Monthly Archives: February 2016

Armada by Ernest Cline

ZZ48DF98ECBy Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Armada is Ernest Cline’s second book. Those of us who loved Ready Player One may be slightly disappointed.   We were expecting lightning in a jar again.

Zack loves video games; he really got into them trying to get to know his deceased father. His mother told him about a box of his things in the attic and he had been exploring his father’s notebooks and games. So, when he saw a space ship that looked exactly like one from the video game Armada outside his school window, you would understand why he thought he was hallucinating. He wasn’t. A larger spaceship lands in the schoolyard, and his friend and boss calls him to get in. Just him. While on route to an underground bunker, he learns that his world and everyone else’s is about to drastically change. The aliens are real, Armada, the game that swept the world, was a training program to help fight off the aliens and Earth is under attack. Because he has a high score in Armada (in the top 10!), he is automatically an officer. He is assigned to the dark side of the Moon, to a forward base for the earth forces, to fight off the alien attacks. But is it possible all is not what it seems? Could his father possibly still be alive? Can Earth be saved??

This book will remind you of Ender’s Game, but not so serious and shocking, and the movie The Last Starfighter. While it does seem formulaic in parts, there is room for a sequel. Perhaps, like in other science fiction series, the first book sets up the story and the story continues where it left off.

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20 Year Retrospective of Thelma Battle’s Williamson County African American History in Photographs

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Over the past 20 years, since her first exhibit in 1996, Ms. Thelma Battle has displayed over 3000 images in 18 exhibits in observance of Black History Month and in celebration of the culture of Williamson County’s African American community.

This year, the Williamson County Public Library hopes to honor her tremendous effort, commitment, and contribution as a grass roots historian.

The 130 images on display this year are taken from all of the past exhibits Ms. Battle has compiled. The complete display can be viewed in the downstairs and upstairs display cabinets next to the elevator, and in the Special Collections department on the 2nd floor.

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Also, in honor of Black History Month, Jane Landers, professor of history at Vanderbilt University, will lecture on her more than twenty years of research on the African Diaspora in various parts of the Americas. Her graduate research on the first free black town in in the Americas (formed by runaways from South Carolina who fled to Spanish Florida) supported archaeological investigations, a National Landmark registry and a museum. Since then she has also worked on diasporic sites in Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Brazil. Landers now directs an international effort to digitally preserve the oldest records for Africans in the Americas.

This presentation will present an overview of the rise of the African slave trade and the subsequent diaspora of Africans through the Americas.  Main themes will include differences among European slave systems in the Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French colonies of the Americas and the resulting varieties of cultural expression and resistance of the enslaved.  You will also be introduced to the wide variety of evidence now available for studying the African diaspora in the Americas.

The African Diaspora_Feb.26

The Almost End of Amy Tan’s Writing

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Amy_TanAmy Tan was born on February 19, 1952 in Oakland, California. Happy 64th, Amy! We’re all very glad that you are recovering from your harrowing bout of illness from Lyme Disease. Yes, Amy Tan, the famous author, contracted Lyme Disease. Unfortunately, it was misdiagnosed for years and she had thought her writing career was over. And what a career she has had!

She is most famous for her novels about Chinese families, especially The Joy Luck Club.

  • In The Joy Luck Club, four Chinese-American daughters learn the history and back story of their mothers in this novel. The mothers, who meet up regularly to play Mah Jong, called themselves the Joy Luck Club. It was a major best seller and book club favorite.
  • In The Kitchen God’s Wife, two best friends have kept each other’s secrets. Now that one of them is deathly ill, the other believes it is her duty to tell her secrets to her friend’s daughter. But the friend gets better – now what?
  • In The Hundred Secret Senses, Olivia meets her much older half-sister for the first time. It is like meeting someone from another world. And really it was another world. Kwan grew up in China, Olivia in America.
  • In The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Ruth Young’s mother LuLing is slowing succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Before she loses herself completely, she gives Ruth some of her writings, which reveal a very different side of her mother.
  • In Saving Fish from Drowning, Bibi Chen has planned a picaresque journey of the senses on the Burma Road. After she dies unexpectedly, she watches her tour group veer off the path into the unknown.
  • In The Opposite of Fate, which is a series of essays Tan writes about her works. Some have likened it to a long conversation with Ms. Tan.
  • The Valley of Amazement, Tan’s last novel, is the story of three women, connected at times with love and then by hate and by the painting The Valley of Amazement.
  • sagwathechinesesiamesecat1She also wrote the children’s book Sagwa, the Chinese Cat (illustrated by Gretchen Schields), which was published in 1994. A mother cat tells her kittens the story of their ancestry. The family descended from Sagwa, who was famous for changing the way Siamese cats look forever. After she fell into the ink pot, and changed the wording of a harsh rule with her footprints, it was decreed by the wise magistrate (foolish until Sagwa’s assistance) that henceforth all Chinese cats should have dark faces, ears and paws.  Sagwa was also made into an animated children’s television series in 2001. It was very popular on PBS Kids and often reruns. It aired for one season only, and cancelled in 2003.

