Tennessee Libraries 

Volume 61 Number 4  

 2011

 

Book Reviews

Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, Book Reviews Editor


 

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Aufderheide, P. and P. J. (2011). Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright.

Brill, D. (Essays) and Campbell, B. (Photography). (2010). Cumberland Odyssey: A Journey in Pictures and Words Along Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail and Plateau.

Brundage, W.F., (Ed). (2011) Beyond Blackface:  African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930.

Cain, H. (2011). This Boy’s Faith: Notes from a Southern Baptist Upbringing.

Crist, Marie. (2010). The Citizen Chronicles: Citizen Out.

Crosby, E., ed.  (2011). Civil Rights History from the Ground up: Local Struggles, a National Movement.

Cutler, W., R., J.L., Severance, B.H., Rogers, C.J., Smith, T.A., and Bolt, W.K. (2009). Correspondence of James K. Polk: Volume XI, 1846.

Davidson, S. (2011). Simplify Your Life: How to De-Clutter & De-Stress your Way to Happiness.

Forret, J. (2010). Race Relations at the Margins: Slaves and Poor Whites in the Antebellum Southern Countryside.

Gannon, B. (2011). The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic.

Green, M. (2011). The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook.

Harman, P. (2011). Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey.

Henley, K. (2011). Breath of Angel.

Jordan, R. (2011). Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit.

Kavanagh, J. & Leung, R. (2000). Tennessee Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species.  Phoenix, AZ: Waterford Press.  1 page.  ISBN: 9781583551172.

Kavanagh, J. & Leung, R. (2009). Tennessee Trees & Wildflowers: An Introduction to Familiar Species.  Phoenix, AZ: Waterford Press.  1 page.  ISBN: 9781583554180.

Kavanagh, J. & Leung, R. (2011). Tennessee Wildlife: An Introduction to Familiar Species.  Phoenix, AZ: Waterford Press.  1 page.  ISBN: 9781583556306.

Magliocca, G.N. (2011). The Tragedy of Williams Jennings Bryan: Constitutional Law and the Politics of Backlash. New Haven: Yale University Press. 238 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-300-15314-9.

Willis, M. S. (2010). Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories.

Wilson, K. (2011). Family Fang.

Woodworth, S. E. (2011). This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War.

 

Aufderheide, P. and P. J. (2011). Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. 216 pages. ISBN 9780226032283.

Copyright is one of those subjects eliciting a variety of emotions from people. There are so many facets of copyright that people often steer clear of doing anything that might get them in trouble, whether it be creating something new or transforming an idea into altogether original. Fair use is a concept created so people can be creative without worrying about legal consequences. The only problem is this: what exactly is fair use and how do we interpret it? This book attempts to (and does a very good job of, in my opinion) crack the fair use code from many points of view.

Patricia Aufderheide is a professor of Film and Media Studies in the School of Communications at American University in Washington, DC. She has written several books on the topic of media and arts and has also won awards for her scholarly and journalistic endeavors. Peter Jaszi is a lawyer and professor of Domestic and International Copyright Law at American University in Washington, DC. He received several awards in the subjects of copyright law and intellectual property. Both authors are more than qualified to write a book on this topic and they do so without talking down to the reader or making the wording too confusing for the general public’s comprehension.

Aufderheide and Jaszi give the background on copyright and fair use: where copyright came from and how fair use evolved from it. It begins, however, with a chapter on how our American creative culture has turned into a culture of fear, and what exactly (if anything) we can do about it. Each subsequent chapter discusses different aspects of copyright and fair use in documentary making, media literacy teaching, music creation, etc… Within the chapters, readers discover scenarios in text boxes wherein they can test their copyright or fair use knowledge. In Appendix E, the authors have given their own response to the scenarios to help the reader better understand how to handle certain situations.

While the book is no substitute for a copyright lawyer, the book provides some very good suggestions the best interpretations of fair use for the creation of new culture. The authors also offer some very useful codes of best practices in fair use, which are found throughout the chapters.

This book would be a great addition to any university library with programs involving any kind of creative output. Public libraries might also be interested in this book if they are part of an arts-oriented community.

Alison DePollo, Assistant Professor & Interlibrary Loan Librarian
Charles C. Sherrod Library, East Tennessee State University
depollo@estu.edu

 

Brill, D. (Essays) and Campbell, B. (Photography). (2010). Cumberland Odyssey: A Journey in Pictures and Words Along Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail and Plateau. Johnson City, TN: Mountain Trail Press. 144 pages. ISBN: 9780982116272.

Hikers and nature enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy Cumberland Odyssey by David Brill and Bill Campbell.  Essays by David Brill are illustrated by breathtaking photographs by Bill Campbell.  Brill states their purpose for writing the book in this manner.  “For those who have visited the Plateau, photographer Bill Campbell’s striking images will inspire memories of past forays.  For those new to the Cumberland Plateau and the Trail, we hope that Campbell’s photographs will beckon and incline you to depart the bustling city, leave the blacktop, and surrender to the lure of a woodland path coursing through this region of enduring wildness and beauty.”  They definitely accomplish this goal.

Brill, currently the publications director of the University of Tennessee - Knoxville’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, is the author of several books and articles including As Far as the Eye Can See: Reflections of an Appalachian Trail Hiker and Desire & Ice: Searching for Perspective Atop Denali. Campbell is the author of The Smoky Mountains Photographer’s Guide.

The title, Cumberland Odyssey, is indeed appropriate.  Brill and Campbell take the reader on an epic journey through time and space.  The contents are organized into chapters on history, geology, flora, human history, and volunteers.
Brill’s history of the Cumberland Trail is also the history of two organizations: The Tennessee Trails Association and the Cumberland Trail Conference.  His story begins in the 1960’s with Oak Ridge journalist Evan Means, Nashville banker Bob Brown, and  Brown’s friend, State Naturalist Mack Pritchard.

Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Tennessee Trails Association on December 7, 1968.  Brown was elected as the first president.  The group’s second president, Donald Todd, a Morgan County science teacher and Boy Scout troop leader, drafted their mission statement: “To promote, construct, and maintain a statewide system of hiking trails ….”  The group has relied on volunteers, including scouts and students, for much of the trail building process.  Brill chronicles the challenges facing the group including the irregularity of legislative support, the negotiation of access rights to private property, and conflicts of interest over minerals rights.  A later president, Rob Weber, was responsible for the establishment in 1997 of the Cumberland Trail Conference.

