Archive for the ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’ Tag

Before Bookmobiles   Leave a comment

 The Giver of Stars is a primer for women’s rights and a celebration of librarians. Set in Depression era in the rugged mountains of rural Kentucky, Jojo Moyes creates a colorful portrait of a group of five women who come to be known as the Packhorse Librarians. Moyes takes a page from history when Eleanor Roosevelt championed the WPA’s (Work Progress Administration) efforts to distribute books in remote areas of Appalachia.

Alice Van Cleave is newly married and far from her family home in England. She has difficulty fitting in in the small, rural town where her husband and father-in-law own a nearby mining operation. An appeal for women to help distribute books leads Alice to become an unlikely participant. She’s mentored by Margery, a no-nonsense, independent woman. Three others join the pair.

The novel is as much about the strength of women as the role of the librarians who not only deliver reading material but offer companionship, comfort and news from town. As Alice’s friendship with Margery and the other librarians grows, she realizes her marriage is slowly disintegrating. Her father-in-law is a bully, and Alice’s husband is uninterested in pursuing a physical relationship with her.

The relationships among the librarians with their reading community evolve from mistrust to dependence. The descriptions of the rugged landscape are beautiful and harrowing.

The power of friendship and sharing the joy books offer are richly detailed. The precursor to bookmobiles, the packhorse librarians brought new worlds and ideas to areas previously overlooked.

The Giver of Stars
Four-and-a-half Bookmarks
Pamela Dorman Books
390 pages

Food and Personalities   2 comments

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I enjoy reading titles on bookshelves. I want to know what people are reading; it’s a question I frequently ask. Similarly, I like to know what my friends and family have to eat when they go to a restaurant, host a dinner or are dinner guests. That’s why when a dear friend sent me a copy of What She Ate by Laura Shapiro it was perfect in so many ways because of the content and it’s such a thoughtful expression of friendship.

Shapiro’s book is subtitled Six Remarkable Women & the Food that Their Stories Tell. These are not women that necessarily first come to mind. There’s no Julia Child or Alice Waters among them. While they’re fascinating, the half dozen Shapiro profiles are engaging for a number of reasons, some because they are familiar and some because they are not.

Only one, Rosa Lewis, a London caterer during King Edward VII’s reign, has a direct link to food or cooking. The others are Dorothy Wordsworth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym and Helen Gurley Brown.

There is as much about the women’s relationship with food as a reflection of the eras in which they lived. Braun, for example, was more interested in maintaining a slim figure than eating. The foods she ignored, riches only available to the Nazi elite, further highlight that regime’s cruelty.

At times, though, Shapiro gets bogged down with too much detail. Overall, this is an intriguing look at those she researched with food at its heart.

What She Ate
Four Bookmarks
Viking, 2017
307 pages, including notes and index