We are pleased to bring you a fun summer exhibit at the Long Island Community Library, in the small meeting room glass case. Annie Donovan is sharing the Beanie Babies collected by her family, since the fall of 1996.
In honor of National Poetry Month, we are pleased to announce that one of our island poets has a new book out. Peter was the brother of Nancy Berges, Michael Kilgore, and Mervin Kilgore, and father of Shawnee Kilgore, who sometimes delights Long Islanders with her musical gifts. This book will be available at the Long Island Community Library.
Quarry: The Collected Poems of Peter Kilgore
Peter Kilgore; Bruce Holsapple and Dana Wilde, eds.
North Country Press
Peter Kilgore (1940-1992) was a well-known figure in Portland, Maine’s literary underground in the 1970s and ’80s. His taut, crisply imagistic poetry of the Maine coast and wilderness areas appeared during his lifetime in many regional publications and in several books and chapbooks, including The Bar Harbor Suite (Blackberry Books) and Drinking Wine Out of the Wind. All of Peter’s published poems and many he left in manuscript are offered for the first time together in Quarry. A graduate of Bowdoin College, Peter was a founder of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, a teacher, and a contributing editor for Contraband, one of Maine’s most influential small magazines. His poetry reflects a deep reverence for Maine’s natural world, particularly his relationship to the sea and Casco Bay. His poems are likely to register profoundly for a long time to come, and Quarry secures Peter’s place in the literary history of Portland, and Maine.
One of the members of my book group suggested we read Laura Bush’s autobiography Spoken from the heart. An island friend saw me reading it, and lent me her copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming. So, back to back, I read two amazing autobiographies about two amazing women, who happened to be First Ladies of the United States. They both struggled with infertility, and then went on to have two daughters – Laura’s daughters were off in college when the Bushes were in office, but Sasha and Malia Obama spent their youthful years living in the White House. Laura grew up an only child in Texas, to middle class parents. Michelle’s tight knit working class family of 4 lived in Chicago’s South Side. Laura was a teacher and librarian, and Michelle a lawyer and director of non-profits. Both rose to the occasion and pursued their passions – Laura for libraries and literature, and Michelle for military families and children’s fitness and nutrition.
Politics aside, both these women were very popular first ladies. I enjoyed both books, but Michelle’s story was more gripping, both from her personal perspective on life, and also the challenges she faced in being a black woman in today’s society. My favorite part of her book is when she met Barack, and fell in love with him. As someone who has always been a huge fan of Barack Obama, I totally got that part. But Laura’s story gave me a new appreciation for the Bush family and Bush years in the White House. The two stories link together in Michelle’s description of the passing of the baton from the Bushes to the Obamas, how the entire transaction was tinged with kindness, which came across so much in Spoken from the Heart.
(from the collections of Meredith Dyer Sweet)
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, and during the time of year when we can use some extra beauty and grace in our lives, we present to you an exhibit of fans from the collections of Meredith Sweet, as well as some family valentines and items that were used by the genteel citizens of Rhode Island, such as calling cards.
Fans were used as early as 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt, and Chinese ladies used fans 3000 years ago. In the 17th century China was exporting fans to Europe, where the fans served many purposes, including offering “fan flirtation rules,” as a way of coping with the restricting social etiquette. For example, resting the fan on the right cheek meant “yes,” and resting it on the left cheek meant “no.” The fans in this collection are made of silk, cloth, and paper, and some have ivory handles and tassels. One fan is made in Japan, and another is an 1893 calendar fan. Floral designs can be seen, as well as an elegant black and gold fan.
The valentines range from 19th century to early 20th century, including valentine postcards and moveable valentines. Family valentines are represented (Meredith and her brother Jerry sent cards, and there is a card “sent to Arthur by Aunt Emily when he was a little boy”), as well as valentines sent between friends (Meredith exchanged valentines with Long Island’s Gail Wood). One charming valentine contains this verse: “Hustle! Mr. Bachelor get yourself a wife, there’s nothing in this world thus half so sweet, you’re wasting half your life.”
