’s meanderings are spectacular. Without them we wouldn’t get several hilarious summaries of Waldy’s father’s science fiction or the section written in the voice of Joan Didion. Besides, Wray’s genius needs the space to unfurl. The fellow writes sentences like someone that loves doing so and also owns a top-notch brain.)
The family’s obsession with time began with Waldy’s great-grandfather, Ottokar, an amateur physicist and proprietor of a thriving pickling business. He’d figured out the nature of time just prior to being killed by an automobile. His sons, amateur physicists and heirs to a thriving pickling business, search for clues to Ottokar’s discovery, but he’s left behind little more than some ambiguous and absolutely absurdly alliterative notes. (“FOOLS FROM FUTURE’S FETID FIEFDOMS FOLLOW FREELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS” — this reader thought maybe his sons should have thought about that a little longer.)
Ottokar’s sons, Kaspar and Waldemar, take very different paths. Waldemar becomes an anti-Semite (it doesn’t help that Albert Einstein, forever referred to by the family only as “the patent clerk,” gathered the glory he felt was meant for their father) and just generally insane and evil. He eventually becomes known as “The Black Timekeeper” for his time travel-related experimentation on prisoners during the Holocaust. Waldemar believes time is a sphere, and that with enough willpower, one can transcend it. He vanishes just prior to the destruction of his concentration camp.
Kaspar’s path is loaded with love and heartbreak, continent swapping, fatherhood and eventually a lucrative career as a watchmaker. He raises a set of eccentric twins, who cultivate their own obsession with time, encouraged by the fairy that visits one of them every so often. Those twin girls raise Kaspar’s next child, Orson. Orson loves writing science fiction, and though it tends to the erotic because that’s what sells, he’s pleased to be free of his family’s obsession with time. So of course, one of his novels becomes the text that inspires a time-obsessed cult. Orson’s son, our narrator, is compelled to write the story of his family, in part to free himself from his evil uncle’s shadow. Then he gets “excused from time” and has all the time to write he could ever want. So he uses it to write a family history in the form of a very long letter to a Mrs. Haven. He begins by informing her that he has been excused from time.
Who among us couldn’t use a little more calm in our lives? With the release and spectacular success of Johanna Basford’s “Secret Garden,” the adult coloring book craze has taken off. And they are EVERYWHERE! There have even been TED Talks on the benefits of coloring and doodling.
Of course, art therapy has been touted by professionals for decades, but the trend has really exploded over the last several years. And, while it may not really be “magic,” coloring is kind of magical. According to Psychology Today, doodling and coloring help with self-soothing, problem solving, memory retention and concentration. Doodlers aren’t just daydreaming! According to the book “Doodle Revolution” by Sunni Brown, doodling can even help us to think differently.
My kids got me an adult coloring book last year for Mother’s Day, and I love it! I have to admit that I prefer coloring books with nature, city scenes and gardens over the geometric designs. But don’t discount the designs! They can have a entrancing effect. I also have to be careful to not get designs that are too tight and intricate. I just don’t have that much skill. But coloring and doodling are things that you don’t have to have skill to enjoy.
And now you can enjoy coloring at the library. Our libraries in Ashland and Fulton offer a Coloring for Adults program that lets you relax and socialize with all materials provided. You might also want to check out our collection of Zentangle books for relaxation through doodling, drawing and coloring. Zentangles are a more structured form of doodling using lines, curves and dots on 3.5-inch squares of paper or card stock.
Here’s to a calming and productive spring!
Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.
“Killing Them Safely”
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the Missouri Theatre last year, this documentary directed by Columbia filmmaker Nick Berardini examines Taser International, the company responsible for the worldwide sale of Tasers to law enforcement, and explores whether the device’s safety record is at odds with its reputation as a nonlethal tool for the police.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing at Ragtag Cinema earlier this year, this documentary examines events that happened in Columbia, Missouri. In 2005, a resident named Ryan Ferguson was controversially convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison. The film is told through the eyes of Ryan’s father, whose persistent amateur sleuthing saved his son from a lifetime in prison.
“Off the Menu: Asian America”
Trailer / Website / Reviews
The latest from Columbia-native director Grace Lee (American Revolutionary), this film grapples with how family, tradition, faith and geography shape our relationship to food. A road trip into the kitchens, factories, temples and farms of Asian Pacific America that explores how our relationship to food reflects our evolving community.
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing at Ragtag Cinema last year, this film is a provocative, rousing and often humorous account of the birth of the modern women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s through to its contemporary manifestations, direct from the women who lived it. The film dramatizes the movement in its exhilarating, quarrelsome, sometimes heart-wrenching glory.
