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summer travel bug

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 5:44pm
Next month’s Genre Reading Group meeting will be Tuesday, August 26th at 6:30pm in the Library’s Conference Room and the topic of discussion will be WWII/VE Day.  So read, watch, or listen to the material of your choice and come tell us about it!
GRG met last night to discuss travel, vacations, national parks, road trips, etc.  It was a very summery meeting, quite fun, and made me want to take an extended vacation to some of these places!

The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Harry William Fritz
( Fritz demonstrates how a series of unrelated events converged to make the Lewis and Clark expedition—and America's dream of westward expansion—a reality. Maps guide the reader along the routes taken by Lewis and Clark, and a detailed timeline gives readers an easy-to-use resource for looking up important dates and events. Biographical sketches of major figures conclude the work. An extensive bibliography and index make this an ideal first stop for anybody interested in learning more about this truly remarkable expedition.
William Clark and Meriwether Lewis are widely credited with exploring the American West and paving the way for settlement. Yet if Thomas Jefferson's bid for president in 1800 had failed, the expedition probably would not have ventured west. Furthermore, if Napoleon had not been dealt a severe blow by a Haitian slave rebellion, France might never have sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States. The expedition also relied heavily on the goodwill of Native Americans peopling the explored territory.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman
( They were young, brilliant, and bold. They set out to conquer the world. But the world had other plans for them. Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's new memoir is a hilarious and harrowing journey, a modern heart of darkness filled with Communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes.
In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire yearned to do something daring and original that did not involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat at the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent travelers for roughly ten minutes.
Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche, an astrological love guide, and an arsenal of bravado, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads. As they ventured off the map deep into Chinese territory, they were stripped of everything familiar and forced to confront their limitations amid culture shock and government surveillance. What began as a journey full of humor, eroticism, and enlightenment grew increasingly sinister-becoming a real-life international thriller that transformed them forever.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is a flat-out page-turner, an astonishing true story of hubris and redemption told with Gilman's trademark compassion, lyricism, and wit.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
( In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.
Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the drives and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.
When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity, and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.
GENERAL DISCUSSION:  The film adaptation of Krakauer's book is very well done and stars Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Vince Vaughn, and Marcia Gay Harden among others.

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters
( John Waters is putting his life on the line. Armed with wit, a pencil-thin mustache, and a cardboard sign that reads “I’m Not Psycho,” he hitchhikes across America from Baltimore to San Francisco, braving lonely roads and treacherous drivers. But who should we be more worried about, the delicate film director with genteel manners or the unsuspecting travelers transporting the Pope of Trash?
Before he leaves for this bizarre adventure, Waters fantasizes about the best and worst possible scenarios: a friendly drug dealer hands over piles of cash to finance films with no questions asked, a demolition-derby driver makes a filthy sexual request in the middle of a race, a gun-toting drunk terrorizes and holds him hostage, and a Kansas vice squad entraps and throws him in jail. So what really happens when this cult legend sticks out his thumb and faces the open road? His real-life rides include a gentle eighty-one-year-old farmer who is convinced Waters is a hobo, an indie band on tour, and the perverse filmmakers unexpected hero: a young, sandy-haired Republican in a Corvette.
Laced with subversive humor and warm intelligence, Carsick is an unforgettable vacation with a wickedly funny companion and a celebration of America’s weird, astonishing, and generous citizenry.

Charm City: A Walk Through Baltimore by Madison Scott Bell
( With a writers keen eye, a longtime residents familiarity, and his own sly wit, acclaimed novelist Madison Smartt Bell leads us on a walk through his adopted hometown of Baltimore, a city where crab cakes, Edgar Allan Poe, hair extensions, and John Waters movies somehow coexist. From its founding before the Revolutionary War to its place in popular culture, thanks to seminal films like Barry Levinson’s Diner, the television show Homicide, and bestselling books by George Pelecanos and Laura Lippman, Baltimore is America, and in Charm City, Bell brings its story to vivid life.

First revealing how Baltimore received some of its nicknames, including “Charm City”, Bell sets off from his neighborhood of Cedarcroft and finds his way across the city’s crossroads, joined periodically by a host of fellow Baltimoreans. Exploring Baltimore’s prominent role in history (it was here that Washington planned the battle of Yorktown and Francis Scott Key witnessed the “bombs bursting in air”), Bell takes us to such notable spots as the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill, as well as many of the undiscovered corners that give Baltimore its distinctive character. All the while, Charm City sheds deserved light onto a sometimes overlooked, occasionally eccentric, but always charming place.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Charm City is part of the Crown Publishing’s Crown Journeys series. Publisher’s Weekly describes the series: “When visiting a new city, one of the best ways to learn more about the place's history and people, as well as discover its heralded hot spots and hidden treasures, is to ask a native. This idea is at least part of the inspiration behind the Crown Journeys series of books and audiobooks, which features authors writing and reading about cities they love.”  Among the notables are James McPherson, Kinky Friedman, Edwidge Danticat, Michael Cunningham, Chuck Palahniuk, and Christopher Buckley.

