Friday, December 31, 2010

Event Schedule for January

We are off to a busy start at Paragraphs for the New Year. If you are looking for something different to do, please take advantage of one or more of the following opportunities. I think we have some talented and interesting authors lined up and an interesting schedule of book signings, discussions and readings, planned.

All events at Paragraphs are free and open to the public. We provide refreshments and no purchase is ever required. You are welcome to come, listen and visit with our guests. We just provide the venue and the speakers. It is your participation that makes these evenings worth the effort.

Saturday, Jan 1st 2-4pm – What a way to start the New Year and give your resolutions a chance! Come out and join us for some New Year’s cheer and spend time with Kathy Sparrow, a life coach, trainer and inspirational speaker. In addition to her presentation on her book, she will help inspire us with ways to keep our resolutions that so often fall by the wayside with the hectic and pressured lifestyle we lead.

Her book, On the Mother Lagoon: Fly Fishing and the Spiritual Journey (Wish Publishing, 2003), chronicles Sparrow’s development from novice saltwater fly fisher to a fully fledged, US Coast Guard Captain and saltwater fly fishing guide on the Lower Laguna Madre. In it, she shares her psychospiritual development, as well as the technical aspects, of mastering this quiet sport. Both male and female readers will identify with her ability to honestly share her struggles, setbacks, and successes of her fly fishing experiences.

Tuesday, Jan 25th 2-4 PM – Venselaar, who writes poetry and prose will be signing her novel, Musical Voyage. Musical Voyage demonstrates the enormous feeling and self-discipline which artists, musicians, writers and painters need to possess in addition to the great love for their art.

Nelly Venselaar, who also writes under the pen name Petra Van Slooten, has won awards for her poetry. She is a member of the Valley Byliners.

Friday, Jan 28th 6-7 PM – Poetry reading and reception with poet Kamala Platt.

Dr. Kamala Platt's first decade was shaped by family legacies in human rights work and life on the prairie in rural Kansas. She began writing as she learned to read, and her mother, herself a writer, encouraged her daughter’s interest through a summer class with octogenarian poet Cora M. Nicodemus.

Subsequently, Platt has studied poetry with Bienvenido N. Santos, Victor Contoski, Keith Ratzlaff, Raylene Hinz-Penner, Howard McCord and Al Young, among others.

Thursday, Feb 3rd 1-2 and 5-7 – Jenne Savery and Betty Hanawa romance writers and authors of numerous works will be at Paragraphs to sign and discuss the trials and tribulations of writing romance novels.

Thursday, Feb 10th 5-7 –Author, Daniel Dinges will return to Paragraphs to discuss and sign his novel Get Out of the Way. The book gives a front row-view of a young man's fight to stay alive during the cultural revolution of the legendary sixties. A panorama of the times, Tom struggles to endure the personal battles of love and family while avoiding being in the cross hairs of another man's gun. In a time when many would not survive either battle, Tom is determined to Get Out of the Way!

Author Daniel Dinges currently resides in the Rio Grande Valley after a varied career in business, consulting, and management. He holds degrees in economics and business. He is the father of two, grandfather of two, and enjoys golf, movies, music, reading, and travel.

Wednesday, Feb 16th 1-2PM and 4-6PM - Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas is for All Ages. Written by Jeanette Larson and published by Charlesbridge Publishing.

Jeanette Larson is a children's literature and library services consultant and trainer, currently serving as an adjunct professor for Texas Woman's University. She's the former Youth Services Manager at Austin Public Library and former Director of Library Development for the Texas State Library where she also served as Manager of Continuing Education and Consulting.

Jeanette's professional accomplishments include work with the Texas Reading Club, the Texas Book Festival, the "Mother Goose Asks Why" program, and the Reach Out and Read program. She has experience as a Children's Services Librarian as well as extensive community involvement with reading and education initiatives. The Texas Library Association honored her as Librarian of the Year in 1998 and awarded her the Siddie Joe Johnson Award for outstanding contributions to children's librarianship in 2002.

We are excited about having the opportunity to have Jeanette join us while she is in the area doing some work at the Port Isabel Public Library.

Ongoing Events:

Play Readers Anonymous:
The second Monday of each month (except March) the Anonymous Play Readers Group meets at 7PM. All are welcome to join us for this monthly evening of fun. Why not join us as we explore and read the character parts in a casual atmosphere? Everyone is welcome and scripts are provided. The next date is January 10, 2011.

Author’s Round Table:
With the beginning of the new year Paragraphs will be hosting a monthly gathering where experienced or beginning authors can meet, discuss and share their experiences with writing and getting publishing. Whether you have a manuscript prepared, have already been published, or still have all your ideas in your head waiting to be transcribed to paper, this is an ideal opportunity to meet others with similar interests and to get or give advice about anything to do with your writing life.

Held on the fourth Monday of the month at 7PM. The first meeting will be January 24th.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Gift of the Magi

I love listening to books. It is like having someone read a story to you and allows your mind to concentrate on the images represented by the words. I am too young to remember the radio shows which provided families with hours of entertainment before the popularity of television, but I can understand what attracted so many to gather around the radio in the evenings. Anyway, today, there are many ways of listening to books. The iphone, ipad, computers, CD players, ipod and a host of other audio devices makes this form of entertainment easy to enjoy. While the bestselling books, when released on CD, are sometimes a little too expensive for my budget, there are hours of enjoyment that can be had for free., is the audio equivalent to Both organizations, manned entirely by volunteers, work to give the public access to all works in the public domain. Those who volunteer for Librivox, read works and save them to an audio file which is then uploaded and combined with readings by others until a complete book has been recorded. The books are then made available for download or can be listened on any mobile device.

I am thinking about this now because I was sitting at my desk, listening to a short story as I entered used books into inventory.

O. Henry, the pen name for William Sidney Porter, is known for his short stories. He spent his young adulthood in Austin, Texas.

"The Gift of the Magi" is one of his most famous stories and the premise of the story has been retold and will continue to be a classic tale of love and the true value of gift-giving.

A young woman, Della, wants to buy her beloved husband a gift for Christmas, but has only one dollar and some change to spend. It is Christmas Eve and time has run out. She finally decides to cut and sell her beautiful hair to raise the money to buy her husband, Jim, a watch chain for his treasured gold pocket watch which he had inherited from his father.

