On Sale Now!

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Click on the photo or here to buy the print book from Amazon.

Also available as a Kindle Book.

What are People Saying?

Alan Samry’s kaleidoscopic book, Stump the Librarian is at once a glorious compendium of quick biographies of one-legged individuals, a moving memoir, a fascinating history of amputations and prostheses, and a medical investigation of the congenital anomaly that left the author with a disability at birth.  Samry, a librarian in Fairhope, Alabama, takes joy in the quest for answers and pursues information with the sublime sense of mission that the best librarians possess.  With clarity, candor, and a down-to-earth directness, he takes us with him:  fascinated, outraged, horrified, thrilled, and ever curious about a world populated—and profoundly changed—by those who not only get by on a single leg but stand far more firmly than many people with two. Samry weaves poignant personal recollection through his tapestry of information, making Stump the Librarian a must read.

Molly Peacock, author of The Analyst and The Paper Garden 

Alan Samry takes readers on his personal journey of curiosity, humor and exploration. In an unlikely narrative readers learn about Alan’s life as a congenital below-knee amputee.  In a very delightful and provocative manner, Alan relates his personal memoirs and shares historical and imagined characters who are like-amputees. Alan’s writing style is fascinatingly varied, and insightful into his own self-discovery.  He shares intimate details that enable readers to appreciate his story and perspective. This book is a celebration of Alan – his person, determination, and his insatiable desire for truth.

—Tamara Dean, Director, Fairhope Public Library

You Have a Book?

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Why Yes, I do, and I’m very excited and humbled to finally share my writing with readers.

What’s it about? (from the back cover)

Stump the Librarian: A Writer’s Book of Legs is a diverse collection of creative writing that explores Alan Samry’s life as a congenital below-knee amputee and a public librarian. Alan’s cross-genre writing in creative nonfiction, poetry, essays, satire, and experimental writing weaves fascinating mythical, historical, and literary figures into his own absorbing story of being a “born amputee.” In the book, with chapters organized as though the reader were exploring a public library, Alan writes about his experiences in an open, insightful, and humorous way. In his search for other leg amputees, Alan finds a new way of seeing himself, and the world around him.

When is it coming out and where can I buy it?

The book, published by Intellect Publishing, will be available for purchase locally, on Amazon, and for libraries through Ingram in mid-October in print and as an e-book.

Stump the Librarian Book Launch Party

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fairhope Public Library-Giddens Auditorium

501 Fairhope Avenue, Fairhope, Alabama 36532

6:00 PM

More details on the launch party and other author events coming soon.

 

 

What Happened in June? ALA, The Rock, and Texas

It’s July 8 and I’m still thinking about the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, our Texas vacation, and amputees.

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As a first time attendee of ALA’s Annual Conference, here are some moments, now memories from my experience.

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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Sue and I had wonderful and close seats to hear fascinating, new, and entertaining insights from America’s foremost presidential historian.

Kearns Goodwin began with her love of libraries, and how they were, even as a child, “a window to the world.”

She has spent the last 50 years with four presidents, who she admiringly refers to as “my guys.”

Her forthcoming book, Leadership in Turbulent Times (September 2018), looks at the leadership qualities of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.

What I found fascinating is that all four of these greats she said, “were changed by an emotional or physical disability.” Lincoln suffered an early stroke, TR’s mother and wife passed within days of one another, FDR was stricken with polio, and LBJ had a heart attack.

Vocabulary

Heard a new word from several different speakers at the convention.

Librarian-y: duties or things a librarian does.

Example from the session on “High Impact Librarianship.”

“I didn’t include creating a Libguide for my students in my portion of the research because that’s librarian-y.”

What’s a libguide? It’s a subject guides that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study. Click here to see the Libguide I created about the history of Fairhope.

