|TL 61:2 Book Reviews|
Crutchfield, J. (2010). Chattanooga Landmarks: Exploring the History of the Scenic City.
Crutchfield’s recently published book provides an enlightening overview of Tennessee’s “Scenic City”—Chattanooga. As a resident of that city well-versed in its history, Crutchfield masterfully weaves Chattanooga’s story of transformation through her brief descriptions of some of its most significant historic landmarks. Written in narrative style, the book captures the diversity of Chattanooga’s people and major contributions, particularly in art, commerce and industry, education, music, publishing, religion, and sports. The city’s natural wonders and strategic location in the American Civil War are also highlighted, and the book includes more than 50 fascinating photographs and other images.
The city’s landmarks are grouped geographically according to sections of the city in which they are located, and a few points of interest in nearby Georgia and other surrounding communities are included. Although the book contains no index, the Table of Contents is thoroughly detailed and lists each topic presented. A bibliography provides the more-inquisitive reader with additional resources about the various topics and the city’s history in general.
Among the unique places of interest featured are the museum commemorating Bessie Smith, who is hailed as “Empress of the Blues”; Engel Stadium, where baseball-legend Babe Ruth was struck out by 17-year-old female pitcher Jackie Mitchell in 1931; Audubon Acres, a nature preserve honoring Cherokee naturalist Spring Frog and containing the cabin in which he was born; and the Incline Railway at Lookout Mountain, noted as the world’s steepest passenger incline railway.
Although this work is not a travel booklet, it could be enhanced by including addresses to specific historical sites for readers who may be interested in visiting those locations. Nonetheless, Crutchfield has provided a valuable resource by capturing the stories of some of Chattanooga’s notable historic landmarks and events.
While not intended to be a comprehensive history of Chattanooga, the book is an important contribution to preserving the city’s local history and by enlightening others through its easy-to-read descriptions and stories. Children and adults alike will enjoy the book, and it will be most appealing to those interested in Tennessee history and visitors to the Chattanooga area. Libraries across the state that offer resources about Tennessee history and travel will find the book informative and public and school libraries in the Chattanooga area will find it a welcomed addition to their collection. Librarians can confidently recommend Crutchfield’s Chattanooga Landmarks to anyone wishing to learn more about the city’s rich history.
Curwood, Anastasia C. (2010). Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages between the Two World Wars. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 196 pages. ISBN 9780807834343.
The main premise for Curwood’s analysis of spousal relationships in African American social history is summed up in this quote from Chapter three:
Between the wars, many African-Americans believed that married black women had three responsibilities: to themselves, to their families, and to the race. Most debate over wifehood centered around the appropriate balance of these three roles.
Chapters one through three examine African American marriage at the turn of the twentieth century and what led to a change in marital ideals after World War I. In chapter two, Curwood uses theories from the Messenger magazine, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, and writer Jean Toomer to show the variety of authoritative opinion as men sought to claim increasing authority over their households after World War II. Chapter three explains contemporary thinking about new marital ideals and argues that “women themselves had a contrasting, more encompassing view of their roles.”
The final two chapters continue Curwood’s attempt to study these marriages from the inside out, again showing how idealism and reality often collided head-on with many couples buckling under the pressures to conform to the peer-defined protocols of modern marriages. Chapter five features the author’s paternal grandparents and other couples as the epitome of the author’s attempt throughout the book to demonstrate the complexity and contradictions present in an often over-looked aspect of African American history.
Although the book’s focus are the years between World War I and World War II, Curwood apparently draws on knowledge and experience as assistant professor of African American and Diaspora studies at Vanderbilt while interweaving the influence of literature, media, film, and academic scholarship of the time period into the work.
Highlights from the book include analysis of correspondence from famous historical figures, including Booker T. Washington, W.E. B. Dubois, and Zora Neale Hurston. One example details the lavish wedding Dubois’s daughter. The fairy tale wedding was the “Harlem social event of the decade.” However, the marriage only lasted a few months. Such tidbits as these--of personal marriage information prominent figures, her own family, and scholars of the day-- save this detailed, scholarly work from being too dry for the average reader.
Shelia Gaines, Access Services Librarian
DuBose, L. (2010). Re-Imagining God: A Spiritual Journey. TN: Cold River Studio. 276 pages. ISBN 9780984229864.
Brought up in the Presbyterian church in South Carolina, he felt it was “predestined” that he become a minister and for 10 years that is what he was, until one Sunday, he dropped his robes, took off his clerical collar and walked out of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Nashville, never to return. Instead he turned to the world of art and the college classroom, becoming both an artist and a member of the art faculty at George Peabody College.
