DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


How many of you know what the Cousins’ War is about? I will give you a hint. You studied it in school under a different name. If you said the War of the Roses, then you are correct!

The author Philippa Gregory has written a series of novels about the War of the Roses, but her series is named The Cousins’ War. When you think about it, it makes sense. You might want to check out the family tree. All of the cousins were related in one way or the other. Philippa Gregory in her writing focuses on the women of this time period. The women are Lady Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford; Lady Margaret Beaufort; Queen Elizabeth Woodville; Queen Anne Neville, and Princess Elizabeth of York.

The story of the war begins with Jacquetta’s story about the Lancaster throne and what happened to cause the Yorks’ uprising against the Lancasters. It ends with Princess Elizabeth marrying King Henry (Margaret Beaufort’s son of the Lancastrian line).

Women of the Cousins' WarI found some other books in the DCPL catalog specifically relating to the women of the Cousins’ War. The first book is The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King’s Mother by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael Jones. This book specifically focuses on Jacquetta, the Duchess of Bedford; the White Queen Elizabeth Woodville, and King Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort. Each of these women played an important role and helped shape the events of this war. This book delves into the history of each woman. You might enjoy this video available on YouTube, Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Mike Jones discuss Women of the Cousins’ War.

The next book is Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood, who also explores the women behind the Cousins’ War. This book explores women such as Margaret of Anjou; Cecile Neville, the mother of the Yorks, and Margaret Beaufort. Gristwood discusses what each woman was willing to do to attain power during this period in history.

Wars of the Roses by Dan JonesThe final book is The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones. It explores how the Plantagenet family fought to the death for the right to rule England. A specific focus is given to Catherine of Valois, Margaret of Anjou, and Elizabeth Woodville, and their fight to secure the throne for their offspring. This book truly tells the story of these three great families.

You can check out more on the women of the Cousins’ War in the books mentioned above and in these books by Philippa Gregory: The White Queen, The Red Queen, Lady of the Rivers, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, and The White Princess.


What I knew about Thomas Jefferson could fit on an index card: Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence, became President of the United States, and had a convoluted relationship with his slaves. So on a recent road trip, when my husband and I stopped at Monticello, Jefferson’s home, I was expecting to enjoy a leisurely morning tour and to move on to more interesting things in the afternoon.

We stayed much longer than we intended and still didn’t have enough time to explore.  Grand houses like Monticello were considered normal on plantations, but Jefferson was criticized for building his house high on a hill where water would have to be dragged up—until he built a giant cistern under the house, capable of storing and supplying all the water needed for the house and the nearby grounds.  Also under the house were storerooms, lavatories, a kitchen, and a carefully stocked and inventoried wine cellar, complete with customized dumbwaiters designed to carry bottles of wine directly to the dining room above.  The house is full of his inventions, including a copying machine designed to duplicate letters as he hand-wrote them so that he could keep copies of all his correspondence.  His extensive gardens, which today supply the museum restaurant with fresh produce, include many plants Jefferson cultivated after Lewis and Clark brought cuttings or seeds back from the western territories.

Even more interesting is what I learned about Jefferson himself.  The third President of the United States was so shy about public speaking that, during his time as a Virginia delegate, he would sit in the back of the room and only add to the conversation by writing down his comments.  The author of the Declaration of Independence was against the idea of the United States having a constitution at all, and would not sign the Constitution until he knew that it could be amended.  Jefferson was in many ways against slavery, yet he owned slaves.  The strangest thing to me is what he chose to put on his gravestone:

“Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia”

President of the United States?  Apparently not important enough to mention.

I highly recommend a trip to Monticello if you can manage it.  In the meantime, there’s plenty to read:

jeffersonJefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder by Jack McLaughlin

National Book Award winning- American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis

Six volumes of Dumas Malone’s Jefferson and His Time

R. B. Bernstein’s Thomas Jefferson

For everyone, I recommend paging through the information at monticello.org, the official website of The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.   From pictures of Monticello itself to images of Jefferson’s daily weather observations, there’s enough to get a glimpse of what an interesting person Jefferson was.



