Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café is the setting this month for readings and conversations to set word lovers’ minds afire and warm the cockles of their hearts.
Timothy Tyson, Duke University professor and author of The Blood of Emmett Till, will appear on Wednesday, February 15, at 6 p.m., in the first of two events recognizing Black History Month.
Tyson’s book recounts the familiar tragedy of the torture and killing of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955. His book began, Tyson says, with two interviews he did with Carolyn Bryant (Donham), the young shopkeeper whose accusation that Till made inappropriate remarks to her led to his death at the hands of at least two of her relatives.
Research for the book took Tyson seven years. His interviews with Donham were the first times she had ever spoken about the incident outside of her own family. Tyson said that he was unsure of what to expect from Donham— who he believes suffered for most of her life because of how her accusation caused a young boy’s death—but found her “thoughtful and engaging.” She “reminded me of any number of people whom I love—” he says, “flawed, imperfect and loving.”
Publicity about the violent incident, along with the acquittals of the men involved, helped launch the Civil Rights movement, Tyson says, and still has relevance today though people don’t understand it well enough. “This is not the story of redneck Frankenstein and the cruelties of Mississippi in the 1950s. It is a story of a deeply flawed America in which Americans continue to struggle to make real the promises of our democracy.”
On Tuesday, February 21, at 6 p.m., Malaprop’s will host British-born author Helen Simonson, reading from her new novel, The Summer Before the War. “This book will be great,” says assistant manager Melanie McNair, “for fans of historical novels, Anglophiles and especially those who enjoy the Upstairs/Downstairs, Downtown Abbey sort of story.”
Set in East Sussex in 1914, the story centers around the colorful characters in a small coastal town just before the first World War, combining humor and impending war in a tale that promises to be as enjoyable as Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
Other February events include Carol Howard Merritt talking about her book, Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church on February 17; a discussion about America’s slave history among authors Frye Gaillard, Nancy Peacock and Susan Rivers on February 22; and K.J. Howe in conversation with Sara Gruen on February 13.
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café is located at 55 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville. To learn more about these and other events, visit malaprops.com or call 828.254.6734.