|TL 61:3 Book Reviews|
Bales, S. L. Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941.
The ivory-billed woodpecker has probably been extinct since the 1940’s, although occasional disputed sightings have occurred since then. Because the species relied on trees that were dead for no more than two years for food, each ivory-bill required a large territory, and the gradual encroachment of humankind into southern wetland forests meant that eventually there were no wooded tracts of sufficient size to support a population of ivory-bills. By the early 1900’s the birds were scarce enough to have acquired the nickname “ghost birds” because of the unlikelihood of seeing a specimen twice.
Most of our knowledge about the habitat and natural history of ivory-bills comes from a multi-year study of the birds performed in the late 1930’s by ornithologist Jim Tanner (who was then a student at Cornell University working on a grant from the Audubon Society, and who later served on the faculty of the University of Tennessee for many decades). Bales, a naturalist at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, presents in Ghost Birds an exhaustively detailed narrative of Tanner’s expeditions. Although Bales includes occasional diversions, ranging from a brief history of the Model A to a survey of fashion trends among Seminoles in Florida, the bulk of the book is a nearly day-to-day account of Tanner’s work in the woods of Louisiana observing a handful of woodpeckers. Such sustained attention to Tanner’s activities provides the reader with an intimate experience of a naturalist’s work habits and along the way reveals most of the information Tanner uncovered about ivory-bills. However, the personality of the protagonist (his main traits seem to have been persistence and keen observation) coupled with the repetitive nature of his activities make for a narrative lacking forward propulsion.
Those readers seeking understanding of the ecological and economic forces leading to extinction find them briefly covered in the text (in short, the last stand of woodpecker habitat was destroyed to make packing crates for World War II), but without any sustained discussion. Although the work contains a modest bibliography, there are no notes. Those intrigued by birdwatching will find the book a rewarding read, rich in detail and suffused with the thrill of discovery.
The book is illustrated with photographs and maps which help greatly to clarify Tanner’s activities, and an excellent index is included. Bales’s prose is well-formed and provides many word-pictures of the environment and the birds in action; for a non-fiction work about science, the text is remarkably accessible. It is intended for a general audience, who should have no problem understanding the issues of ecology and ornithology addressed in the book.
As the book’s blurb states, “Everyone who is interested in the ivory-billed woodpecker will want to read this book.” However, its attraction for other readers depends on their interest in the quotidian details of a naturalist’s work or the daily doings of birds in the wild. This book is recommended for academic libraries serving wildlife management or zoology programs, and public libraries serving a birdwatching populace.
Bergeron, Paul H. (2011). Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. 299 pages. ISBN 1572337486.
Johnson’s own “strict constructionist” program of Reconstruction—requiring a loyalty oath and approval of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery but leaving the states to decide the question of extending suffrage to blacks—was implemented in the summer of 1865 during Congressional recess. On this basis, every state but Mississippi was re-admitted. Congress, upon its return, refused to seat the representatives of the former Confederate states and instituted its own program of “radical” Reconstruction, which tied re-admittance to black suffrage. Presidential power became a nullity: Johnson’s vetoes were overridden, and he famously became the first President to be impeached (though he survived conviction by one vote).
But it is this very failure (or defeat) that is worth looking into, and all public or academic librarians will want to have Bergeron’s book for their patrons.
Bergeron, professor of history emeritus at the University of Tennessee, completed the editing of the Papers of Andrew Johnson. With this book, Bergeron focuses on the years 1862-1868, the crucible of Johnson’s long political career (elected as an alderman in Greeneville in 1829 at the age of 21, he died a U.S. Senator in 1875).
Noting the lack of recent Johnson biographies, Bergeron sets out to “present Johnson as fairly as the evidence and my own comprehension will permit.” Johnson, writes Bergeron, “has been vilified enough” for his racism, and one of Bergeron’s motivations for this “reexamination” of Johnson is to show how racism, while undeniably a component in Johnson’s makeup, “was not the totality of the man.” Arguing that it is “difficult … to imagine how Johnson could have avoided being a racist,” Bergeron’s account emphasizes Johnson’s conservative, unionist interpretation of the Constitution as being the true key to understanding his actions.
Jud Barry, Executive Director
Continuing the story of “sword jockey”/detective Eddie LaCrosse, Dark Jenny is third in a series of mashed-up genre novels by Alex Bledsoe. This is not a standard historical mystery; instead it mixes both traditional sword-and-cape fantasy with noir fiction. With the style of Humphrey Bogart, our hero uses his wit to weigh out the motives, alibis, and hidden secrets, when Queen Jennifer of Grand Braun is accused of murdering a noble knight.
Bledsoe tells his story in a conversational first-person narrative using dialogue and plot rather than elaborate descriptions to guide the reader up and down the path of the story. Although the former novels, The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly, help readers get to know Eddie, it is not strictly necessary to read the stories in order. Each book stands alone for a tale of adventure, clever conversation, and familiar references to literature, classical mythology, and even Americana. In Dark Jenny, Bledsoe refers to the complex story of King Arthur with similar names and history as T. H. White’s Once and Future King. Still, the twists are strikingly different. For example, in Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory nor any of the common ballads did the magician Merlin retire in the style of Bledsoe’s court advisor Cameron Kern, a wizened old man who opens a tourist spot called The Crystal Cave, resembling a cross-between Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns and the Lost Sea, complete with barn-painted advertisements spread across the countryside.
In addition to the Eddie LaCrosse series, Bledsoe, who resides near Madison, Wisconsin, has also published two vampire novels, Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood, which take place in Memphis, Tennessee, near the author’s hometown.
This book is recommended for public libraries seeking a new twist on the old fantasy template, as well as Tennessee-born authors. Because of its mature storyline of murder and sexuality, an adult or older teen audience would be the most appropriate. For more information about the Eddie LaCrosse series, please see the author’s website-http://www.alexbledsoe.com.
In this engaging volume Steven R. Boyd, a political historian of the Early Republic period, examines expressions of Union and Confederate patriotism through the medium of wartime envelopes. The slender work of 132 pages contains footnoted text, a select bibliography, an index, and a clustered and unnumbered section of illustrations in the center. Since the war itself, ephemera collectors have been fascinated by these common and cheaply produced artistic commodities numbering more than 15,000 different designs. Boyd approaches them as a historical source indicating, to some degree, consumer desires and sentiments. Through the lens of material culture, the author pursues evidence for larger themes of fundamental causes, political iconography, and the development of competing nationalisms. Of special significance are representations of African-Americans, women, and soldiers. In this approach, Boyd borrows recent art historical methodologies particularly those that elicit meaning from "intended iconography." Given the sparseness of explanatory text or testimony of a purchaser's reflections, the symbolism of envelopes must be contextualized through larger cultural values. Work of this sort has already appeared in connection to the Civil War though much scholarly room remains. The study models itself, in part, on the splendid volume by Mark E. Neely, Jr., and Harold Holzer, entitled The Union Image: Popular Prints of the Civil War North. Boyd organizes his work thematically, examining core imagery of the Constitution, national flags, the opposing presidents, African-Americans and women, and a chapter on soldiers. The author's principle argument is that this category of envelope fostered patriotism and "the emotional commitment of citizens North and South to their respective causes." Systematic study of this source reveals "popular attitudes about the war's causes and the issues at stake."
Boyd highlights several limitations of this approach including a source imbalance skewed notably toward Union examples. Moreover, while designers could depict specific figures and key battles, a great many designs were impersonal abstractions that yield imprecise meanings. He also highlights an understandable tendency of the covers, given the prevailing Victorian norms, to "understate the enormity of the conflict and limit representations of the casualties to sanitized images." Published as part of a noteworthy series on New Dimensions of the American Civil War, this book should prove thought-provoking to scholars and casual readers alike. Written in accessible prose with a utilitarian organization it connects to larger issues of the war's meaning and the experience of those who lived through it. Nearly 200 color examples of envelope design help illustrate the text, though the reader will wish that they were larger or could have been integrated better into the essays. This book is not a reference work, of which a number already exist, nor a comprehensive survey of all potential themes that could be derived from patriotic envelopes. While it does not reach new conclusions about wartime nationalism it does apply a sound methodology on a neglected period source revealing fascinating patterns.
Robert M. Sandow, Associate Professor of History,
The fourteen essays in Telling Children’s Stories provide an accessible introduction to some of the issues surrounding the study of children’s literature. They cover a wide range of topics (such as fairy tale connections in young adult novels for girls, series books and mysteries for children, metafiction, narratology, similiarities between silent cinema and picture books, the identification fallacy, the feminist perspective in Hebrew children's literature, and time shifts in historical fiction) and provide scholarly depth without being over-complicated. The main focus is on narrative theory and the unique aspects of the assumptions surrounding the reader in children's literature.
The editor is the current president of the Children’s Literature Association and all of the contributors are university instructors well-versed in literature and narrative theory. I unfamiliar with all of the works discussed in the various essays, but the ones I was familiar with were represented accurately and I was able to follow the discussions on the ones I hadn’t read.
