St. John's Laurys Book Club

Reading books for enjoyment, perspective and discussion

Meets the First Thursday of each month at 6:30pm
     Please use the West Entry Doors and follow the trail of books to the meeting room

Contact Brenda Frantz or Karen-Berry Frantz for more information.
 

April 5 Meeting
My Day
by Eleanor Roosevelt

Recently named "Woman of the Century" in a survey conducted by the National Women's Hall of Fame, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote her hugely popular syndicated column "My Day" for over a quarter of that century, from 1936 to 1962. This collection brings together for the first time in a single volume the most memorable of those columns, written with singular wit, elegance, compassion, and insight—everything from her personal perspectives on the New Deal and World War II to the painstaking diplomacy required of her as chair of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights after the war to the joys of gardening at her beloved Hyde Park home. To quote Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "What a remarkable woman she was! These sprightly and touching selections from Eleanor Roosevelt's famous column evoke an extraordinary personality."

 My Day 329

 EleanorRoosevelt 330

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was an American politician, diplomat and activist.  She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, having held the post from March 1933 to April 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms in office, and served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. President Harry S. Truman later called her the "First Lady of the World" in tribute to her human rights achievements.
Roosevelt was a member of the prominent American Roosevelt and Livingston families and a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. She had an unhappy childhood, having suffered the deaths of both parents and one of her brothers at a young age. At 15, she attended Allenwood Academy in London and was deeply influenced by its headmistress Marie Souvestre. Returning to the U.S., she married her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1905. The Roosevelts' marriage was complicated from the beginning by Franklin's controlling mother, Sara, and after Eleanor discovered her husband's affair with Lucy Mercer in 1918, she resolved to seek fulfillment in a public life of her own. She persuaded Franklin to stay in politics after he was stricken with a paralytic illness in 1921, which cost him the normal use of his legs, and began giving speeches and appearing at campaign events in his place. Following Franklin's election as Governor of New York in 1928, and throughout the remainder of Franklin's public career in government, Roosevelt regularly made public appearances on his behalf, and as First Lady while her husband served as President, she significantly reshaped and redefined the role of First Lady.
Though widely respected in her later years, Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady at the time for her outspokenness, particularly her stance on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column, write a monthly magazine column, host a weekly radio show, and speak at a national party convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband's policies. She launched an experimental community at Arthurdale, West Virginia, for the families of unemployed miners, later widely regarded as a failure. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Asian Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees.
Following her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt remained active in politics for the remaining 17 years of her life. She pressed the United States to join and support the United Nations and became its first delegate. She served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she chaired the John F. Kennedy administration's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. By the time of her death, Roosevelt was regarded as "one of the most esteemed women in the world"; she was called "the object of almost universal respect" in her New York Times obituary. In 1999, she was ranked ninth in the top ten of Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

