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May 16 2016

1,000 Books and Mrs. Kimbrall

by Hope L

1000books_1DeKalb County Public Library and the DeKalb Library Foundation have launched the wonderful  1000 Books Before Kindergarten program and it has made me think that  I’d like to focus on reading more myself.

I wonder if I could launch my own campaign, say, A 1000 Books Before I Retire, or A 1000 Books I Really Should Have Read While in School, or even A 1000 Books I Shall Read Before I Go to the Big Library Upstairs.

When I think of the earliest books I enjoyed, I think of the Dick and Jane and Spot books, and of course, Dr. Seuss and Curious George. These books bring back memories of the smell of paste and working with construction paper, painting pictures and all the fun stuff we did in kindergarten.  Prior to that I don’t remember much except for digging a deep hole outside by my dollhouse with a spoon from the kitchen drawer while Mom would hang up the laundry.

I don’t believe anything too highbrow came through our household at that time, probably the lone classics being my brothers’ copy of  “The Last of the Mohicans,” or “Treasure Island,” which of course were way above my level of reading.  My parents used to read their paperback novels in bed while we kids watched TV.

And so it was with a pinch of luck later on that I was allowed to select a title  from my fifth grade teacher’s collection of paperbacks, which she invited us all to do as she was leaving after that year.

Mrs. Clarissa Kimbrall was retiring.

Grand Canyon School’s elementary students’ greatest fear was the mere presence of Mrs. Kimbrall.  At some 5’5″ tall, with her stern wardrobe of a floral dress, light pastel sweater, hose and military-cum-old lady shoes, her intimidating stature struck terror in even the wildest or toughest juvenile delinquent or goody-two-shoes alike.  Everyone in our elementary school got a knot in the pit of their stomachs when they thought about Mrs. Kimbrall waiting for them when they, too, finally reached the fifth grade.

We were so … um … fortunate to be blessed to be the final class to have Mrs. Clarissa Kimbrall at Grand Canyon School, in Grand Canyon, Arizona.

But along with everybody else, I stayed awake nights dreading the next day with Mrs. Kimbrall.  It was when worry was formally born in my psyche.  But we all lived to tell the story.

When somebody would have a birthday Mrs. Kimbrall would break out her infamous raisin cupcakes with pink frosting that were tough as a cheap steak. But we politely ate and smiled, for to leave that ‘treat’ (read: rock)  uneaten – that which the old woman would bake once a year (it might’ve been years before!) and would store in her freezer to bring every birthday – would be to face the wrath of Clarissa Kimbrall.

One never knew what the day would bring:  would Rusty Kemper fall asleep during reading?  Would Mrs. Kimbrall herself nod off whilst reading aloud to us from “The Hardy Boys’ Mysteries,” her pinky finger gently resting at the side of her nostril just so?  Would the class giggle and act up and awaken Mrs. Kimbrall, who would then unleash her wrath upon everyone?

But besides the gifts of respect, awe and terror, Mrs. Kimbrall gave me my first book.  Sure, I had books that were hand-me-downs from my three older brothers, and I read their “Boys’ Life” magazines, but this book that I selected from Mrs. Kimbrall’s large collection was my own personal book, my first.

And the book I chose was … “The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek,” by Evelyn Sibley Lampman.  I shall never forget it … or Mrs. Kimbrall and her raisin cupcakes.

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May 12 2016

The Book of Joan

by Hope L

BookofJoan

It will soon be two years since Joan Rivers passed away, and her daughter has written a touching, sarcastic, book about her mother:  “The Book of Joan – Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation,” by Melissa Rivers.

Anyone who loved Joan Rivers’ humor will love this book.  Interspersed within the reflections are both jokes used by the comedienne in her act over the years and new ones the younger Ms. Rivers herself includes; “The Book of Joan,” by Melissa Rivers is available at DCPL, as are titles by the comedienne herself:

“Still Talking,” by Joan Rivers with Richard Meryman

“Bouncing Back : I’ve Survived Everything– and I Mean Everything– and You Can Too!” by Joan Rivers with Ralph Schoenstein.

