Literacy Mid-South's 2013 "Book of Choice" for Read Across America is Wonder (Knopf Books for Young Readers) by R.J. Palacio. It's a novel about a fifth-grader coming to terms with a facial deformity. But it's a story about how that boy's family, his classmates, and the larger community come to terms with it as well.
The book, published a year ago, is plenty special. It's for readers 8 and up (that includes adults), and it's been praised by every name in the book, including The New York Times, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, the Huffington Post, Slate, The Wall Street Journal, and Entertainment Weekly. Literacy Mid-South is on board too. Executive director Kevin Dean and his staff have chosen Wonder for its lesson in kindness and its call against bullying.
He is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and he'll be at Rhodes College as guest of the college's "Communities in Conversation" series on Monday, February 25th. The time is 7 p.m.; the McCallum Ballroom of the Bryan Campus Life Center is the location; and the event, which is free and open to the public, will include a booksigning.
The program, "Reaching for Aether: Literacy Through Steampunk," is at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar) and runs on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., with an opening address and shared stories by participating steampunks, a fashion show (picture-taking encouraged), and a crafts area. A trivia hunt throughout the library, with costumed "Mechanalists" to help those in search of answers, will follow. And after the trivia challenge: a live reading/"shadow play" drawn from the pages of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. For more information about "Reaching for Aether," contact Geoff Harris at email@example.com.
Was this sale a wise move for Gore and his business partners, interviewers want to know. It was a sound move, good business, Gore has said repeatedly. Which may be true, but it was also certainly an odd move, bordering on hypocrisy, given that the global-climate-minded Gore would do business with an oil-rich country and a news organization that many believe too fairly treats the actions of Islamic fundamentalists.
Now here, for your ease of browsing, are the books I read in 2012, listed in reverse order they were Tweeted, which is to say chronologically with the most recent first.
My favorite book of the year was Habibi, the gorgeous new-ish graphic novel from Craig Thompson (Blankets, another masterpiece). Habibi swallowed me whole; I'm somewhere in its snake esophagus still. So I was a little surprised when I looked up the critical response prior to this blog post and found that it got panned by The New York Times and derided as racist by Racialicious.
To me, Thompson was clearly and knowingly wading in Orientalism and fantasy Arabia. (If he wasn't, well, that'd be a problem.) I suppose only Joe Sacco-type documentarians are allowed to consider the Middle East and Islam? And when such subjects are broached, one must do so at an emotional remove and with equal time given to all possible perspectives? And only by non-Westerners?
No. Habibi is a work of fiction, not a textbook. And, though artistically beautiful in general, it depicts the brutalization and exploitation of women, children, and men. If it included such acts but fled from the scenes without showing them/showing them demurely, that is what would be worthy of criticism. No one escapes Habibi unscathed, and Thompson achieves a baptismal degradation: It's a human coming-of-age story both universal and specific, taking place over millennia, where hope is achieved only after swimming a river of shit. Sounds to me more honest about the human condition than 99 percent of anything else I've read.
I had seen the movie and cried a fair bit about what happens in it (no spoilers), so I knew what the bad juju going on was. But I was unprepared for how upsetting it would be to read it. Ishiguro has created a novel that's relentlessly nostalgic for a sci-fi alternative 20th century that never existed. He managed to make me despair for a loss of humanity's soul that never happened. And somehow made that feel like nostalgia. It's almost uncomprehendingly brilliant. I still struggle to process the novel.
Anyway, it took me a long time to read it — far longer than the novel's length would suggest. Hence, part of the reason why my total number of books read is pretty low.
A housekeeping note for the list: I've aired out the entries a little since I'm not as limited in space on the blog as I was on Twitter.
"I want to change a broken industry. It's been broken for a while. I'm not just someone trying to start a business to make money."
So says Memphian Richard Billings. The broken industry he's referring to is book publishing. And the business he's starting is called Screwpulp, which is designed to bypass existing business models and that includes traditional paths to publishing and self-publishing. But Billings needs your help now. He'd like your vote. It could mean $10,000.
That's the grand prize in a contest sponsored by Everywhere Else, a business conference for startups that will take place in Memphis from February 10th to 12th. Contest participants submit a video describing their startup, and YouTube viewers can vote on their favorite. That's where you come in, and here's the Screwpulp video if you'd like a look.
"Now I know what having a baby must feel like after a four-year pregnancy."
Not that Memphis author James Williamson has just given birth. The "baby" came out months ago, and it's called The Ravine, a novel from Sunstone Press that he'll be discussing and signing at the Booksellers at Laurelwood on Thursday, January 10th, from 6 to 7 p.m. He'll also have on hand his debut novel from several years ago, The Architect, which is what Williamson is when he isn't writing: an architect and associate professor in the department of architecture at the University of Memphis. But back to the "baby" and the work of a novelist.
"You write the first draft in six months, breathe a sigh of relief, then realize that's just the beginning of it," Williamson said of the writing process. And of his switch from practicing architect to teacher and writer? "I was ready to try something new."
Something new is something old in The Ravine, which follows Harrison Beauchamp Polk Jr. from adulthood back to the summer of 1958 in the fictional town of Tuckalofa, Mississippi, where, as the narrator observes, "below the sleepy surface, powerful forces were stirring." Not the least of those forces: the realities of racial injustice and a boy's coming to terms with his family, his church, and his cultural heritage.
How closely do the characters and events in The Ravine mirror the author's own experience? Quite a few, as Williamson admitted in a Q&A.
The winning story will be published in the June 2013 issue of the magazine. The winning writer will receive $1,000 as grand prize. And if quality warrants, two honorable-mentions will be awarded, with $500 going to each of the writers. Some rules to go by:
That is the necklace in question and those are the two opposing main characters in Memphian Molly Caldwell Crosby's latest book, The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace (Berkley Books).
The staff and volunteers at Literacy Mid-South are ready to handle your holiday card list — and gift list too. You donate the $15 per card. Literacy Mid-South does the rest — from the hand-written envelope to postage to mailing. All proceeds go directly to Literacy Mid-South's programs. Any questions? Contact Erica Nason at 901-327-6000 ext. 1000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to literacymidsouth.org with your list of names and addresses. You have until December 16th.
Each card carries the greeting: "Treat yourself this Holiday Season. Read a good book." And each card comes with the added message: "A holiday gift was made in your name by [donor's name] to serve more than 120,000 Memphians struggling with illiteracy."
See? You don't even have to sign.
But where are the student players in this, Majors' great comic sendup of Southeastern Conference football? There are no student players — on or off the field. And where are the football games? There are no games — except for the ones played between a powerhouse university football program and its friends — or are they foes? Loyal fans, demanding alumni, smarmy sportswriters, and chat-room screwballs.