Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here. Next event:
Nov 1, 2017 2:00 PM in the Georgetown Public Library.Highlight and right click on this "link" to see everything you need to know to attend. https://folgeorgetown.org/event/hcas-meg-gardiner/
The Nobel Prize in Literature was given to author Kazuo Ishiguro.
Amazon is planning a video series based on stories by Philip K. Dick. Date of release is not yet announced.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
On October 16th, Donna M. Johnson, author of Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir, met with us to discuss her memoir. Last night was the most recent time someone mentioned to me that they very much enjoyed our author visit. This has been going on all week! I wish I had counted the number of people who mentioned how much they enjoyed reading Holy Ghost Girl and/or that this was one of our best ever author visits!
Johnson began by reading the prologue of the book aloud. She said that the prologue was the first piece from the book that she submitted for judgment. She entered the prologue into a contest and won! Publishing agents pursued her, and publication was quickly scheduled. The author has some regrets that she didn’t have time to reread and rewrite more. She says the published version is basically a first draft.
Talking about David Terrell’s followers, “Terrellites,” and their individual journeys through life, Donna explained the difficulties faced by anyone who attempts to enter mainstream society from the margins: the poor, those raised in fringe groups similar to the Pentacostal groups, minorities of all kinds and especially those raised to feel alienated from the mainstream. Those who feel like outsiders are drawn to someone, such as Terrell, who offers hope and a sense of belonging. The emotional pull of belonging to a group and forgetting about the more lonely facets of life can be strong. It’s traumatic for anyone who tries to leave the comforts of the group.
Johnson and others who tried to leave suffered various emotional and physical trials. The Pentacostals were taught that their God was punitive and exacting, with random bestowing of grace on souls. Healings were miraculous when they occurred during tent revival meetings, but the excitement and energetic emotion often didn’t last for those who had been healed, once they were home in a more stable and less stimulating environment. Johnson told us of a personal illness that seemed to be healed directly by Brother Terrell, only to reappear 10 years later, when Johnson was an adult and free of daily interaction with the Pentacostal group. She had to struggle to regain and maintain her physical and mental health once she left the group and joined society. And Johnson seems to have been one of the lucky ones among her cohorts, who were not all able to break away successfully from the strong group and who, in many cases, suffer from substance abuse, poverty, and/or inertia. It almost seems like addiction to the Pentacostal group.
Questions posed by members of our Book Club included the following:
Dennis asked whether Johnson had kept any physical items that she felt were magical or otherwise imbued with spiritual energy from the services she had attended or directly from David Terrell. Johnson said that she had not, but that she feels some of the hymns and spirituals deeply embedded into her psyche.
Cheryl asked whether Brother Terrell had shared lucrative donations. This brought a discussion about mentions in the book of Terrell’s eventual wealth and some of his buying of property of various kinds. There were questions from our audience about tax evasion, too. Terrell had a private corporation, which helped with taxes, and he did pay taxes. Johnson said he gave to individuals but didn’t just share all his receipts with the general attendance at meetings.
I asked what the difference was between Pentacostal and Evangelical. Johnson said that the Evangelical movement is more modern and more integrated with society. Evangelical services are more emotional but less weird.
Heather asked whether those who “speak in tongues” can understand each other. Johnson explained that speaking in tongues is considered to be the Holy Spirit speaking through a person, a personal love language to speak with God. Most people are somewhat entranced when speaking or praying this way and don’t really know what they are saying.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Our Book Club always impresses with the number of rugged readers who read the monthly selection, and many of us seem to feel that the books we read for our discussion are enriching. The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore, was a complex read, even though Wonder Woman is currently, and always has been, a pop-culture character. In presenting the book for our discussion, Amy gave us an organized summary of some of the themes of the book and directed us to consider specific quotes from the book about each theme. This organizational backbone helped our discussion to stay mostly on track and to cover a wide array of sometimes controversial topics from the book. Thanks to Amy for her efforts to help us share our opinions about this rousing book!
The themes were the following: Censorship, Birth Control, Feminism, Deviance, Family Arrangement, and Honesty & Lying.