Finally, in the exhibit can be seen a pair of delicate black hand mitts, which allowed a woman to do handwork, as well as show off flashy rings. A calling card which belonged to “Mrs. William O. Dyer” is clasped in a metal hand clip – another way to showcase how polite society handled visitors in the 19th century.
For more information on the history and language of fans, see:
And valentines at the Maine Historical Society:
Calling card etiquette can be found here:
Significance of gloves:
Long Island Community Library
The exhibit is open during library hours
in the small meeting room glass case
According to Goodreads, in 2018 I read 49 books. The shortest book, “Owls in the family” by one of our favorite writers, Farley Mowat, was 91 pages. The longest book, at 640 pages, was “Prairie fires: the American dream” by Caroline Fraser – a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved children’s book author. The average length of book was 286 pages (probably because the book group I belong to in Portland makes a practice of reading books that are less than 300 pages long). The most popular book was “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, read by 1,162,980 people on Goodreads – we read this book for the Long Island Community Library’s summer book group, led by Jean Murley. The least popular book was “Native gems for his crown” by Gary Klumpenhower, which was read by 3 people on Goodreads. Gary Klumpenhower was the pastor of the First Navajo Christian Reformed Church in Tohatchi, New Mexico, where my grandfather was pastor in the early 20th century.
Choosing my favorite 10 books out of these 49 is difficult, but these were some of the ones I enjoyed most, choosing half that are fiction, and half that are non-fiction. Most of these can be found at the Long Island Community Library.
Ross Poldark / by Winston Graham. Okay, so I did read this book picturing Aiden Turner as Poldark, and Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza. But I loved reading this first book of the series, which takes place in Cornwall, several centuries ago. My favorite Poldark season on PBS was the first one, so it was a delight to read the growing love story between the two main characters. Unlike the television show, it’s wonderful to hear (read) the characters’ thoughts along the way, adding a new dimension to a favorite story.
On living / by Kerry Egan. Kerry Egan is a hospice chaplain, and these are stories about her patients, as well as her own philosophy and thoughts on living, and dying. But rather than being a depressing book, it is so uplifting. Often funny, sometimes sad, Kerry not only shares her patient’s stories, but also brings in her own traumatic story that helped to shape her professionally and personally. She shares the mistakes she made, as well as the beauty one finds at the end of life. This book is a joy to read (and at only 206 pages in a small book, it’s a quick read).
City of thieves / by David Benioff. Two unlikely friends during WWII in search of eggs – good writing and humor tempered the grimness of the background of war and starvation. I stayed up late one night to finish as I wanted to find out what happened to Lev after “the week he met my grandmother, made his best friend, and killed two Germans.” (Mostly wanted to find out which character he married, which I guessed correctly).
Ironically, when I was reading this book, Michael and I took a road trip from Maine to Vermont along country roads, and saw so many signs for “eggs for sale.” I had to remind myself that I was reading a novel, that the two characters wouldn’t need to find eggs in northern New England.
Bonjour Kale: a memoir of Paris, love, and recipes / by Kristen Beddard. Even if you aren’t a major kale eater (I prefer my kale in the Maine Squeeze’s smoothie “Kale Storm”), you will love this book, if you are a fan of great writing. Kristen ends up living in Paris when her husband gets a job there – you will suffer along with her as she struggles with the language and culture and tries to find her path, which ends up being: kale! This is also a wonderful story of falling in love – not just with her husband, but with life in France, which doesn’t come easily to this author expatriate. And yes, there are recipes, mostly featuring kale (of course).
Hitty: her first hundred years / by Rachel Field. What a wonderful book! I finally read it, after all these years of being a Maine resident, and lover of Maine literature, especially children’s literature. I was not disappointed or bored, but instead relished the adventures of Hitty, a most resilient doll, who suffered all sorts of indignities, but somehow survived, with great cheer. Who knows what tales she could continue to tell, 90 years after this book was originally published in 1929? Rachel Field (1894-1942), a Maine author, is known to us islanders for her poem, “If once you have slept on an island” (you’ll never be the same). There are lovely illustrations, too, by Dorothy P. Lathrop.
