Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
Three book-related events stand out in early September. On Saturday, Sept. 6, at 2 p.m., That Bookstore in Blytheville will celebrate its 32nd birthday. Long a destination bookstore in the South, TBIB and its owner Mary Gay Shipley are inviting authors, readers and fellow booksellers to celebrate the anniversary by writing, e-mailing or calling the store and sharing favorite TBIB experiences or memories. In the spirit of Ernest Hemingway's famous six-word short story (“For sale: Baby shoes, Never worn.”), Shipley asks that all reminisces come in six-words. The store plans to eventually publish the offerings.
Former governor and U.S. Sen. David Pryor's autobiography, “A Pryor Commitment,” releases on Sept. 8. The Butler Center, through the University of Arkansas Press, is publishing the book. Signings, later in the month, will be held at That Bookstore in Blytheville and That Bookstore at Mountebanq Place. See “What's Happening.”
On Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m., award-winning author John M. Barry will speak at the Main Library's Darragh Center. Barry is the author of the excellent (and Arkansas-tied) “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America” and “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History.” A question and answer session, moderated by Steve Barnes, will follow the lecture. Make reservations to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 918-3029.
New and new-ish this month: Children's author Michael Shoulders (“N is for Natural State”) continues exploring Arkansas in “Natural Numbers” (Sleeping Bear Press, hardcover, $17.95), an oversized, richly illustrated book that integrates numbers with state history, ecology and culture. The origins of “Toad Suck Daze” and how scientists know Native Americans were living in the state 10,000 years ago are examples.
“Mindful Money: A Path to Simple Finances” (Bird Call Press, softcover, $15) is, as the title suggests, a new financial self-help book by local “financial educator” Linda Bessette.
From earlier this summer, Derlyne Gibson and Petrus Lai Nguyen's “A Long, Hard Road to Freedom” (Gibsons, softcover, $11.95) tells Nguyen's story of his life before, during and after the Vietnamese War. Nguyen's tale moves from Catholic seminary to a Communist P.O.W. camp to gold-digging in jungle rivers to Tyson chicken plants in Green Forrest and Fort Smith.
Also from a few months back, award-winning author and Cabot native Alexandria LaFaye, who writes as A. LaFaye, released a new historical, young-adult novel, “Stella Stands Alone” (Simon & Schusters for Young Readers, hard cover, $16.99). The Civil War-era story follows the young protagonist, who's lost her father to the war and her mother to yellow fever, as she tries to save her family's plantation.
The newest coffee-table book on the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas is out. “The University of Arkansas: Etched In Stone, Imagery of the campus and people of the University of Arkansas” (Arkansas Alumni Association, $39.95.), by Little Rock native and photographer Tom Ewart, with a foreword by Chancellor Dr. G. David Gearhart, is a over-sized book (14 x 18”) featuring approximately 160 photos and very little text. Yes, Razorbackers. there are lots of red and white athletic shots, some reaching back to the era of Corliss Williamson in basketball and Matt Jones in football. And there is, of course, a photo of Darren McFadden included. Beyond athletics, the book also gives a good deal of focus on the architecture of the campus.
In connection with the long-anticipated formal opening of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock this month, the University of Arkansas Press is republishing, “History of the Mosaic Templars of America: Its Founders and Officials” (edited by A.E. Bush and P.L. Dorman, $24.95), a 1924 history of the formation in Little Rock in the 1880s of the Mosaic Templars of America, a black fraternal benevolent organization that was headquartered at the same site.
The Little Rock Templars, founded by two former slaves, had 15 original members, and that number grew to millions in the fraternal order in most states and many countries by the 1920s.
The organization's original purpose was to help people in the black community buy burial and life insurance. That purpose expanded by the turn of the century to help provide and organize medical care, and also as a kind of bank that helped black residents secure home loans and start small businesses. The Templars also became Little Rock's only formidable black political lobby — and they really did have some clout — in the Jim Crow era. And their headquarters built at 9th and Broadway in 1913 became a landmark commercial and entertainment hub.
The headquarters continued to anchor Little Rock's black business district even after the MTA shrank to insignificance and finally collapsed in the Great Depression. The building was mostly destroyed by fires in 1984 and 2005, and the restoration, scheduled to be dedicated this month as a facility of the state Department of Arkansas Heritage, is said to have closely followed the famous original model.
“History of the Mosaic Templars of America: Its Founders and Officials” has a 50-page introduction by John William Graves, a Henderson State University historian who is an advisory board member of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.