The Family Arrangement at the heart of this book seemed weird, not wonderful, but it worked for the Marston family. Perhaps there has been more communal living than is usually considered, or perhaps the time of the beginning of Wonder Woman was also the beginning of the spread of more varieties of group living arrangements, as opposed to the traditional historical version of the nuclear family. New ideas are always impacting history, and they were during the years covered in this book. In the 1960s, a number of organized communes became famous. Marston had 2 wives: one to work outside the home, and one to raise the children. This seemed to be based on a good idea. I felt that Marston’s inability to hold a job was a specific trait unique to him, thus requiring his wife to use all her energy to work for money the household needed. Had Marston’s many attempts to latch onto a steady job or to become a respected and popular paid consultant in any of his various enterprises been more financially successful, perhaps family life would have been different. Cheryl noted that Marston had 3 women meeting his needs, and Joyce added that Marston spent a lot of time at home lying around having his needs met. Carla said Marston was someone to ”tolerate and ignore.” A further example of social evolution is Carla’s statement that in her daughter’s current education in psychotherapy, there is a trend toward “relationship therapy,” among other trends in relationships.
Covering a mixture of Deviance, Honesty & Lying, and Birth Control, our group had some comments about morality. Patty noticed that the Old Testament is no longer used as the main moral code for society. She said when her husband was writing on a new high school history textbook, the publishers asked for a moral code to be included, and that this was difficult. Cindy T. said that morality should be left out of politics. Carla said that morality cannot be legislated and that individuals should have the rights to make their own choices and perhaps make their own mistakes.
Wonder Woman’s history was dynamic, including a major reduction of Wonder Woman’s power and feminism around the 1950s. The implications of those changes made by the publishers, not under Marston’s control, was interesting in itself. Wonder Woman became the secretary of the Junior Justice Society, a group of super heroes, of which she was the only woman. Thus, she stayed in the office rather than going on heroic escapades. There was an opinion expressed in the book that perhaps the weakening of Wonder Woman during that time might have slowed the speed and power of the feminist movement in the United States.
We talked about the south, Morna saying that majority in the southern United States has been “against anything and everything.” Heather has noticed that in the “Bible Belt,” it is considered polite to open a conversation by asking someone about their religion. Heather and I both feel that religion should be treated as personal. Texas was mentioned a number of times in our discussion: Joyce said Texas could take better care of the greater population. Patty noted that religion is more important in general in Texas than in California, and that Texans are more conservative and more compassionate than stereotypical Californians. Cindy T. said that politicians tend to use religion to promote their views in Texas. Discussion about birth control opened with Joyce reading aloud the quintessential historical quote in the book about birth control, the statement that women should not engage in sexual activity unless they are willing to die in childbirth. China’s birth control policies of recent years were mentioned, as was sex education. Someone said that sex education is taught in the schools but not really, especially in schools where abstinence is emphasized. Cindy T. said that where the law prohibits birth control, the government should support Planned Parenthood and food stamps. Flo mentioned that there are hospital programs for lactation education in Round Rock. Adding to our numerous topics of conversation, Joyce reminded us that the German program of allowing more immigration is primarily because they need more population to take care of the aging and large Baby Boomer generation. Cheryl had read that in Afghanistan, all children were supposed to be boys, so they dressed girls as boys during their early life for a while and then allowed them to convert to women at puberty.
This book clearly covers a lot of territory, historically and socially. It seems to characterize how history works. Joyce’s statement sums it up: “We haven’t gotten much past the past.”
Sunday, August 27, 2017
The Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, seemed on the surface to be an interesting story of charity, love and redemption. Our discussion brought out these facets of the story and also some of the darker sides of this supposedly true story, such as an agenda of evangelism and indoctrination. On the surface, the story seems to be about a charitable wealthy couple who begin volunteering at a shelter for the homeless. There they meet a man who is at first quiet but warms up to the charitable couple as they prove that their intentions to be helpful to those less socioeconomically fortunate than them are virtuous and sincere. The wife of the couple becomes ill, and the story follows her courageous course through illness to death.
Our discussion brought out some of the darker and deeper facets of the story. The charitable couple, Ron and Deborah, engaged a ghost writer, Lin Vincent, to help with the book. Vincent is politically active and conservative, having collaborated on Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue as well as being linked with white supremacists. Among our group, only Amy C. had researched the ghost writer and was aware of her role in the book. Along this line of thought, Dennis claimed that while reading the book, he didn’t trust the veracity of the dialog supposedly spoken by the black homeless character, Denver. Heather thought Denver’s way of speaking was realistic, as it reminded her of much that she heard when she lived in Charlotte, in the deep South.
Cindy T. had particularly noticed the episode in the book when Denver went to visit an aunt who he had known in his childhood when he had lived like a slave. Denver described how, when visiting the old lady’s house as an adult, he had felt an evil presence that chased everyone out of the house. This highlighted some of the dark and superstitious beliefs in the story. Although this dark aspect didn’t seem to play a major role in the story’s action or in the religious beliefs and actions in the story, superstition and the supernatural appeared numerous times in the story, such as when Deborah recognized Denver from a dream, when Denver forecast Deborah’s bad luck, and a few other times.
