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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.

Friday, February 28, 2020 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the January meeting is Mari Sandoz’s Capital City.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“First published in the dark days immediately before World War II, Capital City is Mari Sandoz’s angriest and most political novel. Like many important American novels of the 1930s — John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited, Robert Cantwell’s Land of PlentyCapital City depicts the troubles of working people trapped in the Great Depression. A unique portrayal of how the Depression affected the Great Plains, it examines the forces that bitterly contended for wealth and power. Sandoz researched the daily life and behind-the-scenes operations of several state capitals in the thirties before synthesizing them in this novel, which is part allegory, part indictment, part warning. Famous for her passionate writing, Sandoz imbued Capital City with the full measure of her outrage.”

Friday, January 24, 2020 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the January meeting is Christine Harris’ The Gypsy in My Soul.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Poland, 1943-Heinrich Himmler orders the mass deportation of Gypsies to concentration camps. Sasha Karmazin, a Gypsy woman living in Warsaw, Poland, is torn from her family by the Gestapo and must leave behind her Polish husband, Henryk, and her two teenage sons, Karl and Dimitri. After being transported to Auschwitz, Europe’s largest Nazi concentration camp, Sasha is forced to work as an interpreter for the Nazis. Her survival depends on her wits, and she will do anything to stay alive.

Nebraska, 1976-Beth Karmazin, a beautiful, bronze-skinned young woman and daughter of Karl Karmazin, is all too aware of her Gypsy heritage. But when she learns that her grandmother Sasha, presumed to be dead, is accused of having taken a Nazi lover and collaborating with the Nazi’s while at Auschwitz, Beth is determined to prove her grandmother’s innocence.

Beth’s commitment takes her on a three-year quest deep into Communist-controlled Eastern Europe at the height of the Cold War, a journey that changes not only her life, but also the course of history.

Seamlessly moving from the turbulent 1940s to the 1980s, The Gypsy in My Soul. creates a riveting portrait of one woman’s devotion to family-and to uncovering the truth.”

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.]

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.

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, 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.”

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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, February 23, 2018 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the February 2018 meeting is Jeff Kurrus’ Have You Seen Mary?.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“‘. . . and the sky blackened with dark, gray bodies. In the blurry confusion, John lost Mary.’ So begins Have You Seen Mary?, Jeff Kurrus’s fictional account of one sandhill crane’s faithful search during spring migration for his lost mate. Set on Nebraska’s Platte River, this tenderly woven story of love is also a stirring introduction to these majestic birds, replete with Michael Forsberg’s radiant color photographs. This book will appeal to all ages, for it both entertains and educates readers about sandhill cranes.”

Friday, November 17, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the November 2017 meeting is Mari Sandoz’s The Christmas of the Phonograph Record.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Charmingly, Mari Sandoz tells of a long-ago Christmas in western Nebraska when her father’s house was filled with good music. Old Jules had ordered an Edison phonograph and boxes of cylinder records from the East, paying for them with an inheritance and ignoring debts, to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife. But the entire family soon entered into the holiday spirit as neighbors arrived to feast and dance and enjoy musical selections ranging from Lucia di Lammermoor to Casey at the Telephone. Even old enmities dissolved under the spell, for, as Old Jules said, “The music is for everybody.”

A classic in the tradition of Dylan Thomas’s Child’s Christmas in Wales and Truman Capote’s Christmas Memory, this story by the famous author of Old Jules was first published posthumously in December 1966.”

Friday, October 27, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the October 2017 meeting is Frances G. Reinehr’s Bloody Mary, Gentle Woman.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Mary Ann Partington (1889-1979) became a legend when blood was shed for independence on her lonely farmstead. A retired school teacher and avid church-worker, she suffered not gladly the intrusions on her person and property by a generation of teenagers bent on riling her. Their rite of passage cost her dearly.

Spurred on by the enthusiasm of her fifth grade glasses who were enchanted by the legend, author Reinehr search for the person behind the legend. In Bloody Mary, Gentle Woman, she explores the contradictions embodied in that title.”

Friday, September 29, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the September 2017 meeting is Jonis Agee’s The Bones of Paradise.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“The award-winning author of The River Wife returns with a multigenerational family saga set in the unforgiving Nebraska Sand Hills in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee–an ambitious tale of history, vengeance, race, guilt, betrayal, family, and belonging, filled with a vivid cast of characters shaped by violence, love, and a desperate loyalty to the land.

Ten years after the Seventh Cavalry massacred more than two hundred Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, J.B. Bennett, a white rancher, and Star, a young Native American woman, are murdered in a remote meadow on J.B.’s land. The deaths bring together the scattered members of the Bennett family: J.B.’s cunning and hard father, Drum; his estranged wife, Dulcinea; and his teenage sons, Cullen and Hayward. As the mystery of these twin deaths unfolds, the history of the dysfunctional Bennetts and their damning secrets is revealed, exposing the conflicted heart of a nation caught between past and future.

At the center of The Bones of Paradise are two remarkable women. Dulcinea, returned after bitter years of self-exile, yearns for redemption and the courage to mend her broken family and reclaim the land that is rightfully hers. Rose, scarred by the terrible slaughters that have decimated and dislocated her people, struggles to accept the death of her sister, Star, and refuses to rest until she is avenged.

A kaleidoscopic portrait of misfits, schemers, chancers, and dreamers, Jonis Agee’s bold novel is a panorama of America at the dawn of a new century. A beautiful evocation of this magnificent, blood-soaked land–its sweeping prairies, seas of golden grass, and sandy hills, all at the mercy of two unpredictable and terrifying forces, weather and lawlessness–and the durable men and women who dared to tame it. Intimate and epic, The Bones of Paradise is a remarkable achievement: a mystery, a tragedy, a romance, and an unflagging exploration of the beauty and brutality, tenderness and cruelty that defined the settling of the American West.”

Friday, May 26, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the May 2017 meeting is Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under.”

Friday, April 21, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the April 2017 meeting is Dennis Vossberg’s Hector’s Bliss: Black Homesteaders at Goose Lake, Nebraska.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“This novel traces the struggles of the Hector Dixon Family from his early days as a slave in Virginia, and his wife’s harrowing escape to the North as a young girl. The story continues through their burial in the lost Negro Cemetery by peaceful Goose Lake.”

Friday, March 24, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the March 2017 meeting is Diane Bartles’ Sharpie: The Life of Evelyn Sharp – Nebraska’s Aviatrix.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

“The life story of a woman who simply loved to fly, Sharpie is a biography of an early Nebraska barn-storming pilot who became one of the first women to ferry U.S. Army Air Force fighters during World War II. She gave her life for her country — a war heroine.”

Friday, February 25, 2017 — Noon-1:00 p.m.

The title for discussion at the February 2017 meeting is John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks.

Here’s the description from our catalog:

Black Elk Speaks, the story of the Oglala Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and his people during momentous twilight years of the nineteenth century, offers readers much more than a precious glimpse of a vanished time. Black Elk’s searing visions of the unity of humanity and Earth, conveyed by John G. Neihardt, have made this book a classic that crosses multiple genres. Whether appreciated as the poignant tale of a Lakota life, as a history of a Native nation, or as an enduring spiritual testament, Black Elk Speaks is unforgettable.

Black Elk met the distinguished poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt in 1930 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and asked Neihardt to share his story with the world. Neihardt understood and conveyed Black Elk’s experiences in this powerful and inspirational message for all humankind.”