Morales (English/Glendale Community Coll.) debuts with a compellingly rendered collection of essays, the winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize.
The concluding and climactic title piece—about the author giving birth to her daughter at the same time and hospital as a 14-year-old single mother, one of so many that this young teacher has come to know—was already selected for inclusion in Best American Essays, and the coming-of-age stories preceding it combine unflinching honesty with all-embracing compassion. Morales describes growing up in Los Angeles in a dysfunctional Mexican-American family with parents who were raised poor but began living beyond their means. One of her father’s manic shopping binges provided her with a bowling ball, and the bowling alley gave her an identity separate from the one she had at home and at school. As she matured, her parents’ marriage crumbled, leaving her ambivalent over the prospect of a divorce that likely took too long to arrive. Meanwhile, her father continued to beat her mother and cheat on her, resulting in fights that led to police visits, making the family the spectacle of their otherwise white neighborhood: “They would gather with crossed arms, squinting beyond the sun’s glare toward our front door, acting as if they were 100 percent entitled to stare…[like] it was no different than staring at elephants in the zoo. My mother said that they thought we were a bunch of dumb, dirty, low-class Mexicans.” Yet most of the essays aren’t as dark as this one nor as focused on the author’s ethnicity. Her memories of women’s liberation and its influence on schoolgirls, her experience with flashers and other perverts, and her later life as a mother and teacher all help forge a distinctive voice and perspective, an understanding that “writing connects us to people with whom we’d otherwise have no connection…and thus we develop empathy.”
Essays that are as thematically ambitious as they are deeply personal.
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)