Our discussion touched on some of the other details in the story. Shirley noticed that Denver claimed he ate 2 chocolate pies daily when he was a slavelike farm laborer. Marcia said she had been fascinated by the way that Denver had run away from the perpetual debt syndrome of the slavelike laborer’s life and became homeless. I mentioned that Ron had felt like he was acting out guilt from white privilege when he began volunteering at the homeless shelter. We had general agreement that Deborah was sincere in her wishes to help the homeless and that Ron came to feel that way, too.
We talked at length of examples of volunteers helping the homeless. Marcia told us about some work she did among the homeless in Austin when she was a nurse. Judy told us stories from her work for the homeless at LifeWorks. She told us about a somewhat secret subculture of homeless children who choose to live free on the streets rather than joining an orphanage-type home. Marilyn mentioned a woman who cared for homeless children and treated them well; with respect and love without judgment, this woman created an atmosphere and success that Marilyn claimed was similar to how Deborah treated the homeless in the book. Amy C. suggested a website about choices for end-of-life care http://theconversationproject.org/. Through examples of many fine organizations and the volunteers who run them, we found a very positive theme that the book advocated: giving from the heart.
Thanks to Carol for nominating this book and inspiring our multifaceted discussion.
Thanks to Carol for nominating this book and inspiring our multifaceted discussion.
Posted by ClaudiaH at 5:10 PM
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Introducing A Man Called Ovë, by Fredrik Backman, Cindy listed themes from the story and gave each of us a quote to ponder. The themes included masculinity; change and technology; relationships; and “the whiteshirts,” i.e. authority and bureaucracy. The quotes gave us food for thought, and we expressed our ideas about them and chose which theme they related to.
Ovë had a strong personality! Dennis spoke about the first quote, which was from Ovë. Ovë asked what the value of a man was in a world where everything could be bought. This brought discussion in the group about Ovë’s penchant for making things and fixing things, plus some discussion about more recent products that are not meant to be fixable. Ovë felt that people should be able to do things by themselves. His independence was strongly expressed by his life. Amy said that Ovë’s friend Rune didn’t make or fix things, but he was a valued person, particularly as a husband and friend.
The discussion went on to Ovë expressing feelings of lost masculinity when he lost his job. His firing also brought out the theme of change and technology, as Ovë was fired partly because he wasn’t keeping up with the new technology at work. Joanne said that what you do, not just what you say, should be important; as Ovë helped people by fixing things.
After Ovë had lost his job and his beloved wife, he attempted suicide a number of times; each time failing for some reason: the rope he was hanging himself from broke, the phone rang and he stopped to answer it, the doorbell rang and he stopped to answer that, or neighbors were gathered outside his picture window. These suicide attempts and interruptions were portrayed as humerous. Morna’s quote said that Ovë was not good at killing himself. Cindy observed that each of the failed suicide attempts brought something new into Ovë’s life.
Some of the quotes were about the importance of relationships. Carol’s quote said that sorrow not shared drives people apart. Ovë and his wife shared the sorrow of losing their pregnancy. Amy noted that though Ovë was not a father, children called him “grandfather.” Marilyn said that life happens to us all, and we each choose whether to become bitter or better
Frank gave us a final humorous quote, saying, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; but inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Although The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro, wasn’t everybody’s favorite read, it generated discussion. The book comprised a number of themes: we discussed memory, forgiveness, revenge, quests, aging and death.
Sometimes the themes were joined together, as when the Mist brought forgetfulness; and thoughts, promises, and plans regarding revenge were forgotten. Then, when we knew the Mist was going to be lifted, we realized that those who had sought revenge had been angered by people who were young, and now those same people were old; so the motive for revenge had lost power over time. Axl was an old man during the story, but he had been a young Roman warrior named Axelus or Axelum when Gawain was also young. In the story, Gawain had been planning revenge for something Axl had done but let it go. As one of my friends once said, “Age is a great equalizer.”
The memory theme was poignant in the book, as the mist-caused forgetfulness was poignant. At first, it seemed that the elderly couple was suffering age-related memory loss, but then it became evident that the forgetfulness was caused by the dragon. Some of the correlated concepts that were thought-provoking were that forgetfulness helped the old couple to forget the grief that they had over their son’s death that had occurred during the plague; in the story, they were pursuing a journey to visit their son. The forgetfulness was also considered to have brought peace to the civilization by eliminating hate and revenge. Old wounds healed and relationships were saved because negative thoughts and feelings and grudges were forgotten. The author actively illustrated this forgetting by showing how it occurred between the elderly couple, Beatrice and Axl.
