Book Title: Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short
Author: Jan Risher
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 312 pages
Genre: Memoir/collection of essays that create a narrative
Publisher: Sans Souci Press, imprint of University of Louisiana Press
Release date: Oct 9, 2018
Tour dates: Dec 3 to 14, 2018
Content Rating: G
Jan Risher took the long way to get from Mississippi to Louisiana with stops in between in Slovakia, Mexica, China, Burkina Faso and more than 40 other countries. Since moving to Louisiana, she has been a Sunday columnist for The Daily Advertiser and has written a column every single Sunday since 2002.
Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short is the collection of columns written over 15 years. Arranged in chronological order, the collection creates a narrative of one woman's aim to build her family, build up her community and weave the stories and lessons learned from the past into the present.
From her family's move to Louisiana, adoption of a daughter from China, covering Hurricane Katrina, travels near and far, author Jan Risher attempts, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, to do her small part to make the world a better place.
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Meet the Author:
Jan Risher is an award-winning journalist and investigative reporter. She was managing editor of The Times of Acadiana. Before and after her time as a full-time journalist, she was an English teacher. She has taught English near and far, in its most basic and most lyrical forms. She continues her career as a freelance writer and now owns Shift Key, a content marketing and public relations firm. She, her husband and their two daughters have made their home on the banks of the Vermilion River.
Connect with Jan: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram
Of time travel and tea cakes
On a seemingly normal afternoon last week, I time traveled.
There were no blue police boxes or Scottish stones in sight. Even so, in an instant, I was 12 years old sitting on my great-grandmother’s sofa. It was powerful stuff, and all it took was one whiff. Like magic, the aroma transported me to another time and place.
I had just walked into a gathering of friends who wanted to celebrate my new book, Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short. As I entered the party, a friend said, “Jan, come smell this cookie and tell me what you think.”
I thought it an odd request but was happy to comply. I took the cookie she was offering and held it to my nose. In a millisecond, I knew exactly what it was — my great-grandmother’s tea cake, her trademark, go-to-almost-cookie-but-a-little-like-hard-tack that cousins, aunts, uncles and friends have taken as sustenance the world over.
Nearly 15 years ago, I shared my great-grandmother’s beloved recipe in all its wonder and lack of precise measurements in a newspaper column that I ended up including in my book, which is a collection of selected columns written over 15 years.
After a short list of ingredients, the last line of the recipe simply says, “enough flour to make a stiff dough.” Its telltale spice is nutmeg, and I suppose that’s what makes them so memorable.
I later learned that three 12-year-old girls, daughters of friends, made tea cakes. Decades will pass before these girls have the capacity to comprehend the small miracle they pulled off last week.
The product they produced is also a testament to two of my cousins who captured my great-grandmother’s recipes years ago and made a family cookbook. They recognized at a young age the value of their grandmother’s cooking. Sheila spent hours in the kitchen with her grandmother, documenting exactly how the stuff that dreams were made.
The cookies I ate last week could have easily come straight from my great-grandmother’s oven. They were identical in scent, texture and taste. Some were crunchy and some were soft. That variety is part of what made them wonderful. Every batch had an element of a surprise. I once asked my great-grandmother where she got the tea cake recipe. She told me her mother taught her to make them. To put that in perspective, her mother was born in 1874 — and three 12-year-old girls made the very same tea cakes last week.
I am grateful to all the women involved in making that moment happen, from my great-great-grandmother on down the family tree — and extending to the many beautiful flowers of friendship.
As Isaac Newton said in 1675, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I do not profess to have seen further, but I am grateful for the giants who have walked before and beside me.
In that moment of the tea cake, I felt it all.
Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers And Other Long Stories Short is a collection of stories that span the years of 2002 to 2017 written by Jan Risher. During these fifteen years time, she writes about adventures and travels she went on around the world, the process of adopting and parenting her beautiful daughter from China, the horrific events after Hurricane Katrina, and how she wants to help the world. She, also, shares about her family, friends, happy times and sad ones, celebrations, grief and loss.
Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers And Other Long Stories Short is written in a journal entry type format. Each entry is short and easy to read. I enjoyed reading about her life during this time, especially the places she saw around the world. It was intriguing to read the details of the places she went to, places I can only dream of one day visiting. It was nice to see through her eyes what it is like in those area. She made me feel like I was right there with her. It was, also, a reminder of moments that had happened during 2002 and 2017.
I am giving Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers And Other Long Stories Short three and a half stars. I think many readers would enjoy reading this book. It is definitely worth a read. Jan Risher is a talented writer and would love to read a work or fiction by her one day in the future.
I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
Ends Dec 22, 2018