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Be Hair Now: ‘Norma’ by Sofi Oksanen

normaYou might think that having magic hair that’s attuned to your emotions would be a blessing, but the titular character in Norma (by Finnish-Estonian writer Sofi Oksanen) would disagree. Norma is an ordinary woman whose hair corkscrews and kinks when she feels strong emotions, such as danger or guilt. It also happens to grow about a meter a day, causing Norma to have to constantly cut it off so that no one notices. The only person that knows Norma’s secret is her mother, Anita.

As it happens, Norma opens up on the day of Anita’s funeral. Anita has committed suicide by throwing herself in front of train, or so we’re led to believe. The first inkling Norma has that something is off is when her hair starts to corkscrew when meeting a stranger at the funeral.

While it is Norma’s name who’s on the cover, I think it’s safe to say that this book actually has three main characters. Norma, obviously, is the focus of book, but alternating chapters are in a woman named Marion’s point of view. Marion is the daughter of Anita’s best friend. Marion works for her father in the seedy underworld of the hair extension business. The third main character is Anita herself. Through video diaries that Anita has left for Norma to find, Norma finds out the history of why her hair is the way it is.

There are lots of little kinks and turns in that lead you down paths you hadn’t fathomed would happen. The sub-chapters are short so it feels as if you’re flying through; I read the first half of the book in a span of about two and a half hours. Normally, I don’t like alternating points of view, but I think it’s masterfully done in Norma. I’m invested in both Norma and Marion, so I didn’t feel impatient while reading through one or the other. On the surface this may seem like a book about hair, but it’s so much more. It’s an artful look into what would happen if your best asset was also your worst, if your blessing was also your curse.

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Come ‘explore’ the possibilities with Katherine Rundell!

Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell

Lemuria is excited to welcome Katherine Rundell to Jackson, Mississippi on Friday, September 29th. Rundell’s books are modern classics: the moment you begin reading them, you are transported into the story she is telling.

Her first novel, Rooftoppers, is the story of a girl who is rescued from a sinking ship, and she is found floating in a cello case. Many years later (with her adopted father), they set out on a search for her mother that leads them to the rooftops of Paris where a community of children run free during the night. Fans of Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret will enjoy Rooftoppers.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is a Boston Globe Horn Book Award Winner, and is a modern day retelling of A Little Princess. When Wilhelmina Silver is left an orphan, she is sent away from the wild African savanna she’s grown up loving to a cold boarding school in London where she is mercilessly teased by the other girls. She runs away, and must find a way to live on the streets of London.

Rundell’s third novel, a snowy tale with hints of Little Red Riding Hood folklore, is Wolf Wilder. Wolf Wilder is about a girl named Feo and her mother who are “wolf wilders.” That is, they train wolves to survive the wild after they are no longer wanted as pets by the nobles in St. Petersburg, Russia. When Feo’s mother is taken captive by the Tsar, it is up to Feo (and her wolves) to save her. Each of Rundell’s stories is unique, heartwarming, and exciting. Her characters are larger than life, and she truly understands the way children interact with the world.

explorerIn her newest novel, THE EXPLORER, four children ride a small plane to Manaus, Brazil. When the plane goes down in flames, the four children, Fred, Con, Lila, and Max survive the crash, but they must survive the Amazon Jungle as well. Between poisonous plants, giant bugs, and biting fish, will they make it to civilization again?

Rundell, who is a Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, grew up in Zimbabwe, Brussels, and Belgium. Her love of travel is infused within the places she writes about in her books. After visiting the Amazon Jungle, Rundell was compelled to write THE EXPLORER. She says that her inspiration to write THE EXPLORER was to write a story “about children performing acts of extraordinary courage against all odds” and that she wants “to encourage children to be an explorer, no matter where [they] are.”

Meet Katherine Rundell, all the way from England, on Friday, September 29th, from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. at Lemuria Bookstore. Call to reserve a signed copy of THE EXPLORER today! 601.366.7619

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Author Q & A with Rosemary Wells

Interview with Rosemary Wells by Clara Martin.

