Today on Fun Friday let me introduce Angelina Sprint who discovers a love of quilting and knitting during one eventful summer in Romalyn Tilghman’s debut novel To the Stars Through Difficulties. Take it away, Angelina!
Hi, I’m Angelina Sprint, one of the voices in Romalyn’s debut novel. I’ve come back to New Hope, Kansas, my father’s hometown, to finish my PhD on Carnegie libraries. I’ve been working on this challenge for almost a decade, but I simply won’t give up despite the obstacles of a difficult professor. Luckily, I have a breakthrough when I find my grandmother’s journal and realize it was the local women who made the libraries happen, as much as Andrew Carnegie himself. I’m pretty much addicted to spreading the word about the 1500 Carnegie libraries built in this country, and so I drop snippets of knowledge about them wherever I can.
Much of my summer is spent at the Carnegie Arts Center, the renovated library, where the No Guilt Quilt Guild meet to do handiwork … and solve many of the community’s problems as well as their own. This gives me a glimpse of how powerful women are when they come together. Traci, the artist-in-residence, leads the charge in focusing the energy of spirited teenagers as well the “ordinary women”. She’s masterful at making art out of castoffs. Together, the teens and the quilters, inspired by our foremothers, find a way to build a cultural center in Prairie Hill, the community that was demolished by a tornado.
Over the summer, I learn to do simple patchwork as well as knit and purl. I’m particularly proud of a blanket I made from discarded blue jeans and a scarf I knit out of yarn dyed by Amanda Hope. (Amanda was my grandmother’s name; New Hope her town.) We read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn aloud to each other while we work, just as Carnegie’s father read in the weaving mills of Scotland. On my own, I enjoy “gentle reads” about books, such as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and 84, Charing Cross Road. I gather a dozen recipes for Jello and even more for casseroles, and I worry about weight gain from all the potlucks. I learn to treasure the Kansas landscape and Midwest work ethic.
My summer doesn’t turn out the way I expected, but you probably guessed that. I learn to love surprises! May your life be full of fun ones too!
Andrew Carnegie funded fifty-nine public libraries in Kansas in the early 20th century―but it was frontier women who organized waffle suppers, minstrel shows, and women’s baseball games to buy books to fill them. Now, a century later, Angelina returns to her father’s hometown of New Hope to complete her dissertation on the Carnegie libraries, just as Traci and Gayle arrive in town―Traci as an artist-in-residence at the renovated Carnegie Arts Center and Gayle as a refugee whose neighboring town, Prairie Hill, has just been destroyed by a tornado.
The discovery of an old journal inspires the women to create a library and arts center as the first act of rebuilding Prairie Hill after the tornado. As they work together to raise money for the center, Traci reveals her enormous heart, Angelina discovers that problem-solving is more valuable than her PhD, and Gayle demonstrates that courage is not about waiting out a storm but building a future. Full of Kansas history―from pioneer homesteaders to Carrie Nation to orphan trains―To the Stars through Difficulties is a contemporary story of women changing their world, and finding their own voices, powers, and self-esteem in the process.
About Romalyn Tilghman
Straight out of graduate school, Romalyn Tilghman was hired as Executive Director of the Association of Community Arts Councils of Kansas and was lucky enough to work with rural arts councils throughout the state. She saw first-hand how groups of (mostly) women encouraged culture on the Plains. From there, she went on to work for the National Endowment for the Arts as Regional Representative, eventually serving a territory that stretched over the Dateline, over the Equator, and over the Arctic Circle. She has worked as a free-lance consultant in the arts – conducting strategic planning, initiating audience engagement projects, and assessing grant programs for nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private foundations. She has served on the boards of Americans for the Arts, Association of California Symphony Orchestras, International Performing Arts for Youth, and Western Arts Alliance, as well as on numerous national panels. To the Stars through Difficulties is her first novel.
That sounds like a great story! I want to listen in on their conversation and the books, too. Thanks for sharing!
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