Sunday, March 12, 2017

                      21 cents

 America Needs Nasty Women - bumper sticker in Iowa


In 2017, women have marched, worn red clothes, worn white clothes, raised fists high in the air and let their views be known. And if anyone was still confused about the message, t shirts were worn to explain exactly what women are thinking. The shirts' slogans have been as simple as "Believe" or as poignant as "We the People." Other straightforward ideas - "She Persisted," "The Future is Female" or "A Woman's Place is in the Resistance." But the message on a shirt that has bothered me the most for the past weeks:

21 cents.

At the current rate, the American gender pay gap won't be closed until 2059, according to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) writing in the Huffington Post. "Women today are paid just 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man," she said. "Women are often outearned by men with less education. Women with a graduate degree have median annual earnings that are $5000 less than those of men with a bachelor's degree." 

A warm thank you to the women who comfort us, feed us, tell us stories. Thank you to women who check our blood pressure, rotate our tires, and make us laugh. Thank you to our mothers, sisters and cousins. Thank you to our female journalists, teachers, writers, artists, social workers, accountants, engineers, athletes, pilots, doctors, nurses, singers, politicians and soldiers. Thank you to women working behind a counter, on roadways and in parks, and with heavy equipment. Thank you to women working two or three jobs, attending school, raising children.

21 cents.

                                       * * * * *

"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." --Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaking about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

                              * * * * *

Celebrate Women's History Month (every month!) and read a book by or about some very outspoken women. 

Personal History - Katharine Graham

To Space and Back - Sally Ride

Madame Curie - Eve Curie

Victoria: The Queen - Julia Baird

The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan

My Own Words - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Shrill - Lindy West

Twenty Years at Hull House - Jane Addams

Lucretia Mott Speaks - Lucretia Mott

A Midwife's Tale - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Cleopatra - Stacy Schiff

Madam Secretary - Madeleine Albright

Majesty of the Law - Sandra Day O'Connor

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker - A'Lelia Bundles

My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem

Gender Gap - Bella Abzug

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay

All in a Day's Work - Ida Tarbell

Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly

Women's Slave Narratives - Annie L. Burton

The Long Loneliness - Dorothy Day

Silent Spring - Rachel Carson

Dust Tracks on a Road - Zora Neale Hurston

The Widow Cliquot - Tilar J. Mazzeo

My Life, My Love, My Legacy - Coretta Scott King

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines 
When Everything Changed : The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to Present - both by Gail Collins


"And to all the little girls...never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your dreams." --Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

                   March into Reading


Charles Dickens: "It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade." from Great Expectations


No one who has grown up in the last 50 years can imagine their childhood without the wonderfully zany images and poetically comic verses of Theodor Seuss Geisel, according to the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, MA.


Would any of us want to live in a world without Thing One or Two, Cat in the Hat, Horton, Yertle or even the Grinch? I think not.

Dr. Seuss (then known as Theodor Geisel) was born March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. A biography, Children's Storytellers/ Dr. Seuss, by Kari Schuetz shares these interesting facts:

As a child, Ted enjoyed reading comics, especially Krazy Kat.
> He attended two prestigious schools - Dartmouth College and Oxford University. While editing the Dartmouth College magazine, Ted first used the pseudonym Dr. Seuss.
> After college, he drew political cartoons.
> His first published book (1937) was And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. His later book (1960) Green Eggs and Ham (a personal favorite) has only 50 words.
> Dr. Seuss' personal beliefs are often found in his books. For example, in The Lorax, he stressed the importance of caring about nature.
> In 1984, Dr. Seuss won a special Pulitzer Prize for his effect on reading.
> Dr. Seuss died on September 24, 1991.
What Pet Should I Get? was published in 2015 after his wife discovered the manuscript in a box. 

Celebrate all things Dr. Seuss on March 2.

Other celebrations in March: Irish-American Heritage Month, Music in Our Schools Month, Expanding Girls' Horizons in Science & Engineering Month, National Craft Month, Small Press Month and Women's History Month.

Enjoy new books by J.K. Rowling, Joan Didion, James Patterson, Lisa See, Peter Heller, Greg Iles, Dan Chaon, C.J. Box, Jacqueline Winspear, Clive Cussler, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Sid Luft, and Melissa Maker who will help us clean and love our houses in time for spring. 


