Thursday, July 02, 2015

[Book Review] Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Reader’s Advisory Gay and Lesbian Fiction Genre Review

Donna reviews BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA by Dorothy Allison (Dutton, 1992)

While a well-written and enjoyable book, it is much like a reality TV show on what is commonly referred to as poor white trash.  The book is written from the viewpoint of a young girl, Ruth Ann Boatwright, from about eight years old to around 13 years old. Tales are woven of her life and the life of her adult relatives. Tales of tragedy, comedy, indifference, revenge, love, survival, violence and relationships both good and bad in so many different levels abound in this work. These tales of the Boatwright family describe a Carolina family of poor white relatives who drink, fight, go from job to job, and house to house just trying to get by.

Allison has you living in this southern clan’s culture as you read through each misadventure, anticipating the next family train wreck around the bend. She has a particular way of making you feel as if you are sitting on the porch sipping iced tea with the characters, passing down their history to the young, and explaining away or giving insight to the poor decisions and actions of the various relatives that make them the broken people they are.

This is a great book with an ending that makes you want to know the ancestors of these characters and their stories. It also leaves you realizing this story is set up to continue for even more generations of the same.  

Can the brokenness end?

Donna, Whitehaven Library

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Friday, June 26, 2015


All branches of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center will be closed for the Independence Day weekend, Friday July 3rd AND Saturday July 4, 2015.

Customers have the option of reserving or renewing books by going to or calling 452-2047. 

The Library’s website also offers several resources customers can use anytime—24 hours a day—seven days a week.   E-books and downloadable audio books, magazines, and music can be checked-out for free; online databases contain searchable newspaper and magazine articles, reference books and more; and blogs and newsletters on everything from fiction bestsellers to travel can be read on the web.


Monday, June 22, 2015

[Library Events and Programs] The New Face of Explore Memphis for Book Clubs

The Memphis Public Library has partnered with Facing History and Ourselves to encourage all Memphians, including book club members, to read or reread the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird during June and July. 

On Sunday, August 9, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. there will be a book discussion on To Kill A Mockingbird for Explore Memphis Finale: Celebration of Book ClubsThis discussion will be lead by Facing History facilitators. 

Don't be late because each attending book club will take a group photo that will become an ALA READ poster.

Set the date: 
Explore Memphis Finale
Celebration of Book Clubs
Sunday, August 9, 2015
1:30 p.m.
Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library

Visit Explore Memphis for Book Clubs to download a copy of the discussion guide, or pick up a copy at your local Memphis Library branch. 

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

[News and Notes] June 11, 2015

School is out and the summer heat is creeping up. Vacation season is upon us, so it’s time to pick your summer reads. It doesn’t matter where you are: at home under a cool fan, at the beach, or on the train, plane, automobile. Extend to your “TBR” (To Be Read) list from the novels mentioned in the news features below.

Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera, who was appointed the 21st US Poet Laureate on June 10, 2015 by the Library of Congress. (Via Library of Congress) Learn more about Herrera at then browse the Memphis Library catalog to find copies of his books. 

The Science Fiction Writers of America have announced the 2015 Nebula Award winners.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer won the Nebula Award for Best Novel and Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress won the Nebula for Best Novella  (View all Nebula 2015 winners)  

The Orion Book Award is given to “books that deepen the reader’s connections to the natural world.”

The Orion Book Award finalists in fiction available at the Memphis Library include:

The Bees by Laline Paull

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphane Yanique

Long Man by Amy Greene  

4 Great Road Books by Women (BookRiot) will appeal to those have wondered what it's like to just get in the car and go.

The Cordova Library has a new book club for runners. We suggest they take a look at BookRiot's 5 Books About Running before the next selection meeting. Good Luck, Read and Run Book Club!

*Special Library Event Coming Soon*
Dave Eggers is coming to Memphis for our citywide Memphis Reads event! 
Visit the Memphis Reads Citywide Facebook for instant updates as they become available.

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Monday, June 08, 2015

[Book Review] On This Day in Memphis History by G. Wayne Dowdy


Marilyn reviews ON THIS DAY IN MEMPHIS HISTORY by G. Wayne Dowdy (History Press, 2014)

On This Day in Memphis History is a wonderful read for someone seeking a dose of Memphis history a day at a time.  We’ve all heard the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Well, a dose of Memphis history whets the reader’s appetite for more Memphis history.

G. Wayne Dowdy has reminded readers that Memphis history is not all politics in his book.  For each day of the year a person can read about a fascinating  event.  The 365 entries are composed of moments in time in the lives of citizens, hilarious happenings, the ever-changing music styles of the Bluff City, and the thrill of sports along with the world of city government and politics. Also the book reflects that Memphis is the birthplace of all types of agencies and organizations.  The pages are composed of well-researched occurrences, which when necessary contain some background information.

I enjoyed just reading the book and discovering little known people from all economic classes and occupations. Many of them influence Memphis, Tennessee even today.  Whether this book is enjoyed over the course of one year or as a straight through reading, the reader meets Memphians of all walks of life and occupations in both the 19th and 20th centuries.

Bon appétit, readers. Enjoy these morsels of Memphis history. 

