For ‘Tale’ readers, time for talking

Saturday, February 5, 2011
Ben Beagle

One e-mail to Richmond Memorial Library’s Leslie DeLooze, talked about being “totally blown away both by the story and the writing” in Hillary Jordan’s “Mudbound,” this year’s selection the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project.

Another reader sent a text saying she had finished the book in a day and found it to be a “great, believable story.”

Another expressed deep concern over an act of violence in the story. Still another stopped DeLooze in the library and said it was obvious how much the author loved and respected each of her characters.

“The value of fiction is that it can prompt all these responses from a single book,” said DeLooze, the reference and community services librarian at Richmond who started Tale nine years ago.

“And it’s one reason why book discussions are so popular,” DeLooze said.

A total of 19 book discussions are planned in the next month at libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, including four at Genesee Community College, Batavia. The first discussion was Tuesday at Pike Public Library. Four more are scheduled next week at Yates Community Library, Lyndonville, and Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield, on Monday, Byron-Bergen Public Library, Bergen, on Thursday and Wyoming Free Library, Wyoming, on Feb. 12.

The discussions are part of a program that encourages members to pick up and read the same book, then share their impressions at discussions, through a writing contest, and with the author. Jordan is scheduled to visit March 10 to 12 for talks and booksignings in each county. The author is not a participant in the discussions.

“Mudbound,” the ninth Tale title, tells the story of two families — one black, one white — as they struggle to survive on a desolate farm in rural Mississippi shortly after the end of World War II. Along they way they face obstacles presented by nature and society.

“At first I wasn’t sure how I would get into it, but I really enjoyed it. Every book has been totally different, which I like,” said Joyce Thompson-Hovey of Pavilion, an elementary teacher who has regularly participated in Tale program.

Book discussions are scheduled through March 9.

Some libraries have regular book discussion groups that incorporate the Tale title. Others may only host a discussion for the Tale book.

The informal gatherings are led by a librarian or other facilitator, who will introduce the program and ask a question or two to get it started. The conversation then usually follows whatever questions are asked among the group, which can range from a handful of readers to a couple dozen. The discussion may include members of a library’s regular book group, but the Tale talks also attract readers from the community who may have never previously attended a discussion.

Newcomers will “be pleasantly surprised how much fun they have,” said Emily Cebula, director of Yates Community Library, Lyndonville. “It could be for them the discovery that they have a new ‘home’ for regular book discussion.”

With the relaxed atmosphere “it’s easier for most people to become involved in active discussion with just a few others,” Cebula said Cebula.

People who have not attended discussions before should know that they do not have to say anything at all, librarians said.

“They can attend a discussion just to listen,” DeLooze said. “Most likely, though, they will be inspired to make a comment by something that someone else says.”

In Pike on Tuesday, members of the Pike Library Book Club talked about Jordan’s use of six different narrators, their relationships and the racial issues that run through a book they described as provocative.

The discussion “created a glimpse into a place and time that as Northerners we can’t understand,” said Tammy Hopkins, director of Pike Public Library.

Club members agreed that “Mudbound” “was a well told story that will keep you interested until the end,” Hopkins said.

The discussions are part of creating a shared reading experience for the community.

The discussion, Cebula added, is also a great time for the group to think about questions they’d like to ask the author, who will visit each county in March for four talks and booksignings.

” ‘Mudbound’ is rich in discussion possibilities,” DeLooze said, “and it is fascinating to hear what other peple think about it, looking at the book in ways that are new or different from my own outlook, or by mentioning things that I never considered.”


In addition to the library book discussion, readers are also encouraged to participate in Tale online. Share your thoughts on the book at the Tale for Three Counties blog at, and on the Tale Facebook page.

5 Questions for ‘Tale’

Before heading out to one of the 18 remaining book discussions for the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project. Here are five questions about Hillary Jordan’s novel “Mudbound” to consider:

1. The setting of the Mississippi Delta is intrinsic to Mudbound. Discuss the ways in which the land functions as a character in the novel and how each of the other characters relates to it.

2. The story is narrated by two farmers, two wives and mothers, and two soldiers. Compare and contrast the ways in which these parallel characters, black and white, view and experience the world.

3. Discuss the difficulties that veterans face returning home from war. How are Jamie’s and Ronsel’s experiences similar and how are they different?

4. How did each of the main characters change over the course of the novel?

5. How is the last chapter of Mudbound different from all the others? Do you think the ending is hopeful?

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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