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The FOPSL BOOK CLUB


WHO: David Kelly, Co-ordinator
email to    DavidJaxKelly@gmail.com

WHAT: Members of the club read the selected book  for the month, then join in lively discussions.

WHERE: Zoom online. The book club will continue to meet on May 15 and June 19 at 2:00 pm. To participate, please contact David Kelly by email DavidJaxKelly@gmail.com to get the Zoom meeting ID and password. People who send David an email will be added to the FOPSL Book Club email newsletter list.

WHEN:  The FOPSL Book Club meets at 2:00 p.m. (September-June) on the third Friday of each month and is open to everyone.

HOW: All Book Club selections can be found on our Library's shelves (courtesy of the Friends) and are also available as downloadable E-books through the Library's Overdrive program.

For more information:
City of Palm Springs: Book Club FOPSL

Scheduled Book Discussions
for the 2020-2021 SEASON

September 18, 2020

Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Paperback: 240 pages; Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Reprint edition (March 3, 2020). Fiction.

One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.

While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women-all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in-have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they've ever known or should they dare to escape?

Based on real events and told through the “minutes” of the women's all-female symposium, Toews's masterful novel uses wry, politically engaged humor to relate this tale of women claiming their own power to decide.


October 16, 2020

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Hardcover: 400 pages; Publisher: Flatiron Books (January 21, 2020). Fiction.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?


November 20, 2020

Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien
Paperback: 384 pages; Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Mariner Books
Reprint edition (March 5, 2019). Non-fiction.

Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. While male pilots were lauded as heroes, the few women who dared to fly were more often ridiculed—until a cadre of women pilots banded together to break through the entrenched prejudice.

Fly Girls weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high school dropout from Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcée; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at her blue blood family’s expectations; and Louise Thaden, the young mother of two who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to fly and race airplanes—and in 1936, one of them would triumph, beating the men in the toughest air race of them all.


December 18, 2020

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
336 pages, Ballantine Books (January 21, 2020); Historical Fiction.

In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.

Together with two thousand other refugees, they embark on the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda, to Chile: “the long petal of sea and wine and snow.” As unlikely partners, they embrace exile as the rest of Europe erupts in world war. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning, and over the course of their lives, they will face trial after trial. But they will also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. Through it all, their hope of returning to Spain keeps them going. Destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world, Roser and Victor will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.


January 15, 2021

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
Paperback: 354 pages; Publisher: Vintage Books (February 1, 2011). Non-fiction.

The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010) is a family memoir by British ceramicist Edmund de Waal. Edmund de Waal tells the story of his family, the Ephrussi, once a very wealthy European Jewish banking dynasty, centered in Odessa, Vienna and Paris, and peers of the Rothschild family. The Ephrussis lost almost everything in 1938 when the Nazis aryanized their property. Even after the war, the family failed to recover most of its extensive property, including priceless artwork, but an easily hidden collection of 264 Japanese netsuke miniature sculptures was saved, tucked away inside a mattress by Anna, a loyal maid at Palais Ephrussi in Vienna during the war years. The collection has been passed down through five generations of the Ephrussi family, providing a common thread for the story of its fortunes from 1871 to 2009.


February 19, 2021

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Paperback: 480 pages; Publisher: Riverhead Books
Reprint edition (August 5, 2014). Historical fiction.

From the bestselling author of The Color of WaterSong Yet SungFive-Carat Soul, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography, comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.

An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.


March 19, 2021

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Paperback: 144 pages; Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (March 20, 2012). Fiction.

A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.


April 16, 2021

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson
Paperback: 432 pages; Publisher: Signet (July 1, 2002).
First published in 1884. Fiction.

Ramona is an 1884 American novel written by Helen Hunt Jackson. Set in Southern California after the Mexican–American War, it portrays the life of a mixed-race Scottish–Native American orphan girl, who suffers racial discrimination and hardship. Originally serialized in the Christian Union on a weekly basis, the novel became immensely popular.

The novel's influence on the culture and image of Southern California was considerable. Its sentimental portrayal of Mexican colonial life contributed to establishing a unique cultural identity for the region. As its publication coincided with the arrival of railroad lines in the region, countless tourists visited who wanted to see the locations of the novel.


May 21, 2021

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
Hardcover: 320 pages; Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 10, 2020). Fiction.

In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son, Xavier, who’s headed to college in the fall. All is well until the Whitmans―a family with new money and a secretly troubled teenage daughter―raze the house and trees next door to build themselves a showplace.

With little in common except a property line, these two families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie's yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―what does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don't see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.


June 18, 2021

The Soul of America by John Meacham
Hardcover: 416 pages; Publisher: Random House
First Edition edition (May 8, 2018). Non-fiction.

Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr., early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and John Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph N. Welch, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history. He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in the First World War and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women’s rights; the demagoguery of Huey Long and Father Coughlin and the isolationist work of America First in the years before World War II; the anti-Communist witch-hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson’s crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear—a struggle that continues even now.

While the American story has not always—or even often—been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, “The good news is that we have come through such darkness before”—as, time and again, Lincoln’s better angels have found a way to prevail.

This Season We've Read

September 20, 2019
Desert Queen by Janet Wallach (1996)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

October 20, 2019
The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd (2017) 
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

November 15, 2019
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (2012)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

December 20, 2019
Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Forger
by Ken Perenyi (2012)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

January 17, 2020
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

February 14, 2020
The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
by Daniel Stone (2018)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

March 20, 2020
The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago (2010)

April 17, 2020
Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

May 15, 2020
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westhover (2018)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

June 19, 2020
The Library Book  by Susan Orlean (2018)
For a summary of the discussion, click here.

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