Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Club: "The Age of Desire" an evocative delight

Book Club: "the Age of Desire" an evocative delight
Review by Kory Wells

"A woman in love is an ostentatious thing,” suggests a line in “The Age of Desire,” a newly released novel by Jennie Fields.

It is 1907, and Edith Wharton hasn’t been herself since meeting blue-eyed, brazen Morton Fullerton. Never mind that she’s recently come into her own with the international success of her novel “The House of Mirth.”
Never mind that she has all the privileges of an upper-class life, including a luxurious apartment in Paris, a lush estate in Massachusetts, and friendships with influential thinkers and fellow writers such as Henry James.
Never mind that she has a kindly — though morose — husband, Teddy. It is Morton’s attention that has the normally no-nonsense Edith glowing like a schoolgirl — and realizing how passionless her marriage is. And so she has to admit: “She wants something, but is she willing to take the risk to find it?”

This is not a spoiler, but historical fact: Edith takes the risk and has an affair with Morton.

“The Age of Desire” imagines the emotional complexities of that risk in rich, sensual prose. Informed by Wharton’s letters and journals, the novel also fictionalizes the viewpoint of a second character who has received far less attention in history: Wharton’s childhood governess turned secretary, Anna Bahlman. This book is as much about Edith and Anna’s relationship as it is Edith’s affair and sexual awakening.
Anna can’t believe that Edith would take such a risk with the likes of the roguish Morton Fullerton. Any woman should be happy to call Teddy her husband, Anna thinks — and she once told him that herself.
Anna and Teddy have had a special bond since that long-ago conversation, but Anna’s ultimate devotion is to Edith. She delights in the fact that when she types Edith's words, suggests a small change, or comments on a developing plot, she is becoming part of literary history.

But now both Whartons are becoming more difficult since Morton Fullerton entered the picture. Anna would never have imagined it after all these years, but might she have to start over — at 60?

“I don’t like consequences,” Morton tells Edith early in the book. “The Age of Desire” confronts the consequences of the affair in a way that’s emotionally true, as good literary fiction should, even if that truth might be hard for the most romantic among us. Readers will remember this book for its skillful characterization, period-perfect pacing, and gorgeous writing that is a sometimes erotic and always evocative delight.

Nashvillian Jennie Fields will come home from her national book tour to read and sign copies of “The Age of Desire” at Parnassus Books, 3900 Hillsboro Pike, on at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. She will also appear at the Nashville Public Library as part of its ongoing Salon 615 series at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 20.

 Murfreesboro resident Kory Wells is a poet and volunteer with Read To Succeed.

Originally published: http://www.tennessean.com/article/D4/20120818/LIFESTYLE/308180024/Book-Club-Age-Desire-an-evocative-delight?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Closing the Gate: Inside Heaven's Gate, by Deb Simpson

Closing the Gate: Inside Heaven’s Gate, by Deb Simpson

Review by Laura Beth Payne
When I began reading Deb Simpson’s book, I was prepared for a labyrinth of conspiracy theories and mysterious events about the cult that attracted her brother Jimmy and eventually led to his suicide. Instead I found something familiarly sad and too common: the story of a lost child trying to find a family when his own was falling apart. I found the story playing over in my mind long after I finished it.

More than half of the book is not about Jimmy or Heaven’s Gate at all, but about Simpson’s family, since it is what Simpson believes caused Jimmy to seek “another family” in Heaven’s Gate members. It’s no coincidence that Simpson now, besides her writing, serves as a volunteer for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children who, just like herself and Jimmy, are members of broken families.

The chapters are written in different voices, alternating between Simpson’s mother, father, brother and herself. I cringed empathetically at the way she captured her abusive father’s own deranged, guiltless point of view, and I grimaced at the mother’s voice. She is not so much of a horrible character as a helpless one, having suffered at the inept hands of psychiatric “care,” rootless religion and abusive relationships. Jimmy’s tone evokes a quiet, contemplative man who is starving for understanding.

