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 Fall Read's theme is Food and Story.  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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Will We be Here When the River Returns?

Mar 3, 2017
MAX McCOY / Emporia, Kansas

I’m hiking down a dry riverbed on a cold morning in winter, and with each step my boots make a sharp sound in the gravel. This is Cimarron Crossing, where travelers along the Santa Fe Trail had a serious choice: They could continue up the Arkansas River on the mountain route, which would take them to Bent’s Old Fort and then south over the Raton pass. Or, they could choose the middle crossing. They might ford the river here, or at points nearby, and follow the Cimarron Route, which was shorter but had less water and poorer grass, often called “The Waterscrape.” Neither route was easy, and the consequences of a bad choice could mean hardship or even death.

Water & Replenishment - A Poet's View

Mar 1, 2017
Denise Low

Ogallala Aquifer

As the water table sinks

mid-range rivers falter.

The Arkansas River loses its way

to Wichita. The Smoky Hill

lapses into gravel

and long stretches of silence,

like Heraclitus, muffled,

only fragments remaining

from his distant writings.

Or Sappho—her broken

songs are beds of old lakes,

just the outlines visible

like wheel ruts

of the Oregon Trail,

almost imaginary traces

across grasslands.

The Ogallala Aquifer

Feb 27, 2017
Janet Huelskamp - Fowler, KS

Ogallala Blue: Water and Life on the High Plains, by William Ashworth, is a High Plains Public Radio community read.  The book chronicles the development, management and possible fate of the Ogallala, the largest aquifer within the High Plains aquifer system.  At its essence, the book is about the people and the place that rely on the aquifer. I am Susan Stover with the Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas.   

The High Plains aquifer stretches from South Dakota to Texas and New Mexico. It supplies the water for nearly a third of our nation’s irrigated crops and has transformed the region into some of the nation’s most productive acreage with fields upon fields of corn, alfalfa, soybeans, wheat, sorghum and cotton.  The aquifer also supports the cattle, dairy and hog industries, meatpacking and milk processing plants, ethanol production, and communities.  It is a vibrant economy, one that runs on water.

The Water Beneath Our Feet

Feb 24, 2017
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.  In this, our third Book club series, Water and Replenishment is our theme. 

We’ve been talking about a classic 1970’s novel, John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield Wars, where the struggle for water highlights differences in the values and lifestyles of two groups of citizens – those who see the economic possibilities in reservoirs and those who prefer to honor natural topographies. As Nichols brings his novel to a close, offering a tenuous cease-fire in the Beanfield war over water, we readers sense the cease-fire will be short-lived.

I don’t know about you, but Nichols’ novel, for all its satiric bite and sass, really has got me thinking more about the history of water use and access not only in my part of the High Plains but in my own back yard.  Most what I’m thinking about is how shockingly uneducated I am about this.  Should I be doing a better job of conserving water? What are some of the battle lines over water in our region?

Native American Perspectives on Water

Feb 22, 2017
Frank Henderson / Metropolitan Museum Collection

Denise Low’s grandfather of Delaware Indian heritage was among the dislocated Eastern Natives who settled on the Kansas Plains of the 19th Century.  As one might guess, history and heritage both are important to her story as they are for many Native American poets and writers.

Today, Denise, a former Kansas Poet Laureate and a valued friend to the Radio Readers Book Club, explores shares the thoughts of some of her colleagues around the topic of water.

In the near desert Great Plains, waterways define the land for Native peoples.

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 15, 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?

“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

From Sea to Desert to Today

Jan 25, 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.

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).  

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.

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”

 

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 24, 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.

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.

One Neighbor's Story - Uganda to the High Plains

Oct 5, 2016
Dodge City Community College

Mohammad Omar - Hi, my mane is Mohammad Omar.  I am from Africa, especially Uganda.  I am here since 2014, but I am living now in Dodge City.  I like Dodge City, Kansas, because we have a lot of work here.  Before I am working Tyson Food.  I start again Cargill Company.  Now I am working three years at National Beef.  So, we are happy to be here in Kansas, Dodge City.

The Fall Read - Refugees on the High Plains

Oct 4, 2016
www.humanosphere.org

As the Radio Readers move on from this month’s book Enrique’s Journey to October’s read, Dave Eggar’s book on the story Somali immigrants titled What is the What, we continue themes of separation from family, intense dangers in fleeing one’s homeland and eventual settlement and adjustment to life in the U.S. In the past decade, Amarillo has welcomed a large refugee resettlement program placing refugees from the likes of Burma, Iran, Iraq, Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, and Cuba among other countries.

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