Insight Guides South America
( Insight Guide South America is the most illustrated, full color travel guide to the continent on the market, and its lively narrative and stunning images provide both inspiration and information to plan a memorable trip to South America. The Best Of section highlights the unmissable sights and experiences - from Perus breathtaking citadel of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, the number one South American trek on most travelers wishlists, to vibrant Rio with its famous Carnival and beaches, sophisticated Buenos Aires, and the jungles of the Amazon, home to the greatest biodiversity on the planet. Lively features focus on South Americas history and culture, while the Places chapters show you where to go in South America, with beautiful photography, insightful descriptions of all the main attractions, and detailed, full color maps for easy orientation. The Travel Tips section provides practical information for planning a trip and getting around once you're there, along with our independent reviews of selected hotels and restaurants throughout South America.

Delacroix and the Matter of Finish edited by Eik Kahng
( This groundbreaking publication centers on a previously unknown variation of Eugene Delacroix’s (1798–1863) dramatic masterpiece The Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, published here for the first time.  This book offers a compelling reassessment of the relationship of the artist, widely considered a primary exemplar of Romanticism, to Neoclassical themes, as demonstrated by his life-long fascination with the death of Marcus Aurelius.  Through this investigation, the authors reinterpret Delacroix’s lineage to such fellow artists as Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) and Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825).  Playing on the various interpretations of the word “finish,” the book also offers a fascinating account of Delacroix’s famously troubled collaboration with his studio assistants, his conflicted feelings about pedagogy, and his preoccupation with the fate of civilizations.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  The GRGer who brought in the Delacroix book declared that it wasn’t the book he was really pointing out, but rather how much of the world travels to YOU when you visit a museum.  I believe the Delacroix exhibit brought material from 18 countries right to the heart of Birmingham.  I myself have seen exhibits there showcasing Egyptian gold, the Pompeii artifacts, the terra cotta soldiers of the First Emperor of China, and the ongoing Lethal Beauty samurai exhibit, among others over the years.  The Birmingham Museum of Art has wonderful galleries with art from all points of the globe, go visit!

Route 66: Lives on the Road by Jon Robinson
( From the rise of the automobile in the United States until the 1960s, Route 66 was the byway of choice for cross-country travel. Connecting Chicago and Los Angeles, the "Mother Road" was not only filled with vacationers and travelers, it was also lined with businesses that offered these pioneering motorists a variety of services. This nostalgic, illustrated guide presents the stories of people who lived along Route 66, traveled it, and made their living there over the course of five decades. Along with stories of Route 66 travels, the book examines the entire range of Route 66 vocations: gas, food, and lodging; museums; souvenir shops; law enforcement; wrecker operators; and more. Fans of this American icon will enjoy the tales of the folks who made the road a legend, as well as the hundreds of period and modern color photographs which illustrate their stories.

Sunrise to Paradise: The Story of Mount RainierNational Park by Ruth Kirk
( On clear days, the mammoth volcano Mount Rainier dominates the Seattle and Rainier dominates the Seattle Tacoma skylines and can be seen from Whidbey Island to Yakima and the central Washington wheat fields. "The Mountain's out!" is a cheerful local greeting, especially after a long spell of overcast weather. Sunrise to Paradise explores the rich history of this symbol of the Pacific Northwest and the national park that preserves it.Mount Rainier is the fifth highest peak in the United States outside Alaska, and it soars higher above its immediate base than does any other in the lower forty-eight. Sunrise to Paradise describes its geological and glacial origins and current ecological health, and the century-old stewardship of Mount Rainier National Park. Its stories include accounts by Native people such as Saluskin and Wapowety, climbers from John Muir and Fay Fuller to Willi Unsoeld and Lou Whittaker, and entrepreneurs from the Longmire family to Paul Sceva. Here, too, are the tales of scientists and tourists, park rangers and volunteers. Numerous illustrations span the decades. Some of the photographs were taken from albums of the 1912 and 1915 Mountaineers outings; others are by noted photographers of the past like Imogen Cunningham and Asahel Curtis and by contemporary photographers including Ira Spring. There are paintings by Abby Williams Hill and George Tsutakawa and a series specially created by Dee Molenaar.

Welcome to Mount Rainier National Park by Pamela Dell
( School Library Journal Grades 3-5-These titles feature attractive layouts, color photographs, and engaging texts. Maps with icons pointing out various items of interest, such as hiking trails, lodging, campgrounds, and ranger stations, are interspersed throughout. An explanation of national parks, a brief history of each region, and a narrative tour of the park are provided. A list of "fast facts," including the size, elevation, tourist activities, weather, and number of annual visitors, is appended. Redwood includes Native peoples, and the flora and fauna. The fast facts for Mount Rainier lists the area as 365 square miles, but the national park Web site states it as 378. Teton gives tips for bear safety, and includes information on Jackson Hole. Hawai`i discusses the legend of Pele, the goddess of fire, and the settling of the islands by the Polynesian people. There is brief mention of individual volcanoes, such as Mauna Loa and Kilauea. These colorful and informative titles are similar in content to, but aimed toward slightly older readers than, those in the "New True Books" and "True Books" series (Children's Press). They are better for browsing than for reports. Buy where needed.-DeAnn Okamura, San Mateo County Library, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Now That’s Big: Mount Rushmore by Kate Riggs
( Children's Literature - Amie Rose RotruckIn South Dakota, an enormous sculpture is carved in a mountain. This is Mount Rushmore, with a carving that depicts the heads of four American Presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. Gutzon Borglum is the artist who envisioned the design for Mount Rushmore. The mountain is made of granite which is so hard that the workers had to use dynamite to break up the rock and sculpt it. The work was finished in 1939. And among the interesting facts are the noses on Mount Rushmore which are 20 feet long! Nearby another sculpture is in progress, this one is of Chief Crazy Horse. These two monuments make the Black Hills region of South Dakota a popular tourist attraction. More than 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year. In addition to the awe inspiring carving, visitors can also see a lot of wildlife such as deer and chipmunks. This entertaining and informative book includes many wonderful photographs and a glossary. Part of the "Now That's Big" series. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck

Mount Rushmore by Julie Murray
( School Library Journal Grades 2-3-These books feature large type, interesting photographs, and fun facts relating to each site. The vocabulary is advanced for younger readers, but the scope is narrow enough to provide basic information about the background, individuals involved, and construction of the structure or monument for reports. Attractive starting points for assignments.-Krista Tokarz, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Visit Mount Rushmore by Mary O’Mara

National Parks of America by Michael Brett
( For tourists, family campers, and serious lovers of the outdoors, this beautiful reference describes more than 50 national parks, sites and seashores that stretch from Cape Hatteras on the Atlantic coast to Glacier Bay in Alaska. Full color.

500+ All American Family Adventures by Debbie Hardin
( Here's THE guide to iconic America: those places that offer insight into uniquely American culture, whether they be national parks, quirky roadside landmarks, sporting opportunities, or cultural or historical sites. How about going to the Alabama Deep-Sea Fishing Rodeo; taking in some summer bobsledding at Lake Placid; visiting the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., or Carlsbad's Legoland; or tripping fantastic to Dorothy's House and the Land of Oz in Kansas? Organized in easy-to-reference state-by-state chapters for all fifty states and the District of Columbia, the guide features family-friendly sites which provide insight into the history and culture of the American experience offering a memorable visual or participatory experience. Each listing contains complete information detailing directions, the best time to visit, prices and contact information, historical background, events and fun activities.

Where are your armchair travels taking YOU this summer?

GRG Recap - LGBT History Month

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 2:22pm
The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be Tuesday, July 29th at 6:30pm in the Library's conference room and the topic of discussion will be travel, vacations, and national parks!  Read, watch, and/or listen to anything within that topic range and come tell us about it!

Last week, we met for a discussion of books and films about LGBT History month.  GRG members brought in a great diversity of material to talk about and I'm excited to share it with you here!

American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage
(Powell's) On the heels of his Emmy-winning It Gets Better campaign, columnist and provocateur Dan Savage weighs in on such diverse issues as healthcare, gun control, and marriage equality with characteristic straight talk and humor.

Dan Savage has always had a loyal audience, thanks to his syndicated sex-advice column “Savage Love,” but since the incredible global success of his It Gets Better project — his book of the same name was a New York Times bestseller — his profile has skyrocketed. In addition, he's written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Onion, GQ, The Guardian,, and countless other widely read publications. Savage is recognized as someone whose opinions about our culture, politics, and society should not only be listened to but taken seriously.  Now, in American Savage, he writes on topics ranging from marriage, parenting, and the gay agenda to the Catholic Church and sex education.

Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case
(Powell's) Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can't wear "girl" clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don't identify with traditional gender roles.

Totally Joe by James Howe
(Powell's) Meet Joe Bunch. Lovable misfit and celebrity wannabe from Paintbrush Falls, New York. Like his longtime best friends Addie, Skeezie, and Bobby, Joe's been called names all his life. So when he's given the assignment to write his alphabiography — the story of his life from A to Z — Joe has his doubts. This whole thing could be serious ammunition for bullying if it falls into the wrong hands.

But Joe discovers there's more to the assignment — and his life — than meets the eye. Especially when he gets to the letter C, which stands for Colin Briggs, the coolest guy in the seventh grade (seriously) — and Joe's secret boyfriend.  By the time Joe gets to the letter Z, he's pretty much bared his soul about everything. And Joe's okay with that because he likes who he is. He's Totally Joe, and that's the best thing for him to be.
Here is an exuberant, funny, totally original story of one boy's coming out — and coming-of-age.

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
(Powell's) Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when shes not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesnt know hes gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then theres Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyones world. Hes devoted to Fern, but he's annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasnt for Ran, Ferns calm and positive best friend, thered be nowhere to turn. Ran's mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe its true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: A reader made mention of a great online resource for children's books, The Cooperative Children's Book Center (  In their archives she found a great list of LGBTQ literature for children and teens.  You must be a member to access the archives but, if you are interested, that seems as easy as providing your email address and making up a password.

