Sunday, April 27, 2014

Helping students, but not without controversy


Former Chico State University President Manuel Esteban characterizes business professor Curt DeBerg as “a nonconformist, irrepressible, blunt, and undeterred by bureaucratic hurdles.” Those qualities are very much in evidence in Professor DeBerg’s detailed account, “How High Is Up? The Rise, Fall, and Redemption Of A Sam M. Walton SIFE Fellow” ($24.95 in paperback from Memoir Books; also for Amazon Kindle).

Esteban encouraged Professor DeBerg’s efforts establishing a chapter of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) on the Chico State campus. SIFE, writes DeBerg, is “one of Wal-Mart’s favorite nonprofit organizations,” a way for the corporation and its business sponsors to help college students practice free enterprise in their local communities, and also a way to train a future generation of leaders.

DeBerg advocated “service learning” which emphasized community support projects. That seemed a good fit with SIFE, and so DeBerg became a Sam Walton Fellow, named after the legendary founder of Wal-Mart.

His book details his adventures during his dozen or so years as a SIFE leader (Chico State teams became national champions and a force to be reckoned with), but DeBerg grew increasingly at odds with the organization, wanting it to be more accountable (the Fellows had little say), less Christian (and more inclusive) and less politically right-wing. As DeBerg explored his idea of SIFE teams helping less privileged high school students become entrepreneurs, there was a clash of goals, and egos, and he was kicked out.

Yet what DeBerg learned in SIFE helped him start Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE), focusing on high schools. SIFE itself changed its name to “Enactus” and instituted some of the reforms DeBerg advocated. It’s a tangled tale, more “prickly” than this review would suggest, but ultimately a vision for what DeBerg calls “humanitarian capitalism.”

The author will be discussing his book at Lyon Books in Chico on Monday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m., and will be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy’s Bookshelf Friday, May 9 at 10:00 a.m. on KCHO, Northstate Public Radio (91.7 FM).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Local writer on the drama of Good Friday


“The vigil of Good Friday,” writes Peter Hansen, “moves us all in a way no other observance does during the Christian year. We weep quietly; we mourn the tragedy of sin and its evil and destructive fruit.” Yet “those mere words in Scripture, ‘he was crucified,’ simply do not have the impact on twenty-first-century Christians that they had on first-century citizens of a Roman world, people who had witnessed these brutal executions in person and had no need for a description of such events in detail. But we do.”

What would it have been like for those involved in the scourging and execution of Jesus of Nazareth? How would those who loved him, including his mother, make sense of what was happening?

"I Was There: Eyewitnesses At The Foot Of The Cross" ($15 in paperback from WestBow Press; also for Amazon Kindle) by Peter Falconer Hansen is “my attempt to capture eyewitness experiences of people at hand—what I imagine they saw and heard, how they felt and acted, and the realizations they made through the unfolding drama. … Through the eyes of people we know were there, we share the experience of that world-changing day.”

The book can be obtained locally at Lyon Books in Chico. Signed copies are available from Father Hansen at St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church, 228 Salem in Chico; call (530) 894-7409.

The author’s dramatic inspiration comes in part from his father, Peter Franklin Hansen, who “enjoyed a fifty-year career as an actor. …; his best known character was as Lee Baldwin in the daytime drama General Hospital.” He and fellow actors would serve churches in Los Angeles by portraying various Biblical characters in a Christmas drama.

In Good Friday, darkness prevails; where is the promise of “good tidings”? In 19 personal encounters, told by the likes of Peter the disciple, Caiaphas the High Priest, Barabbas, Judas, Lazarus (the friend Jesus raised from the dead), and Mary, the promise deepens, yearning for resurrection.

And now, in Easter, “he is risen indeed!”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Local poet charts a family breakup and a tentative hope


Lisa Anina Berman received her M.A. in Creative Writing at Chico State University “as a single mother in her 40s.” Her Master’s project has now become a book, “a compilation of narrative, lyrical and form poetry that loosely follows a path of loss, recovery and redemption.” The poet’s simple words are worth pondering.

SaltWild” ($8.99 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle) is available locally at Lyon Books and the university’s Wildcat Bookstore.

The second poem, “Deep Blues,” begins with a romantic dinner in South Lake Tahoe. “Our blue eyes danced,” the poet writes, “smiles doubled,/ in lifted glasses/ of chardonnay.” Too perfect? “In deep/ layers of blues,/ I followed a false light,// and got lost in his dark.”

It’s clear that this relationship, which blossoms into marriage and family, includes something else. An addiction. In “Tahoe Haze,” “I dumped out his pain/ pills in our driveway/ while he watched,/ and I stomped/ them, pulverized them,/ to a powdery pulp,/ the color of our panic.”

Then, later, in “Phone Call From Rehab,” “The sky was numb, grey/ as a dial tone, the day my parents came// with their pickup and trailer./ My husband, in rehab// again, had just called./ ‘I told them I don’t belong here,’// he boasted, ‘everyone’s a loser.’”

And now a new chapter, and the reader is invited to “Huge Yard Sale Today!”: “I walk up to the yard sale, the things that I left him/ when I left him, spread out on tables and the sidewalk.” The poet is coming to pick up the kids “for my week.”

But life must be lived. In “My Son’s Swagger,” the poet writes: “My son, know that I would dive/ into icy waters for you/ wrestle a bear for you, and yet,/ we have to feel the pain// of our own skinned knees,/ experience the strengths and failures/ of building our own character,/ and find the armor that suits us.”

“I wanted to see Jesus/ in my cup of coffee this morning” the poet says. “I wanted to believe that/ it’s all true.// … That He teaches,/ heals,/ forgives/ me.”

Lyon Books in Chico will be hosting a reading and book signing Tuesday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A saga of young love from a Sacramento Valley novelist


The first novel from award-winning short-story writer Heather Brittain Bergstrom celebrates the tenacity of teenage love. “Steal The North” ($27.95 in hardcover from Viking; also for Amazon Kindle) tells the story of 16-year-old Emmy Nolan, sent by her mother Kate in Sacramento to eastern Washington state, there to take part in a healing ceremony for Kate’s sister.

Bethany and husband Matt are part of a fundamentalist Baptist sect; the preacher, Brother Mathias, wants the ceremony to include a young virgin. Beth has had a series of miscarriages that have ruined her health; now she is pregnant again. Kate has kept many things from Emmy, including the existence of Emmy’s aunt and uncle, but Emmy is not forthcoming either. She is no virgin.

While staying with Beth and Matt, whom she comes to love deeply, she meets a sixteen-year-old Native American named Reuben Tonasket. It’s pretty much love at first sight. In their lovemaking, Emmy and Reuben open up to each other, partly. Family secrets still abound.

Kate had grown up in the area, but her husband left her and she became a trucker’s prostitute to pay the bills. She tells Emmy that her father is dead, but that’s a lie. As Spencer, Kate’s boyfriend, puts it: “Guys like women with a little mystery. Kate had a whole sea of it inside her. I was standing on the shore.”

Each chapter is narrated by one of the main characters. In an interview Bergstrom says that “I grew up between the two largest Indian reservations in Washington State: the Colville and the Yakama reservations.” But it was a challenge to get Reuben’s narration right: “How could I possibly begin to understand what it is like to be a Native American youth? How can I possibly understand their spirituality? Their culture? Their sorrow, joy, loss, love?”

Yet Reuben, flawed human, emerges as a noble figure who must make an extraordinary sacrifice. The reader will cheer the ending, but long be haunted by the rawness of a family history laid bare and the courage of the very young.

Lyon Books in Chico will be hosting Bergstrom for a reading and book signing Thursday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m.