Book Talk

A sampling of snail-mail Book Talk letters I’ve received with my replies and the books they recommend for us to read.

Hello MaryJane. The book I have just read is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The reason I liked this book was because it explained that it is important that we treat the Earth with honor and we need to protect nature. Plants can be our teachers. The author has made this book so interesting, it was sad when the book ended. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a professor of Botany and a member of the Potawatomi nation. Highly recommend! -Vicki Dieter, Wisconsin

Dearest Vicki, Thank you for your book recommendation, Braiding Sweetgrass. I’ve posted it on my journal for others to enjoy. I read Braiding Sweetgrass a couple of years ago. I liked it so much that I also listened to the audible version when driving to town. It was an important book for me because I manage a 115-acre native plant prairie and wildlife preserve. Her words are with me daily as I consider my challenges and make decisions. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Hello! MaryJane! I just decided to subscribe to your magazine. I’ve seen it on display at the grocery store for years. I thought maybe it was a “hokey” text when I bought it, but it only took a quick scan before I decided to also give it as a surprise subscription to a lady I’ve known since the ’70s, as a thank you to her. She’s an avid horsewoman in her ways (as is her husband she married 40+ years ago as an older individual). It’s not often you find something so unique. I’m looking forward to my new publication! I recently decided to try, at 75 years of age, to grow something I’ve always loved – TOMATOES! Not just any tomato though. I am looking for seeds that grow at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy – PIENNOL. I haven’t yet found them, but I will. They are PULPY, and that’s what intrigued me to read your magazine (“Coat from the Storm,” MaryJanesFarm Feb/Mar 2024). I started perusing your letter about WORDS! And saw your gracious comments about if one reads this or that, you’ll donate a free book! I’m SOLD! I’ve been letting all my magazine subscriptions expire because I’m moving to try to grow – TOMATOES and LAVENDER – but not for 2 years. It looks like your “print” is a flashback to when I started to read in 1951 as a 3-year-old. I still love Little Women by Louisa May Alcott as my favorite book and the movie – the original one with June Allyson and Peter Lawford. Something about how you lay out your stories, the whole magazine, gave me a ‘warmth’ in my heart. And when I saw the picture of the 100-year-old ‘mom’ sent by Debbie through email, I knew why she was so engrossed with it! You’ve hit a GOLD MINE, not for money though you’ll undoubtedly always be in PRINT, but you’ve found a way to CAPTURE that unique USA hopefulness we felt as citizens in the 50s right after WWII.  I thank you and think all those other previous editions I’d seen on the magazine rack made me a bit sad in my tummy that I hadn’t read them. But you’ve got a lifer NOW! Thank you, for keeping the feeling of life learned, earned, and lived – at least for me. And I was touched by your story on WORDS. In 7th grade Latin, an obnoxious teacher (at least to me, a 7th grader) freed me to be in a Latin Fair in the Spring of 1961. I would have preferred to do the Science Fair on weather. Anyway, what a wise lady she was. She came to me after class, when I had received a superior medal from the fair, and she smiled widely. I wasn’t her pet; the 2 boys were – both named JOHN (but one spelled his name JON) and they both were so handsome and smart. We used to talk before and after class. I had moved from Michigan at age 11 to Utah and didn’t know anyone. In 1960-1961, these two boys liked that I was smart and were congratulating me on the superior medal I had won, when the teacher came up to the three of us and said WORDS have ROOTS that basically come from ancient Greek and Roman Latin. She told us we would be very successful in life. We were just 7th graders and wondered why she had picked us out. She told us that words, knowing what they mean, where they come from, and how to use them correctly in our written homework, and in life, would allow us to OWN the WORLD! I, and the two boys (JOHN/JON) were only able to nod. We were just 3 little kids who were barely able to pay for lunch in 1960. There wasn’t a system then to make sure children could eat. No lie, she said OWN the WORLD! It meant nothing to any of us at that time. Your article about words brought back how much I’d ‘fallen in love’ with education. Both boys left school after the 7thgrade, and I don’t know where they moved to, but they were gone the following year. I’ve always wondered where they went because strangely, even being a new child in the West, the kids I went to school with in junior high, high school, and college, meant something to me. I still love those students, even the ones I didn’t get to know. Strange how something you read, put out as a publication by a stranger, can help you close a gap. Well, again, I still need to read your publications and they are something I will look forward to for many years to come. You truly touched not just a nerve, but my heart! So, happy day to you and your staff!  I’ll read one of the books from the Salvation Army and let you know what I think of it. I’m so glad you’re in Moscow, Idaho! So Close! I do not own a computer or cell phone – I’m OLD school – but I will eventually – maybe later when I am OLD. HAH! Thank you! -Pat Gormley, Utah

Dearest Pat, Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I am so happy that you decided to thumb through my magazine at the grocery store and you will now be a MaryJanesFarm “LIFER!”  Thank you for sharing your stories of 7th grade; your teacher, the Latin Fair, and the two handsome young John/Jon classmates. I agree with your teacher that words allow us to OWN the WORLD! I can tell you have a huge heart, and your stories have certainly warmed “my” heart. With love and admiration, MaryJane

Dear MaryJane, Hello from the NC Coast! I absolutely love your magazine!! Our Book Club (called WWF-not wrestling, but Wine, Women & Fiction) recently read Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson. It’s an excellent book about family secrets, the strength of women, and love. Siblings Byron and Benny experience their mother’s wild journey from childhood through her death due to a puzzling inheritance. The picture on this notecard is an actual Black Cake made by Cathy (book club member who hosted the meeting and led our discussion). It was delicious!! This traditional Caribbean family recipe reminded me of my family traditions – all those good PA Dutch foods I grew up with in PA. I think you will enjoy the book – make sure you have some cake!! Our book club has been together for 24 years. It’s an amazing group of women – actually we are more like a circle of sisters. We meet monthly (even met during COVID – setting up an outdoor circle with our chairs 6 feet apart! 😊) We’ve read so many good books over the past 24 years. I enjoyed your article on reading the book Breath. I love every page of your magazine. Hugs & Blessings, Karen Cartlidge, North Carolina

Thank you for your book recommendation, Black Cake. It sounds like a wonderful book! I am impressed to learn that your book club (Wine, Women & Fiction) has been going strong for 24 years – even during COVID! That’s quite an accomplishment. Isn’t it wonderful to have a group of women who are like sisters to you? I enjoyed reading that Cathy made an actual Black Cake for your meeting and I appreciate that you sent me a photo of the cake. Thank you! With love and admiration, MaryJane

  1. Krista Butters Davis says:

    My friend just spoke with me this morning about the “Braiding Sweetgrass” book. She is currently working on her degree in environmental studies and is very passionate about it. She was wanting us to read it together this summer. I look forward to seeing what it’s all about.

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