Mar 29, 2013
Abby Davis

Book Review-Vanna Speaks

By Abby Davis

Vanna White became a household name for her looks, beautiful outfits, and impeccable letter turning capabilities.  However, after reading Vanna Speaks, it is clear that there is a lot more to this woman than what meets the eye while watching Wheel of Fortune.  Vanna grew up in North Myrtle Beach, and it is made evident throughout her book that she cherished her childhood there, and that she still considers it home.

Much of the book is spent illustrating her life in Los Angeles and her struggle to break into show business. The audience quickly learns that it was an arduous path filled with lots of small modeling jobs accompanied by waitressing jobs to pay the bills.  She was not simply cast as the hostess of Wheel of Fortune out of the blue as if it were a fairytale—and this is a point she seems to emphasize throughout the book.  Although she did ultimately have her dream come true, she had to work for it.

While she does tell of her glamorous lifestyle in Hollywood, much of the book actually takes place in North Myrtle Beach.  She writes about her junior high crushes and high school sweethearts, the diners that she worked at in the summers, the Sun Fun Festival that she competed in but never won, and much more.  Vanna makes it clear that North Myrtle Beach has always been very good to her.  The town even did a huge special release of her first film, Graduation Day, which included her name up on the marquee, and the newspaper proudly writing of their local movie star returning home.

Vanna does not hold back in this book at all, she shares very intimate stories from details of relationships and mistakes she has made to her mother’s heartbreaking struggle with cancer and the tragic death of her serious boyfriend.  She also shares answers to lots of frequent questions from fan mail, details regarding Wheel of Fortune, and her own personal dieting regime and beauty tips.

Vanna’s book is very interesting for a variety of reasons, but it can especially be appreciated as the tale of a South Carolina native making it big but never losing sight of where she came from.

Mar 20, 2013
Taylor Cheney

Featuring SC Children’s Literature: “Palmetto: Symbol of Courage” by Kate Salley Palmer

by Taylor Cheney

Kate Salley Palmer’s whimsical Palmetto: Symbol of Courage shares a simplified story of the Battle of Fort Moultrie (formerlly Fort Sullivan) while playfully explaining the significance of the Palmetto Tree which is deeply rooted in South Carolina history.

Dedicated to the young students of South Carolina, the short piece creates a timeline starting at 1776 with the attempted attack on the state by British troops and ends with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Each page contains an acrylic remake of the battle, complete with blue and red clad soldiers, including all the heavy hitters such as General Charles Lee and Colonel Moultrie, larger-than-life white sails, and the periwinkle tones of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Sullivan’s Island. The playful typeface is reminiscent of handwriting on a chalkboard, adds to the naivety of the intended audience. Published in 2005, all illustrations and text were hand drawn by the reader herself.

Yet, what is most impressive of Palmer’s story is how understandable she makes the Civil War and the Battle of Fort Moultrie, two incredibly prominent events in U.S. history, to a young reader. Gone are the stoic images of past Generals, with stuffy looking outfits and over-the-top whigs that faintly resemble the reader’s grandparents. There’s no confusing maps, or pages of long, intimidating text. While Palmetto should not be considered a primary text in teaching a student about early South Carolina origins because it does leave out some significant details and moves quickly, such as immediately jumping into the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the book is an acceptable starting point to get young children interested about how their country started.

In addition, it also provides an example for children to not give up on what they believe. For example, if it were not for Colonel Moultrie’s belief in building the fort out of Palmetto trees, even though many others were against the idea, the original colonies would have possibly been speaking very different accents. What readers can take away from this book is that they can be capable of anything, as long as they believe in their idea. They just won’t have a brigade of British troops firing at them. Hopefully.

