Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: St. Paddy’s Day Parade

Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — about which he is mysteriously silent — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

 

IrishGirl_CMYKIt’s huge now, but back in ‘82 or thereabouts, the germ of what would become Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade had an unlikely start as the brainstorm of, um, shall we say, a handful of “happy” people at the old George Street Grocery. A bunch of Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News folk were sitting around and somebody – Orley Hood? Lolo Pendergrast? Raad Cawthon? — said: “You know, we ought to have a parade.”

Everybody thought that was a swell idea to just jump into their cars and go downtown whooping and hollering. Since at the time I had an MG convertible, they tried to get me to join the “parade,” so they could sit on the back with the top down and wave at people, but I had been “visiting” there for a while and didn’t want to get pulled over by police. They went on without me, circling the Governor’s Mansion, the Clarion-Ledger building, and other sites of interest, and came back all happy and boisterous — and thirsty for more liquid inspiration.

I don’t know if Malcolm White counts that as the first parade or not. But after that, the parade became a real event with several of the same characters involved. By the way, the chief of security at the bar was none other than longtime sheriff Malcolm McMillin, who was a moonlighting Jackson police officer at the time; so I guess you could say, he was in on it, too.

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Lemuria

An Unbreakable Landscape

When I drove across Montana, the landscape lingered long after I crossed the border. Elegant and gritty; it is a country requiring hard work. Even with towering trees, and grass up to my knees, I was always aware that underneath all the growth was rock; the edges were softened only on the surface. I could never crack the crust.

JacketSmith Henderson captures this hardness in his debut novel, Fourth of July Creek. His characters are as pitted and solid as the ground they walk, broken along fault lines difficult to map. Henderson plumbs human dysfunction, measuring not only what makes us fail, but how we succeed; what we overcome in order to accomplish seemingly mundane things.

 

The novel follows Pete, a social worker with troubles of his own—divorced, missing daughter, borderline alcoholism—and the families he tries to help. His job takes him to the edges of human experience, to what we are all capable of. Kindness and gentleness spring from surprising hosts; violence and hate roil under the surface of us all.

The cop flicked his cigarette to the dirt and gravel road in front of the house, and touched back his hat over his hairline as the social worker drove up in a dusty Toyota Corolla. Through the dirty window, he spotted some blond hair falling, and he hiked in his gut, hoping that the woman in there would be something to have a look at. Which is to say he did not expect what got out: a guy in his late twenties, maybe thirty, pulling on a denim coat against the cold morning air blowing down the mountain, ducking back in to the car for a moment, reemerging with paperwork. His brown corduroy pants faded out over his skinny ass, the knees too. He pulled that long hair behind his ears with his free hand and sauntered over.

Henderson captures the spirit of the West in Fourth of July Creek. A land uninhibited by its human residents, a spirit unbridled, an unbroken horizon that gives human struggles their proper scope. But under Henderson’s deft hand, a sensitivity to the human condition pulls to the surface. Hope does prevail; a small dose is often enough.

Written by Adie

Let’s Talk Jackson: Thinking about one’s thinking

As I thumbed through Ken Murphy’s Jackson book, I was initially confused at the photo for Millsaps.  While I was a student there, the observatory wasn’t used often.  Occasionally, a campus-wide email would announce that the observatory would be open for viewing some lunar/ stellar/ otherwise spacey event, but I never managed to show up.  And when I think of Millsaps, my iconography of the college revolves around other structures:  the Christian Center, the Academic Complex, the bell tower.

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I didn’t understand Ken’s reasoning behind the observatory being the representative image of the college.  But, since I have an English degree from Millsaps, I thought.