I won't tell you the ending. You can listen to Betsie Bush read this classic Christmas story on Librivox here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More on Reading EBooks

I often have customers ask what effect the movement towards ebooks is having on my business. This is a hard number for me to identify, since Paragraphs is such a new store and our customer base is a little different than many. We are a tourist resort, and many of our customers are looking for the perfect beach read, and generally the idea of taking an expensive e-reader to the beach is not very popular.

But, like everything else, change happens and we will evolve. This year's step forward for us was setting up the online bookstore and creating an affiliate agreement with Audible. So now if you want to continue to support Paragraphs, but are unable to come in to the physical store on South Padre Island, you can order directly from You are also able to connect to Audible through our link, which gives us a commission on your audio book downloads.

But, currently, Paragraphs does not sell ebooks, online or in the store. We are looking at the alternatives and hope to eventually be in a position where if a customer comes in to the store they can visit with us, get a recommendation, and then if they want the book on an e-reader they will be able to buy and download it like any other book we offer.

The ebook model is evolving rapidly and I do not understand it as well as I need to, but I am researching and learning as much as I can. It is important to me to be able to give my customers the best information available about their reading choices -- whether it be which books to read or how to read them.

When you begin shopping for an ereader, as I know many of you will do over this holiday season, look for something that allows you to shop for and buy or download books from a variety of providers. My major complaint with Amazon and the Kindle is the proprietary nature of the device. With the Kindle, you can only buy books from Amazon. If Amazon decides not to provide a digital copy of a certain title, you cannot download it from a different source.

But what are the options? I would suggest you consider any of the following devices either for your phone, computer or as a stand alone ebook reader:

* BeBook
* BlackBerry
* Bookeen
* COOL-ER Reader
* EZ Reader
* iPhone
* IREX Digital Reader

* Kobo
* Mac
* Mentor

* Nook
* PC
* Pocket PC Device
* Sony Reader

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Electronic Books and Reading Devices

I am a little swamped right now and don't have time to write a complete post about what I, as an independent bookstore owner, feel about the rise of electronic books so I am going to copy parts of a post I read this morning by a fellow bookshop owner whom I respect and have become online friends with during our first two years of business.

Aaron's Books, is the true independent bookshop, in all the ways one thinks about when imagining a community bookstore, located in Lititz, PA. Sam, Todd, and son Aaron are all about sustainability, supporting the local community, and of course, encouraging people of all ages to read. Here are some thoughts they shared on the bookstore blog about electronic readers. With Christmas just around the corner I thought it might be helpful for those of you thinking about buying an e-reader for someone you love.

It may come as a shock but we are not “against” E-Reading devices. The staff here personally prefers good old paper books, but we fully understand in today’s fast moving and digital age that e-books are preferred by others. And honestly, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can easily by both!

Another shock, you can have an e-reader and still buy both paper and digital books from your local indie!

Today Google and the American Booksellers association launched Google-Ebooks. There are currently more than 100 indie bookstores participating in this endeavor, which just started today! While we are not, there are several in PA that are, and we recommend you download from one of them, as their tax dollars go towards the same state budget ours do (note: when shopping at Amazon ZERO dollars gets recirculated into PA!)
Here is more about this great announcement!

Paragraphs is also not participating in the Google ebooks program at this time, however there are several American Bookseller's Association member stores in Texas that do and I would encourage you to shop from them for the same reason. When you download from a Texas independent bookstore, your sales tax dollars stay in Texas, the same as when you shop at Paragraphs.

Participating Texas Bookstores include:

Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX

BookPeople in Austin, TX

Katy Budget Books in Austin, TX

A complete listing of stores is located at

So on with the post from Aaron's Books:

That all being said, if you’re thinking about gifting someone on your list an e-reader this holiday season here are some thoughts.

1) There are many machines that do more than e-read, ANY device with internet access can give the user the ability to shop locally while downloading e-books.

2) Lots of dedicated e-readers (meaning all they do is e-books/magazines) offer the ability to order books from multiple sources, EXCEPT the Kindle.

3) If you do buy your giftee a Kindle, know that they are no longer able to shop locally when buying an e-book. The Kindle is programmed as a device that WILL only download from Amazon (aka Evil River Empire). The Kindle, as a “locked” device does not allow for reading the book on more than one device.

(With the new Google e-books, your book is stored on the Google “cloud” allowing for multiple device reading).

There are also security issue with the Kindle - Amazon has the ability to track everything you read, highlight, and make notes on; and has the ability to remove any book from your device at any time they feel the need to.

So as you’re thinking about gifting an e-reader, please keep these things in mind.

Want us to help you pick out good e-books to download from an indie? We’re happy to help you, and can even get you started right here in the store!

Happy Reading (E- or Paper!)

I hope this will give you some information about the possibilities out there relating to buying an ereader. One thing not mentioned is the ability to download books from your library. Using a Kindle, this is not possible. My mother is a member of the Denver Public Library, as was I until moving to TX, and it is possible to download most new titles in ebook format and also as audio books. You cannot take advantage of library services with a Kindle.

As the technology becomes more mainstream I would consider selecting a device which gives you the most flexibility to take advantage of obtaining content from the greatest variety of sources.

And, like Aaron's Books, we at Paragraphs are here to help you pick out books that you will enjoy, no matter how you select to "read" them.

Christmas Time on the Island

I am getting ready to do my Christmas decorating today and was looking at the Island schedule for the season. There are events for everyone this year. Come by the store or stop at any retailer or the visitor center and pick up a bookmark with the 12 Days of Holiday Celebration schedule. You can also find the complete schedule on Facebook at SPI Jolly Days.

My hat is off to the brand new SPI Parks and Recreation Committee for the work they have done and the tremendous list of events they have coordinated. What is special about this committee and the 12 Days of Holiday Celebration is it is truly a community effort. Most of the activities are free or merely charge enough to cover the costs and all are sponsored by area businesses at venues across the island.

And I also want to remind everyone about the book signing and discussion with Daniel Dinges on December 11. His book, "Get Out of the Way" gives a front row-view of a young man's fight to stay alive during the cultural revolution of the legendary sixties. A panorama of the times, the main character of the novel, Tom struggles to endure the personal battles of love and family while avoiding being in the crosshairs of another man's gun.

Daniel Dinges currently resides in the Rio Grande Valley after a varied career in business, consulting, and management. He holds degrees in economics and business. He is the father of two, grandfather of two, and enjoys golf, movies, music, reading, and travel.

And then on Sunday, December 12, the Sandbox Inn will again present Raina Rose at 7 pm for another backyard concert. If you have not attended one of the events offered during the Sandbox Inn Concert series, you really must give it a try. Sitting under the stars, surrounded by swaying palms and fragrant vines, listening to some of the most talented singer songwriters from all over the country, this is a true opportunity not to be missed.

Yes indeed, it is looking to be a very busy Holiday season on South Padre Island.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

El Valle, The Rio Grande Delta

I remember talking with Nancy Marsden shortly after moving to the island, and she told me her nephew was working on a book about the Rio Grande Valley, but at the time I had no idea what a monumental project Seth was actually undertaking. I expected the beautiful photography and knew this would be a lovely coffee table book but did not expect the depth of talent and expertise which is represented in this volume.

I attended the launch party in Brownsville several months ago and was impressed with the wonderful turnout. Since purchasing my copy of El Valle, that evening, I have spent many enjoyable hours pouring over the pages and becoming more familiar with what makes this part of the country so unique. I know Seth has been busy in the area giving a series of presentations and slide shows to promote the book and what it represents. I am pleased to have the opportunity to welcome Seth Patterson, photographer for Gorgas Foundation and the book production manager for El Valle, to Paragraphs, to discuss his experiences in producing such a beautiful book.
A first of its kind, El Valle takes the reader on a visual journey through the Valley, from Falcon Lake to the Gulf of Mexico, exploring the rich biodiversity and cultural legacy that has taken root along the banks of the Rio Grande.
The volume is definitely a cross-border effort and much thought has gone into the bi-lingual presentation. Eugenio J. Hernandez Flores, Governor of the state of Tamaulipas, states in his introductory letter:
People from Texas and Tamaulipas are fortunate to share more than a border. Along the banks of the Rio Grande, we enjoy a historic diverse, and constructive relationship that has shown us the importance of working together in overcoming common challenges and harnessing our mutual strengths.

Many topics converge along this border, long considered one of the world's most dynamic. These include the vital goal of conserving and protecting our natural resources.
I cannot say enough good things about this book, you really need to see it and peruse it at your leisure to truly understand what a comprehensive view of the Rio Grande Valley the book provides. The photos are exquisite, but, the narrative, which was written by 28 well-respected specialists in their specific areas of expertise and all incredibly knowledgeable about the Rio Grande River Delta, gives the photography even greater depth.

As Laurence V. Lof, President and CEO of the Gorgas Science Foundation, Inc. states in his preface to the book:
We hope this book introduces you to the many faces of the Rio Grande Delta. These images provide a touchstone from which we hope you will explore beyond this brief introduction.
A new appreciation of the Rio Grande Delta is growing, and an increased pride in our unique heritage is taking hold, as is a commitment to help document and preserve our identity and the legacy for which we are all stewards.

Reading through this book I was amazed at the uniqueness of the lower Rio Grande Valley, and reminded how important it is that we respect nature and protect the fragile open and natural spaces which remain.

El Valle - The Rio Grande Delta is published by the Gorgas Science Foundation in collaboration with Earth in Focus Editions, the publishing arm of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and joins a prestigious collection of publications aimed at raising awareness to the importance of responsible land stewardship and conservation of our vanishing natural resources.

I hope to have a good turnout for the presentation and slide show tomorrow night, December 2, at 6:00pm. It will be a great learning experience and a lot of fun to have Seth, at Paragraphs, and I am thrilled that his mother, known on Facebook as Dolphinwhisper Scarlet Colley will also be joining us. So stop by, say hello, and share a glass of wine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To Ban or not to Ban?

An angry response and demand for a boycott spread rapidly yesterday when a new self-published Kindle book, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure by Phillip Greaves, was offered for sale at

Amid the hullabaloo and the call for Amazon to remove the book from its site, I thought this quote from the Reading Copy book blog at Abe books would be appropriate. The blog referenced the verse in a post discussing the 50th anniversary of the 1960 not-guilty verdict in the British obscenity trial over Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Let’s remember some words from a glorious librarian, Philip Larkin:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me).
Between the end of the
“Chatterley” ban and
The Beatles’ first LP.

As long as the material is not violating any laws than we should always error on the side of allowing it to exist, no matter how objectionable or disgusting we may find it to be. The alternative is to enter the slippery slope of censorship and the ability for books to be banned simply on the sensibilities of the majority, or even worse a vocal minority.

However, I do admire the honesty of the blogger mentioned below who admitted how easy it is to get swept up in the moment when faced with such objectionable material. From Shelf Awareness:
In a post titled "Crossing a Line: Is Banning Books Ever OK?" a Book Smugglers blogger observed: "My first reaction was that of revulsion and I not only RT the link with a 'I have no words' attached to it, I also wrote and I admit it, without thinking about what I was saying: Seriously @Amazon? YOU NEED TO REMOVE THIS FROM YOUR SITE. Which is of course an attempt at book banning. Needless to say, madness ensued and we got hundreds of @ replies who shared the feelings of disgust and who retweeted the request to pull the book off Amazon.

"There were also quite a few replies who questioned the request on the grounds that censorship should never be encouraged even if the content of a book is disgusting and reprehensible. The ensuing conversation was not only interesting but also eye opening. Because I have always, always seen myself as someone who would never EVER condone book banning or censorship on any grounds, there I was facing a very uncomfortable truth about myself: a line I never ever thought I would cross and yet I did, in a heartbeat."
And CBS news reported that Chris Finan, president of the American Bookseller's Association Foundation for Free Expression said:
Amazon has the right under the First Amendment to sell any book that is not child pornography or legally obscene. Greaves' book doesn't amount to either because it does not include illustrations.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Play Readers Meet Tomorrow

It is again the time for the Anonymous Play Readers to meet at Paragraphs and discover a new play by reading aloud the various roles. This month, JoAnn Evans has selected another farcical romp.

A Flea in Her Ear (in French: La Puce à l'oreille) is a play by Georges Feydeau written in 1907. The original takes place in Paris at the turn of the century. The version we will be reading from is an adaptation by Frank Galati which brings the action into a 1960s world.

Although the modern version renders the dialogue more accessible to a modern audience, the action follows the pattern of the famous original: a complex series of mistaken identities, clandestine assignations and misplaced but explosive jealousies — all happening at breakneck speed.

The story begins when Victor Deboshe, a middle-class insurance salesman, becomes impotent, leading his wife, Yvonne, to assume that he has taken a mistress. To test his fidelity she has her friend Lucille write an anonymous letter to Victor, claiming to be infatuated with him and proposing a rendezvous at the notorious Hotel Pussy a Go-Go. Thinking a mistake has been made, Victor persuades his friend Maurice (a famous womanizer) to keep the appointment for him. And as can be expected, this leads to a series of complications and misunderstandings that are the ingredients of farcical theater.

Before the situation is inevitably untangled and things set right, the action will include a violently jealous and hot-blooded Spaniard husband, a suicidal leap from a window and a nephew with an unfortunate (but hilarious) speech defect. Include a furious Indian fakir and a lascivious butler, then add the necessary slamming doors, revolving beds and some wildly amiss gun shots, and you have all the hysterical, humor of classical farce.

As described by the Dramatists Play Service:

An up-to-date and explosively funny version of Feydeau's classic farce, which retains the antic, pell-mell humor of the original while making the people and the action of the play pertinent to our own times. First produced by Chicago's Goodman Theatre, the play has become an established favorite among the nation's leading regional professional theatres.

We would love to have you join us to read or just listen and learn more about a "A Flea in Her Ear".

October 11, 2010 at 7:00pm

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival

The Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts has announced its 14th Annual Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival, to take place this coming October 7, 8, 9, and 10. Inaugurated by the late great Tito Puente in 1997, the Latin Jazz Festival has become the pride of Brownsville and one of the most anticipated events in the Rio Grande Valley's cultural calendar.

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded the Festival a generous grant for the third year in a row and the Texas Commission on the Arts has likewise awarded the Brownsville Society of the Performing Arts with a prestigious organizational grant, citing the Festival as "an Admirable event". Both are the largest grants ever awarded by NEA and TCA to any performing arts presenter in the RGV.

Not only will there be four days of incredible performances but the top of the line artists featured at the festival will share their experience at a series of classes and workshops throughout Brownsville.

One of these days I am going to get around to attending some of the fantastic cultural events that take place in the Rio Grande Valley!

For more information on this event contact BSPA at 956-831-9560 or visit them online at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Discover Songs - October

Fields, Junip

Suggested Retail: $15.98
Paragraphs Price: $12.99

Formed in Gothenburg, Sweden and featuring Jose Gonzalez, Junip's songs are often dynamic, melodic and shadowy. Their sound is familiar to those who have listened to Gonzalez's critically-acclaimed records.

From NPR First Listen:
Junip is a trio from Gothenberg, Sweden: Elias Araya is on drums, Tobias Winterkorn plays keyboards and José González sings and plays guitar. The music of Junip comes from improvisation first, with melody and lyrics coming later. Winterkorn describes picking through the improvisations for good ideas from the band's recordings, "and then taking out the raisins from the cake to eat them." For both Araya and González, this record has been like chasing a dream — a dream that began when Junip's members were just 14.

The list of influences is long, from John Martyn's guitar sound to the repetitive trance of Ethiopian music, and from German electronic music to Nina Simone. Somehow, all this turns up on Junip's album Fields, and it all works.

Lonely Avenue
, Ben Folds adds Music and Melody to Nick Hornby's Words, Ben Folds/Nick Hornby

Suggested Retail: $26.98
Paragraphs Price $19.99

This special Lonely Avenue deluxe edition features music and vocals by singer-songwriter Ben Folds and lyrics by novelist Nick Hornby, four Hornby short stories and photos by Joel Meyerowitz, all in a beautiful hardbound book.

Other albums for October include a new release from Eric Clapton titled simply Clapton, a traditional country album Ghost Train, recorded by Marty Stuart, and an album produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, You Are Not Alone, featuring Mavis Staples.

Band of Joy

Band of Joy, Robert Plank

Robert Plant is back with Band of Joy, his first album since 2007's six-time Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand. This album was co-produced by Plant and Nashville legend and guitarist Buddy Miller.

Reviewed on NPR

Listen to an edited version of a full concert performed live at the Bowery Ballroom on September 12, 2010.

On sale now at Paragraphs:
Suggested retail $18.98
Our Price $14.99

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Apostrophe Song

Will this help in remembering the rules for apostrophes? Are you tired of gritting your teeth whenever you see a misplaced apostrophe on a sign?

Let's sing it -- all together now...

via Huffington Post

Friday, September 17, 2010

2010 Booker Award - Short List

Earlier this month, Peter Carey, Emma Donoghue, Damon Galgut, Howard Jacobson, Andrea Levy and Tom McCarthy were announced as the six shortlisted authors for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. For over four decades the prize - the leading literary award in the English speaking world - has brought recognition, reward and readership to the outstanding new novels of the year. The shortlist was announced by Chair of judges, Sir Andrew Motion, at a press conference held at Man's London headquarters.

* Peter Carey »
Parrot and Olivier in America »
Faber & Faber

From the two-time Booker Prize, winning author comes an irrepressibly funny new novel set in early nineteenth-century America. Olivier, an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville, is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be connected by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.

* Emma Donoghue »
Room »

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

* Damon Galgut »
In a Strange Room »
Grove Atlantic

A young man takes three journeys, through Greece, India and Africa. He travels lightly, simply. To those who travel with him and those whom he meets on the way - including a handsome, enigmatic stranger, a group of careless backpackers and a woman on the edge - he is the Follower, the Lover and the Guardian.

* Howard Jacobson »
The Finkler Question »

He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one'. Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular and disappointed BBC worker, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends.

* Andrea Levy »
The Long Song »
Headline Review

The author of Small Island tells the story of the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom in nineteenth-century Jamaica. Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas, The Long Song is at once defiant, funny, and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great house and rename her 'Marguerite.' Resourceful and mischievous, July soon becomes indispensable to her mistress. Together they live through the bloody Baptist war, followed by the violent and chaotic end of slavery. Taught to read and write so that she can help her mistress run the business, July remains bound to the plantation despite her freedom. It is the arrival of a young English overseer, Robert Goodwin, that will dramatically change life in the great house for both July and her mistress. Prompted and provoked by her son's persistent questioning, July's resilience and heartbreak are gradually revealed in this extraordinarily powerful story of slavery, revolution.

* Tom McCarthy »
C »
Jonathan Cape

Opening in England at the turn of the twentieth century, C is the story of a boy named Serge Carrefax, whose father spends his time experimenting with wireless communication while running a school for deaf children. Serge grows up amid the noise and silence with his brilliant but troubled older sister, Sophie: an intense sibling relationship that stays with him as he heads off into an equally troubled larger world.

Books that are currently available may be purchased online at Paragraphs by clicking on the title link. We also carry most of these titles at the store.

Monday, September 13, 2010

College-bound Seniors Can Win Bookstore Gift Certificate

From Shelf Awareness:

Author James Patterson is launching Book Dollars for Scholars, a contest for college-bound high school seniors who can win gift certificates for $250 to $5,000 each to use at any IndieBound bookstore.
To enter, students answer with an essay the question "how has your favorite book inspired you toward what you'd like to do in life?" There will be 56 winners, selected by Patterson and members of his board.

Patterson said, "My hope with this award is to help students going to college--where they'll be immersed in textbooks and great classics, and be under pressure to succeed--to maintain their interest in enjoying a good book for fun. I'm looking forward to reading the entries!" In 2005, Patterson founded the PageTurner awards, which honored people and organizations that "spread the joy of reading."

The Book Dollars for Scholars contest ends December 31. Winners will be announced February 1. For more information and to enter, go to

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sotheby's to Auction "Birds of America"

Looking for the perfect birding book?

From The Guardian:

Sotheby's will today announce it is to sell items from the collection of the late Lord Hesketh, including a stunning copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America, a book that grabbed the world-record auction price of $8.8m 10 years ago.

Frederick Fermor-Hesketh, 2nd Baron Hesketh, belonged to a family that had collected books from the 19th century onwards and was an obsessive. He was an example of what is known as "high spot collecting" in that he did not specialise but needed to have the very best of the best and, with a big splurge of collecting in the early 1950s, he achieved it. Now, 55 years after his death, trustees of his will are selling books, manuscripts and letters with an estimated total worth of £8m to £10m.

One of the highlights is a copy of Birds of America valued at £4m to £6m. The book is bound on a huge scale – a "double elephant" folio – because Haiti-born Audubon wanted to paint the birds life size. He would travel across America, shooting the birds before carefully hanging them on bits of wire to paint them.

Not only was Audubon a skilled artist, he was also a persuasive seller, travelling to Britain to print the volumes and then offering Birds of America to the very rich as a prestige product. The copy being sold was first bought by an early paleobotanist, Henry Witham, "subscriber number 11", after an apparently very boozy dinner. Audubon writes in his ledger: "I determined in an instant that this gentleman was a gentleman indeed … We all talked much, for I believe the good wine of Mr Witham had a most direct effect."

Only 119 complete copies of Birds of America are known to exist today and 108 of those are owned by museums, libraries and universities.

Thanks to HuffPost Books

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Gendarme - A Novel

Mark Mustian became fascinated with the story of the deportation of the Armenians from Turkey prior to World War I after reading Peter Balakian’s book Black Dog of Fate. He read survivors’ stories, transcripts of oral histories, memoirs, and history books and learned of the denial of the Turkish nation, including the fact that to speak of the Armenian deaths as genocide remains a crime in Turkey to this day. Out of this search comes the beautifully written and emotionally riveting first novel, The Gendarme.

The author explains:
In 1915, at the beginning of World War I, something close to panic gripped the Ottoman Empire, a fear that the sizable Armenian minority in Turkey was aligned with their Christian brethren the Russians in opposition to the Turks in the war. A few reported uprisings prompted a massive and brutal response. Those not killed were forced to join the caravans proceeding south and east to the Syrian desert and then to the city of Aleppo.
Yet, the novel begins in the 1990s, when the 92-year-old Emmet Conn suddenly begins remembering things he doesn't understand but he gradually becomes convinced these visions are true and have been denied or purposefully forgotten by him and others in the time following the war.

As Emmet relives the past in his dreams and visions, we we are able to, in the author's words:
imagine what it would have been like for old men, women, and children to make this journey on foot, along dirt roads in late spring and summer. They would have had to leave almost all of their possessions behind. The sun would have been searing, the paths dusty and arduous and long. Water would have been scarce. Disease and lack of food and thievery would have taken their toll. Some would have walked hundreds of miles. Others would have had to be carried. It was easy to see how many would have failed to survive it.

As Emmet nears the end of his life he sets out on a final journey of reconciliation with the truth. During the war he served as a gendarme and was responsible for escorting Armenian women and children from Turkey. He feels compelled to find the enigmatic, Araxie, the young Armenian girl, who had captivated him and had become the love of his life, only to be lost to him at the end of the war.

Ultimately, "The Gendarme" is a story of redemption and survival at the most basic human level. It is a book I recommend for the same reason the author gives for writing about this event that so many want to forget:
People sometimes ask, Why would you want to write about this, or even know of it, when your immediate ancestors were not part of the tragedy? I have no simple answers. In some ways the distance is helpful, permitting me a novelist’s audacity in attempting to probe the mind of one most would consider a perpetrator. In other ways it is deadening, a balm stifling emotion and fostering apathy and appeasement. Remembering is living. Forgetting, as Ahmet Khan learns, has its costs. Decades on, even centuries on, our shared history remains vital, the connection, however tenuous, to some tribal sense of before. Time stretches and calms, but still we reach, for we belonged then. We want to know. Sometimes that knowledge is painful, or inconvenient, or even damning. But it is essential. It exposes us for what we have been, and can be.
Buy this book online

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Business Start-Up Guide

The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit

A Step-By-Step Legal Guide [With CDROM]

By Peri Pakroo
(NOLO, Paperback, 9781413311884, 520pp.)

Publication Date: May 2010

Since I finally extended our wireless connection into the living area at Paragraphs, I though it would be a good time to catch up with reading some e-galleys that have been waiting to be downloaded and reviewed. I must admit I am still not totally sold on the net galley and catalog experience. I certainly appreciate the green aspects -- especially when I am buried in paper and books the idea of killing fewer trees for printing review copies makes sense -- yet when I spend so much of my day looking at a computer screen I long for the relaxing feel of print on paper as I curl up in my favorite chair.