 ER wrote "My Day," a national syndicated newspaper column, from 31 December 1935 until 26 September 1962 (six days a week until January 1961, then three days a week thereafter). ER did not keep a regular diary and her extant appointment books are woefully incomplete. Thus "My Day" is the only consistent existing account of her public actions. The columns, while no means a complete record of ER's daily activities, do reveal much about whom she met, where she traveled, which books she read, which plays she attended, and how she handled the pressures of public life. They chronicle her development from awkward "diarist" to skilled advocate for the New Deal, civil rights, the United Nations, and myriad other domestic and international concerns. In sum, "My Day" offers a remarkable window into ER's public and political life.ER wrote "My Day," a national syndicated newspaper column, from 31 December 1935 until 26 September 1962 (six days a week until January 1961, then three days a week thereafter). ER did not keep a regular diary and her extant appointment books are woefully incomplete. Thus "My Day" is the only consistent existing account of her public actions. The columns, while no means a complete record of ER's daily activities, do reveal much about whom she met, where she traveled, which books she read, which plays she attended, and how she handled the pressures of public life. They chronicle her development from awkward "diarist" to skilled advocate for the New Deal, civil rights, the United Nations, and myriad other domestic and international concerns. In sum, "My Day" offers a remarkable window into ER's public and political life.
ER had a varied but already well-established publishing career before beginning "My Day." She had been offered a daily column in 1933, but did not accept until 1935. By that time, ER's popularity was at its peak and FDR, who was beginning to plan his re-election campaign, saw a column as an asset to the campaign and the New Deal generally. At the same time, ER had grown increasingly impatient with some of the president's gatekeepers and FDR's policy decisions, and decided that a daily column would allow her to rally support for the causes she espoused. Finally, Women's Home Companion, perhaps concerned that ER's column in its pages might imply support of FDR's re-election, discontinued "Mrs. Roosevelt's Page" in the fall of 1935, leaving the First Lady without the monthly outlet she had enjoyed since 1933.
Upon its debut, "My Day" was an immediate success. By 1938 it was appearing in sixty-two papers across the nation, providing ER with a readership of more than four million people and making her one of the nation's most popular columnists. By 1940, interest in "My Day" was so strong that United Features Syndicate offered her a five-year contract even though it had no expectation that the Roosevelts would remain in the White House for another term. Even FDR's sudden death in April 1945 did not diminish readers' interest in learning what she thought. As ER told her daughter Anna in August, "my column circulation has been going up steadily." Ultimately, ninety papers would carry the column and ER would remain with United Features for twenty-six years.
Initially, the United Features Syndicate defined the column. The syndicate selected the title and suggested that ER discuss those "day-to-day experiences, interests and observations" she would be "willing to make public." They also urged her to use "My Day" to discuss the "real life stories" of her correspondents and the "trend of thought" their letters revealed. They hoped the column would be "glittering with names" and highlight "pleasant and personal news of events and people," which no one but ER could "reveal." They wanted her to imagine writing the columns "as if they were letters written to a dear friend."
As ER grew more comfortable with the "My Day" format, she took greater risks with it. By 1938, she had moved away from the trivial and mundane and begun to concentrate more on her responsibilities as citizen and political symbol. She encouraged her readers to write her and often incorporated their stories, questions, and criticisms into her columns. These letters reveal the palpable connection their authors had with ER as they shared their experiences as well as their most private dreams and fears.
While journalists may have discounted her simplistic style, they nevertheless appreciated "My Day's" importance; indeed, one New York Times editor considered it "required reading for those seeking insight into administration policies." FDR also appreciated the influence "My Day" exerted and was not above asking ER to float an idea in her column to gauge reader response. ER attempted to use "My Day" to shore up support for the New Deal with mixed results. Her support for such programs as the Resettlement Act, the Rural Electrification Act, the National Youth Administration, the Federal Theatre Project, and FDR's "court packing plan" inspired her critics. Her discussion of African-American civil rights likewise provoked those who opposed her efforts.