Mar 5, 2013
Curtis Rogers

Library of Congress Literacy Awards

Reading and success are inextricably linked. Those who read well and widely throughout their lifetimes are much more likely to achieve success and satisfaction in life. Our nation was founded on the written word, and reading is fundamental to maintaining our dynamic democracy.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards is a new program that will recognize and support individuals and institutions in the United States and abroad that have made significant contributions to combating illiteracy and aliteracy (having the ability to read but simply not exercising the skill).

The literacy awards program is administered by the Library’s Center for the Book. Final selection of prize winners will be made by the Librarian of Congress, who will solicit recommendations from literacy experts on an Advisory Board.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards program is made possible through the generosity of David M. Rubenstein, a major donor to Library of Congress programs, including its annual National Book Festival.

  • Read the press release about the Library of Congress Literacy Awards.

Beginning in 2013, three prizes will be awarded annually:

  • The David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000), for a groundbreaking contribution to the sustained advancement of literacy by any individual or entity worldwide
  •  The American Prize ($50,000), for a project developed and implemented during the past decade with special emphasis on combating aliteracy
  • The International Prize ($50,000), for the work of an individual, nation or nongovernmental organization working in a specific country or region

Criteria for selection:

  • innovation
  • replicability
  • sustainability
  • measurable impact
  • demonstrated reliance on existing professional literature and applied practice

Who will be considered?

Individuals, institutions and organizations that are working to reduce illiteracy or aliteracy.

Individuals might include, but are not limited to:

  • Educators
  • Librarians
  • School media/technology specialists
  • Community leaders

Institutions, Nongovernmental and Nonprofit Organizations might include:

  • Libraries
  • Schools
  • Nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations such as literacy groups, museums, community-based programs, school or library organizations, foundations

How many award categories may be selected?

  • Individuals may apply or nominate in more than one award category, if appropriate. A separate application must be submitted for each award you apply for.

What do we want to know?

If you are nominating yourself, your organization, another individual or another organization for an award in recognition of groundbreaking, innovative and highly successful work in the field of literacy, describe:

  • the program or project in general
  • the specific elements of the program or project that address the criteria outlined above
  • the methods used to measure impact/success
  • the difference the program or project is making (provide quantifiable information)

Please note that we are especially interested in programs that are highly innovative and could be replicated by others.


All applications must be complete and received by midnight (in Washington, D.C.), April 15, 2013. You will receive an email confirmation that your application has been received.


Please send all completed applications and inquiries to

Feb 28, 2013
Abby Davis

Book Review-Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story

By Abby Davis

“When the daughter of Indian immigrants, who grew up in a small rural town in the segregated South, can become the first female and minority governor of her state and the youngest governor in the nation, then it’s clear that the American Dream still exists.”  This inspiring quote is one of Nikki Haley’s final comments in her autobiography published last April, Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story.

Her story begins with her parents immigrating to North America and ultimately moving to the small town of Bamberg, South Carolina where she was born.  They were the only Indian family there and she explains that they faced many initial hardships when neither side of a segregated town would accept them, since they were neither white nor black.  Her story miraculously ends, however, with her describing her first 250 days as governor of this very same state.

Through her detailed accounts of all the unbelievable obstacles she encountered on her path to the governor’s mansion, it becomes clear the only way she got there was by truly letting can’t never be an option.  She spends plenty of time illustrating the policies and practices she believes in—which revolve around “limited, responsible, transparent government”—and we see the truth of these statements reflected through her work in the House and now as governor.

This book also, however, allows the audience to see not just Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina—but to see and understand Nikki.  She reveals Nikki the grateful boss; Nikki who got giddy about meeting Sarah Palin; Nikki who likes to “get excited”; Nikki who celebrates with the Black Eyed Peas’ hit “I Gotta Feeling”; Nikki the caring mother; Nikki the loving wife; and Nikki who cares deeply about all South Carolinians.

Whether you support her political “Movement” or not, this book shares an incredible story that all South Carolinians can be proud of.  She frequently describes how incredibly proud she is of the progress that South Carolina has made and continues to make in overcoming bigoted, antiquated ideals of the past.  Nikki Haley herself is proof of the progress and her book does not just tell her triumphant story, but also tells a story of triumph for all of South Carolina.