In the world of children’s books, there is a duo named Max and Ruby. They are bunny siblings: Ruby is the older sister who is very bossy, and Max is her little brother who is always up to mischief. The Max & Ruby series spans over forty books and now have their own television show on Nick Jr.

rosemary wellsTheir creator, Rosemary Wells, has been writing and illustrating books for over 45 years. She began working in publishing as a book designer for seven years. All through her writing and illustrating career, from her picture books to her young adult novels, Rosemary Wells advocates for children’s literacy wherever she goes. Born in New York City and raised in rural New Jersey, she now resides in Connecticut.

Lemuria Books is thrilled to welcome ROSEMARY WELLS, the author of MAX & RUBY for a story time and signing on MONDAY, OCTOBER 2ND from 3:30 – 4:30 pm. This story time is free and open to the public!

A presentation given by Rosemary Wells that is geared towards adults & educators will run from 5 pm to 6 pm, and a RSVP is necessary. To RSVP, please call Lemuria Books at 601-366-7619.

In an interview below, Rosemary Wells talks about her own characters, her illustration process, and the importance of reading books aloud to children.

What drew you to stories about toddlers and young children?

I can’t really tell you why. Perhaps because I had young children around me, and still do. I find them hilarious. My own childhood–I was as a tomboy, a very dedicated artist, and utterly non-compliant with what I didn’t like in school–also added to this. It always does in authors. We go back over our own lives and see, in the new lives around us, many of the same traits and predicaments.

However, I have also written 4 books for middle grade readers and 7 novels for YA!

Tell me a little bit about Max & Ruby (and your other characters).

What I really love is the sibling dynamic. It is so real. Max and Ruby are my own two children. This is how they constantly behaved with each other when they thought I wasn’t present or listening to them. Ruby never stopped guiding Max in all the ways of the world that Max had to learn. Max never took anything she said seriously. Never listened to a single word she said. This is a story dynamic which never ran out on me. It is a universal sister/brother routine in all countries in the world. That’s the reason the parents aren’t in the stories. None of the funny stuff would happy with Mom or Dad there. So where are they? In the next room, listening!

felix stands tallMy equally favorite character is Yoko. My next book is another Felix and Fiona melodrama friendship book from Candlewick. And next year, I have a book from Macmillan that introduces new characters, Kit and Kaboodle, twin pussycats and their little nemesis, Spinka, the mouse.

Why are you drawn to drawing animals to represent your children?

I draw animals better. People love animals, particularly young ones. That’s why we take stuffed animals too bed—not so much stuffed people!

Children depicted in illustration cannot do what animals can do on a page. Nor do they engender as much humor or sympathy unless drawn by Garth Williams! Kids are more serious to draw and elicit more reader questioning.

Can you tell me about your illustration style & process?

I wish I could answer this better. I draw. I’ve put in my 30,000 hours! I use mostly watercolor but have branched out to pastel. I copy. What I can’t draw well, I copy out of books. When I need inspiration, I look to the great illustrators and commercial artists of the early twentieth century. Trademarks, advertising, etc.  I encourage all my young artists in my workshops to concentrate, copy, and revise. Revise everything, because each time you do it again, the work gets better.

What do you love about writing and illustrating books for children?

It has endless possibilities. It’s what I do really well. It has been and continues to be a very successful career for me. I never tire of it because each book I do is alive. When they stop being alive, then I will stop. Not until then.

What were some books that made an impact on you as a child, and what do you hope your books do for children today?

We had very few books in the 1940s and 50s compared to today. Robert Lawson, Beatrix Potter, Garth Williams, who else? I don’t know. I copied them all. Lavishly illustrated fairy tales. We read them again and again. As a writer, I think that made me realize I better write books to be read over and over.

This is why I know for a fact, that although I had a golden childhood, safe from want, harm, and discord, that my great escape was books. No matter where we are on life’s scale, we need escape. Kids eat it up and they get it best from books. (worst, I have to add from video games, which are toxic and free of any moral compass or other good outcome.)