Travels with Lizbeth: Three Years on the Road and on the Streets by Lars Eighner
(Powell's) When Travels with Lizbeth was first published in 1993, it was proclaimed an instant classic. Lars Eighners account of his descent into homelessness and his adventures on the streets has moved, charmed, and amused generations of readers. As Lars wrote, “When I began writing this account I was living under a shower curtain in a stand of bamboo in a public park. I did not undertake to write about homelessness, but wrote what I knew, as an artist paints a still life, not because he is especially fond of fruit, but because the subject is readily at hand.”

Containing the widely anthologized essay “On Dumpster Diving,” Travels with Lizbeth is a beautifully written account of one man's experience of homelessness, a story of physical survival, and the triumph of the artistic spirit in the face of enormous adversity. In his unique voice; dry, disciplined, poignant, comic; Eighner celebrates the companionship of his dog, Lizbeth, and recounts their ongoing struggle to survive on the streets of Austin, Texas, and hitchhiking along the highways to Southern California and back.

The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present by Paul Russell
(Powell's) At once uplifting and heart-wrenching, these 100 portraits capture the real people behind the legends and affirm that gay men and lesbians have been an integral part of history from ancient times through the present day--ensuring that those who will follow in their footsteps face a future that is brighter than ever before. 100 photos.

A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World by R. B. Parkinson
(Powell's) "Through meticulous research and compassionate narration, British Museum curator Parkinson (Voices from Ancient Egypt) brings to light a collection of art objects from the British Museum's collection that illustrate same-sex desire, many of which had previously been censored or concealed from historians. These 40 objects come from various civilizations and eras, some being clear-cut examples of same-sex love, such as Grecian urns decorated with homoerotic scenes, the poetry of Sappho, and the Roman Emperor Hadrian's well-documented affair with the young Antinous. Other pieces are more ambiguous: artistic renderings that suggest love between Samurai warriors; an Ancient Egyptian tomb that may have been made for a same-sex couple; and Shakespearean sonnets that allude to 'bisexual' relationships. The book also includes brief, captivating profiles of gay and lesbian artists, including the sculptors Hedwig Marquardt and Augusta Kaiser, and novelist Virginia Woolf. The long history of intolerance is interwoven through the artwork as well, and while facts surrounding the persecution and execution of 'sodomites' are unsettling, the book is not overtly political. Parkinson successfully shows that same-sex love and desire are an integral part of human history: 'On a long view, no one occupies the centre. It belongs to all of us.' 80 color photos. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer
(Powell's) A searing drama about public and private indifference to the AIDS plague and one man's lonely fight to awaken the world to the crisis. Produced to acclaim in New York, London and Los Angeles, The Normal Heart follows Ned Weeks, a gay activist enraged at the indifference of public officials and the gay community. While trying to save the world from itself, he confronts the personal toll of AIDS when his lover dies of the disease.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
(Powell's) The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.
Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray makes a Faustian bargain to sell his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. Under the influence of Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, where he is able to indulge his desires while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only Dorian's picture bears the traces of his decadence.  A knowing account of a secret life and an analysis of the darker side of late Victorian society, The Picture of Dorian Gray offers a disturbing portrait of an individual coming face to face with the reality of his soul.

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selena Hastings
(Powell's) He was a brilliant teller of tales, one of the most widely read authors of the twentieth century, and at one time the most famous writer in the world, yet W. Somerset Maugham’s own true story has never been fully told. At last, the fascinating truth is revealed in a landmark biography by the award-winning writer Selina Hastings. Granted unprecedented access to Maugham’s personal correspondence and to newly uncovered interviews with his only child, Hastings portrays the secret loves, betrayals, integrity, and passion that inspired Maugham to create such classics as The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage.

Hastings vividly presents Maugham’s lonely childhood spent with unloving relatives after the death of his parents, a trauma that resulted in shyness, a stammer, and for the rest of his life an urgent need for physical tenderness. Here, too, are his adult triumphs on the stage and page, works that allowed him a glittering social life in which he befriended and sometimes fell out with such luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Charlie Chaplin, D. H. Lawrence, and Winston Churchill.

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham portrays in full for the first time Maugham’s disastrous marriage to Syrie Wellcome, a manipulative society woman of dubious morality who trapped Maugham with a pregnancy and an attempted suicide. Hastings also explores Maugham’s many affairs with men, including his great love, Gerald Haxton, an alcoholic charmer and a cad. Maugham’s courageous work in secret intelligence during two world wars is described in fascinating detail—experiences that provided the inspiration for the groundbreaking Ashenden stories. From the West End to Broadway, from China to the South Pacific, Maugham’s restless and remarkably productive life is thrillingly recounted as Hastings uncovers the real stories behind such classics as “Rain,” The Painted Veil, Cakes & Ale, and other well-known tales.
An epic biography of a hugely talented and hugely conflicted man, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham is the definitive account of Maugham’s extraordinary life.

