Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Irene Latham Visits Leeds Library

Saturday morning, February 20th, Alabama author Irene Latham came to our Library for a presentation and booksigning. She read passages from her delightful YA book, Leaving Gee's Bend set in 1932 Gee's Bend, Alabama. This author has done extensive research on the history of the area, and of course the trademark quilts crafted by the women of Gee's Bend.
We all enjoyed hearing Irene speak about her personal love of quilts, her childhood and early desire to become a writer, and the process of writing Leaving Gee's Bend, editing, revising, and getting published. She also brought a beautiful quilt to show us. This quilt was made by her grandmother-in-law, for whom Ludelphia, the main character in Irene's book, is named.

Here's Irene holding a copy of her book with the beautiful photograph on the front. This is such a completely charming book, inside and out. Quilts are displayed behind us, including several of my prized family treasures and Irene's Ludelphia quilt at the far right.

And here we are, holding a quilt made by library volunteer Mary Undeutsch,, called our Opportunity Quilt, which is helping us raise funds for the new library building we hope will one day be a reality.
This was a most enjoyable program, featuring a fine story for all ages, as well as interesting conversation about Alabama history, the art of quilting and the art of writing, from a charming and talented author.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Dalai Lama Visits Washington

President Barack Obama personally welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House Thursday and lauded his goals for the Tibetan people, but he kept their get-together off-camera and low-key in an attempt to avoid inflaming tensions with China. China has objected to the meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama, who has been in exile from his homeland since 1959. China invaded Tibet in 1950 and has occupied it since. Thousands of Buddhist monasteries and shrines were destroyed in the 1950s and 1960s. Tibetan exiles say thousands of monks and nuns were killed.

The Dalai Lama, however, encouraged the US to seek friendly relations with China. "It is wrong when some say, contain China. It is wrong," the Dalai Lama said, adding that China must be encouraged to open up further to the world, to become a nation "which brings happiness, satisfaction, calm."

So how exactly did the Dalai Lama we know today become the 14th Dalai Lama?
After the death of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1933, the Tibetan government began searching for his reincarnation. Because the head of the 13th Dalai Lama's embalmed body had rotated while it lay in state, turning from the south to the northeast, it was suspected that the future ruler would be found in the northeast region of Tibet.

Soon afterward, the Regent Reting Rinpoche had a vision of the sacred lake, Lhamo Lhatso, reflecting the Tibetan letters Ah, Ka and Ma. He interpreted "Ah" as a sign for Amdo, a northeastern province of Tibet. The Regent also experienced a vision of a three-story monastery with a roof of turquoise and gold. Near the monastery was a tiny house with unusually elaborate gutters.

A search party departed for Amdo, and decided that the letter "Ka" likely referred to the monastery at Kumbum -- a turquoise and gold-roofed structure. When they came across a house with gutters made from juniper, they suspected they were close to their future ruler. They disguised themselves as travelers and stayed the night with the family to observe their 3-year-old son, Lhamo Thondup
Lhamo had been born July. 6, 1935, to poor farmers in a struggling town, and upon Lhamo's birth, his father made a sudden recovery from a severe illness. His infancy was normal, but he did exhibit some unusual behavior. As a toddler, Lhamo demanded that he take his father's seat at the head of the table and would allow only his mother to handle his bowl. And the young Lhamo seemed obsessed with Lhasa, Tibet's traditional and spiritual capital. He would pack bags, pretend to travel on horseback and exclaim, "I'm going to Lhasa" For the most part, Lhamo's family took no notice of the child's eccentricities; an older son had already been recognized as the manifestation of a high lama.

But when the disguised search party arrived at the house, its leader, Kewtsang Rinpoche, was confident that this was the right child. The child immediately recognized Kewtsang Rinpoche as a monk and knew from which monastery he came. When the members of the search party returned for a formal visit some days later, they brought several of the 13th Dalai Lama's possessions along with a set of decoy items. Lhamo correctly identified every item belonging to his predecessor with the proprietary statement "It's mine."