We need to read real books (not tablets) to our babies, starting very early in the first year of life.

The one great privilege that fortunate, advanced kids have over the less the fortunate is reading-aloud parents and regular visits to the library.

So, if we read to our children twenty minutes every day, they will listen to us, learn from their many books more than we can ever imagine.

When they reach kindergarten, no matter how underserved their childhoods, those children who are read to all the time will be the level equal of any privileged child in their school. They will be prepared to learn and advance in school. If you read every day aloud, you can almost guarantee your child’s bright future.

There are very recent live MRI scans of children’s brains while being read to. The critical development of the brain takes place in the first five years of life and apparently nothing stimulates it into permanent growth like read aloud stories in the parents’ voices. This treasure of childhood, reading aloud requires only a library card.

Books taught me to think in ways neither my parents not my teachers ever taught me. This is why it is so important that we encourage the next generation to be readers. We are in a national crisis in our country today. My two cents is this: We don’t need any more followers in America today. We need leaders. Real leaders are critical thinkers. They become critical thinkers from reading everything, things they agree with and things they don’t. Our kids need this cognitive training in order to become good citizens. Good citizens are independent. Good leaders understand the difference between facts/science and made up fairy tales that are narrow opinions and lead nowhere. If our country as we know and love it is to survive, the leaders of our next generation need generosity of spirit. While very young, the leaders of tomorrow have to learn to be patient, inclusive of those unlike them, kind to the less fortunate, courteous, curious, and able to dream a better world for all of us, not just for self.

Much of this comes from good parenting and educating. The rest comes from books.

Meet Rosemary Wells at Lemuria Books on Monday, October 2nd!

3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Story Time & Signing

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Rosemary Wells Presentation on Literacy*

*Adults Only, Please RSVP at 601-366-7619

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Jamie sings the praises of ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Since I’ve been working at Lemuria, I’ve self-imposed a  rule of not writing about a book till I’ve finished it.

I am currently breaking that rule. Demolishing it. Splintering it without a shadow of hesitation or guilt.

sing unburied singJesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is lots of things:  brilliant, gorgeous, haunting, raw, tender, honest. Much like her National Book Award winner Salvage the Bones (a personal favorite of mine­), Sing takes place in an impoverished area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Both books’ characters find themselves in a mix of relationships—familial, internal, romantic—yet Sing is in no way a cookie-cutter redux of SalvageSing shifts through various first-person narrators, and does so in a way that’s easy to follow.  If you’re having nightmarish flashbacks of Faulkner, don’t: these leaps between characters (mostly the 13-year-old, endearing Jojo and his difficult mother Leonie) aren’t pretentious displays of cleverness for its own sake. One of Ward’s gifts as a writer is a conspicuous wedge of human empathy. By getting into the mind of Jojo, we see his desire for toughness and tenderness, his need to be protector for his younger sister Kayla, and his longing to be a surrogate father for Kayla the way his own grandfather is for him. While Jojo lends us his frustration at his absent mother, the chapters from Leonie’s perspective help round her character. Her drug use isn’t entirely selfish—it’s her way of self-medicating the hurt of the violent death of her older brother. We see her doubting her own abilities as a mother, cursing herself, but trapped in her own self-doubt so as to prevent her from risking connection with her kids. Ward isn’t necessarily excusing Leonie’s behavior so much as she is explaining it, and showing us the complexity of the human heart in conflict with itself, to steal a phrase from Faulkner.

Ward’s fiction and nonfiction shows us the importance of personal, familial history, and how things from previous generations aren’t really all that previous. Her memoir Men We Reaped illustrates the struggle of generational poverty and quiet, systemic racism perfectly. The notion of inheritance manifests itself in Sing in a fascinating way: ghosts. I would never classify this novel as a fantasy/supernatural genre piece, nor do I think that is Ward’s intent. Leonie sees her dead brother, Given, but can’t hear him speak; Jojo meets his grandfather’s dead friend Richie, who tells him about their days in Parchman. The past isn’t past—another Faulkner phrase I’ll paraphrase—and the ghosts in Sing show us that.  The myriad difficulties of poverty, compounded with the burdens of racism, are hard to get away from.  They haunt their victims, float constantly over their shoulders, peek in-and-out of their vision, or sometimes present themselves in full view.

