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Star Crossed Lovers: 10 Tragic Couples To Read (And Cry About)

Have you heard the phrase “star-crossed lovers” before? Have you ever wondered what it means, where it came from, or how did it become one of the most popular romance tropes in pop culture?

The phrase “star-crossed lovers” describes a couple whose relationship is often thwarted by external forces. The phrase was coined by Shakespeare in his 1595 play Romeo and Juliet:

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife


It is crucial to remember here that “star-crossed” does not equate to Disney’s “meant to be” or “happily ever after.” In fact, it is quite the opposite. Shakespeare’s “star-crossed” equates to “doomed to die” or “destined to fail”; representing a cautionary tale for those not to become or pursue for such a fate in romance. Of course, modern pop culture has referenced the star-crossed lovers archetype from songs such as Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and No Doubt’s “Gravity” to major cinema pictures including Jack and Rose from Titanic and Satine and Christian from Moulin Rouge.

The star-crossed archetype is found not only in music and movies but in literature as well. From classic to contemporary, here are 10 tragic literary couples we can’t help but to read and cry about.



  1. Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte

wuthering heights

It’s all doom-and-gloom as Wuthering Heights is set in the gothic moors of England. Heathcliff, an orphaned gypsy raised by the Earnshaw family, falls in love with their daughter Catherine. Despite their seemingly romance, Catherine chooses to marry for status rather than for love; leaving Heathcliff in rage lashing out in vengeance and violence. A selfish and self-destructive love at it’s best.




  1. Augustus and Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

fault in our stars

Romeo and Juliet are not the only star-crossed teenagers to have a tragic ending. When Hazel meets Augustus at a cancer patient support group, the two of them embark on a romantic journey together to Amsterdam in search of their favorite author. Despite their limited time together, Augustus and Hazel both learn that hurt in this world is unavoidable. The Fault in Our Stars does not end with dry eyes or an unbroken heart.




  1. Gatsby and Daisy from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

the great gatsby

Set in the roaring twenties, Gatsby and Daisy became one of the most doomed star-crossed lovers in modern literature. Gatsby and Daisy are in a delusional love affair as all odds are stacked against them including mysterious millionaires, selfish flappers and jealous, murderous husbands. Their tragic ending is so beautifully and symbolically written that we keep coming back to it decades after its initial publication in 1925.




  1. Winston and Julia from 1984 by George Orwell


Love cannot bloom in a totalitarian state, but that doesn’t stop Winston and Julia from trying. Winston and Julia secretly engage in a passionate affair, hiding their love from the government. These star-crossed lovers truly believe they can conspire to overthrow their dystopian dictatorship. However, the tortuous tyrannical Big Brother is ultimately stronger (and more powerful) than any emotional bond the lovers might share. To Big Brother, love is corruption. Still bleak and relevant.




  1. Tess and Angel from Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy


Tess is unlucky from beginning to end. From the birth of her child by rape to her eventual demise in seeking revenge on her attacker, Tess’s tragedies remind her that she cannot (and never will be) with her true lover, Angel.  Readers beware, Tess of the D’ubervilles is not for the faint of heart.




  1. Louisa and Will from Me Before You by JoJo Moyes


After Louisa loses her steady job at a cafe, she takes on a job as a caretaker for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor. Will, despondent about his physical condition, wants to end his life in Switzerland. Louisia is distressed by what she hears, and tries to convince Will that there is a point to living by taking him on mini adventures; showing him how wonderful life can be. Get ready for the tissues.




  1. Cecilia and Robbie from Atonement by Ian McEwan


It’s all one big misunderstanding after another. Once Cecilia reveals her romantic feelings for the gardener, Robbie, things go quickly wrong from there. One night at a dinner party, Cecilia’s younger sister accuses Robbie of raping Cecilia’s cousin out of suspicion and fear. The wronged Robbie, who could have jumped the social gulf and lived happily ever after with Cecilia, instead goes to prison, then to the front lines in WWII, and…well, it doesn’t end happily for either of the lovers.




  1. Inman and Ada from Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

cold mountain

Set during the Civil War, Cold Mountain is an odyssey of estranged lovers struggling to reunite with one another. Searching for the other, Inman and Ada fight for their survival (and for their love) by showing perseverance throughout their journey. In the end, Inman teaches us that losing something you already have is far worse than not getting what you want.




