Between the Lines Book Club: James Baldwin

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between The Lines Book Club! This month’s selection is Go Tell It On The Mountain, by James Baldwin. We will meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, on March 24, 2018.

James Baldwin was an African-American gay man whose essays and novels tackled race, class, religion, and sexuality. He grew up in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance and became a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as a deeply influential author.

Baldwin grew up the oldest of eight children. His stepfather was abusive and Baldwin felt that he had to take care of his younger siblings. At 14, Baldwin became a junior minister in the Pentecostal Church. Bible speech and the rhythm of language from the King James Bible influenced his later work. A few years later, he renounced religion entirely.

At 24, Baldwin lift the US for France, where he spent most of the rest of his life. He was part of the Left Bank group, a radical group of artists who questioned cultural norms. In this environment, Baldwin was free to be openly gay and he was free from the systemic, institutionalized racism found in the US. He returned to the US to be a spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement. He and Bayard Rustin faced discrimination within the Civil Rights Movement for being known as gay men. However, Baldwin continued to be part of the Movement

Baldwin’s books include Go Tell It On the Mountain, Fire Next Time, and Giovanni’s Room. He was a friend and mentor to countless artists and activists. His influence on literature cannot be overstated.





Between the Lines Book Club: Go Tell It On The Mountain

between the lines book club logoWe are back with Between The Lines Book Club! This month’s selection is Go Tell It On The Mountain, by James Baldwin. We will meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, on March 24, 2018.

Go Tell It On The Mountain is a semi-autobiographical novel, published in 1953. It tells the story of a young Black boy (John) growing up in Harlem, and his family. The Pentacostal Church plays a large role in the book. John struggles with his place in the family, his confusion regarding his sexuality, and his feelings about the church which is both destructive and deeply nourishing to the community.

If you find this book tough going, you might want to check out, a free online study guide. If you want to read something shorter by the same author that addresses the same themes, try Baldwin’s essay “Letter From a Region in My Mind,” which is available at The New Yorker , or any of his other essays. Look for a biblical cadance of speech, as well as discussion of religion, race, and sexual orientation.






Between the Lines Book Club: Redneck Comedy

between the lines book club logoWhen I was a kid, I used to watch the “hillbilly” comedy and variety show “Hee Haw” with my grandma. That show has come and gone, but the last few decades have seen a rise in “Redneck” based comedy, with stars like Larry the Cable Guy, and Bill Evengall. The key point of this comedy is that it is “laughing with,” not “laughing at,” by people who are self-identified rednecks.  As Jeff Foxworthy says, “You can’t laugh at a redneck unless you are one, and I are one.”

Jeff Foxworthy made himself famous with his stand-up comedy routines in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His most famous routines involved his “You might be a redneck” routines.  Here’s one of his stand up routines:


Gretchen Wilson, a country music star, had a big hit with this funny but proud song, “Redneck Woman” in 2004:


Trae Crowder challenges stereotypes as “The Liberal Redneck” with heated political commentary (and a LOT of swearing):


Here’s an extra one, because Trae sure can lay it down:



Etta May, who may or may not be a comic persona created by a Yankee, does stand-up based on her family and her life as a housewife:


And this one made me, a Weight Watchers vet, laugh out loud:

Between the Lines Book Club: White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg

between the lines book club logoOur February Book Club pick is White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. We will be meeting to discuss this book at Arden Dimick Library on February 24, 2018 at 10:30 AM.

In White Trash, Isenberg explores the history of class in America from colonial times through the present. she looks at class from a historical lens but also examines it in popular culture, in works such as Deliverance, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Duck Dynasty. Topics explored include eugenics, past and current politics, and the intersections of class and race.

Join us on Feb 24 for what is sure to be a spirited (BUT POLITE) discussion!


Between the Lines Book Club: More Books About Domestic Life

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (January 27, 2018) we’ll be meeting at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss At Home, by Bill Bryson.

At Home is entertaining, but how accurate is it? Most of the book covers the Victorian Era. Here are some other nonfiction books about domestic life in Victorian (and Edwardian) times. If it’s a book I”ve reviewed, I’ve linked to the review.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, by Therese O’Neill

Yes, the Victorians had their hangups, but they had a lot of sex too! I loved this book which was both fun and informative – and made me very happy not to have to wear a crinoline.

How to be a Victorian, by Ruth Goodman

Goodman, a historical re-enactor, never takes herself too seriously, but she supplements her well-researched book with anecdotes of her own experience. She also wrote How to be a Tudor.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool

As the title suggests, this covers everyday life in the Regency and Victorian periods.

To Marry an English Lord, by Gail McColl and Carol McD. Wallace

Want to know how to marry an English Lord during the Edwardian Era? Here’s a hint – be very, very rich, and know your table manners.


Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews With Bill Bryson

between the lines book club logoThe month we are reading At Home by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson is a prolific speaker – we had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Sacramento Central Library on one occasion. Here are some interviews with him regarding At Home.

First, a fun Q and A from The Guardian.

Bill Bryson on Colbert Report is a hoot – check out his hybrid American/British accent (he was raised in the USA but has lived in England for many years).

Here he is on the radio program “Here and Now”

Finally, here’s a brief but entertaining interview with The New York Times.

We’ll be meeting to discuss it in person on January 27, 2018 at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM. Join us!


Between the Lines Book Club: At Home by Bill Bryson

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club. This month we’re reading At Home by Bill Bryson. It’s a long book, but a quick and easy read. We’ll be meeting to discuss it in person on January 27, 2018 at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.

At Home is a nonfiction history of how and why houses are the way they are. Because of how the book is arranged, it’s easy to either read the book straight through or pick and choose chapters based on interest level. Here’s a quick rundown of the chapters and their topics:

Chapter One: The Year: Describes the year 1851, when the house was built.

Chapter Two: The Setting: The development of agriculture and ancient housing.

Chapter Three: The Hall: Covers the time when The Hall meant the entire interior of a house to the development of separate rooms.

Chapter Four: The Kitchen: Food! The development of ice as a common means of food preservation, mason jars, and cans, and the change in eating habits through the Victorian Era.

Chapter Five: The Scullery and Larder: In which being a servant was just awful.

Chapter Six: The Fuse Box: Life by candlelight, gaslight, and the development of the electric light.

Chapter Seven: The Drawing Room: The invention of comfortable furniture. Also, lots and lots of architecture.

Chapter Eight: The Dining Room: Spices, scurvy, salt, vitamins, coffee, and tea.

Chapter Nine: The Cellar: What was used to build homes in Britain and America, and why? If you have an interest in wood, bricks, stone, or cement, this is the chapter for you.

Chapter Ten: The Passage: The Eiffel Tower, The Gilded Age, the telephone.

Chapter Eleven: The Study: Mice and rats and bedbugs, oh my! Also germs and bats and locusts and lice!

Chapter Twelve: The Garden: Much architecture. The switch from formal to more naturalistic parks. The development of Central Park. The development of gardening as a hobby. The rise of the lawn.

Chapter Thirteen: The Plum Room: In which Bryson discusses Monticello and Mount Vernon.

Chapter Fourteen: The Stairs. Household hazards!

Chapter Fifteen: The Bedroom: Sex, disease, death, and burial.

Chapter Sixteen: The Bathroom: The very smelly history of hygiene.

Chapter Seventeen: The Dressing Room: Fashion!

Chapter Eighteen: The Nursery: Childbirth and child rearing is not for wimps.

Chapter Nineteen: The Attic: Darwin, economics, and the end of the parsonage era.

Enjoy, and feel free to pick and choose!