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Book City ★ Roanoke

Book City ★ Roanoke

By Book City Media
Authors, readers, and resident city builders gather in BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke to discuss how the written word shapes our identity and helps us act in the world. BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke projects explore engagement and equity at the intersection of books and place.
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The Power of Disruption ★ Brad Stephens on Ann Patchett's BEL CANTO (Episode 3.2)

Book City ★ Roanoke

Saying the Name ★ Betsy Biesenbach's Search to Honor the Lives of Roanoke's Enslaved People (Episode 3.9)
Betsy Biesenbach is doing the work of anti-racism as member of the Roanoke Universalist Unitarian Church and as a resident of Raleigh Court. Title searches led her to uncover the names of enslaved people who once lived on the land, and as a result has written a book for grades 3 and up to help parents teach a fuller history of the place to their children. Get the book at Book No Further.
April 23, 2022
Fashionable Reads ★ Garland Gravely on self-expression and community good (Episode 3.8)
Garland Gravely combines his interest in fashion, multiculturalism, the ballroom scene, and community organizing in several Roanoke area endeavors. This conversation begins with a discussion of the late Andre Leon Talley's memoir, The Chiffon Trenches and lands with an upcoming event celebrating Black history with ballroom legends. Learn more about the virtual Black History event on 2/22/22 at 7 PM. Follow House of Expression on Facebook Follow Fashionista Roanoke on Facebook
February 14, 2022
Outsiders & Underdogs ★ Beth Macy on empathy and the power of listening (Episode 3.7)
Beth Macy's work (Factory Man, Truevine, Dopesick) is a call to action. From her roots growing up poor in Ohio through a career in journalism and now as bestselling author, the stories she's gravitated to--those she's chosen to tell--foster empathy with our neighbors who are suffering and struggling.  Now with the opioid crises haven taken more than a million American lives, the need to act, which she so stunningly uncovered in Dopesick, remains urgent. In this conversation, the author hits on the power of individuals and institutions in our communities, the importance of listening, and the need to strengthen our human infrastructure. Beth Macy is the author of three widely acclaimed and bestselling books. Based in Roanoke, Virginia for three decades, her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard. Sign up for Beth Macy's newsletter at Get Beth's books at Book No Further.
January 30, 2022
Reading and Writing Rural ★ Rachelle Kuehl on the role of place in early learning (Episode 3.6)
What can Appalachian fourth graders tell you about rural lives? A lot, it turns out. Rachelle Kuehl's dissertation at Virginia Tech focused on the analysis of fourth grade writing to get a better understanding of the role of reading and writing in perceptions of places. Of course long-lived Applachian stereotypes aren't true, and books and writing can go a long way in helping to rectify them.  Hear more about empathy, stereotypes, self-awareness, and local pride in this episode. Rachelle Kuehl, PhD, is postdoctoral associate at Virginia Tech and project manager of the Appalachian Rural Talent Initiative. She is a reading specialist and former elementary teacher whose articles about writing instruction, children’s literature, and teacher education have been published in such journals as the English Journal, Collection Management, Reading in Virginia, the Virginia English Journal, and the Teacher Educators’ Journal. She is coauthor of chapters in What’s Hot in Literacy? Exemplar Models of Effective Practice (2020) and the forthcoming volumes, The Bloomsbury Handbook of Rural Education in the USA and Gifted Education in Rural Schools. Learn more about the project. Check out some of Rachelle's Papers Bonus! See Rachelle's art.
December 18, 2021
Author Mike Allen ★ On why he's trying to scare us (Episode 3.5)
Poet, writer, editor, publisher, and journalist Mike Allen is trying to scare us. And he's succeeding.  With another collection out now from his own Mythic Delirium Books, he discusses his novella, "The Comforter," from his 2020 collaborative suite, A Sinister Quartet. The conversation explores this season's theme Alone / Together: What pulls us into community and stands us apart through the lens of the story's central character, an eighth grade girl undergoing some traumatic experiences. 
March 01, 2021
★ Kissing a Tree Surgeon with Eleanor Levine (Episode 3.4)
A conversation with author Eleanor Levine is as wide ranging and unexpected as her stories. Following her book of poetry, Waitress at the Blue Moon Pizzeria (Unsolicited Press, 2016), Levine now offers Kissing a Tree Surgeon from Guernica World Editions.  We dig into the stories, unrequited love, and our theme, "Alone / Together in a conversation that we just couldn't cut short.  The BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast is sponsored by our good friends at Roanoke's independent book store, Book No Further. Purchase Kissing a Tree Surgeon here.
January 23, 2021
Reader Thomas Fellers ★ Building community through social infrastructure (Episode 3.3)
Roanoke resident Thomas Fellers offers two books for a conversation on social infrastructure as we continue an exploration of Alone / Together: What draws us into community and sets us apart.  Books discussed in this third episode of the season are Chang-rae Lee's On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead Books, 2014) and Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg (Broadway Books, 2018).  On investing in a strong locality, Fellers says, "Everyone who's a part of it has a seat at the table and feels there's going to be enough." That, he says is what social infrastructure can help do. Hear the full conversation wherever you get your podcasts, and pick up a copy from an independent book seller like our podcast sponsor, Book No Further.
November 12, 2020
The Power of Disruption ★ Brad Stephens on Ann Patchett's BEL CANTO (Episode 3.2)
In season 3, we ponder the theme Alone/Together: What pulls us into community and stands us apart. In Ann Pachett's Bel Canto (HarperCollins, 2001), the overtaking of a Vice President's home in an unnamed country after the performance of an opera singer at the birthday of a powerful Japanese businessman. As Patchett weaves through the perspectives of the characters in this tightly set tale of unlikely compatriots, we see them each affected by the others, by music, by the disruption of their worlds.  Brad Stephens joins the conversation to talk about the power of that disruption in helping us set and change the course of our days and lives. You can catch Brad's latest podcast: Quarantine Conversations with My Friends. Brad Stephens spends his days working in the world of workforce development and has spent many years working with the social change and entrepreneurship community in Roanoke, helping build innovative community solutions. Along with being the founder of Big Lick SOUP, a co-founder of Noke Codes and putting on CityWorks (X)po, he is always looking for new community development projects that can help improve the lives of the people that call this community home. Brad and his wife, Sarah, moved to the Roanoke Valley years ago while he was working on his M.S. in Forestry at Virginia Tech with a focus on community collaborations in sustainable development. Ever since, this community has felt like home. They have grown to love the authenticity of this dynamic place. He wants to build communities that work for people.
October 06, 2020
SCHOLARSHIP BOY Larry I. Palmer ★ On kinship and success (Episode 3.1)
Larry I. Palmer, the author of Scholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race (Paul Dry Books, 2020), attended Phillips Exeter Academy at 14, boarding at the prestigious school, worlds away from his large St. Louis Family. Now his coming-of-age memoir highlights the strength of a family, the determination of parents, and, of course, the lessons of youth -- all in an era of dramatic upheavals and gradual change, spanning school desegregation and the fight for civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. In a BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke conversation leading up to a 10/13/2020 Roanoke County Public Library author event, Palmer reflects on this season's theme: Alone/Together--on that which connects us and stands us apart.  
