April 12, 2017
We did not yet have the poetry selection, Olio, or the drama title Sweat, which have both been slated for order. They should be in the catalog shortly.
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016. [STILL 87 holds though we have 48 copies!]
Publisher summary: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey — hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
Nottage, Lynn. Sweat. Theatre Communications Group, May.
Summary: No stranger to dramas both heart-felt and heart-wrenching, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage has written one of her most exquisitely devastating tragedies to date. In one of the poorest cities in America, Reading, Pennsylvania, a group of down-and-out factory workers struggles to keep their present lives in balance, ignorant of the financial devastation looming in their near futures. Set in 2008, the powerful crux of this new play is knowing the fate of the characters long before it’s even in their sights. Based on Nottage’s extensive research and interviews with real residents of Reading, Sweat is a topical reflection of the present and poignant outcome of America’s economic decline.
Thompson, Heather Ann. Bood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. Pantheon, 2016.
On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. Holding guards and civilian employees hostage, the prisoners negotiated with officials for improved conditions during the four long days and nights that followed. On September 13, the state abruptly sent hundreds of heavily armed troopers and correction officers to retake the prison by force. Their gunfire killed thirty-nine men–hostages as well as prisoners–and severely wounded more than one hundred others. In the ensuing hours, weeks, and months, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners. Ultimately, New York State authorities prosecuted only the prisoners, never once bringing charges against the officials involved in the retaking and its aftermath and neglecting to provide support to the survivors and the families of the men who had been killed. Drawing from more than a decade of extensive research, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this 45-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law enforcement. This book is the first full account of one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century.–Adapted from dust jacket. “Historian Heather Ann Thompson offers the first definitive telling of the Attica prison uprising, the state’s violent response, and the victims’ decades-long quest for justice–in time for the forty-fifth anniversary of the events”– Provided by publisher.
Matar, Hisham. The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between. Random House, 2016.
“In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar’s father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime’s most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballah Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is “persistent and cunning.” This book is a profoundly moving family memoir, a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power”– Provided by publisher.
Desmond, Matthew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Crown, 2016.
“[The author] takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the 20 dollars a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality– and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible”–Amazon.com.
Jess, Tyehimba. Olio. Wave Books, April.
Jess’s work displays a deep sense of cool black consciousness, especially in regard to musicality. He works with an expressive tradition that blends sensibilities of field holler, spiritual encodings, gospel moan and groan, work song cadence, blue notes, and jook joint jazz.”Howard Ramsby II, Sou’wester
Part fact, part fiction, Tyehimba Jess’s much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers, musicians and artists directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.
So, while I lead this choir, I still find that
I’m being ledI’m a missionary
mending my faith in the midst of this flock
I toil in their fields of praise. When folks see
these freedmen stand and sing, they hear their God
speak in tongues. These nine dark mouths sing shelter;
they echo a hymn’s haven from slavery’s weather.