Feral, North Carolina, 1965, June Sylvester Saraceno, Southern Fried Karma, LLC 2019

This wonderful debut novel of Truckee writer June Sylvester Saraceno is written with the heart of a storyteller and the voice of a poet. From the start, we are drawn into the world of 10-year old Willie Mae, coming of age in rural North Carolina and insatiably curious about the adult world and her place in it. Through a series of interconnected vignettes, we follow Willie as she bikes down the gravel roads that mark the allowed perimeter of her travels and strays into the surrounding woods and forbidden by-roads where adventures abound. In this summer of discovery, Willie Mae, channeling her beloved heroine Nancy Drew, unravels a dark family mystery. She spends hours under the Nandina bush below the kitchen window, eavesdropping on the juicy conversations of female elders. She struggles with their warnings of the “end days” when “hail and fire mixed with blood will rain down and the destruction of the Earth will begin.” Willie Mae is dismayed by their fear and racism over the impending integration of local schools, and tests her own conflicted instincts toward good and evil. She deeply grieves the slipping away of a cherished relationship with her adored older brother, Dare, as he turns from her to his teenage peer group. Saraceno’s loving portrayal of a young girl growing up in a unique time and place is written with authenticity and beauty. As the book ends, we are eager to know how the start of the school year will turn out and what lies in store for our heroine; we hope there will be more adventures to follow for Willie Mae.

Saraceno is the English program chair at Sierra Nevada College.  Feral was listed in BuzzFeed’s 18 Must-Read Books from Indie Presses. She has published two collections of poetry, Of Dirt and Tar and Alters of Ordinary Light, and a new book of poetry, The Girl From Yesterday comes out in January 2020.

Full interview with author June Sylvester Saraceno here. And meet June Saraceno at the Truckee Library on Thursday, Nov 21, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Pick up your copy of Feral at Word After Word Bookstore and bring it to the library for June to sign.

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The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Resource

Obi Kaufmann, Heyday 2019

This hardbound, pocket-sized handbook to California water systems is the work of  Obi Kaufmann, self-described naturalist, painter, and lover of the natural world.  Kaufmann utilizes self-drawn maps, beautiful prose, compelling data, and lovely watercolor renderings to create a testimony to and reimagining of our intricate and interconnected California waterways. Poetic yet pragmatic, this booklet is a history of the state’s efforts to harness and redirect water to support industry and the expanding population of an arid region. In the face of growing water scarcity and competing interests of agriculture, cities and conservationists, Kauffman points to collaborative solutions underway. They include plans for the dismantling of four Klamath River dams to restore salmon habitat; continuing efforts for the restoration of Yosemite’s twin valley, Hetch-Hetchy, now a reservoir holding back the headwaters of the Tuolumne River and providing 85% of San Francisco’s drinking water; and replenishing Mono Lake, a 1 million-year-old natural lake that had been slowly disappearing, its tributaries diverted in order to service the water needs of Los Angeles.

Kaufmann believes we have the tools we need to reimagine our use of water. “Even in the face of climate change and an ever-growing population, we have enough water. What we find ourselves short on is unified vision, and willingness to transform, compromise, and conserve,” he writes.

Kaufmann is also the author of the award-winning California Field Atlas. 

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Truckee: An Illustrated History of the Town and Its Surroundings

Joanne Meschery, Rocking Stone Press 1978  (Updated 2019)

Nationally acclaimed fiction writer Joanne Meschery and her family moved to Truckee in 1975, and shortly thereafter opened Truckee’s first bookstore, Truckee River Book and Tea (now the home of Riverside Gallery.) The bookstore was a favorite haunt of visitors, and the teashop in the back of the bookstore became a popular gathering place for a diverse group of locals, including railroad workers, poets, speed skiers, storytellers and, of course, book lovers. A history buff, Meschery was charmed with the stories and photographs of old-time Truckee that were passed along by habitués. Together with a couple of regulars, one a printer and the other a collector of old photos, a plan was hatched to create “the Truckee book.”  Now in its 16th printing, this compact and fascinating story of the pioneer town was recently reissued with an added introduction that brings Truckee history up to current times. It became the perfect response to the oft-asked question, “Where the hell is Truckee?” and is a must-have for those who love stories of the settling of the American West.

Check out Meschery’s novels at the library: In A High Place, A Gentleman’s Guide to the Frontier, and Home and Away.

For a holiday gift roundup of bonus local authors, check out the sidebar to this piece by Juliana Demarest here. 

Main Image courtesy Bashkatov/bigstockphoto.com