Archives for posts with tag: history

KillersThe All Good Books group will discuss Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann at our next meeting on Thursday, November 15, 2018. As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) at 7 PM.

The following discussion questions are drawn from the publisher’s site (https://bit.ly/2qzeRVZ):

  1. What do the contemporary media reports on the wealth and lifestyle of the Osage reflect about white perceptions of Native Americans (pp. 6–7; pp. 76–77)? In what way do they lay a foundation for the way the murders and mysterious deaths were treated by law enforcement?
  2. What was your first impression of William Hale (p. 17)? How does Grann bring to life his strengths and appeal, as well as the darker side of his nature? What qualities does he share with people who achieve power and influence today?
  3. How did you respond to the description of law enforcement in America during the 1920s (p. 19)? What elements most shocked or surprised you? What made the situation in Osage County particularly chaotic? What effect did this have on the investigations into the deaths of Anna Brown and Charles Whitehorn?
  4. What does Grann’s account of the relationship between the United States government and Native Americans contribute to your understanding of the country’s history (pp. 37–44)? How did government policies affect individuals like Mollie and her family? What does Grann capture in his description of Lizzie’s death: “Lizzie’s spirit had been claimed by Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, and by Wah’Kon-Tah, the Great Mystery” (p. 36)?
  5. Discuss the circumstances that distinguished the Osage from other Native American tribes, including the actions taken by tribal leaders early in the century; the influx of white settlers and oil prospectors; the granting of headrights; and the guardianship system (pp. 78–80).
  6. What is the significance of the murder of Barney McBride, the oilman who went to Washington to seek help for the Osage (p. 68) and of W.W. Vaughan, the attorney who worked with private detectives investigating the murders (p. 93–4)?
  7. What does Grann’s portrait convey about J. Edgar Hoover (p. 107)? What traits stand out and what do they foretell about Hoover’s future as director of the FBI?
  8. In what ways does Tom White combine the qualities of the Old West and of the modern bureaucratic system Hoover is trying to create? How does this influence the steps he takes in investigating the murders? How do the various views of White, including the stories of his childhood and his work as a Texas Ranger (pp. 137–153), shape your impressions of him? Would you define him as the hero of the book?
  9. How were manufactured evidence, suborned testimony, and false confessions used to divert the FBI investigation? What role did independently hired private eyes and informants play in the search for the truth?
  10. The crimes in Osage County involved many levels of deception and betrayal. In addition to the actual conspirators, who else either directly profited from the crimes or was silently complicit in them? In what ways did accepted mores encourage the corruption that plagued the investigation?
  11. What role did new methods of criminal investigation play in uncovering the guilty parties? In addition to introducing up-to-date forensic science, how did Hoover use the case to transform the Bureau of Investigation and simultaneously enhance his own image?
  12. During Hale’s trial, a member of the Osage tribe said, “It is a question in my mind whether this jury is considering a murder case or not. The question for them to decide is whether a white man killing an Osage is murder—or merely cruelty to animals” (p. 215). Why does this observation resonate beyond the immediate circumstances?
  13. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Killers of the Flower Moon is the marital and familial connections between murderers and their victims. What explains Ernest Burkhart’s actions even as he remained married to and had children with Mollie? How does Grann bring to life the particular horror of crimes committed within a family and a close-knit community?
  14. What does the evidence Grann uncovered when he visited Osage County in 2012 reveal about the lasting legacy of the “Reign of Terror”?
  15. Killers of the Flower Moon combines the fast pace of a true-life murder mystery with the scope and detail of a narrative history. How does Grann integrate these different aspects of the book?
  16. We are familiar with many American crimes and criminals during the early twentieth century from movies, books, and television shows. Why do you think the story of the Osage murders hasn’t received similar attention?
  17. Are there recent examples of racial prejudice and injustice that parallel those described in Killers of the Flower Moon? What has changed about the approach taken by law enforcement? About the attitudes expressed by the white community in the face of racial or religious discrimination? In what ways have things remained the same?

