Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Literary Hero: Jane Yolen

Monday, October 17th, 2011

When I discovered Dream Weaver, by Jane Yolen in 1979, I was dazzled that a contemporary writer created such fairy tales.

     I’ve read many more Yolen books: Here There Be Dragons, Owl Moon,
and Sleeping Ugly, to name a few. She’s written more than 300.  Yes, THREE-HUNDRED books, including fairy tales, fantasy stories, and poems seemingly for children and young people only, but not really.
     Yolen isn’t a stranger to the Twin Cities. Her son, musician, etc. Adam Stemple, lives here and Yolen is often at guest at the Kerlan Collection, an outstanding children’s literature research center at the University of Minnesota.
     Tonight, I heard her for the second time when she spoke in St. Paul at Hamline University. I was sure the room would be standing-room-only. After all, many do consider her America’s Hans Christian Anderson. The audience for her reading was modest in size, but great love for this artist and her work.
     Her new book isn’t for children. It’s a very adult book, of poems that tell of her husband’s illness and death in 2006 and her life then and after: Things to Say to a Dead Man: Poems at the End of a Marriage and After (Holy Cow! Press, 2011). The poems are plain spoken and raw with shards of hurt at what leads to death and what happens after.  Read more about Yolens’s first book specifically for adults and learn about this most prolific and spot-on author, one of my top literary heroes: “Ten questions for author Jane Yolen.”
     If you’re in Minneapolis-St. Paul, you have another chance to meet her.  Jane will be reading at The Loft in Downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, October 19, 2011.
     Travel well, Jane Yolen.  And, keep bringing the spirit to life in your writing!
 Jane Yolen

Haiti: Action and a Reading List

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal’s 1/20/2010 Front Page has a couple of lines about Haiti’s earthquake. They direct the reader to pages A8 and A10 where there are full-page stories. Mia Farrow writes about better disaster response on the Journal’s Opinion Page.

Life goes on.

The best action is to send money to the reputable organizations who have long worked in Haiti and are best equipped to help people right now. I recommend Partners in Health, Dr. Paul Farmer’s Boston-based organization and the subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains . (I have no financial stake in either Partners in Health or in Kidder’s book.)

I find myself seeking to learn more about Haiti.  How did this country so close to the beaches of Florida become what even before the 2010 earthquake the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? Edwidge Danticat writes from her experiences as a Haitian-American, born in Haiti, raised in New York City. Her books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory

Edwidge Danticat's novel of life in Haiti and New York City

and The Dew Breaker,

A daughter learns about her father's part in Duvalier's violent regime.

capture both the immigrant experience and the heartbreak and promise of Haiti.

I’m reading, Graham Greene’s The Comedians, set in the mid-20th century in Port au Prince. From the news of the last week, I recognize the Olafson Hotel, the presidential palace, and Petionville, the upscale area the earthquake crumbled along with the rest of the city.

A portrait of Haiti under the dictatorship of "Papa Doc" Duvalier

Madison Smartt Bell’s All Soul’s Rising, next on my reading list, captures Haiti in its struggle for independence from 1791 to 1803. It’s the first in Bell’s trilogy of Haitian independence that includes Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That the Builder Refused. The author makes his own suggestions for books about Haiti, both by Haitians and non-Haitians at

“…the narrative power of history.”

in the 1/17/2010 New York Times Book Review (you may need to register to get access) and in the 1/15/2010 Huffington Post.