|TL v66n2: Book Reviews|
Bailey, J. (2015). The end of healing: A novel
Gipe, R. (2015). Trampoline: An illustrated novel
Neely, J. (2015). The Tennessee theatre: A grand entertainment palace
Norrell, R. & Driskell, B. (2015). Tuckaleechee Cove: A passage through time
Thompson, A. R. H. (2015). Sacred mountains: A Christian ethical approach to mountaintop removal
West, C. V. (2015). Nashville architecture: A guide to the city
Webb-Sunderhaus, S. (2015). Rereading Appalachia: Literacy, place, and cultural resistance
Bailey, J. (2015). The end of healing: A novel. Memphis, TN: The Healthy City. 510 pages. ISBN: 9780985420390
Based on Dante's Inferno, this novel takes the protagonist, Dr. Don Newman, deep into the various levels of the Hell—the modern American healthcare system—and introduces the reader to the evils that contribute to its dysfunction. The author, Dr. Jim Bailey, is a Fellow in the American College of Physicians and Professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, where he directs the Center for Health Systems Improvement. Dr. Bailey’s areas of academic interest also include medical history, medical ethics, narrative medicine, and literature in medicine.
As a senior resident in a renowned University Hospital, protagonist Dr. Newman is seeking to find a way to be a healer in a system that too often puts profits ahead of patients. Forgoing his opportunity to become a cardiologist, he is recruited into an Ivy League graduate program in health system science by an unorthodox professor promising to reveal the dark secrets of the healthcare industry. Newman joins fellow students, attractive, intelligent nurse practitioner, Frances Hunt; and arrogant, politically-connected surgeon, Dr. Bruce Markum. Eventually, their research uncovers evidence of a conspiracy spanning from the halls of Congress to Wall Street and back to their own campus. Each character must eventually choose whether to contribute to healing the system and themselves or to take his or her role in Hell.
Bailey uses the novel format to frame a series of essays presented as either the professor's lectures or the students' presentations. Topics covered range from the historically great medical scientists to the deceptive beauty industry, institutionalized gluttony, and the advantages of secrecy. Relationships between characters result in betrayals by every key character. Hell is without and within. The system is complex and the players powerless alone.
As a novel, there is lack of character depth outside of the key protagonists. The Inferno allegory works well as an explanation of the aforementioned issues. Fear, anger, lust, gluttony, vanity, and the rest of the seven deadly sins are quite evident. The author does not give much credit to what is right with the American health care system, such as caring health providers who heal people every day, despite the difficulties in the system. The book’s negative tone can at times seem tedious, much like a textbook of disease.
Bailey’s appendices add clarity and additional information related to costs and impact of insurance coverage options. The “Health System Seminar Syllabus” provides additional resources for those using this book as a text or study source. The “Reading Group Guide” will prove valuable to those wishing to use this book to spur academic or community discussions. The “Acknowledgements” section includes other classical works of interest. There is an accompanying website, http://endofhealing.com.
This book is strongly recommended for academic libraries, especially those with programs in public policy, business, medical ethics, and the health sciences. This book is also recommended for larger public libraries and for special libraries with a focus on health sciences or public policy.
Gipe, R. (2015). Trampoline: An illustrated novel. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. 360 pages. ISBN: 9780821421529
The controversial practice of mountaintop removal is one of the themes of Robert Gipe’s recent coming-of-age novel, Trampoline. The author, director of the Appalachian program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, writes about a teenage girl from a working-class family who lives in fictional Canard County, Kentucky. Just like many people have strong views regarding coal mining in general and mountaintop removal in particular, readers will not remain indifferent to Gipe’s novel.
When we meet Dawn Jewell, she is fifteen and a mess. She has lost both of her parents—her daddy died in a mining accident when Dawn was eight, while her momma drowns her sorrows in alcohol. Dawn’s older brother is addicted to drugs while various relatives are involved in unsavory enterprises. Is it surprising that Dawn Jewell is angry? She drinks regularly with her best friend, cusses profusely, and gets expelled from school for fighting. Despite her dysfunctional family, Dawn does have some supportive people in her life including her mamaw, with whom she lives; her Aunt June, who lives in Kingsport, Tennessee; and Willett Bilson, a young radio announcer who appeals to Dawn.
The fight to stop a coal company from utilizing mountaintop removal methods on Blue Bear Mountain, the highest mountain in Kentucky, acts as a set of bookends to contain Dawn’s story. This fictional fight parallels the real fight that prevented mountain removal mining on the highest peak in Kentucky, Black Mountain, located in Harlan County, Kentucky. At the beginning of the book, Dawn Jewell attends meetings with her activist grandmother. Her mamaw is a divisive force in her community and family. On the one hand, she is respected because she was a nurse, but on the other hand, she is often viewed as crazy since she is actively fighting the coal company. Dawn, who is smart but already a misfit, gets a reputation for being a tree hugger. At the end of the book, Dawn accompanies a neighbor to a meeting in Frankfort where the governor brokers an agreement that halts mining on the top of the mountain. In between, Dawn struggles to make sense of her life.