A cast of characters from the book follows. This list is also drawn from the publisher’s website.

Cast of Characters

The Family
Mollie Burkhart, a wealthy Osage woman whose family was targeted

Anna Brown, Mollie’s oldest sister, a divorcee who spent a lot of time in the reservation’s rowdy boomtowns

Lizzie, Mollie’s mother, deeply attached to Osage traditions even as the world around her changed; she suffered a slow, inexplicable death

Rita, Mollie’s sister, and her husband, Bill Smith

Ernest Burkhart, Mollie’s white husband, the father of her three children, and her official financial guardian

Bryan Burkhart, Ernest’s younger brother

William Hale, Ernest’s uncle, a self-made man of great wealth and staggering power; revered by many people as “King of the Osage Hills”

Margie Burkhart, the granddaughter of Mollie and Ernest Burkhart; she shared her father’s memories of the “Reign of Terror” with Grann as well as stories about Mollie’s and Ernest’s lives in later years

The Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover, the twenty-nine-year-old newly appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation; he saw the Osage cases as a way to redeem the bureau’s bad reputation and advance his own career

Tom White, an old-style frontier lawman and former Texas Ranger who was put in charge of the investigation

John Wren, recruited by White, he was then one of the few American Indians (perhaps the only one) in the bureau

Other Characters
Barney McBride, a white oilman who sought help for the Osage

W.W. Vaughan, a lawyer who worked closely with private detectives trying to solve the Osage cases

James and David Shoun, local doctors (and brothers)

Scott Mathis, owner of the Big Hill Trading Company and a close friend of both Mollie Burkhart and William Hale; he managed Lizzie’s and Anna’s financial affairs and administered Anna’s estate

James Bighart, the legendary chief of the Osage who negotiated the prescient treaty with the government to retain mineral rights for the tribe

George Bighart, James’s nephew who gave information to W.W. Vaughan

Henry Roan, briefly married to Mollie when they were young; he borrowed heavily from William Hale and made Hale the beneficiary of his insurance policy

Additional discussion questions are available from the PBS NewsHour/New York Times book club (https://nyti.ms/2zBPMxA) as listed below.

  1. Before starting “Killers of the Flower Moon,” had you ever heard of the Osage murders? If so, how did you learn about them, and what did you know? Do you think this history should be taught in schools?
  2. Grann begins the book with a line describing the flowers spread over the Oklahoma hills where the Osage Indian nation resided — and how those flowers break and die in May. How does this line set the tone for, and introduce the subject of, the rest of the book?
  3. The first character we meet is Mollie Burkhart, whose family becomes a main target of the Osage murders. How does Grann signal to us early on what the murderer may be after?
  4. Grann describes the discovery of oil on Osage land as a “cursed blessing.” How do you think it’s a blessing, and how is it a curse?
  5. How trustworthy do you find the different authorities that appear throughout the book to investigate the murders? Authorities such as William Hale, who Grann initially describes as a “powerful local advocate for law and order,” as well as the frontier lawmen, the brothers who conduct autopsies of the bodies, the local sheriff and, later, the F.B.I.?
  6. As you reach the halfway point of the book, who do you believe is responsible for the killings? Why?
  7. Osage “headrights” — or the money received by members of the tribe, or by white guardians, from mineral royalties — soon become central to the book. Grann writes: “Although some white guardians and administrators tried to act in the best interests of the tribe, countless others used the system to swindle the very people they were ostensibly protecting.” Which sectors of society abused these guardianships? How was this able to happen?
  8. Why do you think the F.B.I. pursued the case of the Osage murders? What did you learn about the birth of the agency?
  9. At this point in your reading, what do you think these murders say about America’s history with Native American people?
  10. As the F.B.I. solved the case, what was the mythology of the bureau that J. Edgar Hoover was trying to create? What parts of the agency’s investigation of the Osage Murders were left out of the story?
  11. Grann begins the third section of the book with the words: “So much is gone now,” including oil fields and boomtowns. But he also writes that the Osage nation has recovered in the decades since the murders, and today is a vibrant nation that’s 20,000 people strong. What do you think Grann wants us to take away from this?
  12. Grann ends the book with a quote from the Bible about Cain and Abel: “The blood cries out from the ground.” Why do you think he chose to close the book this way?
Advertisements
Killers

