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Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
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Week of November 7, 2019
The Commonplace Book | Read This! | Okra Picks | Southern Indie Bestsellers | Events
{Write what's true, not what's pretty.}
In which Ms. Constance Lombardo believes everybody has a right to their own voice, Ms. Jaki Shelton Green takes a selfie with the red hats in a Biscuitville, and Mr. Wiley Cash remembers Ernest J. Gaines.


Dearest Readers

"There will always be men struggling to change, and there will always be those who are controlled by the past" —Ernest J. Gaines

Southern Book PrizeWhen her ladyship, the editor, sat down to write her letter for this week's newsletter, she began with "Another beloved Southern voice has fallen silent..."

And then she stopped.

"A voice lost" is the phrase her ladyship habitually uses when she has to write about the passing of a beloved author. She has used when remembering Kay Byers. She used it to talk about Harper Lee and Maya Angelou. She used it earlier this year when writing about Charles F. Price and Toni Morrison. So when her ladyship read, with deep sorrow, the news that Ernest J. Gaines had died she opened her laptop and almost automatically typed "Another beloved Southern voice has been lost..." and then something in her rebelled. It's not true, she sat there thinking. Gaines's voice is not lost. He is not silent. His books are right there, on your shelf, and they are still speaking to you. You only have to look at them to bring up the memory of stories they tell, the landscape and the images of people they describe so ruthlessly and so lovingly. Just the sight of them on the shelf evokes the force of what you felt reading them. Ernest J. Gaines will never be silent.

"Even before visiting False River, I knew this landscape held a holy place in Gaines’s heart, but after that morning in the cemetery, I understood that it also held a holy place in his fiction. I was standing on the land where the century-old Miss Jane Pittman had talked to oak trees, where the hardened schoolteacher from A Lesson Before Dying had decided that even a condemned man is worth saving" -- Wiley Cash, remembering Ernest J. Gaines.

Wiley Cash, the 2020 Conroy Legacy Award recipient and author of The Last Ballad,
once described a similar feeling when he wrote about his long friendship with Gaines, which began when he dug up a copy of Bloodline as a college student: "Two decades later, when I think about the book, an early passage from the story “The Sky Is Gray” still comes to mind." That serendipitous story set Cash on the lengthy path that would result in his breakout novel A Land More Kind Than Home -- a story that in large part exists because of what he learned from Gaines: "Write what's true, not what's pretty."

Ernest J. Gaines will never write another book, and we are the poorer for it. But he is still with us, in the voice of Jane Pittman, Tante Lou, Candy Marshall, Jefferson, Grant Wiggins. His voice is not silent and it is not lost.

Meet Ernest J. Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying A Gathering of Old MenThe Autobiography of Miss Jane PittmanCatherine CarmierOf Love and Dust
The Tragedy of Brady SimsIn My Father's House


Read independently, and shop local.

her ladyship, the editar
her ladyship, the editor
Lady Banks' Pick of the Week
Lady Banks' Commonplace Book
Excerpted noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.


Lifestyles of Gods and MonstersYOU WILL HAVE SEEN THEM, I SUPPOSE. THE GRAINY pictures, taken with a long telephoto lens. It has been fourteen years, but they still shock.
She has a face that everyone knows. Beautiful. Determinedly blond. Curated. The tabloid writers say, “Never a hair out of place.”

In the series of paparazzi shots, she strides across the pasture. No Photoshop. No airbrush. No filters. It is a long walk, and the photographers got her from every angle. As always, she is trim, tanned, and toned (another favorite tabloid description).

If her sheet of golden hair and blue eyes are familiar, her expression is not. Usually her face in pictures is cool and composed.

Icy. In these, she is ravenous.

She never could hide how she felt about that bull.

--Emily Roberson, Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019)

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Bobbie Pyron Talks to Constance Lombardo

Constance LombardoConstance Lombardo’s debut picture book, Everybody Says Meow, publishes on November 5. She is the author/illustrator of the middle grade Mr. Puffball books, and lives in Asheville.

Bobbie: In your house, does everybody say “meow”?

Constance: Some say ‘meow’. Others say ‘woof,’ ‘tweet,’ ‘guinea pig noise,’ and ‘Mom, what’s for dinner’?

Bobbie: How was working on this picture book different from your middle grade novels?

