Social Justice Book Club: The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts Link Up


It's the end of June (already?) which means we're wrapping up the second installment of the Social Justice Book Club. This month we read The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, and hoooo boy, was it a book. An excellent one, but a heavy one, as author Laura Tillman explores the horrific murder of three young children by their parents and the long-lasting impact the crime has had on the community surrounding them.

Social Justice Book Club: Q&A with Author Laura Tillman


The Social Justice Book Club is a bi-monthly online reading group that reads books focused on social justice issues. For the month of June, we selected The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City, by journalist Laura Tillman. Below, Tillman talks about the book, what it was like to write it, and recommends some other social justice books. Thanks to all who contributed questions this round!

(And don't forget to link up to any discussion or review of the book in the June Social Justice Book Club Link Up post over here.)



In the introduction, you write about the fact that because the victims of this crime were children, and because an explanation was never reached, those impacted found themselves questioning everything they knew about their community. Do you think that is the case with all crimes against children? All crimes that cannot be, somehow, rationally explained?

That's a good question, and one that's hard for me to answer. I would imagine there is some element of disillusionment and confusion whenever a crime against children occurs - it's hard to wrap your mind around how someone could victimize a child, who is innocent and totally vulnerable. I do think that there is a difference, however, in the way a community reckons with distinct events. In the case of Brownsville, many crimes had happened, many involving children. And yet, not all left the same impression as this one. I think the building is partly responsible for the way people continued to mull this crime over, and, in so doing, how it squared with their perceptions of justice and morality.

Week in Reading: June 20th

It's the summer solstice! Officially the longest day of the year... and it's a gorgeous one here. Unfortunately I'm stuck inside work work working in preparation for vacation (it's a good problem to have), but I was able to get out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend with a Summer Solstice 8K on Saturday night and a trail run in gorgeous mild temps on Sunday morning (see also: why I haven't been reading much lately).


And So We Beat On...

It's been quiet here in this corner of the interwebs--somewhat expected, somewhat unexpected. I've gone back to fairly extensive traveling of late (Connecticut for my sister-in-law's wedding, DC for a conference) and will be traveling again off and on through the end of July. It's all good stuff, it's just left me with limited time (and brainpower) for doing things like reading books. The bits of time I may have dedicated to reading (or writing) have devolved this week into bits of time spent reading about Orlando, watching Chris Murphy's filibuster, and trying to be a strong ally for my LGBT+ friends and family. I'm hurt and angry and disappointed that we are going through this again, again, again... but am hopeful that we can find a way forward to change. Or at least I'm trying to be hopeful.  

I've been reading a forthcoming book called On Trails, in which hiker Robert Moor writes about the nature of trails and how they help us understand our world. (It's an excellent work of narrative non-fiction, if you're curious.) Reflecting on his own through-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he writes:

I met soldiers returning from war and people recovering from a death in the family. Certain stock phrases were repeated. "I needed some time to clear my head," they said, or "I knew this might be my last chance."


Perhaps this need to clear my own head is what's led me to the trails so much of late. I dropped my brother off at the Pennsylvania-Maryland line of the AT for his first solo hike (he covered some 60 miles in 4 days, traveling from PA through MD to WV, where he was picked up), and rather than dropping him and going back to the grind, I joined him for a few miles and then ran back to my car. I've run in the woods, placing one foot in front of the other, blindly following the path laid by others, thinking of everything and nothing. And I've walked. And walked. And walked.

I find that, despite my exhaustion, I'm restless. I cannot stop moving. I cannot sit still. This restlessness does not lend itself to reading--even my mind is restless, which has made audiobooks a challenge--but it does lend itself to traveling. So on I go, wandering, trying my best to take some time clear my head. If it's quieter than usual here in the meantime, I apologize.

Happy reading, happy trails.

Looking Back: The Best of May

May came and went in a flash: I volunteered at the end of a 100-mile run, ran a half marathon, went to Book Expo in Chicago, then to a wedding in Minnesota, then to a bachelorette Cape Cod, helped my Mom move out of a house and into a new (smaller) one, and somehow managed to work and sleep a little bit in between. Despite the insanity (which was worse at some times than others), it was ultimately a really good month... though one that made me come to terms with a slowdown in my overall reading. There were still some big highlights this month:


Social Justice Book Club: The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts (and some housekeeping!)


Happy June, ya'll! Welcome to the second iteration of the Social Justice Book Club, a bi-monthly, laid-back online reading club focused on social justice books and readings. For the month of June, we'll be group reading The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City, by Laura Tillman.

Book Expo: Standouts from Independent (& University) Presses

Though I'll continue to write (in some way) about the books I discovered at Book Expo this year, this will be my last BEA round-up post. And I'm not saying I saved the best for last, but I'm not *not* saying that, either. What follows are the new releases and forthcoming titles from independent publishers and university presses I'm most excited for... and there are some gems, here:



When I asked the staff at Graywolf Press what book they'd be most eager to recommend, they pushed Riverine (August 2016); I don't know if someone working there has ESP or what, but I'm super excited for this memoir of social justice composed of "spellbinding essays on place, young love, a life-altering crime." Other stand outs at the booth included The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood (September 2016) and Grief is the Thing With Feathers: A Novel (June 2016), which Shannon practically shoved into my hands (thanks, Shannon!).