|TL v65n4: Book Reviews|
Campos, C. (2014). Treasure
Donnelly, K. (2011). Three devils dancing: A Donald Youngblood mystery
Freeman, L.A. (2014). Longing for the bomb: Oak Ridge and atomic nostalgia
Hirsch, S. F,. & Dukes, E. F. (2014). Mountaintop mining in Appalachia: Understanding stakeholders and change in environmental conflict
McFawn, M. (2014). Bright shards of someplace else
Silkey, S. (2015). Black woman reformer: Ida B. Wells, lynching, and transatlantic activism
Campos, C. (2014). Treasure. (Published by the author, http://authorsguildoftn.org/authors/cheryl-campos). 274 pages.
Rogersville, Tennessee resident Cheryl Campos has written a pleasant book that should be popular with fans of popular fiction with a historical twist. Set in present-day Louisiana, Treasure relates how a family’s hidden past allows them to reinvent their lives in ways they could not imagine at the novel’s beginning.
While Wayne and Savannah assumed that Al bought the old plantation house when land values where low, they discover that the building has been in Savannah’s family since the early 1800s. As Savannah and Wayne learn more about the LeBlanc family, they discover that Savannah has inherited not only money but property in both Louisiana and England. And while the wealth that Savannah inherits affords the Melancon family opportunities that they never imagined, they never lose sight of the fact that their real treasures are their families and friends and that money is best spent when it can make lives and communities better.
An interesting subplot involves a missing emerald necklace that Savannah’s ancestor wore for a portrait that is in the collection of the Louisiana State Museum at the Presbytere in New Orleans. Wayne and Savannah learn the jewel’s convoluted history from a noted gemologist and historian and discover that one of Savannah’s ancestors had stolen the necklace before fleeing to Louisiana in the early 1800s. A satisfying conclusion to the mystery occurs when the couple inadvertently returns the necklace to its rightful owners.
The author writes well, the plot flows logically, and the story is peopled with appealing characters. If the story has a flaw, it is the lack of tension that occurs when characters routinely overcome misunderstandings or challenges in order to find happiness. In fact, everything goes the Melancons’ way with little or no effort on their part. While not a necessary purchase, public libraries with money to expand their fiction collections might want to consider adding Treasure to their library.
Donnelly, K. (2011). Three devils dancing: A Donald Youngblood mystery. Gatlinburg, TN: Hummingbird Books. 287 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0895873989
In this third entry of Keith Donnelly’s entertaining detective fiction series, Donald Youngblood, independently wealthy private investigator, is again on the job. This mystery includes the likable characters from the previous books with one or two additions. Donnelly has an important gift that is present in all successful detective fiction series: developing characters in such a way that one wishes to read other entries to find out more about these “real people.” He is also adept at injecting humor in all of the right places. Readers get to see what is next in Youngblood’s relationship with girlfriend, Mary, his developing relationship with “adopted” daughter, Lacy, as well as other friendships and associations. What begins as a slow time at the detective agency evolves into a frenzy as Youngblood and ensemble have a serial murderer to pursue in addition to helping an old friend, returning a favor for a drug kingpin, working with the FBI, and rescuing a kidnapped child. Most of the action is centered in the Tri-Cities fictional town of Mountain Center but readers will enjoy travels and descriptions of Knoxville landmarks, and other more exotic places.
Three Devils Dancing may be read as a stand-alone title; however, readers may wish to read the previous two books in the series, Three Deuces Down and Three Days Dead, to appreciate the addition and development of Donnelly’s characters. Reviews of these books may be found in previous issues of Tennessee Libraries.
Donnelly has developed a solid, fast-paced (if not highly original) series set in East Tennessee. The protagonist is a bit different from most detectives in that finances are not an issue. Like mysteries by Evanovich, Grafton, and others, the titles have a common thread--this one is the number “three” that is continued in the subsequent entries, Three Deadly Drops, Three Dragons Doomed, and the soon-to-be published Three Daggers Dripping.
Keith Donnelly is from Johnson City, graduated from East Tennessee State University, and resides in Gatlinburg. Due to its primary setting and enjoyable reading style, this volume and the others in the series should be acquired by public libraries and those academic libraries that include popular reading collections and/or Appalachian fiction.
Sandra C. Clariday
Freeman, L.A. (2014). Longing for the bomb: Oak Ridge and atomic nostalgia. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 234 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1469622378
Born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the descendant of employees of the mysterious Manhattan Project, Lindsey Freeman has a special interest in, and access to, stories about the largest of the three “secret cities” of the World War II-era United States. Raised on her grandmother’s tales about the work her grandfather and others performed for the war effort, Freeman has knowledge of anecdotal history that would not have been accessible to other, non-native researchers. As a student and teacher of sociology, social theory, and social sciences, she takes a comprehensive approach to explain the unique society that was created at Oak Ridge during World War II and has continued to evolve since.
Longing for the Bomb: Oak Ridge and Atomic Nostalgia relates the history of the Oak Ridge area beginning before World War II, when it was primarily rural, farmed by families who’d called it home for generations. Freeman relates how the federal government moved in and forced those families to leave with little notice and oftentimes no compensation for the property taken from them, leaving many homeless and destitute. Engineers were then employed to create a new community whose sole purpose was to serve the war effort in complete secrecy. Her research goes on to describe how this new, government-created society varied from any other that had existed before, and how its unique past affects the community to this day.
The book is divided into nine chapters and includes fifteen black and white photographs. There is an extensively detailed section of notes, and another of references which includes magazines, newspaper articles, and personal interviews. Freeman also created a very thorough index, which makes this book an excellent resource for anyone researching the Manhattan Project, World War II history, American society during the War, and Tennessee history. Longing for the Bomb would be a wonderful and unique addition to any collection of Tennessee history, Southern history, Southern culture, World War II, American history, sociology, and military projects, among others.
Hirsch, S.F. & Dukes, E.F. (2014). Mountaintop mining in Appalachia: Understanding stakeholders and change in environmental conflict. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. 160 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0821421109
Mountaintop Mining in Appalachia examines the debate over surface mining from a variety of perspectives using the theoretical framework of conflict analysis and resolution. The book goes to great lengths to present divergent opinions without favoring a particular side and is largely successful at doing so. Hirsch and Dukes focus on stakeholders at every level of the conflict, which allows them to paint a clear and balanced picture of those involved in a divisive, often controversial practice going back several decades. By viewing mountaintop mining through the lens of stakeholders, the authors are able to examine the institutions, politics, and values that have led to such differing worldviews held by those involved and the underlying beliefs that have thus far prevented a resolution.
Each chapter of the book focuses on a different facet of the conflict. With chapter one serving as a general introduction, chapter two gives an overview of the practices of mountaintop mining including the role government regulation plays in supporting or curtailing the practice. The third chapter explores the concept of stakeholders and how differing beliefs give rise to and prolong conflict. This ties directly into the next chapter which provides historical context for the current situation. The authors do a great job of exploring the major events that gave rise to the current climate and beliefs surrounding mountaintop mining. This is helpful for readers not versed in the sometimes violent history of coal mining. Chapter five provides a case study on the Clinch River Valley Initiative which gives the reader a more individualized, micro view of how consensus-building among stakeholders can take place. The final two chapters look at how national politics can affect the conflict and at the future of mountaintop mining.
It is interesting that at the end the authors challenge the readers to explore what role they may already play as a stakeholder and how they might participate in this conversation if they do not yet play a direct role. The closing chapter really drives home the importance of this issue and how, as Americans, most of us—Appalachian residents or not—are already stakeholders in this conversation at some level. It takes the reader from being a passive observer to an active participant, which is a rare quality in any book.
Due to the authors framing the discussion using conflict analysis and resolution, Mountaintop Mining in Appalachia could serve as a case study in how to engage populations with divergent views. This makes the book generalizable to other conflicts outside of the controversy surrounding surface mining. Mountaintop Mining in Appalachia would be a great resource to both academic and public libraries not only within the Appalachian region but beyond.