The Marriage Act: The Risk I Took to Keep My Best Friend in America, and What It Taught Us about Love by Liza Monroy
(Powell's) After her traditional engagement to her high school sweetheart falls apart, Liza Monroy faced the prospect of another devastating loss: the deportation of her best friend Emir. Desperate to stay in America, Emir tried every legal recourse to obtain a green card knowing that his return to the Middle East — where gay men are often beaten and sometimes killed — was too dangerous. So Liza proposes to Emir in efforts to keep him safe and by her side. After a fast wedding in Las Vegas, the couple faces new adventures and obstacles in both L.A. and New York City as they dodge the INS. Their relationship is compounded further by the fact that Liza's mother works for the State Department preventing immigration fraud. Through it all, Liza and Emir must contend with professional ambition, adversity, and heartbreak and eventually learn the true lessons of companionship and devotion. This marriage that was not a marriage, in the end, really was.
The Marriage Act is a timely and topical look at the changing face of marriage in America and speaks to the emergent generation forming bonds outside of tradition — and sometimes even outside the law.

The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World by James Davidson
(Amazon) For nearly two thousand years, historians have treated the subject of homosexuality in ancient Greece with apology, embarrassment, or outright denial. Now classics scholar James Davidson offers a brilliant, unblushing exploration of the passion that permeated Greek civilization. Using homosexuality as a lens, Davidson sheds new light on every aspect of Greek culture, from politics and religion to art and war. With stunning erudition and irresistible wit–and without moral judgment–Davidson has written the first major examination of homosexuality in ancient Greece since the dawn of the modern gay rights movement.

Sappho and the Greek Lyric Poets translated and annotated by Willis Barnstone
(Barnes & Noble) Willis Barnstone has augmented his widely used anthology of the Greek lyric poets with eleven newly attributed Sappho poems, making this the most complete offering of Sappho in English. Two new sections -- "Sources and Notes" and "Sappho: Her Life and Poems" -- provide the student with the classical sources and an appraisal of this greatest of Western women poets.

Barnstone's lucid, elegant translations include a representative sampling of all the significant Greek lyric poets, from Archilochus, in the seventh century B.C., through Pindar ("prince of choral poets") and the other great singers of the classical age, down to the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. William McCulloh's introduction illuminates the forms and development of the Greek lyric. Barnstone introduces each poet with a brief biographical and literary sketch. The critical apparatus includes a glossary, index, bibliography, and concordance.  (The reader focused on Sappho's life from a poetic and prose perspective instead of a biographical perspective)

The Kids Are All Right (2010 feature film)
(IMDB) Nic and Jules are in a long term, committed, loving but by no means perfect relationship. They have two teen-aged children, Joni and Laser, Nic who is Joni's biological mother, and Jules who is Laser's biological mother. Although not exact replicas, each offspring does more closely resemble his/her biological mother in temperament. Joni and Laser are also half-siblings, having the same unknown sperm donor father. Shortly after Joni's eighteenth birthday and shortly before she plans to leave the house and head off to college, Laser, only fifteen and underage to do so, pleads with her to try and contact their sperm donor father.

The Codes of Hammurabi and Moses: With Copious Comments, Index, and Bible References by W. W. Davies
(Powell's) The discovery of the Hammurabi Code is one of the greatest achievements of archaeology, and is of paramount interest, not only to the student of the Bible, but also to all those interested in ancient history. (The reader focused on one of the first written documentations of lesbians (called "daughter-men" in the text) having equal rights as men; well before the Old Testament was codified.)

"Hir," a poem about transgendered youth (Youtube,

Boy Meets Girl, transgender comedy with filmmaker Eric Schaeffer (Youtube,  Boy Meets Girl is a very poignant, human, sexy, romantic coming of age comedy about three twenty year-olds living in Kentucky: A boy, his best friend, a transgender girl, and the debutante they strike up a friendship with. It is sex/human positive and identification with it's story crosses all gender, race and sexual orientation lines. [Unreleased so far.]  Lead actress, Chelle Hendley's YouTube channel,

What are YOU reading?

April was National Poetry Month

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:51pm
Since last month’s severe weather spoiled our poetry fun, we’re phoning it in!   …or rather, emailing it in.  April’s Genre Reading Group (GRG) meeting to discuss books related to National Poetry Month was canceled but the members were still eager to share what they’d read so they emailed it to me.  Ah, technology!  I remember life before email and Google, but I don’t know what I did there.
One GRG’er shared a poem her father would occasionally recite:
“The boy stood on the burning deck/ Eating peanuts by the peck;/ His father called, he would not go/ Because he loved those peanuts so.”
In her investigation of the poem, she discovered it is a parody of a poem called “Casabianca” (1826) by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.  “Casabianca” was based on The Battle of the Nile which took place on July 28, 1798.  The poem was popular in schools up through the 50’s and the parody quoted above is only one of many that were made.  She found it in Oh, How Silly edited by William Cole.
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was an American poet.  He taught at the University of Washington near the end of his teaching career and the college named a hall after him.  The GRG member attended classes there and also remembers seeing a film of him reading his own work.  He did both serious and light poems, including this one titled “The Donkey.” 
“I had a donkey, that was all right,/ But he always wanted to fly my kite;/ Every time I let him, the string would bust./ Your donkey is better behaved, I trust.”
She also read a few from famed children’s author (and Homewood, AL resident!) Charles Ghigna.  He has published A LOT of fun books, including Good Cats, Bad Cats and Good Dogs and also used to publish “Snickers,” clever, limerick-like 4-line poems, in different newspapers and magazines.
She also perused The Kingfisher Book of Family Poems selected by Belinda Hollyer, Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees: School Poems edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, and American’s Favorite Poems: The Favorite Poem Project Anthology edited by Robert Pinsky.
Our next GRG’er started off in Egypt’s Middle Kingdom with The Shipwrecked Sailor: An Egyptian Tale with Hieroglyphs retold and illustrated by Tamara Bower.This story is approximately from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (20th-19th Century B.C.E. - As old or older than the Epic of Gilgamesh.) It is based on a papyrus scroll of hieroglyphs and tells the story of a voyage near the Red Sea. A shipwrecked sailor that was part of the voyage meets a serpent on the Island of Soul and becomes good friends with this serpent. As soon as the sailor is rescued the serpent tells the sailor to remember him in his memory as the island will no longer be there. The sailor returns home with riches from the Island of Soul and gains favor with the Pharaoh at that time.
Where Robot Mice and Robot Men Run Round in Robot Towns: New Poems, Both Light and Dark by Ray Bradbury