What Every Librarian Should know about Young News Consumers

For those of us with a journalism background the news is not good. In a survey of 4,500 high school and college students from around the country, 82% think memes are news. They also get a lot of news from The Onion. Of course, credible sources are listed like CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian and others according to Alison Head, of Project Information Literacy, which is leading the study. Early results reveal not only how the students get the news but also how the news finds them. They find news through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube and even Snapchat. “Facebook is dying,” in Head’s survey population, though it’s hard to believe since Zuckerberg just bounced Warren Buffet as the third richest person in America. In a bit of good news, Head explained that more than half of the news students get comes from discussion (actual face to face) with peers. The full study is out October 16.

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Sally Field

She and I have something in common. We keep a journal. And more importantly, we encourage others to keep a journal. It’s how she was able to write her memoir, In Pieces, (September 18) Field went back to her journals after her mother died. “To make me go places I didn’t want to go,” she said, was the motivation for her book, and that her journals provided a “string of stories to tell.”

She had her first theatrical role  at 12 and she was hooked. When she was onstage, Field saw the “fireflies on the edges of my eyes.”

As a member of the Actor’s Studio she learned the “Craft of auditions,” Of her early Hollywood experience, and for her role as Sybil, she joked, “I was hired over everyone’s dead body.”

A pivotal role, and one she writes about in the book, is Carrie AKA “Frog,” in the action comedy Smokey and the Bandit.

What Sally’s Reading:

Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah and Edith Wharton

New Dawn: A Conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden

The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, in the Libraries Rock Summer, is our Rock Star. She’s also the first woman and African-American to lead the Library of Congress(LOC). In a comfortable Q & A with Courtney Young, a former ALA president, Hayden opened up about her role and what’s happening at the Library of Congress. She praised librarians for being “the first search engines.

Hayden told a powerful story about walking down a row with an archivist and wandered into the Frederick Douglass Collection. With TLC and the approval of every move by the archivist, Hayden finds and holds a letter about Lincoln. It’s about Lincoln’s death and Hayden could see, feel, and touch the deep, angry impressions Douglass left on the page upon hearing that negroes would not be able to attend the viewing of Lincoln’s body.

America’s librarian is also building inroads to legislators with the Congressional Book Club. In a closed meeting, lawmakers go to the Library of Congress to listen and talk with prominent authors.

The most recent book club was a discussion with historian Jon Meacham about his latest book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.

For many lawmakers, Hayden said, “it’s their first time in the LOC.” It provides a chance for her to talk with them in a private setting and explain what the library is, what it does, and how it serves the nation.

She also makes it a point to meet with legislators at libraries in their districts (Many lawmakers are also in their local libraries for the first time). This way she says, “I can stress the importance of local libraries.”

Her term for volunteers is endearing. “Citizen Historians,” she said are working with children to help them read historic documents written in cursive.

Sparks, pinch me moments, the interconnected of things, from experience to research, and collaboration, to the magic of a new way, practical or creative, of doing things was flowing through the ALA, and will continue to flow through me for years to come.

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Parkway Bakery and Tavern in Mid-City NOLA is a must for a Po’ Boy!

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Our collection includes 65 books for Sue’s classroom library, most signed by the author, “To Mrs. Samry’s Second Grade Class.”

News the missing legged can use

The circulation department staff told me about a new movie I need to see.

Mary said, “So I heard The Rock is an amputee in his new movie.”

“Really,” I said, totally surprised by this.

“I heard he takes off his leg and uses it as a weapon,” Mary added.

“Yeah,” Melissa chimed in, “he also uses the leg for a zipline getaway.”

“Whoa, that sounds too cool. I’ve seen a preview of it but didn’t know he played an amputee, what’s the name of it again?”

Lisa, from the stand up check in computer says, “Rob said it’s called Skyscraper.” The movie is in theaters July 12. Check out the official trailer. It’s part Die Hard, Part Towering Inferno, All Rock!

Civil War Limb Pit

A recent article in the newspaper talked about an archeology discovery at the Manassas Battlefield National Park in Virginia. A national park ranger and archeologist discovered a mass grave where surgeons buried amputated limbs. It’s strange how these limb stories find me. Sue heard about the limb pit story from another shopper at Big Lots.