As a relatively new member of Tennessee Trails, I was especially interested in this history.  It supplements the brief history of the Tennessee Trails Association included in Evan Means’ hiking guide Tennessee Trails and the historical and geological information about the plateau provided inRuss Manning’s guide book The Historic Cumberland Plateau: An Explorers’ Guide.  Admittedly, the book would benefit from the addition of a table of contents, glossary, bibliography, and index.  Also, visitors from out of state found the single map following the title page confusing.

Highly recommended for public and academic libraries with local history, travel, or nature photography collections.

Georgia Baskett, Catalog Librarian
Paul Meek Library, University of Tennessee – Martin
gbaskett@utm.edu

 

Brundage, W.F., (Ed). (2011.) Beyond Blackface:  African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930. Chapel Hill, NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 2011.  400 pages. ISBN: 0807871842.

African Americans have undoubtedly contributed tremendously to the development of culture in the United States.  Whether through innovative musical forms such as blues, various theatrical forms including vaudeville, or in the lives of celebrated athletes such as Joe Louis, African Americans influenced popular culture at large, despite pervasive racism throughout American society.  In this collection of essays edited by W. Fitzhugh Brundage, the sixteen contributors remind us of the various ways in which African Americans asserted their own sense of identity against prevailing stereotypes present in practically every form of cultural expression.

In his introduction, Brundage asserts that the period in question, 1890-1930, was one during which African Americans became more visible than ever before in American popular culture.  Reconstruction had ended, and the Jim Crow segregation laws in the South sought to minimalize the impact of emancipation by marginalizing former slaves.  Hemmed in by racial stereotypes, African Americans nonetheless managed to make their presence felt throughout the United States and beyond.  Many moved north and west during the “Great Migration,” usually only to find less violent, but no less discriminatory attitudes among northern whites.  The volume’s first several essays deal with representations of black Americans in the late nineteenth century.  Such representations were heavily influenced by notions of blacks as inherently simple-minded and overly subject to bodily passions, and visual depictions typically showed African Americans with comically exaggerated physical characteristics.  Black roles in public theatrical performances were almost always performed by white actors in “blackface,” heavily shaped by white perceptions of black culture.  The remainder of the volume’s essays focus primarily on the ways in which African Americans gradually managed to establish their own, self-determined identities, moving “beyond blackface” to a very visible, permanent presence in American popular culture.  Susan Curtis argues that ragtime music, which originated among black musicians and became incredibly popular in the last decade of the nineteenth century, enjoyed such widespread appeal that white musicians appropriated and claimed credit for it, to the detriment of famous black composers such as Scott Joplin.  Blues music, according to Grace Elizabeth Hale, became for African American artists a means of expressing their identity on their own terms, through gritty, unpolished lyrics that did not pander to white audiences in the way blackface minstrel shows had in the past.  The final essay, by Lewis Erenberg, provides a poignant conclusion to the volume by showing how Joe Louis united Americans, black and white, through his personal likeability and, most importantly, his two battles against German boxer Max Schmeling, touted by Hitler and the Nazis as the ideal Aryan superman.

This work would be most at home in an academic library, as it is written primarily for a scholarly audience.  The contributors are all accomplished university professors, and this collection is a valuable addition to the study of African American history.  Public libraries may also consider purchasing this volume, especially if there is a strong interest in American popular culture among their patrons.  This volume is a powerful reminder to readers of the powerful impact that African Americans have had on the development of American popular culture.  During the formative period discussed in this book, black musicians, actors, directors, athletes, and others fought to assert a sense of identity that undermined and challenged prevailing white perceptions of African Americans.  In doing so, their works appealed not only to African Americans, but to many whites as well.  The essays in this volume represent a valuable component of ongoing scholarly efforts to recognize the diverse contributions made by African Americans to popular culture in the United States and beyond.

Aaron D. Horton, Assistant Professor of History
Alabama State University
greatsasuke88@hotmail.com

 

Cain, H. (2011). This Boy’s Faith: Notes from a Southern Baptist Upbringing. New York, NY: Crown Publishing. 272 pages. ISBN: 030746394X.

Hamilton Cain’s memoir, This Boy’s Faith is a poignant story about the author’s struggle to reconcile his Southern Baptist upbringing in Chattanooga, TN in the 1970’s with his radically changed life and experiences in New York City, present day.  Married outside of his faith, dealing with aging and unchanging parents, and living through the stress of raising a terminally ill child, it seems as if Cain drifted away from southern life and the religiosity of his youth. It seems as if his two lives are worlds apart.  At times, Cain expresses a disconnect… drifting so far away that his childhood and youth that it is scarcely recognizable to him.  Through his memoir, Cain expresses what many people have faced – a questioning of faith.

Despite this estrangement and nagging doubt, Cain seems to come full circle in realizing that he carries remnants of his former life deep within him and that a kind of faith still exists down deep – a faith that is comforting to him through times of trouble and disbelief.  One of the most humorous passages (yet telling) is when Cain tries to explain to his “Yankee,” Jewish wife about his southern, Baptist upbringing.  In order to better understand Cain’s world, his wife rents the movie “Church Camp” as if it would somehow unlock the secret world from which her husband came.  

A great addition to any library, Hamilton Cain’s tale resonates with anyone that grew up in a similar time, in a similar place, and as part of the largest Protestant denomination (Southern Baptist).  Having lived in the area for a time and spending time in around the Chattanooga area with grandparents, Cain’s experience was not unlike my own.  At times, Cain’s book echoes so vibrantly that the reader finds themselves shaking their heads in agreement with the scenarios presented.  And sometimes… laughing out loud!  Despite his self-doubt, dealing with those that still live in his former world, and the often inconsistency that is living in the south, Cain seems to put these things into perspective and through it all, finds peace.

Susan L. Jennings, Lead Desk Services Librarian/Assistant Professor
Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
Jenningssl@appstate.edu 

 

Crist, Marie. (2010). The Citizen Chronicles: Citizen Out. s.l.: Reaction Press. 276 pages. ISBN: 9780983580904.