Following an extensive introduction written by the editor, the book is organized into four parts: Genre templates and transformations; Approaches to the picture book; Narrators and implied readers; Narrative time, with at least three essays in each part. Each essay has a Works Cited section and notes. At the end of the book there is a Further Reading section divided into different subjects like ethics, genre, or series books. There is also a contributor section with a brief biography of each contributor, along with a comprehensive index.
The essays in this book illustrate the deceptive simplicity of children’s literature. One essay takes a particular picture book (Time to Get Out of the Bath, Shirley) and deconstructs it to demonstrate how the book actually undermines and subverts the assumptions normally associated with children’s picture books. Another essay discusses the Lemony Snicket series and shows how the books challenge the traditional conventions of the gothic morality tale. Normally, good people are rewarded for their good deeds and bad people are punished for their bad deeds, but the Baudelaires try to do everything right and bad things still happen to them.
As someone with an English degree, reading these essays on children’s literature piqued my interest. While not a specialty of mine, I’ve always enjoyed reading young adult novels and books for children. I was not disappointed in this book. The essays are intellectually stimulating and returned me to my undergraduate days in upper division courses, discussing the nature of novels and narrative theory. This is an excellent contribution to the field of critical evaluation and discussion of children’s literature. It would be most suitable for academic libraries where the supported university has at least one course on children’s literature.
Sandy Orr, Media Services Librarian
Many Southerners know that most depictions of the south are stereotypical. We constantly hear and see ourselves represented by good-ole’ boys, sweet tea, and a certain banjo tune. In her new book, Karen L. Cox takes her readers to the beginnings of American popular culture and digs deep into social history to tell us how it all started and why the impact of this culture is important today. As a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and recipient of the 2004 Julia Cherry Spruill prize for the best book in southern women’s history, the author is well qualified to write on a topic as interesting (and sometimes controversial) as this.
The book is divided into six chapters – five of which explain in what capacity the south was used as a stepping block to build America’s social and popular culture: song, marketing, radio, film, and literature. In the first chapter, Cox discusses the origin of the music industry in America through such songwriters as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Stephen Foster. The second chapter delves into marketing campaigns that shaped the future of consumerism in America. For example, Aunt Jemima pancake mix first appeared at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and is still around today because of the stereotypical southern mammy used as its brand image. The third chapter investigates how radio influenced America’s perception of the south through radio shows such as Maxwell House Show Boat, Amos ‘n’ Andy, and National Barn Dance. Chapter four introduced Gone with the Wind as one of the greatest influences on perceptions in the south and also as one of the reasons southern films were so popular in the early twentieth century. The fifth chapter discusses how the book version of Gone with the Wind affected southern tourism and the general perception of the south around this time. These chapters are full of pictures that serve as examples of marketing campaigns, covers of sheet music, radio shows and film stills from movies of the south. The author also provides examples of lyrics to help the reader understand the context of the songs being discussed.
Even though the concept of popular culture in America seems like a light topic, this book does not gloss over the difficult history of America around this time. Even though the Civil War was over and slavery was abolished, Americans were consumed with certain depictions of the south. Non-southerners thought of the south as a place of white columned plantation houses, where ladies in hoops skirts and crinoline walked around like Scarlet O’Hara, African American men still picked cotton and African American mammies were content to look after their pickaninny children. Cox does a very good job of describing the history as it was without dragging the book into a dark place that could result from writing about slavery and its effect on our country.
While Cox does a very thorough job of explaining the history of American popular culture, there are some parts of the book that stood out in my mind because the chapters were not as organized as I would have liked. With little background in this area I was confused about a certain term or saying that would eventually be explained two or three pages later. Newcomers to this history would benefit from earlier in-text explanations. Also--and this is just personal preference and not something that deters from the book in any way--I would have loved to have seen an accompanying CD that might include songs, radio show and/or movie clips from the book.
This book would be a good addition to any southern public or academic library. Anyone interested in southern culture and southern history would also be encouraged to read this book.
Alison DePollo, Interlibrary Loan Assistant
Poems in A Walk in Victoria’s Secret focus on a wide-range of social and historical topics from a woman’s point of view at varying stages of life, such as abortion, race, femininity, age, and the South. For example, in her poem “Autobiography of a White Girl Raised in the South,” the narrator realizes that the commonplace activities she participated in as a child, such as eating at a lunch counter or using the restroom at the restaurant, were not possible for the African-American girl that she saw at her grandmother’s house. In hindsight the narrator regrets that she did not reach out to the other girl and invite her to play, although family members of both girls would not have allowed this. In “Eschatology”, the narrator describes an old woman whose life is the same day after day. Despite years of keeping busy with her work and the children she has raised, she is now alone and tries to not recall memories of happier times.
A Walk in Victoria’s Secret is thought-provoking and provides reflections of and insights into the female experience. Although both male and female readers may not be able to identify with every poem, this collection of poems creates awareness of what it is like to be these women in the times and places that they find themselves.
Daniels is a professor at Vanderbilt University. She has won the 2011 Hanes Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Southern Fellowship for Southern Writers for her body of work, along with other prizes and honors. Her previous collections of poetry include Four Testimonies and The Niobe Poems. Her work has also been showcased in Best American Poetry compilations for 2008 and 2010.
For almost a century, the southern states were so certain to vote Democratic that they were called the “Solid South” – and since the 1980’s they have been equally solid for the Republican Party. One explanation for this change in loyalties is summed up by LBJ’s remark after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.”
However, as Memphis librarian and local historian Dowdy demonstrates, the collapse of the Democratic stranglehold was due to numerous factors. While he focuses on Memphis, his narrative touches on regional and national voting trends when appropriate. The Bluff City’s politics were unique: the Crump machine dominated the city’s government until the early 1950’s, and many African-Americans maintained the franchise despite persistent segregation and discrimination in other aspects of civic life.
For the next two decades, Memphis politics were in disarray; after Crump’s death in 1954 the Democratic machine collapsed and various coalitions formed, disbanded and reformed in new configurations. Along the way, Republicans tasted electoral success through appeal to segregationist whites. The African-American vote was never a bloc, and the first few efforts to elect African-Americans were unsuccessful. African-Americans won elections after the city charter’s reformation created a ward system.
The city weathered the changes of the 1950’s and 1960’s with less violence than many southern burgs despite segregation’s ever-present brutalities. While sit-ins at restaurants and public libraries occurred, the white citizens of the Bluff City showed more restraint than those of Birmingham or Selma.
For the most part, Dowdy maintains a cohesive narrative tracing the various threads of Republican resurgence, African-American organizing, and reform of city government. However, the swirl of events and personalities is compressed in the telling (over twenty years of history is covered in just 141 pages of text), so much that the reader loses track of prominent persons. Poor indexing that only covers personal names contributes to the difficulty of keeping track of events.
Dowdy ends his book with the tragic end of this rapprochement – the mayoral administration of Henry Loeb. Loeb was both a segregationist and a corruption fighter, and was electied in a disunited field by appealing to both the anti-integrationist and the “good government” voting blocs. However, such a combination of traits was fatal when the sanitation workers’ strike of early 1968 began; it was largely Loeb’s intransigence that caused the strike to last as long as it did, drawing Martin Luther King to Memphis in April 1968.
Dowdy’s work is engagingly written, and thoroughly documented, with 30 pages of bibliography; however, the compressed narrative leaves a reader longing for more exposition and a deeper look at the personalities involved. Given that this may be one of the few works ever published on the topic, however, all research libraries and many public libraries should make this work a priority acquisition.
In Declarations of Dependence, Gregory Downs, an assistant professor of history at the City College of New York, offers a unique and original study of the development of popular political culture in post-Civil War North Carolina that has implications well beyond the Reconstruction-era American South. Downs’ central thesis argues that the anarchy and dislocation of the Civil War period fundamentally broke down most of the social, economic and legal obligations that sustained families and communities in Confederate states like North Carolina forcing people to turn to government for support and protection in a manner previously unheard of. The vacuum of authority caused by the war put in motion a personalized form of subservient political interaction between politicians and their constituents that Downs describes as “patronalism,” the paternalistic belief that “big men” distribute services on behalf of their favored clients. Patronalism, is more closely associated with politics in developing countries, especially Latin America, but Downs study of Reconstruction-era North Carolina makes the case that it was also instrumental in the development of American democracy and how citizens of this period related to government power and the eventual growth of the modern American state.
Drawing from state archives and the personal papers of various politicians, Downs presents examples culled from letters of people seeking not just redress or assistance but in many cases declaring their situations as bound to that of the politicians they address.