As the threat of fascism and war increased, "My Day" delved more deeply into foreign policy. Despite her own efforts for peace, ER was a realist. By 1939 she, like FDR, believed that American entry into World War II was inevitable and that the US's industrial capacity was the nation's greatest weapon. Strategically inserting short paragraphs throughout her 1940 and 1941 columns, she used "My Day" to challenge those who opposed war at any cost to consider what "reasonable measures" could be taken to ensure the nation's defense.
ER's wartime columns recount the home front struggles to implement rationing, her appointment and dismissal from the Office of Civilian Defense, and the creations of the Fair Employment Practices Committee and the War Labor Board. She also wrote regularly about the increasing levels of anti-Semitism and racial prejudice in the US, as well as offering her thoughts on the bitter debates over conscientious objectors and the Smith Act. As the war neared its end, ER used "My Day" to discuss the needs of returning servicemen, the needs of war refugees, and the importance of building a new world order based on peace and collective security.
After FDR's death in April 1945, ER debated how to continue a public role. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., like most of her other close friends, pushed her to "speak out to the world as Eleanor Roosevelt," arguing "it is most important that [your] voice be heard." Rejecting all requests to run for office, she embraced "My Day" with a new passion, telling readers that she would be more effective as a journalist than she would as an elected official, prompting the Washington Evening Star to title its story, "Mrs. Roosevelt Will Continue Column; Seeks No Office Now." ER also told her readers that she would not adhere to any party line or administrative spin. Now "free of the certain restrictions FDR demanded" she would speak freely. "Of one thing I am sure," she wrote, "in order to be useful we must stand for the things we feel are right, and we must work for those things wherever we find ourselves. It does very little good to believe in something unless you tell your friends and associates of your beliefs." By 1946, when asked to list her profession, she consistently placed "journalist" ahead of all her other responsibilities.
ER's column varied somewhat as her interests changed and presidential administrations came and went, but her basic style and content remained essentially the same for the rest of her life. She would include some information about her movements, meetings, and even entertainment, but largely used the column to discuss political and social issues. After ER joined the first American delegation to the United Nations in 1946, "My Day" became the vehicle for her to discuss the "machinery" of the United Nations, the drafting and application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the needs and hopes of those left stateless after World War II. As a member of the US delegation, ER tried to temper her partisanship, and often declined to endorse candidates. However, she was inconsistent, and still both attacked her political opponents and challenged Truman when she disagreed with administration policies. After the election of Dwight Eisenhower and ER's resignation from the US delegation to the UN, ER no longer had any reason to moderate her language. Her column became the way she challenged Republicans, complacent Democrats, timid liberals, and apathetic Americans to accept the responsibilities of living in a democracy. Her outspokenness and her activism affected her pocketbook. After she strongly supported the presidential candidacy of Adlai Stevenson in 1956, the Scripps Howard chain dropped her column, reducing her income by almost two-thirds. United Features Syndicate asked her to limit her support for political candidates. ER complied by declining an appointment to an advisory committee of the Democratic National Committee, but she continued to both offer support and opposition to political candidates in her column.
By 1960 age and infirmity had begun to take a toll on ER's health. Her friends and family urged her to slow down, and ER began writing only three columns a week instead of six. Although she grew weaker over the next two years, she never gave any indication that her illness threatened her productivity. She wrote her last column, published 26 September 1961, less than two months before her death.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project has collected and transcribed the "My Day" columns in a project that spanned nearly a decade. We are profoundly grateful for the work of our graduate fellows, undergraduate employees, and interns on this project. We are also thankful to have had the able assistance of the archivists at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and the librarians at the Library of Congress. Funding for the project came primarily from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