Tennessean author Marie Crist has dedicated her novel Citizen Out to “Zahra Baker and all the other missing, abused and murdered children” (p. 1).   Its premise: highly-trained, under-cover members of a vigilante organization are dispatched via a world-wide surveillance network to murder pedophiles and human traffickers.  

The story centers on Kevin and Celeste Stellar, a married couple living in L.A. who are CEOs of a security systems company called ARC.  The company doubles as the secret headquarters of the vigilante network.  Kevin, one of the trained assassins in the organization, is sent on missions to kill the suspected pedophiles (“cleaning the marks”) before they can attack “the innocents” (p. 8).  Through the organization’s work, “the world was becoming a safer place with him and his people secretly cleaning out the fifth that walks the streets.  Each mission was slowly but surely bringing the peace they had set out to restore” (p. 7).

This implausible plot might have been supportable with better prose, but the frequent grammar problems, awkward dialogue, rather oddly-worded descriptions, and typographical issues make it impossible to sustain the necessary suspension of disbelief.

For example, a description of the “cleaning of a mark” is both artless and confusing.

His hand flew to his neck as pure hell ripped through his flesh, crippling him.  He felt a sharp jerk and could hear tissues tearing…sinews being cut.  He stumbled and fell to the ground a crumpled heap of meat.  This can’t be happening.  He thought [sic].  He tried to scream, boiling Hell filled his throat, burning his voice box….Death was here and she was in no mood for pleasantries.  (p. 6)

The dialogue is stilted, and character development is limited and prescriptive, relying on dated stereotypes and truisms.  For example, Kevin and a secretary at ARC, Angela, discuss her “impending nuptials:”

‘Everything is coming together perfectly, knock on wood….Not that I am superstitious, but it is only three weeks away and I have not had any nightmare disasters that you hear about some brides experiencing.  Just keep your fingers crossed that this is a good sign of how our married life will be.’

‘Marriage will have unexpected trials and hardships, Angela.  A spouse is the one person who can make you feel the happiest, or the worst, so always shoot for instilling happiness in each other no matter what comes your way….’

‘I will take that to heart and most definitely model our marriage after yours and Celeste’s.  Now that I have received your words of wisdom, I’ll get back to work.’  Angela added blushing slightly as she closed the door behind her’ [sic]. (p. 28-29)

Domestic scenes come across as trite, moralizing, and uninteresting, and the characterization is flat.  Here Kevin has finished a mission and is returning home.

Kevin pulled into his driveway after an hour and excitement consumed him as he latched onto the first person he saw.  ‘Daddy…you’re…squeezing me,’ Kaden grunted.  ‘Man, I forgot how dangerous your hugs are when you get home!’  Kaden’s seven-year-old ribs were not built to take the embrace they were receiving. ‘Sorry, kiddo!  I’m just happy to see you, buddy.’  With a small hand held high as an indication of the attention required, Kaden assured his father, ‘It’s fine, just don’t try to kiss me.  I’m a man now and we don’t do that, got it?’  (p. 9)

Overall, Crist demonstrates no feel for description or dialogue, and there is no indication that she is aware of the social and psychological complexities of sex crimes or child abuse.  Though she clearly has a sincere desire to tackle a serious social problem, Citizen Out is a depthless and immature revenge fantasy without literary merit.  This work is not recommended for collection.

Susan Wood, Librarian
University of Memphis
swood1@memphis.edu

 

Crosby, E., ed.  (2011). Civil Rights History from the Ground up: Local Struggles, a National Movement.  Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 508 pages. ISBN 9780820338651. 

Emilye Crosby, Professor of history at the State University of New York at Geneseo and author of A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi, has compiled a collection of seventeen scholarly essays for her second work on the subject of civil rights.  Traditionally, according to Crosby, the main focus of the civil rights movement was on legal and political milestones and well-known leaders.  Crosby does talk about pioneers of the movement, but within this work she focuses on little known or acknowledged work that happened both before and after individual incidents thrust them into the national spotlight.  She is unsatisfied with the “oversimplified” version of history typically taught in school and portrayed in the media, and uses this work to present a more balanced view of the movement.   Crosby uses essays, overviews, and cases studies to refocus our understanding of the civil rights movement and successfully lays a foundation for reshaping and changing our understanding of many aspects of it.  A few of the main topics include the role of women, the significance of self-defense, and the possibilities and limitations of nonviolent tactics and ideology. 

The book consists of three parts. Part One, Local Studies as Case Studies, focuses on the role of local people, beginning with the “significance” of the movement in Crosby’s hometown of Port Gibson, Mississippi and ending with a challenge of accepted Civil Rights narratives on gender and a look at the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.  The essays in Part Two, From Local Studies to Synthesis, look at the significance of local efforts in relation to the national movement and the role of women, from national ambassadors to local housewives.

The majority of the essays are in Part Three, Creating and Communicating Movement History: Methodology and Theory, which concludes with Crosby’s essay on the importance of  “how” and “what” in “teaching movement history.”  Seeing education as the creative and collective enterprise that Ella Baker did, Crosby’s work shows how the “required collaboration and exchange at every level” must start from the ground up.  One of Crosby’s students is quoted as saying, “Many of the valuable things I take from studying the Movement I cannot explain well.  A list of lessons could go on forever.”  He goes on to list many lessons and ends with this one: “The fact that “majority rules,” a supposedly democratic principle, can leave entire populations of people unaccounted for.”  This book is recommended for academic and public libraries. 

Shelia Gaines, Access Services Librarian
Carson-Newman College
sgaines@cn.edu

 

Cutler, W., R. II, J.L., Severance, B.H., Rogers, C.J., Smith, T.A., and Bolt, W.K. (2009). Correspondence of James K. Polk: Volume XI, 1846. Knoxville, TN. University of Tennessee Press. 568 pages. ISBN: 1572336471.

In this book, Cutler focused on the four goals that Polk struggled to achieve for his administration: resolution of the Oregon boundary dispute with Great Britain, acquiring California, creating an Independent Treasury system, and reducing the tariff on non-luxury imports, as well as friendly relations with Mexico (which was not mentioned but implied). (Cutler et al, 2009). To that end, the editors compiled letters that clarify these goals.