The boatman and the island he rowed people to were obvious symbols of the final journey of death. Early in the book an elderly, almost mythical witchlike woman told a tale of the boatman telling her that some couples were enabled to go to the island together but most were not; legend said people on the island wandered around alone and lonely, unable to find each other. At the end of the story, our discussion group worked hard to interpret the words the author used to describe the old couple, Beatrice and Axl, as they encountered the boatman. Beatrice was clearly ready to stay in the boat and go to the island. The boatman told Axl there was not room for him, but that the boat would return for him. Axl was then ignoring the boat and boatman and walking on his own. We had a little trouble being sure of what was happening and which direction Axl was headed, but the general consensus was that Beatrice was being carried to the island and Axl was walking toward it, both on their separate ways to death.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
The Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle, was a well-written, easy-reading page-turner about tough topics that made the reader stop and think, even amid the exciting episodes in the story. The story centers around illegal immigrants from Mexico and Americans, living and crossing paths in the hills, forests and suburbs in California. The story opens when a main character, American Delaney, hits another main character, Mexican Candido, with his car. Morna also opened our discussion with this scene, asking us how we might feel if we hit a Mexican and whether we would feel differently if we hit an American. In the story, Delaney did stop and offer help, but Candido gathered himself, asked for money only, and ran off with the $20 Delaney gave him. Our brief discussion indicated that both the readers in our group and Delaney figured out that Candido refused help because he was afraid of deportation. Most of us seemed to agree that the mixture of anxiety and fear and finally anger and frustration about the situation that Delaney experienced would have been similar if we were in Delaney’s shoes. It seemed difficult to differentiate how one might have felt had it been an American who suddenly appeared from the woods and seemed to be trying to be run over.
Morna next asked us whether we had sympathy for the main characters, Candido and Delaney and their wives. Dennis spoke up to say that he didn’t like any of the characters. He said the coyote was his favorite character, giving us all a laugh but also provoking thought as to the characters of the characters. Quick on the draw, Morna asked what the coyote in the story represented. A brief Google search on this topic indicates that the coyote symbolized the Mexican illegal immigrants. The best answer I saw said that both the coyote and the illegal immigrants hide in the forests and scavenge the edges of populated and legally civilized areas; the coyote for food and the Mexicans for food and work.
Feelings toward the immigrants that were attributed to the Americans living in the subdivision called “White Canyon” that sat at the edge of the forest were a major theme of the book. We discussed why the Mexicans chose the dangers and difficulties of living in the USA illegally. The homeowners of White Canyon voted for and proceeded to build a wall around their neighborhood during the story. Clearly, the author created themes for thought by showing the Americans building a wall to keep the immigrants out and then hiring the same immigrants and inviting them in to build the wall.
In discussing the very problematic situation of Candido and his wife and all the illegal immigrants who arrive in the USA in poverty, Amy said it is part of the human condition, that people are born into the extreme poverty. Marilyn said that some of the misadventures in the story were also caused by bad decisions. In many cases, aspects of poverty can be caused by bad decisions, one being when the Mexicans pay liars and crooks for help crossing the border and then are robbed in Mexico before they cross. Pam asked why these Mexicans were in the USA, and Marilyn said they were desperate and had hope to better their lives by immigrating. Linda H. said that the USA had a reputation for being good to immigrants.
We steered away from in-depth discussion of the current political situation, as it had no influence on this book, which was published in 1995.
Toward the end of our discussion, Joyce said that she had noticed that the story indicated a lot of crime that Mexicans committed against Mexicans. She thought the Mexicans might have had fewer misadventures had they bonded together as a community and helped each other more, in their shared experience of deprivation. Amy said the kind of lives we were reading about involved individuals focused on themselves; thus, no room for establishing community. Further illustrating the point that community is lacking, Dennis gave the example that American contractors sometimes break into the homes where they have been paid to work, as the immigrants did at White Canyon. Carla mentioned the man who organized the job-distributing in the parking lot in the story, saying this showed that this was an example of characters in the book, and people in general, have good and bad traits and behaviors.
We discussed the ending of the book, which left it to the reader to guess at the futures of the characters.
The Tortilla Curtain was exciting but essentially a story about a sad situation.