And to think, her writing career was almost halted in its tracks because of her undiagnosed Lyme Disease.  Her story is like so many of those suffering with this mysterious, debilitating and hard to diagnose disease. In 1999 she first began showing the symptoms. Symptoms which nearly debilitated her: anxiety, numbness, vision problems, brain lesions, hallucinations. She found she was having trouble reading, couldn’t remember what was on the page after she read it. She was having trouble writing and speaking – both of which are incredibly important for authors.  She went from doctor to doctor, took test after test. She took steroids, then Prozac (which gave her nightmares), until, finally, one doctor ordered an ELISA test (which was used to screen for Lyme Disease). She read up on this disease and every symptom fit, however, some physicians still expressed doubt she had it, since she lives in San Francisco. What they didn’t consider is that she does have a house in New York state, and she does take walks in the woods there. She found a Lyme Disease specialist in San Francisco who finally diagnosed her. Once she began taking anti-biotics, her symptoms began to ease, but she will have to take these pills for life. Tan co-founded LymeAid 4 Kids, which helps uninsured children pay for treatment.

Here are some extra fun facts about Amy Tan you may not know:001ec979096310675fba14

  • She found out later on that her mother had been married before in China, and had left behind three daughters, and the memory of her mother’s suicide. Amy got to meet her step-sisters finally.
  • Her older brother and her father both died of brain tumors within six months of each other.
  • In college, she had a double major of English and Linguistics. She continued in schooling and got her Master’s in Linguistics then started on her doctorate.
  • She worked in the field of helping children with developmental disabilities.
  • She was one of the founding members of the band the Rock Bottom Remainders, along with Dave Barry, Stephen King, Matt Groenig, Barbara Kingslover and Roy Blount, Jr. The Remainders’ first performance was in 1992 at the American Booksellers Association convention in Anaheim, California. They also played at the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995.   They gave their last concert on June 23, 2012, at the annual conference of the American Library Association also in Anaheim, where they played their first concert. Even though the band is no longer playing gigs, they are fondly remembered by authors, teachers and librarians everywhere. Plus there’s always Youtube…
  • She wrote the libretto for the opera composed by Stewart Wallace based on her book The Bonesetter’s Daughter.
  • She was a free-lance business writer for several years before she started writing fiction at the age of 33.

 


Sources:

Are You There, Judy Blume? It’s Me, Parish.

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Dear Judy,blume 1
Happy 78th birthday! I really wish you lived closer to me so that I could take you out to lunch and buy you a present, although nothing I could give you would remotely compare to the marvelous gifts that you have bestowed upon readers of all ages over your prolific and inspiring career. I mean, seriously—find me a woman in North America whose life as a young adult wasn’t made just a little bit better as a result of reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Although, I guess there are some unfortunate people out there who were deprived of the opportunity to read Margaret and Deenie and Forever, which in turn possibly inspired you to become an active proponent of the National Coalition Against Censorship.) I hope your day is as fantastic as your books. Blessings on you—

Stacy Parish, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin TN

(Author’s note: So, yeah. I have serious doubts that Judy Blume will ever read my birthday wishes to her, but I’m still going to put it out there. Doesn’t cost me anything.)

blume 2If you’ve read this far (bless your heart) and are wondering to yourself: Who is this Judy Blume that you speak of? Then please, Dear Reader, continue. Judy Blume, nee Judith Sussman, was born on February 12, 1938 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a suburban town just west of New York City to Esther and Rudolph Sussman, a homemaker and a dentist. Judy, as she preferred to be called, had a brother David, who was four years her senior and preferred to spend his free time working on mysterious and often volatile science experiments in the garage. Hence, she found herself being the one who entertained her parents and other family members with her games and performances, much like funny, charismatic Sally Freedman in Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself. In fact, Judy would again draw upon her own childhood experiences, seven years and seven books after publishing her award-winning Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret., as the basis for Sally, and her brother David as the model for Sally’s sardonic loner brother Douglas.

