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What do crayfish, church buggies, and a Bayou Christmas have in common? All are things you could be Queen of in the state of Louisiana. Regions across the country proudly tout their specialties through annual festivals and fairs, along the way appointing ambitious young ambassadors to spread their holy gospel – be it of yams or catfish. Think you can handle the duties that come with the highly sought-after title of Swine Queen? After reading David Valdes Greenwood’s new book, The Rhinestone Sisterhood: A Journey Through Small-Town America, One Tiara at a Time (May 2010; Crown Publishing), you’ll be thinking again.
With over 130 festivals annually, Louisiana loves its celebrations – and its Queens. But these are hardly bikini-wearing, mechanical-answering, perfect-bodied women. There’s Frog Queen Chelsea – the five-foot pixie who knows how to pose with Kermit while handling the possibility that he might just pee on her; Kristen, the confident Cattle Queen who has ambitions of getting her PhD in psychology; Lauren, the vivacious Fur Queen whose duties help distract her from her parents’ recent divorce and sister’s hospitalization; and Brandi, the quiet Queen Cotton, who despite fluctuating weight and self-confidence has overcome her struggle to become seasoned festival royalty.
As they negotiate their time during the week among full-time jobs, college classes, on-again/off-again boyfriends, and family, their weekends are spent bouncing throughout the state acting as spokeswomen at neighboring festivals – duties which may include milking cows, sporting a homemade potato sack ensemble, sitting atop a parade float for two hours in the Louisiana’s summer heat, or wrestling a Vaseline-covered pig to the ground.
Valdez Greenwood takes us through a year in the life of a festival queen – from Chelsea’s win at Frog to the state’s grand event – the Queen of Queens pageant. Despite an initial opinion that this book is all sunshine sparkling off rhinestones, Valdes Greenwood proves life atop the parade float isn’t so easy. Being Queen doesn’t make you immune to the universal consequences that come with underage drinking or crippling migraines. But as if that isn’t enough, there’s mean-spirited internet message boards gossiping about how you probably rigged the whole thing. What if the town that hosts your festival barely exists after a devastating hurricane? You might even have a stalker.
Full of vibrant and strong-willed characters, The Rhinestone Sisterhood takes you on a boisterous ride through high-spirited communities, local tradition, and the pride and perils of life as a Queen. While at times the glitter may seem to spill off the page, in the moment, you can’t help but be delighted by it, as Valdes Greenwood has made you fall completely for these girls. He artfully navigates the space between being too close and too distant to his subjects, giving the reader just the right view of the narrative, while still intertwining moments of festival history and pageant politics. This charming portrait of small town life through its young women might just encourage a trip to next year’s Giant Omelette Celebration.
Win a copy of The Rhinestone Sisterhood!
Interested in reading The Rhinestone Sisterhood? Become our friend on GoodReads! Don’t know about GoodReads? It’s a social networking site that allows book lovers to share their favorite finds.
To enter our giveaway, join our Book Smarts group on GoodReads, and leave us a comment in the discussion titled, “What book has most inspired you – and why?” If you tell us what book has most inspired you ON GOODREADS by 11:59 p.m. on May 31st, you’ll be entered to win a free copy of The Rhinestone Sisterhood!
And, don’t forgot to check out ModCloth’s bookstore for some more unique and fun reads!
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Tales from Margaritavilla by Jimmy Buffet. It reminded me that life is too short to not to live your dream and to GO FOR IT!
Love ModCloth and Love Rhinestone Sisterhood! It was such a fun book and a great choice for book of the month.
As a Louisiana native, I can tell you that this is no joke. We love festivals and pageants! XD
One of my favorite books is Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends”. Silly rhymes inspire me to enjoy life and laugh, plain and simple.
The Culting of Brands: When customers become true believers, by Douglas Atkin. I have referenced it so many times in busincess settings, religious debates, sociology discussions, etc. Really made an impact.
I’m currently reading “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” by Oliver Sacks, an extremely interesting collection of wonderous tales and fantasic fiction of curious, uncommon and mysterious cases dealt with and researched by Dr. Oliver Sacks. It is an aged book now but was reccomended to me by my dad who has read a great deal of wonderful books in his time.
I’d recomend it to anyone, even if you’re not into the sciences, it’ll get your mind going crazy and your imagination whirring. 🙂
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. No book has every made me appreciate my life as that one. I can truly say it changed my perspective on how fortunate I am to live the life I lead. I will never take things for granted again!
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