Mansfield Reads! has featured Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times best-sellers and Texas legends. So how can they top that?
With Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, actress and comedian Fannie Flagg, who will be the star attraction at Mansfield’s version of One City, One Book this spring, sponsored by the Friends of the Mansfield Public Library.
The free event -- which asks the community to read the same book -- will be held at 6 p.m. April 24.
“Every year, we say ‘How are we going to top this?’” said Paula Highfill, past president of the Friends. “Probably name-wise, this is one of our biggest. We’ve had Sandra Brown, so it’s hard to top that name-wise.”
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Flagg’s newest book, New York Times best-seller “The All-Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion” published in July 2014, will be the featured novel this year. Readers and film-goers probably know Flagg best by her 1997 novel, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” which was made into a feature film in 1991. Flagg, who wrote the screenplay, was nominated for an Academy Award for her adaptation.
She is also an actress and comedian, who has appeared in feature films like “Grease” and “Crazy in Alabama,” and on television in “Match Game” and “Candid Camera.”
“Obviously, she has the personality for the event,” Highfill said. “As popular as she is, some of our younger members don’t know who she is. As soon as we say ‘Fried Green Tomatoes,’ they know who she is.”
Her other New York Times best-sellers include “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man,” “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven,” “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl,” “Standing in the Rainbow,” “I Still Dream About You” and “A Redbird Christmas.”
The Alabama native is known for her quirky characters and down-home, warm stories that can inspire tears and laughter. “The All Girls Filling Station’s Final Reunion” has both. The tale follows a pair of story lines. Sookie Poole, a sweet Southern lady, is looking for some peace and quiet despite her meddling mother, but instead finds out something about her past that changes the way she thinks of herself and leads her to discover more. The other story follows a tight-knit Polish family in Pulaski, Wis., through World War II. The four daughters are left to run the family filling station after the men head off to war, and soon find even more adventure, flying planes with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
The novel follows the girls as they train in Sweetwater, Texas, which is based on true stories from the female pilots.
“We contacted (Flagg’s) rep and she said she was thrilled that we chose this book and was excited to come to Mansfield,” Highfill said.
The author, date and time have been set for the free event, which will include an interview with Flagg and book signing, but the location is still up in the air. Traditionally, the Friends have hosted the event at the Mansfield Public Library, but the crowds have packed the facility, leaving many of the guests standing among the stacks of books.
“We want the venue to be special as well,” said Jenny Elliott, Friends vice president and chairperson for Mansfield Reads! “We want a bigger crowd and we’re going to have to find a bigger place.”
Elliott said she also hopes with the advance publicity that local women who were involved with the WASP program will come forward with artifacts or memories that can be shared.
The group will mark its 12th annual Mansfield Reads! this spring, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Friends of the Mansfield Public Library.
“When (Mansfield Reads!) first got started, we didn’t intend for it to be an annual event,” said Carol Ann Grantham, president of the Friends.
The first event featured San Angelo native Elmer Kelton, who has been named the Greatest Western Writer of all time by the Western Writers of America. Mansfield Reads! also has featured Pulitzer Prize winner H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, who wrote “Friday Night Lights,” and Brown, who has written 70 New York Times best-sellers.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451
How you know her:
- Appeared in feature films “Grease,” “Five Easy Pieces,” “Crazy in Alabama,” “Stay Hungry”
- Wrote novel and screenplay for “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe”
- Regular guest on “Match Game”
- Co-host on “Candid Camera”
- Regular on “The New Dick Van Dyke Show”