Four Things You Didn’t Know About Shirley Jackson

8-shirley-jackson-novelist-1916-1965I had the great pleasure of being on a panel about Shirley Jackson recently – which meant I was forced – FORCED, I SAY! To re-read The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in a Castle FOR WORK. You all have no idea how I suffer. I also read the new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. Here’s a few things I learned that you might not have known:

  1. Her mother was intensely critical of her.

It’s not a coincidence that so many of Jackson’s stories involve tense relationships between mothers and daughters. Jackson’s own mother hoped to enjoy marriage to her husband for a while before having an attractive and ladylike blonde daughter. Instead, she gave birth nine months after the wedding to Shirley, who was big-boned, redheaded, and rebellious. Jackson’s mother pestered her about her weight and appearance all her life.

2. She was the primary money-earner in the family.

Jackson was married to the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. While both were highly regarded during their lifetimes, Jackson’s work brought in much more money – so much so that her husband resented any time she spent writing letters or diary entries because they took away from her earning potential.

3. Being the breadwinner did not lessen her domestic responsibilities.

Hyman wanted Jackson to write, but not enough to pitch in with housework and with raising children. Jackson, the mother of four children, managed by being an affectionate but exceptionally hands-off mother. She made fun of her lapses as a housekeeper in her memoirs and essays, but was also self-conscious about it. Her books Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons are humorous looks at her domestic life.

4. She was a practicing witch.

Jackson was a believer in magic and well-read in folklore and mythology. She entertained friends by reading tarot cards and made charms as gifts and to protect the house. She was not Wiccan, rather, she was fond of sympathetic magic. She once joked that she was responsible for breaking an enemies leg (he broke it while skiing) but this joke backfired on her as she was constantly badgered with questions about how she did it.


Between the Lines Book Club: Gilead and Transcendentalism

between the lines book club logoOur October book club selection is Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on October 29, 2016.

Gilead is the story of Reverend Ames, his father, and his grandfather, and their approaches to war and civil rights. The book is profoundly influenced by transcendentalism.

Transcendentalism is a philosophical school of thought that developed in the late 1820s. It was made famous by, among other people, author Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other followers included Louisa May Alcott and her family, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau.

Transcendentalism was a movement that was influenced by Romanticism, as well as by Indian religions. Transcendentalists believed that all people are inherently good, that nature is inherently good, and that the more self-reliant people are, the better they are. The movement was notable as being American in origin, and most of its followers were Americans. It was also notable for sparking a literary movement that mirrored its philopophical aims. Emerson’s magazine, The Dial, was a home to many new essays and stories by American writers.

In an article for The New Inquiry titled “The New Transcendentalist” Susan Salter Reynolds says,

I like to think of Robinson as a member of a merry band I call the New Transcendentalists, a group that builds on the luminous work of Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman, Melville, and others. The New Transcendentalists include, besides Robinson,  Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, Rebecca Solnit, and others. I am sure that I have left names from both categories, New and Old, but the message is the same: belief in the human spirit and its capacity for community, generosity, and stewardship; in what Whitman called “radical uniqueness,” and in the vital connection to nature as a source of creativity and innovation. The effect is also the same: elevation, followed by freedom.

By tying her work, both consciously (Robinson is a big Emerson fan) and unconsciously to Transcendentalism, Robinson is able to explore the healing power of nature, the pros and cons of communities, and the role of faith in matters and large and small. She also gives her work a distinctly American feel by tying it to a rich legacy of American thought and American fiction.

Water as Muse: My Latest Gig With Sacramento Public Library

mcclatchy_library_500x323_img_0605Sacramento peeps, I will be speaking at McClatchy Library this Sunday (October 23, 2016) at 1PM on the topic of water and Californian Literature. I’m excited to be part of a series sponsored by the library: Sacramento 95H20. Here’s a full list of speakers and dates:

Sacramento 95H2O: 

A Series on Water and What it Means to Sacramentans


Water as Muse: 


Sunday, October 23 at 1:00 pm. Writer Carrie Sessarego presents “Flowing over Golden Pages: The Role of Water in California Literature.” McClatchy Library.


Water as Life:


Sunday, November 13 at 1:00 pm. Julian Fulton, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Sacramento State University presents “The Future of California Water: The Quest for Sustainability in an Age of Climate Change.” Central Library.


Water as Energy:


Sunday, November 20 at 1:00 pm. Environmental historian Scott Sault presents “Sacramento and Hydro-Electric Power: How the Lights went on in the River City.” Central Library.


Water as Dialogue:


Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 pm. Keith Coolidge of the Delta Stewardship Council presents “The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta: Its History, its Problems, what’s Currently Going on and Why, and Ideas for Fixing it.” Central Library.


Water as History:


Sunday, December 11 at 1:00 at p.m. Social historian and geographer Andrew McLeod presents “Confluence: The Natural History of Where the Sacramento and American Rivers Meet.” McClatchy Library.


Between the Lines Book Club: A Short Bio of Mariynne Robinson

between the lines book club logoOur October book club selection is Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on October 29, 2016 for an in-person discussion of this lyrical book.