“Why Viking Lander, Why The Planet Mars” - (Excerpts)[Why Mars? - Line 1Why Go to find the place?
The human race gives answer, finds a pause,
And, no, not just Because It's There,] - Line 4
[Why Mars? Why Viking Lander on its way? - Line 43
To landfill Time, give man Forever's Day...
Unlock doors of light-year grave
Fling wide the portal;] - Line 46
“The Young Galileo Speaks” (Excerpts)
[O Child, they said, avert your eyes. -Line 1
Avert my eyes? I Said, what, from wild skies] - Line 2
[Why, God minds me to be so. He put the bright sparks in - Line 14
my blood
Which spirit, lighten, flare and frighten me to love.] - Line 16
[What this boys knows and will forever know; - Line 23
The universe is Thronged with fire and light,] - Line 24
Marshall Davis Jones : "Touchscreen" (Please use a touchscreen device to watch for a more
visceral experience.)

Sappho and the Greek Lyric Poets translated and annotated by Willis Barnstone
The complete extant poems and fragments of Sappho and a generous selection from other Greek lyric poets of antiquity.  Various Selections of Sappho's poems ranging from her husband, daughter, family, students, and especially her rivals which she dedicates a lot of poems to. 
Excerpts include:
Don't stir up the small
heaps of beach jetsam.
From all the offspring
of the earth and heaven
love is the most precious.
I have lost, and you, Andromeda,
have made an excellent exchange.
When dead you will lie forever forgotten,
for you have no claim to the Pierian roses.
Dim here, you will move more dimly in Hell,
flitting among the undistinguished dead.
Towering over all lands
is the singer of Lesbos.
It would be wrong for us. It is not right
for mourning to enter a home of poetry.
Our next GRG’er started off with 2001-2003 U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins and his collection, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems.
The GRG member says, “perhaps the most accessible book of contemporary poetry I’ve read.”  Collins has often been compared to Robert Frost.  He worked with the Library of Congress to establish a poem-a-day reading program for American high schools called Poetry 180.  In addition to multiple print volumes, there is a DVD featuring interviews with and readings by Collins as well as a sound recording of a live performance with an introduction by his friend, Bill Murray.  His most recent published volume is Aimless Love which also has a sound recording by Collins.
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
“This is a delightful novel about an imagined love affair between poet Robert Lowell and Southern novelist Flannery O'Connor.  I was disappointed briefly to discover there was no more than a kernel of such romance in the actual published correspondence between the two, but I did enjoy reading samples from the Pulitzer Prize winning collection of O'Connor's letters, The Habit of Being.”
Another GRG’er read T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, upon which the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats was later based.
(Google Books) T.S. Eliot pays tribute to "Mr. Mistoffelees, " "The Run Tum Tugger, " "Macavity: The Mystery Cat, " and a variety of other cats in this engaging collection of humorous poems. Originally composed to amuse Mr. Eliot's intimate friends, to whom they were sent anonymously, these verses have proven irresistible to cat lovers, lovers of nonsense, and admirers of T.S. Eliot throughout the English-speaking world.
I myself fell in love with hearing the authors of poems read their own work in Poetry Speaks, Expanded: Hear Poets from Tennyson to Plath Read Their Own Work edited by Elise Paschen & Rebekah Presson Mosby and narrated by Charles Osgood.  They are not joking around.  One of the very first pieces you get to hear is of Alfred, Lord Tennyson reading “Charge of the Light Brigade,” from a late 1800’s wax phonograph cylinder recording, only a few short years after Edison invented that technology.  It’s hard to understand him but you can read along in the book.  I cannot even begin to tell you the insights to be gleaned from listening.  I did not think Langston Hughes would sound like that.  Who knew Dorothy Parker had such vicious little poems running around in her head?  Gwendoline Brooks had rhythm. It was easy to hear that Sylvia Plath was troubled. Robert Frost was quite the showman.  So many authors, so much insight to be gained from listening to them read the poems as they no doubt heard them IN THEIR OWN HEADS.  I remember taking a poetry analysis class in undergrad and writing paper after analytic paper and can only wish in retrospect that I had dug up a recording of the author reading.  I don’t know if it would have changed my analysis, but I can’t help but think so.  This book, lengthy though it may be, is SO worth your time!

