Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

Bookenders Book Group will be discussing The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:00 p.m.

We will be meeting downstairs in the library. 

Everyone is invited to attend.

 Tsukiyama is a mesmerizing storyteller who focuses on family, tradition, and the solace of nature and art. Of both Chinese and Japanese descent, she has explored the history and culture of both lands, here imagining life in Japan during its most catastrophic time as experienced by the orphaned brothers Hiroshi and Kenji. Raised by their loving grandparents in Yanaka, a residential area of Tokyo, they are opposites. Big, strong, and confident, Hiroshi believes he is destined to be a sumo wrestler. Slight, quiet, and artistic, Kenji discovers his love for mask making and Noh theater by accident. They each secure mentors, but just as the good brothers embark on their demanding apprenticeships, war breaks out. Tsukiyama's spare prose reflects the clean-lined, distilled-to-the-essence aesthetic of Japanese art as she writes appreciatively and informatively about the arts of sumo and Noh, and piercingly about the horrific deprivations and tyranny of war, the firebombing of Tokyo, the American occupation, and the rapid evolution of modern Japan. As her endearing characters attempt to adjust to the new while preserving the old, Tsukiyama evokes a classic vision of a blasted world returning to life. Tsukiyama's historically detailed and plot-driven story of resilience, discipline, loyalty, and right action is popular fiction at its most intelligent, appealing, and rewarding.

Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, California to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Japanese father from Hawaii. She attended San Francisco State University where she received both her Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Arts Degree in English with the emphasis in Creative Writing.  Most of her college work was focused on poetry, and she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award. She was one of nine fiction authors to appear during the first Library of Congress National Book Festival. A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, she has been apart-time lecturer in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, as well as a freelance book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle.   Her works include The Samurai's Garden, Women of the Silk, Night of Many Dreams , The Language of Threads, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, and Dreaming Water. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Prejudice is the Child of Ignorance

Once a year we invite the boys to join us at Great Reads for Girls. Things are certainly more lively when they are around.

During our discussion of The Jacket, we talked a lot about prejudice. Phil, the main character in the book, learns a lot about himself and his own views when he assumes an African-American boy has stolen his brother's coat.

Sometimes there is a difference between what we think we believe and what we really believe. There's a test that is designed to help us understand that. It's available {here}.

We played a trivia  game--the Jazz against the Flash.

The Flash won.

We had ice cream sandwiches--

and Oreos and milk.

We made some catch-the-ball-in the-cup toys.

And we talked some more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Whistling Season

R.E.A.D. Book Group will be meeting on Thursday, May 5th at 10:00 a.m. in the library. Joyce Fife will be reviewing The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig.

Everyone is welcome.

The Whistling Season is set in the past in rural eastern Montana—and addresses that time and place in distinct, uncluttered prose that carries the full enthusiasm of affection and even love—for the landscape, the characters, and the events of the story—without being sentimental or elegiac. The novel is narrated by an aging Montana state superintendent of schools, Paul Milliron, who is charged with deciding the fate of the state's last scattered rural schools, and who, in the hours preceding his meeting to determine those schools' fate, recalls the autumn of 1909, when he was 13 and attending his own one-room school in Marias Coulee.

Recently widowed, Paul's father, overwhelmed by the child-rearing duties presented by his three sons, in addition to his challenging farming duties, hires a housekeeper, sight unseen, from a newspaper ad. The housekeeper, Rose, proclaims that she "can't cook but doesn't bite." She turns out to be a beguiling character, and she brings with her a surprise guest—her brother, the scholarly Morris, who, though one of the most bookish characters in recent times, also carries brass knuckles and—not to give away too much plot—somehow knows how to use them.

The schoolteacher in Marias Coulee runs away to get married, leaving Morris to step up and take over her job. The verve and inspiration that he, an utter novice to the West, to children and to teaching children, brings to the task is told brilliantly and passionately, and is the core of the book's narrative, with its themes of all the different ways of knowing and learning, at any age.

Doig's strengths in this novel are character and language—the latter manifesting itself at a level of old-fashioned high-octane grandeur not seen previously in Doig's novels, and few others': the sheer joy of word choices, phrases, sentences, situations, and character bubbling up and out, as fecund and nurturing as the dryland farmscape the story inhabits is sere and arid. The Whistling Season is a book to pass on to your favorite readers: a story of lives of active choice, lived actively.

Ivan Doig

Ivan Doig (born on June 27, 1939) is an American novelist. He was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana to a family of homesteaders and ranch hands. After the death of his mother Berneta, on his sixth birthday, he was raised by his father Charles Doig and his grandmother Elizabeth Ringer. After several stints on ranches, they moved to Dupuyer, Pondera County, Montana in the north to herd sheep close to the Rocky Mountain Front. After his graduation from Valier high school, Doig attended Northwestern University, where he received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in journalism. He later earned a Ph.D. in American history at the University of Washington, writing his dissertation about John J. McGilvra (1827-1903). He now lives with his wife Carol Doig, a university professor of English, in Seattle, Washington. Before Ivan Doig became a novelist, he wrote for newspapers and magazines as a free-lancer and worked for the United States Forest Service. Much of his fiction is set in the Montana country of his youth. His major theme is family life in the past, mixing personal memory and regional history. As the western landscape and people play an important role in his fiction, he has been hailed as the new dean of western literature, a worthy successor to Wallace Stegner.

Ivan Doig is the author of eleven books. Eight are novels, including English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and three are nonfiction, including the highly acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Jacket

Join us Wednesday, March 4 at 7 p.m. for Great Reads for Girls in the library basement.

We will be discussing Andrew Clements' book, The Jacket.

Boys are invited!!!

When Phil sees another kid wearing his brother's jacket, he assumes the jacket was stolen. It turns out he was wrong, and Phil has to ask himself the question: Would he have made the same assumption if the boy wearing the jacket hadn't been African American? And that question leads to others that reveal some unsettling truths about Phil's neighborhood, his family, and even himself.
Andrew Clements worked as a teacher for seven years before beginning his literary career. He has written many books for children, but his most famous book is Frindle, which won many awards. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife. 
Clements writes in this small shed, seventy feet from his back door. There are no distraction--no phone, no TV, no email.
Learn more about Andrew Clements and his books at his website {here}.

Clements discusses his writing and the inspiration for his new series Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: