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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Download guides for the HPPR Radio Readers Fall Read Selections.

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Amarillo and Strong West Winds

Mar 29, 2016
DeGolyer Library SMU

I’m curator of art and western heritage at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum at West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas.  I’ve been asked to comment on this month’s High Plains Public Radio’s Radio Reader A Strong West Wind by Gayle Caldwell.  I’ve lived out here for going on 29 years.   I grew up in Kansas and the title appealed to me initially because of the reference to wind.  I’m out west of Canyon, a little bit north and west of Canyon.  Canyon sits about 18 miles south of Amarillo.

Texas makes you tough

Mar 27, 2016
Cindee Talley

I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence of “place” on who we become and whether or not that influence ever wanes.  

In A Strong West Wind, an account of a Texas high plains girlhood, Gail Caldwell writes, “How do we become who we are? The question belongs not just to genes or geography or the idea of destiny, but to the entire symphony of culture and its magisterial march—to Proust’s madeleines and Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud” and anyone’s dreams of being someplace, anyplace, else. I was a girl whose father had taken such pride in her all her life, even when it was masked as rage, that he had lit a fire in me that would stay warm forever. I was the daughter of a woman who, on a farm in east Texas in the 1920s, had crept away from her five younger siblings so that she could sit on a hillside and read—a mother whose subterranean wish, long unrevealed, was that I might become who she could not. Each of us has these cloisters where the old discarded drams are stored, innocuous as toys in the attic. The real beauty of the question—how do we become who we are?—is that by the time we are old enough to ask it, to understand its infinite breadth, it is too late to do much about it. That is not the sorrow of hindsight, but its music: That is what grants us a bearable past.” 

Ridin' the Plains

Mar 24, 2016

In A Strong West Wind, an account of a Texas high plains girlhood, author Gail Caldwell evokes a sense of place through many descriptive passages, often involving her father. She writes, for example, “When I was a girl of nine or ten, my dad would take me along on autumn dawns to go quail and dove hunting, out to the far reaches of the Caprock, past towns named Muleshoe and Dimmitt to prairies so remote and unrelenting that even the phone lines seemed to disappear as we drove into morning light.

Cindee Talley

I’m a High Plains Public Radio Book Club reader from Northwest Kansas. It’s time to think about our third novel of this season, A Strong West Wind by native West Texan Gail Caldwell. The question that comes to mind is how does this memoir enhance our understanding of place? As one would expect, it’s different from Plainsong and Summer of the Comanche Moon. Based on reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble, it’s a book readers either love or hate. With such strong responses in mind, it’s important to focus on insights this author’s memories offer this unique book club’s membership.

Jonathan Baker

I’m a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club Read, A Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell. Gail’s story is a familiar one to me. In fact, my story mirrors hers in many ways. Both Gail and I grew up feeling isolated on the High Plains, and escaped into books. We both left the Panhandle for Austin, where we both rebelled, discovered politics, and sowed our wild oats.

Last Buffalo Hunt

Mar 17, 2016
en.wikipedia.org

Hello, Radio Readers! We’re reading and discussing a High Plains sense of place with Sam Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon, a social history, as Gwynne writes, of “the rise and fall of the Comanche. “ After thirty-some years, the Comanche capitulated to the US, surrendering horses and weapons in exchange for life on a reservation. There, Gwynne writes, “everything that defined Comanche existence” was exchanged for “crude squalor….hunger and desperation and dependency” – benefits promised to the Comanche turned out to be insufficient, paltry, and shoddy. Gwynne suggests that those who adopted and adapted to white ways did so to survive, even as they tried to preserve their culture, however vestigially.

Native Americans in Film

Mar 15, 2016
Paul Phillips

KATHLEEN HOLT :  Talk a little bit about Native Americans and film.  I think when we talk about the High Plains and a sense of place, we often think of it in terms of white settlement…

TOM AVERILL:  Well, yeah.  We also start with white exploration . .

TOM PRASCH:  As if there wasn’t anything to see

TOM AVERILL:  As if nothing existed until there was a white person to see it.  So, Coronado is our first tourist looking for the Seven Cities of Gold and unhappy with what he found.

TOM PRASCH:  They are figures in that whole conquest of the West motif.  You know one of our theme  when we look at Kansas film and literature is that whole manifest destiny sensibility that this is ours to settle and it is part of this drive that is going to push us to California and the rest.  And because most film making for most of the history of film has been told from that perspective, it gets a little hard to tell the Native American story.  And, in fact, we only really get a kind of counter reaction to that with the rise of AIM and Native American rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s and that’s when you get  Dustin Hoffman’s Little Big Man.   And there is an Altman film about that time – Sitting Bull – Oh,  Custer and Altman taking on the Custer story.  Suddenly, you get the sense that, “Oh, gee. We have been leaving some stuff out here.”  