September 27, 2020
Kris Spisak ★ Empowerment in the editing process
Roanoke native Kris Spisak writes, edits, and coaches writers through professional services, a podcast, a blog, two books, and creative workshops. In this conversation with BOOK CITY Roanoke's Douglas Jackson, Spisak discusses the thought process, common mistakes made by beginning writers, why grammar matters, and how it just might be fun. Spisak is most recently the author of The Novel Editing Workbook. A former college writing instructor, having taught at institutions including the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, Kris is now an active speaker, workshop leader, and freelance editor. She is the board chair of James River Writers and is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Virginia Writers Club, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. This season of the BOOK CITY Roanoke podcast is sponsored by
April 13, 2020
Book No Further's Doloris Vest ★ Behind the scenes at Roanoke's independent book store
We caught up with Doloris Vest, proprietor of Book No Further, the independent book store on Roanoke's historic city market to get a glimpse behind the scenes. She talks about the area reading community, the strength of local authors, the support of Southern Independent Booksellers Association, and most recently what she's doing to keep the cash register ringing amidst the COVID-19 shut down.
March 27, 2020
The Revivalist's' Mark Lynn Ferguson ★ Roanoke in the Appalachian South
Celebrating 10 years of "Word from the Appalachian South," The Revivalist's Mark Lynn Ferguson reflects on Appalachian craft, food and literature in a conversation with BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke's Douglas Jackson.  Ferguson is co-owner of Crafteria in downtown Roanoke. The vendor-filled space celebrates contemporary makers of Southern Appalachia craft and includes a retail presence for his blog. In the conversation he discusses economic disparity, regional identity, and the resurgence of interest in Appalachian culture. "Something like vinegar pie comes to mind," says Ferguson. "That kind of ingenuity is born of necessity." Find the conversation wherever you get your podcasts, and get more information about our things literary at The sponsor for this season of the podcast is Book No Further.
March 13, 2020
Sandee McGlaun ★ Writing, healing and crafting a nonfiction voice
Sandee McGlaun is an associate professor of English and the director of the writing center at Roanoke College. She writes nonfiction as well as poetry and plays. She has released her writing in two blogs, Still Life, Beyond Cancer and 40 Something First Time Bride. "When I switched from fiction to nonfiction," says McGlaun, "I realized everything's a story. There's material everywhere. It's a matter of seeing it, looking at it."  In addition to her work with students at Roanoke College, McGlaun has worked as an artist-in-residence at Carilion Clinic through the Dr. Robert L.A. Keeley Healing Arts program. In this conversation with BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke's Douglas Jackson, she talks about her relationship to the written word, how a breast cancer diagnosis shaped her writing path, and crafting a voice in nonfiction.
March 05, 2020
Artist Napoleon Jones-Henderson ★ On building a collective and creating with purpose
Artist Napoleon Jones-Henderson recently installed a sculptural series, "Rhapsody in Knowledge," in front of Roanoke's Melrose Library. In this conversation with BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke's Douglas Jackson, the artist reflects on the role of books and libraries in his life, including the experience as a child of hearing Gwendolyn Brooks read poetry at Chicago's Hall Branch Library and the impact of the writings of James Baldwin on him as a young artist in Paris. A founding member of the AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists), Jones-Henderson discusses music, art, and the sense of purpose that connects the ten member artists, who after 50 years, he considers family. "All artists start out with a place they want their work to go... Only through the interaction and relationship with others does that work actually grow and manifest into what you want it to be in the end." Hear Jones-Henderson on who's shaped him and the responsibility he feels for passing it on.
