…Notes on a short story collection I read in 2022 but never reviewed on PWR, so if you will indulge me, this one is too good to miss.

Oates is special to me because years and years ago, I heard her read from one of her books at the University of Houston. Never mind that it was probably her most boring book a non-fiction tome titled On Boxing, a history of and musings about the sport, in which I had no interest. Even her delivery was quiet and not particularly personable, but she was a famous author, and when I looked into her novels and short stories, I found out what a versatile, wonderful author she is. Over the years, I have read many books by Oates and now have to list her as one of my “favorites.”

This collection is about dark and deep themes, expressed in a lovely way; themes like suicide, abortion and vaguely disturbing feelings and thoughts . These things are handled in a way only Oates could. A longer story, almost a novella, is included about a young magazine writer who is given the opportunity to interview Robert Frost in his declining years. It is highly imaginative and written in a way that could cause some readers to believe it actually happened that way. Oates has a masterpiece here; it is suspenseful as it deals with women’s “place,” male chauvinism, authors’ egos, and independent young women who are “ahead of their time” in their thinking. I enjoyed it immensely, and would recommend this book on the basis of that story alone. I’ll bet Oates had fun writing it!


“The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’ “

This is the subtitle of a remarkable memoir written by Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God. The story of Cudjo, written by Hurston as a research project and published in 2018, Barracoon is a sometimes difficult but fascinating read.

As in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston writes in heavy black dialect, which is frequently hard to follow; one must read and “translate” at the same time. That said, the extra effort required is definitely worth it. Based on interviews with Cudjo, taken in 1927 when Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama (outside Mobile) to interview Cudjo Lewis, who was 86 years old at the time, this book is extremely enlightening. Lewis came to this country as a slave on the last slave ship to arrive. Hurston considered Lewis to be the “Only person alive to tell this integral part of the nation’s history.” The book “sheds light on the inhumanity of slavery as it tells the true story of Cudjo, one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic Slave Trade.”

In the introduction to this important work, Hurston states, “The African slave trade is the most dramatic chapter in the story of human existence,” and this short book really proves this statement true.

To give an example of Cudjo’s speech and dialect, which Hurston records word for word and sound for sound, here is an excerpt from one of Cudjo’s interviews with Hurston:

“We ain ignant–we jes doan know. Nobody done tell us ’bout Adam eatee the apple, we doan know de seven seals was sealee ‘gainst us. Our parents doan tell us dat. Dey doan tell us dat. No, dass a right. We jess doan know.”

Once the reader has mastered the sound of Cudjo’s dialect, the reading becomes much easier, and his fascinating, horrifying story can me told. It was well with the effort to read Hurston’s groundbreaking work.

I was behind on my Classics Club goal to read a classic every other month, in other words, two more classics before the end of the year. I am on my way because by cheating just a little and watching a film of a classic book, I have only one book left to read in 2022.

Director Dan Curtis made one of the classic films of this classic thriller, The Turn of the Screw. Curtis was the force behind the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. In his 1974 version made for TV, Curtis directs Lynn Redgrave as the mysterious children’s governess in what is now considered one of the “campiest” of the eight versions of the film that were made. It was a pleasurable viewing, slightly scary, but only if you went along with the “sensual, livid-skinned ghosts” and the creepy version of the boy’s attraction to the governess. Lynn Redgrave is at her best, and it was an easy way to digest this classic thriller.



IN 2022, I TOOK ON THE MOUNT TBR READING CHALLENGE. I had originally thought of reading 22 books from my TBR selves in 2022, but amended that to 24 books in order to merit a higher level in the challenge. Here it is Thanksgiving, some 37 days left in the year, and to date I have read 15 books that linger on my shelves, neglected and ignored. There are just too many book club selections, new books out, books out recently by favorite authors and those that say “Read me, Read me” as they are displayed in their colorful jackets at the local library. I think, ahead of time, I will concede, no longer attempting to include this challenge and for the rest of the year read what suits my fancy. Heresy? No. Reading for pleasure. Sometimes, one just has to “know when to fold ’em.” LOL

2022 Gulf Coast Reads

Every October since 2011, libraries, both public and private select a single book and all read it together. This is a time of brown bag discussions, panels, book club discussions, interviews and appearances of the selected author and other exciting activities surrounding the chosen book. In our upper Golf Coast region, local libraries such as The Brazoria County Library System, The Harris County Library System and The Galveston County Library System plus other individual libraries participate. Often a criteria for the selected book is that it is written by a Texas author or is about/set in Texas. Both are true of born-in-Texas Justin Dealer and his novel,Lone Stars.

Deabler’s novel opens with a gay, married couple discussing what Julian (one of the main characters) will tell his adopted son about his own family. The novel covers four generations of a Texas family, flashing back to the childhoods and parents of Julian’s mother and father. Julian’s mother and father’s unique love story is explored, culminating in Julian’s birth. His earliest notions as a child were that he was “different” both by race and gender. Julian was an extraordinary child. One of the scenes when his parents take Julian to the Renaissance Festival in Magnolia, Texas, and Julian amuses himself by trying on wedding veils, only to be vilified by the boutique owner’s boyfriend who calls Julian a “faggot.” Aaron, Julian’s father begins a campaign to toughen up his son, at least enroll him in sports, where his mother Lacy accepts her son as he is and supports and encourages Julian for the rest of his life.

Growing up gay in Houston is the autobiographical part of this novel, and I, the reader enjoyed reading about the places in Houston I frequented as a young married in Houston. In places, the story is a real tear-jerker, but it is never maudlin. It teaches that love is love and that it cherishes regardless of gender preference. Overall, it is a darned good read.

But I’m not finished yet!

I had the privilege of hearing Deabler read from the book and be interviewed by the director/head of Gender Studies at The University of Houston, held at the West University Branch Library on October 25th, with my fellow blogger and friend,Deb Nance, from Readerbuzz. The author read from a scene where Julian and his mother, Lacy are at a flea market in Houston (one I have gone to back in ’65) when Lacy is trying to interest Julian in a homecoming date. Julian tells Lacy to get a date herself (Aaron, the father, has had an affair and left his family a few years earlier.), for It is time.

The author expresses empathy for all people and empathy for Southern places like Houston that still deal with the challenge of accepting gay people. The novel is the story of migrants, of being different, of family relationships, of the need to be “seen,” first by parents, then by others. It is a story of Houston.


WHEN I FIRST STARTED BLOGGING in 2016, I almost exclusively read novels. My friend, Deb Nance, the one who enticed me into blogging in the first place, almost exclusively read children’s books and for personal growth, non-fiction. As our friendship grew from acquaintances to almost-sisters over the years, she became enamored of good literary fiction, and I discovered that the writing in non-fiction could be as good and as beautiful as poetically-influenced novels. For the past two years, I have made a conscientious effort to read more non-fiction. My most recent attempt not only gave me enjoyment, but also gave me tips and techniques I could use in my Advanced Writing classes.

Described as a “Go-to-guide to creating ridiculously good content,” Handley’s book shed light on writing skills for business, marketing, personal writing, and academic writing, which I was most interested in. Part one of this well-organized handbook is titled, “How to Write Better (and How to Hate Writing Less).” The chapters I found most relevant to me were: “Shed High School Rules”; Organize, Relax, You’ve Got This”; Keep it Simple But Not Simplistic”; and “Break Some Grammar Rules (At Least These Five).”

Practically everyone can benefit from this interest-keeping book. Judge from the chapter titles, “Things Marketers Work With” and “Writing Better Blog Posts.” I admit that I skimmed some of this practical advice book, but the parts I read, I studied, taking notes so I could replicate the activities/discussions/lessons in my classroom.

Thanks Ann Handley for making my job more interesting.


Thanks, Carla, at Carla Loves to Read for finding this cool image.

TODAY’S choice for Saturday, November 5th, 2022 is…

What a “very proper young man” is Elliot. If you don’t believe me, just read his. book.

When Elliot’s dad noticed Elliott sitting with all his stuffed animals, thinking “Kids, masses of noisy kids” in response to Dad’s proposal of going to “Family Fun Day at the aquarium,” he never dreamed he would soon be sitting at the aquarium reading his National Geographic

while Elliott discovered P-E-N-G-U-I-N-S !!

While his father was distracted, Elliot asked, “May I please have a penguin?” “Sure,” replied Elliot’s dad, handing him a twenty dollar bill. Elliot selects the smallest penguin and puts him in his backpack.

What follows next when Elliot arrives home and lets the penguin out is hilarious, disastrous, boisterous FUN!

Third graders can read this book themselves. Others might ask parents or grandparents to read it to them.

It is a darned good, funny book.

p.s. Two copies of this book are available at Rae’s Reads in Alvin. Call Rae first, since shop hours have not yet been set.


This lovely meme is hosted by the blog Reading is My Superpower.

I saw that Carla at Carla Loves to Read posted her Friday Firstliner this morning, and it spurred me to post one as well.

Mine is from Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston. The first line is from the Preface.

” This is the story of Cudjo Lewis, as told by himself. It makes no attempt to be a scientific document, but on the whole is rather accurate.”

The book goes on to tell the story of a man who was brought from Africa, enslaved, on the last ship of slaves to be smuggled into the United States. It is fascinating so far.

NOVEMBER 1st, National Family Literacy Day

In 1994, Congress designated November first each year as a day to celebrate family literacy. Across the US, families engage in literary activities by reading aloud together, parents and grandparents writing their life stories and having children read them aloud, reading a book over the coming week (with copies for each member of the family) then getting together on Saturday night to discuss it, and recommending books to each other. The Day brings the family together to celebrate the joys of reading.

The benefits of gathering together to read and write are innumerable. Let today be less about laptops and mobile devices and more about books.


Literacy word cloud collage, education concept background


2022 CHALLENGES: A look back

I did not take on too many challenges back in January for this year, and that strategy has paid off. Here is an update on what I have accomplished and what is left to do by December 31st.

Challenge #1 “What’s in a Name” was the shortest, requiring only 6 books, and it was finished in August ’22.

Challenge #2 is not going very well. I had decided to read a classic every other month starting in January until December.

So far, I have read Brideshead Revisited, I Capture the Castle, The Wind in the Willows, and am currently reading Leafy Rivers to count for the months of July and August, so I am two books behind. However I am sure I can read two more classics before December 31st.

Challenge #3 Twenty-two Novels in 2022

I finished this one early and am now at 31 novels for this year.

Challenge #4 Twenty-two Nonfction Books in 2022

I also finished this challenge at the beginning of fall. I am currently at 27 non-fiction books for the year, which is surely a record for me.


I decided not to do Non-Fiction in November, as I did last year and am thinking of doing Novellas in November. However, before I take on another challenge, I have to decide what defines a novella and how many would I plan to read?

If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments box.