At the risk of sounding too metacognative, I thought about all of the thinking I did while I was there.  [Metacognative:  thinking about one’s thinking.  A word I learned at Millsaps.]  One of the texts I read my freshman year was Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” (thank you, Dr. Wilson) in which the philosopher challenges the idea that seeing something means it is absolutely true.  When the poet John Milton met Gallieo, Milton’s understanding of what is versus what he could see was expanded beyond his own failing eyesight (thank you, Dr. Page).   Despite my status as a WASP male, I was able to read and understand writers like Alain Locke (thank you, Dr. Smith) and Toni Morrison (thank you, Dr. MacMaster) and Palo Frerie (thank you, Dr. Middleton).  I was introduced to Eudora Welty’s writing, and her stories have stuck with me like a kind memory (thank you, Dr. Marrs).  With my minor in secondary education, I was given insight into the way students learn best (thank you, Dr. Schimmel, Dr. McCarty) and how to effectively transmit instruction to them (thank you, Dr. Vaughn, Dr. Garrett).  I learned to see both broadly and tightly, to make connections between ideas and people that, at first glance, might be worlds apart.  There is only one story that’s been written over and over and over again, and that story is the weird journey of humanity (thank you, Dr. Miller).  So many of my professors forced me to think about things I had never considered, to look at things in a way that wasn’t easy or natural for me, and to understand that my view of the world isn’t the only way of seeing things.

It turns out, Ken was right.  Observatories allow us to look beyond ourselves, to see what we normally wouldn’t be able to, just like Millsaps did for me.

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Jamie

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: We got here as soon as we could

Written by Richard D. deShazo, MD, a Billy S. Guyton Distringuished Professor, and professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at the University Medical Center. Dr. deShazo hosts a weekly radio health and wellness show on MPB stations throughout the state called “Southern Remedy”. 

We came to Jackson and the University of Mississippi Medical Center after having lived in many other locations; including Washington, DC, Denver, CO, Birmingham and Mobile, AL, as part of my career as a physician educator, administrator, and researcher. The first thing we noticed about Jackson was the extraordinary hospitality of strangers we received at almost every turn. My wife was startled when she was tapped on the back by a stranger in the grocery store while she was searching for a grocery item. When she turned, fearing she was going to be accosted as would have been the case in other locations, she was met with a big smile from another customer who said, “Honey, can I help you find something? I have been shopping here forever.” This was something we had never experienced. When we visited churches, we felt welcome in every one immediately.

One of our initial roles was to recruit new faculty to UMC, and during the time I was a department chair here, we assisted over 60 new families in coming to Jackson to serve in various medical roles at UMMC. Their experiences were always similar to ours, and we never feared sending them into the community for a sampling of what life was like here because they were always pleasantly surprised.  It was easy to recruit people to jobs at UMMC once we got them here to see what a great place Jackson is to live.

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As each day goes by, we discover new, interesting things about Mississippi. The convenient location and the hospitality and diversity of folks in the Delta, the pinelands, the coast, and of course, the greater Ole Miss community in the northeast are unique to our state. As the saying goes, our family was not born in Mississippi, but we got here as soon as we could.

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Lemuria

Painted Horses

Painted Horses is a wonderful novel full of horses, archaeology, the new West, and two fascinating women. Malcolm Brooks should be lauded for this amazing debut. Very fine.”             -Jim Harrison

“Reminiscent of the fiery, lyrical, and animated spirit of Cormac McCarthy’s Border trilogy and the wisdom and elegance of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, Painted Horses is its own work, a big, old-fashioned, and important novel.” -Rick Bass

Join us tonight at 5:00 for the signing and reading for Malcolm Brooks’s debut novel Painted Horses.

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Written by Hannah

WellsFest!

Written by Keith Tonkel, pastor of Wells United Methodist Church and founder of WellsFest.

 

WellsFest began with a wedding. When the pastor to refused an honorarium, the Malcolm White family said, “Let’s do something that would express our thanks, and mean something to Wells Church and our city.”

Some folks from Wells were contacted, and WellsFest was born. The festival, first of its kind in the city thirty-one years ago, retains a “first” in its intent of offering an “alcohol and drug free” day of great music, food, fellowship, and creating a sense of community that includes many different folks from different places.

WellsFest has no admission fee, begins with a 5K race/walk/fun run, and ends with a “circle of service” made up of those who gave time and energy to put it together, run the festival, and then take it down at the close of the day. Across the years at each circle, kids from Jackson Prep held hands with people from the Rankin County prison—all kinds all colors  and people holding on to say, “Hey, we had a day of fun and service that will help a deserving group.” This year’s donation recipients are Partners To End Homelessness and they have hopes for a new van to try to get the people they serve rides to work. We hope they’ll get it.

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We had a selfish beginning in the early 80′s. One half of the first proceeds went to help renovate our inner city church building. Since then, every penny of the proceeds after expenses goes to the group chosen as the year’s recipient. The little church in the inner city has raised just at a million dollars and has had the joy of extending measurable help to several worthy groups.