Interestingly enough this phenomenon can be seen across a wide variety of groups including wives of men off in battle, poor whites, African American freedmen, and local Republicans increasingly threatened with violence in the post-war years. Downs suggests this new relationship of people binding themselves to political patrons evolved over time and allowed both groups to maneuver through some very turbulent times. It made adept politicians like Governor and future U.S. Senator Zebulon B. Vance very powerful in both state politics and popular imagination; allowing him to build and hold popular support while providing avenues to deflect criticism. Moreover, the belief among those seeking help that someone was looking out for them gave them a sense of being part of larger political community that overshadowed the fact few would get the help they need. As the reach of government expands and affects more peoples by the turn of the century this dynamic not only helps solidify the politics of white supremacy in Southern states like North Carolina but Downs suggests it played a big role in furthering the progressive movement and even set the stage for the acceptance and popularity of the New Deal in the rural South. Declarations of Dependence’s rigorous scholarship and structure are definitely geared toward an academic audience and would be a worthy addition to any academic or large public library.
Durham’s book provides an in-depth overview of the relationships between local Unionist, Secessionists, and the Federal army during the occupation of Nashville from February, 1862 to June, 1863. The extensive background is covered through diary entries, eyewitness accounts, photographs, newspaper reports, military records, and other information. This gives the reader a birds-eye-view of the major and minor characters involved, daily life in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, as well as outside influences throughout the area during the period of Federal occupation. The secondary purpose shows the transition from Secessionist stronghold to the birth pangs suffered through rejoining with the Federal Union.
The material comes from such diverse sources as the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion to city maps of Nashville and Edgefield and various unpublished sources. The author uses both commonly known and lesser-known material which provide a strong resource for the amateur and professional historian/researcher/scholar seeking primary and secondary material for academic and publishing endeavors.
This book is intended for the lay historian and/or the academic, the casual student of antebellum Tennessee history, the Federal or Confederate Civil War Re-enactor and others interested in geographic history. Those who either live in or are familiar with the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area will also be enriched by the amount of detail relative to the area and the local figures involved.
This book is highly recommended for public libraries, academic libraries whose programs include a strong antebellum history curricula; secondary school Libraries whose curricula include AP programs in Civil War and Reconstruction History, and other libraries whose patronage include amateur and/or professional genealogists.
Bill Stevens, Nursing & Allied Health Librarian
Durham’s book provides an in-depth overview of the relationships between local Unionist, Secessionists, and the Federal army in Nashville from July, 1863 to June, 1865 as Nashville began the task of simultaneously rejoining the Union while still entangled in military struggles in and around the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area. Through diary entries, eyewitness accounts, military records, and legislative minutes the interactions and conflicts between Unionists and Secessionists; providing the essential background to better understand the cooperation and conflicts between the “Three Grand Divisions” of Tennessee
Walter T. Durham, serving as State Historian since 2002, has a long and distinguished biography including the publication of 11 other books on Tennessee history. His academic background and achievements, points to an author who writes a straight-forward, unbiased view of Tennessee history, and who also well-deserves the office of State Historian of Tennessee.
The material comes from such diverse sources as the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion to city maps of Nashville and Edgefield and various unpublished sources. The author uses both commonly known and lesser-known material which provides a strong resource for the amateur and professional historian/researcher/scholar who seeks primary and secondary material for academic and publishing endeavors. Those interested in Tennessee State Government during the Civil War will find the material within this book essential to understanding its tumultuous rebirth.
The layout is much like those one would normally see, however, one unique feature was the author’s use of a month-day-year subtitle for each chapter, eliminating the need for searching within the chapter to determine a timeframe of events. This provides a subchronology relative to outside events taking place in the Western and Eastern theaters of war occurring simultaneously.
Another unique feature of this book is the author’s repeated references to physical locations as they were in 1987, when the book was being written. This provides reference points for research, helpful for ‘on-site historians/researchers’ who enjoy visiting potential Civil War sites close to home; especially if changes have occurred due to construction and/or destruction.
For the lay historian and/or the academic, the Federal or Confederate Civil War Reenactor, and others, this book is intended. Those who want to understand the interplay between East, Middle, and West Tennessee, relative to State Government, will find in this book the information essential to develop that understanding.
This book is highly recommended for public libraries, academic libraries whose programs include strong Tennessee History and State Government curricula; and secondary school Libraries whose curricula include Advanced Placement programs in Civil War, Reconstruction, and Tennessee State Government.
Bill Stevens, Nursing & Allied Health Librarian
Lincoln Memorial University
Fulton J. B. (2011). The Reconstruction of Mark Twain: How a Confederate Bushwhacker Became The Lincoln of Our Literature. Baton Rouge, LA, Louisiana State University Press. 237 pages. ISBN 0807136913.
The Reconstruction of Mark Twain examines the transition that Samuel Clemens experienced from being a pro slavery secessionist to becoming a solidly pro racial justice and pro union advocate of later years as Mark Twain. Fulton examines a number of letters and published works that illustrate his point as well as observations of Clemens’ friends and colleagues.
Prior to the beginning of the Civil War, Clemens was a river boat pilot. He was aboard the last steamboat to go north before the blockade of the Mississippi by Federal forces. As a citizen of the border state of Missouri felt pressure to side with the Southern cause, or declare for the Union. In addition he faced the possibility of being conscripted into the Union river navy since he was an experienced pilot. Clemens joined the Missouri militia, thus his status as a Confederate “bushwhacker.” This period was very short lived as he only remained in the militia for a few weeks, but he wrote about it later in essays that Fulton cites. Fulton maintains that the evidence shows that Clemens’s stance on secession, slavery, and the Slave Recovery act indicate that at this point in his life, while not motivated to the point of risking his safety, he was in sympathy with the Southern cause and the agricultural economy that had become dependent on slavery to function.
Fulton looks at Clemens life and writings in subsequent periods to show the progression of his thoughts and sympathies as he gains experience and perspective on society, politics, and war. The changes in Clemens outlook are meticulously documented and there are extensive footnotes and citations. Huckleberry Finn, The Gilded Age, and other works showed that Clemens developed a critical eye for cultural traditions and values in both north and south certainly he had rejected the institution of slavery. Fulton maintains that the growth of his talent and social conscience earned him the grand title that William Dean Howells had given him, the “Lincoln of our literature.”
Fans of Mark Twain would enjoy this book for the detail that it provides about his life and work. This book is also a good resource for the serious Mark Twain scholar and is a good choice for academic libraries. Fulton frames his arguments in a historical perspective giving enough background to illustrate what influences may have affected Clemens and his contemporaries. The detailed notes and citations facilitate analysis of his arguments and invite review of the sources from which he draws his evidence.
Throughout her career, critic Sandra Gilbert has traveled across conventional divisions of canon, authorship, and genre, producing scholarship that bears the marks of such “hybridity.” Rereading Women follows squarely in that tradition. In 1979, Gilbert collaborated with her colleague Susan Gubar to write The Madwoman in the Attic—a foundational text of feminist criticism. In Rereading, Gilbert describes the team-teaching that led to Madwoman, as well as countless explorations in classrooms, conscious-raising groups, and awkward, sometimes hostile faculty meetings—efforts which all fed an ambitious cultural and aesthetic project being undertaken by feminist writers and critics everywhere. Her skillful opening essay “Finding Atlantis” traces that project’s origins, detailing the struggles of women writers from previous centuries who searched for their own literary forebears. Drawing from sources that range from medieval writer Christine de Pizan’s vision of a City of Ladies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s assertion, “I look everywhere for grandmothers and see none,” Gilbert sets a powerful stage for her subject matter. From there, incorporating thirty years of scholarly work, she attempts, on one hand, a somewhat idiosyncratic survey of the recovery and study of women’s literary traditions, and on the other, a more personal reflection on her own development as a feminist thinker and writer, or “hybrid poet-critic.”
Despite the tricky nature of the book’s structure, Gilbert succeeds, providing potent insights on the personal, the political, and the famously debatable space between the two. After outlining the structure in the introduction, Gilbert presents her essays chronologically within each section, foregoing lengthy commentary, caveats, or updates on these pieces. This unselfconscious choice allows the essays to stand for themselves, as they first appeared, more or less. As a result, the essays serve not only their individual, analytical theses, but also—taken cumulatively—as a striking reminder of the struggles endured by feminist critics during their early years. They also offer an effective glimpse of the progression of the feminist critical viewpoint over time. As for Gilbert’s acumen as a reader of literature, her arguments are perceptive and engrossing, particularly her cogent studies of Jane Eyre and Emily Dickinson’s poems, as well as an extensive “mini-book” on the evolving representations of maternity in literature.
Although Rereading Women is a rigorous scholarly work, its appeal slips beyond the faculty offices of Women’s Studies departments. Gilbert’s engaging style rarely wanders far enough into critical theory’s esoteric discourse to baffle non-academic readers. In fact, the few essays that tread heavily across those jargon-trails focus explicitly on such language—its functions and its usefulness. Rereading Women would enrich any library’s Women’s History and Literary Criticism collections. Moreover, libraries that cherish the classic works written by the authors Gilbert discusses—Charlotte Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, among many others—would also benefit from this accomplished study.
Emily Choate, Freelance Writer
Look no further for your next coffee table or gift book. This gorgeous volume fits both bills perfectly. Many readers will be familiar with Carnton Plantation and its matriarch, Carrie McGavock, because of the immensely popular novel The Widow of the South by this books editor Robert Hicks. Hicks has a deep affinity for the place not only due to its role as the subject of his first and arguably most successful book but also as a member of the Carnton Plantation board. Herein lays the title’s appeal to not just Tennesseans but to lovers of Hicks’s novel as well as Civil War history buffs. For Carnton Plantation was the site of the bloody Battle of Franklin and the compassionate housing of the wounded and dead by the McGavock family thereafter.
While the book is primarily a showcase for a sumptuous photographic essay of the renovated home, grounds, and cemeteries of the McGavock family and soldiers lost in the battle, it also serves as an instructive overview of Tennessee history and decorative styles of the Civil War period. For instance, I learned that Maury County is apparently named for Abram Maury, the founder of Franklin. John McGavock’s office had a lovely cigar stand, the likes of which I’d never seen. If you’ve long wondered about the proper use of urns in the garden turn to page 68.
Renowned photographer Bruce Wolf has captured the beauty and dignity of Carnton Plantation through all the year’s seasons. The tome inspires the reader to care about the future of this place and others like it throughout the nation and is a perfect selection for any library due to its historical significance in general and its Tennessee connections in particular.
Americana is an odd genre to pin down, focusing on taking old styles of music and presenting them in new ways. The eight artists interviewed in Hight’s Right by Her Roots cross more than musical styles. With musicians like Mary Gauthier, Ruthie Foster or Abigail Washburn- gender, race, and even cultures become fluid, flowing from a solid foundation of spiritual connectedness and a root system of interdependency.
Hight’s music-saturated book inspires a mental soundtrack as the reader absorbs the stories of the eight female singer-songwriters she interviewed. Although the text cites about twenty to forty songs for each artist, a compilation CD illustrating a taste of each artist was not included. Readers do have an Index of Songs, found at the back of the book, inspiring musical adventures.
In her examination of the musicians’ work, Hight uses personal interviews and research of musicologists, historians, and other academics to paint a full portrait of each artist’s musical repertoire. She quotes the intuitive statements of her subjects and then confirms their sentiments with scholarly work, such as pairing Victoria Williams’ confession that musical scatting reachs beyond stylistic play into the spiritual realm with Stephen J. Casmier and Donald H. Matthews’ research into “non-mimetic” discourse.
Only in the introduction and conclusion, Hight gives her own definitions of Americana and testimony of its effect on her life and study. She ties her interest in this particular genre of music into its cultural rise in popularity and a general search for rootfulness, in a world of increasing globalization and transient heritage. As Abigail Washburn summarizes, “Home is in the looking for it.”
In addition to the Index of Songs, the book includes a Discography, Bibliography, and General Index, as well as Notes for each chapter, adding more academic commentary for music researchers. Music lovers and researchers from academic and public libraries will enjoy this text for pleasure reading, as well as an in-depth study of musical genre, popular culture biography, and religious studies.
“Most Americans think their electricity comes from an electricity fairy. That’s what they think. You ask them where it comes from: ‘Well, from the light switch.’ Excuse me, but I know where it comes from because my blood, sweat, and tears pays for it. Every time you flip on that light switch you’re blowing up my mountains and you’re poisoning my babies. When you come to Appalachia, you’re no longer in the United States of America—no, sir. You’re in the United States of Appalachia, and King Coal rules with an iron fist.” (page 139)
“’An entire mountain is blown up for a relatively thin seam of coal,’ followed by giant machines that push dirt, rocks, and trees into the valleys below, destroying streams, wildlife, and the lives of any people in the way.” (page xi)
House and Howard document the “loss of 48,000 jobs in West Virginia alone” and the other dire consequences, both environmental and personal through 11 interviews. Singer Jean Ritchie feels mountaintop removal is wrong because Kentucky has one of the last great watersheds. Filling up streams is causing terrible things for the future. Author Denise Giardina remembers being bitter when she was a child because they were not allowed to play in the creek because it was full of mine acid.
These eleven stories document the fierceness of pride residents of Appalachia feel toward the area, the resentment they have toward the coal mining companies and politicians and unions they feel will take the side of the mine owners. It recounts the many forms of protest, including singing such as Kathy Mattea’s concerts, church meetings, travelling to speak to institutions such as Bank of American who may unknowingly contribute to the process.
Judy Bonds found a paycheck of her father’s for fifteen dollars. She claims this is not enough to compensate for the risks to life and health. The asthma caused by the coal ash pales in comparison to the coal slurry impoundment pond which allowed three hundred million gallons of black sludge to chug down Coldwater Creek. (p 181)
This book should be added to all libraries using electricity. The tales are grim. Because we are not directly involved the trauma felt by others is removed. The land is raped by some companies and left to become a landslide.
Hughes, N. C. and S. K. Rushing, (Eds). (2011). Refugitta of Richmond: The Wartime Recollections, Grave and Gay, of Constance Cary Harrison. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 251 pages. ISBN 1572337478.
Originally published in 1916, Constance Cary Harrison’s memoir, Refugitta of Richmond, brought her unique perspectives and experiences of life during Civil War era Richmond, Virginia to her vast readership. Nearly one hundred years later, Hughes and Rushing resurrected her writings and brought new life to her wartime era recollections through a thorough introduction, epilogue, appendix and extensive and insightful annotations.
The daughter of well-to-do Virginians and beau and future wife of Jefferson Davis’s personal secretary, Constance interacted with a diverse group of notable individuals within the Confederate home front. While her writing illustrates the numerous social and racial inequities of the day, it also provides unique insight into a pivotal period in the history of the United States. Hughes, the author or editor of numerous publications about the Civil War, and Rushing, a professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and editor of several similar nineteenth century diaries and reminiscences, bring the majority of her largely unknown memoir as it was originally published to today’s readers with several notable additions. With a detailed index, readers can easily locate material of interest to them within the publication. Exhaustive annotations and helpful explanatory material also provide contextual information that corrects, interprets, or provides further details about the numerous topics and issues addressed. By including annotations as endnotes and other material separate from the original text, these additions do not detract from the work as originally published; rather, they provide ready access to the helpful and authoritative supplemental information today’s reader expects.
Clearly, this work could be of interest to individuals interested in a diverse group of social and political aspects of the Civil War era. Due to the style of writing during which the work was originally written, some contemporary readers could find the historical nature of text a bit challenging to read. Refugitta of Richmond is recommended for large academic libraries, special libraries with strong collections in history, and particularly, the Civil War, or anyone with a serious interest in these areas.
In this thoroughly researched biography, UVA-Wise professor Brian D. McKnight examines the life of the almost mythical Confederate outlaw, Champ Ferguson. While contemporary and more recent publications have attempted to tell the story of this man and his world, McKnight expands upon a growing body of diverse scholarship in order to more completely understand Ferguson’s actions and motivations.
For generations of Civil War historians, Champ Ferguson was simply a lawless and ruthless rebel who wreaked havoc and instilled fear in all those who remained loyal to the Union throughout the Kentucky-Tennessee borderland. Others portrayed Ferguson in an almost mythical light, highlighting his unwavering dedication to his convictions, even upon the gallows. McKnight contends that while the majority of these scholars accurately state Ferguson was a product of his place and time, they fail to fully analyze the borderland and the complex notions of fear, anxiety and loyalty that pervaded the lives of those who lived in the region during the era. In this work, McKnight succeeds in illustrating how Ferguson’s sense of righteousness, loyalty to select friends and family, and desire to preserve his world allowed him to take the lives of those who he considered enemies to his way of life. McKnight’s thorough understanding of the complexities life in the Civil War era borderland, highlighted in this book and his earlier award winning publication, Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia, provide the reader with a fresh and unique insight of this important region. Also, the extensive endnotes, bibliography, and helpful index found at the end of the text will allow scholars seeking to learn more about these topics to quickly and easily access information of particular interest.
Confederate Outlaw is a must read for individuals interested in the life of Champ Ferguson, the borderland regions during the Civil War, guerrilla warfare, and military operations. This work is recommended for all academic libraries, special libraries with strong collections in history, and particularly, the Civil War, as well regional public libraries and historical societies.
Gregory H. Stoner, Librarian
Reading Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State was enjoyable and I chose to review it because I am from Kentucky and I'd never really thought about why Kentucky is considered a Southern state. knew it was a border state; I just never put the words side by side. Why could Kentucky be “Southern” when it didn't secede? I learned that a small area of Kentucky did secede—an area near Russelville, close to the Tennessee border. It was recognized as Confederate state despite a majority of its citizenry disliking Lincoln and the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery. Kentuckians wanted to stay true to the union and keep slaves.
Throughout the book, Marshall, an Assistant Professor of history at Mississippi State University explains why Kentucky became a “Southern state” in the eyes of America and kept the “lost cause” alive. After the Battle of Perryville in 1862, (one of the few major battles in Kentucky), General Bragg and his army fought the Union again at Stones River in Murfreesboro. Kentucky was under martial law during the Civil War, under sometimes under rather zealous leadership. The Union military leaders couldn't tell who was pro-Confederacy, so they often suspected everyone. In Kentucky a prison existed where women suspected of aiding the enemy were kept. Needless to say, resentment rankled and memories were long.
During the war and for twenty years after the Civil War ended, marauders ran rampant in Kentucky. Groups of vigilantes, Confederate deserters, and guerrillas from both the North and South, not to mention the Night Riders terrorized everyone. Kentucky was considered the most violent state in the union until the 1890s.
Academic or large public library will find this book most useful for their collections as well as collections with strong holdings in Kentuckiana.
James Marten, professor of history at Marquette University and writer of the well received Civil War works The Children’s Civil War, Texas Divided: Loyalty and Dissent in the Lone Star State, 1856-1874, and Civil War America: Voices from the Home Front, adds another outstanding publication to this list with Sing Not War: The Lives of Union & Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America. Examining the reintegration of Civil War soldiers into civilian society after the victory parades and welcome home celebrations fell silent, Marten reveals that many soldiers found the shift back to civilian life cumbersome and relationships with Gilded Age Americans increasingly difficult due to shifting values.
Well organized, the reader does not have to penetrate deeply into the text to find a thorough sampling of letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, and newspapers. Allowing the voice of the veterans to resonate through judicious use of these primary resources, Marten believes that the veterans were generally well cared for during the Gilded Age, but the generational shift which began during this era changed the meaning of manhood and the perception of veterans as time passed. For Gilded Age Americans, the focus on productivity and success over duty, honor, and sacrifice placed those veterans requesting pensions and requiring public assistance at the bottom of social structure, associated with drunks, miscreants, and ne’er do wells. Social Darwinists even argued that dependent veterans failed as men to provide for themselves due to laziness, addiction, or other fault, casting a negative light on all veterans. Through veterans’ groups and political representatives, veterans countered this claim by citing their noble service which risked life, limb, and mental steadiness as just reason for much-needed support and care. Examining numerous sources to trace this debate including reunion reports, veterans’ home memories and letters, pension debates in the press, and popular literature, Marten skillfully articulates the various positions well, discovering a counterintuitive regional difference. While smaller in number, Confederate veterans were better able to control their legacy, whereas their counterparts in the North tended to have more difficulties, perhaps due to the politicization of the pension demands by Union veterans during and after the Gilded Age.
An authoritative addition to Civil War veterans’ studies, Sing Not War is a fine example of historical efficacy. The text consists of an introduction that establishes the focus of the work and six fully noted chapters. Additionally, an outstanding bibliography, numerous illustrations, and helpful index all allow for professional scrutiny, follow up reading, and opportunities for additional research. Due to the academic writing style and construction of this text, it would well serve advanced readers in Civil War studies such as historians, graduate students, researchers, writers, or teachers. With this said, the length of the chapters and prose may be a challenging for neophytes to Civil War scholarship. Consequently, this work might better serve libraries catering to academic audiences rather than the public at large.
Dr. Derek Allen Clements, Instructor of History/Social Sciences
The Nashville Battlefield Guide is intended for those interested in the military aspects of the Battle of Nashville, which took place December 15 and 16, 1864. The guide reproduces the text of the roadside historical markers placed by the Tennessee Historical Commission and other organizations, along with directions to the markers or to the battle sites. Massey also provides additional information about the military action at each site. Photographs and other illustrations add to the understanding of the battle; some modern photos aid in locating and recognizing sites. Author Ross Massey is a member of the Nashville camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and was a founding member of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.
The book is organized according to the days of the battle, with the information for December 15 grouped together, along with driving directions. This is followed by the information for December 16. Each day begins with a chronology of the battle. Massey advises that the markers for December 16 could be viewed on a driving tour in a single day, but because the battle was more extensive on December 15 and the markers are spread further apart within the city of Nashville, it might be difficult to drive to all of the December 15 sites in one day.
Some printing issues suggest the book may have been self-published. Typographical errors and instances where photo captions overlap the text give an amateurish feel. The oversized type and relatively small amount of white space within the book make the pages appear crowded. No information could be found through a web search for Tenth Amendment Publishing, nor could a phone number be found in the Nashville City telephone directory.
Civil War aficionados will enjoy the level of detail provided regarding the Battle of Nashville sites and the fighting at each location. This book would be appropriate for libraries in the Nashville area, for libraries with extensive collections of Tennessee Civil War materials, and for regional history collections.
Anyone who has ever seen the Ducktown Desert cannot help but question how such an environmental atrocity happened in this generally peaceful southeastern Tennessee valley. Duncan Maysilles, a lawyer and a historian with his doctorate from the University of Georgia, answers those questions and details the story, as relevant today as it was at the time of the first air pollution case, Georgia v. Tennessee Copper Co., to go before the Supreme Court in 1907. Maysilles efficiently provides an overview of the history of Ducktown and the Copper Basin from 1843 until 2010. His scope includes the environmental, economic, cultural, and legal forces that eventually came together to protect the interests of each of those groups and the rights of states to defend their own people and territories from transborder pollution.
Maysilles begins and ends the book with an observers standing on mountains with significantly different views. In the 1800’s the resources of the southern Appalachian mountains enticed numerous industries with little thought at the time for the impact on the land. By the 1890’s the smoke from the Ducktown Sulphur, Copper & Iron Company and their rival, the Tennessee Copper Company, wreaked havoc not only in the geographically inverted Copper Basin area but to farmers and other in northern Georgia. The sulfur dioxide fumes from copper mining mixed with 60 inches of rain destroyed foliage and wildlife within a 50 mile radius. Numerous smaller lawsuits began the change. Eventually agrarian populism, industrial logging, and the forest conservation movement joined forces. The reclamation of the land began in the late 20th century.
Maysilles organizes the book into nine chapters, an introduction, and epilogue. Chapters include the Cherokees and the First Era of Ducktown mining, the first smoke lawsuits, the farmers and the battle in the Tennessee courts, how Georgia enters the fray, the Ducktown Desert and Georgia’s first smoke lawsuit, forestry and Georgia’s second suit, Attorney General Hart and the search for a remedy, the Smoke Injunction and WWI, and finally power dams, whitewater rafting and the reclamation of the Ducktown Desert.
Close scholarly readings are not known for being exciting or joyfully written, but Matt Miller, an assistant professor at Yeshiva University, has managed to accomplish that task. Miller’s faculty page at the university’s website shows that he has received a Ph.D. in English literature as well as a Master’s degree in creative writing. In Collage of Myself, his pedigree shows.
The main concern of the book is the evolution of oft-celebrated early American poet Walt Whitman from struggling writer to composer of the revolutionary book Leaves of Grass. Miller proposes a hypothesis new to Whitman scholarship: that Whitman began Leaves of Grass as a grand formless idea, without first deciding that it would be poetry or having developed his familiar lengthy self-revelatory line, and that he wrote his way into the poem through a long process of revision and collage, a technique usually ascribed to the much later modernists. To inform his argument, Miller pored over Whitman’s earliest manuscripts and notebooks, analyzing individual words, lines, notes, and scratched out phrases, noting progressions and patterns. Miller traces Leaves of Grass from its earliest incarnation as an idea for a possible play or story through its development to its realization. Rather than reading the original text biographically, he reads it textually, inferring only in terms of the writing process, claiming that a biographical reading excludes much from a more complete reading. On the way, he refutes previously accepted ideas about the timeline of Whitman’s notebooks, using fragments from lesser known notebooks to reorganize undated writing. Finer points of his arguments are highlighted with clear photographs of Whitman’s notebooks.
The entirety of the book is an extra close reading of original manuscript intended for an audience that is already closely familiar with both Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass, most obviously a Whitman scholar or researcher. A reader with a casual interest in Whitman would find the book overwrought, but a non-academic with a love of literary history, Whitman’s poetry, and the writing process might find it fascinating. Miller’s creative writing background helps elevate the text from drudging critical analysis to something more poetic. For the most part he lets Whitman speak for himself in many quotes and excerpts, but his explicatory statements are often beautiful, and his passion for the subject is evident. For example, he describes Whitman as a figure in his own poems “present[ing] himself as a visionary witness to this spectral, secondhand language, standing apart from the staccato snapshot scenery of his catalogs, observing it with us, his readerly intimates…” (p. 178). It is this lovely use of language that keeps the text from drowning in its own textuality.
Included in the book is an exhaustive notes section, referring to various manuscripts, an extensive bibliography, and an index. This is an obvious choice for academic libraries, as Miller forges new ground in Whitman scholarship. Public libraries with a die-hard literary crowd might consider it as well.
