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In the Spotlight

Black Writers Bring Baldwin Back to Life in The Fire This Time

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward (an author I raved about last year), is on the short list of my favorite books of 2016. A gorgeous collection of essays and poems on racial issues in America, it’s a book that punched me in the gut in the way that excellent writing tends to do. Describing her feelings on the book as a whole, Ward states:

“I believe there is power in words, power in asserting our existence, our experience, our lives, through words. That sharing our stories confirms our humanity. That it creates community, both within our own community and beyond it.”

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Discography Dilemmas

I never listened to Bob Dylan growing up. I blame it on my parents. It’s not like they banned him from the house. They just weren’t Dylan fans.

In those pre-Napster, pre- job days, it was either the radio or my parents’ music collection: Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. There was plenty of the Monkees (my mom never grew out of her girlhood crush on Davy Jones), but not much of the Beatles, and Dylan just wasn’t on the radar. Read More..

All Things Possible and Nothing Safe in Cooper & Vanderbilt Family Memoir

An enjoyable aspect of reading memoirs is the potential life lessons that can be gleaned from another person’s example. There are times this knowledge doesn’t come directly from the author themselves, yet it can be found in the manner they lived their life. Also within memoirs, there exists the potential of surprise in learning new information about the author, the opportunity to hear their innermost thoughts, and, possibly, to connect with them on a universal level. Read More..

YA Backlist: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

Yes, that catchy electropop hit by Ellie Goulding from 2012 is the inspiration and anthem for this young adult novel from 2015. Anything Could Happen is a light-hearted, pleasant read filled with optimism and a bit of cheese. Read More..

Acclaimed Artist & Author Shares a Serendipitous Love of Letters

I have a deep sense of pride for our community’s most creative citizens; savoring local artists’ and authors’ works is often more satisfying than fine dining. Lawrence-based artist and author Stephen T. Johnson’s work is among the finest. His children’s picture books are award-winning: A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet was named one of the Best Illustrated Books of the Year by the New York Times, and Alphabet City was the recipient of a Caldecott Honor, in addition to other accolades. Read More..

Local Author Karen Vaughn Talks T-Rex with Short Story Debut

It’s been a good month for Lawrence writers. Author Karen Vaughn brings us the most recent piece of local literature with her debut, A Kiss for a Dead Film Star, a genre-blending collection of short stories. Read More..

Take Two Anne Tylers and Call Me in the Morning

I have a new mantra. Here it is: Welcome to your old age, Randi. Okay. So it’s more of a mantra phrase, but still, it’s the repetition that gives a mantra its calming mojo. I use it whenever I feel a twinge where I’ve not twinged before, whenever an injury doesn’t heal quite as quickly or neatly as it used to, and whenever there’s some change in my overall sense of myself—of the me I have grown used to over the years. Read More..

The Hour of Land Explores Shared Stories and Shared Space

They look pretty good for one hundred years old, don’t they? Happy Birthday to our National Parks! Well, this doesn’t date the ageless glory contained within the parks, but rather the National Park Service, established on August 25, 1916.

Even now, there are parks who have not had their stories fully told; how did I not know about a parade of massive earthen bears lining a section of the Mississippi River? Hundreds of these centuries-old earthworks quietly reside at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, one of the 412 units of the Park Service, and I have writer Terry Tempest Williams to thank for introducing me to them. Read More..

The Rules and The Exceptions

I’m a natural-born rule follower. If there’s a rule in place, it almost never occurs to me to ask why it’s there or whether it’s worth following; it’s a rule, so unless it’s a pile of ethical garbage, I’m probably going to follow it.

My preference for strong, clear guidelines in all things (Obligers, am I right?) even bleeds over into my reading habits. I’ll often set rules for myself about what I can and can’t read; it’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to reading challenges, which lay out the rules in no uncertain terms: read books about these topics in this order. Ah, sweet, sweet order. Read More..

Adventure Parenting Lit

When you think of having kids, do you envision yourself as bold, daring, audacious, and full of adventure? Some of you may say yes, but for the rest of you– why not? Read More..