Thursday, November 16, 2017

NOVEMBER 2017 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

            The dragonfly…messengers of discovery and enlightenment;
              the keeper of dreams showing us that anything is possible.
Chris Batt welcomed 18 Bookers to “Kingdom Arcadia” including Barbara Creach walking without assistance on her two new knees. Melanie Prebis offered the following review of the novel:

“Before I read this book I was unaware of the scandal surrounding the Tennessee
Children’s Home Society and Georgia Tann. The stealing of children from their birth parents actually happened, with single mothers, women in mental wards, and indigent families targeted and tricked into signing away their rights while still under the effects of postpartum sedation. Some were even told their babies had died. Children who were older reported being snatched off the streets, walking home from school and from houseboats on the river like the children in the book. It is estimated that 500 children simply vanished between the 1920’s and 1950 from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society due to inhumane treatment and lack of medical care, and thousands were adopted for profit, having their names and birth records altered so that birth families could not find them. Many of the children were adopted by high profile individuals such as politicians and Hollywood celebrities at exorbitant fees that were pocketed by Georgia Tann. It is estimated that she illegally made 10 million dollars by today’s standards. Although this book is fictional, it is based on real life experiences of children taken from their parents during this time.

This book is the story of two families, the Fosses, a poor family living on a riverboat in the waters near Memphis, and a well to do political family in South Carolina. It begins with the Foss children being taken from their home under false pretenses while their mother is giving birth in a Memphis hospital. They are taken to the T.C.H.S where they are prized for having blonde hair. Although the children hope their father will come rescue them, over time they are adopted by different families despite the efforts of the oldest girl, Rill, (who was renamed May) to keep the family together.

Avery Stafford, a lawyer and daughter of a prominent family in South Carolina, is being groomed to take over her senator father’s seat in the event that he does not survive his cancer. She is engaged to a childhood friend, Elliot, with whom she has a comfortable relationship. Avery is very close to her grandmother Judy, who is in the early stages of dementia and recently has been moved to an upscale nursing home, which is a political issue her father is dealing with. At a publicity event that Avery attends with her father at a different nursing home, she has a chance meeting with May Crandall, who calls Avery “Fern.” May thinks that the dragonfly bracelet Avery is wearing (which was given to her by her grandmother Judy) is hers. When the bracelet is later found in May’s possession, Avery goes back to the nursing home and sees a picture in May’s room that seems familiar and takes a photo of it. Later, when Avery questions her grandmother, she recognizes the photo and mentions the words “Queenie” and “Arcadia.” This starts Avery on a quest to solve the mystery of her family.

The book goes back and forth from present day to the past experiences of the Foss children at the T.C.H.S. During her search for the truth of her ancestry, Avery finds out a lot about herself and what she wants for her future. Although the theme of this book is about deplorable events in our history, it is also a testament to the love and devotion of families, resiliency of the young, and how the past effects our future. This book illustrates that Georgia Tann was incorrect when she said that children were blank slates that could become anything you wished them to be.”
Our discussion centered on adopted children…the joys and sometimes sorrows associated with the process. Some of the children adopted through Ms. Tann’s orphanage did receive life changing and often life-saving placements, while others were merely moneymakers for her business. We talked about the difficulty to unearth biological parents with sealed adoption records drawing a fine line between the rights of the adoptee versus the mother who relinquished her claim to her child. One side decries that adopted children are living their lives from chapter two and deserve to start from the beginning while the other side fiercely protects the birthparent’s right for privacy. Adoption laws today reflect an evolving attitude, as mutual agreement by both parties enables an adoptee and birthparents to connect with the other. Those with personal experience offered that disturbing childhood behavior could occur in any family dynamic, not just with an adopted child.

We talked about some of the confusion about who was who…specifically “Grandma Judy.” Part of the problem was it deferred to the reader’s assumption rather than something the author clearly defined. Some thought/hoped she was Camille, but her coloring was not right…others thought she was one of the twins reportedly stillborn and taken from the hospital. One thing was clear, Ms. Tann’s “unethical” arms reached into hospitals, political offices, and the rich and famous. The ending was satisfactory to most, the consensus being if all the Foss children were reunited, it would seem contrived and unbelievable. Personally, I thought if Avery’s character were as vividly developed as the other’s, she would have been a more convincing advocate in her relationships with her fiancé, Trent Jr., and her family…making me favor the historical story over her personal plight.