Also included in this monograph are letters, texts, briefs, and annotations, which provide a glimpse into the day-to-day affairs of the life of President Polk. Arranging for his ward, Marshall Tate Polk, Jr. to attend Georgetown College, along with concerns from Marshall’s mother Laura Wilson Polk Tate; increasing the size of the slave workforce at his plantation, purchasing the Grundy mansion near Nashville in preparation for retirement, and miscellaneous correspondence with his mother are also included in this book.(Cutler et al., 2009).

Cutler and his fellow editors hold impressive credentials which provide a solid background for a thorough and balanced point of view, exhibited in this book. Dr. Cutler has been involved in the Polk Project for 33 years, first as associate editor and then as head of the editorial team. Dr. Rogers II has been involved with the Polk Project for roughly nine years, first as graduate research assistant, then as associate editor, while Dr. Severance has been involved for over three years as associate editor. No information was provided as to Cynthia Rogers’, Trevor Smith’s, and William Bolt’s credentials, or their academic affiliations.

In the Preface to this book, the illuminations of Polk are four (albeit five) goals, presented in a straight-forward manner with virtually no editorializing, and the viewpoints expressed within the various correspondences are those of the writers themselves (including President Polk). As this is a compilation of correspondences to and from President Polk by various individuals, the authoritative nature of the information contained within this book stands on the credentials of those individuals whose correspondences are contained within.

The uniqueness of this text is not only the information contained therein, but how the reader is instructed to focus on reading that information. At the end of the Preface section, the editors developed instructions on how the material was transcribed and should be read. The Contents pages contain, in chronological order; correspondences to and from President Polk, and on what month/day/year the correspondences were written.

The Symbols pages designate the document type, from which Repository it was obtained, and the Source of Publication. The Chronology pages provide the month/day/date of significant aspects of President Polk’s life. The Calendar pages differ from the Contents pages because they provide a 1-2 sentence annotation of what the correspondence pertained to, as well as being to or from President Polk. The Index pages provide a quick reference on finding topics contained within this book.

This book is solely intended for individuals conducting research into President Polk, his administration, and/or any facet of what events were taking place in the mid-1840’s that might involve the information contained within this book.

This book provides information concerning the day-to-day business conducted by a president concerning family affairs as well as affairs of state, and is an excellent barometer of attitudes toward foreign and domestic affairs during the 1840’s. It brings to mind another series of books on President Andrew Johnson, written much the same way and containing much the same types of information

This book would be ideally suited for an academic library, especially where there is significant research involving Tennessee history. Its use in a school media library would be beneficial provided that library was part of a magnet school, whose concentrations, in part, would involve a large focus on Tennessee history. This book might not benefit public library collections, as there would be little to no turnover in circulation, due to the type of book this is.

Bill Stevens, MSIS
Nursing Librarian
Lincoln Memorial University
william.stevens@lmunet.edu

 

Davidson, S. (2011). Simplify Your Life: How to De-Clutter & De-Stress your Way to Happiness. New York, NY: Turner Publishing Company. 210 pages. ISBN: 978596528208.

Simplify Your Life is a book filled with thought-provoking ideas.  While perusing the contents page, the reader is immediately intrigued by the chapter titles which begin with “What is Simplicity?” and end with “Staying Balanced.” The reader may have a different expectation of the book, if it is chosen solely by its title, rather than a brief thumb-through of its content.

The author shares how he discovered his passion and the courage to pursue it and live it to the fullest. Davidson, in the preface discussing simplicity, states that, “It’s not about merely living a minimalist lifestyle.  It’s not about eschewing all technology or fitting our life into small boxes.  Instead, simplicity is about management and balance.  It’s about being in line with our beliefs and values.  It’s about prioritization, knowledge, satisfaction and action.  It’s about knowing what we want and making sure we never fill our lives with stuff we don’t want.”

Most individuals have their own definition of what it means to “simplify.” Davidson states in the introduction “After reading this book, you will not have to live in a hut. You will not be compelled to sell everything you own, stop taking showers, and meditate.”

For one to “simplify,” there must be an understanding of what simplicity is. It can easily be defined as keeping what matters and has meaning and adds value to your life, and getting rid of all things that do not.  To achieve this, the author states that one must “Keep it simple. Find what you love and get more of it.”

Each of the eight chapters outlines a plan, some with detailed guidelines at the end of the chapter to assist the reader with “simplifying”. The overall conception of the book from this reviewer’s viewpoint is to begin with the end in mind. Find your passion, set a path, a timeline to reach it, and do what it takes to ensure that you are successful in simplifying your life.

Davidson borrows from recent publications and other authors who have brought the words, happiness, passion and value to the forefront as of late. He intertwines his own experiences and proven methods to provide an outline for their application in simple and easy to follow steps. Familiar and often-used phrases that the reader will recognize are, finding and identifying your strengths, creating a personal strategic plan, finding balance, de-stressing and de-cluttering.

Simplify Your Life: How to De-Clutter & De-Stress Your way to Happiness is a quick and easy read with many helpful tips, tools, and insights that prompt the reader to delve deeply into his/her approach to day-to-day living and help to determine whether the current path is leading to the optimum simplified life.

The last sentences of the book say it all: “You have one life, one shot out there on that beam. Do something."

This book is recommended for both public and academic libraries.

Karen M. Swoopes, Administrative Assistant
Peabody Library, Vanderbilt University
karen.swoopes@vanderbilt.edu

 

Forret, J. (2010). Race Relations at the Margins: Slaves and Poor Whites in the Antebellum Southern Countryside. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press. 269 pages. ISBN: 080713712X.

This volume fills, to a certain extent, a gap in the historical literature by providing the first extensive study of interactions between African-American slaves and socioeconomically deprived whites in the first half of the nineteenth century. “To a certain extent” can be understood geographically, since Forret (associate professor of history at Lamar University) has limited his study to Virginia and the two Carolinas. Nonetheless, Forret argues for a broad application of his findings throughout the slaveholding South.

With evidence from court records, legislation, slave narratives, census records, travelers’ accounts, and contemporary newspapers, Forret challenges the prevailing “common misconceptions” that assume that the nature of interracial social contact of the Jim Crow era of the late 19th to mid-20th centuries —characterized as “mutual hatred and animosity”— was the same as that between slaves and poor whites before the Civil War. Rather than “a stereotype of invariable hatred,” Forret finds a “curious mix of love and hate, equality and inequality.”

