Summer Reading Challenge hits hot topics

Published 12:01 am Sunday, May 14, 2017

This year, we focus on the challenge part of the Summer Reading Challenge.

The chosen books are “1984,” by George Orwell, “Almost Famous Women,” by Megan Mayhew Bergman, and “Blood Done Sign My Name” by Timothy Tyson.

The discussions will be June 13, July 11 and Aug. 15, featuring Deirdre Parker Smith, book editor of the Salisbury Post, Wendy Beeker, owner of South Main Book Co., and Dr. Ken Walden, a professor at Hood Theological Seminary. All discussions will be on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at Rowan Public Library Headquarters.

Jenny Hubbard again helped select the books and has coordinated the speakers.

We begin with “Almost Famous Women,” a collection of short stories about, well, exactly what the title says. The collection is fiction, but the characters are all real, like Daisy and Violet Hilton, Siamese twins who performed in shows and Vaudeville and ended up in Charlotte, where they died.

Bergman also writes of Joe Carstairs, “the fastest woman on water,” who was one of Marlene Dietrich’s lovers. And she shows how Jazz trumpeter Tiny Davis, a fiery black women, faced discrimination not just because of her color.

Join us to talk about these remarkable women on Tuesday, June 13.

The second book will be George Orwell’s “1984,” a topical choice with all the talk of fake news. If you read it back in college or high school, we encourage you to read it again. The message Orwell presents is chilling, to say the least, and it seems even more possible in 2017 than it did in 1984. Orwell’s dystopian novel was published in 1949, when 1984 seemed a long way off. 

The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation. 

Orwell’s fictional story seems to always be relative to our world. Still on school reading lists, “1984” has left a big imprint on society as words like “Big Brother” and “newspeak” are used and understood today. Please join us for this informal discussion. 

Our third selection is “Blood Done Sign My Name.” If you happened to catch Mike Wiley’s one-man show this past winter at St. John’s Lutheran Church, you will understand why we chose this book.

When, in 1970, a young black veteran was beaten to death in public by a white store owner and his two sons, the whole town of Oxford, N.C., took sides, including the author’s father, the pastor of the all-white Methodist church. 

Tyson, who was 10 at the time, spins a riveting account of the summer-long trial, which calls to mind “To Kill a Mockingbird” except this story is true.  The discussion on Aug. 15 will be led by Walden, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at  Hood Theological Seminary.

As always with the Summer Reading Challenge, read a couple of the books, read all or read none. The conversation is always interesting. Most sessions will include discussion of the book and a question and answer period.

And most evenings will take just one hour of your time, unless the discussion gets really lively. All ages and all genders are welcome — we’re talking to you, gentlemen.

Books will be available for check out at the library and for purchase at South Main Book Co.

Please join us for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge.

— Deirdre Parker Smith