“Don’t Count the Candles – Just Keep the Fire Lit,” by Joan Rivers

“I Hate Everything – Starting with Me,” by Joan Rivers

“Diary of a Mad Diva,” by Joan Rivers

“Joan Rivers:  A Piece of Work,”  by Ricki Stern, DVD recording

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Mar 18 2016

Tastes Funny

by Dea Anne M

If you read this blog with any regularity, you might assume that I read only thrillers, memoirs and cookbooks. Of course, having just said that, I realize how very flattering to myself I’m being to even imagine that you’d devote a spare moment toward considering my reading habits. In any case,  I am, in fact, a huge fan of humorous writing – both fiction and non. Of course “funny” is subjective but I consistently find myself favoring sly, ironic, often British, writing such as that practiced by H. H. Munro – better known as Saki – and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse – better known as P. G. Wodehouse. I have also enjoyed some of Dorothy Parker’s and Christopher Moore’s writing as well aseducation  the absurdities and antic word plays of James Thurber. But one of the writers I have most enjoyed over the years is someone who is still active today – Calvin Trillin.

Trillin, primarily a print journalist, has worked for Time magazine as well as The Nation and is currently on the staff of The New Yorker. In fact, it was his reporting for the latter on the integration of the University of Georgia that became his first book,   An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes and the integration of the University of Georgia.  Trillin is also a well-known poet – particularly on the teppersubject of politics. The George W. Bush presidency, in particular, receives his wry treatment in Obliviously On He Sails and A Heckuva Job. More recent poems appear in Dogfight: the 2012 Presidential campaign in verse.  Trillin is also the author of a well-received (and very funny) novel Tepper Isn’t Going Out. As may be apparent, Trillin addresses a wide range of subjects in his writing but the concerns that seem to be closest to his heart are travel, food and family. In fact, it is Trillin’s family stories which are some of the most interesting and emotionally rewarding.

His daughters, Abigail and Sarah, have appeared often in his essays – and still do even though both are adults now with families of their own. Both girls, even raised as they were in the culinary paradise of New York City by parents with adventurous tastes, were apparently extremely picky eaters. Which is perhaps odd…or maybe familynot odd at all.  The young Sarah, for example, always insisted on carrying a bagel with her on family trips to New York “just in case.” Abigail, who sounds like the soul of kindness, was “complimenting me on my Cheerios until she wised up at about the age of three.” Trillin’s Family Man is a delightful meditation on the anxieties and joys of raising children written by a man who clearly – and very happily – has always put his family at the very center of his life. Just as lovely, and to my mind incredibly moving, is his portrait of his wife, Alice Stewart Trillin who died of heart disease on September 11, 2001. About Alice is a wonderful tribute to a woman who he clearly adored and who, from the moment he first met her in 1963, never stopped trying to impress.

It was Trillin’s food writing though that hooked me first, most specifically, the so-called Tummy Trilogy – which consists of the books American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat and Third Helpings (you can find the first and the third of these at DCPL). Trillin makes it clear that he isn’t much of a cook saying that, in the kitchen, he is “more of an idea man.” Still his culinary writing reveals the open mind, liberal taste buds and zestful approach to living that signify a gourmet of the best sort. Some of Trillin’s funniest quotes come from these books, for example:

(on revolving dining palaces situated at the top of tall buildings) “I never eat in a restaurant that’s over a hundred feet off the ground and won’t stand still.”

(on his mother’s cooking) “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”

(speaking as a proud Mid-Western son about his native city) “The best restaurants in the world are, of course, in Kansas City.”

(on the hazards of venturing an opinion about what actually constitutes chili) “I like chili, but not enough to discuss it with yensomeone from Texas.”

You can find more of Trillin’s very amusing culinary essays in Feeding a Yen: savoring local specialities from Kansas City to Cuzco. For a worthwhile general sampling of his writing, check out Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin; forty years of funny stuff.

