Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dreher comes home again in 'Ruthie Leming'

            After 40-year-old Ruthie Leming of St. Francisville was diagnosed with cancer, her big brother, journalist Rod Dreher, re-evaluated his life and returned home for the first time in 20 years. He joined the rest of his family, and that of the town, to rally around Ruthie, an avid outdoorswoman, middle school teacher and mother of three.
            Dreher writes about the experience in “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life” (Grand Central Publishing). The book is a New York Times bestseller (extended list), one Kirkus called “emotionally complex and genuinely affecting.”
            “The Little Way” discusses Dreher’s desire to see the world, living and enjoying cities such as Washington, D.C., Dallas and New York. On the other hand, Leming married her high school sweetheart and relished her small-town life and the family she reared.
            In the book Dreher explains, “Ruthie transfigured this town in my eyes. Her suffering and death made me see the good that I couldn’t see before. The same communal bonds that appeared to me as chains all those years ago had become my Louisiana lifelines. What I once saw through the melodramatic eyes of a teenager as prison bars were in fact the pillars that held my family up when it had no strength left to stand.”
            Dreher will tell his story at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Chennault Museum Theatre in Monroe, with book signings and refreshments from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. For information, call (318) 387-8918.
            Dreher has been an editorial writer and columnist for the Dallas Morning News, a film critic for the New York Post and currently writes for The American Conservative. He now lives in St. Francisville with his wife Julie and his three children. He is also the author of “Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party).”

New releases
            The American Birding Association has published the 275-page “A Birder’s Guide to Louisiana,” written by Richard Gibbons, director of conservation for the Houston Audubon Society; Roger Breedlove, a prosecuting attorney in Alexandria, and Dr. Charles Lyon, past president of the Louisiana Ornithological Society. The book also contains a foreword by J. V. Remsen Jr., curator of birds at the LSU Museum of Natural Science and the McIlhenny Distinguished Professor of Natural Science. “A Birder’s Guide to Louisiana” details feathered friends that both live in Louisiana and migrate, bird seasons, local organizations and places to view birds throughout the state, among other topics. There’s a handy checklist in back along with a nice index. You can download a copy at www.atchafalaya.org.
            Justin Wilson of Monroe, a freshman at Louisiana Delta Community College diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, has self-published a novel involving a masked vigilante in “Shadow Strike.” “Asperger’s Syndrome has provided me with a rigid view of the world with which to write about,” Wilson states on the book cover. “I am free to add my own thoughts and complexities to my work while conveying a message to people who share my condition. That no matter what handicaps you may have in life, anything is possible.” The book is available at online bookstores.
            Lisa Graley, professor of English and Humanities at UL, has just published her first book of poetry titled “Box of Blue Horses” by Gival Press, winner of the Gival Press Poetry Award. She will be reading from the book at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ernest Gaines Center of the UL Dupre Library.
            For Sookie Stackhouse fans left wondering what happened to their characters after the popular series ended in May, there’s “After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse” by Charlaine Harris. The series took place in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and involved a host of character over its lengthy run. It was also made into an HBO series titled “True Blood.”
            Lafayette native Stephanie Fournet recently published her first novel, “Fall Semester,” a contemporary romance ebook available exclusively on Amazon Kindle and set in Lafayette. “Readers will recognize a few of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods, like the Saint Streets and Bendel Gardens,” Fournet wrote me.  “And scenes take place in downtown Lafayette landmarks like Bisbano’s and Keller’s Bakery.” The novel’s principal characters are Dr. Malcolm Vashal, a young associate professor of English at UL-Lafayette, and Maren Gardner, a graduate student and aspiring poet.
            A white girl from North Louisiana and an African-American girl from New Orleans face the violent collapse of American society by ending up in the same safe haven, an old mine in West Virginia refurbished seemingly for their use by an unknown host, in Sim Shattuck’s “Abyssal Plain” by Dream Catcher Publishing. Shattuck will be signing copies from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Panache Boutique, 1011 N 8th St. in Monroe. For more information, visit www.DreamCatcherPublishing.net.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.