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Nebraska Heritage Book Club – Archive

The Nebraska Heritage Book Club
Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors
Bennett Martin Public Library (3rd floor)

136 S. 14th St.
441-8516 (Heritage Room phone #)

The Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors at Bennett Martin Public Library is pleased to be the new official meeting spot for The Nebraska Heritage Book Club (formerly The Nebraska History Book Club) as of 2019!

For several years, this group met at the Nebraska History Museum (15th & “P”). This group was formed to discuss books about Nebraska history, highlighting the books on the booklist. Everyone is welcome. Feel free to bring lunch. Come when you can!

This group has now relocated their monthly meetings to the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, on the 3rd floor of the downtown library. The group meets on the 4th Friday of every month, from Noon to 1:00 p.m., for the discussion of books by Nebraska authors or with a Nebraska history theme. A specific novel, story collection or non-fiction title is selected in advance for discussion during each meeting.

Some Examples of Past Discussions: February 25 2017: Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt; March 24 2017: Sharpie: The Life of Evelyn Sharp – Nebraska’s Aviatrix by Diane Bartels; April 21 2017: Hector’s Bliss by Dennis Vossberg (3rd Friday); May 26 2017: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. September 29 2017: The Bones of Paradise by Jonis Agee (5th Friday); October 27 2017: Bloody Mary, Gentle Woman by Frances G. Reinehr; November 17 2017: The Christmas of the Phonograph Record by Mari Sandoz (3rd Friday — We will do a choral reading of the book); January 26 2018: Book TBD; February 23 2018: Have You Seen Mary? by Jeff Kurrus or another book about Sandhills Cranes.


Friday, February 22, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the February meeting is Gabe Parks’ Nebraska Trivia.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Nebraska Trivia is the who, what, when, where, and how book of the great state of Nebraska. Filled with interesting questions and answers about well-known and not so well-known facts of this colorful, historic state, Nebraska Trivia will provide hours of entertainment and education. Designed for use in a wide variety of settings―home, office, school, parties―it focuses on the history, culture, people, and places of the fascinating Cornhusker State. Nebraska Trivia is readily adaptable for use with trivia format games.”

Friday, March 22, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The featured title for March is Bess Streeter Aldrich’s The Rim of the Prairie.

A special treat is in store for March 22.  The group indicated that we would like to take a field trip to Elmwood, NE, the home of Mrs. Aldrich. If you are interested in attending, contact the Heritage Room at 402-441-8516.

We will start at the museum (124 West D Street), which is in the back half of the Elmwood Library at 1:30.  That part of our tour will take about 30 minutes. Then we will drive about 4 blocks to the Aldrich House, 204 East F Street.  That will take about 45-60 minutes.  The exhibit in March is vintage sheet music, music boxes, and vintage musical instruments.  There is a $5.00 charge.

You will appreciate the book even more when you visit Elmwood.

If you would like to carpool, we will meet in the Kohl’s parking lot (just north of 84th & O Streets) at 12:45.

Here’s the description from the back cover of the book:

“A western story set in a small town in Nebraska on ‘the rim of the prairie.’ The characters include a gay, tantalizing heroine made more attractive by a hint of mystery, a steadfast hero, and two delightful pioneers.”

Friday, April 26, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the February meeting is Stephanie Grace Whitson’s Karyn’s Memory Box.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Prairie life challenges newlywed Karyn Ritter, but she finds beauty in the wilderness while learning that love can come from unexpected places.”

Friday, May 24, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the February meeting is Ted Genoways’ This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm. This title is the selection for One Book One Nebraska for 2019.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, and yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a farm, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their small family farm — and their entire way of life — are under siege. Beyond the threat posed by rising corporate ownership of land and livestock, the Hammonds are confronted by encroaching pipelines, groundwater depletion, climate change, and shifting trade policies. Add GMOs, pesticides, and fossil fuel pollution to their list of troubles and the question is: can the family farm survive in America?”

Friday, June 28, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The titles for discussion at the June meeting are the picture books of Bruce Arant, including Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go To Sleep!

Here’s the description of that specific title, from our catalog:

“Farmer Simpson works all day. He plants his corn, and beans, and hay. His feet get tired, his nose gets red. At night, he likes to go to bed. But Simpson’s sheep have other plans–and sleep is not one of them! They think of every excuse to stay awake. They need a drink. They want a snack. They have to “go!” They like to yack. Will poor Simpson ever find a way to lull his sheep to sleep? Illustrated with soft pastel drawings that are both silly and soothing–Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! is a story for every parent who has put a child to bed–and every child who has creatively resisted.”

Friday, July 26, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the July meeting is Theodore Wheeler’s Kings of Broken Things.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“With characters depicted in precise detail and wide panorama–a kept-woman’s parlor, a contentious interracial baseball game on the Fourth of July, and the tragic true events of the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 — Kings of Broken Things reveals the folly of human nature in an era of astonishing ambition.

During the waning days of World War I, three lost souls find themselves adrift in Omaha, Nebraska, at a time of unprecedented nationalism, xenophobia, and political corruption. Adolescent European refugee Karel Miihlstein’s life is transformed after neighborhood boys discover his prodigious natural talent for baseball. Jake Strauss, a young man with a violent past and desperate for a second chance, is drawn into a criminal underworld. Evie Chambers, a kept woman, is trying to make ends meet and looking every which way to escape her cheerless existence.

