Radio Readers Book Club

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  HPPR Radio Readers Book Club is an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains. 

 

The 2017 Spring Read's theme is Water and Replenishment.  You'll find the thoughts and ideas about books from Radio Readers through a series of BookBytes posted below.  Of you'd like to contribute a BookByte yourself, simply contact Kathleen Holt at kholt@hppr.org for more information.

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JONATHAN BAKER / Canyon, Texas

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club Read, The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols. I read this book twenty years ago, after a friend of mine got a forearm tattoo of the tequila-toting Latino skeleton illustration from the cover of the book. I figured there must be something worth investigating in Nichols’s novel if my friend, a Jewish agitator from Austin, would get permanent ink dedicated to a story of Chicanos in northern New Mexico. So I read it. And I loved it.

Water - Dividing or Connecting

Feb 17, 2017
CONNY BOGAARD, Holcomb KS

The Milagro Bean Field War by John Nichols is a story about Mexican farmers reclaiming their lost rights and their lost lands from the hands of evil land developers. The story starts with one individual and his rebellious act to tap into an irrigation system to start a bean field to sustain him and his family. This simple act, of course, is not without consequences. Seeing the farmer and his bean field inspires the neighbors to also stand up against the developers and take back what is theirs. It is a wonderful story about people coming together to fight injustice, as well as the power of one individual to inspire change. 

The story reminds me of a small village in Honduras that I visited on a mission trip not long ago. Our goal was to build a water system to provide clean running water to every household in the village. The problem these villagers had was not the absence of water, or even the loss of their land, but simply the lack of resources because they were poor.  After years of lobbying with their government these people had given up hope that their situation would ever improve. Until one individual saw an opportunity.

Donde la luz es violeta / Where the Light is Violet.

Feb 16, 2017
XANATH CARAZA / Kansas City

I am Xánath Caraza, and I today will read two bilingual poems from my book Donde la luz es violeta / Where the Light is Violet.

Susurros en la atmósfera

Polvo de oro cubre el agua de Venecia

esta mañana. Las gaviotas no se han

fijado en mí, hace frío en esta barca a

la deriva. El viento salvaje de la laguna

corre por doquier, alborota mi pelo negro.

Voy en busca de Marco Polo, su fantasma.

Los ecos de sus pasos encerrados en este

Know When to Fold 'Em

Feb 13, 2017
Russell Lee / Library of Congress

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  We’ve been talking about John Nichols’ 1970’s classic, The Milagro Beanfield War, part of our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment.

You Already Know . . .

Feb 10, 2017
LYNNE HEWES

It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re reading  John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War to find out why Joe Mondragon diverted a stream of water for his little bean field.  It doesn’t matter if you’re hearing the religious ritual of “No man shall ever again want for water…” in Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel Dune.    It doesn’t even count that you’ve been mesmerized by William Ashworth in his history of the Ogallala Aquifer, called Ogallala Blue.

You already knew about the importance of water.

Is This a True Story?

Feb 10, 2017
Kathleen Holt / Kansas State Historical Society

Hello, Radio Readers!  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War as the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment.  Set in New Mexico, the novel explores the conflict between communities of haves and of have nots, who, in this story, are divided by access to water and water use.  On one side, are those who want a dam to create a lake for fishing and boating and to stimulate a business economy; on the other side are subsistence farmers who need water for irrigation.

You all may already know this, but I had to do some Googling through various sources, so bear with me here.  First of all, I hadn’t known that irrigation in New Mexico dates back to the days of Pueblo Indian farming, which makes irrigation an ancient custom, right? It’s just that traditional Hispano irrigation depended on river-fed ditches.  Farmers used shovels to divert water from one ditch to another and from ditches to fields.  Beginning in the early twentieth century,  many New Mexicans advocated for engineered solutions for irrigation, specifically large concrete dams and levees and canals.   While such water management systems are more efficient, they’re also quite expensive to construct and maintain. Conservancy, or taxing districts, were developed.  Historically, in New Mexico, many subsistence farmers, unable to afford the taxes, lost land owned by their families for generations or forfeited their rights to water access.

Desert Places and Desert People

Feb 8, 2017

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War, the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment

Published in the early 1970’s, the novel has since become a kind of cult classic, one revered by readers who enjoy a certain level of gritty realism, comedy, triumphs over greed and indifferent bureaucrats, and random gun fire here and there. Hmmm….sounds like fun, right?