Hello readers,

Have you ever wondered how famous writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, composers, scientists, filmmakers, poets, philosophers, or inventors actually go about the business of creating new art, ideas, books, concepts? As it turns out, there are as many ways to combat anxiety and to be productive as there are personalities. The main thing is to get the job done, and the majority of creative people rely on sometimes rigid routines in order to produce the desired quantity of work. Many creative people struggle with the act of creation, and I am well familiar with the art of procrastination and the anxiety that can surround the creative act. Each creative individual resolves his or her existential angst in a highly personal manner, and this book provides much insight (in minute detail) into this aspect of the creative process.

A truly fascinating book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, written by Mason Currey and published in 2013, is a compilation of descriptions of the work and life habits of 161 renowned individuals ranging from Jane Austen to Beethoven. A profile of more than three or four pages, and often much less, is devoted to each individual, and it would seem that channeling the compulsion to create requires for many not only devotion to art but also a dedication to rote habits. Details of eating habits, social activities, various idiosyncrasies, when, how, and where the artist worked, as well as routines involving physical exercise, are all explained in precise detail, many of which are amusing. For example, Thomas Wolfe, who measured 6’6″, would work standing up using the top of a refrigerator as his desk!

Each of these mini-biographies brings insight into the work and personalities of the likes of Franz Kafka, who struggled to find time to write between long shifts, with frequent overtime hours spent working in an insurance agency, and little privacy, as he shared a cramped apartment with numerous family members. His nightly writing rituals were preceded by ten minutes of exercise executed naked in front of an open window, followed by an hour-long, semi-solitary walk with a friend, such as Max Brodt, and dinner with his family…after all of which he would sit down to write at 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., working until well after midnight. The writing session would be followed by more physical exercise, followed by attempts to sleep, which were mostly thwarted by an overactive mind.

Some of the personalities in the book are quite eccentric, such as inventor Nikola Tesla, who worked regularly and compulsively from 10:30 each morning to 5:00 the following morning, and who had a variety of scripted rituals–such as taking his evening meals at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where he dined in solitaire. Prior to each meal, Tesla would require that he be supplied with 18 freshly-pressed linen napkins with which he would clean the already spotless tableware. When his meal would arrive, he would also compulsively, mentally calculate the cubic contents of each dish, a habit developed in childhood that he pursued until the end of his life.

A common trait to many of these biographies of prolific creators seems to be the practice of regular physical exercise as well as the embracing of a regular work schedule, for some diurnal and others nocturnal. While some of the creative people profiled in this book needed to work a salaried job in order to pay the bills, others had financial means allowing them to create their own schedules. Some, such as Thomas Mann or Anthony Trollope, could work as little as three hours a day on their creative work, while others, including Philip Roth, would regularly produce eight or more hours per day of work. Roth eventually divorced and realized that the single life was more suited to his personality and literary habits, as he no longer felt constrained to keep a spouse or partner company in the evenings.

The image of the artist as a hedonist and substance abuser (of which there are many in this book–Jean-Paul Sartre or Toulouse Lautrec come to mind) who awaits the visit of a muse in order to find the inspiration to work is, however, a rarity among these productive individuals. Patricia Highsmith was one of the few who absolutely required that writing be pleasurable and would work only when inspiration struck. Apparently, habit and routine are by consensus a better way to channel the muse than simply waiting for her to knock at the studio door.


Dec 3 2014

Spirituality with a Heap of Humor

by Hope L

Anne2I feel like I have a new best friend.

When I saw that Anne Lamott had spoken for the Georgia Center for the Book about her new book Small Victories:  Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, I decided to look into some of her work.

Many of her quotes are so awesome, I’m placing a few throughout this post, like:

““Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

First, I checked out an audiobook recording of Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, which I saw at my branch.  I put it in the CD player in my car and have been listening to it instead of the hateful talk radio I had been tuning into and which had fomented within me within me nothing but anger and frustration. (Plan B is also available in print at DCPL.)

Now, in Atlanta traffic, one does not need an added level of anger and frustration.  So Anne’s soothing voice has been a welcome addition to my commutes.

Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak sh*t anyone can throw at us.

When this Catholic girl (my name is Hope Anne Mary) heard Lamott tell her “Ham of God” story whilst I was cruising down Memorial Drive the other day, I almost lost control of my Toyota SUV.  “Why, the nerve of her! What sacrilege!” I thought initially.  But when I listened and learned the true meaning of her story, I chuckled to myself: “That Anne!”