“Game of Thrones”
Website / Reviews
This season begins with a power vacuum that protagonists across Westeros and Essos look to fill. This season features some of the most explosive scenes yet, as the promise that “Winter is Coming” becomes more ominous than ever before.
Other notable releases:
“Medium Cool” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
“Manhattan” – Season 2 – Website / Reviews
“Peaky Blinders” – Season 2 – Website / Reviews
“The Fall” – Season 2 – Website / Reviews
“The Americans” – Season 1 – Website / Reviews
“The Bridge” – Season 1 – Website / Reviews
“Night Will Fall” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
“Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
“Becoming Bulletproof” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
Where I came from (Moscow, Russia), we never volunteered, at least not in the American way. The thing was that we didn’t have to – authorities “volunteered” us when and where they desired. The “without getting paid” part (see definition above) worked the same way as it does in America. As for the willingness, nobody ever cared to ask.
The most common cases of Russian “volunteering” during my time there included sending citizens to express their fake enthusiasm at state parades and sending city dwellers to collective farms to help with harvesting. I still remember spending long weeks (even months) picking cabbages and potatoes, hours away from my home in Moscow – living in military-style barracks, wearing oversized black rain boots and ugly telogreikas (black, shapeless quilted jackets) and drinking vodka – the only entertainment available in the provinces.
I also remember “voluntarily” greeting foreign dignitaries, including Gerald Ford, who visited Russia (then The Soviet Union) in November 1974. My whole college was positioned along Moscow’s wide Leninsky Prospect (Lenin’s Avenue) for about two hours, bored and cold, waiting for the black limousines and leather-clad motorcyclists to drive quickly past us, while we waved at them and smiled forced smiles under the command of our superiors.
This is not to say that nobody in Russia would take to the streets voluntarily. There were a few – some protesting against the injustice of the regime and some trying to force the authorities to allow them to leave the country. Yet they were called “dissidents,” and the country had appropriate places for them – mostly the state prisons. All in all, “altruism” was not a common word in our vocabulary – “mandate” was.
Of course, I haven’t been in the country of my birth for a very long time, and things are different there now. These days Russia, too, has volunteers. One example is Russian soldiers – sorry, I meant to say “volunteers” – who fought against the Ukrainian Army in 2014-15 (in Ukrainian territory, mind you). Unlike my days of digging in the mud in Russian potato/cabbage/carrots/ etc. fields, those guys weren’t wearing telograikas and rain boots, but military style clothing. They were better equipped, too. Instead of sacks for gathering veggies, they carried automatic rifles, drove tanks and used Russian-made rockets. Yet small differences aside, it’s clear that volunteering has finally made its way to Russia. In fact, some Russian volunteers are fighting in Syria right now.
Coming to America in 1990 was disorienting for me in a number of ways – mentally, linguistically and culturally. One of things that amazed me was this American “volunteering streak.” I remember asking people, “Do you mean that nobody forces (or pays) volunteers to travel to different states to help victims of natural disasters or to support a cause?! That some people would spend their time and money to feed the poor or organize and attend fundraisers?” And when I heard, “yes,” I just shook my head in disbelief.
I’m not saying everybody in this country is an altruist. Of course not. I am saying, though, that I know many people here who have done – and will do again – all of the above and more. And let me tell you, volunteering is contagious. These days, I am volunteering, too. I’ve participated in a number of fundraisers, and I’ve donated things to my congregation and my library. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning. For I finally understood that John Donne’s famous quote is not just poetic. It is a truth of the human condition:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
P.S. By the way, Unbound Book Festival is just around the corner. Would you like to volunteer?
“Ahora soy: Sólo hoy tenemos y creamos.
Now I am: Only today do we have and create.”
These are the words of Nancy Morejón, one of the most distinguished poets of Cuba after the Revolution. They come from her poem “Mujer Negra,” or “Black Woman.” Born in 1944, Nancy Morejón grew up and developed her talent as a writer during the tumultuous Cold War era. Her work draws from her African heritage and her life in modern Cuba.
The Columbia Public Library has the great honor of welcoming Nancy Morejón on Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. She will read from some of her most well-known poems and talk about the cultural milieu of her homeland. If you would like to explore more of her work, the library has two bilingual anthologies for you to check out: “Black Woman and Other Poems” and “Looking Within.”
