Category Archives: Kentucky Books

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The Universal Language of Food: A Conversation with Aimee Zaring

Recent events have highlighted the need for an understanding of the situation facing refugees throughout the world. Refugees, unlike economic migrants, are forced to leave their countries of origin or are driven out by violence or persecution. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

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In Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, author Aimee Zaring uses her many years of expertise working with refugees in the Commonwealth to explore their everyday life, the situations that brought them here, and the food that connects them to home. Zaring shares personal and dramatic accounts of their fight for their lives, as well as heartwarming and fascinating stories of their transition to living in America. Zaring also illustrates the importance of understanding the persecution and struggle that these refugees have gone through and the ability of food to provide a sense of home for them when home is lost.

In order to foster a discussion about the lives of refugees in Kentucky and throughout the country, we’re sharing the following conversation with Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors from Home:


What first interested you to write Flavors from Home and how did that interest help to shape the finished book?

For many years, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to elder refugees, and we held occasional potlucks where students could share dishes from their homelands. Something magical happened at those potluck dinners. Usually at snack time, the students from each ethnic group would sit together at the same table—but not during potluck days. I was always filled with awe when I looked around the room and saw people from all over the world coming together around food. And I loved seeing how the elders seemed to become kids again as they stood proudly by their dishes and encouraged everyone to “Eat, eat!”

It occurred to me that someone should collect all these delicious recipes before they became altered or “Americanized.” As I began talking to the refugees about their favorite foods, I was reminded that food is never just food; there are always stories and strong memories associated with it. I realized that leaving out the refugees’ stories would be like leaving out the indispensable saffron in the Persian dish tachin. So I decided to make food the unifying element, linking all the stories, just as food in general unifies all of humankind. It’s one of the few things we all share in common.

Describe the circumstances that led a few of the people you interviewed to seek refuge in the United States.

All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. Refugees flee their home countries out of fear or necessity because of persecution or violence. They usually cannot safely return to their homelands. Economic migrants, on the other hand, choose to leave their home countries to improve their lives, especially to better their economic conditions, and can generally return home when and if they choose.

As one can imagine, war is almost always the culprit. Nearly all the refugees I interviewed for Flavors from Home were driven out by the trickle-down upheaval and chaos resulting from war, military dictatorships, or political uprisings. The first refugee featured in the book came to America as a young girl with her family after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Several refugees in the book are from Myanmar (Burma) and were persecuted for their religious or political beliefs by the country’s longstanding military junta. Two refugees in the book are from Bhutan, the country often referred to as “the happiest in the world,” yet their specific ethnic group (comprised mainly of Hindus) made them a target in the small Buddhist-dominated kingdom. The last chapter in the book features one of my former students, a political activist who spent over two decades of his life in jails because of his enduring fight to defend human rights.

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The kitchen is home for Huong “CoCo” Tran at her Heart & Soy restaurant. (Photo by Julie Johnston)

Which of their stories did you find most uplifting?

Every one of these stories was deeply moving and affected me in a profound way. Sometimes I was moved by the sheer horror of what the individuals had seen or suffered through, for example Nicolas Kiza from Rwanda, who as a young boy traversed the entire Democratic Republic of the Congo by foot, trying to outrun the Rwandan Genocide, because, as he told me, “I’d rather be killed by a lion than my fellow Rwandans.” Sometimes I was moved by the refugees’ fierce determination and strong work ethic and how much they’ve accomplished in the United States with minimal assistance, often knowing little to no English. Huong “CoCo” Tran comes to mind. CoCo spent thirty days at sea after the fall of Saigon. She is now one of Louisville’s most inventive and successful restauranteurs.

Can you explain why some ended up in Kentucky, as opposed to another state?

Kentucky has several official refugee resettlement agencies, including Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, the International Center of Kentucky, among others, which have been offering services to refugees for decades. Because we have a long tradition of hosting refugees and consequently have refugee populations already established in the area, resettlement agencies will often try to place refugees where they already have family and a built-in support system. The majority of refugees in Kentucky are resettled in Louisville, which has a lot going for it—a relatively low cost of living, good schools, ample job opportunities, a vibrant international community, and a current local government that by and large supports cultural diversity.