Ashley Roach, Assistant Librarian, Children’s Department
This book provides an in-depth look into race relations and the fact that they did not end with the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but rather tensions have continued especially in the Southern region as well as across the U.S. The scope of After the Dream is an all-encompassing, fairly neutral historical perspective concentrating on the racial struggles that persist in education, employment discrimination, politics and poverty in the U.S., after the 1965 civil rights movement. Much is written here of the racial polarization that has continued to occur throughout the U.S. and not merely within the Southern region, although the bulk of this text concentrates on the South. Details are revealed from each of the eight presidencies that have occurred since 1965 and each new administration‘s role in race relations are revealed. Ultimately, it is a text that looks at all the details, every court case and incident, between those seeking black power and those exerting white resistance.
After the Dream book details many trials, tribulations, and even some triumphant events in the various presidential eras. It begins from President Johnson’s era with the topic of voting rights for African Americans and ironically concludes, with a postscript addendum, in President Obama’s election. However, the book is fastidious, and rightfully so it seems, to denote the continued apathetic responses by the public to the headway, and even the lack thereof, that is made in the world of race relations. Astonishingly, After the Dream provides an exorbitant amount of race related atrocities that continue to litter all parts of the U.S. landscape, but is especially relevant to the state of Tennessee and Mississippi, as well as other Southern states. For instance, the book discusses historically and racially charged topics in Tennessee, especially in the Memphis area, such as employment and education, which are still topics debated today. While the authors do provide factual accounts of the times, it seems they are in search of the positive “post racial” society many of us so desperately long for, but even find elusive after the election of the first African American President of the United States.
After the Dream would be a welcome addition to many types of libraries, but would certainly fare well at the academic library level for use in any studies, as should be obvious, relating to African American studies. Furthermore, the book’s bibliography and notes provide a plethora of resources for any researcher.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! No lions or tigers here, only a moose, an elephant, and a bearskin-wearing, dulcimer-playing murderer in this eerie, mystical novel written by Howard Frank Mosher. The author who primarily writes about northern Vermont uses it as a jumping off point for 17 year old Morgan Kinneson’s trek south to find his missing brother. The time is 1864, the Civil War rages and Morgan’s family, Quakers, are conductors on the Underground Railroad. Escorting an elderly escapee on the last leg into Canada, Morgan’s hunting instincts pull him away toward tracking a huge moose. Unsuccessful, he returns to find his charge murdered and for reasons he doesn’t quite understand, the murderers now hunting him. Unbeknownst to Morgan, the escapee slipped a rune-covered stone into the pocket of Morgan’s coat. As he slowly realizes the stone is what his hunters are seeking, fear for his family leads him south to search for his doctor brother Pilgrim who disappeared after the battle at Gettysburg.
Along the way, Morgan befriends an elephant, recuperates with a Quaker gunsmith, encounters a runaway slave who begs for his help to save her brother, travels through a magical cave filled with colorful stalactites, has boots made by a “son” of Thomas Jefferson behind the ruins of Monticello and converses with a weary Robert E. Lee. A band of escaped convicts seeking both the stone and the runaway are never far behind, but Morgan is successful eluding and killing them all. Or so he mistakenly believes which ultimately leads to the final, unexpected showdown.
The author has subtly woven together a historical novel with threads of facts, myths and pure imagination. It is a harsh world filled with cruelty, but at the same time, various characters surface to provide needed assistance. Oddly enough, the book put me in mind of Billie Letts’ novel Where the Heart Is. The main character recognizes she would not have gotten where she did without the help and support of others. Morgan Kinneson recognizes this as well. Though he fancied himself a loner, he realized he would not have found his brother and finally his life’s path without the help he received along the way. And for those Tennessee readers believing they will be learning about a Gatlinburg that no longer exists, the tiny hamlet makes a not so pleasant cameo appearance. This may be a disappointment for them, but the author does travel deep into the Tennessee/North Carolina wilderness incorporating some recognizable landmarks such as the Sugarlands and Grandfather Mountain. The novel makes a good addition to Tennessee public libraries and is a worthy read that will stay in mind long after the final sentence.
Although there is a multitude of published works addressing the Second World War (WorldCat lists 334,259 books with the subject “World War, 1939-1945”), there is a shocking paucity of academic volumes addressing the war’s impact on children. Ossian, a professor of history at Des Moines Area Community College, lists just five in her bibliography. This fact makes Ossian’s solidly researched and compellingly narrated work all the more valuable.
Although the author draws upon some statistics to demonstrate the effect of the war on children (for example, the lure of better-paying defense jobs and the force of the draft led to a nationwide shortage of 75,000 classroom teachers in 1943), most of her book consists of stories of individual children coping with the pressures of total war (in which all of the nation’s resources, human and industrial, are prioritized for war work).
Aside from temporary rationing in the Korean War and an income tax surcharge during the Vietnam War, the last half century was a time in which most civilians experienced war only as a news item. World War II, on the other hand, drew upon the resources of all the citizens of the U.S.A., down to the youngest children. Ossian brings together vignettes of children organizing scrap material drives; city kids working in farm fields’ youngsters left orphaned when fathers were killed in action; teenagers rebelling through zoot suit attire; and even Japanese-American children interned in concentration camps, to demonstrate how the “home front” really did change the lives of America’s smallest citizens. She is particularly acute in her analysis of popular culture – advertisements, cartoons, newsreels, mass-market periodicals – as an expression of cultural anxiety over the effect of wartime pressures on children’s development.
The anecdotes are organized thematically in chapters; for example, chapters focus on children’s work in agriculture, or the effect of the Pearl Harbor attack on children.
The book is sparsely illustrated, which is a shame because many of the author’s points revolve around analysis of a graphic image, which is described in detail but would be better seen in context. The other main defect is an index which has proper name entries, but no subject entries.
Andrew Jackson was a colossus of nineteenth-century America: whether for good or ill, his outsized personality (he fought more than one duel), mastery of politics and firm commitments to his principles allowed him in his eight years as president (1829-1837) to reshape the political landscape in his own image. Two of the dominant strains of federal political thought throughout the remainder of the century can be seen as reactions to Jackson’s success: Whiggism, seen as a desire for Congress to control the policy-making functions of federal government, only coalesced as a united political force in reaction to Jackson’s assertion of presidential policy initiatives, while the populist fervor that elected Jackson would swing elections for many decades.
Such a significant figure deserves the careful collection of personal documents that the University of Tennessee Press is preparing for Jackson. Although Jackson’s papers are preserved in microfilm, the printed edition offers significant advantages to the researcher. First, the works are much easier to read in print than in longhand. Second, the editors provide a significant amount of contextual material, such as prefatory remarks for certain documents and copious footnotes explaining personages and events referred to in the source documents. Finally, the documents which are spread among three different microfilm series are united in chronological order within the printed papers.
Ironically, the last advantage is undercut by the editors’ decision not to include any of Jackson’s messages to the Congress on the grounds that such documents (the most significant works of any nineteenth-century president) are easily accessed in other government documents, including the digitized Congressional “Serial Set” and Senate Executive Proceedings. The University of Tennessee Press editions include a complete calendar of documents so that researchers can easily find any document within the microfilm sets, the printed papers, or the Congressional papers.
The researcher using the UT Press editions, then, is mostly left with Jackson’s correspondence (to and from the president). It ranges from the trivial (dinner invitations) to the momentous (memoranda discussing policy decisions with his cabinet officers.) Volume VIII covers January through December of 1830, Jackson’s second year in the White House. Among the significant milestones of that year were Jackson’s veto of the Maysville Road Bill, the passage of the Indian Removal Act, the initiation of Jackson’s campaign to terminate the Second Bank of the United States, and the development of the Eaton affair. Researchers can trace the progress of events, public opinion, and Jackson’s own thoughts as news reaches him from his network of correspondents around the country. Along the way, the papers reveal Jackson’s hand in the minutest affairs of the executive branch, from approving expense accounts to pardoning mail robbers. Of significant interest to Tennessee libraries are the numerous documents detailing federal relations with Indian tribes in the state.
In Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder,” the overall concept and purpose of the book is transporting the reader from his or her present location to a world that, until now, existed only in the deep recesses of readers’ imagination. The premise of research, study and development of a drug that can change life as we know it is cause for the reader to become fully absorbed and fiercely turn each page waiting to see what lies ahead.
The characters are so fully developed that the reader feels for each of them in their individual predicaments and wanst to help them resolve the issues at hand. The locations and scenery paint pictures so vivid that the reader is easily placed firmly on the grounds of Manaus, Brazil, feeling the scorching heat, the downpours of the monsoon rains, the murkiness of the brown water in the Rio Negro, and the stinging bites of the Amazonian insects existing only deep in the Brazilian rain forest. From Manaus, the principal characters venture into the Amazon jungle where never before seen colors; plants, wildlife, and perhaps the tree of life exist. The indigenous tribes -Lakashi and Hummocca call this part of the jungle home.
Anders Eckman, Marina Singh, Jim Fox, Annick Swenson, Easter, Milton and the Bovenders, are immersed into a world where their previous experience seems light years away from their current location. A campsite becomes their home near the research lab and testing facilities location of which is known only to a very few people. This protects the process of the research and development that is underway. The Lakashi, long ago discovered by Dr. Martin Rapp, are not exactly willing participants in the research, but language barriers aside, the researchers discover ways to communicate and incentives to gain the participation of the native people.