But I digress. The galley I opened was a new edition of The Women's Small Business Start-Up Kit. I am about 2 years late in reading this but after the first few pages I have decided it is never too late to get some additional guidance. Before opening Paragraphs I worked through several business guides and had some great advice from the publications offered by and recommended by the American Booksellers Association and so far things are going well; we are able to pay our suppliers, our inventory is growing along with our customer base, and I am still excited about the future. But, there are places in my planning that were definitely left a little up in the air -- things I thought I would finish after we opened. The problem with that scenario was the lack of time available once we got our feet on the ground and needed to keep up with daily chores meant those areas I planned on cleaning up later are still clouds on my horizon a year and a half after opening. So, I am ordering a copy of this great little guide and looking for some help in those areas which I still need to address.

While I have made an effort not to forget why I moved to south Texas to live on a sandbar and make sure the bookends and I along with Griff, when he is in town, get to the beach at least once or twice a week, I have had much less time to devote to establishing friendships than I expected. Pakroo identifies this as one of the topics she covers in her book.

Another important aspect of running a business that the book addresses is the development of organizational skills and systems. Now, this is what I need.

Anyway, I think this looks like a helpful and informative tool for any woman who is wanting to take the plunge into running a business. And even a year into this experiment I am looking forward to ordering the book so I can refer to it and get some ideas on making this madhouse run a little more smoothly.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good Luck, Devin

Devin De La Garza is a member of the On the Beach Surf team and is headed to Florida next week to compete in the surfing finals.

I met Devin's dad shortly after we opened and have since become acquainted with his mother and Devin. This is a super family and Devin is an awesome kid.

While he has been on a surfboard since he was three years old, Devin does well in school, participates in several other sports, plays tennis at a competitive level and most of all is an incredibly polite and well-spoken young man. Of course, maybe what I like most about the DeLa Garza family is that they are all avid readers.

Anyway, when Devin came by yesterday with copies of this poster by, which he was selling to raise money for the trip to Florida, I was only too happy to help - and was pleased that he included Paragraphs in his efforts.

As a Colorado, mountain girl I don't know any of the surfing lingo so the best I can do is say - Good Luck, Devin and most of all have a great time. We are lucky to have such a fine young man representating the Rio Grande Valley.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

Banned Books Week 2010 will be held September 25 - October 2

ABFFE Affiliate Program to Include Bookmarks

Last year the American Bookseller's Foundation for Free Expression introduced an affiliate program with 2020 Vision from Sarasota, Florida.

Paragraphs has been pleased to participate in this agreement with 2020 Vision, an independent supplier of reading glasses since we are able to offer a nice selection while also supporting a cause that is important to anyone who values the free exchange of ideas, especially those found in books. Over the last 12 months, 2020 Vision has contributed $1 for every pair of reading and sunglasses sold to independent bookstores, and the result has been a donation of more than $12,000 to ABFFE.

Now, a new member has been added to the affiliate arrangement between members of the American Bookseller Association and the ABFFE.

emotionGallery, introduced their offer to contribute $1 for every 10 bookmarks it sells to independent bookstores at this year's Book Expo America. I have finally ordered and received our selection of bookmarks from emotionGallery.

“We were very pleasantly surprised by the reaction of all the booksellers we met at BEA,” Sebastien Guttmann, emotionGallery’s managing director, said. “It gives us even more confidence that our products will perform well in the American market.”

Each bookmark is animated 3-d. The dolphins jump, the horses run, the hummingbird has wings that flutter. I can't decide which my favorite is -- today I think it might be the gold fish that have fins that move and a mouth that opens and closes.

I love these bookmarks and I like the idea that our purchase of them also helps support freedom of expression. These are 3-d animated bookmarks and I think they are going to be a popular addition to our sideline selections at Paragraphs.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stefan Lewis Eye Recovery Fund

This is the link to a post on Rob Nixon's Waiting for the Next Swell blog post.

If you have ever met Stefan Lewis, you know that the 24 year old surfer is outgoing, talkative, friendly and an extremely talented local surfer. Stefan is also a member of the South Padre Island Beach Patrol and gives his time to help those that are in trouble or have been injured on our city beaches.

A couple of weeks back Stefan severely injured himself while surfing at Packery Channel in Corpus Christi. He was hit with his surfboard and his nose, left side cheek and left ocular orbit were all broken. The real injury here is to his orbit where he has essentially blown out the back of it which holds his eyeball in place.

Stefan has been to multiple eye experts since his injury and has been told that if his orbit is not reconstructed soon his eye will begin to sink into the back of the socket and he will very probably see double the rest of his life. For anyone, this would be devastating, but for someone who enjoys the beach and a sport that relies so much on sight at such a young age, it is especially depressing.

Stefan's surgery to repair his eye is scheduled for August 4th and he needs to raise approximately $7000 for the deposit before the doctors will operate. Stefan does not have insurance.

In an effort to help him out a group of his friends and the South Padre Island Surfing community are trying to help him by raising as much money as possible by the 4th!

Stefan's girlfriend and Mom have set up a Pay Pal account to take these donations! You can also stop by Island Native Surf House and leave a donation as well! Any amount that you can give will help immensely in helping Stefan recover from this injury!

OR you can CLICK HERE to also donate to the Stefan Lewis Eye Recovery Fund.

Thank you!
We will also be happy to pass any donations on to the family and have sent a donation via paypal. It is easy and safe. My guess is that even after the deposit is covered this young man will need additional funds to cover the remainder of the surgical costs in addition to the follow-up and other expenses.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turtle Days

One of the events everyone on South Padre Island looks forward to every year is "Turtle Days". Turtle Days officially begins when the first Kemp Ridley nest is found on the beach and the eggs are transported to a safe place where they can hatch. The flags are raised and calendars marked for a week of festivities.

Paragraphs is pleased that we have been able to become a part of this annual celebration. In May, we host the "Turtle Tea" and join in the fun as our Island ladies come dressed in their best hat and gloves, often created by the busy ladies at Craft Camp to sip the finest Earl Grey from dainty cups and saucers while eating tasty cucumber finger sandwiches and delicate macaroons. Island resident Nancy Marsden does a great job of planning and putting all these Shellebration events together.

All of the proceeds raised at Turtle Days events are donated to Sea Turtle Inc. the wonderful organization whose dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured sea turtles, while educating the public, and assisting with conservation efforts for all marine species.

