|TL v66n1: Book Reviews|
David, J. C. (2013). Dunmore’s new world: The extraordinary life of a royal governor in Revolutionary America—with Jacobites, counterfeiters, land schemes, shipwrecks, scalping, Indian politics, runaway slaves, and two illegal royal weddings
DeSimone, E., & Louis, F. (Eds.). (2014). Voices beyond bondage: An anthology of verse by African-Americans of the 19th century
Green, B., & Freeman, S. (Eds.). (2015). Tennessee women: Their lives and times. (Vol. 2)
Hansen, J. E., & Hansen, L. (2013). November 22, 1963: Ordinary and extraordinary people recall their reactions when they heard the news
Smith, M. B. (2014). Rebel yell: An oral history of Southern Rock
Tieken, M. (2014). Why rural schools matter
David, J. C. (2013). Dunmore’s new world: The extraordinary life of a royal governor in Revolutionary America—with Jacobites, counterfeiters, land schemes, shipwrecks, scalping, Indian politics, runaway slaves, and two illegal royal weddings. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press. 270 pages. ISBN: 9780813934242
John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, has been a much-maligned and, more recently, ignored, figure in histories of the British Empire and the American Revolution. The criticisms of Dunmore’s contemporaries have long characterized him as both incompetent and greedy. In reality, Dunmore was a complex individual who played a key role in mobilizing and arming colonial slaves to fight for the loyalist cause in exchange for their freedom.
In 1745, Charles Stuart, better known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, led the Jacobite Rebellion, a failed attempt to reclaim the British crown that had been stripped from his Catholic grandfather, James II. Despite his father William’s traitorous service to the rebellion, young John Murray would inherit his uncle’s title, becoming the 4th Earl of Dunmore in 1752. Over the next sixty-seven years, he would live a remarkable life, playing key roles in the history of the British Empire and the American colonies. After a brief stint as governor of New York, Dunmore was named governor of Virginia in 1771. There, he faced frequent clashes between land-hungry settlers seeking Westward expansion and various Native American tribes fighting to preserve their territory. His efforts to settle matters culminated in Dunmore’s War of 1774, a successful military expedition against the Shawnee tribe that established the Ohio River as the new border between native and European lands. The following year, amidst the developing revolution in the colonies, Dunmore acted quickly to organize loyalist forces and took the unprecedented measure of offering slaves freedom in exchange for military service against the colonial rebellion. David argues that Dunmore’s active recruitment of slaves reflected the governor’s conviction that black soldiers were as useful and effective as others, a radical position in his day. While his, and the British Empire’s, efforts to retain the American colonies ultimately failed, thousands of slaves did indeed earn freedom for themselves and their families by fighting for the British during the American Revolution. Dunmore would go on to serve as governor of the Bahamas, involving himself in various intrigues to expand British interests in Florida and the Mississippi River region, and become embroiled in a royal scandal when his daughter Augusta secretly married Prince Augustus Frederick, a younger son of George III. Throughout his life, Dunmore found himself involved in major events, and David skillfully uses the Earl’s biography as a window into key developments in British history, drawing from a wealth of primary and secondary sources and leaving no proverbial stone unturned.
David contextualizes Dunmore’s personal role into the broader framework of events surrounding British imperial expansion and the American Revolution. This volume would be a valuable addition to academic and public libraries. Readers interested in the British Empire or the American Revolution will find much of interest within. David’s biography reveals a remarkable individual who, despite possessing only average talent and intelligence, managed to navigate the perilous waters of colonial governorship, border clashes, insurrection, and court politics to live a life that was far from perfect but nonetheless exceptional.
Aaron D. Horton
DeSimone, E., & Louis, F. (Eds.). (2014). Voices beyond bondage: An anthology of verse by African-Americans of the 19th century. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books. 310 pages. ISBN: 9781588382986
“Poetry universally is and always has been a source of inspiration, a means of education, and a conduit for culture and history” (p. vi). From this opening line of their introduction to the final poem, In Woodlands, the editors of Voices beyond Bondage inspire readers with unheard voices of the 19th century.