We have to applaud the author’s use of symbolism in the dragonfly bracelets. These harmless insects represent the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life, evident as the dragonfly scurries across the water…the water signifying the harmony of a deeper mind…of a dreaming mind. Queenie and Briny referred to their abode as Kingdom Arcadia…Arcadia in Greek Mythology means a simple and rustic pastoral happiness…their life on the river. Bravo Ms. Wingate!
                                                        On the Business Side
We encourage everyone to support the PWC Holiday Market, November 17 from 5-7 p.m. in conjunction with hosted happy hour. It is a great opportunity to check some items off your Christmas list and recognize the creative efforts of our talented community.

Bookers will participate in a dedication ceremony at the Memory Garden in honor of Jane Freer. Details will be forthcoming as soon as we can coordinate a date with Gary.

The annual Books in Bloom Athens library fundraiser scheduled for April 13 will feature Jeff Abbott, a Texas author who writes mystery/suspense/thrillers. Bookers have always supported this event and we hope to do so again in the upcoming year.

We have filled out the remaining calendar for this year...detailed below, but we also discussed some other noteworthy books. You might like to curl up with a good book for those rainy cold days that surely will occur during our winter months such as:

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, published in 2015, a multigenerational family saga.
Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom set in 1830 about a slave who fled a Virginia plantation and is passing as a white silversmith in Philadelphia’s society.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is based on a true story about an African American nurse in Flint Michigan working in labor and delivery for twenty years who is ordered not to touch the baby of a white supremacist.
A Long Way Home, a 2015 memoir by Saroo Brierley (Lion is the motion picture based on the book.) about a young man who used Google Earth to rediscover his life and home in India to Australia and back again.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published in 1998, dubbed a dystopian fiction that means the exploration of social and political structures in a dark nightmarish world…Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games are two examples of this genre.
Lonesome Dove, Pulitzer Prize winner, by Larry McMurtry, the third in an epic frontier series.
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving set in the summer of 1952 with two eleven-year old boys playing Little League baseball. One of the boys hits a foul ball and kills the other boy’s mother. (Melanie has agreed to review this WHEN we select it for the upcoming year!!)
                                   COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                                   WHITE:          LIGHT READ
                                   PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                   RED:              CHALLENGING
December 12                          The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Set in England in 1976, quirky, charming coming of age story of two ten year old girls.
We are returning to our regular 10 a.m. time although we will be reducing and streamlining our menu. Bonnie Magee will be our food czar again for our holiday party.
                                                Home of: Beverly Dossett
                                                Reviewer: Ms. World Wide Web
January 9, 2018                     Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Based on a true story of a forgotten hero, an Italian teenager during World War II…soon to be a motion picture.
                                                Home of Daryl Daniels
                                                Reviewer: Patty Evans
February 13                           The Mourning Parade by Dawn Reno Langley
The mother of two sons killed in a school shooting leaves her successful veterinary practice to volunteer in an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
                                                LIGHT RED
                                                Home of Bonnie Magee
Reviewer: Jean Alexander
March 13                                The Rainwater Secret by Monica Shaw
Debut historical fiction by Dallas author based on the life of her great aunt about a missionary woman in Africa to teach leper children.
Home of Patty Evans
We are excited to announce the author will be joining us for the meeting
April 10                                  The Uncertain Season by Texas author Ann Howard Creel
Follows the lives of three women in the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston…one living a privileged life, her disgraced and flamboyant cousin, and an unnamed girl living on the streets.
                                                Home of Sandy Molander
                                                Reviewer: TBD
May 15                                   Change of date due to travel plans
To Everything A Season – Sherri Schaeffer, a debut set in Amish country in Lancaster Pennsylvania where two worlds collide forcing them together.
                                                Home of Donna Walter
                                                Reviewer: TBD
Summer Read:                      America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha, “Patsy” becomes the keeper of the secrets and her father’s confidant after her mother’s death and his appointment as the American Minister to France.

“No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step….”
Happy Reading,                     

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