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Posts Tagged ‘Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness’

We begin our Autumn season with a post from our “3 questions” series. Since Cindy is both a funny, funny lady who tackles serious subjects and someone we are also lucky to call a friend, we are thrilled to begin our back from “gone reading” posts with her book recommendations. 

This “3 Questions” features Cindy Pierce, sex educator, college speaker, and author. She is on a mission to give students perspective and information to help navigate the cultural, media and peer pressures, particularly around their social lives and sexual relationships and equip parents to help them do so. Cindy hopes to help make those “difficult” sex ed conversations a little less difficult.

Ms. Pierce will be visiting the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Friday, September 25th to discuss her latest book, Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World. This event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

1. What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

  • For Goodness Sex by Al Vernaccio (2014) – His approach to sexuality education aligns with my own, and I learn so much from him. I recommend his book and TED talks to everyone who works with or has kids. I was so honored when he agreed to write the foreword to Sexploitation.
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (2014) – I have grown up being encouraged to put myself out there, roll with the inevitable stumbles, and find meaning (and humor) in all of it. When I read Daring Greatly, the title and stories in my latest solo show, Comfort in the Stumble fell into place. Righteous imperfectionism has been the theme and underlying message in my life and through all aspects of my work. A big part of the message in my book is that parenting and talking to kids about sex requires emotional courage and acceptance of setbacks and stumbles.
  • How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (2011) – Caitlin Moran is a feminist with an outrageous sense of humor. I admire her balance of being fierce, strong and bold, while also being honest and vulnerable in a healthy way. Being able to laugh at myself helps me find my way through life. When people read or hear my stories, they feel so much better about themselves; keeping the bar low is a bit of a public service I provide.

2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of tea with and why?

I would love to have tea with Wayne Dyer, author of The Power of Intention. He is one of the most influential spiritual guides in my life and will continue to be despite his recent passing. I have read The Power of Intention  several times and reread my highlighted sections of the book regularly. His message has been a major influence on how I approach each day with positive intention and gratitude. Over tea, I would like to hear more stories and examples of how the power of intention has manifested for him and others.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

NOTE: “3 Questions” is part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers.  The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present this ongoing series. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

Helen Peppe, author of Pigs Can't Swim

This post features Helen Peppe author of Pigs Can’t Swima writer and photographer’s wry but poignant account of her hardscrabble childhood and adolescence in rural New England. Honest yet humorous in its depiction of family dysfunction, Peppe’s book is a celebration of difference, resilience and the healing power of love.

Ms. Peppe’s photography and written work have received numerous awards and recognition, including placing first in the 2009 Word Worth Essay and Fiction Contest, and The Starving Writer Literary contest twice. She was one of seven finalists for the 2011 Annie Dillard Creative Nonfiction Award, as well as a Maine Literary Awards repeat finalist. Earlier, she focused primarily on writing for equine publications, homeschooling her children, teaching creative writing, and running her husband’s business. In 2009, she earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. She lives with her husband, children, dogs and horses in the Portland area.

Ms. Peppe will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 12th to discuss Pigs Can’t Swimand her life on a farm in New England. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

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1) What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens because of his sense of humor, use of irony, and for his compelling characterizations.
  • Fire Starter by Stephen King because of his story telling, his pacing, and his gift for entertaining and delighting.
  • In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall because of her honesty and love of animals based not for what they can do for her, but on what she can do for  them.

2) What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Jane Goodall because she decided what she wanted to do and she did it despite naysayers. She is a legend and knows more about human nature than most psychologists through her study of primates. Her temple is the jungle, her love for what lives in the jungle is unshakeable, her determination to protect the jungle, its inhabitants, and all of Earth’s resources is unflagging. Her honesty and generosity inspire me as a writer and animal advocate.

3) What books are currently on your bedside table?

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A friend of ours recently announced that his family is moving to South Africa as part of his new job as COO of  Grassroot Soccer – a Norwich based organization that uses soccer to promote HIV/AIDS education in Africa, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.  His mother-in-law asked us for great reads that would tell her more about the African countries where Grassroot Soccer (GRS) works. (We are guessing she is already planning a trip to see her grandchildren.)

We thought this offered The Book Jam a great opportunity to talk about exceptional books about Africa and to mention the important work of GRS.  Unfortunately, there is simply too much information for one post.  So we’ve split it into two.  Part Two will take a closer look at AIDS and its impact through the lens of literature, and have more information about the work of GRS.  It will post in May to coincide with the publication of John Irving’s new novel – In One Person – which while about a lot is at some level about the impact of AIDS on 1980s America.

Africa (orthographic projection).svg

Until then, Part One — sixteen books (the number is an homage to March Madness we suppose) we can recommend that deal with the African continent in some form or fashion.  The first four have our usual review length, the rest are a list for those of you looking for more titles.

