CHPL Commemorates Banned Books Week With Trading Cards
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Public Library has come together with local artists to commemorate Banned Books Week with a different trading card for each day.
Wednesday: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – Artist: Jolmar Miller
Tuesday: 1984 by George Orwell – Artist: David Eichenberger
Monday: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – Artist: Mike Brown
Sunday: Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White – Artist: Clay Carmichael
Banned Books Week begins on Sunday. Director of the Chapel Hill Public Library, Susan Brown, says that the event is a national celebration of the freedom to read.
“Sponsored by libraries, book stores, and publishers, that seeks to educate people about the challenges to intellectual freedom, books that are banned, books that are taken out of schools, books that are even censored,” Brown says.
Even today, books continue to be banned from schools and libraries. Recently, in Randolph County, public schools voted to remove Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” a classic mid-twentieth century novel, from the school curriculum and library. Brown says that in cases like this, banning books is limiting access.
“It’s very interesting, I think sometimes people bring challenges to books for some good reasons in the sense they want to protect their children from difficult issues, or they are maybe offended by language,” Brown says. “But by taking these books out of places, they are limiting the access for people that want to be challenged or aren’t offended by those issues.”
This year, the Chapel Hill Public Library asked artists to submit works inspired by banned books or authors to be used for trading cards. Brown started this community involvement last year when she was the marketing director at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas.
“The idea is that it is a unique way to get people to engage with this issue, and it also brings in the artistic community, and often the artists have challenges to their work as well,” Brown says.
From a selection of 48 submissions, a small jury including Brown,Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Daniel Wallace, and others from the arts community selected the seven that will be presented during the week. Each day, a new card will be revealed. Brown says that the cards cover a range of books and art styles.
“So there’s everything in there from Charlotte’s Web to Brave New World to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” Brown says. “So, like I said, there’s all kind of different art and all kinds of different books represented.”
The library will host an exhibition of all forty-eight entries to the project, and 500 cards will be available free at the library. Each day, you can visit the library and pick up the card of the day. Cards will also be available for purchase online, and the proceeds will go back towards helping the library.
For information on purchasing cards click here.
Basketball and the small cracks in the wall of segregation
The best thing about the new movie and best-selling book, “The Help,” may be something other than the compelling story and the view into the relationships between white women and their black servants.
So what is this “best thing?”
“The Help” has us talking, thinking, remembering, reflecting, and reconsidering. It reminds us of friendships between some whites and some blacks that were making small cracks in that great wall of segregation.
Like “The Help,” a new North Carolina novel pushes us back to 1963 and requires us to re-experience relationships between whites and blacks during those times.
Clyde Edgerton’s “Night Train” is set in a small North Carolina town, where two teenaged aspiring musicians, one black, the other white, struggle to build a friendship over and around the walls of segregation.
When he talks about his new book, Edgerton shares a poignant back-story. The fictional black teenager is modeled on a real person named Larry Lime Holman. Holman, like Edgerton, grew up in Bethesda, a small town near Durham.
Although they lived in the same town, Larry Lime’s black school and Clyde’s white school never competed against each other in athletics. But both the white and black athletes hung around Clyde’s uncle’s grocery store. One day they started arguing about which group had the best basketball players.
Larry Lime, Clyde and the other boys decided to do something that broke the rules of their segregated town. They decided to break into the small Old Bethesda School gym and play a game of basketball, whites against blacks.
“They had nine guys and we just had five,” Edgerton remembers. “And those who weren’t on the court just stood in line waiting to replace a player who got tired.”
Larry Lime’s team “just wore us down,” Clyde says.
From that report, I assume that Larry Lime’s team won. But Clyde says he does not remember for sure.
Clyde and Larry Lime got away with their secret basketball game. But a few days later, when the two boys were shooting baskets at a goal in Clyde’s backyard, Clyde’s dad came out of the house and told the boys that Larry Lime would have to leave. The neighbors might complain.
Clyde fictionalized this real story in an earlier novel, “The Floatplane Notebooks.”
Retired Chapel Hill pharmacist Cliff Butler remembers a similar story from 1963 when his Dunn High School basketball team coached by Dick Knox (later deputy executive director and supervisor of officials for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association) won its league championship.
That same year, Harnett High, the black school, also had a great team.
The white players and the black players hung around Cliff’s dad’s drugstore. There was some friendly bantering about which team was better, and they decided to settle the question.
So they agreed to meet in the gym at Harnett High, everybody knowing that it would be too dangerous to bring black players to the white high school gym. The black team won a close game, Cliff remembers, thanks in part to “a little guy on their team who shot the lights out that day.”
The next day, word got out in the community about the game. Mr. Hutaff, who ran an insurance agency next door to Cliff’s dad’s drugstore, pulled Cliff aside and told him that he had heard about the game. “It had better not happen again or there will be hell to pay.”
A more secret and more illegal interracial basketball game took place in 1944 between the Duke Medical School team and the North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University).
These basketball stories were tiny cracks in the wall of segregation. But it was the accumulation of many tiny cracks that helped bring down that wall. So, every one of those little cracks in is worth remembering and celebrating today.
Dealing with “The Help”
“You-all afraid if we take over we might treat y’all like you treated us. And you might be right.”
It sounds like something Minny, one of the characters in “The Help” (either the book or the new movie), might say to one of the white women who treated their African American servants with such little respect.
But the quote comes, not from “The Help,” but from another book set in 1963 that also explores the changing dynamics of relations between whites and blacks in a southern town. I will give you that book’s title in a minute.
