Stories in Fabric: History of Quilting

When I got married, my grandmother gave me a quilt. Its pattern is simple, but each square contains great meaning. She created this gift using fabric collected from earlier in my life, including pieces of my first sundresses and scraps of my prom dress (both sewn by my mother). The quilt is a story of my growing up.

Book cover for American Quilts by Robert ShawThe history of quilting in this country is itself quite a story. For more than 200 years, women have been sewing quilts  as functional household objects, as means of expression, as historical documentation and as ways to create community. Robert Shaw, in his informative and visually spectacular book, “American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780-2007,” describes quilts as “emblems of hope, infused with a host of meanings – some broad, national and patriotic; others subtle, familial, and personal. Quilts are banners of self-realization and individual creativity, and the best quilts are significant works of visual art – objects of great beauty and expressive power.”

While we often imagine the first quilts being created by thrifty and clever colonialists, fashioning odd scraps into blankets, the truth is that the first American quilts belonged to the very wealthy – fabric had to be imported from England, and all but the very well-off needed what little fabric they had for their clothing. (And nobody but the rich had the number of free hours it took to actually sew a quilt by hand.) Elise Schebler Roberts, in “The Quilt: A History and Celebration of an American Art Form,” explains that it wasn’t until the 1840s that the textile industry was established enough in this country to make fabric widely affordable and quilting a common activity. But once it did become commonplace, what a rich variety of creation occurred!

Book cover for The American Quilt by Roderick KiracofeBlock quilts, strip quilts, applique quilts, Baltimore Album quilts, mourning quilts, crazy quilts, African-American quilts – read about them all in “The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort, 1750-1950” by Roderick Kiracofe. Kiracofe uses quilting as a lens through which to examine the cultural and social attitudes throughout our nation’s history.

Check out these books and more on the history of quilting, at the very least for the incredible images they contain. And through April 14, enjoy a quilt showing at the Columbia Public library, featuring 24 quilts from the mid-Missouri region, as well as programs related to the rich history of quilting.


New DVD List: Keep on Keepin’ on & More

keep on keepin on

Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction recently added to the library’s collection.

keeponkeepinonKeep on Keepin’ on
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing recently at the Ragtag in conjuction with the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series, this documentary follows jazz legend Clark Terry over four years to document the mentorship between Terry and 23-year-old blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin as the young man prepares to compete in an elite, international competition.

Season 1
Website / Reviews
TV series based on the book series by author Diana Gabaldon. Claire Randall is a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743. When she is forced to marry a Scottish warrior, an affair is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two men.

girlsinthebandGirls in the Band
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing last year at the Ragtag in conjuction with the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series, this films tells the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists from the late 30s to the present day. The challenges faced by these talented women provide a glimpse into decades of racism and sexism that have existed in America.

silicon valleySilicon Valley
Season 1
Website / Reviews
In the high-tech gold rush of modern Silicon Valley, the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of handling success. A comedy partially inspired by Mike Judge’s own experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the late 1980s.

code blackCode Black
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Physician Ryan McGarry gives an unprecedented access to America’s busiest Emergency Department. Amidst real life-and-death situations, McGarry follows a dedicated team of charismatic young doctors-in-training as they wrestle with both their ideals and the realities of saving lives in a complex and overburdened system.

Other notable releases:
Sons of Anarchy” – Season 7Website / Reviews
Master of the Universe” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
Longmire” – Season 3Website / Reviews
Girls” – Season 1Website / Reviews
Watchers of the Sky” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
The Sixties” – Website / Reviews
House M.D.” – Season 1Website / Reviews
Trailer Park Boys” – Season 1 & Season 2Website / Reviews
Banshee” – Season 1, Season 2Website / Reviews
The Thin Blue Line” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
Veep” – Season 3Website / Reviews
WKRP in Cincinnati” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4Website
Remington Steele” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Seasons 4 & 5Website

Classics for Everyone: Spoon River Anthology

Book cover for Spoon River AnthologyLet’s play literary Jeopardy. The clue is: Making its first appearance in April 1915, this book of poems spoke of life in a fictional Midwestern town and has been the inspiration for numerous theatrical productions, musical compositions in multiple genres and at least one computer game. If you said “What is ‘Spoon River Anthology’ by Edgar Lee Masters?” you won this round.

Masters was a practicing attorney who dabbled in literature on the side. He’d published a few pieces previous to 1915, but “Spoon River Anthology” brought him a level of success that allowed him to quit his law practice and follow his dream of writing full-time.