 

Remember the Amputee

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Amputee stories even find me on vacation. I was in the Capital Visitor’s Center in Austin, Texas when I discovered the name Thomas William Ward in one of the exhibits. Ward immigrated to America from Ireland in 1828. He worked construction in New Orleans and helped organize the New Orleans Greys, a volunteer militia.

In December 1835, the Greys volunteered to fight for Texas Independence. At the siege of Bexar, a cannonball smashed his right leg, and required immediate amputation.

In a bit of Irish luck, he missed the fight, some might say slaughter, at The Alamo in February and March, 1836. Don’t be confused, as I was thinking he fought and died at The Alamo, that was William B. Ward. Thomas Ward was in New Orleans being fitted with a peg, and serving as a recruiter. In May, he return to military service after Texas had gained independence.

Ward was elected Mayor of Austin and served as commissioner of the General Land Office. Read more about Ward here.

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The General Land Office was completed in 1857. It’s now the Capital Visitor’s Center and that’s where I discovered Ward.

Vacation: Austin Public Library

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The saying that everything in bigger in Texas is true for their libraries too. The Austin Public Library is in the background, just past the treeline. It has an amazing Hogwarts-like staircase, a covered outdoor rooftop area for patrons, and a technology petting zoo. Had such a great time, here’s a list, in random order, of highlights: The bats, Home Slice, Eastciders, The Saxon Pub, Barton Springs Bike Rental, The Capital, History of Texas, The Alamo, LBJ Museum, The Salt Lick, Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Live Music Everyday.

2015 Recommendations

Books

Nonfiction

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, Neil White

Scorsese: A Retrospective, Tom Shone

Steal like an Artist, Austin Kleon

Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck

What we See When we Read, Peter Mendelsund

Picture Books

The Book with No Pictures, B. J. Novak

The Day the Crayons Came Back, Drew Daywalt

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, Lindsay Mattick, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

USS Alabama: Hoorah for the Mighty A! Karyn W. Tunks

Graphic Novel

Demise of the Spirit’s Guiding Lady, Megan Redlich

The Odyssey, Gareth Hinds

Fiction

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Poetry

Next Door to the Dead, Kathleen Driskell

Movies

Big Eyes

Big Hero 6

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Boyhood

Cinderella

The Cobbler

Dolphin Tale 2

Gone Girl

The Help

Ida

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

Night Crawler

A Night to Remember

Noah

Pixels

Rushmore

St. Vincent

Selma

Star Wars *In Theaters

The Theory of Everything

Wild

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Documentaries/Nonfiction

Evel Knievel’s Spectacular Jumps

Fed Up

Ivory Towers

Open Sesame

Television/Streaming

American Crime   

Boardwalk Empire Season 5

House of Cards

Nashville

Red Oaks *Amazon Prime

Survivor : Cambodia-Second Chance

Happy New Year!

What Can You Learn From Steinbeck’s Classic?

Our book club, “Drinkers With a Reading Problem” met at Fairhope Brewing on Sunday evening. Thirteen of us, a large turnout for our group, came to discuss John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

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We agreed to let Betty take the lead for this book. She immediately suggested we go around the table and air our impressions.

Irene talked about Steinbeck’s “marvelous descriptions.”

I mentioned that I had read the book in high school. It’s been thirty years since I read the book, and I explained to the group that the movie “clouded my memories of the book, especially the end.” I praised Steinbeck, as most did, and compared him to Hemingway and Sinclair.

While I could not recollect any memories, feelings, or reactions when Rose of Sharon lets a dying stranger suckle from her breast, many book clubbers commented on the scene.

Bob mentioned that the title of the book was a verse from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and The Bible. He offered some Midwestern sensibility by suggesting that Rosasharn, if you are from the Midwest sounds an awful lot like rose is sharing, demonstrating the epitome of the word in that final scene.

