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home : bookwomen : bookwomen selections May 24, 2016

Footnotes: Items from and about the book world
—-from BookWomen, Oct.-Nov. 2010
Clara Breed
Clara Breed
Director of San Diego Library recalls the impact of the war on some young readers.

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Goodby to organized religion
Writer Anne Rice has had it with organized Christian religion, announcing that she was quitting Christianity, "in the name of Christ." Rice, who was raised Catholic, became an atheist, then returned to Catholicism in 1998, was asked, why now?

"I've been living with this now for 12 years, and I've come to the conclusion from my experience with organized religion that I have to leave," she said.

"It's a matter of rejecting what I've discovered about the persecution of gays, the persecution and oppression of women and the actions of the churches on many different levels. I've also found that I can't find a basis in Scripture for a lot of the positions that churches and denominations take today."

Rice has said that her fictional characters reflect her own spiritual journey. So what will her decision mean for her new fiction, the L.A. Times asked.

She said she plans to keep writing about "my new hero, Toby O'Dare (Angel Time and Of Love and Evil). I want to write about the fears and the questions that Toby has even though he's been visited by angels, and even though he's converted. What will he face as he tries to walk the walk? I think now that I've made this, what I consider, morally necessary declaration, there will be a greater freedom to explore those things."


'Truth is always selected'
Asne Seierstad's account of the life of an Afgani family, The Bookseller of Kabul (2003), was a huge hit, but not with the family she wrote about. The bookseller of the title, Shah Muhammad Rais, claimed that her depiction of his family was inaccurate and invasive; that she had humiliated and destroyed them. He helped his second wife bring suit against the writer in Norwegian courts.

In July Seierstad was found guilty of invasion of privacy and ordered to pay about $40,000 to the wife. Reportedly, seven other members of the family are preparing suits. Seierstad has said she will appeal.

Observers and critics are pointing to the broader significance of the ruling. "Legal experts say the ruling will transform the way western journalists and authors write about people from poor countries," reported Amelia Hill, who writes about media, family and society for the Guardian.

"Truth is always edited, always selected," noted Faisal al Yafai, a journalist who is exploring feminism across the Arab and Islamic worlds. "We choose what to ask and what to omit, what facts to weave into a narrative, what to leave implied. All of us who try to write about other people in other cultures are also writing about ourselves: our art is a self-portrait, so we are never neutral. In telling other people's stories, we always tell part of our own."


Rowling funds clinic
J.K. Rowling has donated £10 million (about $16 million) to set up a clinic at the University of Edinburgh to research treatments for multiple sclerosis, the degenerative disease that killed her mother. "I have just turned 45, the age at which my mother died of complications related to her MS. I know that she would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too, and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far too short life."


Librarian who made a difference
In the 1940s, Clara E. Breed was Children's Librarian at the San Diego Public Library. When Japanese Americans were being put in internment camps, she worried about the children. "Most had been good readers and regular borrowers from the main library Children's Room," she later wrote. "When they came to the library to return their last books and surrender their cards, they were given stamped postal cards and told, 'Write to us. We'll want to know where you are and how you are getting along, and we'll send you some books to read.' 'OK,' they answered, with a brief brightening of sober faces.

"As long as the war lasted, packages of new books, publisher's review copies, were mailed regularly to Santa Anita or Poston. Letters and occasional gifts—a carved wooden pendant or a corsage of crepe paper—came back in gratitude."

Breed went on to become director of the San Diego Library and wrote a history of the library.


Pennies add up
Every time a book by a British writer is checked out from a library in Great Britain, the writer receives 6 pence. The Public Lending Right program, an internationally admired model, is an important source of income for many writers, especially those whose books are primarily bought by libraries or are out of print.

Concerned that the government will see the program as an easy place to make cuts, more than 4,000 writers signed a petition of support in just a few days, including many bestselling authors who aren't reliant on the program, including Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, A. S. Byatt, Joanne Harris and Sarah Waters.

"Authors greatly value the modest income they receive when their books are read by library users free of charge," said P. D. James, president of the Society of Authors. "Many writers whose books are no longer in print rely on their annual PLR payments, which they see as a form of pension."





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