From page one, the reader gains insight into the story and the adventure that is forthcoming for Dr. Marina Singh, from the delivery of the news of Anders Eckman’s demise by Mr. Fox to her departure to Manaus to her arrival at the campsite and lab. There is a kinship amongst the characters that is not unlike that of any group of people who face hardship and adventure together.
In “State of Wonder” Patchett draws the reader in, in a way that it prompts the reader to question the approach, practices and processes of modern research and drug development. It makes the reader surmise that just because we “can” do it, “should” we do it?
There is a moral to the story, and readers feel that they, too, started from Vogel, the pharmaceutical company in Minnesota, where the adventure begins, to the Brazilian rain forest and back with Dr. Marina Singh and Dr. Anders Eckman, and that the trip was most worthwhile.
This book fires the imagination of the reader and is recommended for both academic and public libraries.
About ten years ago the author, Faye Porter, moved to the South and immediately became a convert to all things southern. This cookbook is her first book. The author’s approach is interesting. This is not only a cookbook, but an opportunity for the reader to meet and learn about grandmothers in the South. The author asked people (many from Tennessee) to contribute favorite recipes accompanied by a short reminiscence of their grandmothers. We meet the grandmothers through their grandchildren. They may be called, Mimi, Gigi, Mamaw, Nanny, or just plain grandmother, but these women make their grandchildren feel like princesses, give them tea parties with grilled cheese and sweet tea, keep them laughing with their jokes, and prepare the most delicious desserts.
Typical recipes include Nanny’s Morning Crepes, Church-Day Punch, Pimento Cheese à la Nanny, B.B.’s Turnip Greens, Georgia Hash, Miss Clara’s Shrimp Gumbo, Busy-Day Pork Casserole, Company Casserole, Feel-Better Cookies, Sarah’s Chocolate Pie, and Nanny’s Chocolate Pie. Unfortunately the author does not indicate how contributors were solicited and chosen or what instructions were provided them for their submissions. Many readers might be interested in the selection criteria.
The book is divided into twelve chapters (Breakfast; Jams, Pickles, & Canning; Beverages; Breads, Rolls, and Biscuits; Appetizers, Soups, and Salads; Side Dishes; Main Dishes; Pies and Cobblers; Cakes; Cookies; Chocolate Pies (yes! A whole chapter devoted to chocolate pies); and Miscellaneous Desserts. Desserts do make up one-third of the book.
At the beginning of each chapter there is a listing of the recipes, providing the reader with a quick overview of the contents. At the back there is an index of contributors, recipes and ingredients that is adequate, but could use some improvement (e.g. Mamaw’s Tuna Salad is listed under “M” for Mamaw and under “S” for salad, but not under “T” for tuna). Recipes have been tested, but some could have used a little more attention (the recipe for Momma Doye’s Banana Bread made quite a bit more than indicated, requiring a massive oven clean-up.) The book is nicely illustrated with full-color photos of many of the foods prepared from the recipes. The binding is sturdy and should hold up with use.
The recipes are not complicated and very Southern. Ingredients are easy to find, containing a mix of fresh, canned, and frozen items. Not surprisingly since these come from grandmothers these are typical ingredients from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I tried several recipes and can recommend the Dixie Meat Loaf (very moist) and the Old-Fashioned Pot Roast (complete with whisky gravy). Although I could not bring myself to melt a whole cup of butter for Momma Doye’s Banana Bread, it was tasty. This is not a cookbook for someone who is weight conscious or embarking on a healthy diet. It is straight-forward Southern comfort food with no pretentions.
Betsy Park, Assistant to the Dean for Organizational Development & Assessment
Nashville-native Adam Ross’ first novel, Mr. Peanut, is the story of David and Alice Pepin’s troubled marriage. This “police procedural of the soul” opens with David fantasizing about his wife dying in a horrific accident while the couple spends a seemingly perfect day at the beach. As the story progresses, the reader learns that David and Alice have been married for thirteen years and are struggling to remain happy after a series of painful miscarriages test the strength of their marriage. David’s fantasies of Alice’s death, sometimes at his own hands, reoccur throughout the book and eventually become reality when Alice mysteriously commits suicide by ingesting peanuts, which she is deathly allergic to, while David watches on. The police dispute David’s claims of suicide and accuse David of murder.
The two detectives assigned to investigate Alice’s murder, Ward Halstroll and Sam Sheppard, each have their own marital issues. Ross uses these characters to parallel David and Alice’s feelings of unhappiness, entrapment, and invisibility and devotes significant portions of the novel to intimately exploring their relationships. Halstroll’s wife has voluntarily confined herself to their bed for the past six months in order for her husband to notice her. Sam Sheppard is the real-life doctor who famously was convicted then acquitted of killing his wife, Marilyn. The addition of Sheppard to the story is unexpected but ultimately proves successful. Like David, Sheppard’s guilt is uncertain and complicated. It is obvious that each of the men had troubled marriages but the reader is left to wonder if that ultimately drove them to murder.
There are so many hidden themes and allusions in this book that it can almost be too clever for its own good. The structure of the novel is dictated by the idea that the three marriages in the book are all intertwined into a Möbius strip. Because of this, the narratives switch abruptly and awkwardly making the reader disoriented. It takes many pages before you realize the connection between the previous and current narratives. If you’re a fan of the films of Alfred Hitchcock or the artwork of M.C. Escher, this novel will be interesting to decode as Ross makes numerous allusions to films like Rear Window and Vertigo as well as the Escher works such as Encounter.
Overall, Ross’s first novel is a resounding success because it is decidedly unlike any other book about marriage. It grips you from the very beginning and takes you on a twisted journey through love and murder that leaves you uncertain about whom you are really sleeping next to at night. This title would be a welcome addition to any fiction collection in a public or academic library. Public libraries in the Nashville area should note that this title could be included in local author displays and reading lists.
Nicole Tekulve, Library Assistant III- Collection Management
What would possess a 26-year-old Kentucky belle to travel to Italy with twenty-six pieces of luggage less than three months before the outbreak of World War I? Although she was carrying in her pocket a letter of introduction from President Woodrow Wilson and was the daughter of a U.S. Congressman, Nancy Johnson, like 120,000 other Americans, believed she was totally immune to the political upheaval in Europe during the summer of 1914.
Writing about her maternal grandmother, award-winning author, Mary W. Schaller, skillfully intertwines the journal entries of one privileged woman with the newspaper accounts of the period to weave a story of daring, adventure, fear, and determination. Through this literary technique, the reader is allowed to keep one eye on the military movements across various borders, even though these foreign-born visitors wander aimlessly about on their summer holidays, oblivious to the fact that their money and American prestige would become useless.
Filled with photographs, this book would be an excellent read for those interested in the gentile society of the early 20th century, historians interested in primary source material related to World War I civilians, and those who enjoy true adventure stories. The continuous movement of the characters and the alternation between journal and news media make for quick reading and elicit curiosity on the part of the reader to know if the Americans would escape alive. The extensive endnotes and bibliography provide interpretation of events, biographical information on members of the society, and material for further reading.
Though Nancy survived the ordeal and lived to be 93 years of age, she only once ventured back to Europe and never crossed the borders into Italy. While she escaped physically, the psychological effects remained with her throughout her life. This “war to end all wars” changed everything.
And what happened to the 26 pieces of luggage? In her gentile fashion even under duress, Nancy was willing to risk her life in order to ensure that she returned to American society with all her finery!
Dr. Pam Dennis, Learning Commons Coordinator
Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences is a collection of essays written by experts in the field of Pentecostalism, religion and science. From the beginning of this book, editors James K.A. Smith and Amos Yong clearly outline the structure of the book and its intent: “to encourage thoughtful, intentional reflection on the intersection of faith and scientific vocations with the hope of overcoming the ‘silo’ effect that has tended to insulate these conversations from one another.” (p. 7) Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this book reflect the growing and changing nature of Pentecostalism and the varied roles that advancements in medicine, science, physics, and chemistry have on the spiritual interpretation of Pentecostalism. The editors note that the primary audience for this book are undergraduate students struggling to reconcile this often complex and difficult issue – the coexistence of faith and science. Do the two worlds mix? According to James K.A. Smith, one of the editors and author of the article “Is There Room for Surprise in the Natural World? Naturalism, the Supernatural, and Pentecostal Spirituality,” the answer to this is yes: “The Pentecostal ontology can allow us to account both for regularity and for the miraculous.” (p. 46) The editors give credence to this coexistence as evidenced by the growth of the Society for Pentecostal studies and the interdisciplinary conversations that these articles represent.
