A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: The 2020 Kentucky Book Festival will be a virtual trove of literary treasure

Karen Salyer McElmurray writes with a longing for home, and for her that means Kentucky. “It’s my deepest heart’s home,” is how she puts it. Both sides of her family are from the commonwealth, but she has lived in many other places. Right now residing in Maryland, she describes the feeling as “living in two worlds,” and expresses the hope that maybe when she retires, it could be in Kentucky,...

Constance Alexander: Breast cancer requires affordable care but relies on kindness of others

Twenty years ago today, Theresa Flowers stood on her porch in rural Trigg County directing me down the sporadic gravel path to the trailer she rented after the recent break-up with her long-term partner. “Right here.” She held up the palm of her hand and pointed at where to park. Unfurling the towel that was wrapped around her head, she smiled and said, “I just took a shower and my hair fell...

Constance Alexander: Preparaing for a lofty career in the field of journalism begins at home

While many of her students have lofty hopes for jobs at the Washington Post or the New York Times, Dr. Melony Shemberger, Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at Murray State University insists, “They have to get dirty in local news.” “Everything’s local,” she adds, and students in her in-depth reporting class learn the truth of that assertion through a rigorous approach...

Constance Alexander: During National Newspaper week celebrating local news starts at home

Since 2005, more than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have disappeared, leaving thousands of communities in vast news deserts. In the months of April and May alone, at least 30 newspapers closed or merged. In addition, dozens switched to online-only delivery, and thousands of journalists have been furloughed or laid off. As circulation numbers decline, readership dwindles. In our town of Murray,...

Constance Alexander: How to best define Appalachian writing? Well, that depends…

Discussion begins with one word: Appalachia. What is the proper pronunciation? Long “a” or short? The dictionary confirms there is a “latch” in the middle, but is the latch fastened or not? Is the door opened, closed, or locked? Is it an entrance, exit, or both? Is there a secret password for admission, or are tourists welcome? Answers to these questions may spark disagreement because the way...

Constance Alexander: Vigils attract mourners of all ages, nationwide, determined to prevail

But for the whisper of new moon and random dots of starlight, the night sky was soft as a bolt of black satin on Saturday night. All over America, people congregated at courthouses to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In Murray, about forty people met in front of the Calloway County Judicial Building to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Justice Ginsburg. Her passing, of course,...

Constance Alexander: Always prepared, Girl Scouts embrace fashion update, seek ‘something cooler’

Today, when a Girl Scout opens the door to her closet, she is not greeted by a sea of green. As a result of a recent fashion update, official Scouts-branded apparel now includes blue denim, black leggings, and a khaki utility vest with a notch collar, epaulet shoulders, and a gently cinched waist. With input from dozens of Scouts, a 3-person team of Fashion Institute of Technology students learned...

Constance Alexander: Author Marisel Vera’s newest offering is a tough novel with a sweet story at heart

Reading Marisel Vera’s stunning new novel, The Taste of Sugar, was the perfect way to spend Labor Day weekend. A multi-layered story of enduring love, it exposes issues around colonialism, racism, economics, and poverty confronting owners of a small family farm in the mountainous region of Utuado, Puerto Rico. In the beginning of the novel, coffee is the crop of choice. In the end it is sugar in...

Constance Alexander: With so much division in our society today, can poetry really unite America?

Probably not but it gives you something to think about. Just a day ago I asked Facebook friends to name their favorite poems. They swarmed in like horseflies — agile, biting, high on sweet nectar of the madness we call poetry Poetry Unites America, an unscripted documentary film series, is based on the premise that sharing the poetry we love most can bring us together in these days of political,...

Constance Alexander: COVID ‘artifacts’ document collective uncertainty during pandemic

All over the world, museums ache with emptiness. Curators long to hear the echoes of visitor footsteps and yearn for the bustle and chatter of gallery guides and tour groups. The Smithsonian, the Getty, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston are shuttered, while those that are welcoming guests operate within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, according to Christine Anagnos,...

