The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Vacation Ends for Book Club


September 18, 2019

Free People Reading Freely, the Blaine County Library’s Book Club, will meet on Monday evening, September 23 at 7:00. The Club will kick off this year by celebrating Banned Books Week, September 22-28, with a book give-away and by reading two books by Jamie Ford, who recently visited the Hi-Line.

According to Library Director, Valerie Frank, Ford was well-received on Tuesday night, September 10. About his presentation, she said: “He is so entertaining and down-to-earth.”

Ford spoke to a crowd of 29 people. Of those, ten per cent were under 25, 41% were 26-60, and 49% were over 60. “I’ve never had to do an audience demographic like this before,” Frank said, “and I found that information interesting.”

Val’s Custom Catering served a meal of pulled pork, pasta salad, veggie tray, chips, and cookies to Tuesday evening’s guests. One individual in attendance commented on Ford’s presentation: “I was encouraged by his enthusiasm for his craft.”

Another wrote in an evaluation statement, “He is very personable and witty. I had never heard of him before, but now I mean to read everything he has written.”

After visiting the Blaine County Library, Ford posted on his Twitter Feed: I visited the Chinook Library last night, where Richard Ford worked on Independence Day. People asked if we were related.”

Frank recalled that Richard Ford did have a home in Chinook while he was writing his novel and that he wrote part of the book Independence Day in the library’s meeting room while his house was being renovated. “We had one person who thought Jamie Ford was the author who had lived in Chinook and another who asked if they were related. He is much nicer, funnier and a better writer, in my opinion, than Richard Ford,” Frank stated. “Anyway, he joked about the subject several times during the evening.”

Ford also tweeted about Harlem: “Speaking in a town with a population of 850. Because rural libraries need love too.”

The Book Club will read both Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and his third book, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Hotel spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to win the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. Love was inspired by a true story about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle’s epic 1909 World’s Fair. In 2017, Library Journal named it as one of their best historical fictions novels of the year.

Furthermore, because September 22-28 is Banned Books Week, Free People Reading Freely will observe the celebration with a book give-away. Many schools and libraries will commemorate Banned Books Week, an important literacy event during which readers celebrate free expression and the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. The theme of this year’s event is “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark. Keep the Light On!”

At Monday night’s meeting, book club leader, Donna L. Miller will share details about a young adult novel which released just this month—Suggested Reading by Dave Connis. The author confronts the idea of censorship through his protagonist, Clara Evans. Clara has been built by books; they have shaped, changed, inspired, and guided her to her senior year at Lupton Academy (LA), a private school in Tennessee. On the first day of her last year in high school, Clara learns about a school policy about “prohibited media”: LA’s librarian Mr. Caywell has been ordered to pull all the banned books from the library.

Shocked by this sinister attempt at censorship and fueled by anger, Clara is determined to fight this policy that suggests that books about rape, young people being bullied because they’re gay, the intricacies of the human condition, or racism are somehow painfully relevant but inappropriate topics for young adults. Clara is also offended that the school administration believes they can make decisions about books and write them off as dirty, wrong, or unwholesome.

In the process of untangling her confusion and defining her life philosophy, Clara learns the value of looking instead of assuming, the harm in pigeon-holing people, and the universal presence of hurt. She also learns that books—like people—are wild things that can’t be tamed, that stories have the power to start wars as well as to end them, and that “unrestricted access to books allows us to be challenged and changed, to learn new things and to critically think about those things and not be afraid of them, to be better than we were before we read them” (336).

According to Miller, Connis’ book is a powerful one—not only as a testament to a book’s ability to shift fault lines in our lives but as an inciting force to start “fires that show the grandness of the world [and] the depth of others” (382). Connis invites us all to call upon our bravery, strength, hope, and hurt to advocate for one another and to make a positive impact. He also reminds us that we bring our whole selves to the pages of a book—“Every single darkness. Every single light. Every single passion. Every single hurt” (355). These layers that comprise us act like filters when we read, catching certain particles and letting others pass based on our idiosyncratic experiences. Given this diversity of experience, it can never be up to a book to make sure people don’t kill themselves or hate someone. We use our minds and make choices. Books might ignite a spark, inspiring action that changes lives, or they might provide a light that melts ignorance and hate, showing us a new path to take. Because “books illuminate something different for all of us” (382), their power is unpredictable.

Connis book will be one of those up for grabs in the give-away on Monday night.

Frank invites everyone to another year of reading and encourages any input as Free People Reading Freely discusses the season’s new theme and schedule.


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