Feb 19, 2013
Abby Davis

Book Review-The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie’s Coin

By Abby Davis

The Story of the H.L. Hunley and Queenie’s Coin by Fran Hawk explores the mystery surrounding the first submarine to ever sink an enemy warship as well as George Dixon’s lucky gold coin gifted to him by his love, Queenie Bennett.  The book closely follows the creation of the H.L. Hunley, its first tragic voyages, its mysterious disappearance, and ends with the long awaited resurrection of the submarine in August 2000.  The resurfacing of the Hunley is depicted as a joyful day in which 20,000 people at the Charleston Harbor welcomed the submarine back from the depths of the ocean where it was hidden for 136 years.

While the story mostly shares the mysteries of the Hunley, Dixon’s lucky gold coin from Queenie is an important feature as well.  The coin had proven to be very lucky at the Battle of Shiloh where it saved Dixon’s leg and ultimately his life.   The coin was in fact discovered in the excavation of the Hunley right where Lt. Dixon would have been sitting, but unfortunately it had not been lucky enough to save the Hunley and it’s crew.

The story itself is riveting and educational, but the charm of this book lies in the beautiful illustrations by Dan Nance.  Nance is a noted Civil War artist and some of his works can be seen at the South Carolina State Museum.

Feb 12, 2013
Curtis Rogers

Speaker at the Center Spring 2013 Line Up of Authors Announced

The South Carolina State Library’s Center for the Book, in cooperation with USC Press and Hub City Press, is pleased to announce its spring 2013 author line up. The Speaker @ the Center program will hold free lunchtime author talks on the following dates:

Thursday, February 28, JONATHAN GREEN, EDWARD MADDEN & CHARLENE SPEAREN, Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green. Nearly 30 writers respond to Green’s depiction of his quest toward induction into a spiritual community.

Thursday, March 21, W. ERIC EMERSON, A Confederate Englishman: The Civil War Letters of Henry Wemyss Feilden. The letters chart the eventful career of the British officer turned Confederate captain from the time he arrives in South Carolina.

Thursday, April 18, SUSAN TEKULVE, In the Garden of Stone, The saga of Sicilian immigrants in the coal mines of Appalachia. In the Garden of Stone is harrowing and beautifully told. Winner of the SC First Novel prize.

Thursday, May 16, AÏDA ROGERS, CINDI BOITER, CEILLE BAIRD WELCH & BILLY DEAL, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love. This collection of essays offers a personal view of cherished destinations and the emotional connections they inspire.

Thursday, June 20, TOM POLAND & PHIL SAWYER, Save the Last Dance for Me: A Love Story of the Shag and the Society of Stranders. The iconic beach dance became an important part of coastal culture and social change.

Books will be available for purchase and autographing. All programs will take place from noon to 1pm at the SC State Library located at 1500 Senate St., Columbia. Speaker @ the Center is FREE and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy learning more about South Carolina.

The South Carolina Center for the Book is the South Carolina Affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book and is a cooperative project of the South Carolina State Library, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science, and The Humanities CouncilSC.

Feb 4, 2013
Abby Davis

Book Review – She’s Gone

By Abby Davis

“Once upon a time…happily ever after” fairytale romances rarely occur in real life.  There are always complications; life is not perfect.  She’s Gone seems to be driving these points home.  This novel starts out seeming like perhaps the main characters, Kofi and Keisha, will fall in love and everything will go perfectly.  After delving a bit farther into the book, however, the audience realizes that this will not at all be the case.  Their romance, which seems to be a parallel for life as a whole, is tumultuous and wrought with deceit, heartache, miscommunication, and tragedy.