Just like a kid jumping on a trampoline, Dawn’s life is full of ups and downs. She’s not an easy person to like, and readers may despair that Dawn will ever turn her life around. But by participating in the effort to save Blue Bear Mountain, Dawn finds the road to saving herself.
Trampoline is not an easy story to read. On first look, Dawn Jewell is probably not the kind of girl that many parents would want their daughters to befriend or sons to date; however, in writing Dawn’s story, Gipe forces us to look closely at a person whom we might avoid in in real life. In reading Dawn’s story, we not only see her anger, we see her fears, her dreams, and finally, her humanity—and that makes Trampoline a book worth reading.
Neely, J. (2015). The Tennessee theatre: A grand entertainment palace. Knoxville: Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation. 211 pages. ISBN: 9780692320013
Laid out in a decade-by-decade format, this book not only movingly tells over a century’s worth of stories from Knoxville’s own theatre houses but places these downtown landmarks in overall historical perspective. Spanning the 19th to 21st centuries, the fate of theatre installations reflects the rise or decline of inner cities’ population, cultural and economic prominence.
Neely begins with the early theatre history of Knoxville in the 1870s, showcasing the rise of the great movie palace powerhouses complete with red velvet curtains, gilded statues, ornament and organists, with the Tennessee Theatre being one of the greatest in this regard. He goes on to present in both word and image the downfall of such revered Friday and Saturday night venues, and finishes with the incredible community effort currently revitalizing this tour de force in the world of Knoxville’s entertainment scene.
Running only 196 pages in length, including appendix and index, the majority of these pages consist of beautifully shot and well-constructed images from the early times and performers who made the Tennessee Theatre great. While documenting the theatre’s early beginnings, Neely does not neglect the revitalized modern-day building that now showcases such well-known acts ranging in style from Emmylou Harris to Elvis Costello to Megadeath.
Gilt-edged with marbleized endpaper, this coffee-table sized book is more than just for show; it is also an in-depth discussion of both the social and economic changes that occurred in 20th century urban America. By contextualizing Knoxville’s Tennessee Theatre within the larger study of theatre and entertainment, this book can be seen as part of the far-reaching canon of works pertaining to historical preservation that run true for many other urban centers in this country. The Tennessee Theatre will be an excellent textbook addition for any academic or public library in the state focusing on local history or arts and entertainment, as well as current urban renewal movements.
Norrell, R. & Driskell, B. (2015). Tuckaleechee Cove: A passage through time. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press. 125 pages. ISBN: 9781621901679
There have been many stories told about people who have lived in the Appalachian Mountains. Some more believable than others. In Tuckaleechee Cove: A Passage through Time, University of Tennessee Knoxville professors Robert J. Norrell (history) and Boyce N. Driskell (anthropology) tell the story of the prehistory and history of Tuckaleechee Cove, located on the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee.
Tuckaleechee Cove forms a natural corridor from the Tennessee Valley into the Appalachian Mountains. Used by some of the earliest humans to colonize the region beginning about 13,000 years ago, the cove has been used through history as a passage through the mountains. Today, U.S. Highway 321 follows the Little River along the same route.
Beginning in 1999 in preparation for widening U.S. Highway 321, archaeological and historical research was conducted in the construction zone of the highway to document the presence of prior human occupation. This “Big Dig” was conducted with the assistance for numerous federal and state agencies funding and conducting archeological excavations involving hundreds of participants over fourteen years.
The artifacts uncovered tell the story of the travelers passing through the cove, from the first farmers to the Cherokee Indians and the first European Americans. The history continues on through the Civil War and into the 1900s railroad and lumber mills.
This book details much of the history of the cove from artifacts left behind by early humans through to the present day. Over one million artifacts including beads, worked bone, and ceramics were recovered. Explanations of the excavation process are provided. A total of 87 illustrations, plates, charts and drawings are provided for reference and clarification. An index and preface are also provided which list some of the agencies which contributed to this endeavor.
The intended audience for this book should be someone with an interest in Appalachian history and archaeology. The writing style is rather dry and written somewhat like a textbook, but interesting stories of people who lived in the area and events over time keep the book entertaining. I would recommend this title for most public and academic libraries with an emphasis on the Appalachian region.
Tuckaleechee Cove provides an excellent description of an archaeological site, the excavation process and how it can help reveal the history of an area through time. It is a salient reminder that even small places can have an incredible history.
Thompson, A.R.H. (2015). Sacred mountains: A Christian ethical approach to mountaintop removal. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. 212 pages. ISBN: 9780813165998
I first heard the phrase Mountaintop Removal (MTR) Mining in 2009 when I moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee, along the Tennessee/Kentucky border near Bell County, Kentucky. I knew this was something that affected people in counties close to where I lived, but it did not touch my daily life, nor had I seen a mining site or talked with anyone personally involved with MTR either as a mine employee and/or resident of an affected area.