We will also be displaying a selection of handcrafted books by artisanal Cuban publisher Ediciones Vigía. You’ll find them in the library’s lobby from April 18-29. Among those exhibited will be Nancy Morejón’s poem “Ana Mendieta.” During her April 19 program, there will be a short documentary about the making of one of her poems into a stunning, one-of-a-kind piece of visual art.
Nancy Morejón’s presentation is part of a much larger conference, “Afro-Cuban Artists: A Renaissance,” being hosted by the MU Afro-Romance Institute and the MU Department of Romance Languages and Literature. Be sure to review the complete listing of free community events available online. There are art exhibits, screenings, children’s workshops and more!
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April is National Poetry Month, and I love that this celebration of language comes when spring is doing its raucous thing, sunny daffodils lifting their faces to the sky and flowering trees bursting into bloom. The earth is creating and nature expresses itself, and we, too, celebrate our expression. For what is poetry but the attempt to describe our human condition, to wrap an experience in words so precise, or a metaphor so fitting, that we slip the reader into our shoes?
For poems celebrating nature, Mary Oliver is my favorite. Her exuberant observations of the ordinary never fail to inspire me. She even has an entire volume dedicated to her four-legged friends: “Dog Songs.” Other noteworthy books of poems that meditate on the natural world include Oliver’s “A Thousand Mornings,” “Field Folly Snow” by Cecily Parks and “Terrapin and Other Poems” by Wendell Berry.
Additional ways to celebrate this month include getting familiar with some of the work by poets appearing at the Unbound Book Festival on April 23. (See our reading list for links to these books in our catalog.)
The Academy of American Poets has 30 suggestions for observing National Poetry Month, but I suggest you begin by reading this:
“So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
– Mary Oliver (from “Mornings at Blackwater”)
I like reading about real people — what happens to them and how they feel about their experiences. But I don’t want to read harrowing tales of survival. I want something lighter. I’ve read a number of these types of books recently that I recommend.
- In “Hammer Head: the Making of a Carpenter,” journalist Nina MacLaughlen decides she needs a change and answers an advertisement for a carpenter’s apprentice. She discovers she enjoys working with tools like a hammer, a saw and a level.
- “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” by Maya Van Wagenen was written for teens, but I think adults could learn from it. A middle school girl makes changes to the way she approaches people and how she presents herself to the world.
- “My Kitchen Year” by Ruth Reichl describes how the writer coped during the year following the loss of her job due to the closing of Gourmet magazine. Reichl includes recipes of the foods she cooked during this time.
- “Pardon My French: How a Grumpy American Fell in Love With France” by Allen Johnson chronicles his year living in France, making friends and struggling with the language (which he had studied) and the cultural differences. I enjoyed his sense of humor.
- “Education of a Traitor: A Memoir of Growing Up in Cold War Russia” by Svetlana Grobman tells about coming of age in a place very different from where she lives now. I found it interesting to read about someone growing up during the same time I did but in a very different environment.
- In “Wildflower,” Drew Barrymore tells about her life after she met the mentors and role models who helped her become a responsible adult.
- In “Melissa Explains It All,” Melissa Joan Hart tells about growing up working in the acting business. She knows a lot of other celebrities and reveals some behind-the-scenes moments from “Clarissa Explains it All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
- In “You’re Never Weird on the Internet,” Felicia Day tells about being homeschooled and having little interaction with her peers. The Internet was one way she could connect with people. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet also led to problems once she got older.
- In “Bossypants” by Tina Fey and “Yes, Please” by Amy Pohler, both comedy writers use humor to relate some of their experiences.
Do you have a favorite celebrity? Maybe they’ve written a book. Need inspiration to make a change in your life? Read about other people who tried something different. And yes, we even have memoirs about surviving horrible circumstances if that’s your thing. The library has something for everyone.
A hip-hop-inspired Broadway musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton seems as unlikely as Hamilton’s own historic rise. Born out of wedlock and orphaned as a young child, he struggled out of poverty and became one of our nation’s most powerful political leaders. “Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry,” Hamilton sings in “Hamilton: An American Musical,” created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (composer, writer, lyricist, actor and all-around genius). This show is a smash hit, with even terrible seats going for hundreds of dollars. And just a couple of weeks ago President Obama hosted local students and the cast of “Hamilton” for a daylong celebration of the arts in America.
I came a little late to the “Hamilton” party, but once I heard the soundtrack this spring, I couldn’t stop listening. Or singing. Or rapping. I randomly shout “Lafayette!” or “I am not throwing away my shot!” at my kids, and they grin and dance around because, of course, they’ve heard the soundtrack multiple times by now. Mama cannot get enough. If you haven’t listened to “Hamilton” yet, and you live in Boone or Callaway County and have a library card, you can stream or download the whole thing through Hoopla. Right now! So, go ahead and take a listen. I’ll wait.