There’s probably more about the novel that this piece is missing. I’m halfway through the book, and as soon as I finish this post, I’ll open Sing, Unburied, Sing back up and skip sleep.  The book’s that good.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to it.

Get to Know Guy

How long have you worked at Lemuria?
3 months

What do you do at Lemuria?
I’ve just started to help manage our First Editions Club.

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What are you reading right now?
The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559
Ranger Games – very much looking forward to the reading on November 2

What’s currently on your bedside table (book purgatory)?
The Iliad and The Social History of Art

How many books do you usually read at a time?
A few, usually different genres

I know it’s difficult, but give us your current top five books.
1. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
2. Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print
3. St. Paul: A Screenplay by Pier Palo Pasolini
4. The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima
5. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

Favorite authors?
In addition to Delany, Mishima, and Barry: Aldous Huxley, Jorge Luis Borges, John Berger, Frank Herbert, Roberto Bolaño, Alain Badiou, and too many others

Any particular genre that you’re especially in love with?
Science Fiction, always and forever, I hope

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What did you do before you worked at Lemuria?
I taught printmaking courses at Mississippi College

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If you could share lasagna with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?
(Vegetarian) lasagna with Badiou, drinks with Dante and Mishima.

What would you ask them?
How to live.

Why do you like working at Lemuria?
The spirit of the place. Everyone here deep-down cares about books and that’s a very cool thing.

If we could have any living author visit the store and do a reading, who would you want to come?
Patrick Rothfuss for book 3

If Lemuria could have ANY pet (mythical or real), what do you think it should be?
Very intelligent ferrets

If you had the ability to teleport, where would you go first?
In space only – Tikal
In space and time – Florentine Republic

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: ‘Resurrection of Joan Ashby’

A couple of months ago the store got advanced copies of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, this new novel from Flatiron Books that was touted to be a HUGE debut. Upon first seeing the book, I decided it certainly appeared to be huge in size, but whether or not it was a great debut was yet to be seen. I will be the first to tell you that I tend to steer away from physically large books, because I think they will take a lifetime to read (even though they never actually do). So, my first thought was that I would never actually read this book.

But then Kelly, our manager, said that she had started the book, and it was absolutely amazing. This was a large vote in the positive, because Kelly is a tough critic, guys, and if she says something is amazing I am quick to take notice. I lugged this tome home and vowed to start that night. To say the next week and a half of my life was just me trying to plot out when I could get back to reading this book is an accurate assessment. I became devoted to Joan Ashby and the story of her life, and I have yet to stop talking about this book. So let’s get down to me actually telling you about this story:

Joan Ashby became a wildly successful and award-winning author as a young woman. This could be attributed to the fact that she has been dedicated to her craft all of her life. An article in Literature magazine (Fall Issue)) at the start of the book prints something from her journal that she wrote when she was just 13 years old. It is a list of commitments to herself and requirements to becoming a great author. The list goes like this:

1) Do not waste time
2) Ignore Eleanor when she tells me I need friends [she is referring to her mother]
3) Read great literature every day
4) Write every day
5) Rewrite every day
6) Avoid crushes and love
7) Do not entertain any offer of marriage
8) Never ever have children

9) Never allow anyone to get in my way

As you can see, Joan was a very intense and dedicated little girl. She knew what she wanted, come hell or high water! But of course love will find a way, won’t it? And it certainly does for Joan when she meets Martin. Joan is upfront with Martin from the very start when she tells him that her writing will always come first and children are completely off the table. No exceptions. Clear enough, right?

