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McIntyre Library to host B.J. Hollars book release March 28

March 20, 2013
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B.J. Hollars

EAU CLAIRE — McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host a local book release and reading from Assistant Professor of English B.J. Hollars' newest book, "Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa," at 5 p.m. March 28.

The reading will be held in the Special Collections and Archives Department on the library's fifth floor. Copies of the book will be available for sale and signing by the author. The event is free and open to the public.

"Opening the Doors" is Hollars' second book on the issues of race and civil rights in the South. It provides an all-encompassing account of the University of Alabama's 1956 and 1963 desegregation attempts, as well as the never-before-reported-story of Tuscaloosa, Alabama's own civil rights movement.

Hollars, who received a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alabama, said his time spent there was the source of inspiration to write "Opening the Doors."

"I spent four years at the University of Alabama, and for three of those years, I had little to no understanding about the university's difficult history regarding desegregation," Hollars said. "I soon learned that my students knew relatively little about it as well. I wanted to try to change that, so I wrote the book."

"Opening the Doors" tells the story of three African-American students who risked their lives to desegregate a southern university, as well as the story of a core group of reverends and townspeople — black and white — who worked together to overcome inequalities throughout the 1960s, Hollars said.

How does it feel to complete and release a second book?

"It feels great," Hollars said. "After years spent writing and researching, there's no better reward than having the opportunity to share your work with others."

Hollars' ongoing work includes essay writing as well as a project more closely tied to Eau Claire.

"I've recently become fascinated with our complex relationship with our natural surroundings — our rivers, in particular," Hollars said. "They're so beautiful, but they're also so dangerous. And so, for the past year or so I've been writing dispatches about drownings that occurred in or around this region around the turn of the century."

Hollars also is the author of "Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence, and the Last Lynching in America" — the 2012 recipient of the Society of Midland Author's Award — and his debut short story collection, "Sightings: Stories," will be released March 25.

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ME/JP

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