How about you? Are you a fan of humorous writing and, if so, who do you recommend that I read next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 4 2016

By Any Other Name

by Dea Anne M

I admit that I’m quite a bit late to the game, but I checked out The Cuckoo’s Calling over the weekend and have not cuckoobeen able to put it down. Really. Of course, by now, everyone knows that the novel’s author, Robert Galbraith, is actually J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame and that this book is the first in a series of detective novels featuring the very interesting and mysterious Cormoran Strike and his clever assistant Robin Ellacott. On the surface, these books seem as far away from the world of Harry Potter as it is possible to get, yet one could argue that the prominent plot of each of the Potter books involves the characters in attempting to unravel a mystery. Think about it – who is the Half-Blood Prince? What exactly are the Deathly Hallows? Rowling herself has declared “…that the Harry Potter books are whodunnits in disguise,” and she had often expressed a deep love for the detective genre. I can tell you right now that even though I’m not yet finished with the first book in the series I know that I will be tearing through the second and third (The Silkworm and Career of Evil respectively) and eagerly awaiting the fourth book and all those to follow.

So, one might ask, why a pseudonym, Joanne Rowling (J. K. Rowling itself is a pseudonym – Rowling’s name is Joanne – no middle name)? Apparently, her publisher feared that boys wouldn’t read the Potter books if it was obvious that they were written by a woman. Hard to believe now, I know – but plausible enough. There has been some public speculation that the decision to use the Robert Galbraith pseudonym was similarly publisher driven – and for similar reasoning based of supposed genre-driven reading preferences. However, Rowling herself has said that the Galbraith nom-de-plume reflects a desire to create something that can “stand or fall on its own merits.”

Many authors have used pen names and for many different reasons. Here are a few that you may already know, or that you may want to get re-acquainted with or meet for the first time.

bronteThe famous Bronte sisters – Anne, Charlotte and Emily – originally published their work under the pseudonym Acton, Currer and Ellis (respectively). In 1850, in a preface to the new combined edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, Charlotte Bronte, who of course wrote Jane Eyre, revealed that the sisters agreed to more  masculine pen names because they “had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” If you want to know more about the work, and the daily lives, of these fascinating women, pick up The Bronte Cabinet: three lives in nine objects by Deborah Lutz at DCPL.

Globally beloved, and Nobel Prize winning, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda initially used that name in order to keep his publishing activities a secret from his father who disapproved of literature as a profession. Later, Neruda – whose given name was Ricardo Eliecer Reyes Basoalto – took the pseudonym as his legal name. You’ll find a number of Neruda’s books at DCPL including All the Odes and On the Blue Shore of Silence as well as Neruda: an intimate biography by Volodia Teitelboim.duck

Theo Lesieg, author of popular books for young readers such as I Wish That I Had Duck Feet! and Please Try To Remember the First of Octember! is the nom-de-plume of beloved writer/illustrator Dr. Seuss. Seuss is also a pen name as it is the middle name of Theodor Geisel – the “real” Dr. Seuss. Lesieg, of course, is Geisel spelled backwards. Check out Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan for more about this very interesting man.

Alice Bradley Sheldon will be better known to readers of science fiction as James Tiptree, Jr. Sheldon began publishing her provocative and unusual brand of fiction under the pen name in 1967 and her identity remained a secret until 1977 when enthusiastic fans ferreted out the truth. Why Sheldon used a pen name at all is open to debate as there doesn’t seem to have been any significant pressure on her to do so by family or the publishing world. It appears to have been a deeply personal decision on her part. In any case, Sheldon was a complicated person – as unusual as her fiction itself. Check out my previous post devoted to Sheldon here and if you’re interested in reading her work (which I highly recommend) check out Byte Beautiful: eight science fiction stories and Her Smoke Rose Up Forever – both available from DCPL. You can read more about Sheldon herself  in James Tiptree, Jr.: the double life nomof Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips.

