Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If you don't think that society has changed much in the last half century, then perhaps you should take a look at The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set in segregated Mississippi in the early 1960's, The Help explores the lives of white people and the black women who work in their homes. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the main characters and gives an intriguing look at life at that time in that part of the country.

The story tells about Skeeter, a white woman who has just graduated from college and returns to the city of her childhood. Another character is Minny, a black woman who has lost many housekeeping jobs because she can't keep herself from saying how she really feels. We also learn about Aibileen, a black woman who has endured a great loss and has her own story to tell.

These three women collaborate to write a book anonymously that tells exactly how it is to be a black woman who working as a housekeeper who sacrifices her own life to earn money taking care of white people. The author does an excellent job of painting a picture of how risky writing this book really would have been for people in the segregated south. What would have happened if someone found out who wrote the book? What could they do to insure their safety if someone suspected that they were the authors?

It wasn't until I was almost done with the book that I remembered someone in my family used to tell us about the African American woman who was his family's "help" when he was growing up. She took care of all the children in the family and did all the household chores. He would talk about her as if it was a good situation for her as well as the family. I never really thought about this before until I read this book. Would she really say that it was a good situation for her or was there another life that she would rather have been living?

Kathryn Stockett grew up in Jackson, Mississippi with "help" in her home. Having the story told by someone who experienced this social structure makes it seem more plausible. Have we come a long way from this time? Let's hope so.--Melanie

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


In order for someone to be a great humorist or an entertaining comic, above all, he or she must be highly intelligent. As years go by, I've noted this time and time again. David Sedaris is obviously one who has this prerequisite. He is the author of several "memoirs" and all of them are alive with his wit and wisdom.

When You are Engulfed in Flames is his latest collection and was released in paperback on June 2. It's a wonderful book full of individual stories that invite you to read from cover-to-cover in one sitting or allow you to take in just one chapter at a time if your time is limited.

Sedaris makes me feel like I am laughing at the people with whom his path crosses. Upon further reflection, I realize that I am most often laughing at myself. From the airplane seatmate who is annoyed at David because he won't switch seats with her husband to the woman in his Japanese language class that he is determined to bury with his superior language skills, I see pieces of myself both in Sedaris and his fellow life travelers. I hazard to guess that we can chuckle at his observations, realizing that he could be writing about us, and pray that we don't at sometime find our names in one of his books!

Northern Lights Books and Gifts is honored to have the opportunity to host Sedaris for a book signing and reading at the store on Monday, June 8. The reading starts at 6:00 pm. David Sedaris will be miked and you will be able to listen to him in the parking lot. Following the reading, we will be admitting groups of ticket holders into the store to have their books and CDs signed. Ticket holders will be admitted in numerical order.

In order to attend the signing, each person must obtain a numbered line ticket from Northern Lights Books by purchasing a David Sedaris book or CD. We suggest that you purchase your books as soon as possible to ensure that you are able to get them. Details are at our website www.norlights.com.

We will have live music beginning at 5:00 p.m. Dairy Queen , ICO, and Caribou Coffee will be open for you to purchase refreshments. This will be a night to remember! Won't you join us?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Books coming out backpacking to Isle Royale

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the book(s) to bring along with you on a backpacking trip.  As I'm on a very short break now between packing and no longer having internet access, I'll just announce what books are coming with us and explain the process and reflect on the results when I'm back.
In John's bag: my favorite leatherbound journal (my mom gave it to me, calling it an Indiana Jones diary); Couch by Benjamin Parzybok an intriguing newish book about friends, a flood, a couch and an adventure; and The Writer's Notebook Craft essays from Tin House - promising new writer's book - also came with a cd that will NOT be coming on the island.  I like to have a good page turner and a good reflective read.  
Runners up: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene; And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris; and Eccentric Islands by Bill Holm.

And, my literature outfitting for my friends: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams; Geekspeak by Dr. Graham Tattersall; Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson; Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers; Twelve Below Zero by Anthony Bukoski; Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason; and several ARC's that I'll mention if they are chosen.

See you all at Sedaris on Monday!