“The Help” and its story of black maids and how they had to kowtow to their white employers has been a best-selling book for more than two years.
What explains its popularity? A good story, sympathetic main characters, and evil villains who get put in their places are part of the answer.
Another reason, I think, is that it has given whites a pathway to understand, confess, and be exorcised from guilt for their part in an exploitive system in which black women lovingly raised white children while their own children and families were left to their own devices.
The book and the movie have not been so popular in the black community.
Last year, I tried to persuade a black pastor to organize some older women in his congregation to discuss “The Help” with whites. He made inquiries and reported to me that he could find no interest in his congregation in such a project.
Recently, syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts helped white me understand the mixed feelings that blacks have about “The Help.”
“As Americans,” he wrote, “we lie about race. We lie profligately, obstinately and repeatedly. The first lie is of its existence as an immutable reality delivered unto us from the very hand of God.
“That lie undergirds all the other lies, lies of Negro criminality, mendacity, ineducability. Lies of sexless mammies and oversexed wenches. Lies of docile child-men and brutal bucks. Lies that exonerate conscience and cover sin with sanctimony. Lies that pinched off avenues of aspiration till “the help” was all a Negro woman was left to be.
“I think of those lies sometimes when aging white southerners contact me to share sepia-toned reminiscences about some beloved old nanny who raised them, taught them, loved them, and who was almost a member of the family.
“Reading their emails, I wonder if those folks understand even now, a lifetime later, that that woman did not exist simply as a walk-on character in a white person’s life drama, that she was a fully formed human being with a life, and dreams and dreads of her own.”
Nevertheless, Pitts concedes that “The Help” is a triumph, an “imperfect triumph to have understood this and seek to make others understand it, too.”
Two recent books by North Carolinians set in 1963 can also help us understand Pitts’s “this” as they explore the relationships between blacks and their white employers. One of them, Clyde Edgerton’s “Night Train,” is a compelling read.
It is the source of this column’s opening quote.
The other recent book set in 1963 is UNC-Chapel Hill professor Minrose Gwin’s “The Queen Of Palmyra,” about a young white girl and the trials of the African-American woman who is her family’s servant. It is even deeper, richer, and better than the “The Help.”
Another new book, “The Dry Grass of August” by Anna Jean Mayhew, takes us all the way back to the racially-segregated Charlotte of 1954 and the poignant story of a young girl who loves her family’s African American servant and does not understand the brutal racism that ultimately destroys the person who was the center of her family.
Fiction tells the truth about North Carolina’s changing rural landscape
We have changed.
More urban. Less rural and farming.
At least that is what the latest Census is telling us.
But the story is more complicated. It is more interesting, too. Out in the formerly all-rural counties of our state, new kinds of residents have moved in. But lots of the old-time residents are still there.
How do fifth-generation farming families interact with back-to-the-land newcomers, suburbanite encroachers, and retirement community residents?
The census does not give us the answer.
Maybe the answer can be found best in fiction.
Chatham County’s award-winning writer Marjorie Hudson has given it a try in a new book of short stories, “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas: Stories about newcomers and natives, and the healing power of the rural South.”
Hudson sets her stories in a fictional Ambler County, which is much like her own Chatham County. Like Chatham, Ambler is rural by tradition, but growth from nearby cities is expanding across the county lines. At the same time, idealistic young people from all over the country are still moving to rural Ambler to try their hands at living on the land and off the grid. The natives and the “accidental” newcomers are characters who move through Hudson’s stories.
In “The Clearing,” a woman running away from a broken relationship moves into an old farmhouse in bad repair. When the pipes freeze, a crusty local plumber named Whiskey Collins fixes them. Before you know, he is fixing everything for her. They may be an unlikely pair, but when they wind up making love in the water of a spring hole, neither seems to care that they might not be meant for each other.
In “Rapture,” an old-timer named Sarton Lee and his wife, Miss Irma, had a daughter Trudy, who was a mess. When she died of a drug overdose, Sarton and Irma were left to raise Trudy’s daughter, Nancy. They love her. Then she falls sick, and, as Sarton says, “The good Lord in his wisdom dragged it out for a full year, that son of a bitch.” There is much more to the story but, quoting Sarton again, “You are never so alone as when a child dies.”
“The High Life” is the story of Dip, a 15-year-old runaway, who is working at a carnival that has stopped in town. He helps Royal, a hard-core carnival man, who, ugly and dirty as he is, still is a great seducer. Dip has a hard time adjusting to his new life and ultimately runs away again.
Nina is married to a mentally ravaged-by-war soldier who turns his wrath on her. A voice tells her to leave. Driving through North Carolina, she sees a sign, “Providence,” which gives the story its title. She stops, finds an old house to rent for $50 a month, and settles in.
In “Home,” a young woman marries Carter, who lives on a farm. Carter’s son from his first marriage loves the farm where he, his mom, and Carter, once lived. The new wife’s marriage is haunted by her thoughts of Carter’s first family’s life on the farm where she now lives.
In the title story, a retired Army colonel trying to get used to subdivision life in Ambler County loses his wife unexpectedly. He finds himself ill equipped to deal with his new circumstances.
“The Outside World,” really a novella, tracks the marriage of a student at Chapel Hill who falls in love with her professor. She follows him to a farm in Ambler County, where he tries to replicate the experience of Henry Thoreau, resulting in special challenges to their lives and marriage.
Sometimes fiction is the best way to tell the truth.
This time, Marjorie Hudson’s fiction does the job.