Her spiritual tidbits, sandwiched in humor and irony, are a welcome oasis to the stress and often helpless feelings of our modern age.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”

Traveling Mercies:  Some Thoughts on Faith chronicles Lamott’s journeys though alcoholism, motherhood, and just plain life.  I listen to her talk about motherhood, and I think about some of my friends who have kids.  Anne writes that one of her friends had once said:

“My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child.  We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpets or ruin our lives.”

In that case, I definitely decided to ruin my carpets by having loads of cats and dogs and no children.

Now, given that I believe myself to be on something of a spiritual journey, it sure is nice to have a friend like Anne Lamott along for the ride.

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”

You’re right there, Anne.  And some good books.


Sep 22 2014

A Sad Goodbye

by Hope L

diva1“Can we talk?”

One of my all-time favorite icons passed away unexpectedly.  She was as active as ever. Still tossing her barbs out, she had just written a book, was starring in two television programs and a podcast, and was still delighting audiences including myself in her stand-up performances (I saw her three times, the latest this past February at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall), plus she was hawking her very successful QVC merchandise.  Her energy amazed me, and I had to keep reminding myself as we watched her recent performance that she was an octogenarian.

“I don’t exercise; if God had wanted me to bend over he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

Her jokes were often salty and politically incorrect, but her favorite target was definitely Joan Rivers. Her constant joking about her numerous plastic surgery procedures and gravity’s effect on her aging body, the fact that she was ugly (“Bow-wow!  Arf-Arf!”), or fat, or old…  And, of course, one must ALWAYS marry rich, no matter what:

“The problem with marrying for money is that you end up earning it.”

Now, arguably, much of what came out of Joan’s mouth is not appropriate to include here, and she was constantly garnering attention because of her politically incorrect or just plain crude statements.  I always thought she got a lot of flak, though, for saying things that male comedians could say with impunity.

“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”

When I find myself missing that catty chatter from my favorite comedienne, I can turn to one of the books written by Joan here at DCPL, her most recent being this year’s Diary of a Mad Diva.

“My mother kept asking ‘why can’t you be more like your sister?’ My sister had died at birth.”

I must admit that I have winced and even pouted at things she said at times during the all the years I’ve listened to Joan.  But, I know what Joan would say to me:

“Oh, GROW UP!!!”

Joan, you made me laugh until I cried.  You will be missed.



Jun 18 2014


by Hope L

PatsyThe Wurlitzer All-Time Jukebox Hits lists Crazy as the #2 jukebox hit single. She would’ve been 82 this year. Her name was Virginia Patterson Hensley, aka Patsy Cline.

I once lip-synched the Patsy Cline song I Fall to Pieces at a convention, so I have  literary license to write about  Ms. Cline. Of course I remember Jessica Lange playing Patsy  in the 1985 film Sweet Dreams, but other than knowing that Cline died in a plane crash, I really didn’t know much about this 60’s icon of country music.  So I picked up Mark Bego’s I Fall to Pieces: The Music and the Life of Patsy Cline.

Many talented and ambitious people had hardscrabble beginnings and/or abuse growing up, and Patsy was no exception.  Now when I listen to her music, I have a whole new appreciation for the angst that can be heard in her singing of songs, my personal favorite being Turn the Cards Slowly.

Patsy Cline knew she would be a star, and at a young age she went about making it happen by singing everywhere and every chance she got, just for the experience: church, fairgrounds, restaurants, nightclubs.  At  age 15, “Ginny,” as she was known then, quit school to go to work to help support the family. Her first  paying  job: slaughtering chickens.

But Ginny found the time to nag her mother to take her around to Winchester, West Virginia’s small radio station and show off her singing skills to the likes of Joltin’ Jim McCoy–and eventually on to Nashville to try to get an audience with Wally Fowler, a big star of Southern Gospel with a regular radio show.

When I hear a song by Patsy, with its steel guitar intro, it brings me back to the days of country two-stepping and smoky barrooms of my  youth–fond memories, indeed.  Forgive me, young people–but they sure don’t  make music like this anymore. Click here to take a look at some of the items we have at DCPL.