Haha, wrong again

Before long, Joan will end up unexpectedly pregnant. When Martin is visibly delighted by this development, Joan can’t help but feel betrayed by his quickness to break their vow. So a child is born…and then another child. All during this time, Joan is trying to complete her highly anticipated first novel. Being a wife and a mother comes with many demands, as many of you women out there know. Just reading a book in its entirety is a struggle, much less actually writing one. All through this telling of Joan’s life, snippets of her own incredible short story are sprinkled throughout the book. It is easy to see how she became such an acclaimed short story writer so early in her career.

I don’t want to give too much about the story away, but I will tell you that she does complete her novel and there is a betrayal of Shakespearean proportions. I was reading this book on a plane and when the big event occurred, the woman sitting beside me must surely have been worried about my mental stability. I was breathing heavily and grinding my teeth. I feel sure I made her very uncomfortable, but oh well!

I truly cannot say enough about how much I loved this book. I found Joan incredibly relatable, aside from her obvious genius. She is a woman who says the thing you are not supposed to say about motherhood and being a wife: it is not enough for her. She is not completely fulfilled by the triumphs of her family; she needs something of her own. Of course she loves her family, but she has creative goals and needs. Being creative also, I relate to this. I loved Joan Ashby and I found myself cheering for her this entire book. I literally could have read this forever and been completely satisfied.

Signed first editions of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas are still available.

‘Genuine Fraud’ by E. Lockhart is a genuine gem

genuine fraudI was first turned on to E. Lockhart when my best friend and trusted book consultant recommended Lockhart’s We Were Liars. She couldn’t put it down. She loved it. She hated it. It wrecked her. All she could do after was take a nap. She couldn’t stop talking about it. This got me interested and when I saw she was coming out with a new book called Genuine Fraud and we had an advanced copy I knew I just had to read it.

Knowing what I did about We Were Liars, I was hesitant to believe or trust anything in her new novel Genuine Fraud. I knew nothing and no one  would be as simple as they seemed.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Lockhart introduces a new and captivating suspense and psychological horror novel with Genuine Fraud. The book starts off with chapter 18, in June 2017. Hint: you should pay attention to the dates. The story is mainly told in flashbacks over the course of the past few years. The story is about Imogen and Jule and their friendship and time together. It’s a story of those who lack morals. It is a story about those that lack ambition and others who will do whatever it takes to get what they want. It’s a story about liars and cheaters (in more ways than one). It’s about accidents and premeditation and telling more would give too much away.

If you have read We Were Liars, be warned the only similarity is that they both take you by surprise. Genuine Fraud is very straight forward and, in some ways, this makes the mystery even harder to figure out. It seems like things are one way, and because they are presented as fact, I was always questioning what was real and what wasn’t. It is a very fast and short read, perfect for a weekend binge read. It has just enough ambiguity in the plot to keep you flipping the pages until the very end.

Author Q & A with Panny Mayfield

Interview by Jana Hoops. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (September 3)

Panny Flautt Mayfield

Panny Flautt Mayfield

As an award-winning journalist and lifelong Mississippi Delta native, Panny Mayfield of Tutwiler has captured decades of blues and gospel music history through her camera lens–and her debut book, Live From the Mississippi Delta (University Press of Mississippi), tells that unique story through her unique, up-close perspective.

The recipient of more than 30 awards granted by the Mississippi Press Association, the Associated Press, the Mississippi Film Commission, and the College Public Relations Association of Mississippi, Mayfield’s work has been exhibited in museums across the U.S. and in Europe.

In Live from the Mississippi Delta, she shares more than 200 photos of Delta performers and their musicians, fans, friends, and families, taken at churches, clubs, festivals, and iconic juke joints, alongside her own detailed accounts of the lives and fortunes of dozens of familiar blues and gospel performers–including those who were Delta natives as well as international superstars who traveled from around the world to pay homage to the legends who influenced their own music.

Tell me about your childhood in Tutwiler and how you came to be a noted Mississippi Delta photographer.

Growing up in Tutwiler, a busy railroad town south of Clarksdale, I enjoyed small town life watching Randolph Scott movies at the Tutrovansum Theatre (a [portmanteau] for the Mississippi communities it served: Tutwiler, Rome, Vance, and Sumner), playing kick the can, and catching lightning bugs in Mason jars. I was aware of places like Lula Mae’s Sunrise Cafe where infectious music spilled out on the street, but it was totally off limits to me until I became an adult.