What makes food a more tangible connection for some than other aspects of their heritage?

For most refugees, food equals refuge. It offers a safe haven in a strange land filled with foreign customs. Though refugees must adapt to American ways to increase their chances of success (including the formidable task of learning a new language), nothing dictates that they must give up their native foods. Because of the widespread availability of international ingredients—through ethnic groceries, native produce grown in individual or communal gardens, and online shopping—there is no compelling reason to alter their dishes and culinary customs. Cooking and eating is a multi-sensory experience, evoking all sorts of memories and emotions. It’s the easiest and cheapest direct flight back home.

What do you hope Flavors from Home accomplishes, and what do you believe will resonate most with the audience while reading this book?

I hope Flavors from Home will serve as a launching point for dialogue between people from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise have a reason or opportunity to communicate with each other. Food is something we all share in common and can enjoy together, and often no words are necessary. Food is its own language and can transcend barriers. I’ve seen time and again the goodwill that a fine meal can foster.

I hope, too, that the book will help educate readers on the many different cultures and ethnic groups that have been added to America’s melting pot over the past half-century. And I hope the stories will inspire people to persevere, even when all hope seems lost. Native-born Americans will no doubt walk away from these stories with a greater appreciation of our great nation, especially after viewing it fresh through the eyes of refugees. Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong with our country, but there is also a lot that’s right, and refugees remind us to never take for granted our most basic freedoms. And, of course, I want people to try these delectable dishes and perhaps even discover, as did I, a whole new world of comfort foods.


Aimee Zaring lives in Louisville, Kentucky where, for more than five years, she has taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Global LT, and Jefferson County Public Schools.

To learn more about her book, Flavors from Home, visit our website.

Horace Holley Subject of New Biography, Talk at Transylvania University

holleyHistorian James P. Cousins, author of a new biography on controversial Transylvania University president Horace Holley, will discuss Holley’s legacy and impact in a talk sponsored by the Humanities Division of Transylvania University starting at 3 pm in Room 102 of Cowgill Hall on Wednesday, December 7, and sign copies of the book afterward. Cousins will also be at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington on Friday, December 9, from 4 to 6 pm signing copies of the book.

Outspoken New England urbanite Horace Holley (1781–1827) was an unlikely choice to become the president of Transylvania University—the first college established west of the Allegheny Mountains—in 1819. Many Kentuckians doubted his leadership abilities, some questioned his Unitarian beliefs, and others simply found him arrogant and elitist. Nevertheless, Holley ushered in a period of sustained educational and cultural growth at Transylvania, and the university received national attention for its scientifically progressive and liberal curriculum. The resulting influx of wealthy students and celebrated faculty—including Constantine Samuel Rafinesque—lent Lexington, Kentucky, a distinguished atmosphere and gave rise to the city’s image as the “Athens of the West.”

In Horace Holley: Transylvania University and the Making of Liberal Education in the Early American Republic, Cousins offers fresh perspectives on a seminal yet contentious figure in American religious history and educational life. The son of a prosperous New England merchant family, Holley studied at Yale University before serving as a minister. He achieved national acclaim as an intellectual and self-appointed critic of higher education before accepting the position at Transylvania. His clashes with political and community leaders, however, ultimately led him to resign in 1827, and his untimely death later that year cut short a promising career.

Drawing upon a wealth of previously used and newly uncovered primary sources, Cousins analyzes the profound influence of westward expansion on social progress and education that transpired during Holley’s tenure. This engaging book not only illuminates the life and work of an important yet overlooked figure, but makes a valuable contribution to the history of education in the early American Republic.

Continue reading

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Ho-Ho-Holiday Sale!

If you’re in need of gifts and stocking stuffers for the holidays, then look no further than the University Press of Kentucky. Whether you’re shopping for a history or military buff, local foodie, bourbon lover, or Wildcats fan, the UPK can help you find the perfect gift. You can save up to a whopping 80% on thousands of some of our most highly sought-after books, including new releases!

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Below is just a sampling of what we have to offer, but click here to peruse our complete listing of sale items. Snag a few of our great titles for friends, family, co-workers … or yourself! Order online and make sure to use code FHOL or FSNO at checkout to receive discounted prices. Place orders before December 9 to ensure holiday delivery.

