Spring books take stage; politics on hold
While state Legislators swoon over tax-exemptions, Gov. Asa Hutchinson comes on TV with strong red mantra messages, and the never-ending trail of ethics has readers mesmerized with how cash flows in and out of folks’ pockets — I’ll turn to spring books.
For a much-needed break from political scatter-shooting this week, let’s see what is on the literary scene in our state. Politics, as usual, will return next week.
First out of the gate, the highly controversial, yet vital “Bullets and Fire: Lynching and Authority in Arkansas: 1840-1950,” by Guy Lancaster, has just won the coveted Graves Book Award from the Arkansas Historical Association. The UA Press book has been said to be a “must” read for students of the state’s history. Although a “dark” chapter in the state’s history, the book sets in context much of the state in the pre-, post- and developing decades of the Civil War and pre-Civil Rights struggles.
A new book, out this next month from the Butler Center Books in Little Rock, is a collection, edited by Lancaster, “The Elaine Massacre and Arkansas: A Century of Atrocity and Resistance, 1819-1919.” Several noted Arkansas scholars are contributing to this work, including Richard Buckelew of Bethune-Cookman, Kelly Huston Jones of Austin Peay State University, Cherisse Jones-Branch of Arkansas State University, and others. It looks like a real behind-the-scenes look, finally, of the awful events in that impoverished area of our state.
On to easier topics to enjoy and digest, the UA Press has rolled out this month a Johnny Cash epic entitled, “The Man In Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash.” The 296-page book with 47 rarely seen images of the iconic Country crooner, by John M. Alexander, looks to be very, very interesting.
One quirky, but very delightful book for those in love with the kitchen is a UA Press offering: “Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes: The Original 1927 Cookbook and Household Chat.”
This was an early effort of the fledgling U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Bureau of Home Economics to bring modern cooking techniques and recipes to rural America. The nation was coming out of World War I and home cook stoves were quickly being transformed from wood burning to gas or electrical — and the recipes within, while Spartan at best, are intriguing. This is one of the two books this season from the Food and Foodways selections from the UA Press.
The other Food and Foodways selection focuses on Asian cooking, which is very intriguing. The book, “Chop Suey and Sushi from Sea to Shining Sea,” is a delight. A trio of fine chefs, historians and writers combine for a 320-page collection worth reading.
For those loving the Civil War, there is a new collection from Mark Christ, the noted Arkansas expert on the War Between the States in the Natural State. Christ’s latest book, “A Confused and Confusing Affair: Arkansas and Reconstruction,” is a reviewing of the state — after the war. Several noted Arkansans help out in the collection of essays. Among the collection can be found Jay Barth of Hendrix; Thomas DeBlack of Arkansas Tech; and Blake Wintory of the Lakeport Plantation ASU project in southeast Arkansas.
For yesteryear fans, the Butler Center for Books has a nice novelic offering: “Spiderwalk, The High Life and Daring Stunts of a Small-Town Girl from Arkansas,” by Ann “Annie” Miles. This is a book about the pioneering spirit of small-town America from the 1950s and just the type of book to lose one’s self in on a mild summer day.
As always, I’ll recommend a membership with four-quarterly issues of the “Flashback” from the
Washington County Historical Society, with memberships starting at $15 a year for seniors and $25 for general membership. Contact the WCHS at www. washingtoncountyhistoricalsociety.org.
The Arkansas Historical Association offers a four-issue Arkansas Historical Quarterly for $20 a year. The AHA can be contacted at www.arkansashistoricalassociation.org.
Books mentioned here can be found at local independent book dealers all over the state.
Political intrigue returns next week.