Buffalo: A Mobile Commissary

Mar 11, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Comanche’s sense of place.  I once visited the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma – part of the High Plains once populated by both Comanche and buffalo.  The prairie that day was punctuated with wandering beasts – this time by longhorn cattle as well as buffalo in an ironic, if not strange and symbolic centuries-later depiction of the events explored in Empire of the Summer Moon.

Comancheria

Mar 10, 2016

I’m a former Kansas poet laureate. Comancheria is home to many Plains Indian groups. My grandfather of Delaware Indian heritage was among the dislocated Eastern Natives who settled on the Kansas Plains of the 19th century.

History is alive in the works of Native poets. N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa, gained national recognition in 1969 as a Pulitzer Prize winning author. His works present the Native oral tradition as a sophisticated way to preserve culture. He influences many contemporary Native poets.

Nautdah or Cynthia

Mar 8, 2016
texastrailoffame.org

Hello, HPPR Radio Readers!

Midway through “Empire of the Summer Moon,” we return to Cynthia Ann Parker’s story.  Parker was nine years old when captured during a Comanche raid. For decades, her family had searched for her. Sound familiar? perhaps you’ve read Alan LeMay’s novel or seen John Ford’s film The Searchers. In both, once found by her kin, happiness follows.

Of course, real life isn’t like the movies. In fact, Parker wasn’t found until 24 years later, during the winter of 1860.  Texas Rangers were about to kill a survivor of their raid on a Comanche camp, when someone noticed her blonde hair and blue eyes , and putting aside his weapons, concluded he had just rescued the long-lost Cynthia Ann Parker.  After questioning and dressed in Texan clothing, she was returned to her Parker kin, none of whom spoke Comanche or Spanish, two languages with which Cynthia Ann was fluent.  She did learn or recall some English, but she continued to speak and sing in Comanche. She seemed not to think of herself as Cynthia Ann but as Nautdah. Worse, she seemed not to see herself as “rescued” or “saved” but as “captured” and “lost,” so much so that she had to be closely watched or locked up to prevent her from running away. This, especially, in Gwynne’s account, the Parkers did not understand.  Pulled back  to a culture not valuing pluralism, pulled back to a world Gwynne characterizes as “taffeta chairs in drawing rooms on the outer edges of the Industrial Revolution,” Nautdah was left to herself. Once she’d been moved to eastern Texas, according to Gwynne, she quit her escape attempts, dying not long after, most believed, of a broken heart.

Empire of the Summer Moon takes me home

Mar 3, 2016
Oklahoma Historical Society

I grew up outside Frederick, Oklahoma, about 30 miles from Cache, the final home of Quanah Parker.  I remember as a kid seeing Star House close to a little amusement park where my sister and I learned to roller skate.  I wondered who might have lived in that house and why someone had painted such a big white star on its roof. 

When I visited the Wichita Wildlife Refuge near Cache and Lawton and watched small herds of buffalo as they ambled across the road in front of our car, I thought about the Plains Indians. I wondered how that grassland country would have looked when huge herds roamed there during Quanah Parker’s early years.  

This is a contradictory land

Mar 2, 2016
azquotes.com

HPPR Radio Readers are talking about books that explore life on the High Plains.  Kent Haruf’s novel, Plainsong, gave us opportunities to consider the good, the bad, and the ugly in our small, often isolated, towns.

Our current book, SC Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon, considers our Western heritage, as fought in the 1800s on the high plains of central and west Texas.  When settlers moved in, fencing and cultivating land that had always been open and without borders, the Comanche attacked.

Karen Madorin

Lex Nichols:

I was born and raised in Rocky Ford on the Arkansas River.  My dad still has a farm there.  Part of the Cherokee Trail ran through there up to Pueblo, Fountain and I believe it went on up and hooked to the Overland Trail that went up to Wyoming. My father has been working the field and plowed up some “mitades” and so we know that they stayed there. When I do recordings, I record my bird sounds and use them in my recordings, I try to do everything natural.

Kansas Memory

For me, history depicted in Empire of the Summer Moon is among the saddest in America. Though I didn’t expect a different outcome, the story isn’t easier to accept. Author S.C. Gwynne provides ample background about the geography, sociology, and history of a cultural collision that rocked this region for decades. Even today, we deal with ripple effects Frederick Jackson Turner might attribute to his Frontier thesis, explaining these incidents made our nation what it is.

Initial chapters establish the difficulties of life beyond the 98th meridian where forested land turns to prairie unprotected from searing summer winds and blue northers that dramatically alter landscapes within minutes. Gwynne knows it’s critical for the reader to understand that in any story about the Great Plains, landscape and weather function as antagonists capable of destroying the unprepared.

