I see dead people!

One of the great thrills of my life is being able to interview Mississippi high school seniors who have applied to Duke University. The conversations are usually thoughtful and reflective, but there is always one question that I like to ask to get the student’s thoughts flowing. That question is:

“If you could bring back three people from the dead to have a conversation with, who would they be and why?”

Some of the people who have been brought back from the dead are Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Louisa May Alcott, Cleopatra, Ernest Hemingway, and Gandhi; just to name a few.

After the student tells me who and why, I always ask a follow up question. “In your conversation with Dead Person A, he or she asks you for a book recommendation. What book would you recommend that person read?” This is where the conversation gets fun! From recommendations like, Cleopatra reading Kelly Oxford’s Everything’s Perfect When You are a Liar, to Martin Luther King, Jr. reading Richard Wright’s Black Boy. I love this question, but I’ve never answered it myself. So, I am going to indulge all you fine folks with my answers.

The first person I would bring back from the dead would be the Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul. This is where I must admit that I am a theological and biblical nerd. Not a biblical nerd in “the bible is the literal truth of God written by the Holy Spirit in men who were awesome and unflawed” kind of nerd, but the kind of nerd that looks at theology and the Bible through a critical (maybe too much sometimes) and suspicious lens. I would love to bring Paul back because I have a huge problem with him. I really don’t like him, and I think some of his writings (or writings attributed to him) are sexist, anti-body, anti-agency, crap. But on the reverse side, some of his letters are beautiful, poetic, and full of grace. There is a paradox in his writing, and in his life. As far as what book I would want him to read? Well, I’m gonna be cliché and a cheater here, but I’d love to sit down and get him to read the book of Romans, particularly Romans 1 and 2. Why? Well, in Romans 1, Paul condemns everyone to hell. Like literally, everyone. It has been a scripture that people have used to oppress and deny people their basic human rights (I’m thinking LGBTQ people here…) and yet he starts Romans 2 with this:

“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

It is the paradox. He judges a long list of people, condemns them to hell, and then says, “DON’T JUDGE!”  I just think it would be interesting to talk about.

My second person I’d bring back from the dead is Jane Austen. Unlike Paul formerly known as Saul, I freaking love Jane Austen. I never read her until I was in a class at Duke where my favorite teacher ever, Dr. Amy Laura Hall, made us read her work. I love Jane Austen because I think she was a badass feminist before feminism was a thing. Her biting comedic social commentary always gets me going. I would love to talk with her about her books, but if she asked me for a book recommendation, I would have to recommend Beloved by Toni Morrison. Beloved is a book that is hard to read because it delves deeply into the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and slavery. It slaps you in the face and makes you say, “damn.” Jane Austen wrote books critiquing the gentry of her time; Toni Morrison wrote Beloved which depicted the horrors of slavery and the treatment and commodification of black bodies. The conversation Jane Austen and I would have would be interesting, deep, and hopefully life-changing.

The last person I would bring back from the dead would be Whitney Houston. Why? Well, I’m a big fan, and even though she has been dead less than 5 years, I will always love her. I would love to talk to her about her life, how she felt when she sang, why she stayed with Bobby Brown, and things like that. As far as a book recommendation: this is the hardest for me to answer. But as I think about it, I would recommend Lamb by Christopher Moore. This is so random, I know. If you don’t know Lamb, let’s just say, it is a satirical look at the childhood of Jesus through the eyes of his best friend, Biff. It is hilarious, yet deeply moving. Whitney had a glamorous life, but it was a life full of addiction and pain. I would recommend Lamb because it is irreverent, and it makes you think while you laugh your ass off at the hilarity of it all. Whitney deserves to laugh her ass off.

So, with that; I am done. But I do have a question for you!

Who would YOU bring back from the dead, and what books would you recommend to them?

 

Ciao.

 

Written by Justin 

Lemuria Book of The Year 2014 Long-list Part 2

Last week we announced the Long Lists for Fiction and Non-Fiction.  Today we’re happy to share with you our picks for the best picture books and young literature (middle grade and young adult) from 2014.

Picture Books:

11 books were submitted for contention in the Picture Books category.