During last week’s book club meeting we talked about some of the contributors to America’s World War II war effort. Two online sources were mentioned: the first is an article on Vera Davis in the Martin City Telegraph. In it, she discusses her experiences as a “Rosie the Riveter.” The article can be found at https://bit.ly/2PId5MZ

The second online source is an audio recording of Marilyn Gairn’s Father focusing on his prisoner of war experiences. The audio recording can be found at  https://bit.ly/2CsSmZW
The link goes to the Oral history interview with Martin L. Parisot – Collections Search – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I really enjoyed our discussion last evening and look forward to discussing Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann on Thursday, November 15, 2018. As usual, we’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road) at 7 PM.

Killers

In case you missed last night’s book club meeting, here are a few events coming up that you might find interesting.

First there’s a free book signing for “Out of the Shadow: I Can and I Will” by Darol Rodrock. The book is his biography that focuses on “Overcoming poverty, abuse and abandonment to build a life of success and prosperity.” The events is from 6:30 – 8:30 PM on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 in the Carlsen Center Lobby at Johnson County Community College.

First 250 people to arrive will receive a free autographed copy of his book.

For more information and to RSVP (highly recommended) go to http://www.jccc.edu/rodrock

Also last night we decided to add “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann to our discussion schedule. We’ll discuss that book on Thursday, November 15, 2018 at our regular meeting (in the Community of Christ Church Library at 7 PM).

Because the book deals with the Osage Indians you might find these two lectures (part of the 2018-2019 College Scholars lecture series) of interest. Both sessions showcase research by Tai Edwards, PhD, Associate Professor of History at JCCC. Here are the sessions:

Evening Presentation: Osage Women, Gender and Empire

Everyone in the community is invited to attend from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 in Hudson Auditorium, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Reception will follow from 6:30 to 7 p.m. in the Atrium. Dr. Edwards will discuss the arguments from her recent book, “Osage Women and Empire: Gender and Power,” on how Osage women and men built an empire together after French colonization—and how they continued to work together to secure their nation from U.S. colonialism.

Daytime Presentation: Disruption then Disease: The Falsehood of ‘Virgin Soil Epidemics’ – an Osage example

All JCCC students, faculty and staff are invited to attend from 11 a.m. to noon Thursday, Oct. 11 in the CoLab on the JCCC campus. Dr. Edwards will discuss arguments made in two articles—one published, one in progress—about how colonization determines the trajectory of disease among indigenous peoples. While this is for the JCCC community, you can sneak in and no one will boot you out!

kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.inddThe All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 7 PM to discuss “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly. Discussion questions will be posted soon.

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.”

The book club meets at the Mission Road Congregation of the Community of Christ, 7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS. Come and join the discussion.

Mrs.Lincolns.DressmakerThe All Good Books group will meet this Thursday, June 21, 2018 to discuss  Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. We’ll meet at the Community of Christ Mission Road Congregation (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS) in the Church Library.