Paul Phillips

From the Panhandle of Texas to the southern regions of South Dakota, the High Plains has a landscape generally characterized as flat and monotonous.  American explorers traveling west from the eastern wooded areas were not impressed with the “sea of grasses” they found covering the region, and proclaimed the area to be part of the “Great American Desert” unfit for agricultural settlement. 

American settlement arrived later, but this sea of grass was already home to many pastoral tribes, including the Comanche - peoples who had developed a nomadic lifestyle, following and hunting the more than 60 million buffalo that moved in herds across these vast grasslands.  As you will read in the Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne, the buffalo was key to the Comanche’s survival, providing food, shelter, and tools.

Jonathan Baker

I’m a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Book Club Read, Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne. I love this book, because it paints such an unflinching picture of the staggering beauty and brutal reality of my homeland.

The High Plains is perhaps the greatest grassland in the world. It’s hopelessly wide and unnervingly flat. And until somewhat recently, it was uninhabitable. But with the introduction of the horse to the plains, something remarkable happened. The confluence of the Comanche, the horse, and these limitless grasslands led to the rise of one of the most powerful mounted forces the world has ever known. If you were to invent the ideal denizen of the High Plains, you couldn’t do much better than the Comanche. Their very natures echoed this place in countless ways.

Leaving Plainsong

Feb 19, 2016
Kathleen Holt

 Shall we peer again into Kent Haruf’s world?

 

Just outside Holt at the McPherons’ farm, all the people we’ve grown fond of—Ike, and Bobby, Harold and Raymond, Maggie and Tom, Victoria and her baby—gather. Outdoors, the men talk, children play, while, inside women prepare a holiday meal. Meanwhile, barn swallows floating on a cool breeze of an evening let us know that all these folk—after all their searchings, shiftings, and yearnings—have finally found a haven, family, with each other.

I'll Miss the Characters of Plainsong

Feb 16, 2016
Lynne Hewes - Cimarron, KS

Over the past two weeks, my book thoughts have been peopled with the characters in Plainsong the book we’re now discussing in the 2016 Spring Read for HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club.  We’ll be moving on to the second book soon, and when we do, I’m going to miss the characters in Holt.

Rural Characters: Types or Stereotypes?

Feb 14, 2016
Russell Lee, August 1939 / FSA, Library of Congress

Today, you and I have the opportunity to sit down at Washburn University with professors Thomas Averill and Tom Prasch.  They’ll challenge us to think about types or are they stereotypes of people sharing our rural landscape.  Let’s drop in to Thomas Averill’s office and join the conversation.  

Plainsong brings awareness lessons

Feb 11, 2016
Kathleen Holt

I’m Cindee Talley.  Today, I’d like you to meet two of my Radio Reader Book Club Friends.. Kathi Holt and teacher, Lynn Hewes.  They’re sitting around the table at the historic Cimarron Hotel, talking about our current read… Plainsong.    

Their chat is a perfect example of the paying attention.. whether it be to our children, or our surroundings.  These two lovely women are so engrossed in their conversation, they had no idea they had captured the sound of a semi going by.  Kathleen starts the conversation:

Kathleen Holt:  Is there a place in our lives these days for parents and adolescents or adults and adolescents to discuss literature – to explore how we might look at this differently or similarly?

Do the people of Plainsong represent us?

Feb 9, 2016
Karen Madorin

I’ve been thinking about the people of Haruf’s fictional community of Holt, Colorado.

Is it just me, or is this an ugly place with some ugly people?

Look, for the first half of the novel, give or take a few pages, teenagers seem to have a lot of recreational yet rough sex, fathers prowl bars, a woman is harassed by a coworker, mothers abandon their children, teenagers bully each other and brawl with their teachers. Not a pretty picture.

Kathleen Holt

I'm Eric McHenry, Kansas Poet Laureate.

Today, I'd like to explore the work of another great Kansas poet- William Stafford.  He spent his career years in Oregon where he was the Poet Laureate, but he continued to write about life and "place" on the plains of Kansas.

  Home Is the Place that Holds You

Somebody once asked the poet William Stafford why he kept writing about western Kansas, where he’d grown up, even after decades of living in Oregon. What was wrong with Oregon? “Oregon’s all right,” Stafford said, “except the mountains and the trees get in the way of the scenery.”

For Stafford, the ideal landscape was mostly skyscape. He liked an unobstructed view, prospects limited only by the distant curving away of the earth. The purpose of land isn’t to be seen; it’s to be felt with your soles. His poem “One Home” begins with the line “Mine was a Midwest home — you can keep your world,” and ends with “Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.”

High Plains: A Sense of Place or a Place of Sense?

Feb 5, 2016
Kathleen Holt

Tom Averill and Tom Prasch: a discussion inspired by Kent Haruff's Plainsong.