Constance: I love MG novels, but picture books hold an extra special place in my heart. It’s like writing poetry, in a way, because every word counts. And every page has to make a splash, visually and textually, and lead naturally into the next, which must be both surprising and inevitable. Also, the thought of parents and librarians reading Everybody Says Meow to young children and (hopefully) making them laugh… that makes me SO happy!

Bobbie: Your Mr. Puffball illustrations are black and white, while EVERYBODY SAYS MEOW is full color. What was that like? Did you obsess over getting just the right colors for your illustrations?

Everybody Says Meow Mr. Puffball Escape from Culinary Island

Constance: Black and white is definitely my comfort zone. Working with color, (in traditional media – pen and watercolor) was a thrilling challenge, especially finding the right colors and keeping it consistent.

For example, I conceived Myrtle (the MC, whose name is never mentioned in this book of few words,) as pink. I tried every possible pink, until my wise Art Director said, ‘Maybe she should just be a gentle grey.’ I got out my Payne’s Grey, added water, and… Bingo!

"The image of a bossy kitten trying to get everybody to say meow popped into my head. As I developed it, the idea of everybody’s right to their own voice became clear."

Bobbie: Reviewers have said that MEOW is a book that celebrates diversity and inclusiveness. Did you have that theme in mind when you started writing? Or were you mostly thinking about cats (and ducks, and frogs)?

Constance: This book began with our quiet kitten Gandalf. When I fed him and our talkative older cat, Myrtle, she would MEOW like wild, while he simply stared. (adorable!) To encourage him to talk, I started saying, “See? Everybody says meow!”

The image of a bossy kitten trying to get everybody to say meow popped into my head. As I developed it, the idea of everybody’s right to their own voice became clear. So it evolved organically from my kitten inspiration and my personal beliefs.  

Bobbie: What illustrators and authors inspire you?

Constance: So many! Some contemporary author/illustrators who inspire me include Sergio Ruzzier, Lauren Child, David Ezra Stein, and Jillian Tamaki (especially This One Summer.) Also, Emil Ferris, whose My Favorite Thing is Monsters proves beyond a doubt that illustration is Art. (w a capital A.)

This One Summer My Favorite Thing is Monsters

Bobbie: When you got your BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University, did you think you’d end up illustrating children’s books?

Constance: I imagined doing illustrations for album covers. (Remember those?) I never thought about kids books until my kid was born (now 16.) I rediscovered my love of Arnold Lobel, Beatrix Potter, and William Steig. The rest is history. Or will be in a few decades.

Bobbie: What’s next for you?

Constance: My news is I’m learning how to use Procreate on the iPad. Digital art is more fun than I imagined. Thankfully, my teen helps me, when he’s in the mood to talk to me (infrequently.)

Bobbie: Finally, I have to ask: are you ever going to write a dog book?

Constance: Now that I have an old sweetheart of a beagle, signs point to yes (to quote the Magic 8 Ball.) The bigger question is: any editors out there looking for a book about an old, stubborn, but kind-hearted beagle with a nose for solving mysteries?

Constance Lombardo is an author, illustrator, and cat expert who can say meow in several languages. She is the creator of a middle grade series, Mr. Puffball, about a clever group of Hollywood cats. Stick Dog creator Tom Watson called Mr. Puffball “freaky, furry, and first-rate fun!” When she isn’t drawing or writing, Constance likes to visit the many waterfalls in Western North Carolina or rummage through Asheville’s local indie bookstores. Plus, she likes carrot cake. Visit her at

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Read This! Books with Street Cred
Recommended reading from Southern Indie Booksellers

The Deep by Rivers SolomonThis book's concept is absolutely mind-boggling to me, having never heard of Drexciya or Clipping before now. It's incredible, and I hope this game of "artistic Telephone" does continue - imagine this as a film! The world of the wajinru is fascinating and I would love to learn more about the society they've created for themselves, especially how it functions after the ending of the book.This book is a must for anyone interested in history and trauma and how they affect communities lifetimes later.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon ($19.99*, Gallery / Saga Press), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.