The WellsFest intent is to offer an affordable day of celebration with top notch music, food, and everything else; and help those who help others. WellsFest is all this and more. The “more” is hard to understand and describe, but it exists. Come and see…

WellsFest is this Saturday, September 27. Don’t miss it!

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Lemuria

Let’s Talk Jackson: A spoonful of sugar

As a little girl with an embarrassingly bulldog-like underbite, I frequently journeyed from my small town to Jackson to remedy my numerous orthodontic woes. To help quell my fear of the pain I’d endure each time, my thoughtful mother usually promised some spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down before our trek home on I-20. Often, this sweetener involved exploring the world of wonder that is Lemuria Books.

Sometimes reverently, sometimes with wild excitement, I’d behold the book-bricked walls striped with color. My soreness was quickly forgotten as I explored the store’s nooks and alcoves, like an underwater cave teeming with treasures waiting to be discovered. With the staff as my guides, I lapped up page after page and selected my own book-treasure to take home.

As an adult, I remain enchanted. Every morning when I walk into the store, my heart still swells with hope at all the potential represented by the books cocooning me. They are comical or heart-wrenching; they are about Jackson or set in places I’ll never physically visit. And they help me cope with the pain of life, not to avoid it, but to swallow it without gagging.

Every Saturday morning, bright-eyed children scurry past the towers of books for story time. As they snuggle up next to our big, friendly teddy bear, they swallow stories that stir up peals of laughter while giving them courage to start at a new school or to forgive people who have hurt them. I share their wonder and thirstily  gulp down as much as I can, relishing the bitter turned sweet on the page and in their lives.

Compassionate customers come on behalf of those who can’t come experience the wonder for themselves, buying books to share with their neighbor who’s in the hospital or with an inmate who needs some humor to lighten her day.

Whatever your orthodontic pilgrimage, books help the medicine go down. Enjoy as many spoonsful as you can.

Written by Marianna

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Marianna

Random House Book of the Month: Station Eleven

I know many of us have always heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, thank the book gods above that I judged Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven by its cover. When we got the book in the store, the cover of the book captivated me. I picked it up, read the inside of the dust jacket and thought, “I don’t think I would like this book, so I’ll just let others read it and tell me about it.” However, the rest of the day I longingly looked at the cover and finally broke down and got it. I am so glad that I did.

Station Eleven captivated me from the moment I read the first paragraph. The story takes place in the present, the past, and in a post-apocalyptic future, weaving stories together that are seemingly random. However, the more you read, the more you realize that the random stories and characters are not random at all; they are all linked by a tragic character. I don’t want to give the plot away, nor do I want to write a book report. I do want to tell you that the connections in the book are profound and that Emily Mandel has hit a home run with this novel.

Her writing is impeccable, and even though I sometimes got annoyed with paragraphs without much punctuation or complete thoughts, I was engaged and enamored with her prose. Station Eleven immediately grabbed my attention and did not let it go (this is saying a lot for someone who is A.D.D. to the core.) The main reason that Station Eleven captivated me was the fact that Mandel painted a clear and vivid picture of her characters and their settings. I found myself sitting in the audience, as she painted a picture of the main character playing King Lear in a Toronto theatre. I also found myself among survivors of the post-apocalyptic plague as they sat in their tent cities; or as they traveled along the road playing their instruments.

Also, I thought the way the story was written in a non-linear timeline, moving back and forth through space and time, was brilliant! I’ll be honest: in reading the reviews, I figured I would have a hard time with this in-and-out of time movement, however it’s what kept me engaged.

Station Eleven is one of those books that grabs you in the beginning, and it gets better and better. I was waiting for a letdown; and yet, it never came. It was truly a page-turner and I would recommend it to anyone who loves literature that is graceful yet sometimes unnerving. It is truly a novel that is brilliant, driven, original, and breathtaking!

//EDIT// Station Eleven was just longlisted for the National Book Award! We still have a few signed first editions left, come get yours today!

