Childers, S. B. (2013). Shake Terribly the Earth : Stories from an Appalachian Family. Athens: Ohio University Press. 197 pages. ISBN 9780821420614 (hardback); ISBN 9780821420621 (pb); ISBN 9780821444689 (electronic).
Shake Terribly the Earth : Stories from an Appalachian Family is the tenth volume in Ohio University’s series, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Appalachia. In this memoir, Childers, currently a writer in residence at Earlham College, seeks to share with readers the history and heritage of her own family and how their lives, values, and paths continue to influence her own life choices and values. With a title derived from Isaiah 2:19-21, the reader is immediately alerted to the influences of “old-time” religion on the family members and on the author herself; in the fifteen stories Childers takes us on a journey of her family’s colorful history. The essays cover such subjects as the indelible influence of mothers, a very unusual grandmother (don’t we all have one?), an “invisible” boyfriend, and the process of developing one’s faith in God. A complex family tree at the beginning of the collection attempts to navigate readers through the complicated relationships. Some of the essays are quite humorous while others are quite the opposite.
Most of the stories are brief with the longest essay being the title entry of the collection. “Shake Terribly the Earth,” in which Sarah relates how her fierce desire for “the one” ultimately leads to a long distance relationship with someone she never meets, is bizarre and devastatingly sad. This reader was at once furious with the author while at the same time wanting to comfort her and bring that terrible anonymous person to account.
All this being said, while this volume appears to be a faithful memoir of an Appalachian family, the writing is weak in spite of potentially interesting stories. Specifically, the language does not propel the reader to the end of the story to find out what happens to important and vital characters. This Appalachian memoir is not a necessary purchase and is recommended only for those public and academic libraries that collect similar items.
Sandra C. Clariday, Professor & Associate Dean for Library & Information Services Merner Pfeiffer Library, Tennessee Wesleyan College
Dunn, D. (2013). The Civil War in Southern Appalachian Methodism. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. 264 pages. ISBN: 9781621900016
A civil war had been raging in the Methodist church long before the first shots in the War Between the States rang out in 1861. Slavery and its consequences were causing divides in all American institutions, but East Tennessee and Methodism in particular were microcosms of that strife. This new treatment by the late Dr. Durwood Dunn, professor of history at Tennessee Wesleyan College and scholar of Appalachian history, exposes the split in the church as well as tells the stories of the ministers who championed the antislavery message even when it was not popular to do so.
Methodism by its very nature opposed slavery; in fact, Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, called the institution “that execrable sum of all villainies.” In Methodism’s early days there were two types of ministers: itinerant preachers and local preachers. As tensions mounted before the war, certain of the itinerant preachers, usually appointed by the bishop to various wealthy urban locations, began to relax in their views against slavery due to influence by prominent constituents who owned slaves. The local preachers, on the other hand, were staunchly Unionist and opposed slavery. From 1844 until 1939, the church was split into the Methodist Episcopal Church-North and the Methodist Episcopal Church-South. And among Southern states, it was only in East Tennessee that some Methodist churches sided with the ME Church-North with its anti-slavery stance. Adding fuel to the fire was William G. “Parson” Brownlow, newspaper editor and itinerant preacher, who switched from pro-South to pro-Union and tried to destroy the ME Church–South. While at Emory & Henry College, Ephraim Emerson Wiley was educating student ministers to be pro-slavery.
Dunn was ultimately a storyteller, and the tales he unearthed for this fascinating and highly readable account will curl your hair. Many local ministers preached against slavery and were consequently harassed by Confederate sympathizers. For example, William Henry Harrison Duggan was forced to march at gunpoint for miles until he collapsed, and Levi Carter was brutally murdered, his eyes gouged out and put on display. Dunn combed through Holston Conference quarterly meeting minutes and found that before the war, blacks and whites attended church together at Holston Methodist churches, with a number of black men serving as local preachers. After the war, a separate Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was created.
