September 20, 2017

The Whole Town’s Talking! Fannie Flagg on Genealogy Gems Book Club

Beloved American novelist Fannie Flagg is our newest Genealogy Gems Book Club author! Nobody can spin a story quite like she can, as she proves in The Whole Town’s Talking. You’ll love the stories of her funny, foibled characters in this intergenerational saga of a small, fictional town in the American Midwest.

The Whole Town’s Talking is best-selling author Fannie Flagg’s newest novel. A Swedish immigrant plants roots in the American Midwest and advertises in Swedish-American newspapers for a bride and neighbors to settle the land. Thus begins the town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, the setting of several of Fannie’s previous novels.

Over several decades, descendants of the original settlers populate the town. As residents die, they appear again among their neighborly dead in the local cemetery. They continue to gossip and chatter and, occasionally, suffer. (One poor man finds himself buried between his first wife and his second, who didn’t get along in life and still don’t.)

Much-loved characters from other Fannie Flagg novels appear in The Whole Town’s Talking (or at least their ancestors do). Swedish immigrant Lordor Nordstrom is an ancestor of young Dena Nordstrom from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! Among his neighbors are the fascinating families of spunky Elner Shimfissle, her nervous niece Norma and Poor Tot from Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. We even hear echoes of Neighbor Dorothy,  the famous housewife with the radio show in Standing in the Rainbow.

In The Whole Town’s Talking, Fannie Flagg captures the broad sweep of Midwestern history while staying grounded in the stories of everyday people. It’s easy to fall in love with the folks from Elmwood Springs, to cheer them on in their struggles and successes, to match-make their children, to laugh along with them (and sometimes at them, bless their hearts). Their foibles and quirks likely will remind you of many on your family tree. That’s all the better, given Fannie’s premise that these folks continue to live on and take an interest in our lives. To a genealogist who falls more in love with her ancestors the more she knows about them, I find this a pretty irresistible notion.

Special thanks to Genealogy Gems Premium member Richard in Sacramento CA, who recommended The Whole Town’s Talking! He loved “the time span, the family relations and the discussions as folks entered the cemetery and the town changed.”

There’s more of Fannie Flagg to love….

In fact, Richard has read all of Fannie Flagg’s books. He thinks several of them would be “valuable reads” for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.” I agree wholeheartedly! I’m a longtime Fannie Flagg fan, ever since I saw the movie version of her classic novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

When you finish The Whole Town’s Talking, consider picking up one of the other Elmwood Springs stories already mentioned: Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! or Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven or Standing in the Rainbow.

I can’t resist recommending Fannie’s second most-recent novel, too: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. The main character is Sookie, a lovable Southern woman (she is Dena Nordstrom’s best friend in Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!Sookie discovers she is not who she thinks she is. After a huge family secret is revealed, she questions everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. Sookie launches a secret search for a new sense of identity under the nose of her loving but domineering mother. She navigates the effects of her discoveries on her sense of identity, her marriage and her daughters’ lives. It’s funny, it’s poignant–and along the way she learns about a fascinating and little-known chapter in American history.

I hope you enjoy Miss Fannie Flagg as much as Richard and I do! The immortal storyteller herself will join us on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in two months. So go read The Whole Town’s Talking! (And if you’re not a Genealogy Gems Premium website member, consider becoming one. A teaser clip from our conversation will appear in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #204, but to hear the whole thing, you’ll need access to the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #148.

 

 

RootsTech 2016 Book Club Contest Has a Winner!

Book club winnerWe have a door prize winner for the Genealogy Gems Book Club Open House held at RootsTech 2016. And here’s how everyone’s a winner with the free Genealogy Gems Book Club.

The Genealogy Gems Book Club got two thumbs-up at RootsTech 2016! Several people I talked to have enjoyed reading our featured books and then listening to the author interviews at the end of each quarter. Others are simply tuning in for the author conversations or adding the books to their “to read” lists. That’s what we love about the Genealogy Gems Book Club: there’s something for everyone.

At the Genealogy Gems Book Club Open House last Thursday at RootsTech, we offered a chance at a door prize for all those who suggested a book title for the Book Club. Alexis Maurer from Salt Lake City, UT won the drawing! She’s received a year’s Genealogy Gems Premium website membership, giving her full access to the Book Club interviews on the Premium podcast every quarter.

Orchard House Genealogy Gems Book ClubThere’s still plenty of time to enjoy this quarter’s featured title, Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow, a memoir by Tara Austin Weaver. Tara is one of the world’s leading food bloggers, as author of Tea & Cookies. Her recipe for Orchard House is one part food, one part gardening and two parts family drama, liberally seasoned with humor and introspection. She’ll appear on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in March. (Interview excerpts are played on the free Genealogy Gems podcast, too.)