This absurd love story is far from typical, and so is the writing style. The author, Kwame Dawes, tells this cross-cultural romance beautifully.  His words leap from the page to form images of both South Carolina and Jamaica, the two main settings of the novel.  His sentences mesh together rhythmically and some passages read like song lyrics.  It is no surprise that Dawes also writes poetry and was Distinguished Poet in Residence at the University of South Carolina where he taught from 1992-2012.

Dawes lived in Ghana, Jamaica, and South Carolina and all three of these places are featured in his novel.  The story includes some background in Ghana, but primarily takes place in Jamaica and South Carolina.  Kofi and Keisha meet in Columbia, South Carolina where Keisha was working for the University of South Carolina.  Their romance later takes them to Jamaica where Dawes brilliantly captures the Jamaican dialect in his writing as well as the nation’s vibrant culture.

Differences between cultures, skin colors, and countries are a central topic in the novel and South Carolina and Jamaica are often compared and contrasted.  Some of these differences prove to be part of the many problems with Kofi and Keisha’s relationship. Their romance is far from perfect; Dawes presents many harsh truths of the world and the story can be very heavy, intense, and vulgar.  His magical writing and the incredible insight he provides into different cultures, however, make it well worth the read.

Jan 18, 2013
Curtis Rogers

SC Center for the Book Welcomes Guest Blogger – Abby Davis


Please join the Center in welcoming Abby Davis as a guest blogger!  Abby is a freshman at USC and is majoring in comparative literature and philosophy.  Abby is from Kinston, North Carolina.

Her favorite books are Anna Karenina and A Thousand Splendid Suns, but she thoroughly enjoys all genres.  In addition to reading, she enjoys sailing and playing with her dog, Chloe.  Abby will be reviewing and blogging about South Carolina books and authors in the coming months.

Jan 3, 2013
Curtis Rogers

The Big Read: New Grants and Reading Selections Available

Application Deadline: February 5, 2013

The Big Read is accepting applications from non-profit organizations to develop community-wide reading programs between September 2013 and June 2014. The Big Read is a national program designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

Organizations selected to participate in The Big Read receive a grant, educational and promotional materials, and access to online training resources and opportunities. Approximately 75 organizations from across the country will be selected.

We are proud to announce three new titles to The Big Read:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

True Grit by Charles Portis

Into the Beautiful North by Luís Alberto Urrea

Visit for more information.

Questions? Call Arts Midwest at 612.238.8010 or email

Dec 6, 2012
Taylor Cheney

Featuring SC Children’s Literature – “I Saw Your Face”

by Taylor Cheney

The age-old idiom “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” could not be more true for Tom Feelings’ I Saw Your Face. This cliche reasoning is not because the book’s binding is misleading, or unpleasant to the eye in any way. It is because that while the story may look like it belongs in a library’s young adult section or stacked upon a little boy or girl’s bookshelf, the pages reveal a mature subject and a poetic depth that does not often characterize children’s literature.

The short story goes beyond the text to possess a narration all its own. While the story is about Feelings’ African heritage and his journeys and the faces he came across around the world, the text itself was written by his friend and colleague, Kwame Dawes. The Jamaican native has been an influential writer, poet and musician, including a cherished former English professor at the University of South Carolina. In the introduction to I Saw Your Face, Dawes explains the birth of the story and how the text was an emotional response to Feelings’ illustrations, who was also a former art professor at the University of South Carolina. Their sensational bond is unavoidable and is a “lasting testament to Tom’s kindness and visionary force.”

Each page carries a different face and expression following a story of survival, identity, and the quest for familiarity. Dawes writes that in all his travels, he always has this “peculiar sense of seeing faces that look so familiar” even though there is no way he could have before. From Suriname, to New Orleans, Mombasa, Savannah – these faces follow the writer that  look the same but have their own defining characteristics about them. These are the faces of Dawes’ and Feelings’ culture, “full of ancient stories and dreams,” that do not haunt them, but instead exist as reminders that no matter where we go, our origins never leave us.