The fictional village of Spoon River was based on Masters’ hometown of Lewiston, Illinois. Each poem in the book, with the exception of the introductory one, is narrated from the grave by a different deceased town resident. Since there are no consequences to be suffered, the characters can speak with honesty, showing realities of small town life not often acknowledged at the time. People discuss extra-marital affairs, domestic violence, greed, swindling and all manner of pettiness with surprising frankness.
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Reader Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.

toalltheboysivelovedbeforeLara Jean seems to think her life if pretty perfect with her sisters and her dad. When her older sister leaves for college, her life takes a sudden unexpected turn. She is left to take over as the “mom” of the family, but the biggest surprise she receives is when her secret love letters, kept in a hatbox, are all accidentally mailed out to all the boys she had feelings for in the past. She learns how to deal with it as each one emerges in her life as they receive them. “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a great book about a teenage girl learning to navigate her life and new love.

Three words that describe this book: easy read, self-discovery, sweet

You might want to pick this book up if: you like books with a little bit of romance and a high school girl learning how to navigate through life.


Ask the Author: An Interview With Keija Parssinen

Book cover for The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija ParssinenKeija Parssinen, director of the local Quarry Heights Writers’ Workshop and author of the 2013 One Read book, “The Ruins of Us,” just published her second novel, “The Unraveling of Mercy Louis.” Kirkus Reviews described the book as “a modern Southern gothic with a feminist edge and the tense pacing of a thriller.” In anticipation of her talk at the Columbia Public Library this Thursday, Parssinen kindly agreed to be interviewed as part of DBRL Next’s Ask the Author series.

DBRL: Many of our patrons are familiar with your last novel, “The Ruins of Us,” which was the library’s One Read selection in 2013. That book told the story of a wealthy American-Saudi Arabian family living in Saudi Arabia. “The Unraveling of Mercy Louis” focuses on the stories of younger women and is set in a fictional oil refinery town in southern Texas. Can you discuss some of the differences between these books?

KP: While “The Ruins of Us” unfolds slowly, culminating in a violent act that undoes the Baylani family, “The Unraveling of Mercy Louis” opens with a bang — the discovery of a deceased fetus in a dumpster — and hurtles the reader forward, headlong, into the story. It is also narrated by two teenage girls, so it has a slightly narrower scope than Ruins, though I think both the narrators of Mercy are wise and astute in their own way. The books share more in common than appears at surface level, though — both novels are character-driven, with plot used as a device through which to examine individuals and their broader community. Character psychology, or what makes people act the way they do, is the most interesting thing about fiction, to me, so developing complex, fully dimensional characters in both books was important to me.

DBRL: What were some books or events that inspired “The Unraveling of Mercy Louis”?
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What to Read While You Wait for All the Light We Cannot See

Book cover for All the Light We Cannot SeeBestseller “All the Light We cannot See” by Anthony Doerr has a long waiting list at the library. This is a tale of two young people – blind Marie-Laure, living with her father in France, and Werner, a teenage orphan who as a child in Germany had great tenacity to learn all he could about radios and transmitting. Their paths cross when he, now a soldier in the the Nazi army, intercepts Marie-Laure’s innocent (but forbidden) reading of Jules Verne over the radio. If you find yourself on the waiting list for this work of historical fiction, here are a few other choices you might find enjoyable.

Book cover for Jacob's Oath by Martin FletcherJacob’s Oath” by Martin Fletcher

World War II has come to an end. Europe’s roads are clogged with homeless holocaust survivors. One survivor, Jacob, is consumed with hatred for the concentration camp guard nicknamed “The Rat” for killing his brother as well as many others. He meets Sarah on his journey home and falls in love. Now, he must choose to avenge the past or let it go and build a new life with Sarah.

Book cover for In the Wolf's Mouth by Adam FouldsIn the Wolf’s Mouth” by Adam Foulds

In this work of literary fiction set in Sicily at the end of World War II, as the allies chase the Nazis out into the Italian mainland, two parallel stories unfold. One focuses on two service men – Will Walker, English field security officer, and Ray Marifione, an Italian-American infantry man. The second story explores the presence of the mafia through the eyes of a young shepherd named Angilu and Ciro Albanese, a local Mafioso. The war is portrayed as just a temporary distraction from what is really going on in Sicily.

The Invisible Bridge” by Julie Orringer

In 1937 Budapest three brothers leave home to find their calling. Andras-Levi, architectural student, heads to Paris with a letter he promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern, with whom he ends up having a complicated relationship. His older brother heads to Modena to medical school as his younger brother leaves school for the stage. At the end of Andras’ second year in Paris, the Germans occupy the city, thrusting the brothers into the erupting war.