  1. Anna and Vronsky from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


Noblewoman and socialite, Anna Karenina, has a scandalous love affair with a dashing military man named Count Vronsky.  Vronsky is eager to marry Anna if she agrees to leave her powerful government official husband, Count Karenin. It all turns into a downward soap opera spiral, except it’s Tolstoy, which means it ends on a tragic note.




  1. Noah and Allie from The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks


Set in pre- and post- World War II, Noah and Allie fall in love at the wrong place and time. Separated due to their socio-economic status, Noah continues to write letters to Allie, confessing his love for her, and the letter goes unanswered. Time passes, and Noah and Allie are finally able to reconnect but at a higher cost.




         10. Romeo and Juliet from Romeo and Juliet

rome and juliet

Last, and tragically not least, the star-crossed superstars themselves — Romeo and Juliet! Although the two love birds weren’t historically the first star-crossed lovers (nor the last), Romeo and Juliet set the bar high for tragic romance. Their tragic fate has become the blueprint staple for star-crossed lovers as we have seen here in multiple examples.



No matter what the external forces are (war, family, status, bad luck, etc.) there is a reoccurring theme with star-crossed lovers — and that is, no one ends up happily with the other. What are some of your favorite star-crossed couples?


Further Reading and Sources:

Star Crossed Lovers of China’s and Japan’s Literary Traditions

Star Crossed Lovers

Star Crossed Lovers Not Written by Shakespeare

8 Epically Doomed Relationship in Literature

Love against All Odds in Books, A Valentine’s Day Special

Family Literacy and Tumblebooks

By Amy Shropshire, Reference Department

Parents tend to want the best advantages for their children, and early literacy is one excellent advantage. That’s the idea, but getting a squirming toddler to sit still long enough to read a picture book demonstrates the difficulties involved. Even the best behaved children tend to struggle at some point with early literacy skills. Learning new skills is always difficult. The library is here to help.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, literacy is intergenerational. Parental involvement and expectations are directly linked to a student’s success in school. Family literacy programs often focus on building literacy skills in both parents and children. Parents that read regularly are more likely to have children with an interest in reading, since children like to emulate what their parents do. However, before a child can begin picking up a book, they need to gain pre-literacy skills, and be exposed to concepts that help develop literary skills.

We tend to think of reading as a singular activity, but in reality it’s a skill developed from assorted other skills as a child grows. Focusing on the little squiggly symbols we call letters is a step just as much as understanding how language works is. Learning to verbalize and consider abstract concepts through imaginative play and frequent communication are important building blocks to figuring out that squiggly symbols represent words. The more a child interacts and plays and expands their overall mental abilities, the quicker they will likely learn to read especially if play is already associated with words.

More than that, associating play with words is more likely to make a child enjoy reading (and want to learn more). Play is serious business for children. It may seem contradictory to learn using resources that don’t seem precisely educational, but the more fun the activity is the more information a child will absorb. Educators use a variety of resources to help children learn through play. One such resource is Tumblebooks. The library subscribes to this resource so that parents can log in and give their children access to a wide variety of books and games to aid in literacy development.

Many of the books on Tumblebooks play videos, sing songs, or animate highlighted words to allow children to follow along with the story on the screen. It may seem counter intuitive, but a child’s attention is often better with learning how to read by watching a video rather than simply reading a story, which develops early pre-literacy skills. The resources grow with the child using quizzes, book reports, and games for more developed readers, and even lesson plans for teachers and parents alike. There are also playlists of various lengths and subject areas to keep a child intrigued and entertained in a way that’s educational.

Tumblebooks is excellent for helping the youngest child gain early literacy skills before learning how to read. The library has multiple similar resources for various ages and literacy levels available in our collection databases. To access these resources, simply go to  Tumblebooks can be found in “Children’s Electronic Resources” which is located in the Children’s Department section under the “Main Library” tab on the website. If you can’t find it, just ask a librarian at (615) 794-3105. Tumblebooks does require a username and password to sign in. If you have any questions, call the library and we will gladly help you.


Library-based family literacy projects R 027.6 MON

Early literacy storytimes @ your library: partnering with caregivers for success 027.6251 GHO

Growing a reader from birth: your child’s path from language to literacy 372.4 MACG

Art across the alphabet: over 100 art experiences that enrich early literacy 372.5 CAM

The garden classroom: hands-on activities in math, science, literacy, and art 635.083 JAM


A World without Satellites

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

As Richard Hollingham said, “without satellites, the world would be a very different place, [since] the infrastructure we all rely on has become increasingly dependent on space technology.”  Satellites, of course, help us find directions on our smart phone, but they do so much more. They allow trans-oceanic communication; they keep track of weather; they give us warnings about tornadoes; they help our military track other military parties (and help other militaries track us); and they allow us to have television in remote areas with a satellite dish (dish network).

