Off the Shelf

Book Recommendations featuring Friends of the Library Mary Olivere and Julie Zito

This month, two Friends of the Library share recommendations. Known for their excellent taste (our book sales are unparalleled – the next one is happening April 26th and 27th), you’ll find a grab bag of titles below.

Midcentury British Women Writers Who Wrote Books Under 200 Pages That Are Better than Anything Else

-List compiled by Mary Olivere

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines

A Gathering of Old Men was published in 1983 and depicts the Louisiana farm life African American professor and author Ernst J. Gaines was born into. 

The story involves the 1970s murder of a Cajun farmer, Beau Boutan, possibly by a local African American farmer. To stave off the lynching of the suspected killer by white and Cajun vigilantes, Candy, a white woman, calls together many elderly Black men, asking them to bring a gun and bullet to match those used on Beau. She tells the gathering when they arrive that she killed Beau. Though no one believes her, Candy’s call sets in motion a moral challenge this reader found exciting and intriguing. This novel gave me the chance to ponder the events of the story as a case for restorative justice, i.e., justice that aims to repair the harm done to victims. In this case, the years of shame these old men experienced in having kept silent. Perhaps restorative justice even extended to previously bitter white and Cajun farmers, past history they will no longer choose to deny.

By the end of the story, everyone seems changed—the white sheriff and the Black elders who responded to Candy’s call despite their fear and the chaos caused by murder. In a burst of valor, the old men each rose to speak about the atrocities they had had to stay silent on, during earlier days when their survival was at stake. Now, as the Sheriff acknowledges, the ’old days’ are over, the younger Cajuns are college athletes with career ambitions far from local vigilantism.

-Friend of Starr Library, Julie Zito, with the assistance of her Zoom buddies who have been reading African American literature together for the past 3+ years.
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