In the Dream House by Carmen Maria MachadoI have never read a book quite like IN THE DREAM HOUSE: fragmented, yet shatteringly cohesive, experimental, yet utterly confident in its own project. I was mesmerized by the subtly devastating force of Machado’s craft and could barely put the memoir down. (In fact, I will probably re-read it as soon I finish writing this review.) IN THE DREAM HOUSE is both heartbreakingly honest—grounded in Machado’s lived trauma—and breathtaking in its examination of queerness, abuse, and societal memory.Part poetry and part socio-cultural analysis, yet wholly personal, IN THE DREAM HOUSE is one of the bravest literary projects I have encountered, and should be required reading for every one of us.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado ($26.00*, Graywolf Press), recommended by Flyleaf Books, Raleigh, NC.


Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles ShelburneHeartbreaking. That's the first word that comes to my mind in describing Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's "Holding On To Nothing". And I do mean that in the best way that a book can be heartbreaking. As I ravenously consumed page after page of the story in the lives of Jeptha and Lucy, I couldn't help but crack my heart open to the two of them as I joined their journey from distant acquaintances to partners in life. Shelburne's deeply nuanced portrayal of present day Appalachia takes a macro to micro approach. As we learn about her characters, Shelburne accepts the stereotypes her readers come with, but slowly peels back the layers to ultimately prove that we all come into the world the same, but that prejudice, judgement, and alienation create the monsters we presume are already there. If you want characters to cheer for, read this book. If you want to be surrounded by a rich and vaguely familiar backdrop of people and places, read this book. If you want to cry, either a little or a lot, for people you know in your brain are fictitious but can sense in your heart are very real, read this book.

Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne ($25.95*, Blair), recommended by Novel, Memphis, TN.


More bookseller recommendations
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News of a literary nature

The Dutch House"Things are good in the indie bookseller world, she says. Such stores have always been in touch with their communities, and the events now considered vital for survival come naturally. “We tend to be creative people."


keep reading: How a thriving indie bookstore is taking on Amazon's bricks-and-mortar insurgence


Feeding the Light"It’s the connectedness of my humanity wherever I go. I remember once years ago, I asked a student, ‘Where are you from?’ and he said, ‘Every where I have ever been.’ That line struck me then and I was like, ‘woah, you are absolutely right.'"


keep reading: Jaki Shelton Greene: Art helps us meet in the middle


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The Okra Picks: The Fall Season


Southern Independent booksellers have chosen the 2019 Fall Okra Picks – a collection of the best forthcoming Southern books of the season. Add a bit of tasty reading to your literary diet. Serve yourself a helping of Okra Picks.


"A modern retelling of Greek myth, centering on Ariadne and Theseus, this story is as brutal as the original. But the brutality is entirely fitting, centered around reality TV. Mythology fans will enjoy the retelling and those unfamiliar will certainly find the story enthralling. " —Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Rosewell, GA

Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters by Emily RobersonGreek mythology meets the Kardashians in Emily Roberson's Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters, a fresh, fast-paced debut young adult novel about celebrity culture, family dynamics, and finding love amidst it all.

Sixteen-year-old Ariadne's whole life is curated and shared with the world. Her royal family's entertainment empire is beloved by the tabloids, all over social media, and the hottest thing on television. The biggest moneymaker? The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means endless glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won.

When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him to victory, she doesn't expect to fall for him. He might be acting interested in her just to boost ratings. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she helps him, she doesn't just endanger her family's empire—the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving.

Ariadne's every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, so how can she find a way to forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?

Farrar Straus and Giroux | 9780374310622 | October 22, 2019 | Read the first chapter

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Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending November 3. Books on the Southern Indie Bestseller List that are southern in nature or have been recently recommended by southern indie booksellers.


Southern Indie Bestsellers

See the full list here.
The Southern Book Prize | A SIBA Okra Pick
Special to the Southern List | Read This Next!
Printable versions (PDF): Hardcover | Paperback | Children's

1. The Guardians
John Grisham, Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385544184
2. The Dutch House
Ann Patchett, Harper, $27.99, 9780062963673
3. The Water Dancer
Ta-Nehisi Coates, One World, $28, 9780399590597
4. Where the Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens, Putnam, $26, 9780735219090
5. Blue Moon
Lee Child, Delacorte Press, $28.99, 9780399593543

1. Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown, $30, 9780316478526
2. Catch and Kill
Ronan Farrow, Little Brown, $30, 9780316486637
3. The Body
Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $30, 9780385539302
4. Blowout
Rachel Maddow, Crown, $30, 9780525575474
5. Me
Elton John, Holt, $30, 9781250147608
Special to the Southern List
The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street Karen White, Berkley, $26,Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy Cassandra King Conroy, Morrow, $24.99,Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie Carly Simon, FSG, $27,The Book of Gutsy Women Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, S&S, $35,Three Days at the Brink: FDR's Daring Gamble to Win World War II Bret Baier, Catherine Whitney, Morrow, $28.99,Nothing Fancy Alison Roman, Clarkson Potter, $32.5,The Pioneers David McCullough, S&S, $30,Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War S.C. Gwynne, Scribner, $32,Becoming Michelle Obama, Crown, $32.50,All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr, Scribner, $17,News of the World Paulette Jiles, Morrow, $15.99,The Cockroach Ian McEwan, Anchor, $11,A Well-Behaved Woman Therese Anne Fowler, St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99,Celestial Bodies Jokha Alharthi, Catapult, $16.95,The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America Matt Kracht, Chronicle, $15.95,The Flame Leonard Cohen, Picador, $18,These Truths: A History of the United States Jill Lepore, Norton, $19.95,Churchill: Walking with Destiny Andrew Roberts, Penguin, $24,Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk Jon Krakauer, Anchor, $15,Empire of the Summer Moon S.C. Gwynne, Scribner, $17,Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents Pete Souza, Voracious, $19.99,Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! Mike Lowery, Orchard Books, $16.99,
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What's happening at Southern Indies across the South?
See the full calendar | Find a Southern Indie Bookstore near you.

Author Event: Brian Biswas  (author appearance)
Brian Biswas | 11/09/2019, 02:00 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Robert W. Doubek - Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial  (author appearance)
Robert W. Doubek | 11/10/2019, 2:00 PM | Page & Palette | Fairhope, AL

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton in Conversation with Shay Youngblood for The Revisioners  (author appearance)
Margaret Wilkerson Sexton | 11/10/2019, 06:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Lauren Polly presents The Other Side of Bipolar  (author appearance)
Lauren Polly | 11/10/2019, 2:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Cassandra King Conroy | 11/11/2019, 8:00 PM | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Charles D. Thompson, Jr., seeks justice for rural communities in GOING OVER HOME  (author appearance)
Charles D. Thompson | 11/11/2019, 7:00 PM | Flyleaf Books | Chapel Hill, NC

Book Signing & Talk • Donna Baker & Susan Reynolds Event Description Join us as we welcome Donna Baker and Susan Reynolds to Ernest & Hadley Books!   (author appearance)
Donna Baker | 11/12/2019, 04:30 pm | Ernest & Hadley Booksellers | Tuscaloosa, AL

John Sledge - The Gulf of Mexico, A Maritime History  (author appearance)
John Sledge | 11/12/2019, 6:00 PM | Page & Palette | Fairhope, AL

Andrea L. Dennis: Rap on Trial  (author appearance)
Andrea Dennis | 11/12/2019, 6:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

A Culinary History of Atlanta  (author appearance)
Akila Sankar McConnell | 11/12/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Florence Jumonville Book Signing  (author appearance)
Florence Jumonville | 11/12/2019, 6:00 PM | Garden District Book Shop | New Orleans, LA

John L. Cox signs Setting Parents Free  (author appearance)
John Cox | 11/12/2019, 5:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's new novel THE REVISIONERS explores relationships among women across generations  (author appearance)
Margaret Wilkerson Sexton | 11/12/2019, 7:00 PM | Flyleaf Books | Chapel Hill, NC

Children's Storytime  (author appearance)
11/12/2019, 10:30 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Susan Cushman - Friends of the Library  (author appearance)
Susan Cushman | 11/13/2019, 3:00 PM | Page & Palette | Fairhope, AL

Poetry Slam  (author appearance)
11/13/2019, 6:00 PM | Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read | Fort Smith, AR

Ashley Morgan  (author appearance)
Ashley Morgan | 11/13/2019, 7:00 PM | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

This is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession  (author appearance)
Cameron Dezen | 11/13/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Miki Pfeffer - A New Orleans Author in Mark Twain's Court: Letters from Grace King's New England Sojourns - launch  (author appearance)
Miki Pfeffer | 11/13/2019, 6:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Steve Robertson signs Stark Villians  (author appearance)
Steve Robertson | 11/13/2019, 5:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Catherine Carter Poetry Reading  (author appearance)
Catherine Carter | 11/13/2019, 6:30 PM | City Lights Bookstore | Sylva, NC

