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Vagabond Librarian

Reports from the intersection of military life, motherhood, & librarianship.

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Memorial Day

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

-George S. Patton

From his speech at the Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Massachusetts, June 7, 1945, reported by William Blair in The New York Times, June 8, 1945, p. 6.

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Memorial Day hurts.

For military families, Memorial Day is personal. We honor the memory of fallen heroes on this day, including many who were much more than heroes to us–they were our friends and family.

This year, like every year, I obsessively read the thoughts, responses, and manifestos posted about the meaning of Memorial Day and the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of the words we use to express that we’re thinking of each other on this day. I am going  with my gut this year, and I will not be conflicted about what to say to someone who wishes my family a “Happy Memorial Day.” I will thank them for their warm thoughts, assume they are coming from a place of caring, and seize the opportunity to tell them about one of our fallen friends and how important it is to me that we have this day of remembrance for them.

My family and friends do devote time to somber moments of remembrance on Memorial Day, and I am glad to live in a country that dedicates a day to pay tribute to our war dead. I am also glad that in my family we spend most of Memorial Day laughing. We come home from somber and reflective ceremonies during which our eyes and hearts well up and we hold each others’ hands a little tighter, and then we spend the rest of the day telling old tales and building new memories. And we usually laugh our damn heads off, eyes and hearts still welling, sharing those tales and thinking about how fortunate we are to have had such friends as those we have lost. And how fortunate we are to still have each other.

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National Moment of Remembrance

Our National Moment of Remembrance is a time for Americans everywhere to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

The photographs featured in this post were taken by the author at Fort Drum Memorial Park.

 

 

Book Review: Praying for Sheetrock

Melissa Fay Greene’s Praying for Sheetrock is a well-researched, detail-oriented, unhurried read about a tumultuous time in the history of McIntosh County, Georgia. Greene explores difficult subjects with objectivity and understanding, and she tells a good story.

Greene’s approach to this narrative work of non-fiction is rich with personal details that reveal the good and the flaws in all of the characters who populate the story. Greene elegantly ties each of these personal stories into the larger historical epoch. The struggle for civil rights was slow to arrive to McIntosh County, a community Greene describes as living in a state of “civilized repression” and “good manners” until an event of shocking violence “violated the unspoken social contract that allowed the whites and the outcast blacks to live in peace” (p. 122-3). While some readers may find Greene’s style and language cumbersome and overly detailed, I found that the meticulous language she used not only enriched my understanding of the events in the work, but also evoked the overall pace of coastal Georgia, where I currently reside. I found that Greene’s deep dive into intimate detail helped me understand better what was at stake for the inhabitants of McIntosh County as they attempted to reconcile their personal experience (with their history, their community, and their law makers) with the awakening of the local black community to their civil rights and to their own power.

Though Greene’s story contributes to our national narrative of our ongoing American civil rights struggles, Praying for Sheetrock is ultimately a story of people. Noble and flawed people, who are sometimes horrible and sometimes heroic, and often both. In the hands of another author, this cast of unbelievable characters–including a Robin Hood style white sheriff, flawed black community organizer, and a group of eager Yankee lawyers–could have become a farce. Thankfully, Greene presents this real life cast with a thought provoking honesty that serves this story, and the reader, well.

Further Reading & Exploration

Melissa Fay Greene’s Website 

Greene’s Website includes more information about her published work, her media appearances, and her upcoming events.

Georgia Writers Hall of Fame interviews: Melissa Fay Greene

Georgia Writers Hall of Fame honoree: Melissa Fay Greene

The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, under the leadership of the University of Georgia Librarian, honors Georgia’s writers, literature, and cultural history. The Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame honoree page for Greene honors her for both her extensive research and her “personal approach” to the subjects of her work.

The New York Times Review of Praying for Sheet Rock

The 1991 New York Times “Book of The Times” review of Praying for Sheet Rock, written at the time the book was published, is a concise and well-written summary of Greene’s work.

Through the Lens of Photographer Walker Evans from Georgia Public Broadcasting

In Praying for Sheetrock, Greene refers to Walker Evans’ photographs of rural poverty to provide context to the poverty and living conditions of McIntosh County, Georgia in the 1970s. The above link leads to a Georgia Public Broadcasting page that includes a brief slideshow of highlights of Evans’ work; an audio interview with Alex Harris, who was a student of Evans; and, a video that combines Evans’ photography and his own reflections on his experiences as a photographer.

Featured Image

The Featured Image for this post is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Collection, a collection of photographs, prints, and other still media that documents the lives of Americans and our collective history.

Title: A Greyhound bus trip from Louisville, Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee, and the terminals. Sign at bus station. Rome, Georgia

    • Creator(s): Bubley, Esther, photographer
    • Date Created/Published: 1943 Sept.
    • Medium: 1 negative : nitrate ; 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches or smaller.
    • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-fsa-8d33365 (digital file from original neg.) LC-USW3-037939-E (b&w film nitrate neg.) LC-USZ62-75338 (b&w film copy neg. from file print)
    • Rights Advisory: No known restrictions. For information, see U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs(http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/071_fsab.html)
    • Call Number: LC-USW3- 037939-E [P&P]
    • Other Number: E 5153
    • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

This is a Library

   What’s a library?

This is about the Carthage Free Library. I’d love to hear about your public, academic, or special library.

My library is located in a charming building on Budd Street, but its services are at the Farmer’s Market, the school gym, and anywhere the community gathers.

My library is summer reading, water balloon tag, and animal encounters. It is the place where fantasy and reality intersect to spark further imagination and investigation by readers young and old alike.

My library is a safe place to go after school. It is a place to create, study, play, read, and learn. The library is Lego club, tea parties, story time, and art class. It is patrons painting the mural in the children’s room and planting bushes in the library’s front yard.


My library is paranormal investigation, author visits, local history classes, and cooking demonstrations. The library’s local history room is a treasure trove of resources and host to an oral history project. My library is a resource community members need to improve themselves and the community. My library is job fairs, internet access, basic skills classes, and the chance to make a better life. And, my library is a massive capital campaign undertaken to ensure physical access to the entire library for all patrons.

My library is family movie nights, craft classes for all ages, and spaghetti dinners. The library is Pysanky egg decorating, wine tasting, monthly book club, and student art shows. It is friendly staff, regular volunteers, an active Board of Trustees, and a Friends of the Library organization–all of which constantly strive to connect to and add value to their community.

In a word, what’s my library?

Amazing.


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