blume 3Judy Blume was a voracious reader as a child, and loved stories and books of all kinds. She says that she spent most of her childhood making up stories inside her own head, but no matter how much she read, she never found any characters in those books whose lives and experiences were relatable to her own. Books of that era were often “sanitized for your protection,” to borrow a phrase one of my coworkers uses frequently. That is, nobody had an agonizingly annoying little brother who went into their room and messed with their stuff and swallowed their turtle (a la Fudge, from Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing), nobody was bullied (Blubber), nobody started their period (Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret), and you can be absolutely certain that nobody ever wrote about their father being shot and killed in a convenience-store holdup (Tiger Eyes.)

blume 4After graduating from high school, Judy was accepted by and enrolled in Boston University, where she spent all of two weeks before contracting mononucleosis. She returned home to New Jersey and transferred later that year to New York University. Life for Judy, as it does for most of us, proceeded apace—during her junior year of college, she began dating John Blume and was soon engaged to be married; she lost her beloved father, whom she affectionately called “Doey-bird,” in July before her senior year; she married John later that summer; and by the time she graduated from college in 1961, she was pregnant with her first child. Her daughter Randy was born later that year, and two years after that, the family moved from their apartment in Plainfield, New Jersey, to a house a few miles away in Scotch Plains. While living there, Judy gave birth to their second child, a son they named Lawrence. (How fun is this–Judy has stated in interviews that Lawrence was the inspiration for the character named Fudge, and Lawrence directed the critically-acclaimed film adaptation of Tiger Eyes in 2012.)

blume 5As a young suburban homemaker, Judy didn’t enjoy the activities that the other wives and mothers did. Golf, tennis, and shopping held no charm for her, and as a result, Judy often found herself being bored. Determined to make her life more interesting and to flex her creative muscles that had atrophied since childhood, she tried for a time to write songs. When that didn’t work out, she started making crafts out of felt, but she found that quite unsatisfying and also developed an unfortunate rash from the craft glue. Then one fine day when she was twenty-seven, Judy received a brochure in the mail from her alma mater (NYU) that advertised a class on writing for children. She was already trying to write and illustrate children’s books, so this was a positive omen. Judy signed up for the class, and even took it again the following semester. Her patience and persistence paid off, and before her second semester ended, she had a few of her stories accepted for publication in a magazine and was paid the roaring sum of $20 per story. And the rest, as they say, is history. Her first full-length children’s book, The One In The Middle Is The Green Kangaroo, was published in 1969, and in the decades since, her novels for children and young adults have exceeded sales of 85 million copies and have been translated into 32 languages.

blume 6By the end of the 20th century, Judy’s original demographic of readers had grown up and had children of their own. Her books had extended from the first generation and were still popular with—and relevant to—the next one. Her original readers were also rewarded with several adult novels from Judy’s beautiful mind—Wifey (1978), Smart Women (1983), Summer Sisters (1999) and In The Unlikely Event (2015.) Just as with her children’s and young adult novels, these books all showcased Judy’s transcendent talent for chronicling family life and its convoluted, often messy, occasionally hysterical, events. She also published a nonfiction book, titled Letters To Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You in 1986. Inspired by a 10-year-old girl named Amy, the purpose of the book was to illustrate what kids were thinking and feeling about different issues such as divorce, sex, drugs, suicide, et cetera, issues that kids might be hesitant to approach their parents about and parents in turn might be completely in the weeds for talking to their children about.

Lucky readers are we, as the delightful Judy Blume shows no signs of slowing down, even as she approaches her eighth decade on the planet, and that her books of such timeless quality have endured along with her. What a marvelous way to spend a winter afternoon, curled up with a cup of tea and some of the charming characters she brought us—Margaret, Deenie, Davey, Fudge, to name just a few. Happy birthday, Judy Blume! Mazel tov, and thank you.