February 27, 2020
Urban Gardener Cameron Terry ★ Cultivating Community Good
Urban gardener Cameron Terry began Garden Variety Harvests in 2017. The businesses borrows other people's land to grow fresh produce for the Roanoke market. In this episode of the podcast, Cam talks with BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke's Douglas Jackson about books that continue to shape the strategy and spirit with which he's connecting local residents with local food. There's a real social mission behind this enterprise, and through collaborative and intentional strategies, Terry says it can make a difference. "I'm the kind of person, this small farm operation," he says, "who's going to be responsible for changing how our food system works and making it so that everyone can eat at that table." Hear more about equity, local food, and the books that inspire this City Builder increasing access to healthy food in the city. Mentioned in this episode. Garden Variety Harvests Carilion Clinic Community Health and Outreach LEAP (Local Environmental Agricultural Project) The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone Ingredient by Ali Bouzari Farming While Black by Leah Penniman Soul Fire Farm
February 20, 2020
Ashley Wilson Fellers ★ Radical Revision and the Personal Renaissance
Contemplative photographer and writer Ashley Wilson Fellers is creative on a number of fronts including poetry, painting, and photography. She's currently asking the question: "What can I do with my gifts?"  Intentionally disrupting her life is a creative jolt jointly undertaken with husband Thomas Fellers. "I am at a place where I just want to let some of what I do exist in community with other people, and serve other people, and highlight the work of other people," says Fellers. In a conversation with Douglas Jackson, Ashley lets us in on what this period is doing for her and what we might expect next. Find session notes at BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke. Get more on Ashley at  Visit our sponsor Book No Further
February 14, 2020
Artist Katherine Devine ★ Reading & Laughter in a Life of Creativity
Artist Katherine Devine joins host Douglas Jackson for a discussion of books that have shaped her identity as an artist. "Writing and Reading is really how I make decisions about my life," says Katherine. In the sense of personal transformation, Katherine is steadily at work. If you're a fan of memoir and art, creative thought and reflection, you'll enjoy this conversation with a working artist. Find links to the books Katherine mentioned at BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke. Visit Katherine's website.
February 06, 2020
Hoot & Holler's Lee Hunsaker ★ Profound Stories and the Support of a Community
Lee Hunsaker returned to Roanoke to "live authentically" near the mountains and her family. She tells us about rediscovering her true love of writing and stories and the idea for a story hoedown that's grown into a tradition of Hoot and Holler storytelling evenings, featuring "Our Stories. Out Loud." "I really push for honesty and truth, even if it's uncomfortable," says Hunsaker. "There's some element we can all relate to." Listen to this interview on profound stories, new voices and the encouragement of a community as we continue exploring books, writing, and personal transformation. Track Hoot & Holler here on Facebook. Find more book talk at BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke. ★ The BOOK CITY Roanoke Podcast is sponsored by Book No Further, Puttin’ Ideas in Your Head since 2017.
January 30, 2020
Roanoke City Council Member Bill Bestpitch ★ "You oughta be reading something."
Season two of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with a conversation with four-term Roanoke City Council Member Bill Bestpitch. Bestpitch offers reflections on his reading life, Roanoke's progress, and the exchange of perspectives over shared reading. Bestpitch entered public life through his active participation in the Old Southwest neighborhood in the early 90s and is active in a number of civic and reading groups in the community. This season of the podcast is sponsored by Book No Further, an independent book store on Roanoke's Historic City Market.
January 23, 2020
Journalist Christina Nifong ★ Gathering Nourishing Stories
Season two of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast launches with a conversation with freelance journalist and local foods advocate Christina Nifong. In her profiles of Roanoke area residents, Nifong plays the cinematographer.  "I'm always trying to decide when to go in tight and when to pull back," she says. The telling detail help us understand her subject, and these individual stories help us understand the broader place. Nifong recently penned a story for The Roanoker, "What Makes Roanoke, Roanoke?" In this episode she talks about what she found out in the many conversations she had in writing it and she talks about the changes and trajectory of her own life as mother and professional. Follow Christina Nifong's writing and projects in her Nourishing Stories newsletter available at This season of the podcast is sponsored by Book No Further, an independent book store on Roanoke's Historic City Market.
January 16, 2020
Reader and Placemaker Brad Stephens ★ Reading and Writing as an Act of Rebellion
Our exploration of Identity and Action wraps with podcast producer Brad Stephens. In this episode, Brad and Douglas Jackson look back at the entire season. Of course, we'll talk about books, many of this seasons' guests and what these conversations are adding up to, touching on the following and more: empathy and books,  books and the unlikeable, writing and wisdom, and the complexity of the self Brad has worked for years in finding ways to encourage positive action and support ambitious efforts to improve our community. He's also a good reader and in this episode, he shares some of the books from his shelf and even one he hasn't been able to make it through. He also tells of his journaling strategy, which might make an impression on you. 
