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susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
8 hours ago
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
8 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 3 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
9 hours ago
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Monday
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Monday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 23
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “ My dad was…See More
Apr 19
Frank Thompson posted an event
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
Apr 17
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Fred Chappell to Present His New Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

May 13, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Poet and novelist, Fred Chappell will return to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new fantasy novel. In A Shadow All of Light, a young man sets off on a journey to become the apprentice of a master shadow thief. His mysterious master challenges him with difficult mental and physical tests, setting in motion adventures with con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.Fred Chappell is a former professor of English at the University of…See More
Apr 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell

Literary master evokes classic fantasy taleby Rob Neufeld             Let’s say you’re going to a book fair, and a guy with a long grey beard and glittering eye stops you at the entrance.  He points to worn and rebound books he’s laid out on a table: Gulliver’s Travels; The Story of Sir Launcelot; The Three…See More
Apr 10
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Courtney Lix Presents Her History of Women in the Smokies at City Lights Bookstore

May 6, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Courtney Lix will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m. She will present her book Women of the Smokies which chronicles the women who contributed to making the Smokies what we know today. She will share some of the stories of these women and sign books. To reserve copies please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499.See More
Apr 9

A metamorphosed fundamentalist crafts her memoir

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Virginia Redfield, age 88 of Asheville, has written a remarkable book—“Night Bloom,” a memoir about her liberation from a closely guarded fundamentalist household, aided in that passage by a humanities education and ultimately supported by her parents’ rock solid love for her.

            Her childhood in Depression-era Miami had included no playmates.  One girl, for instance, was found guilty of wearing shorts when she’d visited, and was banished. 

            Virginia—called “Baby” by her mother, and “Mister” by her father—also had no pets, except for a duck soon sent away for annoying neighbors, to be replaced by a voiceless Muscovy, which Virginia disconsolately rejected.

            Until she was grown, Virginia slept in her parents’ bedroom, gladdened only by the scent of night-blooming jasmine outside her window. 

            Her mother kept giving their handyman, Jack, instructions to cut the unruly plant.  Virginia learned from Jack that jasmine sends off shoots that root, and is very hard to kill—a symbol.

            “The nights I dreaded,” Redfield writes, were the ones when her mother could be heard “padding along the tile floor…Often she fell on her knees beside my cot and began to pray, sobbing, stretching her body across mine.”

            Mama begged God to take her precious child.  “I’d rather dig a hole, O Lord,” she pleaded, “and put her in a box and put the box in the ground than have her be like Rosalie,” Mama’s wayward younger sister.  She’d tell God how she’d given her only child to him before she was born, “like Hannah in the Bible.”    

 

One-way house

 

            For over half of the book, we see Virginia grow up in this environment.  It is a privilege to get a first-hand, unadorned, insider account of life in such a rare, true, private society.

            And it is rare.  When Virginia’s mother goes to her daughter’s high school principal to protest the “indecent gym outfits” that girls are required to wear, he tells Mrs. Haynes, “Five hundred and ninety-nine other mothers don’t find them indecent.”

            At the Haynes’ dinner table, “Mom” prays that her loved ones be saved, and lays out their current transgressions.  “Dad,” a property buyer and fixer, does not share his wife’s passion for righteousness, but accedes to keep the peace.

            The family’s experience with Central Church of the Nazarene provides much interest, as preachers come and go and stay at the Haynes home.  A trio of “Prayer Warriors” convenes in Sister Haynes’ “Prophet’s Room,” their news and deliberations overheard by Virginia in her hiding place.

            When a hurricane converges on Miami, several families camp out at the Hayneses, for the house had survived the hurricane of 1926.  In fact, that earlier event leads off the novel.  Virginia’s mom had moved her baby into her and Dad’s bedroom from the crib room moments before the crib room’s roof had blown off and crashed down.

 

Away from homeward

 

            Virginia’s graduation from high school starts the process of her finding herself.  Her parents allow her to take an English 101 summer course at the University of Miami before heading to Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville; and when Trevecca literally sickens Virginia, they allow her to go back to the university (only three days a week, so she can be monitored for ungodliness in between).

            At the university, Virginia encounters Dr. Tharp, who introduces her to Thomas Wolfe and “Look Homeward, Angell.”

            “By saying what he felt,” Redfield writes, “Thomas Wolfe  gave me permission to acknowledge to myself what I felt—beyond the Bible, beyond the preachers, beyond Mama.”  Like herself, Eugene Gant was searching, via literature, for a way to break free of a confining upbringing.

            Redfield also writes, “The person I was at Church was my base; school was an excursion.”  From her church base, she took away a passion for stripped-down honesty, minus the fear of temptation’s damning power.

 

A triumph

 

            “‘Night Bloom’ has been in the making for several decades,” Redfield notes in her acknowledgements.

            A full appreciation of her achievement takes into account the accomplished way in which she has constructed her story.  What may seem like simply the chronological presentation of key episodes at first turns out to be a building up to perfectly placed, held off revelations.

            I wanted to know more about Virginia’s inheritance from her parents, and about their legacies, and wondered if I’d get that deepness from the book; and I did.

            It also has to be mentioned that the two chapters in which Virginia and her father meet and talk with Thomas Wolfe’s mother, Julia, are a treasure.  Not only do these chapters add significantly to Wolfe lore and serve as a credit to Redfield’s remembering power, they also beautifully reveal the father’s character.

            The publication of “Night Bloom” is a testimony not only to the author’s life, but also to the writers’ support community in Asheville.  Noticed by Tommy Hays, director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, the manuscript was passed to other writers, and nurtured, and eventually published as an e-book with help from Kevin McIlvoy, a member of the faculty in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College.

            “More than one of us found ourselves saying, ‘Yes!’” to the question, “Read anything great lately?” McIlvoy relates,  and “sharing our frustration that it (“Night Bloom”) had not yet found publication...and, eventually, sharing our determination that this remarkable book be given its chance to lay claim to others’ hearts as it has claimed our own hearts.”

 

THE BOOK

Night Bloom: A Memoir by Virginia Redfield (e-book, April, 2012, 296 pages).

 

HOME PAGE PHOTO

Virginia Redfield and her parents in the 1940s (from the author’s website, www.virginiaredfield.com)

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