                                     March Days

1-7     National Ghostwriters' Week
1-7     National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week

2        Dr. Seuss Day
          World Book Day

4        World Grammar Day

5-11   National Words Matter Week
          Return Borrowed Books Week

6        Oreo Cookie Day

8        Womens' Day
          Girls Write Now
          National Proofreading Day

10      Middle Name Pride Day (to my sisters & cousins - let's applaud being Anns)

11      Genealogy Day

13      Napping Day (curl up with The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood)

14      Pi Day  3.14159265...

15      Ides of March - beware

16      Freedom of Information Day

17      St. Patrick's Day

19-25 World Folktales & Fables Week

20      World Storytelling Day

20-26 Act Happy Week

21      National Common Courtesy Day

24-26 American Crosswords Puzzles Week

25      Tolkien Reading Day - Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit

29      Manatee Appreciation Day

30      Pencil Day (check out Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax)

                                       * * * * *


"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Dr. Seuss

                                      * * * * *
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017


                  Only the Beginning...

"People running everywhere/don't know where to go/don't know where I am. Can't see past the next step/don't have time to think past the last mile. Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?"  from Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?/Robert Lamm


What were you doing on February 15, 1967? If you lived in Chicago, attended DePaul University and your name was Terry, Robert, Lee, James, Danny or Walter, you were in a basement playing music together for the first time, hoping to be discovered. It wasn't long before a bass player named Peter joined the group that eventually called themselves the Chicago Transit Authority.                

They moved to Los Angeles, landed a record deal, toured and became the rock powerhouse now simply named Chicago. A bit of trivia: what was the first song recorded by Chicago as an official band? (see below) Fifty(!) years later, four original band members remain: Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaidor (whose mom owned the basement the band first called home). Terry Kath died in 1978. Danny Seraphine and Peter Cetera left the band after differences emerged regarding the band's music and direction (compare Robert Lamm's Listen with Peter Cetera's If You Leave Me Now).


"Then a voice came out of the darkness saying, "Tear the system down. Tear it down."  from State of the Union/Robert Lamm

For rock 'n' rollers accustomed to hearing guitars and drums with an occasional piano, listening to a song driven by a saxophone and trombone was a surprise. If you need to refresh your memory, listen to Terry Kath's Introduction on Chicago Transit Authority

The often political lyrics still resonate 50 years later:

Q: Will you try to change things, use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
A: What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change? I always thought that everything was fine. from Dialogue, Part One/ Robert Lamm

Or, from 1968, "Tell me what you see/faces full of hate and fear/ faces full of me. Do you feel the rumblings...do you know what I mean? from Someday/James Pankow & Robert Lamm


If you're feeling nostalgic, listen to the songs and watch CNN's film, Chicago: Now More Than Ever. You'll hear stories about the band meeting Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix for the first time, life on the road, drugs, cashmere suits, and a continuing love of music. 

"Flying high, touch the sky/going to places I never knew. There must be room for growing somewhere else and I'm going/So goodbye and hello, long ago." from Goodbye/Robert Lamm.

                                                            * * * * *

The city of Chicago is known for a wealth of literature. Some writers are native born Chicagoans, others have adopted the city - or did the city adopt them?

Kathleen Rooney - Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Edgar Rice Burroughs - Tarzan
Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl
Gwendolyn Brooks - Maud Martha
Erik Larson - Devil in White City
Scott Turow - Presumed Innocent
Sandra Cisneros - The House on Mango Street
Steven Tracy - Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance
Studs Terkel - Hard Times: An Oral History
Richard Wright - Native Son
Jane Addams - The Jane Addams Reader
Barack Obama - Dreams From my Father
Edna Ferber - So Big
Willa Cather - O Pioneers!
Gordon Parks - A Hungry Heart
Audrey Niffenegger - The Time-Traveller's Wife
Mike Royko - One More Time
Stuart Dybek - The Coast of Chicago
Carl Sandburg - Chicago Poems
Nelson Algren - The Man With the Golden Arm 

                                                          * * * * *

The first recorded song by Chicago?? Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is

                                             * * * * *

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

                         Febrrruary

"But February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver. Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn't take one more step. ...something touched me deep inside, the day the music died." >>Don McLean, from American Pie


Since 1959, February 3 has been known as the day the music died. On a cold, snowy Iowa evening after appearing at the Surf Ballroom, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Big Bopper Richardson died in a plane crash. The three men have been immortalized on film, in music and books. If you need a reminder of their songs, listen to Holly's Everyday and That'll Be the Day, Bopper's Chantilly Lace and Walkin' Through My Dreams, and Valens' La Bamba and That's My Little Suzie. Last year was another tough year for music. We said goodbye to David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell, Paul Kantner and Keith Emerson.