Ekphrastia Gone Wild: Poems Inspired by Art edited by Rick Lupert
( Ekphrastia Gone Wild is an anthology of ekphrastic poetry – poetry inspired by other works of art (including painting, film, literature, photography and more) including work by Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska along with a roster of 87 poets from all over the world including Suzanne Lummis, Laurel Ann Bogen, Jerry Quickly, Brendan Constantine, Gerald Locklin, Robert Wynne and many more, edited by Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert.
May is Jewish American Heritage Month so that is the topic around which our discussion will range on Tuesday, May 27th at 6:30pm.  I'll hope to see you there!

May is Jewish American Heritage Month

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 2:41pm
We disucssed a variety of historical and cultural perspectives on the Jewish experience at last night's Genre Reading Group meeting celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month.  It was a disucssion that ranged from France to Fairhope, from Mandelbrot to Kabbalah.

Next month our meeting is actually on a Wednesday in order to avoid a conflict with another program and will be on June 25th at 6:30pm.  The Library closes at 6pm but I will be here to let you in the door!  June is LGBT History Month so read, watch, or listen and come tell us about it!  Not sure what to pick?  Start here at the Stonewall Book Awards.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
( Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.  Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer
(  Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks to earn the love of her distracted mother, a chef, who is now packing her off to boarding school. Desperate to prove herself, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal. She signs up for cooking lessons from Victoria, an Iraqi-Jewish immigrant profoundly shaken by her husband’s death. Soon these two women develop a deeper bond while their concoctions—cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, and masgouf—bake in Victoria’s kitchen. But their individual endeavors force a reckoning with the past, the future, and the truth—whatever it might be.
In Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots we see how food sustains not just our bodies, but our hopes as well. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.

Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction by Joseph Dan
(  In Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, one of the world's leading authorities on Jewish mysticism, offers a concise and highly accurate look at the history and character of the various systems developed by the adherents of the Kabbalah.

Dan sheds light on the many misconceptions about what Kabbalah is and isn't--including its connections to magic, astronomy, alchemy, and numerology--and he illuminates the relationship between Kaballah and Christianity on the one hand and New Age religion on the other. The book provides fascinating historical background, ranging from the mystical groups that flourished in ancient Judaism in the East, and the medieval schools of Kabbalah in Northern Spain and Southern France, to the widening growth of Kabbalah through the school of Isaac Luria of Safed in the sixteenth century, to the most potent and influential modern Jewish religious movement, Hasidism, and its use of kabbalistic language in its preaching. The book examines the key ancient texts of this tradition, including the Sefer Yezira or "Book of Creation," The Book of Bahir, and the Zohar. Dan explains Midrash, the classical Jewish exegesis of scriptures, which assumes an infinity of meanings for every biblical verse, and he concludes with a brief survey of scholarship in the field and a list of books for further reading.

Embraced by celebrities and integrated in many contemporary spiritual phenomena, Kabbalah has reaped a wealth of attention in the press. But many critics argue that the form of Kabbalah practiced in Hollywood is more New Age pabulum than authentic tradition. Can there be a positive role for the Kabbalah in the contemporary quest for spirituality?  In Kabbalah, Joseph Dan debunks the myths surrounding modern Kabbalistic practice, offering an engaging and dependable account of this traditional Jewish religious phenomenon and its impact outside of Judaism.

The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism by Daniel C. Matt
(  A translation of the Kabbalah for the layperson includes a compact presentation of each primary text and features a practical analysis and vital historical information that offer insight into the various aspects of Jewish mysticism.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: MC shared a Youtube documentary on Kabbalah:

Holocaust Poetry compiled by Hilda Schiff
(  The only known collection of its kind currently in print, this important volume includes the work of 59 poets--among them Auden, Brecht, Celan, Jarrell, Levi, Milosz, Plath, Sexton, Spender, Wiesel, and Yevtushenko--writing on a range of subjects that are indelibly linked with the Holocaust. Collecting 119 poems in all, Holocaust Poetry commemorates the sanctity of those who died--both Jews and non-Jews--as a result of this unimaginably horrible crime.

Yet Schiff's anthology is also a solemn affirmation of humanity's survival, for it pays homage to the past while also attesting to the often brutal struggles that we as a species still face in this world, day in and day out. Also preserved here are poems written by those who themselves perished in the Shoah, the final testaments and eternal lessons of unknown soldiers, unheralded heroes, unsilenced voices.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: The website we spoke about briefly was the Poetry Superhighway and their 16th annual Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) issue.