Comprised of 150 African-American writings published from 1827 to 1899 in the early black-owned press, this anthology is believed to be the first such to focus on those particular works as a collection.
In addition to the poems, the editors include a brief history of early black-owned presses and a list of those presses from which the poems were taken. The presses range from short-run publications that lasted less than a year, such as History Times and Benevolent Banner to The Concordia Eagles, with its 20-year span.
The first section of the book, befittingly titled “Bondage and Calls to Freedom,” includes pieces such as The Slave Mingo’s Poem, found penciled on the beam of a slave prison. The magnitude of their bondage can be felt in the following first lines of the poem: “Good God! And must I leave them now-- / My wife, my children, in their woe / ‘Tis mockery to say I’m sold-- / But I forgot these chains so cold” (p. 68).
Section Two, “Dedications and Remembrances,” paints a bitter, nostalgic picture with works such as On Viewing the Lifeless Remains of a Very Dear Friend and Most Respectfully Dedicated to the 73D, Late First Regiment Louisiana Native Guards.
“Moral and Civic Perspectives” and “Reminiscence and Humor” are sections three and four. They provide an interesting glimpse of everyday life beyond societal boundaries. The poem Misconstrued by Lunsford Lane hints at unintentional cultural stereotypes within the writers’ own communities, as shown in these few lines from the first and last stanzas: “‘I love your country manor’ / He murmured, with a frown…. She thought that he meant manner / He thought she meant the same/ And for this painful parting / Our language is to blame” (p. 192).
“Writings of Spirit and the Natural World” complete the anthology in the fifth and final section. The following line from Commit Thy Way is reminiscent of a similar line in James Weldon Johnson’s Lift Every Voice and Sing: “As Thou thus far has led me on my way / Lead kindly on, O Lord! I pray” (p. 292). This is significant because Johnson’s work is referred to as “The Black National Anthem.” Additionally, the anthology includes over 25 illustrations and an index to both titles and first lines. This title is recommended for public and academic libraries.
Shelia Gaines, Head of Circulation
Green, B., & Freeman, S. (Eds.). (2015). Tennessee women: Their lives and times. (Vol. 2). Athens: University of Georgia Press. 425 pages. ISBN: 9780820337432
As a woman who was born in the middle of second-wave feminism, it’s hard to comprehend living in a country in which women did not have certain civil liberties: the right to vote, own property, choose a lifestyle. For Volume 2 of their Tennessee Women series, editors Bond and Freeman have presented a collection of essays that illustrate what women’s lives were like in 19th and early 20th century Tennessee, from the mundanity of daily life to what women thought important enough to fight for: the liberties we today take for granted.
The essays are arranged in chronological order and center on a specific woman or event. Included are more storied and familiar events for example, the fight for suffrage. Also included are lesser-known people or events such as the “antebellum female plainfolk” or yewomen of the South and their lifestyle after the civil war. One example of a lesser-known (or at least unfamiliar to me) incident was found in a few paragraphs in “The Pursuit of Gender Equality” by Sarah Wilkerson Freeman: a brief description of Silena Moore Holman who “engaged in running debates with male religious leaders who insisted that good Christian women stayed home and out of politics” (p. 204). In spite of my formal Christian education, Holman was someone I had never heard of. These descriptions of unique experiences that the non-historian may otherwise not hear or read about are prime examples of what makes the collection so interesting and necessary.
The essays are carefully written without sentimentalism but sometimes elicit shock or surprise regardless. The essay “The Right to Be a Lady” (p. 152) describes the plight of an African-American woman attempting to ride in the ladies’ only first-class railroad car and the violent attempts to eject her. Another, “The Pursuit of Gender Equality,” illustrates how the suffrage movement had to be inclusive of extremely different religious, social and race-relation viewpoints. In “Sentiments, Not Services,” details of several court cases illustrate the fact that even as late as the 1960’s, wives were considered the property of their husbands. The use of facts, excellent descriptions, and quotes from women of the period make these experiences in each essay seem real and give a “You Are There” feel to the reader. It’s easy to summarize or gloss over history with a few frequently-memorized, well-known quotations and platitudes, but it is important to read books like this to counter our abstract historical ideas.