One successful fundraising program at Sea Turtle Inc., is the opportunity to Adopt-a-Nest. Volunteers and interns work together to locate the Kemp Ridley sea turtle nests, transport the eggs and relocate them to the corral where they are closely monitored for signs of hatching. Paragraphs adopted our first nest this year and it has been fun to wait for our nest to be found, and now we are eagerly anticipating news that our eggs have hatched and are ready to be released.

hile we were excited about supporting Sea Turtle Inc., by adopting a Kemp Ridley nest, we thought there must be some way to leverage this donation into additional support for Sea Turtle, Inc.'s nesting program. So we started what we call our "nest egg" which is a fund we are setting aside for our adopted Nest #7.

Since May 6, when our nest of 77 eggs was found and moved to the corral, we have been p
utting a penny for every dollar spent at Paragraphs into our "nest" which sits on our counter. We will continue to donate this 1% of our sales to Sea Turtle Inc. until the hatchlings are released. While, we are pleased to make this donation, the really great part is that many of our customers have been adding to our nest egg and we are able to increase awareness of the turtle nesting program at the same time. When we started our little "nest egg" idea we had no idea how much additional support we would receive from our customers. The pocket full of odd change, a spare dollar here and there, it is amazing how generous people are.

The first turtle hatchlings were released Sunday morning, June 20 and so I know nest #7 will be ready to head into the Gulf of Mexico any day now. Griff and I will be the proud parents at beach access 4 cheering the little guys on their way.

Thank you to Sea Turtle Inc., for use of photos from their website.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To An Athlete Dying Young

A friend on Facebook just posted a quiz question asking for the title of and who wrote the poem which is used in the film "Out of Africa" and begins:

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

I remember this verse and its beautiful imagery (especially when thinking of Robert Redford as Denys Finch-Hatten) when the poem is read by Meryl Streep as his eulogy.

Anyway, I have always loved "To An Athlete Dying Young" by AE Houseman. It speaks so clearly to the waste of a young life when lost before it's time. The remaining verses follow:

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Books by Jennie Marlow

Jennie Marlow will be signing and discussing her books prior to the scheduled workshops on Thursday evening, July 8, 2010, at 7:00pm. For more about Jennie Marlow visit her website at

And for more information or to register for the workshops see my previous post.

100 Days of Wisdom: Inspiration from Spotted Eagle , Grandfather White Elk and White Buffalo

100 Days of Wisdom is a collection of powerful, inspiring quotations taken from the work of spirit guides, Spotted Eagle, Grandfather White Elk, and White Buffalo. Jennie Marlow’s guides challenge and motivate us to transform our perceptions of what is real, and to tackle life’s most persistent problems with willingness and determination. Presented in the style of a journal, the messages from Jennie Marlow’s guides are themed by subject in order to facilitate a process of discovery and meaningful change. This book contains 100 quotations, each presenting us with an opportunity to shift our perception of reality. This book can be used in a variety of ways—as a book of quotations selected at random, a daily journal, or as a process guide for individuals or groups. Each quotation provides the opening for a powerful spiritual inquiry.

Personal Magic: A Spotted Eagle and Grandfather White Elk Book

Spirit guides Spotted Eagle and Grandfather White Elk offer a compelling new model that allows us to embrace a reality not driven by fantasy or materialism, and that still affords us great freedom and peace of mind. They demonstrate how spiritual authenticity can give us access to our most powerful and intriguing possibilities. Personal Magic describes authenticity in real-world terms, as strengths and challenges, and as innate gifts and talents that we can employ in creating what fulfills our deepest desires for a joyful life. Personal Magic defines eight magic types. These magics express our uniquely human powers - the things that make us magical, creative, and able to build our lives on a foundation of what is real. This book offers fresh, no-nonsense insight into what human creative power is really all about, at the level of the individual, and how we might learn to dance with the uncertainties in the Universe that created us.

Jennie Marlow Booksigning and Workshops at Paragraphs

Do the keys to your success feel like a puzzle?

There are some vital things you may not know about how your emotional
and energetic systems work for you or against you. There is a way
forward, and it is all about returning to your authentic self, where your
power and potential lay waiting to be re-discovered.



Emotional Mastery
Register for both workshops by
June 15th for $199 & save 33%

The truth is, we have all been conditioned to be inauthentic out of fear.
This conditioning creates the building blocks for a ‘not-self’ that is
making your choices and interacting on your behalf. You have a fear and
fantasy-based emotional system that governs how you react to others and
your world. Learn how to deal effectively with emotional triggers, fears
and destructive behavior patterns in yourself and others in Jennie
Marlow’s ground-breaking workshop, Emotional Mastery. In this
workshop, you will learn a simple, straight-forward system for using
your energy productively, no matter what uncertainties you face or what
is happening around you.

Self-Intelligence WORKSHOP, SUNDAY, JULY 11TH
Have you tried all sorts of success systems, only to find they don’t
deliver the promised results in your life? It may be that the strategies in
these systems will never work for you! Why? Because your design only
works when you are authentic, and your authenticity may operate quite
differently than it does for others. If you like astrology, you’re going to
love the Human Energy Design! Human Design combines Western
Astrology with the Eastern wisdom traditions of the I Ching and the
Hindu chakra system. It offers penetrating insight into how your energy
is uniquely designed exactly three months before your birth. Introduce
yourself to the real you and your personal success strategy in Self-
Intelligence, Jennie Marlow’s eye-opening introduction to the Human
Energy Design.

Jennie Marlow is an author, spiritual teacher and spirit-based
business consultant. A former Silicon Valley executive, she now
devotes her life to helping others achieve personal mastery. Her
behavioral and spiritual models for the Post-New-Age are used by a
growing number of therapists, coaches and consultants in personal
growth, psychology, leadership and business.

Private Consultations TUES &WEDS, JULY 13TH &14TH

Jennie will also be available for in-person or telephone consulations by
appointment. For more information, please call toll-free 866-270-3783 or
send an email to

CALL TOLL-FREE: 866-270-3783

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Texas History Book Featured at Book Signing

Arcadia Publishers, the premiere local history press, has published two titles which are a must for anyone who has an interest in the history of the Rio Grande Valley. Both books are filled with pictures from the archives of several local historical societies and private collections.

Join us at Paragraphs On Padre Boulevard, on Saturday June 12, 2010, for a book signing featuring San Benito and Charro Days in Brownsville, which are both part of the Arcadia Press, Images of America series.

There are two opportunities to meet those involved in publishing these books, first from 1 to 2 PM to have books signed and again, at 6 PM when there will be time for discussing the books, a short reading, and additional time for having books signed.

Refreshments will be provided.

Both sessions are free and open to the public.
No purchase is required to attend.