While Simpson is eventually able to leave her parents and find healing in her marriage, school, therapy and a job, Jimmy stays at home with their mother and won’t leave despite encouragement from doctors, therapists and Simpson herself. Instead he begins corresponding with those who seem able to give him the spiritual direction he craves—Heaven’s Gate cult members.

Spending a period of time at the compound gives Jimmy a sense of belonging and community that his own family had not given him, but he leaves when he realizes that he was not “as spiritual” as the other members. It was not until after the mass suicides that Jimmy decides he wanted follow his “family” to the next spiritual level: death. He shot himself through the heart in his apartment.

Yes, the story is haunting; I don’t think a story involving a suicide and cult activity can be anything less. But even more sobering than the events leading to Jimmy’s death are Simpson’s reflections afterwards:

“I believe [Jimmy] was looking for someone to show him the way . . . but no one did. We were all too caught up in our lives to understand the depth of his struggles. I will forever regret my own blindness to his pain, and his inability to tell me.”

Readers of Closing the Gate will find much to ponder from Simpson’s portrait of her family, her own escape and her brother’s descent into cult life. But if Simpson is successful, readers will also find a piercing reminder of the significance of our relationships and our human mandate to engage with the struggles and pain in those around us.

Deb Simpson is a Murfreesboro resident and the current president of the Tennessee Writers Alliance. For more information on her and her work, visit debsimpsonbooks.com.

About the Author

Read To Succeed is the community collaborative created to promote literacy in Rutherford County. The objective of this partnership between schools, area agencies, and businesses is to support local programming and raise awareness about the importance of literacy. For more information and to find out how you can make a difference in Rutherford County’s literacy rates, visit readtosucceed.org. The opinions expressed in this book review are not necessarily representative of Read To Succeed, but simply intended to promote the joy of reading.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hot Summer Reads

Hot Summer Reads

By Michelle Palmer
It’s the dog days of summer, and for many people that means long weekends at the lake, lazy afternoons at the pool or a family vacation. For me it means books, and lots of them. Everything from beach reads to the latest nonfiction all sit on my nightstand, waiting anxiously for their turn.
So what are the hottest books for this summer? From long-awaited sequels to stirring nonfiction, this summer has something for every reader.

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker’s coming-of-age story revolves around 10-year-old Julia and her family during the worst of times—they awake one morning to learn that the world is literally slowing down. This apocalyptic novel is less about the world ending as it is about one family and what a crisis of this magnitude does to those we love.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - A heartbroken young woman with no hiking experience, a pair of ill-fitting boots and a 1,100-mile hike: it’s a plan that is doomed from the start. In Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, everything can and does go wrong, but the author’s journey, as much within herself as on the trail, is drawing high praise from everyone from The New York Times Book Review to Oprah.

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy) – Fans of Deborah E. Harkness’ debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, have been waiting for this sequel since they turned the final, nail-biting page of her first book. Harkness’s latest novel reunites us with scholar Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont as they delve deeper into the mystery surrounding an ancient manuscript. (Due in hardback July 10.)

A Titanic Love Story: Ida and Isidor Straus – Just in time for this year’s 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster comes local author June Hall McCash’s nonfiction account of two Jewish immigrants, their lives and ultimate deaths aboard the Titanic. From their impoverished beginnings to their trip on the Titanic in April 1912, McCash gives a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the Straus family.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn is one of the best suspense novelists working today, and her newest novel shows that she is at the top of her game. Gone Girl examines a marriage where love has deteriorated into manipulation and cruelty; wife Amy has disappeared, leaving husband Nick as the prime suspect. But of course, there are two sides to every story. Flynn’s latest book is “unputdownable” with an ending that will haunt readers long after the final page.

Calico Joe – In his newest novel, John Grisham takes a break from themes of crime and punishment to tell the story of young Joe Castle, a rookie from a AA ball team who finds himself called up to the big leagues. This slim novel is a great beach read; Grisham’s writing captures the true essence of baseball, fathers and sons, and the cost of fame.
These are just a few of the many wonderful books coming out this summer, so whether you are a casual reader or an addict (like me), take a few minutes this summer to relax and unwind with a good read.
Michelle Palmer is a RTS One Book Committee member, and author of the book blog, Turn of the Page (michellepalmersbooks.blogspot.com).