Written by Justin 

 

Written by Justin

Justice for Ella

This article by Donna C. Echols was published in the Clarion-Ledger on September, 8 2014

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Pam Johnson, right, wrote the book ‘Justice for Ella,’ as told to her by Jewell McMahan, left, Ella Gaston’s best friend. (Photo: Special to the Clarion-Ledger)

Once in a while, life hands you an opportunity to do something very special. In Pam Johnson’s case, life handed her a special story to tell. The story is about an unlikely friendship that transcended fear, hostilities and race. It took 55 years before this story would be revealed to us in a new book called “Justice for Ella: A Story that Needed to be Told.”

“I heard my friend, Mike McMahan, tell this story about his mama and her friend at a dinner one night. All of us at the table told him that it needed to be written. I begged to write it and was lucky enough to be picked,” Johnson said. Justice for Ella is a rare view inside the friendship of two women, one black and one white, from the early years of the Civil Rights era.

When asked what inspired her to tell this story, Johnson said, “It was a fabulous story about two gutsy women and it had a ready-made dangerous and funny plot line. It was one of those things where we’d say now, ‘You just can’t make this stuff up.’ “

There was conflict and uncertainty around Ella Gaston and her husband, Nelse, as they journeyed through these tumultuous times and I could feel it through the words written on each page. My heart would even race, and I would feel nervous as I read through some of the difficult situations and terrifying moments that Ella and her friend Jewell found themselves.

Johnson believes that the “take away” message in this story for people today: “You don’t have to be a rock star to stand up to injustice. These two determined women were ordinary people who did what they could, and they prevailed. Right has a way of doing that.”

Right has a way of doing that … perhaps the most understated comment of all as Ella and Jewell’s journey took them through fears of losing their children, of imprisonment without justification, of retaliation. Yet through it all, their friendship remained strong as these two women faced hatred, racism, and an uncertainty in a setting about to erupt as the Civil Rights battles raged on.

“As a former newspaper reporter and English teacher, even I was not prepared for the sheer discipline and labor involved in putting together a book,” Johnson said when asked what it was like to sit down and write a book. “It has to make sense and stream forward in every detail, while at the same time being readable and compelling. I often prided myself as a teacher on making sure my students understood the value of documented resources. But I confess at the end of my research on the book, I was wishing for index cards.”

Editing took a lot of time, too. “There is a lot of good writing sitting in a drawer in my office that will never see print,” she said. “I also learned the value of an egg timer,” she said. “I would set my timer for an hour and write through it. Take a break. Set it again, and keep writing. Sometimes, I would write for six hours in a day.”

These comments show the tenacity it takes to finish a book that involves so much research and so many interviews. It was a tedious process that at the end of the day revealed a gripping, page-turning, compelling, emotional, heart-warming book like Justice for Ella that perfectly illustrates the depth of friendships.

After getting my copy of Justice for Ella, there was no sleeping or eating or work to be done until I was finished. Every character in the book was a thoroughly described, three-dimensional person. They were easy to visualize. The personalities and heart-pounding drama jumped off every page as I quickly turned them to see what was going to happen next. I could even smell and taste the Sunday fried chicken as it was described in delicious details. The suspense of whether Ella would be sent to jail or Jewell would get caught helping her friend made me hold my breath waiting to see what happened to them. Reading such an energetic account of what lengths a friend would go to help another during some very dangerous times was riveting. After this, I had to know if there was a second book in store for Johnson’s readers.

“I do have an idea in mind based on a recent true story from my hometown of Mount Olive. I am still working on fleshing out the storyline to submit for consideration,” Johnson said. “I could probably write a political thriller, but it would have to be a work of fiction. Too many of the characters are still alive.

“Even though I was a child during the Civil Rights era, like most white Southern children of the time, I was exposed only to carefully edited television reports, an occasional Life magazine lying around, and dinner table conversation,” Johnson remembered. “I learned more about our Civil Rights history than I ever imagined I would know, or really hoped to know, while researching this book. Even with my experiences as an adult in areas promoting racial understanding and communication, nothing prepared me for the sheer pervasiveness of Jim Crow through the lives of all Mississippians — black and white. It pains me to see blatant remnants of those times still being paraded and parroted by people who should know better.”

