A scholarly landmark in the history of a major storm.

Katrina, Mississippi

VOICES FROM GROUND ZERO

Wessman (You Can Fix the Fat from Childhood & Other Heart Disease Risks, Too, 2012) tells stories of people who helped save three Mississippi counties during Hurricane Katrina.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina proved to be the nation’s most destructive natural disaster. It progressed from a Category 1 hurricane when it first hit Florida to a Category 3 in Louisiana, and it made its third landfall in Mississippi. There, it flattened the counties of Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson, creating what Wessman calls a “ransacked reality” for thousands of displaced citizens. The book offers the intertwining tales of Emergency Operations Center commander Benjamin “Joe” Spraggins, health officer Robert Travnicek, and deputy sheriff Rupert Lacy, among others, as they prepared for Katrina’s arrival and later strove to organize a successful cleanup. Although the story of these three Mississippi counties made less news than New Orleans’ did, it’s nevertheless extremely harrowing. Citizens in crowded shelters had no working sewage system, no electricity, and no reliable communication networks. Despite the storm’s quick retreat back to the Gulf of Mexico, it scattered cargo containers of food (including shrimp and chicken) everywhere, and the meat rotted alongside corpses and human waste. The author tells how Travnicek managed to avoid further catastrophes, including rioting and widespread disease, by making bold decisions that frequently sidestepped bureaucracy and put him at odds with his boss, Brian Amy, the state’s director of public health. Overall, Wessman marshals a colossal amount of data, combining it with interview material to present portraits of heroism and dedication in the face of horror. Readers learn, for example, that those who refused to evacuate were instructed to write their names, addresses, and phone numbers on their chests in permanent marker to make potential corpse identification easier. The book also explains storm science in clear language; for instance, when “the water’s on the eastern side of the [hurricane’s] eyewall,” it’s much worse for residents because “it’s getting pushed inland.” Ultimately, this chronicle is most noteworthy for bringing the dogged efforts of Spraggins and others to a wider audience. Students of the era and fans of nature writing shouldn’t miss this inspiring narrative.

A scholarly landmark in the history of a major storm.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-936946-50-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Triton Press

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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