About the Author

Read To Succeed is the community collaborative created to promote literacy in Rutherford County. The objective of this partnership between schools, area agencies, and businesses is to support local programming and raise awareness about the importance of literacy. For more information and to find out how you can make a difference in Rutherford County’s literacy rates, visit readtosucceed.org. The opinions expressed in this book review are not necessarily representative of Read To Succeed, but simply intended to promote the joy of reading.

'Half Broke Horses' is steely tribute to the American West

'Half Broke Horses' is steely tribute to the American West | Books, Half Broke Horses, The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls, Read To Succeed, RTS, One Book
Editor’s Note: Members of the Read To Succeed One Book committee will be contributing monthly book reviews to The Post. If you have any suggestions for future Rutherford County One Books, e-mail editor@murfreesboropost.com.

A prequel of sorts to her wildly popular memoir The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls’ Half Broke Horses is a vivid tribute to the life of her mother’s mother, Lily Casey Smith, a woman who rode horses by the age of 5, taught in some of America’s first Western schools, sold liquor during Prohibition to keep her family financially afloat, and was known as an expert markswoman. Gripping and inspiring, Half Broke Horses reminds us how the West was won – by cowboys, ranchers, and women like Lily.

Initially I was little suspicious of Half Broke Horses being yet another memoir that would more than likely focus on poverty, overcoming adversity, God, Mom and apple pie. After the first chapter, I was racing through the pages to discover what happened next. Lily’s personal stories are fascinating but the larger cultural perspective that Walls provides is just as intriguing.

For readers of The Glass Castle, it’s easy to spy the patterns in Walls’ family – a history of absent -minded parents and self-reliant children who are forced to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Walls writes in the first person, effecting a wonderful simulation of Lily’s voice as she reflects on her loving, though eccentric, father – who would rather invest in new show dogs than finish paying for her education – and her mother, a delicate Southern belle who refused to work the farm for fear of ruining her complexion.

In spite of her curious family relationships, Lily thrives. From her father she learns to break wild horses, being especially careful with those which are “half-broke” – between wild and gentled.
The metaphor is carried throughout the book, signifying the tensions between settled society and the still-developing American West – tensions Lily comes to experience throughout her life in her roles as teacher, wife, mother and rancher.

What makes Lily truly memorable is her resilience and ability to not only survive the elements, but also live fully despite formidable circumstances. She, along with her husband Jim, become the epitome of self-made Americans as they develop a cattle ranch in Arizona and fight political, environmental and financial setbacks to carve out a family life in the Depression and during America’s recovery.  But in the mist of breaking horses and castrating bulls on the ranch, Lily also takes flying lessons and becomes a major advocate for education in the new schools.

Well written and enthralling in its red-clay Americana flavor, Half Broke Horses is an excellent and steely tribute to the American West and the families who made it thrive.

Read To Succeed is the community collaborative created to promote literacy in Rutherford County. The objective of this partnership between schools, area agencies, and businesses is to support local programming and raise awareness about the importance of literacy.

For more information and to find out how you can make a difference in Rutherford County’s literacy rates, visit readtosucceed.org.The opinions expressed in this book review are not necessarily representative of Read To Succeed, but simply intended to promote the joy of reading.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Holmes Comes Back in Contemporary Detective Lit

The Rutherford County One Book committee is busy reading candidates for the 2012-2013 One Book choice. Committee member and Daily News Journal Lifestyles editor, Sandee Suitt, wrote a fantastic review of some her current reads which involve Sherlock Holmes. Check out what she has to say about these contemporary homages to the greatest detective in literature.

MURFREESBORO — With the popularity of the action-packed Sherlock Holmes movies and the BBC’s more cerebral modern-day telling of Sherlock for the small screen, writers seem to have found new inspiration in an old character.

