A touching, heartfelt, and amusing book that provides a wonderful personal perspective on a period of historical and...

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THE NEWSPAPER BOY

COMING OF AGE IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA

A white Southerner describes his teenage journey to racial tolerance in this debut coming-of-age autobiography.

Attorney Isom grew up and attended college during the 1950s and ’60s in Birmingham, Alabama—a city that was home to some of the most notorious racism of the civil rights era, peaking in 1963 with Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor’s violent enforcement of segregation and a church bombing that killed four black children. That backdrop makes Isom’s personal story even more remarkable. As a teenager, he was fired up by the racist views of his society, particularly those of famous segregationist and Klansman Asa Carter, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. However, he was slowly swayed the opposite way by the kindness and “question everything” philosophy of the Millers, two Yankee transplants on his paper route. It’s an iconic, real-life struggle, as Isom made a moral choice between the devil and the angel on his shoulders. His memoir also features an intriguing subplot regarding his father, Hewlett Chervis Isom Sr., a kind man who was once sickened by having to kill a chicken for dinner; he questioned his own prejudice, too, like his son, but he couldn’t quite make the leap that the author did. Some passages will flesh out readers’ understanding of bus segregation by detailing the elder Isom’s experiences as a Greyhound driver. One tends to think that Rosa Parks protested, African-Americans boycotted, and bus segregation ended—but readers soon learn that the reality was more complicated than that. Other childhood memories, unrelated to Isom’s internal struggles, will also keep readers’ attention, such as a time on his paper route when he encountered a customer that would make Blanche DuBois seem like a model subscriber.

A touching, heartfelt, and amusing book that provides a wonderful personal perspective on a period of historical and cultural change.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-940524-03-0

Page Count: 359

Publisher: The Working Writers

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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IN MY PLACE

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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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