As fans, we often want to know more about our favorite musicians: what's the inspiration of the songs we sing along to; who are their favorite singers; and are we better off not knowing if he or she is a jerk offstage? Lower the needle on some scratchy vinyl and settle back with a biography or memoir by: Bruce Springsteen, Carly Simon, Graham Nash, Phil Collins, David Crosby, Linda Ronstadt, Gregg Allman, Joni Mitchell, Keith Richards, Marvin Gaye, Carole King, John Fogerty, Rita Coolidge, Ann Wilson, Elvis Costello, Diana Ross, Duff McKagan, Cherie Currie, Tom Petty, Ray Charles, Pat Benatar and Jimi Hendrix. This list is only the beginning!       

Looking for something to celebrate this month? Consider National Haiku Writing Month, Library Lovers' Month, National Black History Month. Or, sit down with a new book by J.D. Robb, George Saunders, Deepak Chopra, Jonathan Kellerman, Deborah Crombie, Eric Braeden, Sophie Kinsella, or Daphne Merkin. Watch for a new Nintendo book, too. And just in time to help me figure out another layer of the History Channel's "The Vikings," Neil Gaiman is releasing a new book, Norse Mythology


                              February Days

1      - Change Your Password Day

1-7   - Women's Heart Month

3      - The Day The Music Died, 1959

5-11 - Children's Authors and Illustrators Week
          Freelance Writers' Appreciation Week

7      - Laura Ingalls Wilder Day

9      - Read in the Bathtub Day

10    - All the News That's Fit to Print Day

14    - Library Lovers' Day

15    - Random Acts of Kindness Day

24-26-Girl Scout Cookie weekend

28     - Mardi Gras - Laissez le bon temps rouler



Congratulations to the bookstores on Publishers Weekly's shortlist for Bookstore of the Year. The winner will be announced in March. While traveling, look for these shortlist stores:

Prairie Lights - Iowa City, IA
Wild Rumpus Books - Minneapolis, MN
Parnassus Books - Nashville, TN (thank you, Ann Patchett!)
King's English Bookshop - Salt Lake City, UT
Avid Bookshop - Athens, GA



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Friday, January 27, 2017

      "The clocks were striking thirteen" *



"The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history." >>George Orwell


The literary world has a new rock star - George Orwell. Specifically, Orwell's masterpiece, 1984, is an Amazon bestseller. The book, originally published in 1949, is selling so well that as of this afternoon, it's temporarily out of stock. If you skipped reading it in high school or college (CliffsNotes do NOT count) or if you can't recall the story, I recommend you dust off your old copy or quickly get on the library's hold list, and read this classic. 

Words matter. Books matter. And in a confusing and fast-changing world filled with Orwell's newspeak and doublethink, we need all the help we can get.  


"Panem et Circenses translates into 'Bread and Circuses'...in return for full bellies and entertainment, people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power." >>Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games 


                                    Nonfiction

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance
White Trash - Nancy Isenberg
Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay
We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another Day in the Death of America - Gary Younge
David and Goliath - Malcolm Gladwell
Autobiography of Ida Tarbell - Ida Tarbell
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Jared Diamond
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman - Mary Wollstonecraft
America's Women - Gail Collins
The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
Free to be...you and me - Marlo Thomas


                                 Fiction (also known as alternative facts)

Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Tortilla Curtain - T.C. Boyle
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
It Can't Happen Here - Sinclair Lewis
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
Children of Men - P.D. James
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Emperor's New Clothes - Hans Christian Andersen
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
The Man in the High Castle - Philip Dick
The Women's Room - Marilyn French
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley 


"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters." >>Albert Einstein

  
*It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen is the first line of Orwell's 1984.  

              
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

    An excerpt from One Today, a poem written
        for Barack Obama's second inauguration
                    January 21, 2013


One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows...

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,

or whispers across cafe tables. Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying hello | shalom |
buon giorno | howdy | namaste | or buenos dias
in the language my mother taught me - in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

...We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight

of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always, always
home, always under one sky, our sky. And always
one moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country - all of us - 
facing the stars. Hope - a new constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it - together. --Richard Blanco




Richard Blanco's books:
Looking for the Gulf Motel
City of a Hundred Fires
One Today
Place of Mind
The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

Barack Obama's books:
Dreams From My Father
The Audacity of Hope
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

What I'm reading now: The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own, edited by Veronica Chambers.


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Monday, January 16, 2017

      Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."


Books/Speeches/Essays by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

Strength to Love

A Gift of Love

Where Do We Go From Here?

Letter from Birmingham Jail

I Have a Dream

                                         * * * * *

My Life, My Love, My Legacy - Coretta Scott King


                                         * * * * *

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Letter From Birmingham Jail.