So what would happen if the satellites crashed or fell??  We could say goodbye to accurately predicting the weather, especially the storms and tornadoes.  Trans-oceanic communication would be in trouble.  AND we would no longer be able to us our cell phones for directions- we would have to rely on maps, and not the ones on the computer, such as Google maps—they rely on satellites as well.  We’re talking giant paper fold out maps.  People would have to come to the library to use old-fashioned atlases… (an aside: Did you know that our dependence on GPS (thank a satellite) is making us have more trouble figuring out where to go without them?  There are reports that our brains are not retaining this information and that may yet have effects on us. )

So if anything ever happens to the satellites (or just to your phone), Travel and Leisure shares some tips about navigating with a paper map, and without the mostly reliable GPS:

  • Check the orientation (look for the compass rose that denotes north – this way you will not get the map upside down
  • Check the scale – is the scale an inch to a mile or to 50 miles?  It truly will make a difference in the time needed to get to your destination
  • Take a look at the legend—this is a key to what is shown on the map.  Places like restaurants, bathrooms, toll roads, rivers and more can be shown, depending on the legend
  • Know how to use a compass (assuming you brought a compass along with you)
  • Check out the topographic maps, or sections.  These would show you where woods, steams, mountains and hills are along your route.  Sometimes even gas stations and camping grounds.

Richard Hollingham also provides a well-thought out possible future if satellites do fall from the sky in a scenario from the BBC.  After listening to several speakers on the subject, BBC Future shared this timeline with the world.  In the span of a day, severe disruptions would appear in our transpot, communications, power, and computer systems and governments would be struggling to cope.  The public order would start to break down, and that was just day one. Hollingham gives credit to Orson Welles as he describes what would happen as a sequence of events.

But what could take out the satellites? Science fiction authors have explored this scenario endlessly, and so have the armed forces.  Ignoring unlikely options such as alien invasions and time traveling egomaniacs, there are still several possible scenarios.  Satellites could be deliberately knocked out by enemy nations, but most experts think this would be self-defeating, since this could also harm other nation’s satellites as well.   A massive solar storm is always a possibility, which actually did happen in 1859 (the Carrington Event), but of course, we didn’t have anything in space then.  Then, there is the Kessler Syndrome; this one you might know more about.  This event was used in the movie Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  A missile strike, an asteroid, or something else strikes a satellite, then that satellite hits another one and so on until most if not all of the satellites are inoperable or destroyed.  It could definitely happen.  There is so much space junk up in space that this is completely plausible.

So what are the problems with space trash?  Consider:  while there are around 1,000 functional satellites in space, there are more than twice as many derelict and decommissioned satellites. Some 34,000 objects larger than ten centimeters (!!) have been observed by radar or telescope. For objects between one and ten centimeters, that number jumps up to over half a million. Debris less than one centimeter in size exist in the millions. Actually, Earth is surrounded by a huge cloud of space junk.  Why is this a problem?  Isn’t space huge??  So why would a loose screw or a fleck of paint floating around in space be so dangerous? Because debris can travel at speeds of up to 17,500 miles per hour. Even something as small and soft as a paint fleck can damage spacecraft or satellites when moving at such velocities.  In fact, NASA has been forced to replace many space shuttle windows damaged by paint flecks. If a larger, ten-centimeter piece of space debris was to collide with something like the International Space Station, the damage would be potentially catastrophic.  Another problem is that space debris hitting other space debris create more debris, which create more debris, etc.

Space Debris surrounding Earth

Astrophysicist and former NASA scientist Donald Kessler predicted this exact phenomenon in 1978. Shortly thereafter, a fellow astrophysicist, John Gabbard, coined the term Kessler Syndrome to describe this cascading effect. According to Donald Kessler, it is possible that the debris cloud will eventually grow so large as to prevent future operations within Earth’s orbit. That would translate into a future without weather forecasts, telecom, satellite-assisted navigation, or research satellites.