In reviewing Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences, this reviewer has had mixed reactions. While this book is filled with good historiography of the reasons behind both the scientific and Pentecostal perspectives, contains good sources of reference for further exploration, and provides a fresh, interdisciplinary approach to the subject, the articles seem inconsistently written. While all the articles were written with a scholarly approach to the subjects (i.e. based on research that has come before), it disturbed this reviewer to read “scholarly works” written in the first person. The use of personal pronouns was maddening. It was hard to reconcile the use of words like “eschatology” and “ontology” with “I,” “we” and “us” and the use of contractions in seemingly a scholarly work. Maybe this is accepted practice within this field but it was hard to view this in scholarly terms. Another criticism of this book is in the reconciliation of the scope of the subject matter to the intended audience. Some of the concepts presented in the articles are too complex for the typical undergraduate “beginner” to this subject and perhaps more suited to someone with a more substantial foundation in Pentecostalism (i.e., religion majors or graduate students in the field). On a positive note, two articles contained in this collection bears mentioning. As expected from any work on this topic, there is the obligatory chapter which focuses on evolution and the “compromise idea” of intelligent design. It is a very good treatise on the subject written by Steve Badger and Mike Tenneson and provides a good explanation of this subject as well as the history of this debate. (A history which Tennesseans know all too well!) Another great article which deals with the impact of technology on Pentecostals was written by Dennis W. Cheek entitled “Is There Room for the Spirit in A World Dominate by Technology? Pentecostals and the Technological World.”
Despite the limitations mentioned, Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences would be a good compliment to any college or university library.
James Still is often dubbed “the Dean of Appalachian Literature,” and in his posthumously published novel Chinaberry, one can see the truth in this appellation. Still gave this small, quiet novel the working title Gone to Texas. After careful editing by Silas House, Gone to Texas became Chinaberry, the cotton farm named for the Asian-cum-Southern tree where the majority of the novel’s action takes place.
Chinaberry’s narrator, an unnamed Alabama boy, travels to Texas under the care of family friend Ernest and two prankster “knuckleheads,” Cadillac and Rance. They originally come to pick cotton and acquaint the boy with the state—of which his father has fond memories—but soon find themselves working for successful cattleman and farmer Anson Winters. Reminded of his dead son, Winters takes a shine to the undersized narrator, who at thirteen looks closer to six, and offers them jobs in his cotton fields.
From there, the novel becomes the story of Winters, his wife Lurie, and the boy narrator. Winters’ first wife died during childbirth, and the sickly boy she gave birth to never learned to walk. Winters carried his son everywhere until the boy’s death six years later. The diminutive narrator becomes a surrogate son to the troubled Winters, but despite his adolescence he is treated as if he were much younger. Winters invites him home, coddles him, and even calls him Anson, Jr. The narrator, not always comfortable with Winter’s sometimes strange babying, but thankful for the attention, finds himself pushed and pulled between childhood and adulthood.
The story is a solemn meditation on the fragility of home, family, and childhood. It reads much like a memoir, and in his introduction Silas House mentions that it may well be based on Still’s own boyhood experiences. Still’s attention to the land, “where half the world was sky,” pervades the novel, and his sparse, artful prose perfectly captures a past time and place. Take, for instance, this beautiful line: “Sunlight, pale as winter butter, made stark the brown cotton fields, picked clean and awaiting a plowing-under.” The novel’s one weakness, which is undoubtedly due to its unfinished state at Still’s death, is its propensity to unnecessarily repeat background story and details.
Robert Robinette, Reference & Instruction Librarian
Erin Tocknell has compiled a brief yet thought-provoking series of essays as she journeys through time for the self-proclaimed purpose of discovering the “real” Nashville. As a native of the city she sets about accomplishing this goal with true tenderness and gentleness: She is not above exposing some scars which the city surely bears, and yet as she does so her mind and therefore her narrative style keep her focused on Nashville as the scene of her childhood.
The title of her work, “Confederate Streets” conveys much of her intent in writing the book. The mere word ‘confederate’ evokes images of the flag that once consumed the city and stifled the compassion she searches so relentlessly to find (mostly within herself and her memories). Another facet of the term ‘confederate’ implies an allegiance between entities; this speaks of her childhood connections literally growing up among these familiar roads she mentions by name.
Her style is narrative, for she tells stories conveying her deep interest in the city. Anecdotes support her position as part novice-historian part eyewitness and narrator. Though the majority of her work is memoir narration, the historical portion is founded on her research in local libraries and interviews with people remembering the issues of interest.
Tocknell sets up her work as a series of essays, many containing personal anecdotes of her southern life and awakening to racial and cultural issues such as busing and school segregation. However, racism is not the flavor of the book but merely a hint sprinkled throughout lightly, a mere dusting. It is clear that the issue fascinates her and yet her continual purpose seems to be one of personal closure to her childhood world as her family grows up and moves on.
A ‘stream – of – consciousness’ narration allows the work to flow naturally and work as a memoir without getting stuck on the research aspect of her writing. Her research is compelling and meticulous when it is there and all of her work contains passion: A lovely blend of cultural analysis with poetic style.
Any local reader will be stirred by mentions of the familiar sights she drops with the nonchalance of a true Nashvillian. Her point of view as a local writer is supported by these references and nuances that spread inherently throughout.
This as a useful addition to every Nashville branch library as well as several surrounding city branches. It provides a quick yet provocative read and several generations can certainly relate with her local imagery through the eyes of a child growing up in the south. As it is such a brief and sweet look at some of the scar tissue regarding racism in Nashville I would highly recommend this book as a supplement to Young Adult non-fiction rooms, as many teens are required to research such issues during their school career.
Watson (Professor of History, East Tennessee State University) and Shaw (Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts, Hartwick College) add to the growing body of masculinity studies with their edited collection of essays in Performing American Masculinities. The editors focus on how masculinity has been represented in American popular culture and politics over the past ten to fifteen years.
The book is split into two sections. The first section looks at masculinity and masculine sexuality through the lens of capitalism. One essay, rather amusingly, uses “The Contest” episode of the popular TV show Seinfeld to illustrate how male sexuality is moderated in the “neoliberal” late 20th and early 21st centuries. The author of this essay, C. Wesley Buerkle [editor’s note: also at East Tennessee State University], argues that repression of sexuality is no longer acceptable in the 21st century, especially since American consumer culture encourages us to endlessly seek (and often purchase) pleasure. Therefore, the members of the Seinfeld cast who abstain from sex (either with a partner or without) the longest end up alone and frustrated, whereas those who give in to their sexual proclivities end up with partners by the conclusion of the episode.
In Performing American Masculinities, Watson and Shaw select and edit essays with the aim of viewing representations of masculinity in popular culture (including politics and news events, such as the O.J. Simpson trial) through various lenses, including race, class, sexuality, and capitalism. Though this is a tall order, they mostly succeed. The majority of essays are well-written, academic, and contribute fresh ideas to the field of gender studies. This book is highly recommended for academic libraries, especially those that support gender and cultural studies departments.
Charles Reagan Wilson outlines the content and scope of his work in the preface to Flashes of a Southern Spirit: Meanings of the Spirit in the US South. These chapters, previously published elsewhere (as noted by Wilson) “reflect a common interest in the interdisciplinary study of the American South, with a special focus on cultural history.” Wilson addresses the broad topic of Southern regional identity, from the agricultural, rigidly class conscious and racially divided society of the 19th and early/mid 20th centuries to the slowing changing society of desegregation and Civil Rights advances.
The heart of Wilson’s work traces the influence of “spirit” in the development of Southern identity, particularly in the development of lasting works of art, literature, and music. Wilson also addresses the importance of “spirit” in the growing social consciousness of the later 20th century.
There was a great deal of poverty in the South of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Poor white Southerners, particularly tenant farmers, often struggled for basic survival. These Southerners also had a prescribed place in society, based upon their economic class. In addition to the struggles of these white Southerners, African-Americans struggled against the rigid racial mores of the time.
Wilson makes the case that a sustaining comfort for the human spirit during these difficult times was the belief in a personal redemptive relationship with the Holy Spirit. Southern culture was heavily influenced by both evangelical Protestantism and Pentecostal and Holiness denominations. Children of all races and classes grew up with Bible and revelation stories and gospel and instrumental religious music as a strong part of their cultural identity. During the latter 20th century belief in the righteous spirit of Christian brotherhood became a source of great strength for Civil Rights leaders. This spirit helped sustain the vision that segregation violated Christian tenets of brotherhood and justice (97).
Some of the most interesting parts of Flashes of a Southern Spirit involve Wilson’s descriptions of Southern legendary authors and musicians. According to Wilson, in order to create their lasting works of art, diverse talents such as William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Hank Williams Sr. and Elvis Presley, along many others, drew upon the poverty stricken backgrounds that they had experienced or observed as well as the rich religious background of story and song they knew starting in their childhoods. In addition, new folk artists of both races were inspired by the Holy Spirit and the apocalyptic visions of the book of Revelation.
Wilson is the director of the Center for the Study of Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and general editor of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, according to the University of Mississippi web site. This is a well researched and annotated work. His work concerning Southern folk artists is intriguing. These essays address a large span of time and sometimes topics and might benefit from a tighter focus in areas.
Jennifer Newcome, Electronic Resources Librarian