Bob also felt that the Joads “lost a human scale,” once the tractors arrived.

A newcomer to the area and the club, who had not finished the book, used the opportunity to network. She’s in need of a job teaching High School English.

Judy talked about the significance of the turtle in Chapter 3 and it’s larger meaning for the Joad’s and humanity. She pulled out some notes about the shrub, rose of Sharon, and it’s horticultural properties, many of which aligned superbly with the character traits she was given by Steinbeck.

Betty quoted the scene with Casy the preacher and the roadside burial of Grampa.

This here ol’ man jus’ lived a life an’ jus’ died   out of it. I don’ know whether he was               good or bad, but that don’t matter much. He was alive, an’ that’s what matters. An               now he’s dead, an’ that don’t matter. Heard a fella tell a poem one time, an’ he says             ‘all that lives is holy.’ (144)

Wilson had started to read the book for a second time but got derailed by “the dialect.” He wound up listening, then playing his guitar and singing some Woody Guthrie tunes.

Robert called the book the “consciousness of America during the Depression and the labor movement.” He recommended another book by Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.

Donna praised the novelist for his, “use of description and for the evolution of the characters.”

Suzanne, and a few other, noted how depressing the book was, but empathized with the characters, and so continued to read. Despite these tests or perhaps because of them we read because we all endure.

After we all had a chance to comment we listened to Guthrie’s “Tom Joad, Part One and Two.” I think it was our second Bob, from Kentucky and a fan of Guthrie, who called the song another form of “Cliff Notes.”

I mentioned how the book was banned and how literature transcends the arts as The Grapes of Wrath is told in music, first through Guthrie, then Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” which was covered by Rage Against the Machine, a song I carry with me on my phone.

Elliott, the club’s founding member, selected this month’s book. He arrived late, but quickly dove into the music conversation.

When I left the meeting, I didn’t know what to write about. It was my own fault that I was stumped. I didn’t bring one of my favorite scenes for consideration. In this scene Tom Joad and his brother Al meet a slovenly man with one eye. Tom doesn’t give a crap about his disability. Fix yourself up, get clean, put a patch over that eye Tom says. Then he tells the junk yard man a story.

Why, I knowed a one-legged whore one time. Think she was takin’ two bits in a           alley? No, by God! She’s gettin’ half a dollar extra. She says, ‘How many one-legged           women you slep’ with? None!’ she says. (179)

My regret was not hearing from others about this scene, given that I’m an amputee. After some reflection and distance from our wonderful discussion on a literary classic, I found my notes, and stuck my nose back in the book.

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It turns out that Tom needed to learn that all living things, the turtle, the one-eyed man, and the one-legged whore are all holy.

Then I reread this oft quoted passage where Tom Joad, who is hiding out in his own wilderness, is telling his Ma what he learned from Casy.

Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul an’ he foun’ he                 didn’ have no soul that was his’n. Says he foun’ he just got a little piece of a great big           soul. Says a wilderness ain’t no good, cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good           less it was with the rest and was whole. Funny how I remember. Didn’ think I was               even listenin’. But I now know a fella ain’t no good alone. (418)

The wilderness is where we do our thinking, if we are lucky to have the inclination, freedom, and time to do so. You can’t spend your whole life in the wilderness.

I can’t say for sure whether I’ve got a soul when I’m alone, thinking, and wandering around in my writing wilderness. I know I need that time, but I know I can’t stay there forever. I’ve been going to the “Drinkers” book club off and on for more than five years because I enjoy the fellowship.

We need time to be alone and together. Solitude for thinking and public areas for conversation are the fuel for community.

As we were leaving book club, I mentioned that I work at Fairhope Public Library.

A woman said, “I’m in the library four times a week and I’ve never seen you.”

I didn’t say anything, but later on I thought about how the rest of the conversation between Tom and his Ma went.

Next time you come in, look for me, I’ll be there.

Grapes Back