September 29, 2019
Jeanne Larsen, Writer ★ On writing and the word constructs we are
The exploration of Identity and Action continues with Writer Jeanne Larsen.  With the poet, novelist, and essayist we explore how the written word shapes our sense of self and how we put that into work in the world around us.  "You need to find the words that put who you are as you perceive yourself out there into the world," says Larsen. Jeanne Larsen, writer, spent a career at Hollins University and is now professor emeritus. She is most recently the author of What Penelope Chooses (Cider Press Review, 2019). She describes the work as a "sassy lyrical footnotes to Homer" in which she responds to characters from The Odyssey and The Iliad. 
September 20, 2019
Roanoke Vice Mayor Joe Cobb ★ Creating the space for ourselves and each other
Identity and Action: We continue exploring how the written word shapes our sense of self and how we put that into work in the world around us with a conversation with City of Roanoke Vice Mayor Joe Cobb. In this episode Joe discusses three books that weave through his way of being in the world. We touch on hospitality and fear, on seeing ourselves and on the power of claiming our bodies.  "Living this life...," Joe says "is not about what or who we ought to be according to someone else, but who we come to know ourselves to be. And for me, love is the guiding force in shaping that." Joe Cobb is the co-author with Leigh Anne Taylor of Our Family Outing: A Memoir of Coming Out and Coming Through (self-published in 2011).  This summer he marked one year of service on Roanoke's City Council. He has served in the past as pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge, and currently he’s a chaplain for hermitage Roanoke and Outreach Coordinator for Highland Park Elementary School. The three titles discussed in this episode: Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Doubleday, 1975) by Henri Nouwen  Beloved (Knopf, 1987) by Toni Morrison Let Your Life Speak:Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey Bass, 2000) by Parker J. Palmer
September 12, 2019
Poet Ashley Rhame ★ Uncovering ourselves through poetry
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with poet Ashley Rhame.  Ashley writes and performs with astonishing frequency. She's active in bringing people together in The Speakeasy, evenings of music and poetry. She is the program lead for Girls Rock Roanoke, and she works full time for Roanoke Public Libraries at the new Melrose Branch. "Without poetry, I don't know who I would be," says Rhame. In this episode, Rhame performs the poem "The Color of My Soul", a poem through which Rhame uncovered aspects of who she is in the world. It's a topic she uses to engage young people, who she says, need to know who they are to navigate the world around around them. Words help. Listen to this City Builder, and share her joy for writing, performing, and caring for the people sharing the neighborhood and the world around her.
September 05, 2019
Public Historian Gregory Samantha Rosenthal ★ Lesbian cat fiction and a collected past in the Roanoke LGBT Memorial Library
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with Gregory Samantha Rosenthal.  Dr. Rosenthal, an assistant professor of public history at Roanoke College, has led the charge in reviving and building the Roanoke LGBT Memorial Library at the Roanoke Diversity Center.  Rosenthal says they learned of the pieces of past libraries even before moving to the region in 2015. "I wanted to see it," they said. The conversation highlights the power and community benefit of individual efforts, and explores the changing roles of books and technology in identity and self exploration.  "The books seem anachronistic" to young volunteers, but oral histories show just how important they were for the community in the past. Rosenthal founded the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, a community-based queer public history initiative. The effort has resulted in the LGBTQ History Collection at the Virginia Room of the Roanoke Public Library, as well as a digital archive. Students and community members have recorded oral histories with LGBTQ+ elders. And the group offers monthly walking tours of Downtown Roanoke and Old Southwest, Roanoke’s historic gayborbood.