Constance Alexander: Murray H.S. sophomore’s award-winning video explores Suffrage fight

Years from now, when Ella Bryant’s professional resume lists her accomplishments, note should be made of the videos she created from the time she was in middle school. Winner of the West Kentucky chapter of National Organization for Women video competition in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Women’s Suffrage — and a tenth grader at Murray High School — Ella describes those early...

Constance Alexander: Waiting for Godot is no substitute for visionary leadership

For some, the presence of the monument itself offends. Others are vexed with the likeness of Robert E. Lee. Another affront is the water fountain beneath the General, conjuring up the specter of a “Whites Only” sign. The location also raises a fundamental question: If the courthouse is a symbol of liberty and justice for all, how can a memorial of racial oppression continue to hold a place of honor...

Constance Alexander: Denied their humanity, these women of history must be remembered

The preface to DaMaris B. Hill’s new book of poems, “A Woman Bound is a Dangerous Thing,” confronts readers with a startling statistic: “Between 1980 and 2015 the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700%.” As indicated in the book’s sub-title – The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland – DaMaris Hill stands in solidarity with the...

Constance Alexander: Join in 30th anniversary celebration of Americans with Disabilities Act

If you need a diversion from the pandemic, talk to Carrissa Johnson. She runs the local office of the Center for Accessible Living (CAL), and wants everyone to join in the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Enacted on Aug. 26, 1990, and inspired by the legal concepts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA protects people with disabilities against discrimination,...

Constance Alexander: Discussing the topic of race relations means not hitting the snooze button

On June 25, the Murray City Council voted unanimously to recommend to the Calloway County Judge-Executive that the statue of a Confederate soldier in the likeness of General Robert E. Lee — which has commandeered the courthouse square since 1917 – be removed from the courthouse property and relocated to an appropriate venue. Three weeks later another unanimous resolution passed; this one signed...

Constance Alexander: The ups and downs of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton make your heart scream

Days and nights on the Coronacoaster are filled with ups and downs. According to one definition, “One day you’re loving your bubble, doing workouts and baking sourdough; the next you’re crying, drinking wine for breakfast and missing people you don’t even like.” In these turbulent times, the rules keep changing. Mask or no mask? To test or not to test? Social distancing: Fact or fiction?...

Constance Alexander: Author Roberta George’s debut novel ‘The Day’s Heat’ is hot stuff

Best birthday present this year was discovering that a friend from long ago, Roberta George, had her first novel published at eighty. “There’s still time,” I said to myself, nervously measuring the years to four score and naught, wondering if I can make the leap the way Roberta did. We’d met in the early 1980s at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont. Described in the current...

Constance Alexander: What we are actually talking about when we talk about race

The other night, the City Council of Murray unanimously passed a resolution recommending to the Calloway County judge-executive that the statue of a Confederate soldier – in the likeness of General Robert E. Lee – be removed from the courthouse property and relocated to an appropriate venue. In the discussion leading up to the vote, council member Alice Rouse emphasized the difference between removing...

Constance Alexander: WKy NOW invites grades 6–12 to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage

Except for smudges of white clouds that blur the glare of afternoon sun, the sky is blue as the eye of eternity. Along with a few slender evergreens discreetly pointing to heaven, sturdy clapboard houses claim the distant background. In the foreground, the courthouse square is thronged with a raucous crowd. A few stovepipe hats blend with other old-fashioned details, but the vitality of this small-town...

Constance Alexander: Katerina Stoykova’s ‘Second Skin’ tackles the serious and sobering through poetry

“How Are You Feeling, Child?” is the question that haunts Katerina Stoykova’s newest book of poems, “Second Skin.” The three main characters in this collection – mother, father, child – are as tight as a clenched fist and as detached as severed limbs. Deeply embedded in the poems, domestic violence is not merely a metaphor, but a recurring horror in the life of the child whose mother...