Go, See, Do | Writer returns home for reading of her book about Kansas
photo by: Journal-World File Photos
Leaving Kansas can be hard when it’s the only place you’ve lived during the first 20-plus years of your life.
I know because when I left Lawrence after college to live in Texas, I only made it a couple of months away from the Sunflower State.
A few years after returning to Kansas, I read a story from Becky Mandelbaum’s book “Bad Kansas” about a woman who moved to California with her boyfriend only to watch her relationship fall apart and return to Wichita.
The story hit me like a ton of bricks. While I did not move home after the end of a relationship, I did feel like I did not have the ability to prosper and be happy outside of Kansas.
Mandelbaum, who is also originally from Wichita, left Lawrence after graduating from KU and hanging around in town for about a year. She, on the other hand, has prospered and will return to Lawrence on Monday to read from her book, which includes 11 short stories about people from Kansas and their relationship with their home state. The reading begins at 7 p.m. on Monday at The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh Street, which will be selling copies of her book after the reading.
photo by: Contributed photo
For Mandelbaum, the stories are connected by her own personal homesickness, she said. When she was writing the book, she was feeling melancholy as she grappled with the opportunity to move on.
“I think these stories are about me processing leaving (Kansas) and what it means to leave and what it would have meant if I stayed,” she said, noting she almost stayed even though she was accepted into a graduate school program in California. “I really loved Lawrence and my friends there. I think the stories just came out of that time, thinking about what Kansas meant to me.”
Opening the event is local writer and lecturer Adam Desnoyers, who will read some of his own work. Mandelbaum said Desnoyers was one of her early creative writing teachers at KU.
The book was published as the collection of stories winning the University of Georgia’s Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.
Mandelbaum, the 2013 winner of the Langston Hughes creative writing award, moved to California to attend University of California, Davis, for graduate school. After graduate school, she lived on a ranch in Colorado as a house-sitter while writing, then she moved to a small town in Washington, where she is currently working on a novel.
Mandelbaum often returns to Kansas, which she still considers home.
“I love Lawrence and I miss that community so much,” she said. “It’s always a lot of very warm and fuzzy feelings when I come home.”
Mandelbaum’s other – and sometimes more eccentric – work has been published in many literary magazines and websites, including Kansas City Voices, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Juked, and the Missouri Review, among several others.
One of my favorite Mandelbaum stories is “The Year of the Tree,” which was published in Juked. Read that and you will understand what I mean by eccentric. She’s also written a hilarious BuzzFeed-like article for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency on how to spot clues your date is actually potato skins from a TGI Friday’s restaurant.
Like I said, eccentric.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a week in Lawrence without many other events to check out. Here are some more things to go, see and do in the next week.
Haskell Indian Art Market and Parks and Rec Fall Arts and Crafts Festival
Lawrence residents will have a great opportunity to purchase art this weekend.
Handcrafted art and jewelry of more than 160 Native American artists will be on display and for sale at the Haskell Powwow Grounds, 2535 West Perimeter, as part of the annual Haskell Indian Art Market. Students will also be performing dances throughout the weekend.
The 30th annual market will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Pets are prohibited unless they are service animals.
Another arts and crafts opportunity is the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Fall Arts and Crafts Festival in South Park on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The 39th annual festival will include arts and crafts from more than 135 vendors, activities, live music, food and a Free State Brewing Co. beer garden.
Entrance for both events is free.
Watkins Museum Genealogy Classes
Have you ever been interested in your heritage, but unaware of how to research it? Well, the Watkins Museum of History offers genealogy classes that teach how to do just that.
Alisa Branham, who teaches the classes with her husband, Richard, said the first class this weekend focuses on reviewing census records to build a family tree, which will be helpful for beginners and experienced genealogists.
“We have all range of students,” she said. “We have brand new to genealogy to people who have been doing it for 30, 40, 50 years.”
She said the classes have fostered a community of people sharing a similar interest.
“It’s a great group of people,” she said. “We are making a great group of friends and they are all getting to know each other. It’s a fun thing to do for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.”
The 2018-19 schedule of classes begins 10 a.m. Saturday. New classes will be available each month until April.
The classes cost $10 each for museum members and $15 each for nonmembers. All proceeds from the class benefit the museum.
photo by: Contributed photo
Free State Comicon
While large and well-known comic book conventions have focused on attendees dressing up as their favorite characters and panels with famous Hollywood actors, the Free State Comicon is an “old school” comic book convention, organizer Craig Klotz said.
Attendees can expect to hang out with other comic book enthusiasts and talk shop with comic book creators.
“It’s very casual,” he said. “All of these creators are extremely approachable. They are all really nice and easy to speak to.”
The 13th annual Lawrence convention begins 10 a.m. Saturday at 2110 Harper St. Admission is $5, but kids 12 and under are free.
About 30 comic book creators from the Lawrence and Kansas City area are attending the convention. Klotz said the event brings in people from around the region and expects about 1,000 guests.
photo by: Contributed photo
Nerd Nite 74
Nerd Nite, a monthly informal lecture series where people can give brief presentations about something they are passionate about, comes back for a new season next week.
For the first Nerd Nite, three speakers will present about stories of the Americas. In the most locally relevant presentation, Jancita Warrington, director of the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, will speak about the dedication of the Haskell World War I Memorial Stadium and Memorial Arch.
The stadium memorializes the 415 students, staff, faculty and alumni of Haskell Indian Nations University who served in the war. Construction of the stadium and archway was finished in 1926, with $250,000 (about $3.5 million today) worth of donations.
Warrington’s presentation will likely be a great warmup before Haskell’s Keeping Legends Alive event, a celebration of the dedication of the stadium and archway on Sept. 21-22. The celebration is meant to honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The other speakers, William Garcia and George Laughead, will present on little-known slave rebellions in the Americas and the history of German spies in Kansas, respectively.
The event takes place at Maceli’s, 1031 New Hampshire St., on Wednesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. and presentations begin at 8 p.m. Entrance costs $1.
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