Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr (Akashic Books, $15.95) is one of The Bookstore's Staff Picks for February, but somehow a little blue Staff Pick card doesn't do it justice. This is an intense, powerful book that you just have to read for yourself.
It starts out as a quiet book, set in a small town in Central Wisconsin in the mid-1970's. Customers who know me will know why I was immediately drawn to this book: that's where and when I grew up.
It's the kind of place where blue-collar men gather to drink beer in their garage and talk about their guns, their duck hunting and the upcoming deer season. It was back when men could have an agreeable chat about those "dang draft dodgers and city slickers" at the local barbershop. The kind of time and place where children could grow up without meeting a person of another race unless they left for a bigger city like Madison, Milwaukee or Chicago. When prejudice was a way of life so deeply ingrained that no one thought to cringe at racial epithets.
It was also the kind of a time and place where mothers still made homemade pies, grown men played on baseball leagues, and every kid had a loyal hunting dog as a sidekick. Where a kid could hop on a bike and ride safely for miles past cow pastures and cornfields and silos. A place and time of close family connections that -- admit it -- we wish we still had.
It is into this rich, complicated mix of love and prejudice that Nina Revoyr sets her book. The story features a young girl who has been left to be raised by her grandparents in the fictional town of Deerhorn, Wisconsin. Her dad grew up in Deerhorn, but went off to school in Madison (Wisconsin code for "got newfangled ideas") and married a Japanese woman. Years later, the dad drops off his daughter so he can head off to California in hopes of reconciling with his wife.
The girl narrates the story as a grown woman with a wise but painful perspective:
"So I stayed with my American grandparents whom I had met only once before, in the town they'd both lived in or near for all of their lives. . . . While people in other parts of the country were growing their hair long and smoking pot and wearing polka dot ties and bell-bottoms, the people of Deerhorn dressed in overalls and drank cheap Wisconsin beer. And while there were stories on the nightly news about antiwar protests, women's rights, the school busing crisis in Boston, and Watergate, these events seemed so distant and strange that they might have been taking place in a different country."
The narrator recalls, in a brave clear voice: "Let me make this very clear - my grandfather was a bigot. He wasn't shy about using racial epithets, or blaming blacks or Jews or Democrats for all the country's problems. But it enraged him that the town did not embrace me."
At the same time the town is reacting to this young girl's arrival, a black couple from Chicago moves to town for jobs at the local medical clinic. The town's racial anxieties are stoked by some truly hateful characters, and the young biracial girl and her grandfather are caught right in the middle. The tension builds and the suspense is keep-you-awake-at-night frightening. Make no mistake, this is a tragic, violent and stunning story. A story you need to read.
Looking back, it makes me sad to think that I have known this way of life, that we have known this way of life. I'm sad to learn that Revoyr actually lived in a place like Deerhorn for two years as a child. However, as Revoyr captures so beautifully, the air we breathed back then wasn't all hateful, and in fact most of it was just the opposite. My town wasn't nearly that small and backward, but still, I have stories. And I'm pretty sure you have stories too, even if you didn't grow up there and then.
So what do you do with that history, those stories, that complicated mix of love and anger and ignorance? Is it enough to say that you move forward and teach your own children differently, or must we do more? Fortunately for her readers, Revoyr took her own stories, and with her remarkable imagination and talent, produced this novel.
Wingshooters would make for an incredibly interesting book club night. I highly recommend it.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The Bookstore is pleased to announced that it has selected the book for the Fourth Friday Coffee Talk on February 25th: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland.
Pick up the book (at a 10% discount), enjoy the read, and then join Margie and Sue for a drop-in discussion at The Bookstore between 10am and Noon on February 25th. We'll be serving complimentary coffee.
Margie and Jane have already finished it, and really enjoyed it. Historical fiction fans, and especially Susan Vreeland fans will love it. It's based on the true life of the woman who designed Tiffany lamps in turn of the century New York City. You'll learn a lot about the artistry of stained glass, and the obstacles that working women had to overcome in order to pursue a career in those times. You'll never look at stained glass the same again.
We happen to think Clara and Mr. Tiffany would be a great choice for your own next book club. You could plan a trip to the Smith Museum of Stained Glass at Navy Pier in Chicago to see some spectacular Tiffany stained glass windows from the New York studios in the book. Check out this Navy Pier website for some beautiful photos.
Hope you can join us for our Coffee Talk! No RSVP necessary, just stop by.
Meet Shayne Moore
Thurs. Feb. 24th
Book Launch Party
475 N. Main St.
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
RSVP: click here
The Bookstore is pleased to announce a Book Launch Party for Shayne Moore, Wheaton mom and global activist, on Thursday, February 24th from 7 to 9pm. Shayne is the author of Global Soccer Mom: Changing the World Is Easier Than You Think.
Shayne will discuss her book and her work with World Bicycle Relief, the advocacy group ONE, and Growers First.
Shayne was determined to make a difference with her book launch party, and has put together a terrific partnership of local retailers to do just that. The Bookstore will donate 10% of the proceeds from the sale of the book to the children of the Glen Ellyn Children's Resource Center. In addition, anyone who purchases the book will receive a coupon for 10% off one purchase at Fushcia and The Bike Shop. For each coupon received, Fuschia will in turn donate 10% of the purchase to the GECRC and The Bike Shop will donate 10% of the purchase to World Bicycle Relief.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
January's Coffee Talk was really fun. If you missed it, not to worry, Sue and Margie will be announcing their February Coffee Talk pick in the February newsletter. Mark your calendars for the Fourth Friday of each month, and join us for a casual discussion about a new book.
Our January pick was actually two books: Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick and The Ambassadors by Henry James. We were inspired to pick both because of the book flap for Foreign Bodies, which says that Ozick wanted to "retrace the story of Henry James's The Ambassadors - the work he considered his best - but as a photographic negative, in which the plot is the same but the meaning is reversed." That really made us curious to check out both books at once.
It probably helps to read The Ambassadors first. In both books, an "ambassador" is sent from the States to Paris to retrieve a young expatriate and convince him to return to the the States. In The Ambassadors, Henry James describes a cultured, refined Paris of the 1890's (and a cultured, refined older lover) that has worked its magic on the expatriate, seeming to make him a better person than he'd been before. Soon the magic starts to work on the ambassador as well, and no one wants to return to the States. Unfortunately, by the time Ozick's characters make it to Paris in the 1950's, the magic of Paris has been destroyed by war and despair. The "photographic negative" that Ozick creates is tragic and sad. However, after reading The Ambassadors, it is still a pleasure to follow the plot and to spot all of the instances in which the meaning and effect has been flip-flopped.
Both books are a recommended read for those who enjoy reading about Americans in Paris, and for any traveler who's ever had the thought: "hey, let's not go home, let's just stay here." I don't know about you, but I swear I have that thought at least once every trip.