In addition to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries, the author’s estate recently endorsed Anthony Horowitz as the writer to take up the tale. His novel, “The House of Silk” is set in 1890 and evokes the original feel of Holmes’ fog-shrouded London. He’s still at Baker Street with the familiar characters, including sidekick Dr. Watson, Police Inspector Lestrade, landlady Mrs. Hudson, brother Mycroft and arch villain Moriarty.

Horowitz says he tried to keep the tone and flavor of the original Holmes stories and novels but with a modern place.

Author Graham Moore set out on a different route with his novel, “The Sherlockian,” focusing on a mystery that plagues students of Conan Doyle. Why did the author kill off his main character at the end of 1893 and then resurrect him in 1901? Conan Doyle kept detailed diaries, but the one from the time period that could explain the change heart has never been found.

In Moore’s story, Harold White, attends a gathering of Sherlockian societies, made up of devotees of the works. A murder sets White on a journey to find the lost diary in a tale that weaves between contemporary times and the dawn of the 20th century.

A third novel based on the Holmes mysteries is “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,” which was published in 1994. It is the first of Laurie R. King’s imaginings of Sherlock Holmes in the early 20th century, a time just after Conan Doyle stopped writing of the popular detective.

In King’s tale, the world is changing with the advent of World War I, and Holmes has moved to an estate in the countryside where he tends to bee hives. He meets his neighbor, 15-year-old Mary Russell, and is uncharacteristically fascinated by the girl’s brilliance.

He tutors her and sees that she gets into Oxford University at a time when women were just breaking into academia.

King says she came up with her Mary Russell character by imagining a female version of Sherlock Holmes, but a woman detective would be nearly unimaginable in the more reserved Victorian times, hence the aging Holmes in the 1900s.

Russell is a strong female character and equal partner to Holmes and his brilliance, even besting him at times.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” is a slow read at the beginning as the characters are set up and Russell’s intelligence established, but less than half way into the book, the mystery takes off and the pace quickens. The reader is swept along as Holmes and his apprentice rush to uncover the identity of a bomber whose targets are the detectives and friends.

The “House of Silk,” “The Sherlockian” and “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” are all on the shelves of Linebaugh Library, as are the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Book Summer Reads

           There’s no denying that Rutherford County got swept up in Hunger Games mania this year. Murfreesboro placed on Amazon.com’s list of the top 20 cities most obsessed with the dystopian thriller, and the county has been buzzing about Katniss and her bow and arrow for months.

In Rutherford County, it started with an initiative called One Book, a program created by local literacy non-profit Read To Succeed aimed at promoting literacy in our community. One Book is a collaborative project of Read To Succeed, Barnes & Noble, Linebaugh Library System, and United Way, created to challenge readers in Rutherford County to join in reading the same book.
 In case you’ve missed this year’s One Book madness, Read To Succeed’s choice The Hunger Games tells the story of a totalitarian state called Panem that has risen from the postwar ashes of North America. Each year, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 to 18 are chosen from each Panem district to compete in the Hunger Games, a gladiatorial competition in which only one teen can survive. This battle is televised and played throughout all of Panem, forcing its residents to watch with a mix of grisly fascination and tyrannical obligation.
It’s a bloody, at times gruesome, tale wrought with messages about our culture’s fascination with reality television, our desensitization to violence and the danger of an all-too-powerful government. And from its intended young-adult audience to their parents and grandparents, we can’t stop reading.
As the fifth year of this event comes to a close, One Book's committee invites the community to formally submit their opinions—whether you loved or loathed The Hunger Games— in a survey and to keep reading this summer with One Book's 2012 supplemental reading list.

Visit readtosucceed.org/onebook.htm to fill out a quick survey before July 1st and you will be entered to win a gift card to JoZoara’s coffee shop in Murfreesboro.

Read on to find out what One Book thought about choosing this year instead of The Hunger Games and for a list of what to read next if you loved the young adult novel.

Suggested Summer Reading (including titles considered for 2012’s One Book)

·         Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - A boy embarks on a New York City treasure hunt, following clues from his father, killed in the World Trade Center attacks.
·         People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks - The incredible journey of a 15th-century Hebrew manuscript is discovered through a series of microscopic clues; this fictional take on a real-life event makes for spellbinding novel.