Photography fascinated me at about the age of 12. I began taking pictures and writing about cross-country family trips, became newspaper editor in high school and at Ole Miss, and began a lifelong career as a journalist and photographer.

I began taking blues photographs in the late 70s when Sid Graves founded Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum. Bluesman Wesley Jefferson needed a portfolio and asked me to photograph his Southern Soul Band playing at Margaret’s Blue Diamond Blues Club on the railroad tracks in Clarksdale’s New World District. I organized a folder for James “Super Chikan” Johnson who needed to get serious booking gigs.

It was Mae, Michael James’ lady, who began teaching me to dance to blues music in her kitchen. Decades later, I’m still working on my dancing and sharing the drama of the passionate music that is the Mississippi Delta blues.

After a career as a newspaper journalist and a public relations director for a community college, Live from the Mississippi Delta is your first book. How did this book come about?

My careers with newspapers, magazines, and Coahoma Community College were incredibly busy. Although I considered a book somwhere down the line, I was busy making a living and meeting ever-present deadlines until I retired in 2013. I was encouraged to put a book together by Molly Porter of Vermont, who scanned many of my photographs. Initially it was a book of photographs until Craig Gill, University Press of Mississippi’s director, urged me to include stories and text about many of the images, musicians, and events. The book itself is half text, half photos.

Explain what the blues, as a music genre, means to the Mississippi Delta.

I’m not sure if I can explain how much blues means to the Mississippi Delta. They are inseparable, conjoined. When the eminent folklorist and musician Alan Lomax returned to Clarksdale in 1994, he emphasized the similar, unique qualities of Coahoma County blues to the original rhythmic music of Senegal in Africa, and he encouraged a cultural revival in the Delta.

You helped launch Clarksdale’s Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in 1988. Are you still involved in it?

Jim O’Neal, co-founder of Living Blues magazine, and research director of Mississippi’s Blues Trail, co-founded the Sunflower River Blues Association, and he was here last month for the festival’s 30th anniversary. In 1988, we were considered an avant-garde bunch, but we followed Jim’s lead, staging a free music festival showcasing local musicians as well as well-known artists.

I asked Jim at that time what he thought of today’s Sunflower (festival), and he said he was glad it continued to be a unique, grassroots event where people felt comfortable and at home. This year, we had people from New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Paris, and Bangkok, Thailand.

I’m still publicist for the festival and I love our multiracial, diverse membership. I believe this contributes to the success of our festival.

Your book includes sections on Delta landscapes, “homegrown” and international blues musicians, Delta festivals, juke joints, and more, and your career as a photographer has given you front-row access to scores of musically influential events and people. What have you enjoyed the most and what have you found to be the most challenging?

My book begins with my own beginning in Tutwiler–also the birthplace of blues. it’s where W.C. Handy first head a guitar being played with a kitchen knife in 1903, and where the charismatic Robert Plant paid tribute in 2009 to the music that influenced his own phenomenal career.

I have been one incredibly person to have this background and to fine-tune it in Clarksdale, center of the blues universe. My books “homegrown icons”–radio broadcaster Early Wright, who invited me to his birthday dinners every February 10; and barber Wade Walton with his stuffed monkey Flukie–are just as important to me as international celebrities ZZ Top, James Brown, and Garth Brooks.

Describe Clarksdale’s association with its “sister city,” Notodden, Norway.

Clarksdale’s sister city relationship with Notodden, Norway, began in 1996 with initial visits by Norwegian journalists, musicians, and then city offiicials interested in researching blues history to enhance their own international festival and its connection with the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival.

Norwegian officials dined on catfish; were entertained at the Rivermount Lounge, a local club favored by Little Milton, Ike Turner, and Bobby Rush; and were taken to a Marvin Sease blues show at the City Auditorium that went on until 2 a.m. The next morning, they attended a service at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church at Friar’s Point, where members lined up to shake every Norwegian’s hand. Overnight, we became “cousins,” and exchanges between the two cities have flourished.