Marilynne Robinson was born in 1943 in Idaho, where she set her first novel, Housekeeping. She lives in Iowa City and is divorced with two adult sons. Robinson is a Congregationalist, and many of her works, both fiction and non-fiction, deal with issues of faith and human relationships.

In 2015, Robinson and President Obama had a conversation that was recorded by the New York Review of Books. In this conversation, which you can find at New York Review of Books, they talk about Robinson’s family, her faith, and her interest in politics.

There’s another interview with Robinson in the Paris Review. In this nterview, she discusses the relationship between science and faith, her background, and her writing process. At one point in this review, she has this to say about beauty, a major theme in her fiction:

You have to have a certain detachment in order to see beauty for yourself rather than something that has been put in quotation marks to be understood as “beauty.” Think about Dutch painting, where sunlight is falling on a basin of water and a woman is standing there in the clothes that she would wear when she wakes up in the morning—that beauty is a casual glimpse of something very ordinary. Or a painting like Rembrandt’s Carcass of Beef, where a simple piece of meat caught his eye because there was something mysterious about it. You also get that in Edward Hopper: Look at the sunlight! or Look at the human being! These are instances of genius. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that. And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight falling on it.

At the same time, there has always been a basic human tendency toward a dubious notion of beauty. Think about cultures that rarify themselves into courts in which people paint themselves with lead paint and get dumber by the day, or women have ribs removed to have their waists cinched tighter. There’s no question that we have our versions of that now. The most destructive thing we can do is act as though this is some sign of cultural, spiritual decay rather than humans just acting human, which is what we’re doing most of the time.



L.T.’s Top Ten: Top Ten Mabel Sweaters

8a223e4761296e397639e65eb789ee31Today’s post comes from our young correspondent, Linden, who has a special Top Ten!

Hello everyone I have news! This is my FIRST TOP TEN LIST! YAAAAAAAAY!

Anyway my name is Linden and I’m Carrie’s 12-year-old daughter. You might have seen some of my reviews already, my most recent one being of My Immortal, the horrible book that made me want to stab my eyes out. I’ll be making a lot more Top Tens and reviews in the future but for now here are the top ten Mabel sweaters!

If you are reading this then you probably know about a show called Gravity Falls and if you don’t then you should go check it out. I’ll be mentioning it in the next LT’S Top Ten that I do. In Gravity Falls there is a certain character named Mabel who is one of the main protagonist in the show. She’s bubbly, optimistic, fun, and just plain AWESOME. That’s really the best way to describe all of Gravity Falls – it is just AWESOME! But I digress. Because of Mabel’s personality she was given a variety of colorful, fun, AWSOME sweaters and today I’m going to talk about the best of them all. All Top Ten lists will be made with #1 being the best in my opinion and number ten being still the best, but not the best of the best.



#10 MEOW WOW (from Episode One of Season One)

In the first episode of Gravity Falls, Mabel falls in love with someone named “Norman” and they go on a date. How does Mabel dress to impress? By wearing a glittery purple sweater with a glittery picture of a derpy cat next to the words MEOW WOW which; you guessed it are also covered in glitter! The best part about this is when Mable asks Norman “How do I look?” Norman just kind of stares at her before saying, “Shiny.”




#9 Llama Hair (from Episode 3 of Season One)

Mabel wears this one in a couple episodes I think, but it first showed up during the end credits of Episode 3. In the scene Mabel is in her room trying to decide if she should wear her sweater with the sequins or the Llama hair and decides on the Llama hair because Larry King’s head hops over and says, “The Llama hair, Llamas are nature’s greatest warriors.” You read me right: Larry King’s head! Not his body literally just his head! Hahahahahahah oh my god! It’s just its so funny I…I really love this show!




#8 Note (from Episode 5 of Season 1)

I just really like how this looks on Mable. It doesn’t really have anything about it that’s super special but I think that the colors are nice and Mable looks super cute in it. It’s not too busy and not too plain, it’s just a generally cute sweater and Mabel rocks it like a boss.




#7 Scouts Honor (from Episode Ten of Season 1)

Is it wrong for me to desperately want this sweater? Because I think it is, but I don’t care! I can’t really justify why I love this sweater so much, I guess it’s because I think it’s really clever and funny and it would come in handy in a lot of situations. Yeah you probably shouldn’t trust me too much heh heh. Oh come on you know you want it too!




#6 Horse (from Episode 4 of Season 1)

I watched this episode twice once by myself and once with my mom. The first time I watched it I liked Mabel’s sweater but I wouldn’t think to put it in a list with my favorites of all time. However the second time I watched it with my mom and she said, quote, *gasp* “Oh my god I LOVE THAT SWEATER!” and you know what? I also love that sweater, because the mane of the horse is in 3D. Also it’s just an awesome sweater.




