Posts Tagged ‘the US American south’

27. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Another excellent book. While I was initially disappointed to discover that this book was more about the Lacks family and how their lives have been affected by Henrietta’s cells having been stolen than about the science related to those cells, Skloot gives her subject such excellent treatment that it becomes utterly engrossing.

I was number eighty- or ninety-something on my library’s waitlist; it took about three months for me to get it. It was worth the wait!

Page count: 338
Page total: 6,756


53. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker

August 16, 2009 2 comments


Page count: 295
Page total: 22,512

50. “One Day, When I was Lost,” James Baldwin

August 7, 2009 Leave a comment

The subtitle is “A Scenario Based on Alex Haley’s ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

First, I have not been doing much reading lately.

Second, this was really good. At 268 pages and screenplay format, it is less of a commitment than is Malcolm X’s autobiography, but it made me want to read it. I’m white. I grew up in a white suburb. No one ever tried to teach me about Malcolm X and all I ever heard was that he thought it was okay to kill white people. As I got older, I heard that that wasn’t true, but this play does an eloquent job of explaining who X was and what he believed. Baldwin’s writing is immensely readable. I’m now much more interested in reading “Malcolm X”– I hope Haley is as evocative.

Luther, reflecting on witnessing his brother being lynched when he was a boy:

then I knew– that G-d had turned away from these people forever. They were trying to kill G-d because G-d was black and they knew it. (143)

One of the ministers is unjustly arrested and Malcolm gathers a crowd of ministers and temple members goes to get him out. After a long time, the police acquiesce:

(WHITE) POLICE CHIEF: I just don’t want to see any more bloodshed. Bloodshed never solved anything.
MALCOLM: It did, for you, just as long as the blood was ours. (Addressing the crowd) Brothers, sister, I want to thank you for your patience, for that patience has helped us to save a life. W have seen the brother (who was imprisoned) and we have spoken to the doctors. The brother is much better than before– before your presence forced the white devils to give him decent care. Everything that can be done is beong done, and we feel satisfied that we can end out vigil tonight and go home and get some rest for the many vigils that are coming. There will be many. I want every man, woman, and child here tonight to remember that if you hadn’t been here, our brother might be dead. But, as long as we keep doing like we did tonight, out brothers and sisters will live. (178)

Malcolm speaking at the University of Ghana:

I’m not anti-American, and I didn’t come here to condemn America– I want to make that very clear! I came here to tell the truth– and if the truth condemns America, then she stands condemned! (240)

Page count: 268
Page total: 21,704

49. “The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother,” James McBride

July 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Ruth McBride is one tough fucking woman.

Page count: 285
Page total: 21,436

48. Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s: An Oral History, Jeff Kisseloff

July 22, 2009 2 comments

Very interesting read. This is more appropriately titled something like “Generation on Fire: Jewish Voices of Protest from the 1960s,” as at least ten out of fifteen people profiled are Jewish. For that matter, “Generation on Fire: White and Jewish Voices of Protest from the 1960s,” would fit, as only two (!) of the people he profiles are people of color. This was an excellent and interesting book, if only for bringing into light the sheer amount of shit people had to live through when fighting for civil rights (one interview subject recounts a man’s attempt to scoop his eye out of his sockets during a protest), but the demographics Kisseloff chose to focus on began to bother me somewhat as the book went on. It’s totally cool for him to focus on people who inspired him when he was growing up, and it makes sense that many of those people would be Jewish like himself, but it seems wrong to do an oral history of protest during the 1960s and feature only two people of color.

Likewise, Kisseloff’s treatment of the women who shaped an era is pretty iffy. In the introduction, women are clearly an afterthought: “by the time I interviewed them, you’d never know that many of them had been real tough guys (or women).” I’m pretty dubious of his choice to end one of three interviews with a woman by focusing on her role as a grandmother, rather than reformer. This isn’t because there is anything wrong or counter-revolutionary about being a mother, but the sort of neatness. Another woman’s interview ends with the following reflection:

There isn’t equal pay for equal work, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it used to be. We still don’t have guaranteed child care, but people are conscious of it. There’s still inequality in terms of wealth, but there’s a larger sense of self-worth and self-respect in terms of what we can be. It’s a totally changed world. 182

Which, I’m sorry, is just depressing as shit.

Nonetheless, it was an interesting read and now I’m searching my library databases for more oral histories.

Page count: 269
Page total: 21,151

EDIT: Jeff Kisseloff was kind enough to comment here and inform me that my numbers were off– only six out of the fifteen people he profiled are Jewish, so my suggested title amendment is of course (even more) unnecessary. See the comments for his thoughts.

46. “Big Fish,” Daniel Wallace

July 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I was pretty disappointed by this book. The sentence structure is really inconsistent and the very short sentences and fragments did nothing for me. If you enjoyed the movie, I would not recommend the book. The movie, however, is lyrical, sad, and exhilarating, so check it out.

Page count: 180
Page total: 20,588

44. “Devil Bones,” Kathy Reichs

June 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Why, this isn’t like the TV show at all!

Page count: 304
Page total: 20,102