·         Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes - The brutality of war is detailed in this extraordinary novel by a decorated Vietnam veteran. Matterhorn is considered by many critics as one of the best accounts of the Vietnam war to date.

·         The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman--The lives of a group of misfit reporters and editors of an English language newspaper in Rome is portrayed in their lovable imperfection.

·         Kindred by Octavia Butler - A young woman is transported from her life in modern-day California to the antebellum South in this magical novel.

·         Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann - A look at the intertwined lives of New Yorkers in the 1970s, connected through a tightrope walker at the top floor of the World Trade Center.

·         To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee--An American classic told by young Scout Finch who, along with her brother Jem, are caught up in the racially charged events in the Deep South in the 1930s.


·         The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (the runner-up choice of this year's One Book): A young African-American mother of five who died in 1951 has likely saved your life. Her cells, harvested without her consent, started a medical revolution and multimillion-dollar industry, yet her family can’t afford health insurance.

·         A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure (MTSU's Community Summer Read for 2012): The first woman to row alone across an ocean

·         Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: A World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption

·         Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall: A modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together

If You Loved The Hunger Games, try:

Camp Half-Blood Series- Rick Riordan
Follows the story of Perseus “Percy” Jackson as he discovers his true heritage as a descendant of Greek gods and fights to save his friends and family on Mount Olympus.

The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis
Fantasy series following the stories of the Pevensie children and their friends, who enter the magical land of Narnia through portals in their own homes and backyards, and their adventures with the lion Aslan, the King of Narnia.

Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card
A gifted young boy, Ender, may be the earth’s only hope in a global war against an alien army.

The Inheritance Cycle Series- Christopher Paolini
A fantasy series in which a teenage boy, Eragon, and his dragon, must lead a rebellion to overthrow a wicked lord.

The Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkien
Fantasy series in which Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, must band with his fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarves, men, and wizards in order to destroy the Ring of Power created by the evil Lord Sauron.

A Wrinkle in Time Series- Madeleine L’Engle
Science-fiction series based on the Murry family whose gifted children seek to find their father, a government agent, who has mysteriously disappeared into a fourth dimension.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Find, read, pass it on: Free copies of Hunger Games in Rutherford County

The Hunger Games has been spreading across Rutherford County like Katniss’ mockingjay pin infiltrated all the Districts in Panem.

And if that doesn’t make sense to you, maybe it’s time for you to get a copy of Read To Succeed’s One Book selection for this year.

Each year, Read To Succeed’s One Book of Rutherford County program challenges residents to join together to read a chosen book. This year's selection is the bestselling adventure novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. One Book is a collaboration of Read To Succeed, Ingram Content Group, Linebaugh Library, Barnes & Noble, Greenhouse Ministries and United Way to promote reading and literacy in Rutherford County.

This year’s pick is a page-turner, and its appeal to multiple age groups is part of the reason Read To Succeed chose it for One Book.

And the book has already been passed around all over the county: Jennifer Smith, United Way Community Impact Coordinator, said that her co-workers have all been excited to share the book with each other (she read the book herself in nearly one sitting, unable to put it down). At Spring Valley Apartments, Learning Center Director Brenda Kerr said she’s passed her copy of the book on to the apartments’ office manager and several residents. Almost every day, she said, someone asks if they can borrow a copy. Andy Mitchell, a local postal employee, said he put a few copies in the post office’s break room and was surprised how quickly they were snatched up.

“So many employees read The Hunger Games with their families over the holidays,” Mitchell said. “People are reading this book who tell me they haven’t picked up a book in years.”

Laura Beth Payne, an English professor at MTSU and One Book co-chair, said she thinks the book has pulled the community together in remarkable ways.

“People of all ages are excited about reading,” Payne said, “and they’re talking about ideas from the book and their impact on everyday life. That’s exactly what we want to happen.”

Thanks to a donation from Ingram Content Group, Read To Succeed has distributed hundreds of free copies of The Hunger Games around the community. So if you see a copy lying on the table at your doctor’s office, coffee shop, or even in Linebaugh Library’s Bookmobile, don’t just pass it by. Pick it up, read it, and, then, pass it on.