Water Changes Lives

Feb 6, 2017
Boyd Funk / Holcomb, Kansas

I am Boyd Funk. I am a local farmer who has irrigated out of the Ogallala Aquifer all my life.  I usually think of water as a way to grow a crop, but to some people in the world, water has a different meaning. For the past 15 years, I have led a group that goes to rural areas in Central America. We build water systems that are simple and easy to maintain. We tap a spring high in the mountains, a spring that runs year-round, even in the dry seasons. The water is gravity flowed to the homes of the people. Trenches are hand dug and at least one man in the village is trained to maintain and repair the system. The water we provide is not for agriculture purposes but only for domestic use.

Is This a True Story?

Feb 3, 2017
KAREN MADORIN / Lost Dutchman Pond

Hello, Radio Readers!  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War as the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment.  Set in New Mexico, the novel explores the conflict between communities of haves and of have nots, who, in this story, are divided by access to water and water use.  On one side, are those who want a dam to create a lake for fishing and boating and to stimulate a business economy; on the other side are subsistence farmers who need water for irrigation.

Agua - Water Poems

Feb 1, 2017
Xánath Caraza, translated by Sandra Kingery

I am Xánath Caraza, and today I will read two bilingual poems from my book Donde la luz es violeta / Where the Light is Violet.

 

Agua  

 

Agua de las fuentes brota

con cada inhalación se adhiere agua de vida estás presente en las células del cuerpo y átomos.

Agua evaporada sofocas en este momento con el sol la densa atmósfera

en la que me muevo, agua que flota.

Agua que se abre, agua que salta.

Melodías de agua suenan en mi oído susurran viento, viento que se mezcla erosiona, que merma, hiende

se mete en la piel.

Emana a borbotones.

Me estremezco agua helada, agua sólida.

Deseos perdidos, agua recia, solidificados sentimientos, agua pétrea, tremenda pérdida.

Milagros - Miracles

Jan 30, 2017
Karen Madorin / Logan, Kansas

Hello, this is Karen Madorin from Logan, Kansas, sharing her insights into John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War for High Plains Radio Readers. Like any book worth reading, this one generates a gazillion not necessarily related ideas. One of those is what is a Milagro?

When Nichols wrote this novel based on his own experiences, experts in the publishing business told him he’d have to change the title so it didn’t have a foreign term in it. Naysayers explained the reading public didn’t buy such books. He didn’t follow their directions. Now plenty of people have enjoyed it and learned that Milagro means miracle.

If Only We . . .

Jan 27, 2017
Wayne Hughes, Amarillo

“Water.” Regardless who uses the word it means exactly the same thing in every language.  Without it, we perish before the sun sets on the sixth day without it.  When it is scare, hard to find, we abandon all other pretenses of civilization and seek after it with deadly determination, whether we’re alone in the middle of the desert or a mighty nation whose crops may fail in the coming spring.

Water and Replenishment

Jan 26, 2017
Karen Madorin - Logan, Kansas

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  In this, our third Book club series, Water and Replenishment is our theme.   In our region, defined by low precipitation, few running rivers, and aquifers with slow rates of replenishment, water is in great demand.  Can we insure we have enough water -- for cooking and cleaning, for livestock and crops, for feedlots and plants, for reservoirs and swimming pools? for everyone?

From Sea to Desert to Today

Jan 26, 2017
Karen Madorin, 2015

What an irony that a landscape geographers and surveyors titled The Great American Desert first existed as a series of shallow inland seas. Over several geologic periods, vast waters supported varied marine life, etched inlets and beaches, while dissolving and depositing sediment. A hike through the resulting rugged hills and canyons reveals fossils that confirm this. A view of derricks and pump jacks sucking  compressed ancient life to the surface cancels any doubt about this terrain’s origin.

Studying Great Plains geology instructs that Paleozoic and Mesozoic waters deposited the region’s shale, limestone, and sandstone foundations over a period of 480 million years. Once salt waters dried, rains fell and channeled into streams and rivers that etched that soft stone landscape. It left what writer Harry Chrisman calls a ladder of rivers and streams connecting one watershed to another.

“Civilization has been a permanent dialogue between human beings and water.” – Paolo Lugari (Colombia)

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” – W.H. Auden

“Water, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, From Wind, Sand and Stars, 1939

Featuring Kansas author Thomas Fox Averill

Thomas Fox Averill, an O. Henry Award Winner, is Writer-in-residence and Professor of English at Washburn University of Topeka, Kansas;  where he teaches courses in Creative Writing and in Kansas Literature, Folklore and Film.  He has published four novels, one of which includes A Carol Dickens Christmas (2014).  