It wasn’t until DuBose met his future wife, Lenda, eight years later and had thought-provoking discussions with her on religion and other topics, that he reflected over his religious past to find out if he still retained any of the religious convictions he held and tried coming to terms with the question his father had asked him several years after leaving the ministry: “Have you lost your faith?”
The answer was a complicated one. He felt that as a minister in the Presbyterian Church there was no common language between he and his congregation; that a disconnection between the words of the Christian faith and its members existed. He saw stumbling blocks in the path of Christians seeking a more meaningful spirituality. Those stumbling blocks were organized religion, authority in religion, science and religion, and the problem of evil.
DuBose believes we live in an “in-between” time. .. “an age of spiritual angst brought about by the death and decay of the traditional symbols and the language of belief.” DuBose expresses his belief that we all want and need a sense of connection, a “home” in the universe, but that we “disconnected” ourselves from nature thousands of years ago and that for us to grasp “what spirituality and religion are essentially about” we must “see them in the light of the story of human evolution” when our earliest ancestors first began to ask universal questions such as: “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?”
According to DuBose, a new story is being written, a story of connectedness, of a family including every living thing on earth. It will not be a Christian story, or a Jewish story or a Muslim story. It will be, and it must be, a story including all living things if we survive on our ever-shrinking Earth.
This thought-provoking, highly readable book is for anyone interested in faith issues. The author’s discussion of prayer, its purpose and meaning, corporate sin as opposed to individual sin, evolution, the problem of evil--all of these fuel the imaginations of anyone who has questioned the status quo, but it is the author’s own “confession of faith” that the reader may find most provocative of all.
News from the World: Stories & Essays represents a collection of short fiction and essays written from 1965-2010 by the noted author, Paula Fox. In contemporary literature, she has written in many genres and this particular collection includes two O. Henry Prize short stories, “Grace" and "The Broad Estates of Death", memoirs, and several essays. She has also authored several adult fiction titles, most recently, The God of Nightmares; her novel, Desperate Characters was made into a 1971 movie. In addition, she penned a 2001 memoir, Borrowed Finery.
Although not represented in this collection, one may remember Fox for her works in children’s literature with almost two dozen beautifully written novels including the Newbery Award winner, The Slave Dancer. At the age of 86 and living in her New York brownstone she purchased in 1970, she continues her writing for our reflection, enjoyment and wonder.
The short stories are sparely written with great economy of language while conveying the great truths of life in love, death, loneliness, and happiness. Again, using her magical style of making very few words paint full landscapes, her stories of her early life experiences enable the reader to see many places and hear people of varied backgrounds and eras; these places included New Orleans, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Hollywood. The people were a great surprise – D.H. Lawrence and Franchot Tone! But for this reviewer, the essays proved to be favorites. Some were laugh out loud funny, some quite sad; the two must reads were those on the topics of censorship (“TheStop of Truth”) using the now universal story of drawing clothes in Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, and the corruption of language (“Unquestioned Answers”).
News from the World is a “must read” for all of her loyal readers and is a great introduction to her gift for giving the world its “news” in descriptive but economical language. Although she uses her superior language skills throughout the collection, in her short fiction piece that gives the book its title, Fox demonstrates her art succinctly – “words are nets through which all truth escapes”.
Acknowledgements at the end of the book provide bibliographic information for all of the works included. News from the World: Stories and Essays, is recommended for purchase by public and academic libraries.
Gore, K. (2011). Sweet Jiminy. New York: Hyperion. 240 pages. ISBN 9781401322892.
This novel is the third book written by Kristin Gore. Yes, that Kristin Gore, the daughter of Al Gore of vice presidential fame. Gore received the Writer’s Guild of America Award in 2007 and was nominated for an Emmy in 2003 for her work as a writer for Saturday Night Live.
Breaking from her two previous novels (Sammy’s Hill and Sammy’s House) which were set at the White House, the story of Sweet Jiminy is set in Fayeville, Mississippi, a fictional small town that has not changed much over the past several decades and whose townsfolk hold on to secrets from the past. Jiminy, after quitting law school in Chicago, has gone home to her grandmother’s house in the rural south to think and decide what to do next. While she’s there she strikes up a friendship with Bo Waters who is home for the summer and happens to be the grand-nephew of her Grandmother Willa’s housekeeper. Their friendship leads to a tentative romance which is made difficult because of the townsfolk who frown on interracial relationships. Jiminy is white and Bo is black. While their families have been friends for years there is an underlying tension stemming from long ago tragedies that have not been completely forgotten. While reading an old diary she found in her grandmother’s house, Jiminy discovers that there once was another girl named Jiminy who, along with her father drowned under mysterious circumstances during the civil rights era. Jiminy is determined to find out what happened, while others wish she would just leave it alone. Before long, Jiminy finds herself threatened by those who want to keep their secrets hidden. While some things cannot be fixed, Jiminy’s efforts help to bring about long overdue justice for those involved.
