Word Play — September 2017
September is National Honey Month, marking the end of the honey collection season for many beekeepers. With the deaths of millions of bees in recent years, it is a good time to reflect on the importance of these beneficial insects—and enjoy some books in which they are featured.
The History of Bees, Norwegian author Maja Lunde’s literary debut (Touchstone, August 2017), tells the story of three beekeepers, starting with William, a biologist in England in 1852, whose goal is to build a better beehive. A more contemporary George struggles in the United States in 2007 against modern farming techniques. After bees have long-since disappeared, in 2098 China, Tao paints pollen on blooms by hand. While a stark reminder of how much our survival depends on bees, the story also offers hope.
Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees has been around awhile (Viking, 2002), but for anyone who hasn’t read it, even if you saw the movie, it can be a powerful story. Lily Owens is 14 years old in 1964 South Carolina and wants to learn more about her mother’s death. She and her black housekeeper escape from her abusive father and white racists and come to live with a trio of black beekeeping sisters. While the book isn’t strictly about bees, from page one, Lily forms a connection to bees and parallels form in their lives.
For information on current bee problems, the book by the USDA (published in April) needs no further description other than its title: Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD): Latest Official Information on the Role of the Varroa Mite, Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Bee Management Stress, Genetics & Breeding.
Coming out in October is Where Honeybees Thrive: Stories from the Field (Penn State University Press) by Heather Swan. The book explores the world of beekeepers, urban farmers, mead makers, and southern African researchers.
Randa Jarrar is one of the winners of the 2017 American Book Award sponsored by the Before Columbus Foundation. The awards are intended to honor literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories or ranking of winners. Awards will be presented on Oct. 22 in San Francisco. Jarrar’s winning entry, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali (Sarabande Books, 2016), is a short story collection with stories ranging from gender politics to magical surrealism. “Zelda the Halfie” is about human/ibex hybrids. Another story considers the relationship between an Egyptian feminist and her young intern. Randa was the featured writer at the Respite by the River last month.
Elvin C. Bell met a lot of famous people during his years as a politician and a journalist. He has put together 1,111 pages of stories from those years in his book, A Life beyond Infinity (iUniverse, Feb. 2017). His stories include his encounters with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter as well as singers and actors such as Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and Milton Berle.
Pike’s Peak Library District offers advice on book talking. According to the tips, this is not a book report or a review—it is mostly intended to convince the listener to read the book. The tips are aimed at teens, but this would be a helpful skill for authors to learn, and it can be used by any reader who would like to share the joy of a book he or she has read. A few of the tips include: Read the whole book. If an idea comes to you while you are reading, jot it down. Don’t be afraid to do something new and outrageous. For more ideas go to: ppld.org/teens/booktalking-tips.
This month marks the 470th birthday of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote and many short stories, plays, and poems. Also, William Faulkner would be 120 on Sept. 25. Faulkner wrote more than 100 short stories and 19 novels, most notably, The Sound and the Fury. The youngster in this group is Stephen King who turns 70. Some of King’s books are The Green Mile, Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Shining.
THE LAST WORD
“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.”—James Russell Lowell (1819–1891).