Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nevermore: Free State of Jones, Eleanor Roosevelt's India, Invention of Wings, Arthur C. Clarke, Full Body Burden

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore focused on nonfiction and history, starting with The Free State of Jones:  Mississippi’s Longest Civil War by Victoria Bynum.  A historian with family ties to Jones County, Bynum delves deep into the history of the Mississippi Valley with her narrative and explores the startling social upheaval that gripped Jones County during the Civil War—and what happened in the aftermath.  Starting in 1863, the Knight Company—named for their fearless leader, Confederate deserter Newton Knight—set up camp in the swamps of the Leaf River region and declared themselves the Free State of Jones, a lone community intent on the freedom of all men.  Although skirmishes between Newton Knight and the Confederacy were legendary, especially since Knight was never captured, one of the most lasting legacies of the Knight Company came from the mixed-race community that endured long after the war ended.  An intriguing and compelling narrative about the lingering effects of the Civil War, The Free State of Jones was an instant hit for our reader.  He said it was fascinating to read about Jones and his exploits, and it was interesting to see the impact that the mixed-race community of Jones had on the rest of the community and, incredibly, the legal precedents of the county.  Our reader was incredibly pleased with Bynum’s work and highly recommended it (and the upcoming movie) to his fellow Nevermore members.
Eleanor Roosevelt, courtesy of the FDR Library
Our next reader rediscovered her book from her bookshelves, taking another opportunity to read Eleanor Roosevelt’s India and the Awakening East.  A compelling narrative about Eleanor Roosevelt’s travels through India after World War II, India and the Awakening East is an intriguing and thought-provoking piece on the social growth of India, Lebanon, and many other eastern countries.  Part travel journal and part political/social commentary on the state of eastern nations, Eleanor Roosevelt’s book is a dynamic book that our reader said she enjoyed immensely.  She considered it compelling and brilliant, filled with Eleanor’s passion for humanity and her zeal for humanitarian work, and she said she especially loved the insightful pictures that helped depict the conditions of the time and offered further insight into Eleanor Roosevelt’s travels.  She said it was incredibly insightful, and she loved reconnecting with an old book she’d almost forgotten.

Next, Nevermore looked at The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, a sweeping novel about the Grimke sisters—Sarah and Angelina—and their gradual journey toward becoming abolitionists and suffragists.  Based on characters both real and invented, The Invention of Wings tells the story of Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in Charleston who serves in the Grimke household.  Given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday (Hetty was only ten-years-old, at the time), Handful and Sarah forge a remarkable and unusual relationship as, for the next thirty-five years, they attempt to forge their own destinies and identities.  Our reader really enjoyed reading about the Grimke sisters and Handful, and she highly recommended it to other history lovers.  Thorough and detailed, The Invention of Wings is an excellent piece of fiction that combines a thoughtful narrative with a close observation of facts, breathing life into individuals known only from the history books.  In fact, our reader said, “If you like historical fiction, you’ll [definitely] like this.”

Our readers also explored The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter.  Although Clark and Baxter’s novel falls under science fiction, it’s an intriguing book that discusses the connectivity of a future world—a not-so-far-in-the-future world—where the barriers of space and time are no longer a matter of fact, but a malleable principal that breaks down the boundaries of privacy and, more importantly, time.  Suddenly, people are able to see one another at all times and, finally, look into the distant past to view history as it unfolds.  An interesting mix of historical and science fiction, The Light of Other Days is a fascinating story that’s “really about society and the effects of technology on it,” according to our reader.  He said it was an interesting and compelling novel that dealt with the disappearance of privacy, an idea which he said is very relevant to the modern world, as well as other fascinating scientific concepts.  Overall, he highly recommended it to his fellow readers as a highly thoughtful and incredibly insightful novel.

Last, Nevermore looked at Full Body Burden:  Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iverson.  Iverson grew up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear facility that produced weapons for the U.S. Government under the guise of a simple chemical company.  But as strange cases of cancer and diseases began to crop up all over town, people, like Iverson, began to question what happened at Rocky Flats—and discovered the terrible truth behind the plant which stretched its shadow across the county.  Filled with EPA and FBI documents, interviews of local citizens affected by Rocky Flats, and pages from a class-action lawsuit, Full Body Burden combines the best of investigative journalism with the wrenching testimony of a witness.  Not only does it expose the dangers of radiation, it also exposes the dangers of secrets—and, sometimes, putting trust in a government that doesn’t always have its citizens’ best interests in mind, our reader noted.  She said Iverson’s memoir is a fascinating window into the depth of secrets and deceit that were practiced at Rocky Flats.  It reminded her of Oakridge, offering an eerie parallel to the secrecy of a similar facility that’s so close to home.  Overall, she said she enjoyed Full Body Burden and she feels she learned a lot from Iverson’s and her neighbors’ experiences.

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