Book Description for "San Benito":
San Benito was built on the banks of a dry riverbed of the Rio Grande, called a resaca. Long ago, Coahuiltecan Indians made their home here, and Spanish land grant ranches flourished in the 1700s. The arrival of the railroad in 1904 brought a diverse group of pioneers from the Midwest in search of cheap and fertile land. These early settlers, together with descendents of Spanish colonizers, began an agricultural community. During his engineering surveys in 1903 for the proposed railroad connection to the rest of Texas, Sam Robertson realized the potential of the land. He envisioned an irrigation plan that would utilize the resacas to bring water from the Rio Grande and thus make arid ranch land into a garden. It was with this history and this dream that the little town of San Benito was created. San Benito is also home to entertainment--Conjunto Music began here--and it is the hometown of international singing star Freddy Fender and Olympic athlete Bobby Morrow.

Author Bio:
The San Benito Historical Society, founded in 1995, compiled this book with images from townspeople and from its own collection. The mission of the historical society is to chronicle, protect, and preserve the history and cultural heritage of San Benito.

Book Description for "Charro Days in Brownsville"
Brownsville, Texas, was established in 1850 on the banks of the Rio Grande. Every February since 1938, this thriving community of nearly 200,000 has joined its Mexican neighbor, Matamoros, to celebrate their shared cultural heritage. Charro Days burst upon the Rio Grande Valley scene in the depths of the Depression, bringing dances, parades, fireworks, boat races, and a rodeo to a dispirited populace. The celebration achieved instant success, followed by national recognition in magazines, radio, and television. Renowned dance bands and celebrities increased the enjoyment of revelers dressed in Charro costumes. As time passed, Charro Days evolved with the addition of events such as the Mr. Amigo presentation, which recognizes an outstanding Mexican, and the Sombrero Fest, which attracts a large number of attendees with its diverse entertainment.

Author Bio:
Anthony Knopp is an emeritus professor of history at the University of Texas at Brownsville and a former president of the Brownsville Historical Association. Manuel Medrano is also a professor of history at the University of Texas at Brownsville and a recognized expert on Mexican American history and culture. Priscilla Rodriguez is the executive director of the Brownsville Historical Association. Many of the photographs used in this history are from the archives of the Brownsville Historical Association.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Impatient With Desire by Gabrielle Burton

A new historical novel by Gabrielle Burton, Impatient with Desire brings us answers to the unanswerable question: What really happened in the four months that members of the ill-fated Donner party were trapped in the mountains? And it brings to stunning life a woman--and a love story--behind the myth. Of the 87 men, women and children in the Donner Party, 46 survived: two thirds of the women and children, but only one third of the men. And in this novel we experience the saga of the Donner party through the voice of Tamsen Donner, a wife and mother.

In her 1891 memoirs, Virginia Reed recalled the departure of the Donner-Reed company:

"Never can I forget the morning when we bade farewell to kindred and friends. The Donners were there, having driven in the evening before with their families, so that we might get an early start.

Grandma Keyes was carried out of the house and placed in the wagon on a large feather bed, propped up with pillows. Her sons implored her to remain and end her days with them, but she could not be separated from her only daughter. We were surrounded by loved ones, and there stood all my little schoolmates who had come to kiss me good-by. My father with tears in his eyes tried to smile as one friend after another grasped his hand in a last farewell. Mama was overcome with grief.

At last the drivers cracked their whips, the oxen moved slowly forward and the long journey had begun. ... Many friends camped with us the first night out and my uncles traveled on for several days before bidding us a final farewell. It seemed to be strange to be riding in ox-teams, and we children were afraid of the oxen, thinking they could go wherever they pleased as they had no bridles."

On April 23, 1846, under the headline "Ho! For Oregon and California" A notice of their departure was printed in the Sangamo Journal, Springfield, Illinois,

"The company which left here last week for California embraced 15 men, 8 women and 16 children. They had nine waggons. They were in good spirits, and we trust they will safely reach their anticipated home."
As the group traveled west they were joined by additional families who were embarking on the great migration to California in search of new land and opportunities. And thus began a story that has remained with us for over 150 years. Most remember the Donner Party for the tales of cannibalism that are associated with the survival of the ill-fated party when they were caught in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846. But this story is really about so much more than the macabre jokes surrounding it.

The Donner brothers, George and Jacob, were considered prosperous, elderly farmers who had no reason to go to California. Born in North Carolina and descended from German immigrants, they had already migrated by wagon from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. Having heard of the wonders of California, they thought they would try one more migration.

The novel is centered on the story of George, 60, his third wife, Tamsen, 45, their three children, Frances, 6, Georgia, 4 and Eliza, 3, and George's two daughters from a previous marriage, Elitha Cumi, 14, and Leanna, 12. Historians have long known that Tamsen kept a journal, though it was never found. In Impatient with Desire, Burton draws on years of historical research to vividly imagine this lost journal--and paints a picture of a remarkable heroine in an extraordinary situation. Tamsen's unforgettable journey takes us from the cornfields of Illinois to the dusty Oregon Trail to the freezing Sierra Nevada Mountains.

On October 31st, the front axle of George Donner’s family wagon broke. Cutting timber for a new one, George gashed his hand and they are separated from the larger group who have made it to Truckee Lake. But, just as the group attempts the final push over the pass, it begins to snow. Fifty-nine people huddled in the three cabins near the lake, hoping that the early snow will melt and they would still be able to cross the pass. The Donners and others, 22 people in all, were stranded about six miles east on Alder Creek in three shelters hastily constructed from tents, quilts, buffalo robes, and brush. But as the snow continued to fall the two parties settled in and tried to survive and hoped help would come.

When the third relief party reached the lake in early March, only seven emigrants remained alive. Tamsen Donner was among them, still remarkably strong for all she’d been through. George, who was dying, begged her to leave. Tamsen refused. She would not let her husband die alone.

All the children of George Donner’s family survived. George and his wife, however, perished in the mountains. Eliza Donner, three years old in 1846, later wrote a book about the events, the only surviving member to write a book-length account. It was published in 1911. George’s daughter Leanna, twelve years old at the time, became the last living member of the Donner Party old enough to remember the events, dying in 1930.

For more information:
The Donner Party - PBS American Experience
Tragedy in the Sierra Nevada: Serene Musings
The Donner Party Diaries
Patrick Breen's Diary
History of the Donner Party