Suggested reading and sources:

  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Bradbury Press, 1970. (J F BLU)
  • Everything I Needed To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O’Connell, Simon & Schuster, 2007. (813 EVE)
  • Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, Delacorte Press, 1988. (F BLU)
  • Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, Delacorte Press 1981. (J F BLU)
  • Who Wrote That? Judy Blume by Elisa Ludwig, Chelsea House Publishers, 2004. (J 92 BLUME)
  • Women Who Broke The Rules: Judy Blume by Kathleen Krull, Bloomsbury USA, 2015. (J 92 BLUME)
*The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and not intended in any way, shape, or form to influence anyone to trespass into their sibling’s room and swallow their pet. The author and her employer hereby absolve themselves of any such untoward behavior being emulated by WCPL patrons, their families, neighbors, classmates, yada yada yada.

African American Olympians: The Unknown Greats

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

With it being African-American history month and an Olympic year it seems only logical to look back at some of the great African-American Olympians of the past and look forward to the new heroes of this summer.

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George Poage

Most Americans are familiar with the Olympic greats of the past like runners, Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolf. They might even remember a young light heavyweight boxer from the 1960 Olympics named Cassius Clay, although they are more likely to remember him as we all do now as Mohammed Ali. Some people will recall Tommie Smith and John Carlos from their memorable podium appearance in the 1968 summer games for the 200 meter. And Gabby Douglas from the last Olympics who was the first American to win an individual all-around gold medal as well as the team gold.

However, for every one of these household names there are heroes who are forgotten. Very few remember George Poage who was the first African American to compete in the Olympics and the first to win a medal. Mr. Poage was born in Hannibal, Missouri but actually grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin. While working on his post-graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin he was sponsored by the Milwaukee Athletic club to compete in the St. Louis games in 1904 where he won Bronze medals in the 200 and 400 meter Hurdles.

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John Baxter Taylor, Jr. and team

There is also John Baxter Taylor, Jr. who became the first African American to win gold when he ran the third leg of the 400 meter relay. Dr. Taylor was a graduate of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine, but did not live long enough to practice his craft or enjoy his Olympic success, dying of Typhoid Fever less than five months after the glory of his Olympic championship at the 1908 London games. He might have been the first African American individual gold medal winner, but refused to participate in a re-running of the 400 meter final because he felt a teammate was unfairly disqualified for obstructing a runner from the host nation.

Instead, DeHart Hubbard was the first African American to win an individual gold, a feat he completed in the long jump at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Mr. Hubbard went on to found the Cincinnati Tigers baseball team of the Negro American League.

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Alice Coachman

African American woman began competing in the Olympics as early as the 1936 Berlin Olympics when Tidye Pickett and Louise Stokes were selected for the 80 meter hurdles, although only Pickett competed, Stokes having been injured before the games. The first Medal won by an African American woman was gold in High jump at the 1948 London Games, won by Alice Coachman. Ms. Coachman had begun her track career running barefoot on dirt roads and improvising her jumping equipment out of whatever was handy in Albany, Georgia, only learning proper technique and working with real equipment when she reached high school. She won the gold medal she received from King George VI by setting a world record and did it all despite missing her prime years due to the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to the War. Ms. Coachman went on to work in education as a teacher and worked with the Job Corps as well as becoming the first African American woman to sign an endorsement deal for an international product when she appeared in a Coca-Cola advertisement with Jessie Owens in 1952.

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Carl Lewis

While not breaking down barriers or being the firsts, many African American athletes have given us great memories over past 30 years as well. The Eighties and Nineties had the brother-sister team of nine time gold medalist, and International Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Century Carl Lewis and his Sister Carol, now a commentator and bobsleigh break man, competing in the track and field events. The U.S. dominance of track and field during that time was also helped by another family. Six time Olympic medalist; three gold, one silver and two bronze, Jackie Joyner Kersee, her brother Al Joyner, a gold medalist in 1984 and his wife Florence Griffith Joyner who has three gold and two silver Olympic medals. All three were trained by legendary track and field coach, and Jackie’s husband, Bob Kersee. Joyner Kersee has held the world record for most points in a Heptathlon since 1988 and was named Female Athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated. At this same time the Dream Team of the 1992 Olympics, including NBA greats like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin, David Robinson and Charles Barkley, reasserted U.S. dominance of the basketball world.

As summer approaches and the Olympic rosters are set, many new faces and some returning heroes will make themselves known. We can already be sure that Ashley Perry, a young woman from right here in Middle Tennessee, playing for the inaugural women’s rugby sevens team, and hopefuls like Simone Biles and returning legend Gabby Douglas, expected US Gymnastic team stars, and track star Allyson Felix will make sure that African Americans and Americans in general are represented proudly in Rio this summer.

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