Grateful: the transformative power of giving thanks / by Diana Butler Bass. This is a timely book – just what we should all be reading in these times, when gratitude (and a little prayer) is the best way to get through. Who would have thought a whole book about gratitude would be so interesting … and uplifting? I actually went to college with Diana – she was a senior while I was a lowly freshman. I don’t think she remembers me, but I do remember her kindness to me, as a newcomer to academia.
The sisters from Hardscrabble Bay / by Beverly Jenson. Alanna Rich lent me this book, which she has a personal connection to (you’ll have to ask her about it sometime). This book about two sisters who grew up in New Brunswick and Maine during the early 20th century, is written with humor and love, as they are based on family members of the author.
A homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table / by Molly Wizenberg. I picked this up at the Art & Soul booksale this summer, and brought it with me on a trip out to Washington State to visit family. It was the perfect book for traveling, especially since Molly lives in Seattle, and got married in Bellingham, where my mother lives. This book was so entertaining and fun to read, it really brought me joy.
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine / by Gail Honeyman. Nancy Jordan recommended this book in her “Library suggests” and I finally took her advice. Although initially I had my doubts, as the characters seemed very unlikeable, it definitely grew on me, as Eleanor’s heart opens up to the world around her, and she overcomes her difficult past.
Skein: the heartbreaks and triumphs of a long distance knitter / by Christen Mattix. Reading this book felt much like being there with Christen, over the four year stretch of knitting her blue line to the bay (which was supposed to take three months), as it had a meditative feel to the book. I loved this book for many reasons: her spiritual aspect of life and deepness of thought, her beautiful writing, and mostly for her success at creating community, something which is abundance here on Long Island, on the other side of the country from Bellingham, Washington, where this book takes place. My sister, who lives in nearby Ferndale, gave me this book as an early Christmas gift – and presented it to me at the actual bench where Christen knit her blue line. So, now I can picture where all of this happened (in a beautiful neighborhood, where I would love to live), and as a knitter myself, I could appreciate the knitting aspect of the book, also.
I hope these books find their way to your bedside table, or at least make you think about what books you enjoyed most last year. Happy New Year, and may all your books spark joy! (or at least provoke thought)
Just in time for Advent, we present to you a new exhibit showcasing a ceramic nativity set made by David Singo in 1980.
Long Island Community Library
Small meeting room glass case
The exhibit is open during library hours
How’s this for a great idea?
Yesterday, at the Portland Public Library, they had a gathering of knitters, to kick off an initiative to knit items to keep people warm, such as hats, mittens, and scarves. So, gather those items you have already made, and drop them off at the Reference Desk at PPL, or make this an inspiration to gather up your needles or hooks and knit and crochet to keep our neighbors warm! (just in time for this brisk weather we’re having)
After I stopped in to PPL to check out the activities, I stopped in a downtown store to buy a candle, on my way to the ferry – the woman behind the checkout desk was knitting hand warmers, so I told her all about the PPL initiative, and gave her the hat knitting pattern I had picked up at the sit ‘n knit. She was very excited!
I love when libraries and knitting intersect* – well done, Meg Gray, the Science and Technology Librarian at PPL, who organized the activity and initiative.
For more information:
And about collecting the items:
*Just a reminder that at our own Long Island Community Library, we have a group of knitters that gather on Thursday afternoons – no doubt they are knitting up items such as these for various charities. If you are a knitter (or crafter, in general), I’m sure they would love to have you join in!
October 1st is International Coffee Day, and what better month, with our crisp weather which makes us crave hot drinks, to pay tribute to … coffee! Although an inveterate tea drinker, these past few years I’ve fallen in love with café society, especially in Portland, with its plethora of coffee venues. What better place, especially on a cool autumn day, to hang out with a good book in places like Arabica, Bard, or Higher Grounds, while waiting for the ferry. By tradition, coffee houses are a place to gather, whether in the 1960s beatnik era or the 16th century Middle East, and thankfully that tradition has not waned. Coffee is alive and well today, whether you like your coffee as a cappuccino, espresso or latte! (or just regular old fashioned coffee)
As far as coffee in literature, who can resist non-fiction titles such as
The coffee lover’s diet : change your coffee, change your life
Coffee for one : how the new way to make your morning brew became a tempest in a coffee pod
Coffee: a dark history
Fun fiction titles include cozy mystery titles, such as these by Cleo Coyle: Holiday Buzz, Murder by Mocha, and Murder Most Frothy. And then there are these great titles by Alex Erickson: Death by Coffee, Death by Vanilla Latte, Death by Espresso, etc. Sandra Balzo also jumped on the coffee house bandwagon with her mystery series, which includes Murder on the Orient Espresso, Uncommon Grounds, and To the Last Drop.