Aug 9 2013

Andrew Carnegie…our hero?

by Dea Anne M

Carnegie_Library_of_Moultrie“The man who dies rich dies disgraced.” This famous statement comes from Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist and steel baron who amassed a huge fortune and then spent the latter part of his life giving the majority of it away. Perhaps the best known of his philanthropies is Carnegie Hall, Manhattan’s famous concert venue which Carnegie paid to have built. Others include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Mellon University and numerous museums. The most important of his projects, at least to those of us who love libraries, would be the Carnegie libraries. The image at right shows the Old Carnegie Library in Moultrie, GA.  Built in 1906, it is no longer in use as a library but is on the National Register of Historic Places. 1690 of these libraries were built in the United States alone and many more in other parts of the world. A huge proponent of self-improvement, Carnegie didn’t provide endowments for these libraries. Rather, he insisted that any community interested in building a library aided by Carnegie funds be willing to abide by certain requirements:

  • demonstrate the need for a public library;
  • provide the building site;
  • annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation; and,
  • provide free service to all.

This last point created its contradictions. In the strictly segregated American South, for example, Carnegie funded separate libraries for African Americans in many communities. In any case, Carnegie rarely denied a request and many of these buildings, beautifully designed and executed, often became known as the most distinguished structures in their communities (check out some images here). The unique design of these buildings also featured an element brand new to libraries—self service stacks which encouraged patrons to browse and discover books, either on their on or with the guidance of library staff. Prior to this, patrons asked librarians to retrieve specific items from closed stacks.

carnegieAndrew Carnegie was a proponent of political egalitarianism and professed his support for labor unions. At the same time, he held his own workers to long hours at low pay and his reputation would be forever tarred by his actions during the Homestead Steel Strike.  In spite of these contradictions, I believe that Carnegie has to be recognized as a major figure in shaping the mission of the modern public library. NPR recently ran a very interesting piece on Carnegie’s legacy that is well worth checking out. It includes a very lively comments section as well. If you’d like to learn more about Andrew Carnegie’s life, DCPL carries (among other resources) two well-regarded biographies Carnegie by Peter Krass and Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw.

Did you use your hometown’s library (or libraries) when you were growing up? Did your town ever have a Carnegie library? Speaking of hometown libraries don’t miss Joseph’s fun post from earlier this week!

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May 29 2013

Mark your calendars!

by Dea Anne M

On September 23 1957, 3 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared via Brown vs Board of Education that all laws establishing segregated schools were unconstitutional, nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The tumultuous events that preceded and followed this event have become generally known as the Little Rock Integration Crisis. Someone who played a leading role during this time, and in times to come, was Daisy Bates (November 11, 1914 – November 4, 1999). Elected president of the Arkansas branch of the NAACP in 1952, Mrs. Bates, along with her husband L. C. Bates, was a very important figure in the African American community of Little Rock. Their newspaper, the Arkansas State Press, whose first issue appeared on May 9, 1941, was a voice for civil rights well before a nationally recognized movementemerged. Mrs. Bates acted as advisor and guide to the students who became know as the Little Rock Nine.The Bates’ newspaper suffered such a loss of advertising revenue during and after these events that they were forced to stop publishing in 1959 but Mrs. Bates went on to do important work in New York City and Washington DC. In 1988, the reprint of her 1962 memoir The Long Shadow of Little Rock (which was initially banned throughout the South) won a National Bookrock Award.

On Saturday, June 8th, the Stonecrest branch of DCPL will proudly host Janis F. Kearney the author of Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Kearney, who was 16 when she met Bates, paints a vivid and compelling picture of a true legend, a woman ahead of her time during a fascinating, and for many dangerous, period of our nation’s history. Ms. Kearney, a highly respected scholar, served as Presidential Diarist to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2001 and is the author of the memoir Cotton Field of Dreams which tells of her childhood growing up as one of 17 children born to poor sharecroppers who encouraged their children to succeed through hard work, education and bold dreams. Funding for this very special event is provided by the Friends of the Stonecrest Library and the City of Lithonia and will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Please be sure not to miss this exciting author talk!Little Rock

For more background on Daisy Bates, check out The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin and to learn more about the Little Rock Integration Crisis be sure not miss Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the crisis that rocked the nation by Elizabeth Jacoway


Frances Farmer (1913-1970) was an American film and stage actress better remembered today for her traumatic private life than her professional accomplishments. In the early 1980s, Jessica Lange was Oscar-nominated for her starring performance in the film Frances, a somewhat fictionalized account of Farmer’s life, including the years she spent involuntarily confined to a mental hospital. Many of Farmer’s fans and supporters believe that she may not have been as seriously ill as her family believed, that she may have been mostly guilty of being an unhappy, outspoken, and volatile woman at a time when those traits were not always well-received.