Why They Come Here

Nov 11, 2016
ANNE HOLT, Edina, Minnesota

Following is a provocative story shared by a reader.  On Sunday, November 13, 2016, HPPR Radio Readers Book Club will be discussing thoughts about immigrants and their stories.  We hope you'll join us.

From Anne --

I know. You want me to shut up. I love you, but I don't care.

On this day two years ago, I, along with some of the best human beings I know, visited a wall with nearly 30,000 names of human beings who were killed or disappeared in El Salvador during the 1980s. And it’s said to be an incomplete list.

We're All From . . .

Nov 8, 2016

As we conclude the HPPR Radio Readers Fall 2016 Read, I’m gratified for each challenging and meaningful discussion about the changing faces of, well, the faces of our communities.

Where I'm From

Nov 3, 2016

Hi, I’m Lynn Boitano in Garden City Kansas for the HPPR Readers Reader’s Book Club exploring the theme: Stories, Borders and Becoming.  Reading our recent book Enrique’s Journey I’m reminded of the indelible impressions that our families make on us through the daily routines, traditions, sacrifices and time spent together. 

All of these interactions accumulate to create our family story.  As a 6th grade reading teacher in district that’s rich in cultural diversity I’ve had the opportunity to get a glimpse into my students’ family stories and witness the strong bonds that bind families together across many cultures.

Imagining America

Nov 1, 2016
blogs.loc.gov

In Sonia Nazario’s description of what draws Lourdes to take the treacherous journey north from Honduras to the U.S., she writes: “On television, she saw New York City’s spectacular skyline, Las Vegas’s shimmering lights, Disneyland’s magic castle.” (4) 25 pages later Lourdes’ son Enrique misses his mother and is also strongly attracted to the U.S. Nazario similarly expresses that “Enrique sees New York City’s spectacular skyline, Las Vegas’s shimmering lights, Disneyland’s magic castle.” (28-9). Little do Lourdes and Enrique know that Latinos make up almost 30% of New York City’s population. There is almost three times the number of Puerto Ricans in New York City than in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital. Additionally, there are about as many Dominicans in New York City as in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic and home to almost 1 million people. New York is a dramatically Hispanic city.

Brueghel, 16th Century Belgian painting / Wikipedia

I sat, basking, recently, in the sunlight of this dying autumn season, a few butterflies flittered amongst faded zinnias and browning marigolds, a wasp sank sluggishly to my table, and I was thinking.   

The last few months…so tough…increased work demands, mounting pressures and expenses at home…a dying friend, my head cold. The shameful mockery of our democratic processes during this year’s Presidential campaign… The recent arrests of three southwest Kansans for plotting a terrorist attack on a Muslim-Somali community…. Then, the opening lines of WH Auden’s  poem, from the late 1930’s, came to mind:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along….”

That’s me: I’m guilty. I’ve just been walking dully along. For one, I’ve not been as invested, as committed, to HPPR’s Radio Readers this fall as I could have been. But who can blame me? These books have been, well, hard.

Imagen Digital / Digital Image

Oct 28, 2016
Kathleen Holt

Today, I will read one bilingual poem from my book Conjuro.

Imagen Digital/Digital Image

“Naambo Kananfa Naambo, Guayé

Naambo Kananfa Yé

Nibela Yuku Yuku Labadiato

Naambo Sei Ta La Kananfa”

 

Objects from the Borderlands

Oct 27, 2016
SUSAN HARGAGE PAGE, North Carolina / iah.unc.edu

In 2007 I began making yearly trips/pilgrimages to walk the border and photograph objects left behind by undocumented migrants crossing the U.S–Mexico border between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas. My work takes an ever-evolving imagined space and concretizes it as a collection of specific objects, first as they are found and photographed in the landscape, then as they are re-photographed and archived, and, finally, as they are united in exhibitions.

FALLOU NDIAYE

Hi, my name is Fallou Ndiaye.  I am originally from Senegal, West Africa.  I currently live in Garden City, Kansas. My story of coming to the United States began when I worked at the Embassy in Senegal because Senegal is the long ally of the United States. The last three Presidents visited Senegal, so when I work there, they welcome you and greet you in a respectful way and give me visa to get my chance to come here in the United States.