In his introduction to Sacred Mountains: A Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal, Thompson defines MTR as “an extreme form of surface mining” (p. 4). He goes on to clarify that in contrast to underground mining, which leaves the surface of the mine site relatively undisturbed, surface mining “removes everything covering seams of coal, soil, rocks, and vegetation” (p. 4), in order to reach the coal more completely in areas where reaching the coal via underground mining would be difficult. MTR uses explosives to clear the mountaintops and has occurred in several states throughout Appalachia since the 1970s. By law, after an area has been mined, mining companies are to restore mountaintops to a close approximation of their original state. In reality this does not always happen.
In Sacred Mountains, Thompson, a post-doctoral fellow in environmental ethics at the Sewanee School of Theology, has written an interesting and impressively-researched entry in the literature of MTR. He goes beyond a restatement of the facts to address the moral foundations Christians can use to build an ethical framework in which to view the reality of MTR, act and react in ways that best serve God’s creation, and interact and work with those people whose opinions and needs regarding MTR differ from their own. Thompson shows great breadth and depth in his research and covers such areas as the ecological, environmental, and human impacts of MTR, the place of religion in Appalachia, and the concept of Appalachia as place in the consciousness of the United States as a whole.
Thompson provides gentle guidance on how to view God’s action in creation and discern God’s will in the world. He makes a strong case that in order to act with Godly discernment regarding MTR, one needs to act with knowledge based on scientific data and a long view of the economic impacts associated with MTR. Thompson also makes a strong case that MTR is not just an issue for communities physically close to MTR sites, but for everyone, due to the widespread long-term impacts of both continuing and stopping MTR. We do not and cannot lead our spiritual, social, and physical lives in isolation from people in other parts of the county, country, or the world.
Sacred Mountains is appropriate for academic collections at the upper-level undergraduate and graduate levels in the areas of regional and Appalachian studies, environmental ethics, religion and philosophy.
West, C. V. (2015). Nashville architecture: A guide to the city. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 278 pages. ISBN: 9781572339200
Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City provides detailed information not only about historic buildings and areas in Nashville, but also about the modern additions to the city in recent decades. The book starts with an overview of Nashville’s architectural history. It explains how Nashville grew and changed over two centuries, and how the architecture reflects those changes. Nashville Architecture is then divided into ten sections, each dealing with a specific area of Nashville: Downtown, North, East, South, Midtown, West, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Northwest.
Each section begins with a map showing the location of the numbered entries for that section. There is also a short history of each area before the actual property listings. Most entries are specific properties, but some cover an area, such as Germantown in North Nashville, and the Sylvan Park neighborhood in West Nashville. Along with a history of each property or area, the author provides the address, construction dates, historical designation (National Register, National Historical Landmark, etc.) if any, and in many cases, the name of the original architect. There are 278 listings with 154 black and white photos, many of which are taken by the author. The book includes historical maps of Nashville, notes, suggested titles for further reading and an extensive index.
Carroll Van West is the director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University. Additionally, Dr. West is the Tennessee State Historian, the Director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, serves on the board of advisors for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and teaches and writes extensively in the field of architecture. Dr. West worked with the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Metro Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County to produce this book.
Nashville Architecture is a wonderful guide to the architecture of the old and the new Nashville. It makes for an educational and interesting self-guided tour of the city, offering local background information that most people wouldn’t previously know. It should be a “must have” for the area public libraries, and would be a good addition for any other library interested in architecture or Southern History and culture.
Webb-Sunderhaus, S. (2015). Rereading Appalachia: Literacy, place, and cultural resistance. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. 229 pages. ISBN: 9780813165592
Encouraged by the editors to interweave personal stories with traditional academic writing, the authors of this nine chapter collection have succeeded in compelling readers to look past the common “us-versus-them, insider-versus-outsider” Appalachian literary focus. Contributors include professors from the University of Houston, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a self-described “native stranger” to Central Appalachia, editor Sara Webb-Sunderhaus. Webb-Sunderhaus is the daughter of Appalachian migrants and associate professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
These and other contributors use stories of people of Appalachia to question the preconceived notions of literacy and resistance in the region as it relates to those who self-identify as Appalachian as well as those politically and geographically connected.
Nathan Shepley argues in “Place-Conscious Literacy Practices in one Appalachian College Town,” that students at Ohio University resisted “harmful narratives of Appalachia and advocated for “policies and programs that will ensure a sound future for Appalachian communities.”
In his chapter, “The Transition to College for First-Generation Students,” Todd Synder writes that “coming to recognize my college anxieties, fears, and educational unpreparedness as symptomatic of the extractive industry economy [coal] that dictated the collective consciousness of my hometown was perhaps the most liberating of all my collegiate intellectual discoveries” (p. 80).
In the Afterword, Peter Morensen concludes that Rereading Appalachia cannot change the fact that the “ubiquitous idea of Appalachia bears little resemblance to the place and people it is said to represent” (p. 202). However, he does suggest that it may better equip readers to look beyond that type of scholarship and at least do damage control in debunking Appalachian literary myths, perhaps shedding light on Kathryn Taylor’s concluding sentence to her chapter, “Diverse Rhetorical Scenes of Urban Appalachian Literacies.” “It is our responsibility as instructors and writers to engage and encourage diverse literacy performances that shape and reshape what it means to be Appalachian” (p. 132). This title is recommended for public and academic libraries.