Tom Averill:  Yeah, I’m particularly interested in Plainsong as a branch of small town literature that I study, whether it is in eastern Kansas or on the High Plains – small town literature and probably small town film, sort of have a certain number of things in common.

Tom Prasch: Yes.

Sense of Place from the Radio Reader's Forum Leader

Feb 2, 2016
Karen Madorin

I’m Rebecca Koehn, Forum Leader for the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.  I’ll be hosting discussions about the current read in the 2016 Spring Read – A Sense of Place.  We’ll be discussing Kent Haruf’s Plainsong in an on-line forum that you can join by following the simple instructions available at hppr-radio-readers-dot-org.

Plainsong is a GOOD book

Jan 31, 2016
Kathleen Holt

I hope you are enjoying our discussion of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. I am, by profession, a teacher of English, but with a few publications in print, I like to think of myself as a creative writer. I enjoy studying novels and poetry for craftsmanship.

So.  When I read a book, especially a GOOD book, one that really touches me, resonates with me, as Plainsong does, deeply, I like to learn something about the author’s writing process, the way that he or she sets about to write.  In an interview for The Wall Street Journal, Haruf  noted that he would first read a passage from a favorite author – Chekhov, Faulkner, or Hemingway—so as to remind himself  “what a sentence can be.”  While Haruf’s admiration of these earlier modernist writers is worthy of further exploration, what’s more important to us is to appreciate what it tells us to expect about his style – it’s spare—relatively free of detail and description;  unadorned—plain, common words; yet, indirect, asking us to infer meaning.

Let's talk about the High Plains sense of place

Jan 29, 2016
Kathleen Holt

This is my first on-air, on-line book club, and I’m looking forward to exploring Kent Haruf’s Plainsong with you.  I currently serve as Division Chair of Humanities and English professor at Dodge City Community College where I teach, but the book club is my meeting you as a fellow reader.   

Admittedly, I am somewhat of a newbie to the High Plains having lived her for just over a decade, but in that time, I’ve driven to numerous small community for  Kansas Humanities sponsored book discussions or to vacation in a favorite small Colorado town very much like Haruf’s Holt. Traveling has given me a deep appreciation for the vastness of the High Plains as wel as its beauty – the muted palette, the skies – cloudy or clear--the panorama and for its temperamental weather.  More importantly, I’ve learned to ask, not “how many miles is that,” but “how many hours is that.”

Karen Madorin

By nature, Plains people share what they have with neighbors. It is how we survive and thrive. This opportunity for readers and lovers of ideas to explore and discuss our common landscape and the stories it generates is a gift. Each of us brings original perceptions to our common experience. Those differences can strengthen or weaken bonds necessary to make life good in a hard land. This group offers a venue for us to learn who we are because we value life on the Great Plains.

A Sense of Place – the High Plains

Jan 24, 2016
Karen Madorin

 In 1542, Father Juan Padilla wrote “the sky is so vast and unchanging that it resembles a great blue bowl turned upside down on the landscape.”  He was one of the chroniclers of the ill-fated expedition led Francisco Vasquez Coronado across the High Plains.

Coronado’s trek, along with the others led by fellow conquistadores during the Spanish exploration of the New World was never meant to just gain knowledge of the endless prairie.  The days they spent on the trackless grassland were a means to an end; the sacking of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola and the forced conversion of the natives they encountered.  Coronado came to the New World determined to spread Catholicism, impose the Spanish regal system on all they met and most important, take all the gold they could find.  They set about to abolish tribal systems in place since the Neolithic, to give those peoples no choice but to be assimilated, dominated or die.

Plainsong

Jan 20, 2016

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is the first selection for the 2016 Spring Read.    

“In the same way that the plains define the American landscape, small-town life in the heartlands is a quintessentially American experience. Holt, Colo., a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf's beautifully executed . . . descriptions of rural existence where weather and landscape are integral to tone and mood, serving as backdrop to every scene. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family. In depicting the stalwart courage of decent, troubled people going on with their lives, Haruf's quietly eloquent account illumines the possibilities of grace.”  (From Publishers Weekly, Peter Matson, 1999)

Empire of the Summer Moon

Jan 19, 2016

  Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne is the second book for the 2016 Spring Read.  

“The vast, semi-arid grasslands of the southern Great Plains could be dominated by hunters and warriors on horseback. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Comanches, often referred to as ‘lords of the Plains,’ were the single most powerful military force in the region, to the frustration of both the Mexican and U.S. governments. This engrossing chronicle traces the rise of the Comanche people from their roots as primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to their mastery of the horse and emergence as the feared power brokers of the area. At the center of the narrative is the charismatic Quanah Parker, who skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century.” (From: Jay Freeman, Booklist. Amazon)

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