And just as I was about to write this blog, “Signature,” a literary website, tempted me with this list of “best coffee books for coffee lovers”
(Which just goes to show I’m on the right track with these coffee books)
So, while my first love is tea (see this blog for October 2016), I hope you enjoyed my ode to coffee!
*Excerpt from Blood and thunder: an epic of the American West, by Hampton Sides. Description of a French trapper, hovering near death: “The men has more or less written off the poor fellow, who in his death agonies kept hallucinating that he smelled coffee – a luxury no one traveling with Kearny had seen or tasted in months. ‘Don’t you smell it?’ Robideaux beseeched them. ‘A cup of coffee would save my life!’” eventually someone did make him a cup of coffee, and poured “’this precious draught into the waning body of our friend Robideaux. His warmth returned, and with it hopes of life.’
One of my favorite places to acquire books is in the free book box in front of Maine Charitable Mechanic Association – these books, weeded from the MCMA book collection, are ripe for the picking, and often include many wonderful travel books written in the mid-20th century. Two of these books caught my eye, and I enjoyed reading each one, savoring stories of women living abroad, with their husbands leading the way.
One of the books was Amalia Lindal’s “Ripples from Iceland,” published in 1962. Amalia met her Icelandic husband in college, married him, and moved to Iceland, where she proceeded to have 4 children, all boys (and apparently there was a 5th child born after the book was published). The book covers the years 1949 to 1961, and Amalia’s perspective alternates between personal stories of her life there, and her general insight and opinions about Icelandic life. The photo on the back shows her with her husband and four young boys – although she has a smile on her face, she appears somewhat exhausted, and for good reason! Not only raising children and running a household, but also negotiating a difficult language and foreign culture, not to mention very traditional women’s roles – fortunately her good humor probably saved her. As usual, after I finished the book, I wanted to know what happened to her. Sadly, rather than spending the rest of her life in Iceland, as she intended, she left in 1972 – divorced her husband, moved to Toronto, and remarried. She instructed “Short Story Writing” at the University of Toronto, and was a free-lance writer. She died sometime before 1985.
The second book I picked up was Elizabeth Warnock Fernea’s “A view from the Nile” published in 1970. In this case, Elizabeth, or “B.J.” married an American man, Robert A. Fernea, an anthropologist – they initially lived in Iraq, while he was working on his doctorate. This book was written about their life in Egypt – she is pregnant in the beginning of the book, and by the end of the book she has had three children. She has less general observations about Egyptian life than Amalia about Icelandic life, but the impressions of local life are quite interesting and entertaining. B.J. knew this was a temporary part of her life, which may have made it a more special time. They came home to America in 1965, and she went on to become “an influential writer and filmmaker who spent much of her life in the field producing numerous ethnographies and films that capture the struggles and turmoil of African and Middle Eastern cultures” (Wikipedia). She died in 2008.
Both these books offer an interesting perspective on what life was like in these vastly different countries, and how these women negotiated marriage and motherhood while living in places totally foreign to their usual lives at home in America.
What is a perfect summer read? How about “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? Jean Murley is returning to our island to lead this book group in August. Jean, the daughter of Penny and Curt Murley, is a an associate professor of English at Queensborough Community College in New York.
Come join us this month on Tuesday evenings (Aug. 7, 14, and 21, from 7-8 p.m.) at the Long Island Community Library small meeting room, for what promises to be a fun and scintillating conversation about one of America’s best loved books (and also on the banned book list)