When I came here, I learned that the opportunities are open to everyone – to everyone who wants to move up, they give you a chance to do it. So, every place since then, I work more than a decade. I was looking for a job and they give me that job, the same job they provide to everyone.  So, even if I don’t speak the language at that time very clearly to them, they help me.  They help me and guide me and train me as they train American people to do the job like everybody.

Say What?

Oct 26, 2016
NPR

The third book in HPPR’s Radio Readers Fall read bears the enigmatic title of What is the What.  A collaborative effort between novelist Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng, the novel is set, primarily, in war-torn Sudan.  Both Eggers and Deng have said that they believed the book needed to be written to share and document Deng’s experiences as among the millions dead and displaced by the Sudanese Civil War.  Both men were committed to creating a work that would document the culture of Deng’s people, the Dinka.

As Deng talked about his life, Eggers collected vast amounts of material—a couple years’ worth of conversations-- then struggled to organize it in a compelling way, one that didn’t play on scenes of horror and brutality in prurient ways. He considered various titles for the book – one was It Was Just Boys Walking and another was Hello, Children. Those titles, as Eggers has said, suggested a focus on Deng’s experiences during the war and in refugee camps in Ethiopia and in Kenya. But, Eggers has said, eventually neither title seemed right for the book.  After all, in Eggers’ words, by the time he and Deng were collaborating, “Valentino had been a man for a long time…and he and the other so-called Lost Boys were tired of being known as boys. The story of Valentino's life would need to be equally, if not more so, about the issues he faced [as a man].”  Eggers began to explore ways that the novel/memoir might be crafted to convey questions about Dinka culture and ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Darfur

( http://www.vadfoundation.org/it-was-just-boys-walking/), and, it would seem, the story of Deng’s time in the United States.

Their Stories Are Ours

Oct 25, 2016
Unknown

If you like watching Andy Griffith reruns, you might enjoy living in a small town in the listening area of High Plains Public Radio. Those of us who call these little burgs home enjoy a quality of life that is generally slow-paced, friendly, and satisfying on many levels. Life wasn’t always so idyllic.

Guatemala to the High Plains - Unaccompanied

Oct 11, 2016
ESTHER HONIG / KCUR 89.3

In the small, rural city of Liberal, Kansas, a neighborhood of old trailer homes sits just off the main street. The small trailer at the end of the block, with faded yellow paint and creaky front steps, is the place 17-year-old Diego now calls home.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Oct 10, 2016
BBC

We’re talking about Dave Egger’s What is the What, the third book in HPPR’s Radio Readers Fall Read. Our theme is stories, and, in this novel, Valentino Achak Deng recounts his life.  Rather than presented chronologically, rather than moving linearly through time,  Valentino’s narrative is fragmented, episodic, largely retrospective. It encompasses twenty some years, beginning in the relative present of his working minimum wage jobs in various eastern and southern cities of the United States, then to his early childhood in southern war-torn Sudan to a disordered life in the US, then back to resettlement in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. The novel concludes as Valentino prepares for yet another beginning, another relocation. When I think about it, Valentino’s life is much about endings and departures as it is about beginnings and arrivals.  His story, like Enrique’s, like Antonia’s is comprised of hostility,  hunger, violence, and death, stories that seem impossible to bear.

One Neighbor's Story - Generations' Stories

Oct 7, 2016
www.cbc.ca

So, both my parents are immigrants from Vietnam.  Back in the 1970s, my grandfather was a police officer in Vietnam.  When the Vietnam War came around, the North had him put in jail because he was one of the government officials.  He spent five years and four months in jail.  They took him into the jungle for hard labor and stuff.  They spent a lot of time being poor because after the North took over the country since they were a Communist society they had all the resources and everything sold to pay off their war debts, so it was really hard for them to makes ends meet.  But, luckily my grandmother was smart about the whole thing.  She sold rice and stuff so, like before the North had a chance to sell off all her stuff, she sold it and bought gold and diamonds for it which was easier because the North also changed all the currency, so everyone who was wealthy suddenly wasn’t wealthy anymore.

Our Neighbors - One Woman's Story

Oct 6, 2016
SUSAN HARGAGE PAGE, North Carolina

Maria:  I came here because I love this country.  I came here to see my sister.  I was in Mexico and I came crossing the river.  The Rio Bravo.  It was dangerous.  It was hard.  But I came here because the life is better than my country.  This is a blessed country.  I love this country.

I find good job.  I have a good life here because now I can help the people. When the people have problems, they ask me what they need to do to solve their problems.  Can I help them. 

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