The heroines in Justice for Ella braved the odds and defied status quo. I asked Johnson if she saw herself in these women, these friends, these Mississippi folks who bravely protected and looked after each other during a dangerous time in our state’s history. Johnson answered, “In my office, I have a magnet with a picture of Han Solo that states ‘Never Tell Me the Odds.’ That pretty much sums up an approach I’ve taken in life — sometimes with great outcomes, and many times with, shall we say, ‘learning opportunities.’ My eagerness to write the book stemmed in great part from that attitude and believe that the Lord always has my back. I think both of these women had the same way of looking at challenges, and they worked with whatever was available to them to overcome very steep odds.”

Asked if she was ever nervous about researching and writing this story, Johnson said that at times she was. “As a person with an often reckless sense of capability, I wasn’t nervous. I realized about halfway in that I should have been,” she said.

This book, Justice for Ella, was inspirational for me as I read it. I was curious if that was true for Johnson, and what was the most encouraging part of Jewell and Ella’s journey for her. She said, “There were many occurrences displaying raw backbone in this story, but I have to say the hospital trips were the most blatantly courageous actions in the narrative. Ella was made to get grossly sick. Both women were risking arrest for interfering with the court proceedings. That’s the reason the story had been in a virtual vault for five decades.”

We have so many famous Mississippians as literary giants, world famous musicians, a plethora of athletic talent, and in countless other categories. What does this story tell you about Mississippians and their willingness to do great things without regard to consequences? “I think there’s a streak of ‘fearless’ in all of us. Sometimes it works out well; sometimes, not so much, Johnson said. “We seem to enjoy our common profile of courage in the face of giants — be they human, societal or economic. It appears to me that this commonality runs through just about all of us — in every demographic group.”

While we can’t change the history of our state, what are some things that Ella and Jewell’s friendship can teach us? Johnson said that recognizing and honoring each other on a human scale is essential to our survival and progress. “Categorizing and demeaning our fellow travelers does not make for a cohesive, kind and successful way of living, in my opinion.” “I am very grateful to the McMahans and the Gastons for their unending support and patience while I was researching and writing, Johnson added. “The families had held this story a close secret for over 50 years, and it was a wonderful experience to help them shine the light on their mamas’ courage.”

REMINDER… Pam Johnson’s book signing for Justice for Ella will be Thursday, Sept. 18, at Lemuria Bookstore beginning at 5 p.m. If you can’t make the signing, call Lemuria (601-366-7619) and order a book. The author will be happy to sign it for you.

Tweet your thoughts to @TheDonnaEchols, and we’ll see you at the book signing!

Written by Kelly

Let’s Talk Jackson: She has her grip on me

“Later they took him to Jackson and that explained it; he was crazy.” – Shelby Foote, Follow Me Down: A Novel

“Justin, why in the world would you ever want to live in Jackson? You must be crazy.” There is no telling how many times I’ve been asked that question, and every time someone asks me, “Why Jackson?” I simply say, “For some reason, Jackson has always had her grip on me.”

Growing up in a small rural community outside of Pelahatchie, Jackson was the city where we would go eat and go shop once a month. I also remember as a child, my Godmother’s uncle was the day manager at the Sun-n-Sand Motel. Many of my childhood summer days were spent by the pool at the Sun-n-Sand, and our nights would end at The Iron Horse Grill. Even though I grew up in Rankin County, I had a very interesting and unique perspective of Jackson. It is one of the reasons I love Jackson.

As a high school student, I remember spending every Monday and Thursday on Seneca Street in Fondren. It was a beautiful ranch style house and my piano teacher lived and taught from her home studio. It was at her house that I learned how to play Debussy, Gershwin, Beethoven, and even Carole King. I can remember those afternoons and evenings of playing scales, trying to make my clumsy hands go up and down the keys of her Steinway grand Piano. As a reward for my practicing and playing, we would always go to Cups to treat ourselves to coffee. My piano teacher’s house was recently sold and she no longer lives there, but I often find myself driving down Seneca, remembering those piano lessons that seemed to have lasted hours upon hours.

Jackson: She has her grip on me. Jackson grabbed me as a child, held me as a teenager, and now she holds my hand as an adult. I stay here, and I live here because I love Jackson. I’ve found a place of belonging and a community that not only accepts me, but a community that makes me a better person. Will I always live in Jackson? Probably not; However, I get the feeling that no matter where the road of life takes me, Jackson will forever have my heart.

 

Written by Justin 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. 

Written by Lemuria