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North Carolina is 'Variety Literatureland'

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, April 28, 2014

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Chapel Hill, NC - “Variety Vacationland.” Do you remember that slogan from our state’s past?

I suggest a new one: “Variety Literatureland.”

In the next few weeks I plan to provide support for my suggestion in the form of books and their authors who will be appearing on “North Carolina Bookwatch.”

First is Krista Bremer, associate publisher of The Sun, a successful national magazine headquartered in Chapel Hill. Bremer’s essays have been published widely, most recently in the April 13 Sunday Magazine of The New York Times. In the Times piece she writes about a gift from her mother-in-law, “a blanket, over 12 feet long, that she wove herself over two years using wool from sheep she raised.”

“We have slept beneath that blanket ever since. I appreciate it most on chilly winter nights,” Bremer wrote.

This blanket could be an introduction to Bremer’s book, “My Accidental Jihad,” published last week by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

In the new book Bremer tells the story of her courtship, marriage and life with a man she met jogging one day in Chapel Hill, a “grey-haired man with a thick accent whose conversation was peppered with references to Allah.”

This man came from Libya and “was older and darker and poorer and more foreign than the husband I had planned to have. The husband of my dreams did not put his forehead to the ground to pray in an apartment that was pungent with strange spices, or carry on passionate Arabic phone conversations with his Libyan family that sounded like heated arguments.”

How Bremer and her husband have made the variety of their upbringings and beliefs into a successful family is a compelling and instructive story. Bremer talks about her book and her family on “North Carolina Bookwatch,” previewing on cable UNC MX May 9 at 9 p.m., and broadcast on UNC-TV on May 11 at noon and May 15, at 5 p.m.

Thinking of variety, what about the variety of different ways North Carolina people talk? In their new book, “Talkin’ Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina,” N.C. State professors Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser teach their readers that the various groups of peoples who settled in North Carolina have given us a treasure chest of different speech patterns, from the “Hoi Toider speech” of the Outer Banks to the mountain dialects that still carry 200-year-old phrases from the British Isles. (May 16, 18, 22)

Wilmington-based Wiley Cash’s debut novel, “A Land More Kind Than Home,” makes history this week. Two years after its publication it will debut at Number 12 on Sunday’s New York Times combined print and e-book fiction best-seller list and Number 10 on the Times e-book list. How can this happen? We may have to wait to learn the full amazing story. But we do not have to wait long to hear Cash talk to Bookwatch viewers about his second novel, “This Dark Road to Mercy.” Quite different from his first book, “Dark Road” describes a variety of personal disasters and high crimes that follow the unsuccessful career of a Gastonia baseball minor league professional player named Wade Chesterfield. (May 23, 25, 29)

Another variety in North Carolina fiction is the result of the recent recession. How have North Carolinians dealt with the disruption the financial crisis caused their career paths? Drew Perry’s new novel, “Kids These Days,” tells a story of a Charlotte mortgage banker who loses his job in the recession and moves to Florida to partner with his wife’s brother-in-law, whose businesses draw the attention of state and federal law enforcement officials. Amazingly, Perry makes the story both funny and poignant. (May 30, June 1, 5)

What do you think? Would “Variety Literatureland” fit on your license plate?


D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at

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North Carolina is 'Variety Literatureland'

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