Dr. Dunn is a renowned scholar of Appalachian and Southern history. His other books, Cades Cove: The Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community 1818-1837 (UT Press’s best seller!) and An Abolitionist in the Appalachian South: Ezekiel Birdseye on Slavery, Capitalism, and Separate Statehood in East Tenessee, 1841-1846 are classics of Appalachian history, as this new book will surely be. The book has lengthy notes and appendices. Recommended for all academic and public Civil War, Appalachian and religious history collections.
Julie Adams, Professor and Associate Director of the Library Tennessee Wesleyan College
I confess that I had reservations about reading Thorazine Beach—I imagined a lurid plot involving sordid drug dealings, but I was wrong. Instead, Thorazine Beach, winner of the 35th International 3-Day Novel Contest, is an edgy mystery that takes place in Memphis, Tennessee.
The main character is Jack Minyard, a contract private detective who does the “tacky” work for Red Line Investigations. In other words, Jack’s assignments consist of “Anything that might get dirt on your shoes, dirt on your reputation, dirt in your mind, anything that might make you trip in the dark or even see something unseemly…” (p. 25). In Thorazine Beach, Jack uses his special skills to unofficially help an ambitious police officer (with a preference for tailor-made shirts from England) shut down a sex trafficking ring run by some highly visible members of the Memphis community.
Harris excels at creating characters that readers care about. Jack Minyard is past his prime—he’s a pill-popping alcoholic who is overweight, over sixty, and living at the Admiral Benbow Inn since his marriage ended. But he is also smart, quick-witted, and excels at trading wisecracks with the other characters; consequently, readers will find themselves rooting for him to succeed in solving the case and putting his life back together. The novel is also populated with interesting women: Nikki Jenks serves coffee at the Starbucks with hearty doses of sarcasm and literary trivia; Mrs. Patel, manager of the Admiral Benbow Inn, guards supplies and Jack’s privacy with equal passion; and Eileen Leckie, an ex-cop, is Jack’s employer and concerned friend. Harris’s vivid descriptions even bring Memphis to life. This reader particularly enjoyed the description of Summer Avenue and its Starbucks (described as a “go-through-the motion farce, casting biscotti before the biscuits-and-gravy crowd” (p 14)) and the contrasting differences between neighborhoods like South Memphis and Collierville .
Bradley Harris is a Canadian writer, editor, and teacher who is currently residing in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the only writer to have won the 3-Day Novel Contest twice; his first novel, Ruby Ruby, won the 21st annual competition in 1998. His other works include prizewinning short stories and a dramatic play. His new novel, Thorazine Beach, is recommended for public libraries where detective fiction is popular.
Kathy Campbell East Tennessee State University
hooks, b. (2012). Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. 88 pages. ISBN: 9780813136691
bell hooks is an acclaimed author and a very vocal advocate for feminist rights. hooks is widely known for boldly speaking about issues such as, racism, politics, classism and other topics that some Americans shy away from in order to remain socially acceptable. Contrary to the social injustices she so often writes about, hooks’ new poetry book, Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place, gives the reader a poetic reflection of her childhood growing up in the Kentucky Appalachians. hooks’ poetry connects the reader by expressing the freedoms she felt as well as her connections to her ancestors while growing up in the hills of the Appalachians.
The point of view is written from the eyes of an African American child. Because she is writing from childhood memories, the imagery in this book of poetry comes off as raw and pure. bell hooks creates the perfect mental images of animals, smells, people, and landscapes. She also captures the reader’s feelings by describing a post-antebellum way of life for those living in that area during her childhood.
Elegies are meant to be melancholy, and hooks succeeds by making this piece far from cheery. She lyrically expresses the inherited grief of a time before her and the healing brought on from her childhood experiences that helped to shaped her into the “wild” and free woman of today. The lines of each of the passages are very short. Also, the flows of the poems are transitioned by her reflections of a variety of moods, embedded memories, and unforgettable scenes.