The following are some suggested discussion questions:

  1. When you began reading the novel did you think that Elizabeth Keckley was a fictional character used by the author to talk about Civil War events and the Lincoln’s life in the White House? Or did you think that she was and historical figure? Did your opinion changed as you read the novel?
  2. From the novel, what surprised you most about Mrs. Lincoln? About President Lincoln? About the Lincoln family? And about Elizabeth Keckley?
  3. What are your thoughts on Elizabeth’s publication of her memoir, Behind the Scenes? Do you believe she have the right to publish about her years as a dressmaker, friend and confidante to Mrs. Lincoln? Was it a breach of confidentiality and privacy that her employers should have expected of her?
  4. Why do you think Elizabeth published her memoirs? Would you have published a similar memoir if you had served in the White House as a friend and confidant of the President or the First Lady?
  5. How would you describe Mrs. Lincoln as a wife, a mother, and a friend? Could you have served as a friend and confidant of Mrs. Lincoln like Elizabeth? How would you describe Elizabeth’s service and response to Mrs. Lincoln’s requests?
  6. What is your opinion of the relationship between Mrs. Lincoln and the Washington elite? Was she mistreated, or should she have expected the treatment she received? Explain.
  7. Would you recommend the novel to other readers? Why or why not?

The following are additional questions suggested by the publisher:

  1. What are Elizabeth Keckley’s most admirable qualities? What makes her such an appealing figure?
  2. Lincoln and Elizabeth both suffer terrible tragedies. Elizabeth was born into slavery, raped by her white master, and betrayed by her husband. She lost her only son in the war and was the victim of a scandal that damaged her reputation and left her in poverty. Mrs. Lincoln lost three of her four sons, as well as her husband, and was also the victim of devastating scandals and financial distress. How do they respond differently to the trials that life throws at them?
  3. What picture of President Lincoln emerges in the novel? In what ways does the novel deepen our understanding of Lincoln, both as a political leader and as a husband, father and friend?
  4. Elizabeth likes to think “that she too had played some small part in helping President Lincoln know the desires and worries of colored people better. She hoped she had used, and would always use, her acquaintance with the president and her time in the White House for the good of her race” [p. 192]. In what ways — direct and indirect — did Elizabeth helped the cause of people of color during her time in the White House? How might her personal example of dignity, compassion, and integrity have helped her cause? What actions does she undertake on behalf of her race?
  5. Why is the press so eager to vilify Mrs. Lincoln? Are any of their criticisms deserved?
  6. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Lincoln tells Elizabeth, “You are the only good, kind friend I have anymore, and I don’t know how I shall get along without you” [p. 259]. Why does Mrs. Lincoln come to rely so heavily on Elizabeth? In what ways is Elizabeth a loyal and generous friend to Mrs. Lincoln? What does she offer Mrs. Lincoln beyond dressmaking?
  7. Late in her life, Elizabeth tells the reporter, Mr. Fry, “When I am most in distress, I think of what I often heard Mr. Lincoln say to his wife: ’Don’t worry, Mother, because all things will come out right. God rules our destinies” [p. 349]. Does the novel itself seem to confirm Mr. Lincoln’s belief in divine providence? Does Lincoln’s death seem fated?
  8. What are some of the novel’s most moving scenes? How is Chiaverini able to bring the era, as well as the Lincoln family, so vividly to life?
  9. What are Elizabeth’s intentions in writing her memoir? In what ways does the editor of Carleton & Co., Mr. Redpath, take advantage of her?
  10. One reviewer of Elizabeth’s memoir, Behind the Scenes, writes that “The Line must be drawn somewhere, and we protest that it had better be traced before all the servant girls are educated up to the point of writing up the private history of the families in which they may be engaged” [p. 321]. Why do the critics respond with such hostility — and inaccuracy — to her book? Why would they feel threatened by it?
  11. How does Lincoln’s Dressmaker complement and add to the portrait of President Lincoln in the recent, Oscar–winning film Lincoln?
  12. Elizabeth learns from Mrs. Lincoln’s negative example that “the only way to redeem oneself from scandal was to live an exemplary life every day thereafter” [p. 325]. In what ways is her life, not just after the scandal but her entire life, exemplary?
  13. Reflecting on her teaching at Wilberforce University, Elizabeth feels that “Her greatest legacy could not be measured in garments or in words but in the wisdom she had imparted, in the lives made better because she had touched them” [p. 339]. In what ways does Lincoln’s Dressmaker also strengthen Elizabeth’s legacy? How much did you know about her before reading the novel?