These copies are free and will be marked with a One Book sticker on the front. Inside each book, readers indicate where the book was found, their name, and the date. The book then gets passed on or placed around town for someone else to find.

To make the exchange even more enticing, each person can log their book in at readtosucceed.org/onebook.htm. This will enter them to win one of two $20 gift cards to Barnes & Noble.

Payne said the Book Crossing is another way to keep The Hunger Games conversation going, and to allow fans of the book to share the experience of reading with someone else.

Read To Succeed chose to partner with Greenhouse Ministries to promote this particular novel. Greenhouse Ministries provides assistance with food, clothing, job skill training, adult education classes and counseling for thousands of Murfreesboro residents each year, serving a core local need that the characters in The Hunger Games are all too familiar with.

Through the late spring, Read To Succeed’s One Book and Greenhouse will be partnering on food and clothing drives, as well as Greenhouse’s landmark VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program, a free service that will aide qualifying local residents in claiming their tax refund dollars. For more information on VITA, please call Greenhouse Ministries at (615) 494-0499 or United Way at (615) 893-7303.

Read to Succeed press release, 1/18/2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Community Unites Through "Wildly Entertaining" Book Choice

Jennifer Smith has served on Read to Succeed’s Literacy Council for over 2 years and joined the One Book Committee shortly after The Hunger Games was selected for this year's book. Maybe you've heard her talking about the book out in the community – even in some traditionally "quiet places!" Here she shares her experience with this year's One Book selection:

“One Book, One Community” – what a powerful statement and goal the One Book initiative takes on each year. One Book's goal is to encourage the entire community to read the selected book and to then discuss it and the importance of literacy in our community and everyday lives. I feel as though this year’s One Book selection of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has accomplished just that.

The wildly entertaining choice of The Hunger Games is definitely a page turner versus the previous year’s choice, and to be honest, this has been the first book I have ever completed in less than five days! The writing style of Suzanne Collins is to be admired and praised for keeping my attention, and the attention of many others, so well. Another major accomplishment I am finding with this selection is how diverse the readers are. This year there have been children as young as 12 and 13 reading the book, and adults well into their 70s enjoying it, too. Talk about a wonderful opportunity to share an experience across generations and cultures through reading!

In my personal experience, the book led me into a conversation with a complete stranger – a conversation that was simple and brief but one that I will never forget. I was sitting in the “Quiet Room” (waiting on a massage) and quietly reading The Hunger Games, when suddenly the woman next to me blurted out, “Oh, The Hunger Games, I have read that book, and loved it.”

My first thought was, Ok, this is the quiet room, why is this lady talking and disturbing others?, but then I realized, Wow, what a great opportunity to talk with someone about the book and literacy. So, we carried on a short conversation about the book, about how it is this year’s One Book selection and about literacy needs in our community. Then she also shared with me about how she enjoyed the rest of the series by Suzanne Collins and recommended I read the other two books as well. I am sure our conversation could have continued on for much longer, but it was time for my massage and I was called back to my room.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but think about what a unique experience that was, all brought together through reading a book. This situation would not have been made possible if I were simply sitting there thinking about a movie or listening to music on my iPod; instead it was the physical presence of that book in my hand that opened the doors of communication.

Jennifer Smith works for United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties as the Coordinator of Community Impact. She has served on Read to Succeed’s Literacy Council for over 2 years and is now a member of the One Book Committee. Working at United Way allows her to apply a degree in Social Work to identify issues and needs in the community, and the partnership now shared between United Way and One Book is bringing attention to various issues and informing members of the community on how they can work together to make a difference.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hunger Games "Lives Up to the Buzz"

Stacy Nunnally, a member of the Read to Succeed Advisory Council, definitely enjoyed The Hunger Games. Here are some of her thoughts about this year's One Book selection:

I was so excited to see that One Book Rutherford County chose The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins this year! I have wanted to read this first book in the three book series for a while now. What better time than as part of One Book?