Tell me about the cover of your book.

live from the mississippi deltaI get emotional about the cover of my book. The musician–Arthneice Jones–is one of the most talented and articulate bluesmen I have known. A harmonica master and singer/songwriter, Arthneice was leader of The Stone Gas Band–a talented and popular bunch who played all over north Mississippi and Memphis before his untimely death. A musician who worked in concrete, Arthneice intrigued, charmed, and connected intimately with Sunflower acoustic audiences each summer with sidewalk philosophy mixed with music.

My initial choice for the book cover was a juke joint scene from Shelby’s Dew Drop Inn. But when University Press of Mississippi emailed, unannounced, the image of Arthneice imposed on raw Delta cotton fields, i cried. It was so perfect.

Do you have any plans for more books?

As a journalist trained to condense news and feature articles into brief, interesting opening lines with zero personal commentary, writing a book was a new experience. Fortunately, Craig Gill and the UPM staff were patient and encouraging. Helpful also were remembrances of my mother’s storytelling traditions.

A future book about 25 years of celebrating America’s great playwright with the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival is a possibility.

Newberry-winner Victoria Jamieson offers a delightful book

Navigating middle school is tricky terrain, even under normal circumstances.

Imogene, who goes by Impy, is entering middle school for the first time after growing up living in the Florida Renaissance Faire with her annoying little brother and her parents as cast members at the faire.

Now that she is old enough to train as a squire, she can’t wait to participate in the jousting, human chess match, and other knightly duties. But first, she has to enter a place more dangerous than a dragon’s lair: middle school.

It is not the idyllic pace she imagines it to be. It’s filled with mean older kids, locker combinations that are hard to remember, and the ordeal of making new friends. As Impy balances her “at home” identity as a squire in the Florida Renaissance Faire, filled with period costumes and speaking Olde English, she is embarrassed to share this part of her life with her new friends from school.

Where does she belong?

This graphic novel is filled with a great cast of characters, familiar middle school anxiety, and, of course, all the merry fun of a Renaissance Faire!

victoria jamiesonSo, lords and ladies of the land, we welcometh you to a night with the creator of All’s Faire in Middle School, Victoria Jamieson. Jamieson won a Newberry Honor in 2016 for her first graphic novel, Roller Girl.

For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, All’s Faire in Middle School will be a delight.

The Tuesday event starts at 5 p.m. with a reading in Lemuria’s DotCom building in Jackson. A ticketed signing will follow.

Lovers Defying Doubt in ‘White Fur’ by Jardine Libaire

white furWhite Fur by Jardine Libaire is a gritty, uncommon love story set in New York in the 80s between two very uncommon people.

Elise Perez is a girl from a broken home, a bad situation, a girl from the wrong side of town, whatever you want to say….she didn’t grow up easy. Her life has been filled with taking care of siblings when no one else was around to feed them, working dead end jobs just to pay the rent, and dropping out of high school to get away from it all. She’s made some bad decisions, cleaned herself up, fallen back down, but ultimately knows what she wants out of life.

Jamey Hyde is a junior at Yale, who grew up in a privileged family. He’s the heir to a family fortune, drives a fancy car, and has all intentions to graduate and follow in his father’s footsteps as an investment banker. Although it seems like it, he doesn’t have the “perfect” life everyone thinks.

The two come from very different worlds, yet you immediately feel the raw, desperate love between them when they meet one another. They’ve both been let down by so many others throughout their lives that when they’re together there’s a connection that’s hard to break. But, oh…others definitely try to break it. Jamey’s family desperately want things to end, while Elise has no family to really turn to. Relationships are ruined, bridges are burned, and love is pushed to its limits…several times.

I couldn’t stop reading about each character that Libaire introduced. Every time she established a new detail of Jamey or Elise, I could see it so clearly in my mind. She’s a great writer, and the attention that she shows with her characters and their personal relationships really shines through.

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