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Don’t Forget Dessert!

DuncanHinesComps3.inddWrap up your Thanksgiving festivities with a delicious dessert selected from Duncan Hines’ The Dessert Book. While the turkey, stuffing, and football may be important parts of many Thanksgivings, the dessert that follows is essential for every celebration. Whether you’re looking for a more traditional pumpkin or apple pie, or want to mix things up this holiday season, The Dessert Book will not leave you disappointed.  In the words of the food connoisseur himself, “One of the most important courses in any meal is the dessert…and, like the final act in a good play, is long remembered with pleasure.”

In the 1940s and 50s, Hines was the most respected restaurant reviewer in America, known for reliable recommendations of eating places from coast to coast. Today, many shoppers may recognize his name as a dependable brand of cake mix.

First published in 1955, this work is more than just a collection of recipes.  In addition to the more than 500 desserts in every conceivable category, Hines includes a number of helpful additions to ensure a perfect result every time, including pages on equivalent measures and weights, food weights and measures, recommended temperatures, substitutes, baking and cooking terms, useful kitchen utensils for dessert preparation, how to freeze desserts, and reducing and increasing recipes.

Enjoy a selection of a few desserts to try this week!

 

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Civil Rights Hero Receives International Recognition

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Bernard LaFayette Jr., taken at the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, standing in front of two photographs in 1963: one was when he was attacked in Selma, the other a mug shot of when he was arrested.

University Press of Kentucky author Bernard LaFayette Jr., whose memoir In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma was released in paperback earlier this year, has been awarded the 2016 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace. He is also co-editor of The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North. The award is presented by the Gandhi Development Trust. The GDT was founded in 2002 by Ela Gandhi, the social activist granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. The Gandhi Development Trust’s mission is to promote a culture of peace, justice, non-violence, and ubuntu (human kindness); promoting Gandhian values of ahisma (non-violence), self-sufficiency, love, sarvodaya (good of all), compassion, and universality in order to reach their core vision of a peaceful, just, and non-violent world.

The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace was established in 2003 to honor people who have surmounted religious and ethnic obstacles to promote democracy, peace, and justice through non-violent measures. GDT believes that the award should not merely be seen as an annual event, but rather a catalyst for initiating non-violence, ubuntu, and nation building under the influence of non-violent leaders. LaFayette was chosen as this year’s winner in recognition of his outstanding work towards the promotion of peace, reconciliation, and justice both locally and internationally in his capacity as a civil rights activist.

peace and freedom.final.final.inddLaFayette’s memoir, In Peace and Freedom, recounts that career as an activist. He was a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the age of twenty-two, he assumed the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma—a city that had previously been removed from the organization’s list due to the dangers of operating there.

LaFayette was one of the primary organizers of the 1965 Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and his memoir, written with Kathryn Lee Johnson, shares the inspiring story of his finley.final.inddstruggles there. When he arrived in 1963, Selma was a small, quiet, rural town. By 1965, it had made its mark in history and was nationally recognized as a battleground in the fight for racial equality and the site of one of the most important victories for social change in our nation.

The award was presented on November 7, 2016, in Durban, South Africa.

 

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This Halloween, Seckatary Hawkins and the Fair and Square Club Solve the Mysteries of Stoner’s Boy and The Gray Ghost

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Long before Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys took center stage in the hearts of young readers as the iconic teen detectives, Seckatary Hawkins and his gang of “Fair and Square” boys were solving mysteries and stopping crimes along the riverbanks of the Ohio River. Beginning in 1918, the members of the Fair and Square Club captured the imagination of thousands of children and adults alike, as they explore the diverse Kentucky landscape in pursuit of adventure, mystery, and doing good. For over three decades, Schulkers’ creation provided inspiration to many young readers, including Harper Lee, who references his work in her iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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The tales of Seckatary Hawkins made their debut in The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking the nation by storm with weekly installments of Stoner’s Boy. The series continued with the exciting sequel, The Gray Ghost, in 1922. These tales soon spread to hundreds of newspapers seck_enquirer_cover-copyacross the country, eventually becoming the first children’s stories broadcast over the radio. By 1926, the popular serials had been turned into books, and over the next thirty-three years, the adventures of Seckatary Hawkins and the members of the Fair and Square Club would not cease to run in US newspapers, as well as inspiring the creation of comic strips, magazines, fan clubs, radio shows, and movies until 1951.