Click here to read more about the book and see other titles we’ve recommended.

Are You Ready for a Genealogy Travel Adventure?

If you would love to take a genealogy travel adventure to your ancestral homeland, consider who might help you make it happen. Get inspired and ready with these tips!

genealogy travel adventure

Map: Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.

Recently Joyce, a Genealogy Gems Premium member, wrote in to thank me for the new Premium video, Inspiring Ways to Captivate the Non-Genealogists in Your Life. Then she asked a great question:

“What I would really like to know is if you have any travel agent/agency that is great for Europe travel to do my own ‘Who Do You Think You Are.’ Any help or direction you can give would be much appreciated.”

I have just the thing for Joyce’s travel question! In the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 115, I interviewed Kathy Wurth, who specializes in family history tours of Europe. (You will find her contact information here on the show notes page for the episode.) Even if she doesn’t go to the locations you want to visit, I’m sure that she could help match you up with a travel consultant who does. Tell her “hi” for me!

Before you set off on your own genealogy travel adventure, get inspired and get ready! Here are some great resources for doing just that:

Get inspired! Listen to or read about these genealogists’ travel adventures to ancestral homelands that I’ve covered on Genealogy Gems in the past:

genealogy book club She Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by Emma Brockes. An award-winning journalist tells the story of her discovery of her mother’s tragic childhood in South Africa. This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done. Listen to an excerpt of our interview with Emma Brockes on the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 174 and the full-length interview in Premium episode 118.

 

Three Slovak WomenThree Slovak Women, Second Edition by Lisa Alzo. A popular genealogy expert’s story of three generations of Slovak women in the steel-producing town of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, and the love and sense of family binding them together. Click here to hear Lisa in the free Family History Made Easy podcast talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned along the way, including in her travels in Eastern Europe.

 

 

genealogy book club Running Away to Home: Our Family’s Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters  by Jennifer Wilson. In this book, Jennifer takes us on a once-in-a-lifetime genealogical journey. She walked in her ancestors’ shoes and lived among their descendants. I profiled this book in Episode 129 of the Genealogy Gems podcast and was so inspired by the story that she created this YouTube video on the book.

 

Get ready! Here are some free travel tips for genealogists from our friends over at Family Tree Magazine:

More Resources from Genealogy Gems on Family History Travel Adventures:

Family History Travel with a Non-Genealogist Companion: Tips and Laughs on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 124 (Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription required to access; click here to learn more)

Look for Genealogy Records in a State Capital When You’re Traveling There

Road Trip, Anyone? An Orphan Train Museum

www.geneaogygems.comIf you want to take a genealogy travel adventure–or invite someone else to–please share this article with them! Just email a link or It’s easy, it’s free–and maybe you’ll pick up a travel companion! Happy travels!

 

Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin: Genealogy Gems Book Club

Nathan Goodwin logo

As part of our Genealogy Gems Book Club, author Nathan Dylan Goodwin joined us on the Genealogy Gems podcast to talk about the newest book in The Forensic Genealogist series: The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist series Book 2).

In our interview, Nathan talks about how his intrepid genealogist hero, Morton Farrier, tracks down years-old family mysteries while dodging threats and evil glares of his nemesis librarian at the local archive. He explains more about the Downton Abbey-type setting  for The Lost Ancestor’s ancestral tale. And he comments on the challenges of trying to come up with genealogical mysteries that have such consequence for the present that they inspire a backlash of modern crime.

You can listen to a meaty interview excerpt in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast. The full-length interview (click here) is available in the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast. (Click here to learn about Premium access to an enormous members-only digital archive of Premium podcast episodes and full-length video classes on Lisa’s most popular topics.) Want to read the book? Click here to purchase it, and you’ll support the free Genealogy Gems podcast. (Thank you!)

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family History

Orphan Train: More Genealogists are Talking About It!

genealogy book clubGuess what? The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania has also been covering Orphan Train as a book club selection!

Their format’s a little different than ours: they have weekly blog posts on the book and members are invited to get together over coffee and chat about it. The blog posts are part plot summary, part personal response, and even part genealogy and history instruction! Check out these posts:

genealogy book club genealogy gemsWhat do you think of Orphan Train? Post your response on our Facebook page or email us with your comments. We’d love to hear them!

Click here to go to our Genealogy Gems Book Club page, with more about Orphan Train and other great titles we have featured on the show.

Here is the New Book for Genealogy Gems Book Club!

The Genealogy Gems Book Club debuted to excellent response from you, our readers and listeners and social media followers! A LOT of you are passionate about books and family history!

