Reported by Lauren
This week we kicked off our discussion with Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. Hand to Mouth has earned rave reviews from critics, and is even assigned in college sociology and anthropology classes. The author describes her experiences living poor in America, including her difficulty making ends meet, paying for childcare and her smoking habit, and her family’s fight to get her husband’s military benefits. Our reviewer began by saying she hated everything about this book: the author had a defeatist attitude, she blamed everyone and everything else for her problems but refused to take responsibility for her actions, and our reader was struggling to get through it. As we discussed the issues that impoverished Americans face on a daily basis however, she eventually said, “You know, maybe this book is affecting me more than I thought.” Another reader chimed in saying, “It definitely stayed with me after I read it—I have been attempting to not be so judgmental when I meet new people now.” While this book wasn’t a favorite, it definitely sparked a thought-provoking discussion.
Our next member shared her thoughts on We Learned Nothing by Tim Kreider. Kreider is a well-known cartoonist who has ventured into the land of short stories. This reader praised his sense of humor, but found the stories insightful and poignant as well. Sometimes we really don’t learn from the mistakes of our past or others’. She also shared When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon by Joshua D. Dedrich. She mentioned that this book was pretty in-depth and a little long on history, but she enjoyed learning about the history of organ transplants, and that once the drug that inhibits organ rejections was discovered, the transplant game changed forever.
Another book clubber offered a different perspective on the first world war by sharing Philip Jenkin’s The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade. This member never realized just how much influence the Protestant and Catholic Churches had on the war. The media was just becoming mainstream, and various religions capitalized on this unprecedented method of sharing information by creating propaganda that advanced their belief systems. According to Jenkins, the Catholic Church claimed Jesus was actually Aryan rather than Jewish, and that Jewish people were responsible for His death. Jenkins believes that this religious zeal set the stage for WWII and the rise of Anti-Semitism and Nazism. Our reader found the book fascinating, describing it as scholarly and well-researched, with an extensive bibliography. She recommended everyone read it to learn more about this time period.
Next we discussed Kim Michele Richardson’s latest novel The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Set in 1930s Appalachia, it tells the story of one of the fearless and determined Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians, Cussy Mary Carter, who also happens to be one of the Kentucky Blue People. This fascinating novel paints a vivid picture of the hardships of this era, and praises the women who spared no efforts to spread literacy and learning throughout the Appalachian region. Cussy’s personal life is also portrayed—as a “blue” person engaged to a “white” person, her impending marriage is constantly threatened by the racism of her peers. Our reader shared that she was amazed at the danger Cussy puts herself in, not just with her job but also with her relationship. Later on, Cussy is chosen as a subject of a medical study that tries to change her skin color, but even though she dreams of being white, she is not happy with the results of the drug trial. Our reviewer loved this novel, and several of our members were excited to read it as well.
We closed our meeting with a discussion of the contemporary classic The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Almost all of our Nevermore members had read this novel at some point, and all sang its praises calling it “life-changing” and “vital.” Written by one of Appalachia’s own daughters, it tells the story of Baptist minister Nathan Price, his wife, and their four daughters and their mission trip to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The Price family endures trials and tribulations, both physical and spiritual, and are forever changed by their experience in the African jungle. Our reader shared several passages with us, lauding Kingsolver’s ability to bring Africa to life through her writing style and word choice. We all agreed that Kingsolver is a fantastic writer, and everyone should read at least one of her novels.