As wounded soldiers return from the front and black migrant workers move north in search of economic opportunity, the immigrant wards of Omaha become a tinderbox of racial resentment stoked by unscrupulous politicians. Punctuated by an unspeakable act of mob violence, the fates of Karel, Jake, and Evie will become inexorably entangled with the schemes of a ruthless political boss whose will to power knows no bounds.

Written in the tradition of Don DeLillo and Colum McCann, with a great debt to Ralph Ellison, Theodore Wheeler’s debut novel Kings of Broken Things is a panoramic view of a city on the brink of implosion during the course of this summer of strife.”

Theodore Wheeler, the author of Kings of Broken Things, will be joining the group for this month’s discussion.

Friday, August 23, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the August meeting is Mary K. Stillwell’s The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Like a flash of lightning it came to him— the unathletic high school student Ted Kooser saw a future as a famous poet that promised everything: glory, immortality, a bohemian lifestyle (no more doing dishes, no more cleaning his room), and, particularly important to the lonely teenager, girls! Unlike most kids with a sudden ambition, Kooser, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and thirteenth poet laureate of the United States, made good on his dream. But glory was a long time coming, and along the way Kooser lived the life that has made his poetry what it is, as deeply grounded in family, work, and the natural world as it is attuned to the nuances of language.

Just as so much of Kooser’ s own writing weaves geography, history, and family stories into its measures, so does this first critical biography consider the poet’ s work and life together: his upbringing in Iowa, his studies in Nebraska with poet Karl Shapiro as mentor, his career in insurance, his family life, his bout with cancer, and, always, his poetry. Combining a fine appreciation of Kooser’ s work and life, this book finally provides a fuller and more complex picture of a writer who, perhaps more than any other, has brought the Great Plains and the Midwest, lived large and small, into the poetry of our day.”

Zoo Nebraska - cover

Friday, September 27, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream, by Carson Vaughan, is the featured title.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

A resonant true story of small-town politics and community perseverance and of decent people and questionable choices, Zoo Nebraska is a timely requiem for a rural America in the throes of extinction.

Royal, Nebraska, population eighty-one–where the church, high school, and post office each stand abandoned, monuments to a Great Plains town that never flourished. But for nearly twenty years, they had a zoo, seven acres that rose from local peculiarity to key tourist attraction to devastating tragedy. And it all began with one man’s outsize vision.

When Dick Haskin’s plans to assist primatologist Dian Fossey in Rwanda were cut short by her murder, Dick’s devotion to primates didn’t die with her. He returned to his hometown with Reuben, an adolescent chimp, in the bed of a pickup truck and transformed a trailer home into the Midwest Primate Center. As the tourist trade multiplied, so did the inhabitants of what would become Zoo Nebraska, the unlikeliest boon to Royal’s economy in generations and, eventually, the source of a power struggle that would lead to the tragic implosion of Dick Haskin’s dream.

Friday, October 25, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The author for discussion at the October meeting is Terese Svoboda, however no specific titles have been selected. Participants can read any of Terese Svoboda’s work, up to and including her latest, Great American Desert.

The author, Terese Svoboda, will be joining the group for this discussion.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

Water, its use and abuse, trickles through Great American Desert, a story collection by Terese Svoboda that spans the misadventures of the prehistoric Clovis people to the wanderings of a forlorn couple around a pink pyramid in a sci-fi prairie. In “Dutch Joe,” the eponymous hero sees the future from the bottom of a well in the Sandhills, while a woman tries to drag her sister back from insanity in “Dirty Thirties.” In “Bomb Jockey,” a local Romeo disposes of leaky bombs at South Dakota’s army depot, while a family quarrels in “Ogallala Aquifer” as a thousand trucks dump chemical waste from a munitions depot next to their land. Bugs and drugs are devoured in “Alfalfa,” a disc jockey talks her way out of a knifing in “Sally Rides,” and an updated Pied Piper begs parents to reconsider in “The Mountain.” The consequences of the land’s mistreatment is epitomized in the final story by a discovery inside a pink pyramid.
In her arresting and inimitable style, Svoboda’s delicate handling of the complex dynamics of family and self seeps into every sentence of these first-rate short stories about what we do to the world around us–and what it can do to us.

Journey into Christmas - cover

Friday, November 15, 2019 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

This month’s meeting was moved forward by a week from the 22nd to the 15th!

The title for discussion at the November meeting will be Journey into Christmas by Bess Streeter Aldrich.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

The true meaning of Christmas emerges in these stories about reunited families, good fellowship, and restored faith. This is not to say that all is sugar candy. The mother in the title story faces a lonely Christmas in an empty house–but then something quite ordinary but miraculous happens. In “The Drum Goes Dead,” a small-town bank cashier, a solid citizen and sterling friend, is dispirited by hard times until he discovers, through his own resources, that it is indeed a wonderful life.

Here are nine other holiday stories, by turns dramatic, humorous, and inspirational. The closing piece recalls the author’s childhood in Iowa.

[Reminder: There is no meeting in December 2019.]