Monthly Archives: August 2022

Literary Events in September

September is only a few days away! If you’re looking for something to do in the upcoming month, check out the NCB Calendar. See what literary events are happening near you.

The time, date, and location of these events are subject to change. Some workshops, events, or conferences may charge a fee or require prior registration.

Contact us if you have an event that you would like to be featured on the NCB Calendar!

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Sherry Preston: Reviewing “The Bones of Paradise” by Jonis Agee

by Sherry Preston | Gering Courier

Have you read “The Bones of Paradise” by Jonis Agee? What did you think of it? Every year Nebraskans are encouraged to read a specific book to facilitate a common topic of discussion. We are fortunate enough to have this year’s author visit the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library Aug. 25 at 1:30 p.m. to share in our community discussion. Everyone is welcome to come listen to Agee speak.

Jonis Agee’s book “The Bones of Paradise” was chosen as the 2022 One Book One Nebraska selection. Agee is the Adele Hall Chair of English at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and has written several books. Her works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories. Agee received the Nebraska Book Award twice and authored three different titles honored as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

“The Bones of Paradise” begins with two murders, which don’t seem to be connected. As the story continues, it moves in and out of the present day at the family’s ranch in the 1900s through recent history at 1890 Wounded Knee. It also delves into some of the characters’ pasts. The main characters in “The Bones of Paradise” are complex and sometimes make choices that readers may find confounding.

The timeline moves through various characters and a number of storylines. This style of writing is necessary to reveal the backstory so the reader can fully understand the current events. The characters include ranchers and ranch hands as well as some Lakota folks. The plot hinges on how they all came to be in the story.

Agee teaches creative writing, and it comes through in her books. Her writing is descriptive and more literary than plot-driven.

“She stooped to pick a wild pink rose, avoiding the tiny spines that slivered like unseen glass hairs onto one’s fingers. There was little scent, but the creamy softness of the petals like the insides of a dog’s ear more than made up for it. She placed one on her tongue, and imagined she could taste the hills, the bittersweet tang of life.”

Agee’s specialties are lyrical description and a firm sense of place. This book takes place in the sandhills, somewhere south of Valentine, Nebraska. She has a knack for vivid description.

“To the right was a vast blue lake, the surrounding marsh alive with birds feeding and mating. The air bore the moist scent of water, so blue it put the distant white-blue sky to shame. She shaded her eyes to stare at the lake where pelicans floated peacefully. Nearby a pair of swans stretched their long necks searching the waters for food, and farther on, ducks dove and flapped, green necks glistening in the sun.”

At the heart of this lyrical book is a mystery, but western fans might enjoy it as well.

If you like a book that keeps you turning pages, this one might not be for you. “The Bones of Paradise” by Jonis Agee would not pass the grandma test, due to some coarse language. Agee has written a number of books. We have four novels and a collection of short stories on the fiction shelf at the Gering Public Library.

August 3, 2022 |

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Restoration of Cather childhood home in Red Cloud, Nebraska, set to begin soon

by Paul Hammel | Nebraska Examiner

LINCOLN — Restoration work will soon begin on the historic home in Red Cloud where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather spent most of her teenage years.

Cather had an attic bedroom in the 1 1/2-story, wood-frame vernacular house at 245 N. Cedar St., living there between the ages of 10 and 16. She left for college in 1896.

The 143-year-old childhood home is considered the “crown jewel” of the multiple historic sites in Red Cloud that are associated with Cather. The author mentions the house in at least three of her books: “The Song of the Lark,” “Old Mrs. Harris” and “The Best Years.”

Visitors from across the world

“Visitors from all over the world remark that walking through the doors of Cather’s Childhood Home and into her tiny attic bedroom is an unforgettable experience,” said Ashley Olson, executive director of the National Willa Cather Center.

The nearly $1 million in restoration work is the first in 50 years on the structure. It will begin Aug. 15 and is projected to be completed by next year.

Along with rehabilitating the wooden structure, improving access and adding climate controls, the work will include restoring, and possibly replicating, the rose-colored wallpaper Cather herself installed in her attic bedroom. The paper was payment for her work at a Red Cloud drug store.

“It’s a pretty special place,” said Catherine Pond, marketing coordinator for the Cather Center.

The childhood home has been open for public tours since 1967. The Cather Center took possession of the house in 2019 from History Nebraska. The restoration work is being made possible in part by a $415,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service.

Shovel-ready funds

The project is part of the Cather Center’s ambitious “Campaign for the Future,” which has raised more than $7 million toward restoration of several Cather-related properties. It would also be used for expansion of educational programming, development of visitor amenities and growth of an endowment.