You can read more about pen names in Carmela Ciuraru’s highly entertaining Nom de plume: a (secret) history of psuedonymns. Of course, I wonder how many pseudonyms have been selected because the author thought it sounded cool? Just for fun, here‘s a simple pen name generator. Or invent your own! What name would you publish under? Then again, you might want to keep that information under wraps!

 

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Dec 28 2015

Whale of a Story

by Hope L

SmithsonianDec2015My favorite quick read, which is available at DCPL (natch), is Smithsonian Magazine*–and the December issue certainly does not disappoint.

The article “Quakers with a Vengeance” is all about the history of Nantucket, so of course it delves into the history of whaling–and, of course, it talks about Herman Melville and Moby Dick. And it explores a more recent item: Ron Howard’s new movie In the Heart of the Sea, now in theaters.

One fascinating tidbit I just picked up from reading this piece is that Melville had never been to Nantucket (the place where his famous classic is at shore) when he wrote his famous story. Turns out he only visited it a year after Moby Dick was published. I did know however (being a Card-Carrying Know-It-All and everything), that Melville’s book was a flop during his lifetime, which is indeed a shame. The more I read about Herman Melville, the more I respect him as a writer and an adventurer. (You, too, can be a Card-Carrying Know-It-All by signing up today for a DCPL library card.)

I haven’t been this excited about whaling since I visited Provincetown, MA, a few years ago. Not quite Nantucket, but it’s the closest I’ve been to the world-famous home of whalers, that little island out there off of Cape Cod. It also turns out that Nantucket and its environs had little in the way of whales in any nearby waters after about 1800, having been all fished out. Still, the infrastructure was in place for the processing of whale blubber, and Nantucket continued to be the top producer of whaling oil in the world.

The thing about Melville’s Moby Dick is that initially one could mistake it as a difficult and monotonous read, as I did before I became a die-hard ship/sea stories/whaling aficionado. But when I read it years later, I was smitten.

melville

Melville’s tales of his seafaring adventures led to his success as a writer with Typee published in 1846. Other books followed, with Moby Dick being published in 1851 to little acclaim.

So, if you care to dream about ocean adventures while in landlocked Atlanta, DCPL has an assortment of whaling and seafaring books in addition to Melville’s writings, for example:

Looking for a Ship (1990) by John McPhee

Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting (2006) by T.R. Pearson

The Shipwreck that Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America (2008) by Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith

*The Smithsonian Magazine is available in print (paper) at various DCPL branches. Check with your local library. You can read full-color, digital issues of the Smithsonian Magazine in our DCPL Zinio Library Collection, and the magazine is also available full-text via EBSCOhost from GALILEO.

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Nov 2 2015

The Know-It-All Gets Schooled

by Hope L

KIAI’m sure you’re wondering: What can DCPL’s Know-It-All library card do for someone like me, a dyed-in-the-wool Know-It-All if there ever was one?  Through the end of the year, DCPL is running its Proud Card-Carrying Know-It-All campaign to encourage DeKalb residents to get a library card.

Now, I ask you, why do I need a library card? After all, I’ve already claimed to know it all. What else could I possibly learn?

Plenty, I have discovered. There is still SO much to know, to learn, and to enjoy. Or to rant about!

Why, I just discovered Marlene Targ Brill’s book Let Women Vote! at DCPL and learned about Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader of this country’s suffragist movement.  (Note the insistent exclamation point at the end of that book’s title!)womenvote

Catt marshaled the forces in Tennessee in July 1920 in the final fight in the struggle for women’s suffrage–the right to vote.

Thirty-five states had already approved the amendment, which said: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged (limited) by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

“Catt packed a small overnight bag at once. She expected to stay in Nashville only a few days, long enough to prove that the women worried needlessly. After she arrived, however, Catt changed her mind. Men and women who opposed the vote had flooded into Nashville. The size and strength of groups against woman suffrage shocked her. Catt quickly sent home for more clothes. For the next six weeks she fought one of the toughest battles in the seventy-two-year-long suffrage war.”