Emily Wallace presents Road Sides  (author appearance)
Emily Wallace | 11/13/2019, 7:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

John Lane and David Hale: Neighborhood Hawks  (author appearance)
John Lane | 11/14/2019, 6:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

Jillian Weise Presents: Cyborg Detective  (author appearance)
Jillian Weise | 11/14/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Sean Brock signs South  (author appearance)
Sean Brock | 11/14/2019, 5:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Mythology collides with reality TV in LIFESTYLES OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Emily Roberson  (author appearance)
Emily Robertson | 11/14/2019, 7:00 PM | Flyleaf Books | Chapel Hill, NC

Author Event: Dixie Gamble  (author appearance)
Dixie Gamble | 11/14/2019, 06:30 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Jane Gabin presents The Paris Photo  (author appearance)
Jane Gabin | 11/14/2019, 7:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia  (author appearance)
Rose McLarney | 11/15/2019, 6:30 PM | Avid Bookshop | Athens, GA

Mab Segrest Presents: Memoir of A Race Traitor: Fighting Racism in the American South  (author appearance)
Mab Segrest | 11/15/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Speaking of Feminism! Rachel Seidman in Conversation with Rep. Park Cannon and E.D. Kwajelyn Jackson  (author appearance)
Rachel Seidman | 11/15/2019, 07:30 pm | Charis Books & More | Decatur, GA

Andrea Beaty signs SOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ  (author appearance)
Andrea Beaty | 11/15/2019, 4:00 PM | Square Books | Oxford, MS

Children's Storytime  (author appearance)
11/15/2019, 10:30 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Paul Crenshaw AUTHOR EVENT  (author appearance)
Paul Crenshaw | 11/16/2019, 4pm | Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read | Fort Smith, AR

Chere Sampson  (author appearance)
Chere Sampson | 11/16/2019, 2:30 PM | Books & Books, Inc. | Coral Gables, FL

Janet Taylor-Perry signs Head Count  (author appearance)
Janet Taylor-Perry | 11/16/2019, 2:00 PM | Lemuria Books | Jackson, MS

Mary Ricketson Poetry Reading with Host Catherine Carter  (author appearance)
Mary Ricketson | 11/16/2019, 3:00 PM | City Lights Bookstore | Sylva, NC

"Naughty Noel" Book Launch  (author appearance)
Christine D. Page | 11/16/2019, 4:00 PM | Firestorm Books & Coffee | Asheville, NC

Charles Ludington & Matthew Morse Booker, Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates  (author appearance)
Charles Ludington | 11/16/2019, 4:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Anne Byrne, Skillet Love: From Steak to Cake, More Than 150 recipes in One Cast Iron Pan, in conversation with Sheri Castle  (author appearance)
Anne Byrne | 11/16/2019, 11:00 AM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Conversation with Mesha Maren, Sugar Run, and M. Randal O'Wain, Meander Belt: Family Loss and Coming of Age in the Working Class South  (author appearance)
M. Randal O'Wain | 11/16/2019, 2:00 PM | McIntyre's Books | Pittsboro, NC

Author Event: Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne  (author appearance)
Elizabeth Chiles | 11/16/2019, 02:00 pm | Page 158 Books | Wake Forest, NC

Charbria White presents Single & Satisfied  (author appearance)
Charbira White | 11/16/2019, 2:00 PM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Alison Klakowicz presents Mommys Big Red Monster Truck  (author appearance)
Alison Klakowicz | 11/16/2019, 11:00 AM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Jules Feiffer in conversation with Michael Tisserand at Improv New Orleans  (author appearance)
Jules Feiffer | 11/9/2019, 7:00 PM | Octavia Books | New Orleans, LA

Jen Thomas Book Signing and Reading  (author appearance)
Jen Thomas | 11/9/2019, 3:00 PM | City Lights Bookstore | Sylva, NC

Tori Eldridge introduces a modern woman warrior in THE NINJA DAUGHTER  (author appearance)
Tori Eldridge | 11/9/2019, 2:00 PM | Flyleaf Books | Chapel Hill, NC

Cat Warren presents What the Dog Knows  (author appearance)
Cat Warren | 11/9/2019, 11:00 AM | Park Road Books | Charlotte, NC

Authors Round the South |
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