Monday, November 25, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I recently read a book you recommended: RED AT THE BONE by Jacqueline Woodson. In it she mentions a defining moment in her family’s history: the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.  I had never heard of this event and would like to learn more about it.  Searcher of Truth

Dear Searcher of Truth, I too was dismayed by my lack of knowledge about this event in our history. RIOT AND REMEMBRANCE by James Hirsch answered a lot of my questions.  Following the end of World War One, a thriving Black community grew up in Greenwood - a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Greenwood, known as the “Black Wall Street” because of its wealth, successful businesses, and rich community life, was destroyed basically in one week. On May 31, 1921, a young black Tulsan had been  arrested for attacking a white woman. While the charges were later dismissed and deemed highly suspect from the beginning, a local newspaper and government officials fanned rumors of a possible lynching and insurrection. Over the next few days, possibly as many as three hundred people were killed (almost all African-Americans), six thousand (all African-Americans) were interned in holding camps, and over one thousand homes and businesses (again, all African-American) were destroyed.  Residents including the characters in Woodson’s novel, moved north and then there was…. silence.  For decades, this massacre was excised from history. It was not taught in schools, local newspaper accounts of that week were mysteriously removed from archives, and residents refused to discuss it. Hirsch tells the story of that horrific week in precise detail and then recounts  efforts to make the nation finally aware. A brutal story that will fill readers with outrage…. highly recommended!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend is my family’s annual Faux Thanksgiving celebration.  Siblings, cousins, children of all ages join in the fun. Always before the day is done, someone will ask, “ Have you read anything good lately?”  Of course, I would love to have an answer- do you have something I can read in the next few days?
Faux Thanksgiving Fan

Dear Faux Thanksgiving Fan, My good friend Rosie recently left a wonderful book on my porch: OLIVE, AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout. This is Strout’s seventh novel and a sequel to her 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner OLIVE KITTERIDGE.  Here we pick up Olive’s story a few weeks after the earlier novel closes.  The setting is the same: a small coastal village in Maine, and each of the thirteen chapters is a short story that can easily stand alone.   Many characters reappear and we get new insights into their original stories, with time moving relentlessly on. Olive starts out as a seventy-year-old and by the end of the book, she is eighty-six.  In the opening story, we meet her second husband - a brash academic from Harvard who gradually reveals the details of his fall from grace and glory; later in the novel, he meets up with his past at a local fast food restaurant.   In another chapter, Olive spends Christmas holidays with her son and his family only to realize as the visit ends, she has always been a bad mother. When we last meet Olive, she is still prickly, but more aware and less judgmental, yet someone to be feared, respected, and…yes, loved. Highly recommended!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, Next week is the Great Turkey Hunt – Saturday, November 23 at 3pm and the Great Turkey Himself will be making an appearance at Geohegan Park- also known ominously as Headless Park.  While waiting for the Hunt to begin, do you have a book I can read ? 
Fan of the Great Turkey Himself

Dear Fan of the Great Turkey Himself,  My friends and I recently discussed Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE. While many of us had read the book when it first came out in 1985, it was fascinating and horrifying to reread it in 2019.  Set in the near future in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the novel describes the life of one woman Offred (Of Fred- women no longer allowed to have their own names) and the world she lives in.  The President of the United States has been assassinated as have most Congressmen and Senators. A second Civil War rages and a theocratic government has come to power- the Republic of Gilead. Because of vast climatic and environmental disasters, the birthrate has plummeted. The few women who are still fertile are enslaved and forced to produce children. These “handmaids” are assigned to the male generals or commanders. Many aspects of a patriarchal society are explored.   When the possibility of escape arises, Offred realizes she must act, but is there anyone- man or woman- she can trust?  In the epilogue set one hundred years later, we come to see times have changed, but an underlying misogyny prevails.  A classic that can and should be reread….highly recommended!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I attended the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Progressive Dinner this weekend and had a really great time. Tina Marchese does an amazing job each year organizing this iconic event. At the dessert portion of the evening someone mentioned a novel his book club had just read. It was set in present-day Ireland and sounded very interesting but…I forgot the title. Any thoughts?  Very Satisfied Diner

Dear Very Satisfied…. A few weeks ago, I read Sally Rooney’s CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS with my book club.  Set in Dublin, this award-winning novel traces the lives and loves of Frances and Bobbi, two 21 year-old friends who were once lovers.  Frances is the daughter of struggling middle class parents, while Bobbie’s family is wealthy and indulgent.  Bobbi is beautiful and outspoken; Frances is brilliant and introspective. Both are ardent anti-capitalists and strong feminists.  In the opening pages, they meet Melissa – a successful thirtyish journalist and her handsome actor husband Nick.  The young women are quickly welcomed into their glamorous world. Melissa and Bobbi form a strong friendship, while Nick and Frances become lovers. It is Frances who plays the leading role, and we follow her increasingly complicated relationships with her abusive alcoholic father as well as Nick, Melissa, and finally Bobbi. Much of this is recounted in a series of email and text conversations.  In the end, we feel we know a great deal about these women, but do we really? Recommended!