And just consider what I heard on NPR and researched online at DCPL recently: Suffrajitsu and Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons!

Suffrajitsu came about when the powers that be in the British women’s suffrage movement got tired of violent threats, being spat on, and frankly, being beaten up by those who were against their cause. (Or, like the famous line from that classic media/journalism movie Network: “I’m mad as he** and I’m NOT going to take this anymore!” Yessiree, Ms. Know-It-All remembers Peter Finch got an Oscar for that role.)

HippolytaAnd then there’s this from the juvenile fiction book by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris, Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons, available at DCPL:

“Hippolyta is a true Amazon princess:  Her heart beats for the thrill of the hunt, the rush of her daily battle training, and the abiding community of her fellow female warriors. She would do anything to protect the secure, empowering life the Amazons have built. But when her entire world is threatened, will this thirteen-year-old warrior be able to save it?

“Battling against time, fighting against incredible odds and even the gods themselves, Hippolyta will have to do the unthinkable to save the legendary race of female warriors:  accept the help and love of a boy. And as she journeys to her nation’s mythical homeland of Arimaspa in search of salvation, Hippolyta finally learns what it really means to be an Amazon: finding the courage to face your fears and overcome them in order to change the world.”

Well, Hippolyta may have needed to accept the help and love of a boy, but the Suffrajitsu Amazons did not. Okay, the suffragettes did have husbands and other enlightened men assisting in their battle to be able to vote. But, there were many more men who were dead set against it! Now, they could’ve called a few he-men in to do the job, but no, this called for the Suffrajitsu and the Amazons–sturdy women who would protect the suffragettes in their travels, protests and skirmishes. (Ms. Know-It-All wonders if she could have made the cut as a sturdy Suffragette?! But alas, we shall never know that.)

suffWhy, I even learned that Britain’s Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, a suffragette, was named by Time Magazine in 1999 as “One of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.”

(Meryl Streep, Ms. Know-It-All’s favorite actress, plays Mrs. Pankhurst in the female-produced, directed and written film Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan, which just opened at the end of October.)

Protests, marches, imprisonment and hunger strikes were some of Mrs. Pankhurst’s tactics. But, when she began getting roughed up, she began evading police by using disguises. Eventually the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU, started in 1903 by Pankhurst and her colleagues) established a jujitsu-trained female bodyguard squad to physically protect her.

Now that I’m a card-carrying Know-It-All because of my free, official DCPL library card in my wallet, I’m like the Suffrajitsu, except I’m ready to fight back with the facts instead of fists! You can bet that I won’t leave home without it!

And, by the way… What’s in YOUR wallet?

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Oct 19 2015

Ann Rules Indeed

by Hope L

annrulesAnn Rule wrote 30 New York Times bestsellers, all of which are still in print. I, for one, think she really does rule. Unfortunately, the prolific author died July 26, 2015, at age 83. She had her first bestseller in 1980 with her book about serial killer Ted Bundy.

It may not be the first of Rule’s books that I’ve read, but The Stranger Beside Me definitely is the one that scared me the most and was the most memorable. I think it was the personal connection that Rule had to Ted Bundy that made that book unique and incredible–that, and of course, the subject matter of Ted Bundy, a serial killer whom most of us have heard about.

More recently, I read her book about Gwinnett County dentist Bart Corbin, Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal.

Ann Rule was once a Seattle police officer, and that’s why her writing seems so authentic, so mesmerizing. Right now I’m reading Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge, and Murder, and she fleshes out the myriad of details and somehow puts everything into a fascinating  account. Allen Van Houte, the criminal in this book, is truly unbelievable–and she recounts with incredible heartbreak the many people whose lives he ruined.

Bundy

I’ve read a lot of true crime books, and I’d have to say that Ann Rule is right up there at the top of my favorites. She would write forewords to her books that spoke to readers like they were friends, often inviting them to drop her a line or an email.  Indeed, Every Breath You Take was written after Rule received a request from a fan who said that her sister wanted Rule to write her story should she ever die tragically (at the hands of her then ex-husband).

