Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Darren Mathews has been suspended as a Texas Ranger pending the results of an inquiry regarding his allegedly lying to a grand jury. Yet his FBI friend Greg Heglund, knowing that his interest would be piqued by it, told him of two murders in a small Texas town, the first a Black man from Chicago and second a local white girl. The local sheriff was making the former into a robbery/death and the latter into a domestic dispute of some sort. Knowing however, that the Aryan Brotherhood has a strong hold in the town, made for curiosity.

Mathews, despite having to turn in his badge, figures out he has about a day to drive, take a look and return. What he finds reeks of something other than a robbery gone awry. It is a town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business, where half the town is related to the other half, regardless of skin color and where secrets abound. Being a Black man nosing around, regardless of his law enforcement status, can be dangerous and even deadly.

I’d never read Attica Locke before, despite her book Black Water Rising being nominated for an Edgar Award. I’m sorry I waited so long. Bluebird, Bluebird is filled with musical references, something I love. It’s got colorful characters, both Black and white, many descendants of either slaves or slave owners…sometimes both. Geneva is the Black woman who, having experienced heartache, still mother’s everyone. Wally is the landed gentry whose family homestead dates back to the 1800s and who thinks he runs the town. (He might.)

There is the usual repartee between the rogue cop (Mathews) and his boss, the unheeded warnings and the rebukes. There is the credit starved FBI friend. There is the romance gone south. There’s drugs and beatings and racial tension of the south. In other words, all the ingredients of a good mystery. Bluebird, Bluebird, exceeding my high expectations.


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Willowdean’s mother has a pet name for her: Dumplin’. Although it’s a term of endearment, when a girl is overweight, it’s also a constant reminder of her body. Luckily, she only uses the term Dumplin in the house. Knowing that her mother once won and now organizes the  Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant only makes Willow more cognizant of the way she looks and adds to her concern that she is not living up to her mother’s standards.

In the summer between sophomore and junior year Willowdean is working at the fast food store, Harpy’s. Working in the kitchen is the gorgeous Bo Larsen who all the girls lust after. When he starts paying attention to her, she gets nervous. Why would a gorgeous guy like him take an interest in her…that’s what everyone would say, she thinks.

It has been six months since her Aunt Lucy passed away. Lucy, obese at 500 lbs., died as a result of a heart attack. While going through her night table, Willowdean finds a blank application to enter the 1994 Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. The rules do not require entrants to be pencil thin with long straight blond hair, etc. The only thing it requires is parental consent. Thinking that Lucy let her dreams pass her by, Willowdean vows not to let the same thing happen to her and she enters the pageant (after guilting her mother into consenting), which convinces several of the other high school outcasts to enter as well.  However, it also prompts her best friend, Ellen, to enter which defeats the whole purpose. Ellen could actually win. Before she can stop herself, Willowdean tries to get El to withdraw, which she will not do and which causes a rift in their friendship.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is the story of ‘misfits’ who are comfortable with themselves for the most part. Willowdean’s friends (Millie, Amanda and Hannah) all have something a school bully (i.e. Patrick Thomas) would love to pick on and he does. Yet they they pay him no heed and do what they need/want to do.

The message I got from Dumplin’ is that it’s time to change the norm and it is starting very slowly. France is the most recent entry into the small (what I’ll call elite) group of countries banning ultra thin models, joining Israel, Spain and Italy. Why does someone need to look undernourished to be considered beautiful? Why can’t someone with a limp be beautiful or have teeth that haven’t been capped or orthodontured?

Julie Murphy makes her point in a fun book. The ending is believable. The feelings of Mille, Amanda and Hannah also ring true. While it might be a light-hearted look at a serious issue, it is sensitive and realistic. A great book!

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