August 29, 2019
Roanoke County Libraries' Shari Henry ★ Technology and Empathy in the Library's Welcoming Space (Episode 1.6)
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with Roanoke County Director of Library Services Shari Henry. This season we’re looking at our engagement with the written word—how it shapes our identity and how we put that into action in the world around us. Libraries are a center of this engagement for individuals and for communities and they play a variety of roles. Shari Henry has been in the Roanoke region for more than two years. In her role, she’s thoughtfully exploring the role of the library as the “marketplace of ideas” to better understand how we access good information, how technology works in our lives, and how a community responds to the needs of its residents in a timely and coordinated fashion. In an era of divisive public conversations, false news stories, and overwhelming access to information, libraries and their stewards are more important than ever.
August 22, 2019
Cathryn Hankla ★ Roaming with the self through books and LOST PLACES (Episode 1.5)
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with writer, artist, and professor Cathryn Hankla, author most recently of Lost Places: On Losing and Finding Home (Mercer University Press, 2018).  The works brings together memoir, criticism, and descriptive writing toward a mosaic of our relationship to place and home in a collection of interwoven essays. This season of the podcast we're looking at our engagement with the written word—how it shapes our identity and how we put that into action in the world around us. Hankla considers place in that process as well. "Many people think they can solve their problems by doing a geographic, " she says, "but I think oppositely--you've got to dig in where you are, go deeper with it, find the connections and the web of experiences and people that are right there..."
August 15, 2019
Star City Reads' Marissa Mazek Blankinship ★ I might as well be hugging a book (Episode 1.4)
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with a conversation with Marisa Mazek Blankinship, Roanoke Public Libraries staff member, writer, reader, and point person in the city's collective literacy action. She coordinates the collaborative third grade-level equivalency effort Star City Reads, now bringing together more than 30 organizations effecting measurable change.  This season of the podcast we're looking at our engagement with the written word—how it shapes our identity and how we put that into action in the world around us. As Blankinship says, " What we read, especially at a young age, shapes our perceptions of the world. It shapes how we interact with others. It shapes how we think about ourselves."
August 08, 2019
Soul Sessions' Bryan Hancock ★ Sharing the Human Experience (Episode 1.3)
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with a conversation with Bryan Hancock, the founder and host of Soul Sessions, Roanoke's open-mic spoken word evening. Also known as performer Harvest Blaque, Hancock has built a supportive and inclusive environment for sharing original work and celebrating others.  This season of the podcast we're looking at our engagement with the written word—how it shapes our identity and how we put that into action in the world around us. As Bryan Hancock does just that, he is modeling what it means to explore the self in an imperfect world, one that we can keep improving together.
August 01, 2019
Ben Bazak and Gail Steele ★ On David Brooks' The Second Mountain (Episode 1.2)
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast continues with a conversation with Ben Bazak and Gail Steele of the Raleigh Court Library Book Club for a discussion of David Brooks' The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (Random House, 2019). This season we look at our engagement with the written word. How it shapes our identity and how we put that into action in the world around us. Bazak, a retired teacher, and Steele, an environmental engineer and yoga instructor invite you in for a taste of their discussion on Brooks' fifth book, which explores the joy that might be found in a "community of cause." 
July 25, 2019
Heath Hardage Lee ★ Women in Action: Learning from hidden histories (Episode 1.1)
Identity and Action: Season one of the BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke podcast launches with a conversation with biographer and curator Heath Hardage Lee. This season we look at our engagement with the written word. How it shapes our identity and how we put that into action in the world around us. Lee addresses the role of biography in uncovering untold stories of women leading in times of change and the relevance of those stories in inspiring action in a new generation today. Heath Hardage Lee is the author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. government to Bring Their Husbands Home (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause (Potomac Books, 2014).
July 18, 2019
Book City ★ Roanoke Trailer
Authors, readers, and resident city builders gather in BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke to discuss how the written word shapes our identity and helps us act in the world. BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke projects explore engagement and equity at the intersection of books and place.
July 14, 2019