An earnest attempt by the well-known scholar (Women, Culture, and Politics, 1989, etc.) and activist to see three great African-American singers as part of a black feminist tradition. In her appreciative analysis of the classic blues written and recorded in the 1920s and early '30s by Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, Davis (History of Consciousness/Univ. of Calif., Santa Cruz) accurately notes that these women expressed a working-class, African-American sensibility quite different from the ``uplift the race'' gentility of their middle-class peers in the Harlem Renaissance. Openly sexual, unconstrained by maternity or marriage, pragmatic about the impact of money and work on women's lives, Smith and Rainey spoke to and for ordinary blacks with a candor that remains striking and appealing today. Davis's explication of their works' political undercurrents seems accurate, if somewhat trite compared to the splendid particularity and vigor of the lyrics themselves. (The author's transcriptions of Rainey's and Smith's songs occupy one third of the text—and it's not wasted space.) It's hard to trace a strong connection between these two artists, who generally wrote their own earthy material, and Billie Holiday, stuck with the banal pop clichÇs of second-rate white Tin Pan Alley hacks. Davis makes a plausible case that Holiday transformed this dross by informing it with a subtext of irony and social consciousness, the latter quality more evident in one of the few songs she composed, the searing ``Strange Fruit.'' But a single paragraph arguing that ``Holiday was following in the footsteps of a host of black artists who preceded her . . . who . . . incorporated into their music their own brand of critical social consciousness'' needs much more fleshing out. Davis's prose, distanced and overly abstract in the vintage academic manner, could also use a shot of Rainey's humor, Smith's sass, or Holiday's soulful intensity. Intelligent, well-meaning, not without merit—but so drab compared to its vivid subjects. (8 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-45005-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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