McFawn, M. (2014). Bright shards of someplace else. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. 164 pages. ISBN-13: 980820346878
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love short stories and those unfortunate souls who do not. For the fortunate souls, Bright Shards of Someplace Else will be a welcome addition to their reading lists. The winner of the 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction is a clear heir to O’Connor’s legacy of writing that is both eerily unsettling yet hugely rewarding to read.
The tie that binds the eleven tales comprising this book is that of wonder, as in “I wonder what happened to the horse – nanny – professor in that story?” If the work of a short story is to create a vivid picture that is ever so slightly unfinished, McFawn succeeds brilliantly. Certain themes weave in and out of the various stories but each story is an independent, self-contained tale. Varied in length, a few might even be rightly considered poetic, if not pure poetry.
The affinity for horses demonstrated throughout Bright Shards of Someplace Else is born of McFawn’s work as a trainer in dressage and jumping. Her respect and compassion for these magnificent animals is perhaps these stories’ most prominent theme.
Monica McFawn is a Michigan-based writer and professor. Bright Shards of Someplace Else is her first book but her stories have been widely published in various literary reviews. In addition to writing short stories, McFawn is a playwright. This fall finds her teaching fiction and drama at Northern Michigan University. McFawn’s Tennessee ties are evident in the final story of the volume which is set in the state, as well as her participation in the Nashville Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition and her receipt of the Walter E. Dakin Fellowship at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference this past summer.
Public and academic libraries that collect award-winning works will want to add this to their shelves. It should certainly find a home at academic institutions with creative writing programs.
Silkey, S. (2015). Black woman reformer: Ida B. Wells, lynching, and transatlantic activism. Georgia: The University of Georgia Press. 206 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0820345574
Black Woman Reformer: Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and Transatlantic Activism shows how Mrs. Wells challenged the idea that brutal extrajudicial murders could ever be considered right, good, and just by a civil society, and how she fought to recast the narrative of American lynching as an outgrowth of white supremacy. The prevailing narrative at the time cast lynching practically as a public service. When the law and legal system failed, as the narrative went, the public stepped in. It wasn't mob violence nor riotous murder; it was "frontier justice."
Of central importance here is the reevaluation of the importance of the transatlantic anti-lynching campaign led by Wells. Silkey argues that scholars have largely undervalued the importance of British public opinion on American society during this period, and particularly whether Wells’ campaign had any significant effect on lynching in America. The author builds the case that during this period, foreign public opinion, most especially that of Great Britain, held great importance to the United States as it was emerging as an international power on par with Europe. The narrative that the U.S. exported abroad and portrayed at home was that lynching was a necessary evil; it was meant as a deterrent to heinous crimes that the law could not sufficiently address. It was often told as a way to protect white women from black male aggressors. Mrs. Wells harnessed international public opinion and influence to help build a coalition abroad to challenge those who would dismiss her at home because she was black and a woman to uncover brutal truths about lynching that were ignored, justified, or de-emphasized by the press.
This book is not a biography—although it is biographical—and it reinforces our collective memory of Ida B. Wells as a crusader. The anti-lynching movement was a calling for Wells. Her journey presented in this book mirrors the struggles of African-American women: the challenges of being considered less than because of skin color and gender, the struggles for legitimacy, and the importance of coalitions and allies to amplify the message. Black Woman Reformer is a book about process and the importance of historical context to contemporary scholarship. What we lose most with common, shared, historical memory is the messy details. We remember the victory without regard to the struggle. Black Woman Reformer details both the complicated, troubled, ebb and flow of Mrs.Wells’ anti-lynching campaign and her personal struggles for legitimacy.
At 205 pages with 150 pages of text and the remainder notes, bibliography, and index, this six-chapter work is recommended for academic libraries and adds new insight into Ida B. Wells’ transatlantic anti-lynching campaign.
Anthony H. Prince, Jr., MLS, MPA