Peter Shelley’s Frances Farmer: The Life and Films of a Troubled Star has two major components. The first section of the book tries to sort out fact from fiction in previous accounts of the actress’ life, as told in biographies, the aforementioned film, and a controversial memoir that Farmer authorized but may not have written. In the second half, Shelley takes a detailed look at the legacy left by Frances Farmer in her films. While she may not belong to the pantheon of great actresses, Shelley convincingly makes the case that the best of her work merits serious critical attention, which he provides here.

As so often happens when you read one book, Shelley’s led me to another. One of the long unanswered questions about Farmer’s life, which Shelley investigated in writing his book, was whether she was lobotomized during her years as a mental patient. In The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness, author Jack El-Hai wrestles with a complex question. Was Dr. Walter Freeman (1895-1972), the controversial physician who championed the widespread use of lobotomies to treat mental illness (and was long-rumored to have performed the procedure on Frances Farmer), a fearless pioneer, a grossly irresponsible doctor with delusions of grandeur, or simply a tragically misguided man who did his best to help patients who otherwise had few chances for a productive life? (If you’re a follower of the Kennedy family history, you might know that one of Dr. Freeman’s patients was JFK’s sister Rosemary, though the operation apparently did her more harm than good).

These may not be the kind of books you want to drop into your beach bag to read by the pool this summer. But if you’re in the mood to read something that will keep you thinking long after you’ve turned the last page, give one, or both, a try.

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Jul 30 2012

Citizen King

by Jnai W

I wish I could do justice to the inspiration of this blog post in this blog post. There isn’t really enough space in this format, there isn’t enough time (as I’m anxious to get back to my reading on this, my inspiration), nor do I have enough words to fully express myself.

This past week or so I’ve been reading several books at once but most of them revolve around the life, the death and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The first book that I have been reading that has inspired me to learn more about Dr. King is an incredibly insightful book by Michael Eric Dyson, one of my favorite contemporary writers and thinkers, called April 4, 1968.

In this book, Dyson examines the life, the activism and, most specifically the death of Dr. King.  Dyson writes that King’s understanding of his “calling”, the moral imperative to stand up against injustice, and also King’s sense of his own mortality were driving forces in his Civil Rights leadership. The spectre of suffering and death was ever-present in King’s life: from the violence that marked the Civil Rights movement to the constant threats against his own life. It was his deep belief in the righteousness of the cause and his strong faith in God and in America that sustained him throughout his life in the Movement.

Upon reading this book, I’ve been inspired to return to Dr. King’s sermons, letters and writings for deeper insight into his faith, his philosophy and acts of powerful non-violent demonstration against racial injustice and, increasingly, against poverty and war. The more I read the more I’d come to realize that, though I’d grown up aware of Dr. King’s legacy, there was much that I didn’t know about his life and his work. As a result I’m pouring over a few books featuring the words of Dr. King including A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.

In between studying his words, I’ve also seen an incredible PBS American Experience documentary Citizen King, addressing the last five years of Dr. King’s life. The film, directed by Orlando Bagwell and W. Noland Walker, is a richly-detailed, beautifully-realized exploration of the life and times of King. Citizen King tells the story of King’s work beyond the familiar images of his March on Washington and beyond the well-known words of his “I Have A Dream” speech. The film sheds light on his work in the Poor People’s Campaign, addressing economic injustice and poverty, and also addresses his vocal (and highly controversial) opposition to the Vietnam War.

The aforementioned works reminded me of the impact of Dr. King, a legacy that in my opinion shouldn’t be relegated to one day in January or to the following month of February. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. But he also had the conviction, the passion, the courage and the clarity of vision to stand for what he believed in.