 

May 3 Meeting
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . 
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
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 GailHoneyman 325

Gail Honeyman wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust's Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow. 

 

 

June 7 Meeting
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
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 ColsonWhitehead 350

Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan.Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan.
After graduating from Harvard College, he started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music.
His first novel, The Intuitionist, concerned intrigue in the Department of Elevator Inspectors, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway and a winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Award.
John Henry Days followed in 2001, an investigation of the steel-driving man of American folklore. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. The novel received the Young Lions Fiction Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
The Colossus of New York is a book of essays about the city. It was published in 2003 and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Apex Hides the Hurt (2006) is a novel about a "nomenclature consultant" who gets an assignment to name a town, and was a recipient of the PEN/Oakland Award.
Sag Harbor, published in 2009, is a novel about teenagers hanging out in Sag Harbor, Long Island during the summer of 1985. It was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.
Zone One (2011), about post-apocalyptic New York City, was a New York Times Bestseller.
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death, a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker, appreared in 2014.
The Underground Railroad, a novel, was published in the summer of 2016. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller.
Colson Whitehead's reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta.
He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, A Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Dos Passos Prize, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.
He lives in New York City.
My latest book, The Underground Railroad, is an Oprah's Book Club pick. 

Colson Whitehead

 

 

July 6 Meeting
Small Great Things
by Jodi Picoult
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game. 
 SmallGreatThings 329
 JodiPicoult 400 Jodi Picoult, 50, is the bestselling author of twenty-three novels: Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), Harvesting the Heart (1994), Picture Perfect (1995), Mercy (1996), The Pact (1998), Keeping Faith (1999), Plain Truth (2000), Salem Falls (2001), Perfect Match (2002), Second Glance (2003), My Sister's Keeper (2004), Vanishing Acts (2005), The Tenth Circle (2006), Nineteen Minutes (2007), Change of Heart (2008), Handle With Care (2009), House Rules (2010), Sing You Home (2011), Lone Wolf (2012), The Storyteller (2013), Leaving Time (2014), and the YA novels Between The Lines (2012), and Off The Page (2015), co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer. Her last nine novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her highly acclaimed new novel, Small Great Things (2016), addresses the profoundly challenging yet essential concerns of our time: prejudice, race, and justice.Jodi Picoult, 50, is the bestselling author of twenty-three novels: Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), Harvesting the Heart (1994), Picture Perfect (1995), Mercy (1996), The Pact (1998), Keeping Faith (1999), Plain Truth (2000), Salem Falls (2001), Perfect Match (2002), Second Glance (2003), My Sister's Keeper (2004), Vanishing Acts (2005), The Tenth Circle (2006), Nineteen Minutes (2007), Change of Heart (2008), Handle With Care (2009), House Rules (2010), Sing You Home (2011), Lone Wolf (2012), The Storyteller (2013), Leaving Time (2014), and the YA novels Between The Lines (2012), and Off The Page (2015), co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer. Her last nine novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her highly acclaimed new novel, Small Great Things (2016), addresses the profoundly challenging yet essential concerns of our time: prejudice, race, and justice.Picoult studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, and had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. Realism - and a profound desire to be able to pay the rent - led Picoult to a series of different jobs following her graduation: as a technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, as a copywriter at an ad agency, as an editor at a textbook publisher, and as an 8th grade English teacher - before entering Harvard to pursue a master’s in education. She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.She wrote five issues of the Wonder Woman comic book series for DC Comics. Her books are translated into thirty four languages in thirty five countries. Four – The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Salem Falls - have been made into television movies. My Sister’s Keeper was a big-screen released from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring, which is now available in DVD. She received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Dartmouth College in 2010 and another from the University of New Haven in 2012.
Jodi serves on the advisory board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, a research-driven organization whose goal is to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing and to foster transparency around gender and racial equality issues in contemporary literary culture. She is part of the Writer’s Council for the National Writing Project, which recognizes the universality of writing as a communicative tool and helps teachers enhance student writing, and is a spokesperson for Positive Tracks/Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, which supports youth-led charity fundraising through athletics. She is on the advisory committee of the New Hampshire Coalition Against the Death Penalty. She is also is the founder and executive producer of the Trumbull Hall Troupe, a New Hampshire-based teen theater group that performs original musicals to raise money for local charities; to date their contributions have exceeded $120K. She and her husband Tim and their three children live in Hanover, New Hampshire with two Springer spaniels, two rescue puppies, two donkeys, two geese, ten chickens, a smattering of ducks, and the occasional Holstein. 
 

 

Past Readings

July 2018  Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
June 2018  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
May 2018 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
April 2018 My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt
March 2018 Redemption Road by John Hart
February 2018 No Exit by Taylor Adams
January 2018 Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
December 2017 The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards
November 2017 Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah
October 2017 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
September 2017 The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
August 2017 Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
July 2017 The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
June 2017 Marrow: A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser
May 2017 The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
April 2017 The Lake House by Kate Morton
March 2017 The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield
February 2017 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
January 2017 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
December 2016 Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
November 2016 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
October 2016 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
September 2016 Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
August 2016 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
July 2016  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
June 2016  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
May 2016  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
April 2016  Forgiven by Terri Roberts and Jeanette Windle
March 2016 The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
February 2016 Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
 January 2016  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult