Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Report Abuse   |   Sign In   |   Register
TL v64n4: Book Reviews
Share |

Book  Reviews

Kathy Campbell, Book Reviews Editor


Blackburn, Belle. (2012).  The Doctor’s Daughter: Journey to Justice

Ezzard, M. M. The Second Bud: Deserting the City for a Farm Windery
Graves, J., Ruffin, P., & Wright, W. (Eds.). (2013). The Southern Poetry Anthology.  Volume VI:  Tennessee
Hulsman, L. M.  (2014). Bourbon Desserts
Johnston, C. R. (Ed.).  (2013) Voices of Cherokee Women
Jones, R. L. & Wofford. B. E (2013). Woody Plants of Kentucky and Tennessee: The Complete Winter Guide to Their Identification and Use
Lovett, B. L. (2012), A Touch of Greatness: A History of Tennessee State University
McGreger, A. (2014). Sweet Potatoes
Miles, E. B. & Cox, S. (Ed.). (2014). Once I Too Had Wings: The Journals of Emma Bell Miles, 1908-1911
Smith, A.  & Williams, R. (2013). Sports Rehabilitation and the Human Spirit: How the Landmark Program at the Lakeshore Foundation Rebuilds Bodies and Restores Lives

 

Blackburn, B. (2012).  The Doctor’s Daughter: Journey to Justice.  Demonbreun Press.  446 pages. ISBN: 9780615690957

Kate Seaver witnessed her father’s death. But was it a suicide as his former business partner insisted, or murder, as her father’s dying words lead Kate to believe?  The answer lies in Belle Blackburn’s new book, The Doctor’s Daughter: Journey to Justice.  Set in Nashville, Tennessee in the period immediately prior to and during the Civil War, Kate’s quest for justice for her father is really only a small part of this novel.  Over the course of the book Kate comes to appreciate her backwoods neighbors, learns that it takes more than money and nice houses to make people good and honorable, and that, yes, even Yankees can be decent people.  But Kate’s hardest lesson is to accept the truth that her beloved father had some nasty flaws and that her mother and her father’s former business partner tried their best to shield her from that reality.
 
The author does a nice job of developing character. Feisty but naïve Kate grows into a self-confident young woman by the end of the book. Her faithful friend (and would-be suitor) Danny returns to Peony much older and wiser after deserting the Confederate Army in Virginia.  We even come to empathize with both her manipulative father-in-law and egotistical husband as the Civil War wears them down and leaves them shadows of their former selves. Even minor characters, such as Peony residents Mrs. Hamby and Mrs. Goad, are well developed. 

A lot of research has gone into the writing of this book, and Blackburn usually succeeds in incorporating it into her plot without the story feeling didactic.  The author is particularly successful in depicting the conflict between old-school doctors who used time-tested remedies (represented by Kate’s mother) and formally-educated doctors who relied on science (represented by Kate’s husband, Brice Rockwell). The author’s use of words and idioms from the time period to spice up her dialog is a pleasant surprise.
 
Blackburn has written an enjoyable historical novel that will appeal to many readers.  With an ending reminiscent of Gone with the Wind ("I went home to make my decision.”), readers should expect a sequel.  It can be heartily recommended for public libraries, as well as academic libraries with popular fiction and/or Tennessee fiction collections.

Kathy Campbell
East Tennessee State University

 

 

Ezzard, M. M. (2013). The Second Bud: Deserting the City for a Farm Winery. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.  272 pages.  ISBN: 9780881464559

Martha M. Ezzard’s memoir of her family’s transition from urban-dwelling professionals to hands-on vintners is an entertaining read appealing to a wide readership. Wine lovers will enjoy the details of the fine European wine grapes (not Muscadine or sweet grapes) cultivated in the specific soil and climate of Tiger Mountain. Fans of books on the slow food and local food movements will find in these pages echoes of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable Mineral.

John and Martha Ezzard’s tale is, in part, the story of saving a family farm. As John’s father was aging, the future of the Ezzard family homestead in rural north Georgia hung in the balance. "Without farm income for basic upkeep, and with land prices and property taxes going up…well, the pressure to sell could soon outweigh family sentimentality….Dividing the land or selling some of it wasn’t acceptable to anyone. A gated development or golf course replacing the red barn and hayfields…would be a family tragedy.” But the only family member who could possibly save the farm was John, and Martha had just shifted careers from lawyer to journalist and moved from their home in Denver to a highrise in Atlanta. That city was much closer to the family farm in Tiger, Georgia, but Martha’s vision of idyllic weekends in the country were quickly quashed by the reality of farm life.

Further, the story is one of professionals with busy and profitable urban careers returning to the land. Early on in the telling, Martha describes how "suddenly, it seems, [John] is transformed from surgeon to ruddy farmer, fifth generation steward of the Arrendale-Ezzard farm.” (p. 51) Martha, lawyer/journalist, seems caught up in the aesthetics of a picturesque country life while John is focused on the practical measures of getting vines in place and producing grapes.  Martha’s journey to find connections in country life is a little soft-focused, but it is clear that it was a struggle for her. Early on, she spent long nights "wondering if I will ever feel that connection to the Tiger earth that runs in my husband’s veins as it does in Poppa’s.” (p.11) As the story continues, she finds friends who share her love of travel and fine food, and the farm becomes a part of the locally grown food movement.

Martha Ezzard’s life has spanned a variety of careers, including lawyer, Colorado state senator, press aide, and award-winning columnist for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The Georgia Writer’s Association awarded Martha Ezzard Georgia Author of the Year in the Memoir/Autobiography category for Second Bud.

Marie Jones
East Tennessee State University

 

Graves, J., Ruffin, P., & Wright, W. (Eds.). (2013). The Southern Poetry Anthology.  Volume VI:  Tennessee.  Huntsville, TX: Texas Review Press.  288 pages.  ISBN: 9781937875459

As a well-seasoned collection featuring 124 poets who represent all the counties and all the distinctive personalities that make up the state of Tennessee, The Southern Poetry Anthology.  Volume VI:  Tennessee, does not tread lightly.  The editors have chosen poetry that celebrates the diversity that is Tennessee:  from urban centers, to rural landscapes; from multi-lingual generations to hillbilly speak; from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Range—and all areas in-between.  Tennessee has already been aptly described by many well-known writers, such as the current United States Poet Laureate, Charles Wright, and Mark Jarman (who both have some pieces included in this collection), but this volume captures poets who have previously escaped attention.  From Kevin O’Donnell’s ode to a runaway trunk ramp off Interstate 26 on the way to North Carolina, or Bobby C. Roger’s homage to photographer William Eggleston (and, in turn, to Memphis itself); the state lines are blurred and then sometimes brought back into focus by just by one well-written line. This is a wonderful volume where any Tennessean, either by birth or by experience, will discover a poet whose words will forge a bond between the readers’ regional connection and the words on the page.
    
Some poems is this volume to be noted are:  Melissa Range’s "Flat as a Flitter” about moutaintop removal mining; Jim Clark’s "The Land Under the Lake,” which describes how the completion of the Dale Hollow Dam resulted in the submersion of the church his parents were married in, and Amy Wright’s punchy poem about poetry itself, "The Live Wires Tremble.”  

The co-editors of this dedicated state edition include Jesse Graves, a professor of English at East Tennessee State University; Paul Ruffin, founder of Texas Review Press and professor of English at Sam Houston State University; and William Wright, contributing editor for Shenandoah and a contributing web columnist for Oxford America. In November, 2014, Volume VII is to be released featuring poets from North Carolina.  Prior editions were dedicated to the areas of:  Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Appalachia.  This particular volume is appropriate for poetry collections in both academic and public libraries, as well as for regional and state cultural history collections.  Regardless of what part of Tennessee they live in, readers are bound to recognize a name they know, or at least a poem that is written about what they know; consequently, this book would be a good introduction into regional writing collections and could be beneficial for cultural programming opportunities.
 
Amy Steadman
Bloomingdale Library

 

 

Hulsman, L. M.  (2014). Bourbon Desserts. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.  240 pages. ISBN: 9780813146836

There are a large number or recipes in this seemingly small book. It also contains a nice introduction and readers are treated to multiple factual inserts known as "Bourbon Fact” or "Kentucky Plus” and additional insights and tips from the author.

I began my journey into Bourbon Desserts with a time-consuming treat from the "Candies” section:  "Betty Lou’s Bourbon Balls” (page 144). This was an intensive task, as several steps require refrigeration and freezing time that expands prep time to over a day. The final product was intensely sweet and had a strong bourbon flavor that, once experienced, became quite addictive. A slight issue with this recipe is that though it calls for ¾ of a cup of chopped pecans, it does not in fact explain what to do with them. I ended up combining them with the bourbon-sugar mixture, which seemed to work well.  Next I tried an entry from the "Cakes, Sweet Breads, and Other Fluffy Delights” section, "Bourbon Pecan-Pie Muffins” (page 32). This was a fairly simple and quick recipe which yielded some delicious, not too sweet, muffins.  A friend suggested eating them warm with ice cream, which is fitting as the flavor is very similar to pecan pie. The recipe suggests adding chocolate chips, but I did not, in favor of the more traditional pie flavor. From the "Puddings, Trifles, and Custards” section I tried "Southern-Style Hot Milk Posset” which produced a very think, very citrusy-sweet drinkable custard. This recipe took lots of attention (twice it calls for constant stirring) but it wasn’t too labor intensive. The author suggests it as an alternative to egg-nog and the "drink” is perfect for cold winter nights. This is a good recipe for anyone who isn’t a huge fan of bourbon, as the flavor of the spirit is not as intense as in the other entries I tried.

Though not a trained chef, Hulsman does show a wide range of culinary talent. Her flair for the written word is also clear, not only in her mouthwatering descriptions but also in the many asides and insights throughout the work. This is her third published cookbook; her first two were Make Your Own Soda and Irish Pantry, both of which were co-authored. She also writes fiction and has two romantic-comedy novels under her belt. You can find out more about her on her website, lynnmariehulsman.com.

Overall I think Bourbon Desserts will appeal to a wide audience of readers with a broad level of culinary talent. However, most of the recipes are at the intermediate or advanced level, as is the case with many baked goods. Some of the entries are potentially beginner level, but most require time and attention to detail, which might be a turn-off for busy cooks. It contains a useful table of contents and a rather detailed index, which makes finding recipes quite easy. One point of contention is that Hulsman does not cite sources for the trivia and facts throughout the book, and while not a grievous error, it does thwart any attempts to find out more about her sources.

This title would do well at public libraries, and perhaps academic libraries (especially those with culinary programs). Clearly, as the title suggests, bourbon is an ingredient in all the entries, so patrons and readers who do not like bourbon or alcohol might not approve, but for the adventurous or "boozy bakers” it’s a must-read.

Suzanne Horton
Librarian III / Head of Reference Services
Montgomery City-County Public Library

 

 

Johnston, C. R. (Ed.).  (2013) Voices of Cherokee Women.  Winston-Salem, NC:  John F. Blair.  295 pages.  ISBN: 9780895875990, ISBN:  0895875993, ISBN: 9780895876003

In Voices of Cherokee Women, Carolyn Ross Johnston lets Cherokee women speak from the ancient and not so ancient past.  This book chronicles the history of the women of the Cherokee Nation beginning with myths of creation and following them through the first encounters with Europeans and the trials that followed – the Civilization Program, the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, Allotment and Assimilation - finally to their return to the equality and respect they knew before the arrival of Europeans.

Although the subject of the first three sections of the book is Cherokee women, all the writings were done by men, and primarily those of European descent.  The beginning chapter visits some of the creation myths of the Cherokee as they were related to James Mooney by the shaman Swimmer.  Johnston moves from the myths of the Cherokee to accounts by early European travelers and traders who visited and wrote about the Cherokee.  These men had limited contact with the women they wrote about.  Each also brought his own preconceived ideas into his interpretations of Cherokee culture and attitudes.  Those who believed the Indians to be the descendants of the Hebrews saw ancient Jewish rites in the Cherokee practices.  Others interpreted the division of responsibility by gender to be the oppression of women.  There were a few, however, who observed the people and their culture and understood that women and men worked together to create a balanced society.  The third section of the book focuses on Cherokee women, specifically Catherine Brown, and the introduction of Christianity into their culture.  After the Revolutionary War, great effort was made to convert all Native Americans to the Christian religion and make them relinquish their traditional beliefs. 

From this point forward, Johnston's book is told in the words of the Cherokee women themselves.  She includes petitions by Cherokee women protesting the forced removal from their homelands, as well as their stories of the hardships, trials, and death that the Trail of Tears brought.  Following the Trail of Tears there was the Civil War, as bloody and divisive to Cherokee society as it was to the rest of America.  While the men of the nation were fighting for one side of the war or the other, the women were left to protect themselves as best they could, tend the land, provide for their children, take care of their homes if they still had them, treat the sick and wounded, and bury the dead.  By the end of the war, more than a third of Cherokee women were widows.

After the end of the Civil War, schools and seminaries reopened, giving Cherokee women the opportunity to receive an education as good as, if not better in some cases, than the white colleges of the East.  This chance for education led to women being in a position to regain a place of respect and power in their communities and culture, which culminated in the election of Wilma Mankiller as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1987.  It is these women, the leaders of the twentieth century, who are the subject of the final chapters of the book.

Voices of Cherokee Women
is a great addition to any collection of Native American writings, Native American history, women's history, or American history.  It is an excellent compilation of writings portraying the history of an ancient and proud culture.

Luna Kelondra
Memphis Public Library
 

 

 

Jones, R. L. & Wofford. B. E (2013). Woody Plants of Kentucky and Tennessee: The Complete Winter Guide to Their Identification and Use.  Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. 224 pages.  ISBN: 9780813142500

If you ever wanted to know anything about the woody plants of Kentucky, Tennessee, and most of the Southeast, then this is the book for you. Woody Plants of Kentucky and Tennessee: The Complete Winter Guide to Their Identification and Use includes trees, shrubs, and woody vines. This volume covers only plants native to the areas covered, as well as naturalized, non-native plants; in other words, plants that were here when Europeans settled America and those from other regions of America.

The book is divided into an Introduction with all kinds of information about woody plants in general and even has a section on uses for woody plants, such as food, medicine, fiber, and weapons. There are icons for each use that accompany relevant plant descriptions. The four appendices list plants for each specific use. I thought this is the most fascinating section of the book. Also included are Keys to Keys and Genera, Generic and Species Accounts, 630 beautiful, detailed plates, and indexes for each section.
 
In the Introduction, the authors provide a handy guide about how to use the book, their sources of information, and format and abbreviations. Everything is clear and very user friendly. All important terms are bolded, making it easier for the reader to know of what to take note.

The Key to the 630 plates is highly descriptive, but does not give page numbers to the correlating plate pages. This is the only complaint I have about the book as it would be nice to be able to refer to a page number rather than a small plate number if going back and forth between the descriptions and the plates. Descriptions include the botanical names of each plant, the geographical regions in which the plant can be found, and details of plants, down to the size of their buds. The plates are 3x2 inch photos of each plant on a white background, which highlights the details of the plants. Each plate also includes the botanical names.

Since the book can be read by a novice or an expert, one of the Indexes includes common names for the various plants along with the correlating plant number. There are several plants that I did not realize were considered woody plants, like rosemary, until I browsed through the index of common names.

Ronald L. Jones is a Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences and curator of the herbarium at Eastern Kentucky University and B. Eugene Wofford is a Research Professor and director of the herbarium at the University of Tennessee. The guide is surprisingly straightforward considering it was written by two academics. Anyone who enjoys winter hiking and camping would find this book very useful, as well as professors of biology, and people who are just interested in plants in general. Woody Plants would be a great addition to public, academic, and school libraries.

Joanna M. Anderson
Distance Education Librarian
East Tennessee State University

 

 

Lovett, B. L. (2012), A Touch of Greatness: A History of Tennessee State University. Macon, GA : Mercer University Press. 340 pages. ISBN 9780881464351

This exhaustive work takes the reader from the Tennessee General Assembly’s creation of the institution as Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School for Negroes in 1912 and Tennessee A & I State Teachers College in 1927, through the federal court-mandated merger with the University of Tennessee’s Nashville campus in 1979, to today’s Tennessee State University.  This "racially diversified, comprehensive urban land-grant research doctoral-level institution" was granted university designation in 1951.