 

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

The Farmer and The Clown by Marla Frazee

Little Elliot Big City by Mike Curato

Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick Mcdonnell

Sparky! by Jenny Offill

My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend  by Dan Santat

Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio

 

Young Literature:

11 books were submitted for contention in the Young Literature category.

 

Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

Cartwheeling In Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Shouldn’t You Be In School (All the Wrong Questions) by Lemony Snicket

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

 

laurels

Suburbia: the new southern gothic

denver_suburbs
Something inhabits the summers of childhood that makes our skin itch. It’s not the heat as much as the heavy air of waiting–for school to start, for bicycles left in lawns to be once again stored properly, for long days to become long nights. Summers such as these have launched many coming-of-age novels, as the mistakes of summer haunt the school room halls and dining room tables of autumn and winter. (To Kill a Mockingbird, My Name is Asher Lev, The Virigin Suicides, The Round House, etc.)

Which leads me to my first question:

What were you doing in the summer of 1989? *

If you listened to This American Life’s new podcast, Serial, then you know how important (and damning) questions like this can be.  (If you haven’t listened to Serial yet, that’s okay, you can download it and listen to it for free in between chapters of M. O. Walsh’s debut novel, My Sunshine Away)

Set in Baton Rouge, My Sunshine Away follows the 14 year-old narrator’s love-turned-obsession with Lindy Simpson, the girl next door. The seeming innocence of the year is shattered when Lindy is raped on her way home from track practice. The narrator knows something, but as the novel unravels, along with the mystery and the innocence of childhood/first love, everyone is guilty of something.

Which leads me to my second question:

How much of memory is created in hindsight?

71xa-K+uYVLWalsh tugs at the rug under our feet as we read. Unreliable narrators aren’t anything new. We all read Catcher in the Rye. We know what’s coming. But Walsh has nailed his characters: their blindness to the obvious, their self-delusion, their dangerous faults.

My Sunshine Away is a novel as much about Louisiana as a boy’s childhood. It is also a book about growing up in the late 1980s, of the shift from the white-picket fence childhood to the suburban nightmare. (Remember Jeffrey Dahmer?)

If you want to know what Southern writers are writing about, read My Sunshine Away. Walsh has taken an upstanding literary tradition and done good by it.

M.O. Walsh will be at Lemuria signing and reading from My Sunshine Away Thursday, February 19th at 5 PM.

 

*If you weren’t around in 1989 to remember it, just listen to Taylor Swift’s new album and you’ll know nothing about 1989, but you’ll have a lot of catchy songs stuck in your head.

Lemuria Book of The Year 2014 Long-list Part 1

A few weeks ago, I introduced the very first Lemuria Book of the Year Award to you.  Over the past few weeks our staff has put together a list of what we think were the best books released during 2014.  If you’re looking to fill your backlog with the best of the best fiction, non-fiction and young literature, here is the place to start.

Fiction:

25 books were submitted for contention in the fiction category!  The standouts are: The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, All The Light We Cannot Sea by Anthony Doerr, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami Haruki, and The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Here is the complete list:

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

The Martian by Andy Weir

In The Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Story of Land and Sea Katy Simpson Smith

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki

Lila by Marilyn Robinson

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

One Kick by Cheksea Cain

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Paper Lanterns by Stuart Dybek

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot

Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle

Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Future for Curious People by Greg Sherl

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

The Parallel Apartments by Bill Cotter

End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck

The Painter by Peter Heller

Consumed by David Crorenberg

The Weirdness by Jeremy Bushnell

Non-Fiction:

22 books were submitted for contention in the non-fiction category.  The standouts include Empire of Sin by Gary Krist, The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast, and What If? by Randall Munroe.