Jewish Holidays Cookbook: Festive Meals for Celebrating the Year by Jill Bloomfield
(  The traditions and recipes of Judaism are celebrated in this beautiful modern cookbook geared toward kids and their families. Eleven Jewish holidays are discussed and accompanied by recipes for the ancient and modern foods traditionally served. Kids can lead the charge on braiding their first challah or making their own kugel, while spending time learning about Jewish history and heritage.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:  Here is the recipe for the delicious mandel bread that KR made from a recipe in the book:

A Sampler of Jewish American Folklore by Josepha Sherman
(  Someone once observed that A Jew is composed of 28 percent fear, 2 percent sugar, and 70 percent nerve. Certainly, the Jews have needed every bit of that nerve over centuries of persecution. The struggle and triumph of Jewishness, author Josepha Sherman observes, is reflected in the vast body of Jewish folklore, which emphasizes ethical behavior and survival through cleverness, kindness, and above all, humor.

The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg
(  In the stunning tradition of Lisa See, Maeve Binchy, and Alice Hoffman, The Tin Horse is a rich multigenerational story about the intense, often fraught bond sisters share and the dreams and sorrows that lay at the heart of the immigrant experience.

It has been more than sixty years since Elaine Greenstein’s twin sister, Barbara, ran away, cutting off contact with her family forever. Elaine has made peace with that loss. But while sifting through old papers as she prepares to move to Rancho Mañana—or the “Ranch of No Tomorrow” as she refers to the retirement community—she  is stunned to find a possible hint to Barbara’s whereabouts all these years later. And it pushes her to confront the fierce love and bitter rivalry of their youth during the 1920s and ’30s, in the Los Angeles Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

Though raised together in Boyle Heights, where kosher delis and storefront signs in Yiddish lined the streets, Elaine and Barbara staked out very different personal territories. Elaine was thoughtful and studious, encouraged to dream of going to college, while Barbara was a bold rule-breaker whose hopes fastened on nearby Hollywood. In the fall of 1939, when the girls were eighteen, Barbara’s recklessness took an alarming turn. Leaving only a cryptic note, she disappeared.

In an unforgettable voice layered with humor and insight, Elaine delves into the past. She recalls growing up with her spirited family: her luftmensch of a grandfather, a former tinsmith with tales from the Old Country; her papa, who preaches the American Dream even as it eludes him; her mercurial mother, whose secret grief colors her moods—and of course audacious Barbara and their younger sisters, Audrey and Harriet. As Elaine looks back on the momentous events of history and on the personal dramas of the Greenstein clan, she must finally face the truth of her own childhood, and that of the twin sister she once knew.

In The Tin Horse, Janice Steinberg exquisitely unfolds a rich multigenerational story about the intense, often fraught bonds between sisters, mothers, and daughters and the profound and surprising ways we are shaped by those we love. At its core, it is a book not only about the stories we tell but, more important, those we believe, especially the ones about our very selves.

Sex, Drugs, and Gefilte Fish: The HEEB Storytelling Collection edited by Shana Liebman
(  Scoring weed for your uncle...Hanging out with porn stars on Christmas Eve...Eating nachos with the Mossad...Observing the Dyke Days of Awe...Getting held up at a Weight Watcher's meeting...Spying on your naked Hebrew School teacher.

From Heeb magazine--the definitive voice of a proud, searching, and irreverent new generation of American Jews--this first-of-a-kind fast and fun showcase spotlights the hilarious and heartful raconteurial gifts of many of today's leading writers, comedians, actors, artists, and musicians. Laura Silverman, Michael Showalter, Andy Borowitz, Joel Stein, Ben Greenman, Darrin Strauss, and others navigate sex, drugs, work, youth, family, and, on the lighter side, body and soul. You'll never bleach your arm hair again.

Chicken Dreaming Corn by Roy Hoffman
Harper Lee lent a blurb to the front of this book, calling it "a story of great appeal."
(  In 1916, on the immigrant blocks of the Southern port city of Mobile, Alabama, a Romanian Jewish shopkeeper, Morris Kleinman, is sweeping his walk in preparation for the Confederate veterans parade about to pass by. "Daddy?" his son asks, "are we Rebels?" "Today?" muses Morris. "Yes, we are Rebels." Thus opens a novel set, like many, in a languid Southern town. But, in a rarity for Southern novels, this one centers on a character who mixes Yiddish with his Southern and has for his neighbors small merchants from Poland, Lebanon, and Greece.

As Morris resides with his family over his Dauphin Street store, enjoys cigars with his Cuban friend Pablo Pastor, and makes "a living not a killing," his tale begins with glimpses of the old Confederacy, continues through a tumultuous Armistice Day, and leads up to the hard-won victories of World War II. Along the way Morris sells shoes and sofas and endures Klan violence, religious zealotry, and financial triumphs and heartbreaks. With his devoted Miriam, who nurses memories of Brooklyn and Romania, he raises four adventurous children whose own journeys take them to New Orleans and Atlanta and involve romance, ambition and tragic loss.

At turns lyrical, comic, and melancholy, this tale takes inspiration from its title. This Romanian expression with an Alabama twist is symbolic of the strivings of ordinary folks for sustenance, for the realization of their hopes and dreams. Set largely on a few humble blocks yet engaging many parts of the world, this Southern Jewish novel is, ultimately, richly American.

What are YOU reading?