Sweet Jiminy is a compelling and hauntingly written novel which deals with difficult racial issues and the healing that can come about from bringing dark secrets to light. Appealing to a wide audience, this novel will be a great addition to any fiction collection and is highly recommended for public libraries.
Holly Hebert, Librarian
This is a well-researched history of Native American wealth and the controversy it has created throughout the centuries between the early Virginia colony to the present. The author, Alexandra Harmon is an associate professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington and is the author/editor of two other books on the Indians of North America.
Each chapter covers the economic rise and fall of various Indians or tribes during several specific time periods. The first chapter tells the story of the Powhatan tribe in the early years of the Virginia colony and the clash between the Indian idea of wealth and the colonist’s expectation that the Indians should change to their culture’s concepts and standards of wealth.
Chapter two takes us into the 18th century and a time when some Cherokee, Creeks, and others intermarried with the Whites and started to amass personal fortunes using the economic knowledge of the European Americans causing controversy from both the Indians and whites.
In chapter three we see the Indian nations of the Southeast in the early 1800’s gain wealth, especially in land, only to have it taken from them during the removal. This chapter covers the debate over relocation from all points of view but shows how greed, especially for the Indian land, won over the moral viewpoint.
During the “Gilded Age” of chapter four, the Indians have been relocated and many have made some economic gains thanks to the land they now own. Again the greed for land causes the federal government to put all kinds of restrictions on the tribes, forcing allotment of the land and ultimately taking away the tribes ability to govern themselves.
The Roaring Twenties brought great wealth to the Osage Indians whose land yielded the oil the country was desperate for. But the federal government again stepped in to curb what they thought was reckless spending by the newly rich Indians by putting the money in trust and doling out an allowance to the tribes.
Chapter 6 covers the next five decades and the ongoing debate about rich Indians versus poor Indians. While no one could decide which stereotype of Native Americans was true, were they rich or poor, they finally reached a “milestone of self-determination” under the “Great Society” programs of the Johnson administration. And finally, the author comes to the present day, the Indian owned casinos and again the arguments that are still going on.
Also included is a large section of notes, a comprehensive listing of selected sources, and a more than adequate index. This is highly recommended for college and university libraries and some public libraries.
Imagine what you would do in this circumstance: You have fired a gun at the driver of a moving car. The car crashes. Do you continue driving? Bobby Hoppe did. When you find out the driver is dead the next morning, do you turn yourself in to the authorities? Bobby Hoppe waited nearly thirty-one years to do so. Readers of this memoir are informed of these facts soon after opening the book. What may appear to be a fairly simple story at the outset becomes very muddled toward the end. Public libraries throughout Tennessee and beyond will have no trouble finding readers for this tale as Americans are fascinated by stories of true crime.
An All-American high school football player for Chattanooga’s Central High, Bobby fired a gun on July 20, 1957. A few months later he helped Auburn win its first national championship on the gridiron. This poignant memoir provides insight into why Bobby Hoppe did not turn himself into the authorities until he was indicted for murder.
Since the author is the protagonist’s widow, readers should not expect a nonbiased memoir and certainly do not receive one. A tad melodramatic at times – “even the songs of tree frogs or an owl’s hoot on a nearby hill were muffled” the night in July 1957 – the memoir covers Hoppe’s glory days, his guilty conscience, the fascinating trial, the trial’s outcome, and his death two weeks after work on the book began. Readers should not expect a run-of-the-mill true crime book. The authors do not attribute any positive traits to the shooting victim, Don Hudson, and Hudson’s criminal activities allow the authors to explore the bootlegging culture. Sympathy is felt for the victim’s family, but the amount of sympathy they are given pales in comparison to the praise given to Hoppe’s accomplishments and to the testaments provided of Hoppe’s agony.
The trial received attention in the local, regional, and national media. However, even those familiar with the story are likely to find one or more surprises in this tale. Bobby Hoppe is a tragic hero, and trial witnesses and lawyers are captivating characters as well. This memoir will appeal to a variety of readers; those who enjoy football, true crime, law, love stories, and mysteries. Baby Boomers will no doubt feel nostalgic by the descriptions of long gone eras and the references to cultural pleasures. Literary references pepper the entire story, and, for those unfamiliar with the story, two plot twists season the ending. As is often the case in the best of stories, questions remain unanswered at the end. Perhaps Hoppe now knows the answers to some of them.
The Typist is a first-person, fictional account of a young army typist’s experience during the Second World War’s American occupation of Japan. History books may portray this time period as a simple military endeavor, painting General MacArthur’s troops as saviors or demons, but always with a black-and-white clarity. Contradicting that kind of extreme confidence, Michael Knight’s narrator, Francis “Van” Vancleave, spends much of his time trying to decipher the more complicated motives of the other people around him- his boisterous American roommate in love with a Japanese girl; the wife he left behind whom he barely knew; and the General’s young son whom Van befriends with an unusual and spontaneous birthday present. His story is more about humanity trying to find the “right way” to feel, behave and react in foreign circumstances.
Knight, through “Van,” gives a clear image of the chaotic Tokyo, a city trying hard to balance old traditions with new Western influence in their survival of post-Hiroshima. Setting the stage with not only vivid scenery descriptions of American barracks and Japanese bars, he also litters the pages with people- pre-teen con artists, panpan girls, nervous army clerks, the rough Honor Guard, and even General “Bunny” MacArthur himself- with whom the reader identifies closely in their inner and outer conflicts like national versus personal loyalty; public versus private personas; and dealing with change.
The author teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee, but has published another novel and two collections of short stories, as well as a collection of novellas. In this novel’s acknowledgements, the reader learns Knight’s sources for such wartime accuracy, including John Dower’s Embracing Defeat and William Manchester’s American Caesar, which helps authenticate the characters’ experiences with realistic details.
Christi Underdown-DuBois, Asst. Cataloger,
This study in literary history represents the blending of criticism and insight that has been postmodernism’s greatest contributions to scholarship generally. As a field of study, postmodernism argues strenuously that what individuals and societies remember is often at the mercy of the language used to describe things. Words, as markers of understanding, can be teased apart to reveal ideas motivating an author, or illuminating views or values. In the book he “tried to identify and explore the ways simulation [memory] never quite jettisons the real thing, and vice versa” (177).
This collection of six essays about literary themes and Southern memory is grounded in fictional works, specifically those where characters’ understanding of the Southern past and the factual past seem to be at odds. The concluding essay comments on memory and perspective in the form of “alternative history” fiction. The author feels—without actually saying so—that the nature of the South as “remembered” in American fiction suggests that as time passes, “the South” is drifting inevitably toward a mythological rather than historical state (that would be “myth” as in origin story, not necessarily falsehood). “More people remember the South,” he observes, “but each one of us remembers less of the real thing so that the net result for [factual, historical realities in] southern memory is a wide spread but a meager depth” (177). He should have pointed out that the literary process he describes reflects a common evolution within humanity, not one limited merely to the Southerners or Americans. The Iliad and Odyssey both represent the end of an evolution in Greek historical/literary/cultural memory; the work of the Roman historian Livy represent midpoints in a similar process (which was never completed, thanks to the barbarian sack of Rome); most modern political memoirs represent beginning points in shaping historical/literary memory. Along the way, the author weaves in arguments over the marketable value of nostalgia, the ability for black Americans to emotionally remember and portray slavery, the ability of white Americans to emotionally remember and portray real black citizens, invocations of Southern military honor as interpretations for Vietnam, and the Caribbean connection to dance and sensuality that frightened and enticed white Americans.
This is not quite a general-reader book but important for collegiate collections, especially ones supporting graduate programs in literature. Readers of The South that Wasn’t There are expected to have a fairly good general grip of national-scale literature invoking the region. The author provides very close readings from many works, but the writing is clear and engaging and a determined adult reader can follow the arguments. Those who wish to accept heritage at face value will not appreciate this book, but those who choose reflect carefully about the nature of the human condition and importance of memory, especially in recent literature, will find the essays pose much to think about.
The story of the blues is a complex and sometimes contradictory one, mirroring as it does the African-American dilemma under the “Jim Crow” regime in the South: how to express one’s resistance and unyielding sense of self without—in the heyday of lynch mob rule—crossing the line into overt rebellion. Published as part of LSU’s “Making the Modern South” series, R. A. Lawson’s book explores the idea that blues songs reveal the social thoughts and attitudes of those who would otherwise be “historically inarticulate” because of the social restrictions of the era.
He emphasizes a particular aspect of blues history: the “counterculture” of his title was the lifestyle of the blues musicians who wandered from jook joint to house party to recording studio, living free of the constraints of the sharecropping and manual labor required of most of their black southern working class listeners. The bluesmen’s free-floating independence was their reward for what they brought with them: an expressive, musical coping device that took their and their listeners’ despair and pessimism and forged it into a “can’t go on/I’ll go on” kind of hope.
After setting the blues’ Southern stage, the book follows the story through the Great Migration of 1910-1940, the New Deal, and both world wars, showing how these events changed the lives and outlooks of blues musicians and found expression in the lyrics of their songs. Big city life in the North, public work projects, and anti-Axis patriotism didn’t solve the problem of Jim Crow, but they did enable blues musicians to see themselves as part of a larger, American whole.
With its scholarly apparatus (discography, bibliography, notes) and occasional theoretical argumentation, Jim Crow’s Counterculture is best suited for an academic library supporting coursework in American history, music history, sociology, and popular culture. However, Lawson’s style is accessible, engaging, and unquestionably suited to a wide public library audience. It is a supreme irony of history that the blues, an outsider subculture in the white supremacist Jim Crow South, turned the tables to such an extent that, as Lawson says, when it comes to popular music today, “Americans are African.” That’s a story lots of people will want to read!
In an age when funding sources are cutting budgets for libraries, it is hard presenting a return of investment in strictly quantitative terms. Kate Marek is not only a library consultant and LIS professor at Dominican University, but also a full believer in storytelling as the vital qualitative element. Organizational Storytelling for Librarians presents valid arguments for incorporating institutional tales into buy-in persuasion, preserving history, and knowledge management. Unfortunately, the text is filled more of theory and examples (from the Living Library project to the conscious remodeling of Cerritos Public Library) rather than instructions for a beginner.
Marek’s chapters focus intently on their respective topics of reframing storytelling, navigating change, building community centers, stories in architecture, and storytelling techniques, leaving them more of individual articles associated through proximity than and less by overall theme. Still, bibliographic notes complete each chapter and an index ties the whole book together for researchers’ convenience.
What little instruction Marek provides, she gleans from other experts in the storytelling field, such as Stephen Denning’s 1979 study which says that persuasion is a three-step process: 1) get the audience’s attention, usually with a problem or negative example; 2) elicit desire for a different future, usually with a positive story; and 3) reinforce with reasons and data. As much as Marek refers to favorite business authors, like Denning and Annette Simmons, her book feels like a long review of their work, simply reframed for library world.
Marek does provide some tips such as questions to help develop a particular story:
She also suggests learning to become a collector of stories rather than just a passive listener and critic. Most importantly, she stresses that actions tell stories too. Being authentic builds a foundation for one’s words. If one does not live the morals demonstrated in one’s tales, one is simply an actor, not an active, caring member of the community.
This book could be used by librarians searching for advocacy inspiration for various purposes- funding, community building, or public speaking development. As mentioned before, they would find plenty of cheerleading theory, but would have to follow the included further resources to fill in the gaps for instruction and detailed “how-to.”
A Taste of Memphis Music combines the flavor of good food with the heart of the Memphis music scene. It’s by Memphians for Memphians. The recipes are contributions from the Memphis community. Cookbook sales raise money for the Memphis Musicians Healthcare Fund. The intended audience is definitely supporters of local musicians.
The book’s layout is clear, employing major groupings of recipes for its primary organization. Its spiral bound, using a three-ring binder, which makes flipping to recipes a breeze. Each section begins with a photo related to the Memphis music scene, giving the reader an added taste of Memphis.
The book contains about 150 recipes, but unfortunately there are no pictures of the dishes. Recipes span a wide range of cuisines, from Korean to vegetarian, but don’t be surprised to find fried corn, okra, and chicken recipes. The salads section contains only one salad recipe, and many recipes call for canned goods. To be sure, these recipes certainly are not for those readers on a diet.
Novice cooks would find these recipes very accessible. They are fairly easy to make, and most ingredients can be found at regular grocery stores. I liked that I didn’t need any fancy gadgets to prepare these dishes. Most importantly, many recipes are downright tasty. The Mississippi Caviar is to die for. It’s supposed to be an appetizer, but it was so good my guests came back for second and third helpings after the main course! Meanwhile, who knew that collard greens, raisins, and orange juice could be combined to make a delectable, fancy side dish? Any cookbook that gives a new approach to collards is worth its weight in gold.
The cookbook does have limitations. Some sections contain recipes that would be better placed elsewhere, which diminishes usability. Also, cooking instructions are given in one paragraph. When the instructions are lengthy, it’s easy to lose your place while cooking. The biggest limitation is found in the recipes themselves. One particular recipe’s ingredients were simply not specific enough, which led to a lot of frustration involving chicken and pineapple.