One of my concerns in reading this book was… would it live up to the hype? Would it be another book or movie that everyone raved about, but by the time I read it (saw it) I was ultimately let down because the hype outshone the reality?

I am here to say that whatever you have heard about this book, it lives up to the buzz. Seriously. I read the book in almost one sitting—completely engrossed by the action, the story and the characters. And once I finished the book, I spent days thinking about the book and its underlying messages and commentary on governments, poverty, the human condition, love, war… you get the idea.

The book’s action packed passages will literally leave you breathless with anxiety. But beyond this fast paced action, there is a deeper story, I think, about rebellion, standing up for one’s values, the corruption of power and maybe even a warning about a future we would like to avoid. Add in a complicated story of love and selflessness and you have The Hunger Games.

When I was through reading The Hunger Games, the stories, characters and words lingered with me… made me think about underlying themes of the book and possible correlations to modern-day struggles. Here are just a couple of the things that have kept me thinking after reading The Hunger Games:

The story line about class struggles struck a chord of familiarity with today’s discussions and headlines about the 99% and Occupy movements. In The Hunger Games a small ruling class lives in relative luxury seemingly on the backs of the hard labor of the working classes in the districts. While the people in the 12 districts struggle to survive, the residents of the Capitol hold parties and spend money on altering their appearances. There is a clear division in the “haves” and “have not’s” in this book which offer a critical lens with which to look at our own societal divisions of wealth.

There was a correlation in our obsession with reality TV…the way we all tune in for other people’s life stories often without reminding ourselves these are real people’s drama we are watching. The districts in this book watched The Hunger Games on TV, some with gratitude that is wasn’t their children, some in horror as they watched their loved ones struggle and fight, and others for sheer entertainment. Reality television has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. After reading The Hunger Games, it made me question what I get out of it and at what expense to those people on the shows. I know that our “reality stars” have a choice (where the contestants in The Hunger Games did not), and maybe that is enough difference to assuage my guilt for the time being. Nonetheless, The Hunger Games brings “reality TV” into a whole other light that will leave you hoping it is not a glimpse into the future.

Maybe the most meaningful thing I got from The Hunger Games is the reminder about how hunger and poverty affect families. Throughout this book, we see the main and supporting characters struggle to feed and take care of their families. They are willing to bend the law and, at times, break it, in order to put food on their tables. Priorities and values shift when families are cold and hungry, as many are in this storyline. And perhaps the starkest realization is how hunger and poverty affects children. The main (and many supporting characters) in this book are teenagers or younger; however they think and act like adults—taking on much responsibility in the family for providing food, comfort and basic needs. This impoverished life steals the main character’s childhood long before the actual hunger games do.

I love books, like The Hunger Games, that pull you in with an incredible story, complex characters and page turning action. They suck you in and make you feel as if you put the book down for a moment, you will miss something. And then, the best part, when you are done with the book, the story continues to make you think and re-think. You realize the book was much more than just the initial story—and you go back to re-read sections to analyze a little more. But most of all, I love books like The Hunger Games for the excitement they create around reading. When you mention this book, people light up and tell you how much they loved the trilogy. The Hunger Games reminds us that the simple act of reading can transport us into different worlds and give us a critical lens with which to view our own world.


A P.S. from Stacy:

I also want to warn those who have not yet read The Hunger Games that they should go ahead and buy (or download) the whole trilogy. You will want to begin reading the 2nd book, Girl on Fire, as soon as you turn the last page of The Hunger Games. I am now reading the 3rd book in the series, Mockingjay, and already feeling sad that my journey with these characters is about to come to an end.


Stacy Nunnally is an expert in nonprofit management and social media strategy. Her career has been dedicated to the nonprofit sector, working primarily in the areas of social and economic justice in Tennessee. This career includes work with Girl Scouts, Sexual Assault Center, Vanderbilt University Women's Center, and the Tennessee Economic Council on Women. Recently, that passion and activism has been translated into her own business, Stacy Nunnally Consulting, where she consults in the areas of social media strategy, nonprofit management and public policy. Stacy is an alumna of Vanderbilt University.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Book of Rutherford County Picks Fiction Phenomenon The Hunger Games

In the fall of each year, the One Book of Rutherford County program challenges local residents to join together to read a chosen book. This year’s selection is The Hunger Games, an adventure novel by Suzanne Collins. One Book is a collaboration of Read To Succeed, Linebaugh Library, Barnes & Noble and Middle Tennessee State University to promote reading and literacy in Rutherford County.

