Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Books: November 2009

Close Encounters of an Undocumented Kind

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Next month, the Spanish edition of Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives is coming to bookshelves near you. Edited by Peter Orner, Underground America is the third installment of McSweeney's Voice of Witness series. It consists of 24 first person accounts from one of the most silenced groups in America: undocumented immigrants.

According to the 2006-2008 state censuses, 66.1 percent (plus or minus 3,628 people) of the 167,159 foreign-born Kansas residents are not U.S. citizens. Even with Lou Dobbs off the air, undocumented immigrants, who account for four percent of the total Kansas population, are still seen by a large group of people as foreign opportunists, preying on the innocent United States of America.

But, as Underground America reveals time and time again, this couldn't be further from the truth. And this truth hits close to home.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Fredonia native Tom Wiggans' entry into the Kansas Governor's race came this week as I was reading a remarkable book about the brain drain that afflicts states like Kansas.

Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America, by Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas classifies small towners like Wiggans into four categories: The Achievers, The Stayers, The Seekers, and The Returners.

The problem with small towns is that their #1 export is their "Achievers" like Tom Wiggans. Born and bred in Fredonia, an Eagle Scout and KU graduate, Tom Wiggans personifies the achiever who leaves the state due to limited opportunities. Wiggans went on to make great contributions in producing life-saving medicines.

Wiggans' recent return to his home state of Kansas puts him in a second category, according to Carr and Kefalas: Tom Wiggans is also a "a Returner," and a particular type of returner: a "High-Flyer" - one who succeeded elsewhere but returns to Kansas with a wide list of accomplishments.

Sound Reporting

BASEHOR, Kan.- I've stumbled on what has become a valuable resource for me as a citizen journalist, particularly for those times when I'll want to talk with someone directly in an interview.

A recent book entitled, Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production, has a wealth of information, tips and techniques, and personal accounts about "getting the story" from the NPR reporters we hear on public radio every day. Author Jonathan Kern is the Executive Producer for Training at NPR, and he has worked in almost every position in radio news, including executive producer of NPR's All Things Considered.

Now, before you dismiss the book as something you don't want to bother with because it's about audio recordings and radio, keep in mind that the majority of the book deals with topics contained in chapters that Kern titles "Fairness," "Reporting," "Field Producing," "Story Editing," "The Reporter-Host Two-Way," "Hosting," and "Beyond Radio," among others. So the material has terrific value for those times when you want to venture into direct interviews, rather than reporting what others have already written.

charles-darwin.jpgHAYS, Kan. - Does Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species need a special introduction? At least one man, creationist Ray Comfort thinks so. On Thursday, November 19, mere days before the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's work, evangelical Christians, led by Comfort, plan to distribute more than 100,000 free copies of Charles Darwin's seminal work on the theory of evolution on college campuses.

These copies include a "special introduction" by Comfort which claims, among other things, that evolution is scientifically false and that Darwin was a misogynist racist whose ideas inspired Hitler. In addition to the 100,000 books that creationists will distribute on campuses, another 70,000 of these "special" editions have been purchased by churches and individuals for further distribution to students. According to the creationist website,, "In one day, 170,000 future doctors, lawyers and politicians will freely get information about Intelligent Design (and the gospel) placed directly into their hands!"

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Over 150 people filled Congregation Beth Torah in Prairie Village on Tuesday 3 November to hear Jeff Sharlet author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The event was sponsored by the MAINstream Coalition.

Sam Brownback
Sharlet writes about the intersection of religion, politics and culture - an area of keen interests to many Kansans as we have "a bumper crop of politicians who do it wrong."

In 2006, Sharlet wrote God's Senator for RollingStone magazine, which was one of the first in-depth looks at the religious fanaticism of Sam Brownback. Brownback was raised a Methodist, but has gone from that tradition to evangelical Protestantism to Roman Catholicism (he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church by members of Opus Dei, but is not himself a member of that organization). His affiliation with "The Family" goes back to his days as an aide to Senator Bob Dole and as such is longer than any of his affiliations to a particular religious group.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Sam Tanenhaus' book The Death of Conservatism is a scholarly and academic view of classical conservatism, and how today's self-described conservatives are far removed from classical conservativism.

Tanenhaus considers Edmund Burke and Disraeli as the definers of what conservatism really is. Politicians and writers like Dwight Eisenhower, Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Nancy Kassebaum would be considered "classic conservatives."

Classic conservatives basically believe that government can be used to make a better society. They aim to keep what's good about government, and discard what the government doesn't do well. Classic conservatives believe that big corporations should be supervised, and that government is a benign force, if supervised and pruned back properly. Classic conservatives embrace our country as it is, but may want to make some adjustments here and there.

The "movement conservatives" of today believe that government is a malignant tumor that should be killed off in toto by cutting off the blood supply - tax dollars. The new conservatives believe in no real supervision of big business, that "the market knows best." The new conservatives believe "we've lost our country" and must find it.

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Books: October 2009. The next archive is Books: December 2009.

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Books: November 2009 section.

The previous archive is Books: October 2009. The next archive is Books: December 2009.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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