Though the subject forms a whole detailing real lives and situations, each essay could stand on its own as an introduction to a particular subject. Each essay is well-researched and includes a bibliography. A helpful index is also included for researchers and/or students seeking a specific event or person. Both volumes would be an excellent addition to any type of library in Tennessee or the South as it relates specifically to its general history. It would also be of great interest to any academic library with a women’s or gender studies program.
Gayla B. Hall
Hansen, J. E., & Hansen, L. (2013). November 22, 1963: ordinary and extraordinary people recall their reactions when they heard the news. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. 304 pages. ISBN: 9781250037480
In 1978, the fifteenth anniversary of a tragedy which stunned the American public, emergency room nurse Jodie Elliott Hansen began soliciting recollections from friends and family of their reactions to hearing the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Stating that she was writing a book, Hansen developed a formal questionnaire and gradually expanded the circle of respondents to include celebrities and politicians spanning all walks of life nationally and internationally. Edited with her daughter, Laura Hansen, and released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy, this compilation presents selected letters from the larger collection.
Listed in alphabetical order by the respondent’s last name, this democratic juxtaposition of replies is inherently interesting. With the democratization of its format, the book contributes a different collective voice concerning reactions to the Kennedy assassination. From sincere to flippant to formulated, from hand-written to individual or professional letterhead with typing errors intact, the personal reflections of well-known and private individuals have definite historical value. For better or for worse, much of that value is predicated upon context to know whether the tone of the respondent is satirical or sincere. While the letters in this book will evoke strong memories, particularly for older adults, younger readers unfamiliar with leading figures of the 1950’s through the early 1980’s may be less engaged and in some cases, frankly puzzled as to the identity of “Mrs. Roy Rogers.” Nonetheless, the book makes for interesting and often moving reading as the letter-writers reveal personal stories not only of what they were doing when they heard the news, but of how their lives were touched by it. With half a century of books already in press detailing seemingly every aspect of the Kennedy assassination, is it even possible to throw a different light on this subject? The Hansens show that it is. Recommended for all public libraries and academic libraries with general collections.
Kubicek, S. (2013). Visibly struck: A novel based on the true experiences of George Washington and his faith in the invisible hand of God. Burns, Tennessee: Summit Partners. 358 pages. ISBN 9780984842643
Visibly Struck, Steve Kubicek’s second book and first novel, is a well-written, well-researched piece of Christian historical fiction. One of the two main characters, Stephen “Spitz” Spitzen, is filled with grief when his only son and daughter-in-law are killed in a plane crash while serving on a mission trip to deliver Christmas boxes. After his wife dies, heartbroken by the loss, Spitz is left alone to raise his young granddaughter Aspen. Over the years, as Spitz grows bitter and begins to doubt God’s faithfulness, he increasingly obsesses over George Washington and his belief in the invisible hand of God as the founding force behind the United States. As the book begins, we see a grown Aspen now caring for her aging grandfather who is steadfastly devoted to proving George Washington’s faith wrong. Aspen finds her life changing as she is forced to deal with the legacy of her parents’ death and a possible love interest while she cares for Spitz. Spitz suffers from a stroke and unconsciously travels back to George Washington’s time to become a direct participant-observer of historical events, leaving the remainder of the novel to jump back and forth in time.
While I have enjoyed historical fiction in the past, I feel that the historical information was overly detailed and unnecessary. The wonderful family relationship between Aspen and Spitz and the story of Spitz and his faith journey were powerful enough to stand alone without the contrivances of time travel and the interjection of George Washington. Although I didn’t like the two stories being intertwined, others may enjoy the Revolutionary War setting the novel provides.