Of note is the option to purchase a CD with the cookbook. The CD is a compilation of many different artists and genres that contribute to Memphis music. I expected to hear all blues and rock-and-roll, so I was surprised that the first track was actually rap! I listened to it while cooking and had a pleasant time grooving in the kitchen. The music is just as varied as the recipes.
A Taste of Memphis Music is not a must-have item for a cookbook collection. That being said, many recipes are easy and tasty, and the book supports a wonderful cause. These are the recipes of real people who enjoy both good food and the good music of Memphis.
Falling somewhere between a reference text and a collection of thoroughly annotated personal anecdotes, this book combines dual disciplines to form a new study of environmental history. The author is not singular in this multi-faceted genre, holding company with such professionals as a TVA biologist who consolidates professional concerns with spirituality and a psychology graduate student from University of Hawaii writing a thesis on the effect of climate change on native cultures. In this particular text, Ouchley portrays attitudes and experiences of military and civilian writers drawn from journals, letters and published works of the late 19th Century, using their own words and phrases to illustrate his observations.
Working as a biologist, Ouchley managed national wildlife refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 30 years. Interestingly, the Afterward downplays the devastation and loss implied in the majority of the text, stating there are no documental cases of “historical extinctions” during the time period investigated, other than in very sensitive and specialized ecosystems like caves. He writes, “otherwise, the Civil War caused no long-term impacts to flora and fauna of the region” (p. 195) and the four year impact of trampling military hoards was less dramatic than an intense hurricane. Still, his text is filled with environmental lessons, tracing the attitude shift of human superiority in sport and wanton waste to the budding activism of naturalists, who pushed ideas of contemporary preservation into 20th century.
As a good reference book, the monograph contains not only the categorized sections divided between plants and animals listed in alphabetical order, but also notes, bibliography and an index. The Afterward reads like the researcher’s concluding article, following the research organized and listed in the previous pages.
Although artistic sketches for each entry, like those found in such nature guidebooks as Firefox and Audubon Society, would have been helpful to visualize the experiences of those reporting from over a century ago, a section of photographs, collected from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division was a helpful additive. They illustrated interactions between humans and their environment as well as the words themselves.
As is the case with some multi-disciplined works, an intended audience may be difficult to identify. The publisher’s classification indicates that adults browsing Civil War History and/or Environmental Studies would find this text appealing. Still, an armchair scholar from a public library would probably find more enlightenment rather than a campus intellectual in an academic institution.
The History Press was founded in 2004 and features numerous series that celebrate America’s past, including books on folklore, hauntings, disaster, murder, legends, foods, histories and guides, and more. The author of this guide is an attorney and founder of the Memphis tour company, Backbeat Tours (www.backbeattours.com). He is also a poet and author of short stories. His familiarity with Memphis’ historical neighborhoods, as well as professional writing experience, equips him to write a book that is both enjoyable and informative.
A Guide to Historic Downtown Memphis divides the area into eleven distinct neighborhoods, with an additional chapter for significant buildings outside those neighborhoods. The guide includes a ten-page historical introduction that chronicles the Native American habitation, the founding of Memphis in 1826, and the city’s struggles during the Civil War, the yellow fever epidemics, and the Civil Rights movement, ending with its current financial success through such major developers as FedEx. The chapters serve as tours and include a street map of each area being discussed. Using personal photographs and those housed at the Memphis and Shelby County Room of the Memphis Public Library and Information Center, the author encourages the reader to visualize the culture of a by-gone era. The book ends with a two-page “Suggested Reading” section.
As a newcomer to Memphis, I was intrigued by the book and have used it in my own explorations of Memphis. It is an excellent source for historical context, architectural interest, and understanding of political and musical influences that have made Memphis what it is today. Each chapter opens with a brief explanation of the importance of the area and then proceeds building-by-building through the neighborhoods. There is no subject left out as the guide pays tribute to theaters, time-honored eating establishments and saloons, churches, schools, and financial institutions.
As a historian, the only addition I would have liked would have been footnotes within the articles related to the stories and civic events. However, understanding that this book serves as a guide and was not intended to be a scholarly work, the reader must be content in following up with the suggested sources and consulting microfilmed newspapers at local libraries for more information. The book would be a great addition to libraries and archives in the area, Chambers of Commerce, and personal libraries of local history buffs and anyone interested in the history of the City of Memphis.
Dr. Pam Dennis
There is an adage that “pictures don’t lie;” we assume that a camera is an unbiased witness because it captures the immediate moment—what “really happened” in front of the lens. Here the author reminds us that that cameras and photos can and do shape truth because they are tools, snagging a fragment of experience without showing what occurs beyond the specific focal distance. Once the fragment is captured, photographs lose evidential strength but gain cultural power since a photo can mean different things. Photos are thus subjective rather than objective. “The photograph,” she explains, “imposes a unitary vision and helps fix the meaning of that which it records. It provides the illusion of seeing an event in its entirety as it truly happened” (4).
Raiford brings a savvy interdisciplinary eye to an often overlooked aspect of modern culture: how did the decision to document experiences photographically, create and direct the way we study civil rights movements through those visual documents? The book explains how using pictures to tell stories in turn shaped the larger right struggles that used them, and partly determined what future students could understand about those movements. Activists’ official photographers occupied overlapping roles. Photographers functioned as activists, using images to motivate viewers. Second, they served as social documentarians, portraying what was happening within the movement and in its surroundings, not merely their message. Third, they were commercial journalists, overtly capturing compelling and well-composed images for the news market. Raiford addresses three twentieth century rights movements: the anti-lynching drive of the 1920s, the mainstream civil rights movements 1950–70, and the Black Power movement (specifically the Black Panther Party) in the late 1960s and 1970s. Each effort used and was shaped by the images it set before the public.
She correctly uses “dialectic” for the ongoing development of ideas about records and their meaning. The message a photographer’s image intends may be reshaped by later students as they look at images from their own experience and through assumptions they inherit. An image of a black body hanging from a tree became not just the record of an event but an icon invested with broader meaning, one that could be (and was) invoked to give different messages at different times or in different hands. The meanings of photographs (and of photography itself) shifted as social discourse did. Visual messages were adapted as a narrative and documentary device, but adopting the visual medium shaped the way that freedom movements composed their message and structured their activities.
This is a sophisticated study, well above the useful level for public libraries. The work is most appropriate for collections serving academic graduate programs in media studies, journalism, modern America, or black history. Readers will benefit most if they understand basic arguments of postmodernism and media criticism, but it is a compelling work unlike anything else presently offered in the field’s scholarship.
Grady is an orphan who spent most of his life on the road in a traveling show. He is also, as he’s quick to admit, one of the ugliest people on the island of Corenwald. This suits the show’s owner, Floyd, just fine, as Floyd’s show happens to feature “a genuine he-feechie, alive and in the flesh!” The two travel Corenwald, Floyd giving lectures on his trip into and safely out of the Feechiefen Swamp, and Grady posing as the swamp creature itself.
This business proves to be quite lucrative, for Floyd at least. Problems occur, though, when the village audiences slowly stop believing in feechies. Before long, Grady and Floyd find themselves in a village fight, with the feechie show becoming the ultimate loser.
Their show in ruins, Floyd and Grady embark on a series of new ventures, with Grady constantly getting the worst of the bargain. Grady considers giving up show business for village life, but he continues on with the hope that his real family is somewhere on the island. Little does he know that Floyd’s newest scheme, inciting a new Great Feechie Scare, might lead him straight to the truth of his past.
The novel is written in first-person from Grady’s perspective. His Appalachian/American South dialect sets a comedic tone which contrasts nicely with the deeper theme of loneliness, preventing it from falling into melancholy. Grady is immensely affable and sees only the best in everyone, even the less than palatable Floyd. His views on life, tinged by both innocence and a street worldliness, are often surprising in their depth.
Those who have not read Rogers’s Wilderking trilogy—also set in Corenwald—may spend most of the book wondering about the setting. The island mirrors the Southeast and Midwest around the mid-nineteenth century, giving rise to a concern that it could have been set just as easily in the real world. That question is answered toward the end of the book, although some readers may tune out before that point.
The book is marked as both young adult and fantasy, but it really sits on the fringe of both of these genres. This works in its favor, as it will attract adult readers as quickly as young adults. The promised sequel will likely contain much more fantasy than this novel, which will credit it to both regular readers and newcomers to the genre.
Rogers’s Georgia upbringing and Tennessee education are readily apparent in the world he has created. This would be a fine addition to any public, secondary school, or academic collection, especially those with emphasis on the works of Tennessee authors.
One of the defining characteristics of Southern culture is recreation. Whether it involves spending an evening sitting on the front porch conversing with friends and family, attending a big-time college football game or the time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing, southerners derive both enjoyment and a sense of identity from their leisure activities. Volume 16 of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, edited by University of Mississippi professor Charles Reagan Wilson, provides a comprehensive, well-organized guide to recreation in the south.
In the volume’s introductory essay, written by John Shelton Reed, Benjamin K. Hunnicutt, and Harvey H. Jackson III, the authors explore the South’s historical relationship with sports and leisure. After surveying historical debates about the meaning of leisure and work in American and especially Southern history, the authors assert that the ways Southerners choose to spend their free time reveals essential truths about culture, both past and present, in the South. The rest of the volume, which is divided into two sections, supports the authors’ claims. The first section provides detailed examinations of numerous recreational activities. Few subjects are left out; activities as diverse as noodling (catching catfish with one’s bare hands), Civil War reenactments, college and pro football, and square dancing are explored in exquisite detail by the volume’s contributors. The second section offers entries on specific individuals, organizations, vacation spots, important holidays, and other important facets of recreational culture in the South. Each subject’s entry usually provides a historical overview; for example, the entry on NASCAR details the sport’s origins in the illicit moonshine trade, which of course necessitated a certain skill for fast driving as a means of outrunning the authorities. The entries, as one might expect, are arranged alphabetically, allowing readers to browse leisurely or search for a specific subject. Each entry includes suggestions for further reading, a useful tool for those wanting to learn more about debutantes, the Annual Interstate Mullet Toss (a fish-tossing contest held at the Flora-Bama Lounge), or legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson.
This volume would be a worthy addition both to academic and public libraries. Almost all of the contributors are university professors who approach their subject matter with insight and humor, where appropriate. Despite the academic character of its contributors, the volume’s entries are accessible both to academics and laypeople alike. Anyone seeking a reference guide to sports and recreation in the South will find this a valuable resource, because true to the introduction’s promise, one comes away from reading this volume with a more complete understanding of Southern culture. The fact that Southerners seemingly tend to prefer inexpensive activities such as “picking sessions” (in which bluegrass musicians attempt to outdo each other) and “porch-sitting” to the costlier preferences of other Americans suggests an underlying continuity with a simpler past, when poor Southern farmers had little money but lots of downtime, much of which was spent conversing with family and neighbors. Of course, the volume’s entries also remind us that in recent times the South is no longer the stereotypical antebellum rural land of old, but rather a complex, highly populated and yet still distinct part of the United States. The NFL’s expansion into Southern cities (New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, and Jacksonville) beginning in the 1960s, the construction of Disney World in Orlando, Florida as one of the world’s premier theme parks, and the fact that millions of tourists from around the nation and world flock to southern historic sites and national parks, including Hot Springs and the Great Smoky Mountains are only a few examples illustrating the fact that the modern South, still full of its own idiosyncrasies, is a land of rich culture, natural beauty, and great economic potential.
Aaron D. Horton
If you have ever wondered how to make homemade wine, build a fence, wrangle goats, or grow potatoes from those alien looking sprouts that appear after the potato sits out to long…then this is the book for you! But this isn’t a book about farming and gardening; it’s about so much more. It’s about life, coming to terms with its ups and downs and respecting your fellow man. Cancer, Alzheimer’s (referred to as “All Timers”), adolescence and religion all play an important role in memories shared. The text is composed of bite-sized vignettes as full of cultural flavor as the “Tommy Toes” (Cherry Tomatoes) she describes in Chapter Two. Any southerner, native or transplant, will connect to this book, they will hear sayings, see events and feel a commonality to Billy, Renea and their friends and family.
One word of warning about this book; the author possesses strong opinions on religion and raising children. She is very open about sharing them, almost to the point of shaming those who don’t agree. Overall the book is enjoyable but on several occasions I found myself a bit irked at the author’s assumption that people who share a differing viewpoint are somehow flawed. She is more than welcome to her views, and what better place to air them that her own book, but it comes across as somewhat heavy-handed.
Nominated for the 2011 SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) Award for nonfiction, this book would shine at any public library but I can also see it being useful in academic libraries. School libraries could consider it if they serve an older student population (middle and high school). This book is especially attuned to southern culture and “old time” ways. If churches or nursing homes have libraries this is one title I would highly recommend adding to the collection. Because of the small size of the chapters this book would also be perfect for the reader without much dedicated time to read. Most chapters range from 3-5 pages each.
Renea Winchester is a Georgia based author and in 2011 she was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year. She was also awarded the 2010 Denny Plattner Award for Non-Fiction for her work “Remembering.” In addition to In the Garden with Billy she has also published A Cup of Comfort for the Families Touched by Alzheimer’s as well as multiple short stories and essays. She writes for several blogs and websites. You can find her online at www.reneawinchester.com.