Click here to see what’s available by Ann Rule at DCPL.

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The world is full of awards for literature—the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Edgar Allan Poe Award—but a recent conference introduced me to one I had not been familiar with before.

Named after a child born with cerebral palsy, the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award is given every other year to the authors and illustrators of books, written for children and young adults, that show an accurate portrayal of individuals with developmental disabilities.

The award-winning titles feature characters with a range of disabilities, from Autism or Down Syndrome to intellectual disabilities that cause trouble in school.  The authors give us good stories with a lot of heart and help us genuinely empathize with the characters.

A few books I had read and loved previously went on to win this award:

scarA Small White Scar by K. A. Nuzum

In the summer of 1940, all Will wants to do is get away.  He’s sick of working the family ranch, sick of his father holding him back from what he wants to do, and sick of taking care of his twin brother, Denny, who has Down Syndrome.  But when Will decides to run away to compete in a rodeo, Denny follows.

 

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowdlondon

Salim got on the London Eye Ferris Wheel—his cousins Kat and Ted watched.  But when the ride stopped a half hour later, Salim was nowhere to be found.  The police can’t find him, but Kat and Ted, making use of Ted’s unique way of viewing the world, are on the case.

rememberRemember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick

Johnny planned on enjoying his summer, but a change in his mom’s plans means he has to stay with his aunt and take care of his older, autistic cousin, Remember.  Will a pet ferret and the weather channel be enough to save Johnny from complete boredom?

 

The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award is a collaboration between the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the Special Needs Project.  For more information about the award, and a full list of winners, click here.

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There is so much available on our library website. I’d like to discuss the RSS feeds with you today. They are listed on the right side of the DCPL homepage. One recommendation I make to patrons all the time is to check out these feeds, which are updated every Wednesday, to find out about new items at the Library. There are also feeds for popular reads currently available in the system–with no waiting. We have a feed for everyone!

Below are some examples of what DeKalb County Public Library offers when following RSS feeds.

New Adult Fiction

New Adult Nonfiction

Great Reads, No Waiting

Great DVDs, No Waiting

New Adult DVDs

New Young Adult Fiction Titles

New Juvenile Fiction Books

If you have a book club or want to have a movie night, the feeds for Great Reads, No Waiting or Great DVDs, No Waiting can provide the perfect option! If you see items of interest, but all of the copies are already checked out, you can make a request for a Hold to receive the next available copy. (See the information about Holds on Materials on this page.)

I hope you have a chance to check our RSS feeds out and let us know what you think!

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Jul 13 2015

Criminal History

by Hope L

echoesI got excited when my co-worker Camille wrote a review about the true crime book The Stranger She Loved.  True crime stories are some of my favorite, and now I have someone else at DCPL who may be sharing some interesting finds.

My new favorite true crime author is Jerry Bledsoe. His book Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage and Murder is available through DCPL.  He has written about several true crimes from his home state of North Carolina, and his books are  filled with very detailed facts, which must take years of research to write.

I have read many of Ann Rule’s books, but my favorite of hers will probably always be The Stranger Beside Me, her true account of serial killer Ted Bundy. Rule discovered she had known Bundy years ago when they both worked at a crisis center.  Reading about Ted Bundy scared the daylights out of me!

Another book that terrified me (no doubt these books scared me so much because I was living alone when I was reading them) was Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders  by Vincent Bugliosi.

Ancareergirlsother book I recently ran across is Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Echoes of  My Soul,which is sending chills down my spine, but in a different way.  You see, it tells the story of  ‘The Career-Girls Murders’  in New York on August 28, 1963, which,  ironically, occurred on the day of  Martin Luther King’s  iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  I say ironically because a black man named George Whitmore was bullied by police into confessing to the murders.  This case reminds me of some of the news stories that have been front and center in our country over the past couple of  years.

 

 

 

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