Marilyn Umfress, Central Library

Readers can simply read this book or use this book as a guide to visit historic sites and share them with us during Explore Memphis 2015.  
Visit Explore Memphis to learn how you can win great prizes this summer. You can sign up at any library branch or participate online at

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Monday, June 01, 2015

[Library Events and Programs] Countdown to Explore Memphis 2015

Explore Memphis Summer Learning Program
kicks off Saturday June 6, 2015. This Saturday will be filled with fun activities for children and teens at each of our library locations. 

The Memphis Library Facebook page has a list all June 6th kick-off celebrations. 

During Explore Memphis there will be events for all ages (adults too!) as well as the chance to win prizes for reading and doing fun things in the city this summer. 

Visit to learn what's in store for Explore Memphis 2015. Filter the Events Calendar results according to location, age range, and more.  

Explore Memphis runs June 6 - July 25, 2015 


Friday, May 29, 2015

[Book Review] Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm


Andrea reviews UNBECOMING by Rebecca Scherm (Viking Press, 2015)
In this solidly-written tale of cat and mouse, readers are introduced to Julie who works in a French antiques shop called Zanuso.  The work is tedious and grubby but it keeps her away from her hometown of Garland, Tennessee where she had a sordid past as Grace.

Grace had been with Riley since they were twelve years old and discovered the differences between boys and girls. She loved him with every ounce of her being and adored his family, and it seemed the love and adoration was mutual. Escaping from her own family, Grace was all but adopted by the Graham family. Mrs. Graham loved Grace as her own daughter, the daughter she never had, and even set up an attic bedroom for Grace.

Because the two had been a couple for so long, Grace knew all of Riley’s friends and all of their secrets, plans, and schemes. When Riley and his two best friends, Alls and Greg, hit rock bottom financially, Grace jokingly suggested they could rob the town’s historical landmark, Wynne House. She told them to pillage the place for items the docents wouldn’t miss and then sell the items to art collectors and galleries.

When Grace realized the boys were bringing her plan to fruition, she knew to get the hell out of Dodge and totally reinvent herself to avoid conviction as an accessory to the crime. After a near-fatal experience in Prague, Grace escaped to France.

As “Julie from California,” she constantly lives in fear while working at Zanuso or checking Garland’s online newspaper in her small rented room. She constantly kept online tabs on Riley and Alls the three years they were in prison for robbery.

Readers will hold their breath when Alls finds Grace in Paris and will not exhale until the very last page of the epilogue.

How long do you have to run from your past when the past will inevitably catch up with you?  Find out what happens in this well-written debut novel from author Rebecca Scherm.

Andrea King, Poplar-White Station Library

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

[Book Review] Thirteen Soldiers by John McCain and Mark Salter


Philip reviews THIRTEEN SOLDIERS : A PERSONAL HISTORY OF AMERICANS AT WAR, by John McCain and Mark Salter (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
There have been 13 major military conflicts that the United States has been engaged in since its birth as an independent nation. 13 Soldiers offers accounts of the military service of 13 different individuals, 11 men and 2 women, each of whom served in one of the 13 conflicts.  Written by United States Senator John McCain and his former aide Mark Salter, the book is not a political work. The authors’ aim is to share the stories of 13 people who were all willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  
Most of the individuals themselves left personal accounts of their experiences, and McCain and Salter use their accounts as the basis for their stories of these men and women. The authors also offer an exploration of what each of the individuals shared in common, even though they each served in conflicts years apart from one another.  McCain himself served in combat during the Vietnam War as a Navy Pilot and personally experienced what someone under enemy fire faces.
The authors talk of the hardships, such as lack of food and water and enduring freezing or boiling temperatures, that each of the individuals faced.  They talk of the intensity of the friendships that the 13 individuals made with those they served with; and make the point that only someone who has served in combat can understand the intensity of friendships made during such a stressful time of trial.  They talk of the 13 individuals seeing the unimaginable results of the horrors of war, sights such as men being blown to pieces, of seeing brains oozing from skulls, and of seeing men trying to hold their intestines inside of their bodies, after they have been wounded.  And they talk of each of the 13 individuals facing the fear and terror inherent in any military conflict.  
Each of the 13 men and women were truly remarkable people.  There is the story of Joseph Plumb Martin who joined the Continental army and remained a soldier in it for the duration of the American Revolution.  Martin left a memoir of his experiences that is a primary source for historians of the American Revolution.  Sadly, despite his sacrifices, Martin had to fight hard to see that the Congress awarded pensions to the surviving Continental soldiers after the War.
There is the story of Edward Baker, an African-American, who served with distinction in the Spanish-American War.  Baker, a former Buffalo soldier, was a member of a regiment of other African-Americans soldiers who had been protecting settlers from attacks by Native Americans in the American West.  When his regiment was ordered to Cuba, to help fight the war against Spain, Baker in particular, but also members of his regiment, played a major role in making Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill the success it was.  But Baker and his regiment never received the credit they deserved for the important role they played.
The stories remind us of the debt of gratitude we owe to these 13 individuals and to all members of our military for the sacrifices they have made for their country.

Philip Williams, Cordova Library

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