To this reader, Forret seems a bit quick to apply such positive notions as “amity” to the kind of relationship that might have existed between a slave and a poor white who drank together in a grog shop, but the fact is that they shared a fraternity of drunkenness in a way that might not have been possible decades later, when, despite the disappearance of slavery, society became in fact more “rigidly divided by race.”

By including “poor whites” in its description of Southern society, the book provides an expansive look at this society and the impact of its peculiar institution. The stereotypical view of the “plantation” South includes very few whites other than the slaveowner, his family, and the inevitable overseer. In fact, whites who owned no land at all (much less slaves) made up 30-50% of the Southern white population (depending on the region). This population of literal “poor whites” was expanded in the popular antebellum mind (white and black) to include disreputable individuals from among the landholding yeomanry.

Forret’s account shows how slavery sometimes inverted the racial order in ironic ways. The superior attitude that the slaveowner exhibited toward the poor white was adopted by slaves, particularly by house servants acting as the mouthpiece of a master. “Many slaves … rated themselves higher than poor whites.” Their masters did the same, for the simple reason that the slaves had economic value as property. Poor whites were disposable.

This comes through very clearly in Forret’s chapter on sex, entitled “The Double Standard.” But he describes not so much a double standard as a sextuple one:  white masters at the top and slave women at the bottom, but—startlingly, in light of the lynch mobs of the later Jim Crow era—with slave men and their property value occupying a higher rung than poor white women.

A complete scholarly production, this book belongs in all academic collections supporting studies in American history. An optional purchase for public libraries, nonetheless its subtle treatment of an important subject and its anecdotal richness highly recommend it.

Jud Barry, Bristol Public Library
Bristol TN/VA
judbarry@bristol-library.org

 

Gannon, B. (2011). The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina. 288 pages. ISBN 0807834521.

The title of this book evokes the struggle to shape America’s memory—or, as Barbara Gannon puts it, “Memory (with a capital M)”—of its Civil War. Capital M Memory is a “shared interpretation” of the past that sometimes involves more forgetting than remembering. Gannon, assistant professor of military history at the University of Central Florida, offers the example of the Grand Army of the Republic to keep us from forgetting that the “won cause” –contrary to the claims of the “lost cause”—was both Union and Liberty, and who better to remind us than the black veterans who helped win the war?

The Grand Army of the Republic was the veterans’ organization for soldiers and sailors who had served the United States reached 400,000 in 1890. The GAR exercised considerable influence as a political lobby, at its height holding virtual veto power over the choice of Republican presidential candidates.

Gannon’s book looks at the nature and meaning of African-American participation in a national organization at a time not only when few organizations of this scale were integrated, but also when the promise of interracial equality offered by Emancipation and Reconstruction vanished into the Jim Crow era.

Nationally, the GAR made no racial distinction among its members. National and state conferences were integrated; however such was not generally the case with membership in the local GAR units, the “posts” that included no less than fifteen members. The local post determined its own membership and tended to reflect local realities of social segregation, except where these were overridden by strong sentiments of fellowship conferred by the shared experience of combat, as was often the case in the Midwest where white veterans of the Army of the Cumberland (which fought in Tennessee) were more likely to have fought with black units.

In order to uncover the details of individual posts—even to find out which were black, white, or integrated—Gannon had to go beyond “color-blind” national GAR records. Her research used “race-conscious black-owned newspapers” and state GAR records as her primary materials. (Her sources are shown in a bibliography that is richly suggestive of areas for further study.)

Piecing together evidence from obituaries, for example, she was able to determine which posts welcomed black as well as white members. Appendices showing the results reveal that, while there was a handful of black posts in secessionist states, Tennessee was alone among them in having any integrated posts, of which there were twelve—all of them in unionist East Tennessee.

This book would be an appropriate purchase for all but the smallest library in Tennessee. It is especially valuable for libraries supporting research in African-American history and race relations. But all libraries are engaged these days in an act of Memory: the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. This book helps us remember the things we’ve been told to forget.

Jud Barry, Bristol Public Library
Bristol TN/VA
judbarry@bristol-library.org

 

Green, M. (2011). The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. 368 pages. ISBN 9780813133768.

Maggie Green created The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook to share her knowledge of cooking, nutrition, and her Kentucky heritage. Green is from Lexington, Kentucky and has received a degree in nutrition from the University of Kentucky. She also graduated from a culinary arts program at Sullivan University in Louisville.

Green arranges the recipes in the cookbook by months of the year to emphasize which recipes could be used during the months when you might find local produce in season.  To avoid any limitations caused by the lack of fresh produce in the winter months, Green does use frozen items from sources as local as possible when these items are out of season.  For example, for the month of January, Green includes a recipe for blueberry muffins that incorporates frozen blueberries instead of using fresh, imported blueberries. She notes in the instructions for the recipe that when blueberries are in season, she will use fresh blueberries instead.  

Although recipes are arranged by months, they are very easy to find if you do not remember which month one was listed in or if you just prefer to look at a list of all of the recipes in the cookbook. After the contents page, Green lists all of the recipes in the book by category, and in the back of the book, she has a comprehensive index.  In the back matter of the cookbook, she includes helpful information on what cookware and ingredients should be in your kitchen, a list of resources of farms and festivals, and a calendar of when Kentucky produce is available in season.

Interspersed between the more than 200 recipes in this book are vignettes about the inspiration behind the recipes, tips about cooking, or more information about particular ingredients used in these dishes. She has also included some pre-arranged menus throughout the cookbook in case you want a few recipes that will go together without any guesswork. Most recipes also include a short note about a particular aspect of the recipe, information about what source the recipe was adapted from, or a note about the person who inspired the recipe.

The recipes in this book generally are for the novice to intermediate cook or one who is looking for simple recipes that can be prepared fairly quickly. These recipes are prepared with ingredients that you might already have in your pantry or those that are easily found. Although the emphasis is upon Kentucky ingredients, such as those recipes calling for Kentucky honey, you could use ingredients from your local vendors to make these recipes.

There are no photos of finished dishes in this cookbook. However, most of the recipes are very simple to make with a few steps. Most recipes, including the ingredient list and the instructions, only take up a single page.  A few recipes require you to prepare other recipes in the cookbook, but the vast majority of these recipes do not. The scope of the recipes covers the standard categories usually found in cookbooks, such as breakfast, main courses, appetizers, drinks, dessert, and holiday cooking.

Of the dishes that were sampled, including the black bean burritos and the golden buttermilk sheet cake with chocolate fudge frosting, the directions were written clearly, easy to follow, and were in a logical order. You will not find any recipes for fine French cooking here, but that is not the purpose of this cookbook; the recipes contained within are for your basic, home style meals. The food that was prepared from these recipes were good, simple dishes that could find a place on my dining room table in the future.

Libraries in or near Kentucky may want to purchase this for their cookbook collection. People who want good, simple, quick recipes with a southern flair may be interested in this cookbook as well.

Maya Berry, Acquisitions/Public Services Librarian
Plough Library, Christian Brothers University
mberry2@cbu.edu

 

Harman, P. (2011). Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 324 pages. ISBN: 0807001384.

Patricia Harman’s memoir Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey (prequel to The Blue Cotton Gown) beautifully and concretely illustrates the tensions inherent in living life on one’s own terms without completely rejecting--or being rejected by--the larger society.  As a mother, midwife, homesteader, student, teacher, and activist, she writes of the satisfaction and the hardships that come with leading an independent and against-the-grain lifestyle.

Harman looks back thirty-three years to the early 1970s, and drawing inspiration from the journals she kept, recreates her development from self-taught homebirth coach to certified nurse-midwife.  Her experiences living in isolation on a North Woods homestead and in lively communes with fellow back-to-the-earth peaceniks are intriguing and reflect the fast-paced social change of the 1970s.  Reflecting on memories of her early experiences helping women in natural childbirth, she asks herself with both concern and humor, “What did she think she was doing?  Where did she get the balls?” (p. x). 

The first section, Little Cabin in the North Woods, 1971 – 1972, Fall recounts her experiences “experimenting with voluntary poverty” (p. 69) by constructing and then living in a remote cabin in the Minnesota woods with her lover and her one-year-old son.  Anyone who has ever fantasized about homesteading (or has actually done it) will immediately find themselves absorbed as the family works hard to finish chinking the cabin against the approaching cold, digs a root cellar, chops firewood and completes sundry other chores, finally to hole up cozily against the bitter cold blizzards of the Minnesota winter. 

Eventually moving on from the homestead to seek a less isolated and more communal lifestyle, Harman’s involvement in the world of natural childbirth deepens.   Finally settling in West Virginia, Harman comes into her own as an accomplished professional midwife.  Throughout, there are frequent vignettes of helping women give birth, replete with fascinating details, suspense, and lessons learned.   In her contemplative and easy prose, a description of a breech birth manages to be endearing rather than frightening, and the women she helps are recalled with sometimes sparse, but always sympathetic and insightful detail.

The recurring theme in this memoir is that of finding a balance between maintaining control over one’s own life and decisions while continuing to live as a member of society.  This is perfectly exemplified by the descriptions of women’s desire to be active agents in the natural process of childbirth rather than be subjected to the medicalized childbirth procedures common at the time:

At both St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s every women gets a spinal or gas, whether she needs it or not.  Her hands will be strapped to the delivery table and her legs tied open in stirrups.  When the infant is delivered, always with forceps over a large vaginal incision, it will be spanked and whisked to the nursery.  No gentle natural deliveries.  No holding the baby.  No nursing immediately after birth.  No father present.  Nonnegotiable. (p. 32)

Though she describes the shortcomings of this system, she maintains a quiet, non-judgmental tone throughout.  Instead of anger, she responds with practicality and positive action, making this memoir a gentle pleasure to read.  This title would make a useful addition to both public and academic libraries’ collections.

Susan Wood, Librarian
University of Memphis
swood1@memphis.edu 

 

Henley, K.  (2011). Breath of Angel. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press. 272 pages. ISBN 0307730123.

Henley,  known for her contributions to Christian and children’s literature does a marvelous job in creating just enough details to paint the mythic landscape of Camrithia and its characters.  In her first installment of the  Angelaeon Circle series,  Breath of Angel is an intriguing and page turning story revolving around the restoration of the stairway located in the Durenwood  (forest).  Tended to by Dreia, guardian of the Wisdom Tree, it connected the human and celestial world of mythic Camrithia.  

The story’s heroine,  Sixteen year old Melaia, an orphan rescued by forest dwellers and raised to become a priestess and chantress, is led on an adventurous path of truth and self discovery in her quest to uncover the mystery of a stranger’s violent death during her watch at the temple of Navia. 

She longs to leave the temple and travel but feels bound there by duty.  Her wish for travel is soon granted and she sets out on her journey entrusted with a magical harp made of the rare kyparis wood to cure the ailing king of Camrithia. Through her gifts of harp playing and storytelling and her magical abilities of seeing spirits leave the bodies of the dead, she learns quickly that not all who she encounters in her quest to aid the king are trustworthy.  In addition, those she has trusted have not revealed her true ancestry (mortal and immortal) and how the legends and myths she tells represent actual events of the battle between good and evil. As Malaia learns more about her heritage she begins to understand her power.  Through chapters balancing reflection and fast paced action requiring wit, courage and the assistance of the Archae and foes who become friends, Melaia foils the plot of the Firstborn. What is revealed in this entrancing tale will leave readers wanting more. 

A good balance of mystery, magic, and suspense moves throughout the story with short chapters and colorful characters introduced on a regular basis evoking imageries of dark and light, life and death, mortal and immortal, and the ever present shadows that attempt to hide truth.  The map of Camrithia, cast of characters, and the hierarchy of Angelaeon presented in the introductory matter to the story were most helpful for referral.  A guide to the pronunciation of character names would have been helpful.  Appropriate for young adults and any fans of fantasy literature in secondary school media centers and public libraries. 

Anne Reever Osborne, Assistant Library Director for Distance Learning
Tusculum College
aosborne@tusculum.edu

 

Jordan, R. (2011). Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit. New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-425-23964-3.

Novelist, playwright and self-professed introvert, River Jordan was busy in December 2008 – she had complicated holiday plans to think about, a full travel schedule for the year ahead and two sons heading for Afghanistan and Iraq. In the middle of it all, in the middle of her kitchen she had a New Year’s resolution revelation: she was going to pray for a stranger every single day for an entire year. In her book, Praying for Strangers, Jordan uses each chapter to describe the more memorable outcomes of her unique resolution.
She is not sanctimonious or condescending in these descriptions – stating near the beginning of the book, “I am not feeling like Mother Teresa, not too altruistic, and not too holy at all” – but in a frank and conversational way, describes many of her “praying for strangers” encounters. Some are a little uncomfortable – she ends up chasing a few down in grocery stores or even on the street with a standard phrase that ends with, “…and today you are my stranger.” Some are a little scary as when Jordan finds out if one really can trust the kindness of strangers – especially when your car breaks down miles from home or the nearest town. Some, you wish she’d included a prologue to – what happened to the sales clerk who wanted Jordan to pray for her “destiny”? What about the older couple she spots on a bench waiting for the bus late at night? Did she ever see Esther again after their brief meeting in Centennial Park?

In each heartfelt chapter, Jordan also gives us a glimpse into her busy life. Her life luckily includes a loving family, a supportive husband (“are you writing these down?” he frequently asks) and a nice career – but it also includes relatable daily stresses that these can bring. In this way, we can share with her the wonder of slowing down to talk to pray for other people – we are connecting with someone we believe is our creator but also, as Jordan points, we are “…making a connection that’s just a little more than something superficial in passing.”
This pleasant book would be appropriate for a church, Christian university or public library serving a mostly Christian community. It can be read straight through but each chapter could also stand on its own to be read and discussed in a book or church group setting. Jordan speaks and teaches around the country and produces and hosts her own radio show from Nashville, Tennessee, where she and her husband live.

Gayla B. Hall, Librarian
International Academy of Design and Technology at Nashville
ghall@iadtnashville.com

 

Kavanagh, J. & Leung, R. (2000). Tennessee Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species.  Phoenix, AZ: Waterford Press.  1 page.  ISBN: 9781583551172.

Kavanagh, J. & Leung, R. (2009). Tennessee Trees & Wildflowers: An Introduction to Familiar Species.  Phoenix, AZ: Waterford Press.  1 page.  ISBN: 9781583554180.

Kavanagh, J. & Leung, R. (2011). Tennessee Wildlife: An Introduction to Familiar Species.  Phoenix, AZ: Waterford Press.  1 page.  ISBN: 9781583556306.

Everyone knows that feeling – you encounter a flower that seems familiar, but can’t remember its name.  James Kavanagh and Raymond Leung have assembled a (to date) 290-volume series of “Pocket Naturalist” guides (available from Waterford Press) for just those situations.

Each guide is a laminated 8”x22” sheet that folds down to pamphlet size.  Each of the panels features about 15 thumbnail illustrations in full color, accompanied by the species’ common and scientific names plus very brief notes on average size and distinguishing features.

The three “Pocket Naturalist” guides for Tennessee cover the Volunteer State’s birds, trees & wildflowers, and other fauna (insects, spiders, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals).  Unlike more comprehensive guidebooks, the guides are not organized taxonomically or alphabetically.   Instead, the pictures are grouped to ease identification in the field.  For example, flowers are arranged by color, and birds according to their habitats (waterbirds & nearshore birds, perching birds, etc.)    

The pictures are only about an inch tall, and while they are accurately rendered, some of the detail is lost to the condensed format.  It is a mite disconcerting that the pictures are not to scale – butterflies are drawn the same size as turkeys and bears.   Nonetheless, the guides are helpful for identifying the most common species in Tennessee, because the pictures do emphasize the most distinguishing features of each species, such as leaf shape or wing markings.

With their laminated surfaces and small size, the guides are intended for use in the wild by hikers or outdoorspeople.  They offer a very limited amount of information – just enough to satisfy that “what is that bird with the red bill?” moment of curiosity.  The “Pocket Naturalist” guides are useful for personal collections, but their unusual format will make cataloging and circulation difficult, so libraries may wish to collect other wildlife guides in book form instead. 

Steven Knowlton, Collection Development Librarian
University of Memphis Libraries
steven.knowlton@memphis.edu

 

Magliocca, G.N. (2011). The Tragedy of Williams Jennings Bryan: Constitutional Law and the Politics of Backlash. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 238 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-300-15314-9.

In this carefully researched study, author and law professor Gerard Magliocca analyzes an important aspect of American history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the extensive impact and influence of the Populist Party and their leaders. Focusing on the philosophies of Williams Jennings Bryan and his supporters, Magliocca helps to make sense of Bryan’s unsuccessful attempts to capture the White House in the 1896, 1900, and 1908 presidential elections. More specifically, Magliocca contends that despite these failures, the fervor created by Bryan and his followers resulted in a judicial backlash that effectively ended the reform movement many feared. Interestingly, this work also clearly contains a number of parallels that may be insightful to those studying today’s political climate of change and divisiveness.  

This work, despite its title, is not a biography of Williams Jennings Bryan, but is rather an analysis and exploration of the impact of his politics. Focusing on interpreting the legal developments of the period, Magliocca includes little background information on Bryan, the Populist Party, or general historical events of the period. Broadly speaking, the author makes a case for understanding the Constitution as a continually evolving document that is regularly and cyclically influenced by both the dominant regime and those advocating change. In this instance, Magliocca explains how the widespread popularity of Bryan and the Populist movement lead the Supreme Court to react by issuing a series of decisions that would have effects and consequences for decades to come. Among these significant findings were rulings that ultimately effected segregation, organized labor, and federal taxation - all issues brought to the fore by Bryan and the populists.

Magliocca’s work in this study builds upon his thorough understanding of constitutional law and legal history as also expounded in an earlier work, Andrew Jackson and the Constitution: The Rise and Fall of Generational Regimes (2007). With more than fifty pages of endnotes, an exhaustive bibliography, and thorough index, this study is clearly well researched and should serve as an excellent tool for other scholars who desire to learn more about these topics or further explore particular points.

The Tragedy of Williams Jennings Bryan is very well written and carefully researched, but is most appropriately directed to an audience with a general knowledge or interest in legal history, social history or constitutional law.  This work is highly recommended for law libraries, as well as other academic libraries with collections in United States history, political science, and law.

Gregory H. Stoner, Librarian
Williams Mullen
gstoner1979@aol.com

 

Willis, M. S. (2010). Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. 176 pages. ISBN: 082141920X.

Meredith Sue Willis’ Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories is a collection of short stories depicting the varied lives of Appalachian people. Set primarily in the hills of West Virginia, Willis weaves stories that deal with life, death, abuse, overcoming adversity, complex and often contradictory relationships and a general restlessness which makes Appalachia so rich in its heritage.  Although set in the Appalachian region, Willis’ stories can be set anywhere because her stories resonate with the dichotomy of change yet sameness which is the human condition.

For the most part, Out of the Mountains was entertaining.  Throughout, it seemed that the women characters were strong despite adversity while the men were hard living and hard drinking.  One of the best chapters in the collection is entitled “Pie Knob” which introduces the reader to the recurring character of Merlee Savage, a woman hired to nurse a dying woman in the back woods of West Virginia.  The reader cheers for the down, but not out, Merlee as she struggles to make a better life for herself and her children.  Her estranged husband, the hard living, hard dying C.T. Savage, invokes both contempt yet pity from the reader. 

Although most reviews of this book have been extremely positive, this reviewer’s opinion of Out of the Mountains remains neutral.  This opinion may stem solely from the reviewer’s impression of the first chapter entitled “Triangulation.” This story seemed to set a different tone for the collection than what was expected… and not necessarily in a positive way.  In this story, the author describes a day, the same day, in the life of very different people located in very different places (both physically and intellectually).  Their lives and experiences were so wide and diverse.  The author chooses to highlight the artist, Gustav Klimt, happily painting with rapture and ecstasy in Austria; while Emma Goldman, the radical, the feminist, the dangerous, is riding the train to incarceration; and then, the author focuses on her own grandmother, living a semi-solitary and isolated life in the hills of West Virginia.  On its own merit, the story was well written and strong, however, it seemed that this story was separate and disconnected from the rest of the collection of stories and became distracting in setting the tone for the rest of the collection for this reviewer.

Susan L. Jennings, Lead Desk Services Librarian/Assistant Professor
Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
Jenningssl@appstate.edu 

 

Woodworth, S. E. (2011). This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 424 pages. ISBN 978-0-7425-5184-8.

A professor of history at Texas Christian University, Dr. Steven E. Woodworth has been involved with the publication of some twenty-seven works as author, coauthor, or editor. Additionally, he has won numerous awards including the Fletcher Pratt Award of the New York Civil War Round Table on two occasions and the Grady McWhiney Award of the Dallas Civil War Round Table for his lifetime contribution to Civil War studies.  A scholar known for solid, accessible work, Woodworth adds to his list of outstanding scholarship with This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War.  

Written as a general history of Civil War, Woodworth’s writing is comprehensible to beginning Civil War readers, students at both the secondary and post-secondary levels, and Civil War scholars seeking to refresh their memories of general events.  While writing for a wide audience, he does not sacrifice the examination of difficult subjects for accessibility. Beginning in the colonial era, Woodworth traces the rise of slavery to the tense political environs of the 1850s which culminated in the divisive election of 1860 and the violence that followed. Discussing the war, he adroitly avoids the trappings of Union and Confederate icon worship. Instead, he skillfully illuminates the personal and political relationships of the leaders on both sides of the struggle, giving the reader a balanced view of each individual discussed and explaining why some rose to or maintained power while others did not.  As the text progresses, Woodworth uses a number of maps and photographs to provide visual aids to assist the reader in comprehending the physical space and to connect with the people discussed. After ending the fight phase, Woodworth continues with Reconstruction, debating the political and social ramifications of the Civil War, and ends the text with the Compromise of 1877.

A fine work, This Great Struggle should be additionally praised for inclusion of more material regarding events between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, one of the stated objectives of the Woodworth. However, this text will leave those interested in the events in the Trans-Mississippi wanting more. In fact, Woodworth tells the reader bluntly that events west of the Mississippi River “were of tangential significance to the Civil War,” (p. 93) and left most issues regarding this region out of the general analysis of his work. As Woodworth treats the topics discussed so well, the inclusion of more Trans-Mississippi material would have been appreciated.   

While large in scope, Woodworth shrewdly divided the text into fourteen well-framed chapters for easy reading. For those seeking more information, a short section of notes and general sources fitting for this type of work is at the end of the text. As a well-done general approach to the Civil War, this work is best suited for general libraries, both public and academic, that would carry wide-ranging Civil War texts.

Dr. Derek Allen Clements, Instructor of History/Social Sciences
Black River Technical College
historybrtc@hotmail.com

 

Wilson, K. (2011). Family Fang. New York, NY:  Ecco/HarperPerennial (Uncorrected Advance Reading Copy) ISBN 9780061579035.

The second book by Tennessee author Kevin Wilson, does not, despite its title The Family Fang, have anything to do with vampires.  For an enthusiast of the supernatural, less-than-literary genre, I was instantly dismayed to realize that I had committed to reviewing a plain, old fiction book.  My oversight rewarded me with a quirky, at times heart-breaking, at times hilarious story of family, art, and growing up.

The Fang family is made up of performance artists Caleb and Camille and their two children, Annie (Child A) and Buster (Child B).  Caleb and Camille’s performance art consists of public scenarios carefully constructed to create chaos and placing Child A and Child B right smack in the middle of them.  The narrative alternates between the present day Annie and Buster with their inevitably dysfunctional lives that a Fang childhood would precipitate and past vignettes detailing the performance art pieces.  The narratives merge when Annie and Buster need to return home as adults.  Caleb and Camille’s art seems to know no bounds and Annie and Buster find themselves once again pawns in their parents’ life.  Or art. Or both.

Wilson’s book was not unlike watching one of the more embarrassing reality shows on television.  You find yourself wondering why you keep watching//reading it because the embarrassing situations are so cringe-worthy it is almost painful. However, it’s just so entertaining and you really are invested in Annie and Buster and determined to find the redeemable in seemingly unredeemable characters.  The author weaves each character’s story with ample use of wit, whimsy and a delicate balance of fatalism and idealism.

This book is an excellent choice for public libraries seeking to add to their fiction collection.  It is also a great recommendation for fans of David Sedaris’ equally squirm-worthy memoirs who are ready to take the plunge into fiction.  With some more mature scenes and language, this book is best suited to adults and older teens. If you find yourself wanting more outrageous characters and storylines, Wilson’s collection of stories, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/HarperPerennial, 2009) is also worth checking out.

Lindsey Wesson, Children’s Services Manager
Nashville Public Library
lindseywesson@gmail.com

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