Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Worst Hard Time

Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of the Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,  2006. Print.
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My Thoughts
This book was a selection for World Book Night. It was my 2nd choice, but it was the title that I was going to receive. I thought I'd better read it so I can talk it up as I passed out twenty copies on April 23 (See for more info. about this.).

This book took me, a reader, over a month to complete. How was I supposed to hand this title out to "reluctant readers" to "encourage literacy" when I could barely get through it myself? The text was interesting, but like the people in the Plains area, I was choking on the dust.

The book is over 300 pages, divided into three sections. There were many stories of how the people of the region survived (or didn't) during the early 1900s. I felt such compassion and empathy for these people. Their stories reminded me of my grandparents who lived in central Texas during this time. I learned about how the term "dust bowl" was coined and how the land became so stripped that it could do nothing but blow away and leave farmers penniless.

I chuckled when the Washington, D. C. bureaucrat was urging for money and help to region to deaf ears. Deaf ears until the west Texas dust blew in to D. C.! The money was approved within a day (Egan 228).

I liked, and at the same time didn't like, the format Egan used to tell the stories. Egan layers the stories to overlap and then sometimes takes a divergent path to examine one person's story. I took (8 pages) notes (as usual) while reading and often felt like I was rereading something because of the overlap.

As I read, I was transported back in time to this region. Egan has done the research and crafts a book that reflects many people. The dust did not discriminate. It affected everyone in No Man's Land.

One thing I did do after reading this book is find the movie "The Plow that Broke the Plains" and watched it looking for Bam White.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

City of Tranquil Light

Caldwell, Bo. City of Tranquil Light: A Novel. New York: Henry Holt, 2010. Kindle file.
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My Thoughts
I didn't think I would enjoy this book as I started reading. I had my tablet handy to keep notes because I didn't think I would connect with the story or the characters. I was also intimidated by the setting (China) and my lack of knowledge about this region.

The novel weaves together Will's narration with Katherine's letters. This fiction book depicts the characters and details beautifully that it reads as nonfiction. There is, as one of my friends said, "honesty of the characters."

Will and Katherine are missionaries in China. They spend almost twenty years in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng (City of Tranquil Light). This is home. They face many trials and heartaches while in China and meet many people. The author layers these elements together in a way that is not preachy, condemning or unrealistic. My heart was pounding at one episode because I wasn't sure what the outcome would be.

Some of my favorite lines: "One of the few things I did know was how much I didn't know." How true! At one point in the book, Katherine comments that "We, who came to help the people here, are the beneficiaries of their kindness"--I have found this to be the case many times in my life. God has an amazing way of filling me when I think I'm filling someone else. When the "villain" Hsiao Lao explains, "examine me...given proof of how rightly I live my life" I laughed. How ironic that this "bad" man could think he's good. Well...first impressions are lasting, but they might not be accurate. It speaks to me that even when we consider ourselves to be good, we can do bad things and bad people can do good things. The author examines this idea with the Hsiao Lao character.

*I read this book on my Kindle, which doesn't give page numbers.

As I was finishing the book, I was touched by Will's love for his wife. This book is about relationships--many different kinds of relationships--friendships, marriage, grief, loyalties. It was a great read, taking me to a time and place that I didn't know much about before reading.

I often experience moments of connection. While reading this book, there is a description of Germans moving to Russia under Czarina Catherine II's reign. In a different book I'm reading (about the Dust Bowl), there is a description of Germans moving to Russia under Czarina Catherine II's reign. It's funny to me that these two books can tie together.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Texas Library Association (TLA) conference

Usually I take time to post about the books I've read. However, I think I need to post this after returning from conference.

First let me say, I HAD A BLAST! This year's annual event was held in Ft. Worth. The weather was great, the hotel was near the convention center and the free (and mostly cheap) books were autographed & hauled home.

I saw and spoke with so many authors! This was the first time I attended the conference as a librarian. My interests were a little different than the previous times I've attended. I stood in many lines for my students---I recognized a name and waited to see the book cover to know, "Yep, I've got someone reading that!" I actually tried to interact with specific vendors and find out if my library needed what they were selling.

I walked and walked and walked. I even took a walking tour of downtown one morning. I learned so much about the city in that hour.

Did I mention I met authors? I heard panels of writers talking about their craft, their motives, their inspirations, their fan mail, their journeys.

So excited to attend and look forward to next year's conference in San Antonio.

The picture is Libba Bray and me...just hanging out before her panel discussion. She is HILARIOUS!