Our last title was a memoir by a woman raised in England who told a story about her South African roots. So what’s the new book? Well, we’re going to cross the sea–and genres–to a novel by U.S. author Christina Baker Kline.

orphan train Christina Baker Kline genealogy book clubOrphan Train spent five weeks at the #1 spot  on the New York Times Bestselling list. When you read it you’ll see why. Here’s the storyline:

Vivian is an Irish immigrant child who loses her family in New York City and is forced to ride the ‘orphan train.’ Orphan trains were a common solution in the late 1800s and early 1900s for care of abandoned or orphaned children in New York City and other places. The children were loaded onto trains and paraded in front of locals at various stops across the countryside, where they might be claimed by just about anyone.

After following Vivian’s life through her childhood and young adulthood, we fast-forward. Vivian is 91, and a teenage girl named Molly comes to help her clean out her attic. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who is in the modern foster care system. Gradually they realize they have a lot in common, and you’ll love the ways they each respond to that.

Why did I choose this book for family history lovers to read? To me, the book is about the importance of family identity. Each of us has a family storyline that existed before we were born and brought us into being. Vivian’s and Molly’s experiences remind me how important it is to know and value our family backgrounds. Of course I loved learning more about orphan train riders, too. That chapter of history is now a vivid reality to me.

Click here to order your copy of Orphan Train
When you initiate your purchase here, you are helping support the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast and the Book Club, whether you choose an e-book, or new or used print book on Amazon. Thank you! Then stay tuned–we’ll chat a little more about the book in the February podcast and the author herself will join us in March for an exclusive interview.

genealogy book club genealogy gemsClick here to learn more about the Genealogy Gems Book Club and to see books we’ve featured in the past.

 

Genealogy Gems Book Club: MORE Great Books Recommended

genealogy book club genealogy gemsLooking for something fun to read this holiday season? Whether you need reading material for holiday travels or just want to curl up under a blanket at home, here are two great titles I love. I shared these with Lisa in the December episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast–click here to hear our discussion and excerpts!

5 finger discountFive-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History
by Helene Stapinski is one of my favorite published family histories. The author recounts her family’s upbringing in the context of the notoriously corrupt culture of Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. It’s a page-turner, from the jaw-dropping opening sentence to the author’s final musings about how her own life reflects hand-me-down criminal tendencies. Some of the stories are snickeringly funny and some are sad, and the author keeps just the right distance from the drama. She’s close enough to sympathize with people who are trying to make their way within a culture that rewards dishonesty, greed and violence, yet can laugh at ironies like trying to learn about her grandfather’s petty thefts–when he’s stolen the very newspaper pages about his misdeeds from the library.

homemade biographyHomemade Biography: How to Collect, Record, and Tell the Life Story of Someone You Love
This is more than “just” a how-to book for family historians—it’s a story of its own. I re-read it every time I want to be freshly inspired to pursue the stories of my family. New York Times best-selling author and journalist Tom Zoellner weaves stories of his own into fabulous, hard-won advice on interviewing people. He shares insider tips on how to get the best stories out of those we talk to. There’s even a helpful chapter on how to work with the memories of those who have Alzheimer’s!

Tune in next month to learn our next featured book for the first quarter of 2015. Learn more about other books we’ve recommended at the Genealogy Gems Book Club page.

Win a Chance to Attend RootsTech 2015 for FREE!

rootstech 2015 ambassador badgeRootsTech 2015 is shaping up to be a major production again! This three-day technology-oriented family history mega-conference offers over 200 classes for beginners-to-pros, hands-on computer labs and big-name evening entertainment options. The conference runs in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, so attendees can catch two powerhouse conferences with one visit to genealogy mecca Salt Lake City, Utah.

Our news of the day is that RootsTech has given us a FREE RootsTech All-Access Pass for one of YOU. This is a $159 value–itself an enormous value for all the fun and learning you’ll find at RootsTech.

If you can get yourself to Salt Lake City for RootsTech from February 12-14, 2015, you can enter to win this pass.

TO ENTER:

  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsEmail us and in the subject line include the title of the book we are currently featuring in our brand new  high & low tech Genealogy Gems Genealogy Book Club.
  • In the body of your email, tell us whether you think you’ll read the book. (Tell us why if you’d like–your opinion won’t affect whether you win!)
  • Include your name, email address and phone number.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Your entry must be received by Nov. 25, 2014. The randomly selected winner will be announced in the Dec. 4, 2014 newsletter.

We just launched our new Book Club last month and we’re already hearing enthusiastic response. Our Book Club is free and features mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that make great reads for those who care about family history. Sign up for our free monthly newsletter to follow the Book Club selections.

Good luck!