 

 

StarsAreFireThe All Good Books discussion group will meet this Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 7 PM to discuss the novel Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve. We’ll meet in the Community of Christ (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village) Church Library.

The publisher has posted some discussion questions which we can use as discussion starters. Further, I’ve added a few additional questions below:

  1. Was there a quote in the book that bears discussion? Something you underlined because it “spoke to you?”
  2. What do you imagine it would be like to be a disaster survivor? Have you ever survived a disaster? How has it effected your life?
  3. What would you take with you in the face of a natural disaster or catastrophe? Sentimental items or practical items or a bit of both? Be as specific as you can.
  4. In the marriage vows, what do you consider the limits of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part?” Is there ever a time when “worse” is so bad the vows can/should be broken?
  5. Assuming every novel has a central idea or thesis statement, what would it be for Stars are Fire?

We hope you can join us!

TruthAccordingToUs

January Book Club Selection

The All Good Books discussion group will meet on Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 7:00 PM to discuss The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows at the Community of Christ church (7842 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS).

Here are a few suggested discussion questions for the novel:

  1. Who is your favorite character in the novel? Describe your favorite character and share why you chose that character.
  2. Why do you think the author/publisher chose the title for this novel? Would you have selected a different title? If so, what?
  3. Between Jottie, Mae and  Minerva, they are always sharing an old saw (conventional wisdom) with Willa and Bird. Some of the sayings include: “idle hands are the devil’s playground,””least said, soonest mended,””Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive,” “discretion is the better part of valor,” “Rightness is nothing. You can’t live on it. You might as well eat ashes,” and “hatred is a poor bone to chew.” Have you heard these sayings before? What do they mean to you?
  4. Layla in a letter to her brother Lance writes, “I’ve been thinking about history a good deal in the past few weeks, and I believe it fails when it offers only a tepid recitation of events and dates. A successful history is one that captures the living heat of opinion and imagination and ancient grudge.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  5. As Miss. Betts reads some of Layla’s draft history, she comments, “All of us see a story according to our own lights. None of us is capable of objectivity. You must beware your sources.” What did she mean?
  6. At the point in the novel when Jottie is thinking about whether to continue her relationship with Sol, she thinks, “The past was the only thing that really existed; there could be no future that was not based on the past. She had to choose one side or the other, and the side she chose had to be Felix’s.” How did you react to Jottie’s decision at that point in the novel?
  7. Is there a scene in the story that you found especially endearing?
  8. Is there a scene in the book that your found especially tragic?
  9. At one point, Willa is trying to comprehend the world around her and thinks, “In books, even in books like The Beautiful and Damned, things were connected; people did something and then something else happened because of that. I could understand them. But outside, here in the real world, things seemed to happen for no reason that I could see. Maybe there was no reason. Maybe people just drifted here and there, aimless and silly. But no, people had been thrown out of the Garden of Eden for knowing, so there must be something to know, reasons, all the time and everywhere, for the way they behaved. Reasons I couldn’t see yet, no matter how hard I tried.” Any reactions to her quandary?
  10. The novel repeatedly returns to an exploration of the nature of history such as when Layla writes, “I’ve learned that history is the autobiography of the historian, that ignoring the past is the act of a fool, and that loyalty does not mean falling into line, but stepping out of it for the people you love.” Did the novel generate any personal thoughts about the nature of recorded history? Any thoughts you’d like to share?
  11. Do you believe that Sol really loved Jottie? Why?
  12. Can you understand and justify why Felix did what he did? Explain.
  13. How would you describe Layla and Felix’s relationship? Did you see it coming? Did you expect the resolution offered by the author?
  14. If you were to write a sequel to the novel, what would happen next?
  15. How would you describe the book? Was it like a roller-coaster ride? A stroll through the park? A run-away train? A 10th grade history text book?