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip by Kevin Brockmeier

What We See When We Read by Pete Mendelsund

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Notes To Boys by Pamela Ribbon

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Ed King’s Mississippi by Ed King

The Queer South by Douglas Ray

Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distance by The Oatmeal

In The Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Empire of Sin by Gary Krist

What If? by Randall Munroe

The Emphathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills

So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan

The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Jackson: Photographs by Ken Murphy

Congratulations to all the nominees!  Check back tomorrow when we announce the Oz Long-list!

laurels

Written by Andre

Shelves of green

I love bundling up in tights and scarves and sweaters, drinking hot tea, and reading by our little fireplace in the cold months. Winter seems to be my most bookish season, the time of the year when nature tucks me inside to read the most. But these last few days of sunshine have given me an early case of spring fever, and all I want to do is be outside in the glow. Today as I ate lunch in my backyard, I noticed tiny baby mushrooms sprouting up all over the place, and I was struck by their unassuming beauty. I studied our shriveled brown Muscadine vines and remembered how full and green they had been last August. I could barely believe it was the same plant that had sagged heavy with fruit back in its glory days…and that somehow it’s going to bear fruit again in a few months.

Looking around at all the life in my yard—and all the space for more plants to grow—made me really want to adopt gardening as a hobby.  We just revamped our whole gardening section at Lemuria, jogging my memory about how many amazing books we have. If you are a novice or an old pro, or if you just know someone else who loves to grow things, you should come in and check out the shelves of green.

 

If you’re just starting out (can I say green?)…

Check out the how-to books on growing practically anything, as well as our shelves for landscape design and outdoor space planning. If you haven’t had the best luck with plants and want to start somewhere easy, read up on succulents and cacti! (Aloe plants are incredibly forgiving…I once forgot mine for a year and it still soothed my sunburned shoulders.)

 

If you have dirt under your fingernails already…

Look at the A-Z plant section, gardening journals, books with pruning tips, and your favorite books on Southern gardening (with all the best from Felder Rushing and Norman Winter, of course).

 

If you’re short on space but need a little more oxygen in your life…

Take heart! We have tons of tomes on container/small space/square foot gardening.

 

If you want to make your yard more kid-friendly…

Peruse our books on gardening projects for the whole family…and the TREE HOUSE section. Even if you don’t have kids.

 

If you’re buying a gift for your green-thumbed friend…

We have a whole shelf devoted to the most beautiful gardens of the world and another shelf full of writing about gardening—these are great gifts.

 

If you enjoy time in the kitchen as well as time outdoors…

Read our extensive selection on herbs, organic vegetable gardening, and urban farming.

 

If you want to show Mother Nature some love…

Read about composting! We have some pretty cool books to steer you in the right direction.

Eager beavers who want to dive in right now:  it’s a great time to start some cabbage, lettuce, and beets, and you can go ahead and get your zinnias and poppies germinating. I’ll probably wait until it warms up a little more. Until then, I’ll cozy up with some gardening books and savor last year’s Muscadine jelly from my backyard.

 

 

Written by Marianna 

Cyborgs and Princes and Shells, OH MY!  

What do you get when you cross dystopia with cyborgs, space, and the Brothers Grimm? The Lunar Chronicles! Is it sci-fi? Fantasy? Fairy tales? The wonderful thing about the YA genre is that ALL of these things can be merged…and they can make sense. I’m a little late coming to this fan club, but let’s just say that once I picked up Cinder (Book 1), I flew through the whole series in one weekend, and I couldn’t read Scarlet (Book 2) and Cress (Book 3) fast enough. Also, let’s talk about princesses rescuing princes, because that definitely happens!

The books are well-written (a huge toss-up with YA) and really have a clever twist on the Grimm fairy tales. Each book in the series focuses on a heroine from the Grimm tales (Cinder=Cinderella, Scarlet=Little Red Riding Hood, and Cress=Rapunzel). Have I given too much away already? The reason these books are so smart is that if you know the TRUE Grimm fairy tales, there are some details from the original, German editions that Meyer does not overlook, and she uses these details to her own advantage to drive the plot of her story. While each book stands alone, each heroine’s story is intertwined with the others. Now I’m really giving too much away.

Now, for those people who had to wait 2 years between the releases of each of those books, I feel your pain. Winter is coming (quite literally) in November of 2015, and that feels like light years away. Lucky for us, Marissa Meyer, the lovely author of these books, has inserted a little bonus in the form of Fairest, a story just about Queen Levana (who is she?? Pick up Cinder to find out more) that releases 01/27/2015.