I would recommend this book to both academic and public libraries that are looking to expand their poetry collections to include elegies. In addition, this is a good selection for libraries wanting to add to or start a new collection of bell hooks’ material. Lastly, this will also be a good selection for librarians wanting to add perspective pieces to their Appalachian history collections.
Dorcas Davis, Lambuth Campus Librarian University of Memphis
Kanon. T (2014). Tennesseans at War 1812-1815: Andrew Jackson, the Creek War, and the Battle of New Orleans. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 263 pages. ISBN: 9780817318291
Like the Korean War, the War of 1812 has often been overlooked by historians and the general public. Sometimes referred to as the “Second War of Independence,” the conflict served for many Americans (as well as the British) as an affirmation of the young nation’s ability to defend itself. No battle in the War of 1812 was more memorable than Andrew Jackson’s victory in New Orleans, fought on January 8, 1815, a couple of weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had officially ended the war. Tom Kanon’s Tennesseans at War reconstructs the Southern theater of the conflict, culminating in Jackson’s triumph, focusing on the role Tennessean soldiers and politicians played in the war and its tremendous impact on the history of the state.
The War of 1812 overlapped with the Creek War, a conflict between frontier states such as Tennessee and the Red Stick Creeks, who fought violently against white expansion. In response to a series of attacks against frontier settlements in Western Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, Tennessee governor Willie Blount raised an army of militiamen, led by Jackson, to subdue the hostile Indians. According to Kanon, who draws extensively from private and official correspondence, Tennesseans volunteered in large numbers because many felt an obligation to live up to the legacy of their revolutionary forefathers by proving their mettle in combat. Kanon argues that Tennessee militiamen, not to mention Jackson, a native of the state, played a pivotal role in the expansion of the young United States by acquiring over 20 million acres of land from the Creeks, which led to a new wave of white settlement in Mississippi and especially Alabama. Furthermore, Jackson’s victory against the British in New Orleans, aided by those same Tennessee militiamen, left Americans with an overwhelmingly positive sense of patriotism and confidence in their young nation’s ability to win wars, and would eventually land the temperamental but incredibly popular general in the White House.
This work is intended for academic readership, though general readers who are interested in Andrew Jackson, the War of 1812, and Tennessee history will also appreciate the work. Both academic and public libraries in Tennessee should consider this book, as it is a heavily-documented but accessible contribution to our knowledge of the state’s early history. Kanon, an archivist for the Tennessee State Library and Archives, has utilized a vast wealth of documentation to produce a quality and in-depth analysis of the great role Tennesseans played in a crucial but often-overlooked American war.
Aaron D. Horton Assistant Professor of History Alabama State University
Knight, J. R. (2014). Hood’s Tennessee Campaign: The Desperate Venture of a Desperate Man. Charleston, SC: The History Press. 204 pages. ISBN: 9781626195974
Published as an entry in The History Press Sesquicentennial Series, this volume provides a solid account of the Confederacy’s last hurrah, an offensive campaign fought in wintry November and December, 1864, which included the bloody battle of Franklin and the final check of Rebel battlefield hopes at Nashville.
Author James Knight practices as a historical interpreter—or, in his words, a “shade tree historian”—for the Battle of Franklin Trust in Franklin, TN. His published historical works include two other Tennessee-related entries in the Sesquicentennial Series, a volume dedicated to the Battle of Franklin and one about the 1862 Battle of Fort Donelson.
Civil War buffs and students of military history will find particular interest in Knight’s presentation of the strategic big picture explaining why, in late 1864, Confederate general John Bell Hood abandoned Georgia to Union general Sherman and set out on an invasion of Tennessee, a Confederate state mostly occupied by Yankee forces. If it was a “desperate” move, as the subtitle suggests, Knight also explains why this last-ditch gamble had real chances of success, even if the odds were long. And even given those long odds, such events as the narrow escape of the Union forces from a Confederate flanking move between Columbia and Spring Hill provide tantalizing evidence that, in many ways, this was a campaign not so much won by the Union as lost by the Confederates.
At the tactical level as well there is an important story to tell. The central, determining event of the campaign was without question the Battle of Franklin, a brutal slugfest of historic proportions—when it was over, almost one out of three Confederate attackers lay dead on the field. Some have called Hood’s decision to launch a frontal assault “useless butchery,” or have speculated that his thinking was addled by laudanum. In his explanation of the factors that would have influenced Hood’s thinking, Knight once again invokes the weighing of long odds against the desperate need for a decisive victory.
Knight delivers a narrative that is well-suited to the dramatic events being described—he particularly favors foreshadowing as a device to draw the reader’s interest forward. The key figures of the story—mostly those in positions of command—are brought to life with thumbnail biographies. Knight’s telling is further enriched by his use of such primary sources as orders, dispatches from the field of battle, letters from soldiers, and memoirs.
The book is ideally suited to the reader or student looking for a relatively brief account of the campaign—the narrative portion covers only 142 pages (the balance of the book’s 204 pages includes orders of battle, endnotes, a bibliography, and an index). Given its suitability to the general reader and its effective treatment of important events in Tennessee history, this book would be a good addition to any high school, public, or college/university library.
Jud Barry, Bristol Public Library, Bristol TN/VA
Lam, F. & Edge, J. T (2014). Cornbread Nation 7: The Best of Southern Food Writing. Athens: University of Georgia Press. 273 pages. ISBN 9780820346663
The writings in Cornbread Nation 7 are as varied as the South itself. Some of the authors were born Southern, some come from away, but their love for and connection with the South and its food bring them all together. This book, which contains 44 essays, short fiction and poems, is divided into five sections.
In “Come In and Stay Awhile,” a young Chinese child finally gets his mother to buy ’white people food’ for lunch, so he will no longer be the boy with the ‘stinky food’. Chef Edward Lee talks about the link between Korean and Southern food: smoke and pickles. A food critic becomes a groupie, following an elusive chef from state to state.
In “Provisions and Providers”, we meet Sandor Katz, a fermentation specialist, and ‘Green Path’, a group of herbalists, foragers and roadkill eaters in North Carolina. Barry Estabrook tells us “The Real Price of Tomatoes” with his look at the conditions of workers in Immokalee, Florida.
Sean McKeithan writes about bourbon, explaining the distinctions between Early Times (a good ol’ boy bourbon) and Maker’s Mark (a refined and gentlemanly drink) in the section titled “Five Ways of Looking at Southern Food.” Kevin Young contributes an “Ode to Gumbo.”
In “The South, Stepping Out”, Willie Mae Seaton, of Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, takes a long walk to accept a James Beard award. Coconut cake becomes an obsession for one writer as he tries to create the perfect one.
“Southerns Going Home” explains how the hot tamale came to Helena, Arkansas in “Pasquale’s Hot Tamales”. Monique Truong writes a love letter to a barbecue joint in North Carolina, and Lucille Clifton offers up her poem “cutting greens”.
Francis Lam edits this 7th edition of the Cornbread Nation series, published in association with the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) at the University of Mississippi. John T. Edge is the general editor of the series, and director of the SFA. The authors - chefs and cooks, food critics and editors, novelists, poets and historians - reflect the diversity of the South, its food and culture. Their works show how the South is changing with outside influences, while keeping its own identity. Even if you’re not a die-hard “foodie”, anyone with an interest in food or Southern culture can enjoy this book. It would be a good addition to both public and academic libraries.
Zinia Randles Middle Tennessee State University
Mastriano, Douglas V. (2014). Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. 323 pages. ISBN: 9780813145198.
In 1941, actor Gary Cooper brought to life the story of one of America’s greatest war heroes, Alvin C. York (1887-1964), in the award winning film Sergeant York. Several decades later, military historian Douglas Mastriano, moved by the inspiring and much discussed story of World War I hero York, embarked on a groundbreaking effort to learn more about this historic figure, separate fact from fiction, and uncover the details of York’s actions in the Argonne. The product of his study is arguably the most thorough an authoritative examination of the life, times and actions of Alvin York written to date.
Born in the rural Cumberland Valley of Tennessee in 1887, York grew up working alongside his parents and siblings on the family farm and attending school as time permitted. While dedicated to his family, York and his friends often found the temptations of drinking, gambling and fighting difficult to ignore. York constantly battled with the choice between a path of self-destruction and one of righteousness and salvation. While attending a revival meeting in January 1915, York had a life-altering experience. The service that evening led York to recognize the errors of his ways, to seek repentance, and to lead a Christian life the remainder of his days.
In the years that followed, York immersed himself his faith. When required to register for the draft in June 1917, York requested exemption. While the draft board considered his application, they refused to grant an exemption based on his religious beliefs. By the time he had completed basic training, York, the conscientious objector, had begun to reconcile his religious beliefs and his understanding of the obligation he had to serve his country.
Arriving in Europe, York and his comrades quickly found themselves immersed in the war. After several engagements, York found himself in the middle of the Meuse-Argonne region of France and one of the most pivotal battles of the war. In action that would elevate him to a national hero, York lead a small squad who overtook an important enemy position and captured more than 130 German soldiers.
In the aftermath of the war, York actively sought to return to his life in Tennessee and distance himself from the war. In the years that followed, York’s actions became the subject of both praise and dispute. Many historians argued that the significance of his actions were exaggerated.
Douglas Mastriano, Ph.D., a Colonel in the U.S. Army, notes in the Acknowledgments of the work that York has long stood out as a figure worthy of emulation. Therefore, it is not surprising this book, a part of the University of Kentucky Press American Warriors Series, is a cornerstone of the collection. Mastriano’s dedication to unearthing the “true” York story, through years of archival, archaeological and forensic study has borne fruit. Through analysis of extant literature, previously unconsulted resources in both US and German military archives, and tangible evidence from the Argonne battlefield site, has allowed Mastriano to develop a unique and comprehensive picture of the true York story.
This well-researched biography of York is a fact-filled, enjoyable read. A broad audience - students and scholars of the First World War, religious studies, military and Tennessee history - should all find this book to be of great interest. Some readers may find Mastriano’s thorough recounting of York’s experiences in France and battlefield analysis to be overly detailed, but others will likely consider this to be the strongest point of the work. Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne is strongly recommended for large academic libraries, special libraries with collections of military, religious history, and Tennessee history, as well as readers interested in these subjects.
Gregory H. Stoner
Nicholson, J. C. (2013). Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. 218 pages. ISBN 9780813141671
For people who are familiar with the well-known names Man-O-War, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Seabiscuit, and other horses who have made for themselves places in the history of American thoroughbred racing, Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry will be an introduction to an equally powerful horse who left his mark on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Although he was born in Kentucky, Never Say Die was trained and raced in the United Kingdom, where he won the two longer and more challenging races of the British Triple Crown – the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes. Only one other American horse had ever won the Epsom Derby, and that win occurred 73 years before Never Say Die's historic 1954 performance.
In Never Say Die, author James C. Nicholson does much more than write a story about a horse. He gives an overview of the history of thoroughbred racing in Great Britain and introduces readers to some of Britain's most noteworthy racehorses, breeders, owners, and jockeys. He describes the racetracks and the more famous stakes races of the country, as well as the breeding and training farms that supply the horses for these races. He gives a full account of the events that led to the breeding of the temperamental stallion Nasrullah to the long distance runner Singing Grass, the reason their colt was transported to Europe, and how he came to be a contender in the 1954 running of the Epsom Derby.
