A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Those who make the choice not to read have no advantage over those who can’t

In 1986, the Graves County school district banned the reading of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” based on the charge that it was offensive, obscene, and took the Lord’s name in vain. The ban was later reversed after negative media attention and intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union, but the next year the Faulkner novel was again the target of a proposed ban in Somerset, Kentucky....

Constance Alexander: Author Janice Morgan’s new memoir reveals addiction, recovery are a family affair

Something is out of kilter on the cover of Janice Morgan’s memoir, “Suspended Sentence.” The landscape is a-tilt. A human figure with outstretched arms balances on a thin beam. One misstep and the person will fall. The sky above is partially obscured by tree branches, but there is enough light to keep moving forward. The image presents an apt metaphor for the book, and the copy on the cover makes...

Constance Alexander: FBI historian to share family stories, great moments at annual Easley Lecture

At age four, when the rest of us were playing in the sandbox and learning to tie our shoes, Douglas Charles was paying attention to history in the making. He even remembers the 1976 bicentennial in detail, including a picnic, carnival games, and the blue plastic tri-cornered hat he wore as he watched the fireworks over the local elementary school. His appreciation for family stories developed at an...

Constance Alexander: With a little help from their friends, libraries continue to improve communities

Like most friends of public libraries, Wayne Onkst is an unabashed bibliophile. As an author, historian, and advocate for literacy, he is proud of Kentucky libraries. “Kentucky has done a good job of establishing a statewide system,” he said. “In 1950, the legislature passed a law that provided for the neutrality of libraries, outside of county government,” he explained, also mentioning the...

Constance Alexander: Being reminded of what work really is and whether we appreciate it enough

In my New Jersey hometown, the Duchess Diner was the main hang out for teenagers. Next door from the Dairy Queen, catty-corner from the Four Seasons Pool Hall, and a couple of blocks off Main Street, the location was strategic. Our parents hated it. We probably spent more time in the parking lot than anywhere else. We talked with friends, kidded around, boys and girls subtly checking each other out...

Constance Alexander: Six-year old has good advice for those who meet her little brother, ‘just say hi’

Malena Lindberg, six years old, is all smiles until someone gives her baby brother Max the stink eye. Max has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and is considered medically fragile. Unlike his twin brother, Major, Max relies on daily skilled intervention and special accommodation to make sure he is safe and comfortable. According to Malena, some people don’t know how to react when they see a two-year-old...

Constance Alexander: August’s ‘dog days’ revive memories of summers without air conditioning

In the days before air conditioning, every family had its strategies for coping with the heat. In my house, winter’s heavy damask drapes were replaced with fluttery sheers, and blinds were slanted at half-mast to keep the sun from beating in.  Sisal rugs that tickled the bottoms of bare feet were substituted for the orientals that were whisked away to cold storage by the time school was out. Upstairs,...

Constance Alexander: Exhibition celebrates mason’s gift of coaxing stones into telling their stories

Stones are a reminder of our mortality. Beneath their silence lies the possibility of continents shifting imperceptibly for eons, with the potential to reshape the universe in one dramatic eruption. You just never know. When a stone reveals its secrets, a master mason like Russ Dawson knows how to listen and observe. Scott Shupe, who served as a helper on a few of Dawson’s earlier projects, remembers...

Constance Alexander: Forgoing the miracle of Fancy Farm by staying close to home for some reflection

Along with the 19,500 pounds of barbecue served up at the annual Fancy Farm picnic, there is enough hot air to lift the tiny town of 500 aloft. In just one day, the local population balloons to 10,000, and St. Jerome Catholic Church raises enough money to support church projects and finance local improvements. The raucous proceedings are not exactly the kind of thing one might associate with a saint....

Constance Alexander: Beloved Kentucky writer Jesse Stuart will open your eyes; just read one of his books

In 1954, beloved Kentucky writer Jesse Stuart made a presentation to a full house of teachers in Lovett Auditorium on the Murray State College campus. Afterward, as people lined to meet him and praise his works, he didn’t have time for pleasantries. He was in a hurry. His career was just starting to take off big-time, and a chartered plane was waiting to take him to another gig in Southern Illinois. Suddenly,...