Kenya: West with the Night (1942, 1983) by Beryl Markham. This incredible book shows how an amazing woman lived, rode, flew, loved and laughed in Africa in the early part of the 20th century.  This book may start out in Kenya, telling of Markham’s first passion (horses) but it then lifts the reader up, up, away, and into Northern Africa as Markham prepares to fly to Britain, and then finally to set records crossing the Atlantic solo. A fantastic piece of literature. As Hemingway said of Markham, she “can write rings around the rest of us who consider ourselves writers…it really is a bloody wonderful book.” A GREAT read and a superb book club book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Kenya, Zimbabwe (and the former Rhodesia),and Zambia: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (2011) and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight  by Alexandra Fuller (2003). Alexandra Fuller is simply one of the best memoir writers around. The stories of her British/Scotch family’s life in Africa are so outlandish, funny, and tragic that they could only be true. But it takes a writer of tremendous talent to bring the damaged characters, the exotic landscape, and the complex, violent history of so many countries  so fully to life. “Cocktail Hour” is Fuller’s love letter to her heroic, larger than life mother who after living in, farming in, and losing so much in Africa for all of her adult life is still there, still loving the continent, and finishing out her final expatriate days on a thriving fish farm. “Don’t Let’s Go“, Fuller’s earlier book about growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s will take your breath away and make you marvel at the resilience and adventurous spirit of this very special family.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow for the 2003 book. Only Lisa Cadow has read the 2011 book

Rwanda: Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (2012) – For me, this author’s amazing gift is that she makes a book about a country torn apart from genocide somehow hopeful, without flinching from the awful truths contained in Rwanda and in the world’s lack of response to the horrors there.  My theory of how she manages this is that you care for her hero, Jean Patrick, the Tutsi boy who anchors this narrative and his dream to run in the Olympics. And you care for all the unique characters he encounters while maturing from boy to young man, especially his girlfriend Bea and his room mate Daniel.  The story effectively illustrates the strong ties of family and friendship, and the love that can overcome hatred even as all hell breaks loose – even if ultimately, that love can not save everyone.  Since it is the second of the two winners of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction that I have truly enjoyed, I vow to add the annual winners to my annual reading lists. ~ Lisa Christie

Kenya: Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood by Elspeth Huxley (1959, 2000) This is a classic in the genre of white women with African childhoods, right up there with West With the Night and Out of Africa. I had never heard of it (really!) – surprising given that I’m a huge fan of this kind of literature – and, even though it is told from the perspective of a very young Elspeth, it was a joy to come to this tale in my 40’s. Elspeth’s voice is clear, amusing, innocent, and yet also somehow wise. She tells of her family’s moving to a remote area of Kenya to grow coffee in 1912 when she was just 5 years old. There are stories of snakes, the travails of building shelter in such a foreign land, and of her family’s encounters with the Masai, the Kikuyus, plus the various European and British “tribes” (the Scots, the Dutch) that struggled to settle in this unforgiving and forever challenging environment  ~ Lisa Cadow

BRIEFLY, More Titles to Enjoy

Bostwana: Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith. You will fall in love with Mma Ramatswe’s common sense approach to life and to solving mysteries in an everyday Botswana setting.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Kenya: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (1927) – Yes, Meryl Streep comes to mind, but this is a powerful piece of literature set in colonial Kenya even without an academy award-winning movie.  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

NigeriaTiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson (2011) and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (2010) – One, a coming of age novel that examines the complex political and economic problems of oil-rich Niger and another that (often humorously) explores the complexities of polygamy. Please refer to our October 11, 2011 blog for a more detailed review. ~ Lisa Cadow

South Africa: Books by Booker and Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer, including July’s People (1982) or The Pickup (2001). Insight into Apartheid and often erroneous expectations and misunderstandings among blacks and whites. ~ Lisa Christie

Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2012) -Two forms – one for kids and one for adults – of the remarkable story of William Kamkwamba, a boy from Malawi who dreamed of building a windmill to help his country. ~ Lisa Christie

Ethiopia: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Gorgeous gorgeous writing and a story that spans years and continents.  Truly memorable.

For teens

South Africa: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – A powerful (pun intended) tale of what one person can do in their own life to affect injustices. Last read years ago with young teens who loved it and the movie it inspired. ~ Lisa Christie

Two More for Kids

Malawi: Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg (June 2012) – Clare is recovering (as much as one can) from her mother’s death when her father relocates them from Boston to Malawi. This kids’ book illustrates the power of friendship and cultural exchanges. ~ Lisa Christie

African continent: The Boy Who Biked the World: On the Road to Africa by Alastair Humphreys (2011) – The journal entries with drawings and “actual handwriting” in this are clever, and the moral that with hard work and enduring some tough situations you can reach your dreams is important.  ~ Lisa Christie

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