New books and a new Bookwatch
UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch begins a new season on Friday, August 5, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, August 7, at 5 p.m.
My editors let me share with you my reading suggestions. They know that the suggestions parallel exactly upcoming Bookwatch shows.
Because earlier columns have already discussed several books on the list, some descriptions will be short.
The new series opens with one of North Carolina’s most respected authors, UNC-Greensboro’s Michael Parker. He discusses “The Watery Part Of The World,” an imaginative story that blends coastal history and legends with race and other complexities to make a gripping and lovely story. (Aug. 5, 7)
In “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” John D. Karsarda, director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill, explains why efficient, well-designed airports attract economic development and will be the central cities of the future. He discusses the challenges and opportunities that face North Carolina’s major airports. (Aug. 12,14)
Can a retired professor of religious studies write a successful science fiction novel? David Halperin’s “Journal of a UFO Investigator, ” proves that UFOs, science fiction, and religion can come together to make compelling fiction in a most unusual way. (Aug. 19, 21)
Sara Foster’s “Southern Kitchen: Soulful, Traditional, Seasonal” will be the first of several food-related books featured on Bookwatch this season. Foster, who once worked with Martha Stewart, generously shares favorite recipes from her family and from her market. (Aug. 26, 28)
Best-selling author Steve Berry’s many visits to eastern North Carolina led him to set much of his newest adventure novel, “The Jefferson Key,” in and around the town of Bath, where fictional modern-day pirates live in palatial estates. (Sept. 2, 4)
Rosecrans Baldwin’s first novel “You Lost Me There” is set in Maine, and Baldwin has only recently settled in North Carolina. But when the book was named one of National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2010, a Best Book of Summer 2010 by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, I knew Bookwatch viewers would want to learn about Baldwin and his highly praised book. (Sept. 9, 11)
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. (Sept. 16, 18)
Where do you get these seasonal foods? Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh North Carolina: The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.” Durham’s Daniel’s great travel writing skills describe where doors are open for us to learn how the best North Carolina foods are grown and raised. (Sept. 23, 25)
Marjorie Hudson’s “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas: Stories about newcomers and natives, and the healing power of the rural South” is a collection of fiction that gives a true look at how rural North Carolina is changing and staying the same. (Sept. 30, Oct. 2)
“Butterfly’s Child” by former N.C. State writing teacher, Angela Davis-Gardner, is a sequel to Puccini’s opera. It answers fictionally the question, “What ever happened to Madam Butterfly’s son after she committed suicide when her American lover came back to Japan with his American wife?” (Oct. 7, 9)
Morehead Scholar and Rhodes Scholar Robyn Hadley used her experience in counseling students in the Alamance-Burlington school system to write a book for students planning for college. The book is “Within View, Within Reach: Navigating the College-Bound Journey.” Hadley’s good advice might be even more important for parents of prospective college students. (Oct. 12, 14)
What books are you looking forward to this fall? Let me know below.
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.