The center was recently awarded a $2.3 million “shovel-ready” grant from the State Legislature, using funds supplied by the American Rescue Plan Act, to help restore a historic hotel in Red Cloud.

The shovel-ready grant, as well as the federal grant to restore the childhood home, require matching, private funds. The Cather Center is seeking to raise another $200,000 in private gifts to help finance the restoration work at the childhood home.

For more information, contact the Cather Center at

August 9, 2022 |

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Books Chosen to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

August 1, 2022

Tessa Terry

Books Chosen to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

“Letters from Space” and “The Bones of Paradise” chosen for the National Center for the Book’s Great Reads from Great Places program

The Nebraska Center for the Book has selected one youth book and one adult book by Nebraska authors to represent the state at the 2022 National Book Festival: Letters from Space by Clayton Anderson, illustrated by Susan Batori and The Bones of Paradise: A Novel by Jonis Agee.

Both titles will be part of the National Center for the Book’s Great Reads from Great Places program. Great Reads from Great Places features books and authors representing the literary heritage of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Marianas. For over 20 years this program has included a highlighted youth title from each affiliate center. In 2022, Great Reads from Great Places is including titles for adults for the first time.

This year’s National Book Festival on Sept. 3 will be held in-person in Washington, D.C., but will include many livestreamed and recorded virtual programs celebrating books and authors. Author Clayton Anderson will take part in an online panel conversation with other chosen authors from state Centers for the Book in the Midwest Region to talk about his book and what inspired him, what he likes most about Nebraska, and more.

This and other panel discussions will be posted toward the end of August on the National Book Festival website and the Library of Congress’s YouTube channel.

About the Books

Letters from Space

Written by a real life Astronaut, these letters from space are full of weird science, wild facts, and outrageous true stories from life in space, complete with hysterical illustrations from Susan Batori. The back of the book includes even more interesting information on space, astronauts, and living among the stars.

A starred review in School Library Journal reads: “With a final page of facts about NASA, astronauts, and living in space, this must-purchase entertains with a combination of zany art, humor, and solid facts for fascinated young readers craving space travel even the armchair kind.”

Nebraska’s Great Reads from Great Places book is chosen from the previous year’s Nebraska Book Award winners and this book was awarded the 2021 Nebraska Book Award in the Children’s Picture Book category.

The Bones of Paradise

A multigenerational family saga set in the unforgiving Nebraska Sand Hills in the years following the massacre at Wounded Knee—it is an ambitious tale of history, vengeance, race, guilt, betrayal, family, and belonging, filled with a vivid cast of characters shaped by violence, love, and a desperate loyalty to the land.

Chosen as the 2022 One Book One Nebraska selection, libraries across Nebraska and other literary and cultural organizations have participated in book discussions, activities, and events that encourage Nebraskans to read and discuss this book.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission.  

As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, “bringing together people and information.”  

About the Authors

Astronaut Clayton Anderson

Nebraska’s only Astronaut, spent 167 days in space and 38 hours and 28 minutes in executing 6 spacewalks. He applied 15 times before NASA selected him as an Astronaut in 1998; and he spent 30 years working for NASA, 15 as an engineer and then 15 as an Astronaut.

Succeeding in one of the most difficult and coveted jobs in the world through perseverance and a never-give-up mantra, Anderson employs NASA’s “Plan, Train and Fly (Execute)” philosophy to all his speaking engagements and projects. Coupled with lessons learned in the areas of leadership, persistence, and passion, he provides unique and “out of this world” insights for those seeking to achieve practical execution.

Astronaut Clayton “Astro Clay” Anderson is the author of three children’s books; Letters from Space, A is for Astronaut: Blasting through the Alphabet, and It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Sometimes Extraordinary Questions, and his award winning memoir, The Ordinary Spaceman.  You can find out more about Astro Clay and his current and upcoming books at Follow him on social media @Astro_Clay

Jonis Agee

Agee was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Nebraska and Missouri, places where many of her stories and novels are set. In all, she is the author of thirteen books, including five novels, five collections of short fiction, and two books of poetry.

Agee’s novels include The Weight of Dreams (Viking Adult, 1999,) South of Resurrection (Viking Audlt, 1997,) Sweet Eyes (Crown, 1991,) and The River Wife (Random House, 2007.) She’s the Adele Hall Professor of English at The University of Nebraska — Lincoln, where she teaches creative writing and twentieth-century fiction.

Agee is married to the writer Brent Spencer. They live in Ponca Hills, which is on the Missouri River, north of Omaha.

“I own twenty pairs of cowboy boots (some of them works of art), love the open road, and believe that ecstasy and hard work are the basic ingredients of life and writing.”


The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website, .

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