The toddler was sent to the Kumbum monastery and eventually to Lhasa, where he was reunited with his parents.

In 1940, Lhamo became Tibet's spiritual leader and took the vows of a novice monk. Lhamo Thondup was now Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama is recognized worldwide for his message of compassion and tolerance, his promotion of human rights and inter-religious understanding, his focus on peace through non-violent conflict resolution and his advocacy for the environment. He is also winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shelter Box - Innovative Help for Haiti

Just this morning I heard an encouraging interview on NPR radio with the founder of Shelter Box, an organization providing aid to people in the midst of crisis and devastation, now delivering shipments to Haiti.
ShelterBox was founded by Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver.

It was wonderful hearing founder, Tom Henderson, describe the contents of the boxes his group ships to disaster areas. Some of the contents include a 10-person tent, blankets, toolbox, hammers, nails, saws, small stove, pencils and color books for children.
Follow the link below to learn more about this organization and how your donation can help victims of Haiti's tragedy.
Mr. Henderson said his group was rallying support for Haitians within 12 minutes after hearing of the disaster, and continue sending their boxes as rapidly as possible.
Also, I have just learned that there is a form available from IRS explaining how contributions to aid Haitians may be deductible on your taxes this year.
Shelter Box gets my vote of support for their most efficient and compassionate work.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Leaving Gee's Bend

On Saturday, February 20th, Alabama author Irene Latham will be at Leeds Jane Culbreth Library to present her new book, Leaving Gee's Bend, with a talk and booksigning.

We're all familiar with the beautiful quilts produced by the artisans of Gee's Bend, but I know little about the history of that area of our state. I look forward to reading Irene's novel, the story of a young girl who sets out to save her sick mother and records her adventures in quilt pieces. This will be a great program for everyone who loves good books and the art of quilting.

Irene's quote, below, comes from an interview on Elizabeth Dulemba's website dulemba.com/2010/01/leaving-gees-bend-by-iren...
I have made quite a few trips to Gee's Bend and Camden, where the Wilcox County Library is located and the town closest to Gee's Bend, thanks to the ferry. (Otherwise, it's forty miles to anyplace.) It's like stepping back in time --quiet, rural, with many red-dirt roads. And the people are so friendly and welcoming.

Of all the incredible things that happened in Gee's Bend, there were two that really captured my attention. The first was the 1932 raid on Gee's Bend. At the time, Gee's Bend was populated by sharecroppers, and the price of cotton was lower than it had ever been. So the landowner was stockpiling the cotton -- waiting to sell until price came up. Which left the sharecroppers in debt to the landowner. When the landowner died that year, the widow decided she would go to Gee's Bend and collect on all the debts. She brought men and wagons into Gee's Bend, and took everything: food, tools, animals -- basically leaving the people to starve. First hand accounts report that the residents survived on berries that winter. And yet, the women made quilts! It's just such a vivid example of how the human spirit can triumph over adversity. Then, in early 1933, the Red Cross came in with a rescue drop -- things like sugar, flour, seed, shoes, socks.
In Leaving Gee's Bend, Latham tells the story of Ludelphia Bennett, ten year old daughter in a family of share-croppers, who is blind in one eye, but is no stranger to hardships, hard work, and determination. Though her small town of Gee's Bend is geographically isolated by the Alabama River, she sets off on her own to Camden, 40 miles away, to find a doctor for her sick mother. Throughout her difficult journey, she physically and mentally chronicles her experiences as she pieces a quilt together. This is the way Ludelphia tells her story, of seeing white people for the first time, of encountering kindness and hate. Rural Alabama of 1932 is brought to life, complete with prejudices and superstitions that are eventually overcome thanks to Ludelphia's indomitable strength.

“Ludelphia Bennett reaffirms the human spirit and defines survival in this beautifully stitched quilt of a novel.”—Richard Peck, author of A Season of Gifts
Hope all my reading and quilting friends can come to the library and enjoy what promises to be an excellent program.