Lovett, who served as full professor of history at Tennessee State University for over thirty years, makes no apologies for his focus on the university's vulnerability to dictates from its governing board, the unequal distribution of state funds, and other outside forces intent on harming the institution for personal and political gain. He spends a great deal of time on the injustice of national, state, and local officials pertaining to historically black colleges and universities in general and Tennessee State University in particular.   Sources cited reveal the discrepancies of both funds and efforts when TSU is compared with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.   "Not until 1969-70 did TSU begin receiving near-equitable federal research funds from the USDA.  But since 1912, "UT for white students" had received 85 percent or more of federal land-grant-related funds, with no attempts to allow TSU to recover funds of nearly a half million dollars that they had confiscated in 1943." (190)

The bulk of this work explores the historical neglect of the university, and some problematic leadership issues, but the author clearly substantiates his case that student activism, dedicated faculty and staff and the elimination of Jim Crow education are the forces that influenced the development of the institution and made it what it is today.  He submits that the university played an important role in leveling the Southern education playing field for African Americans.  By intertwining personal stories involving local and national namesakes, such as Harold Ford, J. O. Patterson, and Wilma Rudolph, the author somewhat balances the tale of struggle with triumph, showing Tennessee State University has maintained its strength and integrity and is "poised for another hundred years of greatness".
In addition to the index and selected bibliography, Lovett includes chapters devoted to each presidential reign, the thirty-two year battle of the Geier desegregation case, and twenty-four pages of photos.

This well-written historical work will be a viable reference asset for both academic and public libraries, especially those with readerships interested in Tennessee and African American history.

Shelia Gaines, Head of Circulation
Ned R. McWherter Library
University of Memphis

McGreger, A. (2014). Sweet Potatoes. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 152 pages. ISBN: 9781469617664

The daughter of a sweet potato farmer in Vardaman, Mississippi--the Sweet Potato Capital of the United States—April McGreger shares her expertise on this Southern staple.
 
McGreger begins her ode to the sweet potato by discussing its significance in the South, relating that sweet potatoes "saved both rich and poor from starvation” after the Civil War.  She defines what sweet potatoes are and are not, distinguishing the sweet potato, a member of the morning glory family, from the tubers (Irish potatoes and African yams) for which it is often mistaken.  She provides a historical overview of the vegetable from its Native American origins thousands of years ago, through its significance during the Civil War, into its decline during the twentieth century, and to its current renaissance as a superfood.  McGreger also discusses the nutritional value of the sweet potato, describes the many varieties of sweet potatoes, and instructs in selection and basic preparation.

Following the delightful introduction are fifty recipes divided among the following categories:  Breakfast; Sides and Salads; Mains, Soups, Stews, and In-Betweens; and Desserts.  Most are McGreger’s own recipes, but some are borrowed or adapted from others.  The recipes vary from being as basic as mashed sweet potatoes with spiced browned butter to some of McGreger’s specialties such as sweet potato-ginger scones.

What makes this little book particularly pleasurable to read is the author’s deep love and reverence for her subject.  Sweet potatoes are a significant part of her family history and her cultural history.  "All Southerners—rich or poor, black or white—owe no less than their lives to it.” The book inspired me to buy several pounds of sweet potatoes, try some recipes, and sing the praises of the sweet potato to my friends and family.

April McGreger is founder-chef of Farmer’s Daughter, an artisan food business in North Carolina which promotes sustainable agriculture and traditional methods of preserving. Her book, Sweet Potatoes, would be an excellent addition to regional cooking collections.

