A detailed, dedicated and enjoyable remembrance.

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COACH RIDLEY’S BASKETBALL GLORY

THE CAREER OF CORNELIUS RIDLEY AT PEARL HIGH SCHOOL FIRST HALF 1960-1969

Smith, daughter of the titular coach, examines and remembers historically black Pearl High School and its famous basketball coach.

Basketball might be the centerpiece in this first of two volumes on Pearl High School and its legendary coach, but the many intangibles leading to the program’s dramatic success describe the book’s essence. Smith is the daughter and unwavering supporter of Coach Cornelius Ridley, who, for more than 20 years, served as mentor, disciplinarian and sometimes father figure to Pearl’s students, ballplayers and eventual men. This first volume chronicles the 1960s, described as a journey from segregation to integration. Smith deftly alternates between depicting the outstanding basketball program and the man who brought its excellence to the fore. This, in turn, is skillfully interwoven into the school’s rich history, complete with portrayals of dedicated educators and cohesive neighborhoods. The author’s analysis and quality research blends well with her personal touch. Basketball fans and archival buffs alike will appreciate the proficient use and display of news articles, interviews, photos, letters, box scores and even Western Union telegrams. The text’s tone suggests an earnestness that seems to have been handed from father to daughter. Smith can sometimes be overstated in her occasional black-and-white representations of items like character, values or relationships, but even a casual reader would expect this type of writing with a familial connection. This distraction is slight and certainly doesn’t take away from the author’s adept examination of critical, enduring issues. Smith discusses basketball equally well with the Secondary School Study of 1940 or Nashville’s mathematical formula for determining desegregation numbers (both listed in the appendix). It is, indeed, her examination of such issues that merges so well with a story that is attentive, nostalgic and just plain fun. One item that seems curiously missing, at least for the dedicated sports fan, is more coverage of the 1966 historic ballgame—Pearl’s championship in the first real year of integration. The account, otherwise, is a definite must for various libraries and repositories, especially those involved with sports and history. Includes end notes, references, appendices and index.

A detailed, dedicated and enjoyable remembrance.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1438972527

Page Count: 225

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2011

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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