Ready or not, spring is here and it is time for a seasonal update on new books important to North Carolinians.
This month’s most important literary news is the release of “Life After Life,” popular author Jill McCorkle’s first novel in 17 years. McCorkle fills a southeastern North Carolina retirement facility with quirky residents, staff, and visitors whose encounters with each other make readers wonder whether to laugh or cry. She will be the guest on North Carolina Bookwatch at noon on Sunday, March 31 and Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m.
Understanding the actions and attitudes of our parents and grandparents in dealing with the system of oppressive racial segregation that confronted them is one of our great challenges. Some of the best Southern writers deal with our past in ways that make for compelling storytelling. UNC-Chapel Hill creative writing professor Pam Durban steps up to that challenge in her new novel, “The Tree of Forgetfulness.” (April 7, 11)
The recent temporary closings of the Hatteras Ferry and coastal Highway 12 remind us that our coast is fragile and unstable. How do we protect it? In “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future,” retired East Carolina professor Stanley Riggs and his coauthors give the background we need to make good decisions. (April 14, 18)
Vicki Lane sets her popular novels on the farms and small towns in mountainous Madison County north of Asheville, where she and her husband have lived since moving there from Tampa, Florida, in 1975. In “Under the Skin,” she turns her mountain surroundings into compelling fiction. (April 21, 25)
The third and final volume of the “Literary Trails of North Carolina” series establishes Georgann Eubanks as the master guide to our state’s literary history. She has already taken us to Murphy and now in “Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina: A Guidebook,” she takes us from Raleigh through the Coastal Plain all the way to Manteo. (April 28, May 2)
Everyone knows our health care system is in trouble, but UNC Medical School Professor Nortin Hadler is more specific and troubling when he says that conflicts of interest, misrepresentation of clinical trials, hospital price fixing, and massive expenditures for procedures of dubious efficacy point to the need for an overhaul. Who is responsible? Every citizen, says Hadler, has a duty to understand the existing system and to visualize what the outcome of successful reform might look like. Hadler provides a primer and guide to action in “The Citizen Patient: Reforming Health Care for the Sake of the Patient, Not the System.” (May 5, 9)
Do you remember “Big Fish,” the wonderful novel by Daniel Wallace and the movie it inspired? They made us suspend disbelief and go into a magical world of stories and characters. Wallace has done it again in his latest novel, “The Kings and Queens of Roam,” which is full of the magic he uses to draw us into his worlds of imagination. (May 12, 16)
How could one of North Carolina’s most important political leaders be both a progressive champion for education and economic development and, at the same time, the leader of the white supremacy movement in our state? N.C. State Professor Lee Craig wrestles with this challenging question in his new book, “Josephus Daniels: His Life and Times.” (May 19, 23)
In reviewing Duke Professor William Chafe’s “Bill and Hillary,” Jonathan Yardley wrote, about the Clintons, “No personalities in recent history speak more compellingly to the importance of understanding that the personal and the political are inseparable.” Chafe’s detailed study of the relationship between the power couple of all power couples shows how their relationship shaped our history. (May 26, 29)
Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes” is a guide to finding the best seasonal foods in our region. She organizes her recipes into about 40 chapters, each featuring a different vegetables or fruit.
More about Sheri Castle:
Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.”
Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase.
Castle entertains her readers with stories about her mountain family and even a song or two. Because I love tomatoes, here are lines she shares from a song by Guy Clark: “Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”
But tomatoes are not the only stars in Castle’s catalogue of fresh foods. For instance, she gives great advice to overcome two different contradictory ideas about how long to cook snap beans. “At one time, most snap beans were sturdy pole beans with thick, tough pods that required extensive cooking to become edible. However, subjecting the newer stringless varieties to long cooking would dissolve them into a tasteless mess. … If a bean pod is delicate and tender enough to eat raw, it needs quick, gentle cooking. If a bean pod is thick and has strings…, it needs long slow cooking. When you know your bean, you know your cooking method.”
To honor the birthday and legacy of service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Book Harvest will be holding their annual community book drive (10,000 Books for Kids — 10KBK) on MLK Day and a community-wide celebration of diversity, literacy, and book ownership for all kids. The event will take place on Monday, January 21, 2013 at Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill. Festivities will range from 1 to 4 p.m. with the program — which will feature music and talks by local authors Daniel Wallace, Sarah Dessen and Randall Kenan beginning around 2:15 p.m.
Inspired by Dr. King’s vision of a world in which every child has the chance to realize his or her full potential, Book Harvest encourages everyone to bring their new and gently used children’s books to Flyleaf Books on MLK Day; every donated book will end up in the home of a child who needs it! Folks are encouraged to hold a book drive this week in their neighborhood, office, school or place of worship and then to bring the books to Flyleaf next Monday, January 21st.
Last week I was keeping my ears and eyes open for a great photo story to tell and happened to hear about a wonderful organization called Book Harvest. The founder of Book Harvest, Ginger Young, was being interviewed on WCHL by Ron Stutts about their MLK Day Book Drive. This organization, which is only one-year-old, has successfully collected and distributed 35,000 books to low-income children in its first year alone.
Suzanne DeConto, an Americorp volunteer, reads a book to Sophie O’Malley and Lila Ashdown, both four-years-old, at Book Harvest’s book drive at Flyleaf Books on Monday, January 16, 2012.
Several studies have shown that the biggest predictor of academic success for children is the presence of books at home. More so than other factors, such as parents’ education levels, income or geographic location, reading books prepares a child for success by teaching language acquisition. Just 15 minutes of reading before bedtime exposes a child to millions of words per year.
Studies have also shown that there is a startling difference in rates of book ownership among low-income and higher-income children. These studies showed that above 50% of low-income children owned no books at all. Ginger Young and her army of loyal, hardworking volunteers are hoping to change that.
I met with Robin Sheedy, one of these volunteers, last week. She was on the schedule to pick up donated books and distribute them to the Interfaith Council for Social Service and the Carrboro Community Health Center. She patiently reorganized the bookshelf as she added new books. The idea is that the children should choose books that pique their interest. As they eagerly read these books they will begin to view themselves as readers. The hope is that they build home libraries that the whole family can use.
A Tribute to MLK
Martin Luther King, Jr. came from a family that valued education and books. His early involvement with books predicted that he would succeed in school, which he did as he held a doctorate in philosophy from Boston University. In his words:
All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Matt Phillips and the Philharmonics came all the way from Greenville to support Book Harvest. Here they sang, “Happy Birthday,” to Book Harvest and to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Christine Woolford and Danielle Faerber were on hand to help sort books.
Leon Carter and Deb Wong, were among the 40 Americorp volunteers that helped to keep Monday’s event running smoothly.
Left, Ginger Young addresses the crowd. Right, Sarah Carr reads a book about Dr. King.
From left to right, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Book Harvest founder Ginger Young, author Daniel Wallace and Minister Robert Campbell spoke to the crowd about the value of books and Dr. King’s legacy of service.
How to Get Involved
Supporting Book Harvest is easy. You can donate a life-changing book at many area locations. Or you can donate money . If you are really inspired you can become a Book Harvest volunteer or run a book drive of your own. It is easy! I had 12 children coming over this past weekend for my son’s birthday party and asked the parents to bring any gently used books they did not want. Many did and we were able to donate many bags of books on Monday. Talk about an easy way of spreading a love of learning!
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