Kubicek provides six pages of endnotes detailing academic citations for those wanting to learn more about George Washington and his faith. I would recommend this book for public libraries, academic libraries and seminaries in Tennessee.
Smith, M. B. (2014). Rebel yell: An oral history of Southern Rock. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. 420 pages. ISBN: 9780881464955
Rebel Yell: An Oral History of Southern Rock is a compilation of hundreds of interviews with the most influential names in Southern Rock over the past twenty-five years by music critic Michael Buffalo Smith. These segments reflect the larger-than-life lives of those for whom drugs, fights, breakups and hookups were a matter of course. Smith’s other writings include newspaper articles, books on Southern Rock, and interviews of people in the music industry.
The Foreword is written by music producer Alan Walden, who has worked with acts such as Boz Scaggs and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Walden acknowledges Smith’s experience in the music industry and applauds his treatment of Southern Rock history as giving proper respect to the music, people, and culture of the South.
Smith uses his Introduction to point out the ambiguity of “Southern Rock.” “If you ask ten people to define the term, you’d most likely get ten different answers” (p. vi). While attesting that Southern Rock is a melting pot of blues, rock, and other music genres, Smith considers rock to be “southern” if most of band members hail from the American South. Smith mentions other definitions of the term by music artists such as Gregg Allman and Charlie Daniels.
Next is the “Cast of Characters” section, which lists the names and short bios of the ninety-one people included in the book. As a reader, I would have preferred the cast of characters be introduced in each section. Putting all ninety-one individuals at the beginning was confusing and frustrating, making it tedious to keep flipping to the front of the book to remind myself who everyone was.
The first four sections of the book are dedicated to The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and The Charlie Daniels Band, while the last two include The Capricorn Records Family and “The Second Wave of Southern Rock.” Each of these sections is broken into chapters. Also included are twenty pages of some never-before seen, black and white contemporary photos of many of those mentioned in the book. Appendices include “Southern Rock Lists” and “Band Member Histories.”
Other bands, like 38 Special and Tom Petty, could have been included, but the four groups Smith chose to feature were exceptionally influential to the music of the time and the music that followed.
I enjoyed Rebel Yell immensely and suggest it for scholars and fans of music. It may not be appropriate for children younger than high school because the interviews mention drugs, suggestive situations, and some curse words.
Tieken, M. (2014). Why rural schools matter. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 246 pages. ISBN: 9781469618487
Why Rural Schools Matter provides a thorough and well-researched look into the impact and history of rural schools and how that story has changed over time as a result of an increasing focus on urban schools. Tieken focuses on two rural Arkansas school districts for her research, but provides a clear explanation of how what she has learned can be applied to other rural districts.
Expressing a desire to work with her research participants and not view them simply as “subjects,” Tieken uses an ethnographic research method known as portraiture to help her provide a better, more complex picture of the two school systems used for her research. This method of research is based on “relationships shared with the participants, knowledge constructed in dialogue, and understandings shaped in context” (p. 30), allowing the author to get a more in-depth look at the history of the two systems and how that history is reflected in the current climate of the community. The extensive bibliography and notes throughout the book extend the research beyond the portraits of the two districts and help Tieken to provide context beyond the two research sites and establish a broader application for her research.
Tieken’s research leads her to focus on three common aspects of the rural school district: race, community, and reform. After two chapters focused on providing more information specific to the two districts in which she did her research, Tieken uses the remaining chapters to tie that research to other, broader research on rural and urban schools and the effects that schools have on race, community and reform. Tieken also talks about the reciprocal effects that race, community and reform have on the schools and the school districts themselves. The final chapter provides a clear extension of her research to the current educational climate and an application of her research to urban school districts.
Why Rural Schools Matter is a comprehensive look at the value of the rural school district, which is something that could be lost in today’s habitual focus on urban and diverse schools. It adds an important voice to the current conversation about education reform. Recommended primarily for academic collections, as it is a bit academic for the general population.