Sarah Senter
Extended Learning Sites Librarian
Lincoln Memorial University

 

 

 

 

Miles, E. B. & Cox, S. (Ed.). (2014). Once I Too Had Wings: The Journals of Emma Bell Miles, 1908-1911. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. 352 pages.  ISBN: 9780821420874

Once I Too Had Wings, a book in Ohio University Press’s Series in Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Appalachia, offers invaluable insight into the hardscrabble life in early twentieth-century Appalachia. This painstakingly-transcribed first-person account has been expanded by the inclusion of researched biographical information detailing what was going on in the life of Emma Bell Miles during the periods wherein she did not write in her journal. In a time and place when women rarely worked outside the home, Emma Bell Miles supplemented her family's meager income through the sale of her artwork, short stories and other creative output like her well-known book Spirit of the Mountain.

The journals, themselves, might prove difficult to the casual reader who is unfamiliar with the journalistic style presented which is, at turns, terse and rapid fire while also waxing rhapsodic about things in nature which speaks to her art. The volume is, no doubt, a scholarly work. However, even the most informal student of history will appreciate its depth.

Steven Cox is the head of special collections and archives in the Lupton Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His articles on the history and culture of Appalachia have appeared in the Journal of East Tennessee History and the Chattanooga Regional Historical Journal, among other national and regional journals. I would recommend his book as an addition to an Appalachian, Tennessee, or Women's History collection or as a worthy addition to a collection of biographies.

Heather Duby
Assistant Director
Sullivan County Public Library

 

Smith, A.  & Williams, R. (2013). Sports Rehabilitation and the Human Spirit: How the Landmark Program at the Lakeshore Foundation Rebuilds Bodies and Restores Lives. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books. 337 pages.  ISBN: 9781588382962

Anita Smith, former medical reporter for the Birmingham News and author of other institutional histories, first met Michael Stephens, a successful hospital executive and entrepreneur and founder of the Lakeshore Foundation, over 30 years ago. He transformed Lakeshore Hospital into a campus renowned for rehabilitation, sports, and fitness services for children and adults who have experienced physical disability. Randall Williams is a writer, editor, publication designer, and book publisher for NewSouth Books, which publishes titles related to Southern culture, history, and literature.

This book tells the story of how individuals with physical disabilities have been assisted through use of conventional medical and rehabilitation therapies at Lakeshore Hospital and, in a complimentary fashion, through the sports, recreation, and fitness programs available at Lakeshore Foundation. The latter is a designated U.S. Olympics/Paralympics training site and also a home base for rehabilitation for military personnel injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The authors tell the stories of those whose lives have been transformed by their experiences at Lakeshore and illustrate the spirit behind the successful transformation. This is not a history in the traditional sense, as it purposefully lacks references, footnotes, and appendices.

The monograph is divided into seven parts with an Introduction and an Epilogue. Part I, The Story of Michael Stephens, describes Stephens’ devastating accident and his long journey to recovery. Stephens chose to become a hospital administrator to make a difference for others on the same path. Part II, Lakeshore and Michael Stephens Intersect, follows Stephens’ arrival at Lakeshore Hospital and his process in transforming the former tuberculosis sanitarium to a highly rated rehabilitation hospital. Part III, Lakeshore Hospital Spreading Its Wings, relates the role of the Governor and the continuation of the recreation center to the competitive market and Foundation development level. Part IV, Reaching Out to Serve the Children, tells the story of Keven Orr, a role model and mentor, who developed the pediatric program. Part V, Lakeshore Hospital Inspires ReLife, focuses on the merger of the two systems. Part VI, Milestones for Lakeshore Foundation, moves the Foundation to the Olympic rings. Part VII, The "People Network” of Lakeshore Foundation, highlights the stories of a variety of individuals. In the Epilogue, Stephens reflects on the achievements of the past and his hope for the future.

On first appearance, this book details the story of one institution and some of the people whose lives have changed as a result of that institution’s remarkable mission. However, the authors mean the book to serve as an inspiration to anyone facing great personal challenge.

The lack of references of any sort lessens the value of the book for historical or scientific purposes. The book is illustrated with black and white photographs. The authors write in a personable style. There is no index.

This book is recommended for any library serving those with interests in Special Olympics, recovery from physical trauma, or health biography. This is a history of one inspirational rehabilitation program in Birmingham, Alabama.

Martha Earl
Preston Medical Library
University of Tennessee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Membership Software Powered by YourMembership.com®  ::  Legal