#5 Mabel and Waddles (from Episode 18 of Season 1)

Okay okay, I know that technically this is two sweaters, but you know what too bad! They are going to be listed together because they are a set. Mable has an adorable pig named Waddles (she calls him that because he WADDLES!) and she really really loves Waddles, so she made them matching sweaters. They are only shown side by side in the matching sweaters once but I think its super cute and says a lot about Mabel’s character.



#4 Dog (from Episode 7 of Season 2)

I love this sweater because it’s a scratch and sniff! It’s a scratch and sniff! I just love that so much! It’s not just me right? The colors look great on Mabel as well. I also think it might be a nod to one of Princess Bubblegum’s shirts from one of my other favorite shows, Adventure Time.




#3 Light Bulb (from Episode 2 of Season 2)

“Isn’t that a fire hazard?” “No it’s a fun hazard.” I just love this sweater because it gives off a lot of light; witch is not only useful but also fun! It looks cute in the day time and is a night light during night time. I love how it looks on Mabel in the dark and in the sun ,and I think a light up sweater with a picture of a happy light bulb on it is a super clever and fun idea.


#2 Boom Box (from episode 1 of season 1)

I don’t know if you can tell but this sweater is a boom box that is a real boom box! No really if you press the right button, it lights up and PLAYS RAVE MUSIC! NEED I SAY MORE? No, no I don’t.


#1 (drum roll please…) RAINBOW STAR (from almost all the episodes)

Now at first this might seem like a regular unassuming sweater but this sweater is actually incredibly special and awesome. Why? Because this is MABEL’S SIGNATURE SWEATER. It’s  iconic. She wears it more then any of her other sweaters. In one episode she gets trapped in a bubble like thing… I’m not sure what its called exactly but the important part is that the design on this sweater is on it. Why? Because this is MABEL’S SIGNATURE SWEATER! But don’t take it from me, take it from these screen shots. Cue the cheesy music! (I can’t get it to play actual music so just use your imagination!)



So what did you think? Do you love one of Mabel’s sweaters that I didn’t mention? Maybe you just thought the order should have been different. Is there another list you want me to do? Let me know in the comments! BYE!!!













Between the Lines Book club: Gilead

between the lines book club logoTime to announce our October book club selection, Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on October 29, 2016 for an in-person discussion of this lyrical book.

Gilead, which was published in 2004, is Robinson’s second book. It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for best fiction. Her first novel, Housekeeping, told the stories of three women. In Gilead, the story focuses on men – Reverend John Ames, his father, and hid grandfather. Ames is writing a series of letters to his son about the history of his family. The story deals with faith, conscience, mortality, and forgiveness.

Gilead is the first in what is known as “The Gilead Trilogy” although all three books in the trilogy work as stand-alone novels. It is followed by Home, which follows the struggles of Ames’ neighbors, and Lila, which tells the story of Ames’ wife. All three books pay tribute to the philosophies and writing styles of transcendental writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Emily Dickenson by using simple yet lyrical language to describe not only the dramatic events of life but the beauty of simple, everyday moments.


We hope you enjoy this selection! You can participate in book club in person or by leaving comments here.



Between the Lines Book Club: Voices From Annawadi

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club will be meeting tomorrow (September 24, 2016) at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo.

In this space, I’ve shared some interviews with Katherine Boo. After her book came out, people wanted to know how the book affected the neighborhood she wrote about (Annawadi, outside Mumbai). Here’s an interview in which she talks about the connection she has to the people of Annawadi, and how things have an have not changed. when asked if she still has a connection to people, she says this:

My husband (Sunil Khilnani) and I are still engaged with the community, funding education, training and emergency aid to help families get through health and other crises. Some students have risen heroically to the challenge of good private schools — schools where even the guards at the gates make them feel unwelcome.

“Inspiring” is an overused word, but those kids inspire me — seriously. But progress in communities like Annawadi is often incremental, given structural issues like the prevalence of disease and the almost total absence of permanent work.

As for individuals featured in the book, Manju now has a master’s degree, and she and her new husband run two tuition centers. She’s a very popular tutor, with a particular concern for poorer students. Manju’s brothers have become drivers — work they like — and are also doing well. The Husain family now owns a home and business outside of Mumbai, and four of the younger children are doing well in a private school that is considered the best in their area.

But one person I wrote about died of TB-related disease, and another is fighting an addiction. This is real life, not a fairy tale with a happy ending. And a month from now, the circumstances of the people I’ve just mentioned may be utterly different, because if there’s one constant in places like Annawadi, it’s change.

Reader’s will remember Manju’s drive to get an education. Manju has read the book, and in this thoughful peice for Dawn she talks about what she thinks of the book, and what her mother thinks of it:

“I have read the book, and I liked it even though it made me cry,” Manju, who speaks good English, told AFP in Annawadi, a slum located next to Mumbai’s international airport and tucked behind the five-star Hyatt Regency hotel.

“It is truth, not fiction,” she says. “Everyone in Annawadi knows. If I don’t say these things about my family, someone else will, so why let them gossip?”

If you are curious about what Annawadi looks like, here’s a very short video from 2012:


I hope you all enjoyed the book! See some of you on Saturday!