Gone to the Goats

Jake Keiser joined us today for a fabulous and furry Books and Lunch. Special guest Ellie (she’s the one with the horns) worked the crowd while Keiser delivered a surprisingly guccimoving talk. Author of the hugely popular blog, Gucci to Goats, Keiser left her city life in Tampa behind for a more rural existence here in Oxford, Mississippi. But if anyone came expecting some fashionable farm talk, they left with a whole lot more. Keiser’s genuineness is apparent, and she opened up about what it means to be a single woman living a truly self-reliant lifestyle. She shared with us the obstacles she faced not only as a city girl learning to live off the land, but also the personal struggles and societal expectations that she continues to overcome.

If she was a hapless city dweller before, almost five years later Jake Keiser has mastered sustainable living and writing from the heart. Ellie is a therapy goat in training and will eventually work with special needs children and adults who Keiser welcomes to her farm for education and a little R&R. Hearing Keiser speak about finding purpose in life was inspirational. We wish her luck on future ventures, and we’re waiting with baited breath for a memoir!

— CF

Flawless Poetry

I feel February is a good month for poetry so I’m following my last post on Derrick Harriell’s reading with some thoughts on Morgan Parker’s 2017 poetry collection, There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. First things first, this book rocks an excellent title with excellent cover art by Mickalene Thomas. Sometimes it’s okay to judge a book by its cover — but the enticing marketing on this one can’t even touch what’s inside. If I was looking for poems about Beyoncé, I found them and a lot more. Many of the poems speak to black women but hold imporant truths and lyrical beauty for anyone with a soul. Yes, there are more beautiful things than Beyoncé. This book is one of them.

— CF

I was born this way: unsatisfied

My color is a bridge with no other side

In a second life my voice is a drum kit

Reigning over green hills like weather

I am king & anthem

I know how to relax

— from Rebirth of Slick by Morgan Parker



Poet and MFA Director Derrick Harriell delivered a powerful reading this afternoon at Books and Lunch. Reading from his poetry collection, Ropes, Harriell assumed the
voices of Black American boxers from Joe Louis to Mike Tyson. The dialect and cadence of each poem changes according to the boxer who is speaking and the era he inhabited. Harriell’s rendering was so believable that hearing him was like taking a cruise through history. Everyone was enthralled, especially our Oxford High School attendees! Thank you to everyone who attended, we hope to have Mr. Harriell back again.

And please join us for our upcoming Books and Lunch with Jake Keiser, author of the blog From Gucci to Goats, on Thursday March 16th at noon. I hear there may be a special four-legged guest!

— CF

Fever Dream


Coming soon to the Oxford Public Library, one of the best thrillers you’ll get your hands on this year. Acclaimed Argentinian author Samantha Schweblin delivers a haunting, edge-of-your-seat masterpiece in less than two-hundred pages. Beautiful prose move readers through dreamlike, sun-dappled afternoons to nightmarish and unexpected turns.

When Amanda takes her small daughter, Flora, to the Argentinian countryside for a brief respite from the city, she finds herself mortally entwined with a mysterious woman named Carla and her son David, who Carla believes is possessed by a malevolent spirit.


Secret Agent Man

Author and former federal prosecutor, Charlie Spillers, recalled his remarkable ten-year career as an undercover agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics during
spillers-2today’s Books and Lunch. His 2016 book, Confessions of an Undercover Agent: Adventures, Close Calls, and the Toll of a Double Life, was named the #1 new release nationwide in law enforcement memoirs by Amazon. Spillers began his career in law enforcement at the Baton Rouge Police department, and after a decade in undercover narcotics became a career federal prosecutor. He also served three tours in Iraq and was recognized by the FBI Director, the
Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General, the Italian Embassy, the British Ambassador, and and Britain’s Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Not surprisingly, his story is a gripping one marked with heart pounding suspense and narrow escapes. He is currently writing a novel, Whirlwind: An Agent Frank Marsh Novel, a thriller inspired by his life experiences.

Grab your copy of Confessions of an Undercover Agent — we have them here! — and look forward to an upcoming audio documentary about Spiller’s unusual career at eisradio.org.

— CF

The Statue and the Fury

Today’s Books and Lunch with Jim Dees was one of the liveliest I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Dees’ mischievous, quick-witted humor had the audience rapt. The


Jim Dees looking cool at the podium

Statue and the Fury: A Year of Art, Race, Music and Cocktails chronicles one year in the life of a disgruntled Oxford, Mississippi. The now beloved Faulkner statue that reposes outside of City Hall was embroiled in controversy when it was first contracted in 1997. Dees, a reporter at the time, had a front row seat to the ensuing turmoil and he brings all the intrigue, humor, and even tragedy to bear in his new book. With a cast of characters including fabled Mississippians like Willie Morris and James Meredith, the stories are as good as they come. As always, we encourage you to support the author by purchasing the book locally. And don’t forget, we have extra copies here at your public library. So grab your copy and go back in time to one of the most memorable chapters in Oxford history.

— CF

Farewell November

Now for a blog post that would have been better suited for November 1st rather than the 29th. November is National Native American Heritage Month, but there is never a bad time to immerse yourself in some great Native titles. So give the holiday madness a rest, grab a cup of coco and spend some time with these great books:

  1. Black Elk Speaks by Black Elk and John Neihardt (1932). A classic of American literature, this deeply spiritual narrative is still widely read today. Neihardt, a highly-regarded poet of his time, translates the narrative of Black Elk’s life as it is told to him by Black Elk, as well as other warriors who remember the Battle of Little Bighorn, and the tragedy at Wounded Knee, first-hand. Black Elk was a revered medicine man and holy man of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) who witnessed some of the worst atrocities visited on his people, as well as some of their most brilliant triumphs. Told with wisdom, resilience, and surprising vulnerability, Black Elk Speaks is one of the greatest stories I have encountered.
  2. The Woman Who Watches Over the World by Lisa Hogan (2002). This harrowing memoir of life as a Chickasaw woman is at times difficult to digest. White America is completely out of touch with the institutional racism that Native Americans are forced to navigate on a regular basis. But in spite of the sadness Hogan has faced, both in her own life and that of her adopted daughters, she sees beauty in the world around her, in the people she loves and the horses she cares for.
  3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2013). Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for fiction, Erdrich’s novel of Ojibwe North Dakota is an absolute page turner. Thirteen-year-old Joe Coutts sets out to make sense of a brutal attack on his mother, uncovering tribal secrets and sordid histories. A thriller with serious literary backbone, this one’s a real gem. Other books by Erdrich include The Plague of Doves, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist, and her 2016 novel La Rose.
  4. Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (2011). Violent and eye-opening, this Pulitzer Prize finalist relates the history of the Comanche tribe and its most feared — and most loved — warrior, Quanah Parker. Parker’s white mother was assimilated into the Comanche tribe at an early age, eventually giving birth to a half-white and entirely Comanche son who would become one of the most brilliant and storied Native American leaders of all time.
  5. Everything is Stories, episode 21: A Line Drawn in the Rez Dirt by Garrett Crowe, Mike Martinez, and Tyler Wray (November 2016). Okay, this one’s not a book. It’s an engrossing, hour-long podcast you can listen to at 
    Duane “Chili” Yazzle. Photo by Clarke Tolton, on eisradio.org

    http://www.eisradio.org/. Duane “Chili” Yazzle tells the story of his extraordinary and passionate life on the reservation, and across the United States. Now president of the Diné People’s (Navajo) Shiprock Chapter House, Yazzle has devoted his life to fighting tribal injustice, first as a member of the Native American Movement band XIT, and later as a lifelong activist. By turns violent, surprising, and warm, this beautifully narrated story is definitely worth your time.

— CF


A year of reading the world

196 countries, countless stories...

A Coastal Gardener's Journal

Gardening Near the Gulf Coast