Jacket

If you’ve read this far, here’s a step-by-step process to having an enjoyable weekend where all you do is nerd out and read a twist on Cinderella that includes a cyborg.

  1. Read Cinder
  2. Read Scarlet
  3. Read Cress
  4. Pre-order Fairest here at Lemuria.

You know you want to read this series. Do it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Written by Clara

Guest Post: Gifford’s Up-Down reprises Sailor and Lula saga

Special to the Clarion-Ledger

barrygiffordBarry Gifford explains in the beginning of his new novel that in ancient cultures, it was believed that there were five directions: North, South, East, West and Up-Down, which represented the navel or center. It’s an inward direction that his protagonist, Pace Ripley, intended to go in order to explain his life, which at this point had extended six decades.

It’s a good thing Gifford provides this road map because without it, one might be lost as to what to make of the rapid twists and turns of Pace’s life — or, rather, this series of bizarre incidents that form an amoral (from the standpoint of organized religion) morality tale.

The lessons can be as obvious as the necessity to face one’s own fears and let go of old demons to the inexplicable which also serves up the point that life often just is inexplicable. Or, as Pace is told when awakened from a dream by a voice in the darkness: “God is a disappointment to everyone.”

Pace is the son of Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune whose tales titillated readers for decades. He was a minor character, noted for the predicaments life seemed to offer him. He wandered out of the S&L tales as a young man by going to Katmandu and then marrying a New Yorker.

875491_1779185_lzGifford’s Sailor and Lula became popular in the 1990s. Readers might remember the film adaptation of the first S&L book Wild at Heart (1990) starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern.

In that one, Sailor gets out of prison for time spent protecting Lula that resulted in a manslaughter conviction, while Lula’s mother tries to keep them apart (a thread throughout the books). They meet any number of odd characters and situations that involve quick deaths when the plot gets sticky.

By any other author, such deus ex machina might seem contrived but Gifford pulls it off, mainly because his characters are often so unbelievably believable that when the unbelievable happens, it just becomes as believable as the rest.

While Gifford’s plots are rather languid and often marked by the aforementioned quick deaths, the reader doesn’t suffer, as the observations and interplay between characters are quite juicy (sometimes R-rated).

downloadThat continues in Up-Down, which is subtitled “The almost lost, last Sailor and Lula story, in which their son, Pace Roscoe Ripley, finds his way.”

Sailor and Lula fans will love this book and hope more “lost” tales will be found!

Biographies of Gifford state that his father was in in organized crime, and he spent his childhood largely in Chicago and New Orleans living in hotels. If so, that explains much of the richness of his writing, offbeat characters and random violence.

For new fans, the entire series is compiled in Sailor and Lula: The Complete Novels (Seven Stories Press, 2010, 618 pages, $19.95).

Gifford obviously knows a great deal about Mississippi, using place names and common characters throughout his S&L books. The stories may be the closest Mississippi has to the equally wacky Serge Storms sagas by Tim Dorsey, who peoples his characters in Florida.

The Up-Down can be seen as a coda to the S&L books, or even a koan of sorts, to underscore the fact that life is not logical or comprehensible and it can only be understood intuitively, experimentally. That, also, may be considered wisdom.

 

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating, and the forthcoming Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, Spring 2015.

Barry Gifford will be at Lemuria January 28th at 5 PM to read and sign from his book, The Up-Down. 

Be still my heart.

I have a confession.  Ok, here goes:  I’ve fallen in love with a fictional character that I will never meet…and I’m ok with that.  His name?  His name is Vango.  Well, I haven’t fallen in love with Vango himself, but more of the idea of Vango and his story.

 

Jacket (9)In December, I was about to leave work.  I walked through Oz, bag in tote, cup in hand, some bread from Broadstreet haphazardly wedged under my arm and that’s when I saw it.  The cover got me first.  It was a beautiful hardback book with a cityscape colored with pastels showing the sillhouette of a boy, and there were strong typeface letters spelling out the name Vango.  Even as overloaded as I was, I had to stop, and that’s when it happened:  I was trapped in Timothée de Fombelle’s spell.

 

Why do I want the absolute best for Vango as a reader?  Because the reader cannot help but be drawn into his story and fall in love with his character.  Here’s a kid who speaks several languages, is athletic, fearless, can cook, and is respectful towards the woman who raised him; he’s the real deal.  He’s like that mysterious guy in high school who kept to himself that everyone was secretly in love with but never admitted.

 

We first meet Vango in Paris 1934 on the day he is about to be ordained as a priest.  (My thought:  Ok, so what?  A bunch of kids in Paris, lying on a cobblestone walkway in front of Notre Dame…nothing exciting here…)  Suddenly, a shot is fired directly at Vango.  (Uh…WHAT?!)  Within seconds, Vango finds himself on the run, a wanted man, for a crime or crimes of which he is completely innocent.  (OH DANG!  You have my attention.)

 

The story of Vango seamlessly takes its readers from the streets of Paris, to the skies of a world-traveling Zeppelin, to the Greek isles, to the forests of Scotland, and everywhere in between.  World travel isn’t your thing?  How about a story filled with Nazis, pirates, monks, and inspectors who are met along the way?  Still not good enough?  What about a storyline filled with intense action, mystery, comedy, and love all tied into one?  All so Vango can find out who he is, where he is from, and to prove he is innocent on all accounts.

 

Originally written in French, Vango was beautifully translated by Sarah Ardizzone.  Ardizzone captured the feel, the flavor, and the style of the storytelling.  As epic as Vango is, nothing is over-exaggerated or trivial. Everything is there for a reason.

 

I found myself unable to put this book down, and I wanted to savor every moment I had with this mysterious character.

 

Who are you?

Who are you?

Who are you?

-Ethel 

Take the time to find out who Vango is and, I promise, you will treasure this book just as much as I do.

 

Written by Laura 

 The Reader’s Arcade

I have a weird relationship with book clubs.  I think it stems from my weird relationship with schedules.  I’m really bad at keeping time, and lists, and track….of anything.  Those are all pretty fundamental things that make up being a regular member of a book club.  My time with every bookclub I’ve been a part of has always been brief.  As much as I would love to stick around and become a regular member, something always happens that pulls me away and onto something else.  Any hope of returning is usually met with some sort of guilt that I’m imposing on this intimate conversation between people that are more dedicated and loyal to that particular book club.

The thing is, I love talking about books.  I love hearing the stories that other people tell about their own reading experiences.  The myriad of ways people reach the same, and at different times the complete opposite resolution of a particular event absolutely blows my mind.  I want to be in a bookclub, but I’d like it to be flexible.  Not just for the absolute narcissist of I, but also for every other person in the club.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about ways I think a 21st century book club can operate successfully, by examining the pitfalls that I feel the current structure of book clubs fall into:

Frequency of meet-ups: Book clubs usually meet once a month.  Thats  pretty frequent for busy individuals.  Instead how about we bring that down to a quarterly meet-up?

Book selection:  Instead of picking one book, how about we pick one topic or theme?  In the months leading up to our next meet-up, we select books that tackle a particular theme or idea to give readers more freedom.

Having nothing to add to the conversation:  We’ve all been here right?  Sometimes people will be speaking about a subject that you didn’t really relate to, or have nothing to really add to the conversation.  For me, this feels imposing and intimidating.  Lets widen the user base and record the meet-ups and release them as podcasts for everyone to experience at their leisure.  It’s also a way to allow the more shy readers to participate without feeling like they have to speak.

My idea is something that I am calling The Reader’s Arcade: a quarterly book club/podcast.  It’s a book club that can be flexible and malleable for anyone that wants to be a part of it.  If you’re interested in something like this or if you have any ideas about how I can improve on the base model please let me know.  Stop by the bookstore, find me on Twitter. (@_andtheuniverse) or email me directly (andre@lemuriabooks.com).

I’m interested to know what you all think.

 

Written by Andre

 

Disappearing Rosa Parks: Where Did All the Women Heroes Go?

Written by Johnathan Odell, author of The Healing and a new rendering of his debut novel, The View from Delphi: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League. Available on February 4, Rosa Parks’s 102nd birthday. 

When I was interviewing Mississippians for my book, an elderly black man talked about his days as a sharecropper. He summed up his experience like this, “When God handed out possessions, he must have give the black man the plow and the white man the pencil.” It was his way of saying that under Jim Crow, the black man did all the work, but no matter how big a crop you brought in, it was the figures the white man put down in his ledger that decided if there would be any money that season, or if the sharecropper would remain in economic servitude to the land owner.

I have also found that saying helpful in understanding the way the historical record is maintained as well. It’s now widely accepted that if a white man is writing the story, the role of blacks tend to get diminished as agents of their own liberation. They are often portrayed as longsuffering victims waiting to be saved by the benevolent acts of white people. Black heroes have a hard time finding themselves in print. My black friends call this “Killing the Mockingbird Syndrome”, for the way that famous book relegates blacks to pitiful, powerless dependents. As I say, though, we are becoming aware of this dynamic, thanks to a growing number of black historians.

But as I researched the Civil Rights period for “Miss Hazel in the Rosa Parks League,” I ran into another significant discrepancy in how the story is told.

To change up the saying a bit, if the white man got the pencil, and the black man got the plow, then the black woman got the harness to pull that plow through the stony fields of the Civil Rights Movement. Her acts of courageous resistance are even more overlooked by history than that of the black man.

I think there are multiple reasons for this. One is the nature of the violence during that time. Black men were constantly in the crosshairs.  Face it, most of racism in the South stems from white fear that black men want white women (and the deep insecurity that it could be reciprocal!). So the focus of white paranoia was on black men. They were the ones whites had to keep an eye on, so the risk was higher for them to overtly resist. Black women were the lowest of the low as for perceived power and threat to white superiority. They could get a lot of things done their men could not because they were more “invisible.”  They had jobs that took them into the most intimate spaces of the white life. They could come and go more freely. They could pool information, influence through personal relationship with white women. They were uniquely positioned to subvert white power, but it was from the shadows.

And of course patriarchy exists in the black community just as it does in the white community. The public spokespeople for African Americans have historically been male just as they had been for whites.  In the 1950’s and 60’s, if white male leaders were going to deal directly with anyone it would have to be black leaders who were also male. “Man to Man.” That was the culture. Newspapers, T.V, radio, all the communication channels that African Americans needed to get their message out were necessarily looking for the black male spokesperson for the real story.  The country as a whole wasn’t ready to see women of any race as leaders of a legitimate movement. The credible face on the evening news needed to be a Martin Luther King, not a Rosa Parks.

So it may have been a necessary convention, but the tragedy is that still we give those public male faces most of the credit, when it was an army of women who assumed the lion’s share of the risk and got the job done. That’s not a new story, and unfortunately, not a defunct one.

The truth is, when it came time to publically defy white authority throughout the South, it was black women who took to the streets, to the registrar’s office and to the whites-only schoolhouse. Mississippian Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the most influential figures in the Civil Rights story, male or female, put it bluntly. She said it wasn’t the male “chicken eatin’ preachers” who were the backbone of the movement, but the fieldworkers like herself, the illiterates, the mothers with nothing else to loose, the sassy “Saturday night brawlers.”

Even today, this bias for male heroes still serves to obscure the real contributions of women like Rosa Parks, who is often portrayed as a tired, longsuffering, meek woman whose feet were tired. When in actuality she was a seasoned activist, youthful and full of passion. She had been stepping out into the battlefield long before she got on that bus, and kept stepping long after.

 

Praise for MISS HAZEL AND THE ROSA PARKS LEAGUE

“A terrific writer who can take his place in the distinguished pantheon of Southern fiction”

–Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini

“Here it comes—barreling down the track like a runaway train, a no-holds-barred Southern novel as tragic and complicated as the Jim Crow era it depicts…. This is a big brilliant novel whose time has come.”

–Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls and Guests on Earth

“With its deftly drawn characters, delicious dialogue, and deeply satisfying and hopeful ending, this fine novel deserves to win the hearts of readers everywhere. Book clubs, this one is definitely for you!”

— Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

“Odell vividly brings to life a fabulous cast of characters as well as a troubling time in our not-so-distant past. You won’t want to miss this one!”

— Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife and Moonrise