But what proactive measures can be taken to reduce debris in Earth’s orbit?  Dr.Kessler has suggested that removing just five to ten inoperable satellites a year could halt the exponential growth of space debris. In recent years, a few plans have been suggested to proactively reduce space debris. For example, the Australian National University is developing a laser that can track, target, and destroy space debris. Likewise, the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has partnered with a private company to develop a massive 700-meter long aluminum and steel net to sweep up space debris. Other plans call for solar sails and various types of capture mechanisms such as robotic arms and space sling shots.  Whatever is planned in the short or long time will take detailed planning and will be a long-term project.

Photo by Frerk Meyer

If you find this interesting, we’ll continue exploring the universe and space during our annual Summer Reading Program for Grown-Ups.  Take a look at some of our special events this summer:

  • An astronomy petting zoo on Thursday, May 23 – have you ever wanted to buy a telescope but didn’t know which one to get?  Come to his program and  narrow down your choices
  • On Saturday, June 15 we’ll be having a film festival of some of the best movies about space.  Stay tuned for titles!
  • On Saturday, July 6, we’ll be having a Cosmos marathon.  Wondering whether it will be hosted by Carl Sagan or Neil DeGrasse Tyson?  Make sure to sign up for our newsletter and check our website for more information.
  • On Saturday, July 20, we’ll be making a day of commemorating the 50th anniversary of NASA’s moon landing.  Movies, refreshments, lectures and more!!
  • On Tuesday, July 23, we’re offering a program about all the inventions NASA created for the space program that we use almost every day!
  • We will also have Dr. Billy Teets from Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory coming to talk and Dr. David Weintraub, a professor at Vanderbilt, will be talking about Life on Mars


Home: Where the Heart Is – A Thelma Battle Photographic Exhibit

Home: Williamson County, Tennessee – “Where the Heart is.”
A Thelma Battle Photographic Exhibit
featuring African-American history in Williamson County
Hosted by the Special Collections Department
of Williamson County Public Library.
February 1-28, 2019

Exhibit Hours:
Opening times: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m.
Closing Times: Monday – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

Special Collections will once again, and sadly, for the last time, host Thelma Battle’s highly anticipated African-American/Black History Month Exhibit. Ms. Battle, a local grass-roots historian, once delved into the history of Williamson County African-American communities as a hobby and passionate interest, and in the process became a trailblazer and an able ambassador for African-American would-be historians in other parts of the country, as well as in our own local historical and preservation circles, black or white.

During this time, she has collected thousands of photographs from local families, and along with the photographs came stories of families, places, and events. She has written local histories, church histories, family histories, and compiled countless genealogies and data-sheets on local families. Fortunately for us, Ms. Battle isn’t going away, she’s simply making time to put her skills and expertise to work in pursuing other interests.

“Home: Where the Heart Is,” is an all-new exhibit with 103 new photographs. You don’t have to be African-American to enjoy this event, for it is everyone’s history. It is American History. We hope you’ll come and find out for yourself what a treasure it is. You may even meet a friend or ancestor in one of these photographs!

When the exhibition is over, as in previous years, all photographs will remain in the Special Collections Department and will be available for anyone to view or search a photo of particular interest.

In her own words, Thelma writes her summation of this year’s exhibit:

“This year’s Williamson County Public Library’s Thelma Battle Photographic Exhibit marks the final stage of a heart felt exploratory journey. This presentation concerns the past life and times of local African American individuals, families, and places. Significant African history has been gathered and successfully presented, in order to tell the stories. The knowledge that Williamson County, Tennessee was the home of African Americans whose life and times were of significance warranted their inclusion into the pages of local history for future references.

“This year’s Thelma Battle Exhibit is entitled Home: Williamson County, Tennessee – “Where the Heart is.” It recognizes the many African American individuals, and families who carried Williamson County, Tennessee, their home, within their hearts wherever they ventured. 

“You the viewer will see among the sometimes old, faded and cracked photographs: local babies and small children with smiles of delight, pleased with the joy of home and loved ones; Teenagers enjoying life and the everyday grind of school, yet looking forward to going home; Soldiers whom have left their homes for faraway lands, embraced by memories of home; Individuals and families whom once called Williamson County, Tennessee home, but have migrated to others cities and states; Places once significant to local African American Heritage within this home county, though no longer in existence are recognized within these pages.    

These heart-felt collected photographs are directed as windows to, Home: Williamson County, Tennessee “Where the Heart is”. A note of sadness is shared here as I say goodbye and thank you to my friends at the Williamson County Public Library, and to you, the viewers, for your support in my photographic program.”



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