You back? Amazing, right? If you want to read the book that inspired this phenomenon, check out the biography “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, which is as much a story of the birth of our nation as it is an in-depth look at George Washington’s right-hand man, author of the majority of The Federalist Papers and the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
If an 800-page book is a little more than you want to commit to, how about learning more about Hamilton’s friend and Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette? Miranda has Lafayette rapping at about 100 miles an hour – in a French accent – in his musical, but Sarah Vowell makes him just as entertaining in “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.” With her signature voice and wit, Vowell discusses Lafayette’s nonpartisan influence on a fledgling United States, his relationships with the Founding Fathers and his contributions during the contentious 1824 presidential election.
If your Hamilton fever has given you the history bug, Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph J. Ellis has authored a number of lyrically written books that explore the birth of America. “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” analyzes the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic and documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. The text doesn’t rhyme, though. Sorry. “American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic,” and “His Excellency: George Washington” (“Here Comes the General!”) are other works by Ellis worth exploring.
If all of this revolutionary reading only has you more excited about the musical, starting in September a travelling company will perform the show in Chicago. Road trip?
The Columbia Public Library will be hosting a 2016 Quilt Exhibit featuring art quilts April 2-16. So I wondered, “How is an art quilt different from the quilts I’ve been making for the last five years?” I checked out a number of books to find out.
The quilts I’ve made are for babies to lie on or to keep someone warm. An art quilt is not made to serve these purposes. It is made primarily as a creative expression of an artist and meant to be displayed. These works are called quilts because they are layered, usually made of fabric, and they are held together by stitches, knots or other means. Artists sometimes transform the cloth through dyeing, printing or painting. The library owns a number of books with wonderful photos of art quilts.
“500 Art Quilts: An Inspiring Collection of Contemporary Work,” published by Lark Books, includes examples of abstract as well as representational art.
“Art Quilts of the Midwest” by Linzee Kull McCray includes quilts by two artists from St. Louis, Missouri and one from Kansas City, Missouri.
“Cutting-Edge Art Quilts” by Mary W. Kerr presents the art of 51 quilters who offer design and technique tips to those interested in textile art.
“Fusing Fun! Fast Fearless Art Quilts” by Laura Wasilowski explains how to make your own art quilt using fusible web.
“Brave New Quilts: 12 Projects Inspired by 20th-Century Art from Art Nouveau to Punk & Pop” by Kathreen Ricketson takes you through the process of designing an art quilt and encourages you to create your own work of art.
Looking through these books was awe-inspiring, but nothing beats experiencing works of art in person. I am looking forward to seeing the exhibit. I hope you can find time to drop by the library to enjoy it, too, and maybe even attend one of the related programs. If you are a quilter of functional quilts, join us at the Callaway County Public Library in Fulton for Quilting Learning Circle on Wednesday, April 6, 2-3:30 p.m.
No, don’t leave!
I promise this is not a blog post about old men in stiff collars doing boring recitations!
Yes, Shakespeare’s works are over 400 years old. And some of them have aged better than others. There is archaic language that requires some effort, but when it comes to storytelling and wordplay, Shakespeare is peerless.
He wrote some of the most definitive and universal stories. I don’t care what kind of movies you love; some part of their appeal is owed to Shakespeare. He pretty much created the romantic comedy and the “your mom” joke. He made history accessible and dramatic, filled with heroes and stirring speeches. He worked with smart dialogue, ghosts and prophecies to give us tales of mistaken identities, doomed lovers and power-hungry villains.
Still don’t believe me? Still think it all sounds boring?
Thanks to the timelessness of Shakespeare’s plays, they can be performed in varied and creative stagings.
How about a Brit/punk “Romeo and Juliet” set in the 1980s and performed outside, complete with soundtrack? Where the balcony scene is performed from the actual balcony of a fire escape? Greenhouse Theatre Project, based in Columbia, specializes in reimagined productions in creative spaces. You can see some of their work April 23 at the Unbound Book Festival!
The University of Missouri has a production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” adapted by Cheryl Black and Patricia Downey, coming up in April that is set in the 1950s and features a doo-wop chorus singing songs like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Bad to the Bone.” You can learn more at the MU Theatre Preview at the Columbia Public Library on April 2.
If you want to give a traditional staging a go, it’s hard to do better than “Macbeth.” The Scottish Play is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and has one of the highest body counts. The Maplewood Barn Theatre is putting on this classic April 28-May 1 and May 5-8. It’s basically “Game of Thrones” and promises to be a bloody good time.
