Author John Armistead Helped Launch
‘Starkville Reads' First Community Wide Book Project
By EMILY JONES/Starkville
Starkville's first citywide book
club project began with a March 7, 2006, reception featuring the author
of the premier book selection.
Some 100 book lovers attended the opening night
reception of “Starkville Reads” held at the Starkville Public Library.
John Armistead, author of “Return of Gabriel” was on hand to sign his
book and present a reading from the compelling novel which is staged
during the 1960s. It is the tale of three young teenagers whose lives
are irrevocably changed as a result of racial unrest which accompanied
desegregation in the South. He delighted those in attendance with his
wit and his serious comments.
Starkville Reads committee members Nancy
Jacobs and Harry Freeman pose with John Armistead, (r.) author of
The Return of Gabriel. Armistead appeared March 7, 2006,
at the Starkville Public Library to kick off the event for the first
ever citywide book club.
A highlight of the evening was the
Theatre written and produced by Dr. Clyde Williams and presented by a
small troupe composed of Dr. Robert Anderson and four Starkville High
School students: Charles Jefferson, Trequon Tate, Sam Pote, and Cooper
The actors, playing key roles from the
pages of the book, captured the essence of the novel while
incorporating humor to describe events that unfold. Dr. Anderson helped
set the stage as “Father Time.”
Set in the fictional Chelosa, Miss. (near
Tupelo), “The Return of Gabriel” is an historic account of events that
occurred across the country to varying degrees during a tense period in
American history. The themes of loyalty, compassion, intrigue and
violence are woven throughout the story line.
First place essay winner Catherine
Feng, shows Ginny Holtcamp and Julie McAlpin her certificate. She also
As part of the “Starkville Reads” project,
middle and high school students were invited to participate in an essay
contest which addressed the major themes of the book or analyzed the
plot. The essays were judged and cash prizes were awarded. Catherine
Feng received $100 for her first place essay The Return of Courage,
which was an analysis of the main character Cooper Grant. Second prize
went to Faniah Jamerson in the amount of $50 for her plot analysis of The
Return of Gabriel.
Small discussion groups were held around
the community to provide readers of Armistead's book an opportunity to
share ideas. Emily Jones led the first group. Harry Freeman, Clyde
Williams, and Noel Polk also led discussions. An early morning
discussion group was held at Starkville High School and was led by
Earlie Fleming and Alveria Crump.
Nancy Jacobs, chairman of Starkville Reads,
said the citywide project will be repeated in the fall. The fall book
will be announced in June. “We selected The Return of
Gabriel for our first book because it appealed to all
ages from young teenagers to senior citizens. It also generated
meaningful discussions,” Jacobs said.
"Starkville Reads” is part of a national
movement sponsored by the Library of Congress to bring communities
closer together by having citizens read and discuss a compelling
literary work. It is believed Starkville is the second city in
Mississippi to offer such a program.
Faniah Jamerson (r.) was the second
place winner in the amount of $50 for her plot analysis of The
Return of Gabriel.
For more information about
Starkville Reads first author John Armistead, go to the Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project:
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