Constance Alexander: One small step toward history in the making; now, how about creating a better world

If it weren’t for my brother-in-law, I would have missed the moon landing in 1969. I was spending the summer with my sister Jeanne and her husband, David. They lived in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Haight-Ashbury was hot, Janis Joplin was still singing, and the Berkeley Barb newspaper was the nexus between free speech and free sex. We, of course, were not part of that scene. My sister was a librarian...

Constance Alexander: Historian Jill Lepore’s book chronicles life of ‘Anonymous’ woman named Jane

A few days into my brand new job at AT&T, I was called into the Division Manager’s office for a chat. He complimented me on my taste in clothes and my demeanor, assuring me I would do well in the corporate world if I learned to smile more. He framed his parting words as fatherly advice. “Don’t be one of those women’s libbers.” That was more than thirty years ago, and I like to think...

Constance Alexander: Celebrating a birthday happy, healthy, and blessed and marveling in life’s miracles

Celebrated my birthday last week, July 1, same day as the births of Princess Diana, Olivia De Havilland, Tommy Dorsey, and Esteé Lauder. The day also marked the invention of sunglasses in China in the year 1200, and the start of the bloody Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. In 1898, the Rough Riders stormed San Juan Hill, and in 1916 Ike and Mamie Eisenhower said “I do” in Denver, Colorado. On the...

Constance Alexander: Keeping up with Murray Center for Accessible Living’s Carrissa Johnson isn’t easy

Watch out! Carrissa Johnson, Manager of Murray’s Center for Accessible Living (CAL), is a woman who moves fast. Keeping up with her requires stamina, but every encounter is filled with good information, good humor, and good news. The Center for Accessible Living is Kentucky’s first independent Living Center with offices in Louisville and Murray, offering services across the state. In Murray, Carrissa...

Constance Alexander: Genetic eye disorder leads biologist to alternative ways to see the world

When he was a farm boy growing up in rural Iowa, John Pollpeter was like most kids. He played Little League baseball and golf and was a mid-halfback in football. And living close to the Mississippi River provided adventures in the great outdoors. He was fascinated by animals, mammals especially, and that turned into a lifelong passion. Around the time he was supposed to get his driver’s license,...

Constance Alexander: Veteran Hopkinsville journalist says there is no substitute for shoe leather reporting

“People who leave great footprints in the community do that just by showing up.”  Leaving great footprints starts with showing up So says Jennifer P. Brown, a Hopkinsville woman who knows about getting things done. The veteran journalist illustrates her point by telling a story about an editor assigning a young reporter to the courthouse beat. When the rookie asks, “Do you want me to go online?”...

Constance Alexander: Asking the right questions prepares students for careers that don’t yet exist

A surefire way to ignite a spark of indignation into Taylor Clements’ brown eyes is to call him a “Math Person.” True, he graduated from Murray State University with a major in Mathematics, but he also minored in music, played trumpet in the Racer Band, and was a Resident Counselor in the Commonwealth Honors Academy program. He did not define himself according to his major. He remembers his mother’s...

Constance Alexander: Murray State University’s CHA offers an uncommon wealth of millennial talent

For the past three years, I’ve been honored to be a faculty member of Murray State University’s Commonwealth Honors Academy (CHA), which was launched in 2001. Every year as I’ve watched teens arrive on campus, I have been struck by the differences between the Baby Boomers of my youth and Gen Z post-Millennials. While we frittered our summers away when we were that age, these kids are...

Constance Alexander: Doris Day, a paragon of ‘good girl’ virtue that many young women aspired to be

C. Alexander_Doris Day
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as middle school. In fact, grades six, seven, and eight might have been called Purgatory because those adolescent years were somewhere between heaven and hell. Pre-teen girls were filled with giggles and tears, aching with non-specific longings and precise aversions. We were curious about things the nuns called “near occasions of sin,” but uncertain...

Constance Alexander: AIR program helps small towns strengthen community, economy

I, wife of a coffin maker, have no idea where I will be buried, or even if I want a final resting place. These days, I’m leaning toward cremation, with ashes to be scattered maybe on Cape Cod, or else strewn from the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. So when a classmate at a workshop I attended this week declares, “From the time I was 8 or 9, I knew where I would be buried,” it caught my attention. The...