All these years later, Shakespeare’s plays still tug at our hearts and raise our ire. I think of one of my favorite lines from “Julius Caesar”:
“How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!”
Yes, Cassius is commenting on how history will remember them and their deeds. But it’s also a lovely meta nod from Shakespeare.
How long will my plays be performed? In what countries and languages?
Shakespeare’s works have been translated into over 80 languages, including Klingon.
And four hundred years and counting is a pretty good run. Here’s to four hundred more.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and the many women trailblazers who changed our country and the world, the name of an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, stands prominently in my mind. This is not only because she’s the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the highest court of the land, but also because to reach such a position, she had to overcome a lot of hardship and prejudice. In 2013, Sotomayor published her memoir “My Beloved World,” which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.
Born in the South Bronx to a poor Puerto Rican family, little Sonya began showing the strength of her character at the age of nine, when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to learn to give herself insulin shots. Despite being raised in a family that hardly spoke English, Sotomayor was an excellent student – she was her high school valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude (the highest of three special honors for grades above the average) from Princeton and, while at Yale, was editor of the Yale Law Review. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice (2009), Sotomayor held a variety of positions: a district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, a partner in a private law firm, a justice of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York and, later, of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
A large part of Sotomayor’s memoir is dedicated to her family – her alcoholic father, her somewhat distant mother, her domineering but loving grandmother, her brother, aunts, uncles and cousins – as well as the island of Puerto Rico, which she first visited as a child and later as an adult.
Sotomayor doesn’t shy away from her difficulties either, as she describes her complicated feelings toward her parents and her unsuccessful marriage. The author’s recollections are clear-eyed and honest, and her American dream story is inspiring not just for women and minorities but for everyone in the country.
The Columbia Public Library will host a book discussion of “My Beloved World” on April 7 at noon, so bring a lunch and join us as we discuss the life of Justice Sotomayor.
Not many people get to see the hours of practice and hard work put in by the racers in competitive motor-sports. These docs take a closer look at these drivers, both amateur and legendary, who’ve dedicated themselves to the race track.
“Racing Dreams” (2009)
Chronicles a year in the life of three tweens who dream of becoming NASCAR drivers as they race in the World Karting Association’s National Pavement Series. This film is a humorous and heartbreaking portrait of racing, young love and family struggle.
Spanning his years as a Formula One racing driver from 1984 to his untimely death a decade later, Senna explores the life and work of the triple world champion, his physical and spiritual achievements on the track, his quest for perfection and the mythical status he has since attained.
“Petty Blue” (2010)
This documentary, narrated by Kevin Costner, charts four generations of the Petty family, all of whom became champion NASCAR drivers. The family shares their story of dedication, perseverance and tradition that provides a raw, behind-the-scenes look into NASCAR racing.
I remember when the requirements changed regarding Missouri driver licenses. To get mine renewed, I had to find where I’d put my Social Security card for safekeeping and, for the first time in my life, acquire a raised-seal birth certificate. I’d been getting by with a copy of a birth certificate application up until then. Fortunately, the process took only a few dollars and a couple of weeks.
But what if I hadn’t been able to obtain the needed documents? What then? I would have experienced a small taste of the plight of millions of stateless people around the world.
Photojournalist Greg Constantine spent a decade documenting the lives of “non-persons,” human beings who are not recognized as citizens of any country. He shares their photos and stories in his book “Nowhere People.”
Without documentation or citizenship rights, this is a population that exists on the fringes of society, unable to find legal employment, enroll in school, open a bank account or even travel to a different country in search of a better life, since passports are unobtainable without personal identification. Some families have been stateless for generations, parents or grandparents having fled political turmoil and persecution, losing citizenship in the process. In some cases, the family has stayed in one place, but national borders have shifted.
“Nowhere People” is much more than a book. A website about the endeavor describes it this way: “a ten year project from photographer Greg Constantine. The project intends to give a small voice to people who for generations have had none. It aims to show the human toll the denial of citizenship has claimed on people and ethnic groups that find themselves excluded from society by forces beyond their control. More importantly, it hopes to provide tangible documentation of proof that millions of people hidden and forgotten all over the world actually exist.”
Constantine gave a presentation on the topic at a TEDx conference in London, available for viewing here.
Now, he’s bringing his presentation to Columbia. You can hear him in person at the Columbia Public Library on Thursday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
The post Nowhere People: A Visit From Photojournalist Greg Constantine appeared first on DBRL Next.