Monthly Archives: January 2007

FREYA MANFRED: Dads and Daughters


I just finished reading Frederick Manfred: A Daughter Remembers, by Freya Manfred. It was a book I enjoyed on many levels–because I’m a fan of Frederick Manfred’s stories, because I love to read literary memoirs, and because I am the daughter of a writing/thinking father so I was curious about her experiences as daughter of such a man. What a delight to discover Freya herself–a sensitive, poetic, wonderfully honest artist/storyteller!

In an interview published in the Summer, 2001 issue of South Dakota Review, Freya was asked about what type of reaction she wanted from her own readers. Her response was “I want them to hear my heart.” When I read this book about growing up with her artist father and becoming an artist herself, I heard her heart. A lovely book!

FROM THE GARDEN OF THE YEARS: Reminiscences of My Poet Grandmother


She was a gentle soul with tremendous strength. My grandparents had ten children, and their home was a dusty “dry-farm” in northern Utah. Subsistence was dependent on the weather. If just enough rain came during the growing season, and the summer thunderstorms didn’t ruin the crops, then the family did well for the winter months. It was a tenuous existence, and the strain and anxiety of raising ten children under such circumstances was very hard on Grandmother.

She must have decided early on that poetry would help her survive those hardships and terrors (lightening storms were particularly terrifying to her, and she would gather the younger children together under the stairs during those storms). Each afternoon, for one hour, she would quietly retreat to a table in the living room, close the doors, and write poetry. No one disturbed her during that hour, and it wasn’t until many years later that the family discovered what treasures were produced during those solitary hours. Her poems were quiet reflections and introspections, thoughtful and gentle, phrases that put chaos into order and reminded us of the beauty and preciousness of life. I grew up reading her poems and I always found one to express my feeling at the moment, whatever moment that might be.

In 1958, my father gathered her poems and published them for the family in a small, pink, paperback volume called THE GARDEN OF THE YEARS. Years later, my uncle had them republished in a hardback collection called YOU LEFT US WITH A SMILE.

These two irreplaceable books are the most treasured on my bookshelves.

Reading Groups

My love of books started very early. I don’t remember when I learned how to read, but I do remember the “reading groups” of 1st grade. There were eight of us sitting in chairs in a circle. Mrs. Summerhayes would have each of us read a few sentences or a page aloud, in turn. I would figure out about how many people were ahead of me in our round-robin reading group, then figure out which lines of the story would be mine, and practice them in my head until it was my turn to read aloud. I was shy, and already reading, thus the “cheating.” But I loved the stories (Dick and Jane!) and the reading groups, so I was a happy 1st grader.

Reading Groups, as an adult, are so much more fun. I enjoy hearing what different reading groups have chosen to read, and what they call themselves. My mother, a prolific reader at age 87, leads a senior center book group simply called “The Book Group.” Our local independent bookseller (a wonderful place called Parkplace Book Company) has two bookcases devoted entirely to the town’s many book groups. Some of the names of those groups and the books they are reading this month are:

GABBY GIRLS–reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder
RAMBLING READERS–reading Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
THURSDAY THINK–reading March, by Geraldine Brooks
FRAZZLED–reading Oh My Stars, by Lorna Landvik
BOOK BAGS–reading Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai

The book group I belong to is another one without a formal name. (Our 2007 reading list is below.) Unfortunately, I’m an infrequent participant in the book group, due to the hectic schedule I’ve been keeping, but it’s always a pleasure when I do have time to read the book and join the friends in discussing it. For me, reading groups have been a lifelong enjoyment!

2007 Book choices for my unnamed book group:
January–The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
February–Liberating Paris, by Linda Bloodworth Thomason
March–Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama
April–A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
May–Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende
June—Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
by Nathaniel Philbrick
July–To be decided
August–To be decided
September—Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette, by Sena Jeter
Naslund
October–Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength From Friends and Strangers, by Elizabeth Edwards
November–What Is The What, by Dave Eggers
December–dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate a year of reading

A Shy Blogger

Books and reading are such an important part of my life. Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the many reading blogs on the internet–the wonderful sharing of ideas and the love of reading. Thinking to myself…I’d like to share some of my passion for books, and some of my experiences as a reader. So, shyly, I begin a blog.