The enduring popularity of these adventure stories is based on a number of factors. Schulkers’ love of children and his realistic characterization of the boys in his stories appeals to adults and adolescents alike. Schulkers stands out for his apt depiction of Kentucky river boy dialogue, which allows the average Kentucky child to relate, as well as adults who can fondly reminisce about their childhoods. For today’s readers, the stories provide a portrait of boyhood in rural Kentucky nearly a hundred years ago, appealing to those who romanticize about a past that they couldn’t be a part of. seck-map-copy

 

Building on his own experiences, Schulkers creates an imaginative and dramatic setting for his river boys to adventure through.  Based on his childhood playgrounds on the riverbanks of the Licking, Kentucky, and Ohio rivers, the mountainous Cumberland River, and the cave country of Versailles, the Seckatary Hawkins gang brought to life for readers what it was like to live and play along those settings.

Building on wholesome values of   courage, honesty, loyalty, and common sense; patriotism, faith, friends, family, and fair play, Seckatary Hawkins and his band of friends teach valuable lessons to young readers. In these stories anyone, no matter their size, age, social status or appearance, can excel and do good things if they have faith in themselves and rely on the virtues of being “Fair and Square.” Teaching effective ways of handling bullies, the adventures of the Fair and Square Club show children a world where they can take charge of unpleasant situations and turn them fun, while still respecting themselves and others.

 

Buy the Books:

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Haunting Tales for Halloween

ky-ghostsTales of the supernatural have pervaded every culture across the globe, because as humans, we have a fascination with the mysteries of death and what lies beyond. Though the supernatural is often met with skepticism, a good ghost story still causes you to take an extra look around the corner or get a little nervous when walking through a graveyard. Ghost stories do more than just scare you—they force you to question your own reality. But where do these stories come from? Thanks to the American south’s vibrant tradition in storytelling, southern lore is fraught with tales of long-dead relatives, vengeful haints, and mischievous spirits.

William Lynwood Montell’s Tales of Kentucky Ghosts, now available in paperback, combines more than 270 stories collected from across the state. He combed through university archives and interviewed countless individuals to provide a comprehensive look at regional legend and lore. Although designed primarily to frighten and entertain readers, the stories are also valuable in preserving traditional beliefs and practices, as many have been passed down for generations. While conducting his research for this collection, he visited over seventy Kentucky counties, providing readers with a broad look at storytelling across the Bluegrass. When viewed as a whole, readers can see both the common trends present in the stories as well as their regional differences.

The stories range from scary to comical and come from all corners of the state. Clyde Childers of Lawrence County tells the tale of a murdered woman whose spirit possesses the power to change the course of a river, and Brandon Pierce of Bracken County recounts the story of a grandmother who was murdered by a group of children and now haunts a tunnel. On a more lighthearted note, Ralph Morris tells the story of his sister-in-law’s encounter with a “foot-tickling” ghost, and Danny R. Clark of Allen County describes his cousin’s experience with an elderly-looking spirit with an affinity for hats.

Montell’s extensive research has provided readers with a comprehensive look at Kentucky legend and the state’s rich oral history, presenting a rapid-fire sampling of some the best ghost stories the Commonwealth has to offer. Tales of Kentucky Ghosts is sure to both entertain and chill its readers while also allowing them to consider their own supernatural heritage.

Here’s an excerpt from Tales of Kentucky Ghosts:


“Girl’s Ghost” – Jefferson County

There was a man that went to a party and met a girl who was quite pale. He danced with her and found out she was quite cold. He then gave her his coat and took her home and kissed her. He forgot that he gave her his coat, so he went back the next day and asked where she was.

Her mother said her daughter had been dead for a few years. He then told her mother that he had given the girl his coat. The mother told him that he would find his coat on her grave.

He went to the graveyard and did find his coat on the girl’s grave. Her mother said that her daughter’s ghost always ventures around on her birthday.

Told by Jan Waddel to David Rivers, December 1969. Courtesy of Folklife Archives at Kentucky Library, Western Kentucky University