Nicholson goes beyond confining himself to the turf as he ties together the stories of the players and participants in the long history of thoroughbred breeding and racing in the United Kingdom, from by Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley, who founded the Epsom Derby in 1780, to the Aga Khan, hereditary leader of the Nizari Ismaili branch of Shia Islam, to Robert Stirling Clark, an heir to the great Singer sewing machine fortune and the first American to breed and own an Epsom Derby winning colt. Moreover, he explains how Never Say Die's story was both influenced by other aspects of history, such as the first and second World Wars, and how the horse’s astounding and unexpected win influenced so many others, such as the woman who used her winnings to open a coffeehouse that later served as a launching point for a small musical group that would change music on both sides of the Atlantic--the Beatles.
The last chapters of the book go on to tell how the center of champion thoroughbred breeding and racing moved from Great Britain to America after Never Say Die's winning runs in Britain's greatest races. More and more American horses ran on British turf, and took the purses as well, proving that Europe was no longer the center of thoroughbred industry.
Thoroughly researched, the book includes twenty pages of extensive notes, twelve pages of bibliography, and an eight page index.
Luna Dara Kelondra Memphis Public Library
Watson, J. (2012). Reading for the Body: the Recalcitrant Materiality of Southern Fiction, 1893-1985. Athens: University of Georgia Press. 412 pages. ISBN: 9780820343389.
Any reader of Southern fiction will tell you that one of the attributes of that genre is the sense of place. The body itself is a place. From this perspective, Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and Professor of English, University of Mississippi, provides analysis of how selections from major Southern authors have utilized the human body to illustrate aspects of the American South.
Watson uses the term, “recalcitrant materiality,” to recall the notion that the South has been analyzed theoretically beyond the experiences of her people and the intimate knowledge of her native authors. He brings the analysis back to a more material frame of reference. Through use of a case series approach, he illustrates the value of reading for the body as a literary strategy and as a potential window into understanding 20th century regional and national challenges. He emphasizes that this book is to be as much a critical casebook as a scholarly monograph. Believing the story of the U.S. South to be in large part the story of its bodies, he has created a work that listens to and for the stories that those bodies tell in diverse and surprising ways. The author provides insights into slavery, Jim Crow, white supremacy, marginalization of women, impact of modernization, cultural authority and leadership, and the legacy of the Vietnam War. He focuses on the particular aspects of hands, voices, and blood and the embodied experiences of pain, illness, pregnancy, and war to offer fresh perspectives.
In his Introduction, Recalcitrant Materialities, he traces the depiction of the American South in history and discusses the sociological realities that gave birth to the work of Southern authors in the 20th century. The author organizes the work into two parts. Part One, Bodily Attributes, analyzes three authors: One: Manual Discourse: A Problem in Mark Twain’s America; Two. Listening for Zora: Voice, Body, and the Mediat(iz)ed Modernism of Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Moses, Man of the Mountain; and Three. Writing Blood: The Art of the Literal in William Faulkner’s Light in August. Part Two. Embodied Experiences, examines four more authors: Four. Richard Wright’s Parables of Pain: Uncle Tom’s Children and the Making and Unmaking of a Southern Black World; Five. Difficult Embodiment: Coming of Age in Katherine Anne Porter’s Miranda Stories; Six. Reading War on the Body: The Example of Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country; and Coda. Overreading (for) the Body: Walker Percy’s Cautionary Tale. Watson notes that to place human bodies in the foreground of the critical enterprise is a strategy with the potential to alter the way that we read any text, any literature. Particularly valuable in addition to his chapters are his annotated Notes, and Works Cited appendix. The Index includes concepts.
This book is recommended for academic libraries, for larger public libraries who serve regional researchers, and for special libraries including regional studies. Watson’s work represents a unique contribution and is highly recommended.
Martha Earl, Preston Medical Library, University of Tennessee