Friday, June 18, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I have heard that there are many celebrations planned this year for the holiday known as Juneteenth, and I’d like to learn more about it. Do you have a book you might recommend? Seeker of Knowledge

Dear Seeker of Knowledge, ON JUNETEENTH by Annette Gordon-Reed is the book for you! In a series of short essays, Gordon-Reed - a Pulitzer Prize winning historian - relates the story of June 19, 1865 - the day Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Texas, the state where she was born and her family had lived for generations. This slender volume (140 pages) is a history of the holiday but also a history of Texas from the 1500’s until the present time. The first celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866. These involved church-based communities in Texas, and the celebrations soon spread throughout the South. It is now observed throughout the nation with readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, readings of African-American writers, street fairs, rodeos, historical reenactments, and family reunions. Gordon-Reed’s book enumerates all this but she also illuminates the role Texas has played in the struggle for racial equality.  There have been horrific missteps, but the author reveals a strong affection for her flawed home state.  A challenging but ultimately rewarding look into our nation’s history. Recommended!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, I was checking my calendar and I see that next Wednesday, June 16th, is Bloomsday. I usually celebrate with friends reading excerpts of ULYSSES but this year I wanted to do something outdoors and a little more special. Any thoughts?  Bloomsday Celebrant

Dear Bloomsday Celebrant, I have a wonderful suggestion for you.  As most of our readers know, Bloomsday is celebrated every year to commemorate the day James Joyce’s ULYSSES takes place: June 16, 1904. Joyce spent most of his adult life in exile, but he wrote obsessively about one place and one place only: his birthplace - Dublin.  In ULYSSES, we follow three main characters through the day into the night - seeing and experiencing Dublin as they did. But ULYSSES is more than the portrait of one city on one day - it is also the study of the epic wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) - mocking the wanderings of the most unlikely of heroes: Leopold Bloom.  On Wednesday, June 16 at 7pm, the James Joyce Society of Sea Cliff will lead a tour of Sea Cliff/Dublin stopping at parallel locations along the way. The tour will begin at the Metropolitan Bistro / Sea Cliff Water Tower (Martello Tower). This costumed, musically-accompanied excursion will take about an hour. Not necessary, but you might want to read ULYSSES AND US by Declan Kieberd or THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK by Kevin Birmingham. Happy James Joyce Jaunt and Happy Bloomsday!