This work of fiction is set in a not-so-distant future in which reality has taken a turn for the worse and reality TV has taken a turn for the deadly. The United States has collapsed; in its place, the country of Panem is divided into the Capitol and 12 oppressed districts. Each year, a boy and girl from each district are selected by lottery to go to the Capitol and participate in The Hunger Games as a reminder of the Capitol’s control. The televised games are required viewing throughout the country as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors in a fight to the death. In District 12, formerly Appalachia, 16-year-old Katniss volunteers to compete when her younger sister’s name is called. As she and her male counterpart, Peeta, are whisked to the Capitol, they soon realize how difficult it will be, whether as friends or foes, to fight for their lives and their humanity.

The Hunger Games grabs you from the first page and doesn't let you go,” said Read To Succeed Executive Director Lisa Mitchell. “It appeals to teens and adults and provides a great opportunity for families to discuss all the issues raised.” This year’s selection is unique to One Book’s five year history, Mitchell added, in how it appeals to readers of all ages (12 and up) and both genders. The book, first in a trilogy, was on the New York Time’s bestseller list for over two years.

One Book co-chair Laura Beth Jackson said, “The Hunger Games speaks in a refreshingly original voice for our time. While being a wonderful fantasy novel, it also addresses very relevant issues of poverty, injustice, family relationships, and culture, and challenges us to examine what we believe and value. I'm thrilled about this choice for One Book and believe our community is in for a wonderful read.”

Mitchell expressed gratitude to this year's One Book committee, also co-chaired by Kory Wells, for their many months of reading and discussion to make this selection. The committee continues to work on plans to promote the selection, provide public forums for discussion through the winter, and perhaps have an event related to The Hunger Games movie, which is due out in March 2012.

Interested Rutherford County readers, businesses and organizations can learn more about getting involved by joining the One Book Rutherford Facebook page or visiting the One Book Rutherford Blog at http://onebookcommunityread.blogspot.com

What Is One Book of Rutherford County?

One Book is a collaborative project of Read To Succeed, Barnes & Noble, Linebaugh Library System, and MTSU, created to challenge readers in Rutherford County to join in reading the same book. The objectives of One Book are to encourage reading among adults, to demonstrate to our children the importance of reading, to unify our community through a shared experience and to highlight an issue of importance by means of a book’s theme or subject matter.

How Can I Get Involved?

There are a number of ways every person and business in Rutherford County can be involved in the One Book experience.

Individuals: Read the book and encourage your friends and family to read it too. Take part in a neighborhood discussion of the book or participate in one of the events organized by One Book. A calendar of those events will be available on the One Book Rutherford Facebook page at facebook.com/OneBookRutherford or the One Book Rutherford Blog at onebookcommunityread.blogspot.com. If you’re part of a book club, consider having your group read the One Book selection between now and the end of April. If you’ve already read the book, encourage those around you to share in the experience. You can also help by volunteering to join the One Book committee or making a donation at readtosucceed.org.

Companies: Companies and workplaces can encourage employees and customers to take the One Book challenge and read. They can also help further the One Book cause by becoming a sponsor of the project. For more information on One Book corporate sponsorship, contact Lisa Mitchell, Read To Succeed Executive Director at 738-READ.

For More on One Book and Our 2010-11 Selection – The Hunger Games:


The One Book Rutherford Facebook page

The One Book Rutherford Blog

Read To Succeed
PO Box 12161
Murfreesboro, TN 37129
(615) 738-READ

Executive Director Lisa Mitchell
Email: lisamitchell@readtosucceed.org

Read To Succeed, the community literacy collaborative in Rutherford County, will promote reading, with an emphasis on family literacy. This non-profit initiative supports literacy programs and fosters awareness of the importance of reading.