Thursday, July 8, 2021

#20  Winter into Summer 2021--Vaccinated and Reading Like Crazy

So, it's been six months or so since I updated the waiting world on what has been worthwhile  to read. Christmas brought a gift from my daughter of Barak Obama's first volume of biography, A Promised Land, which weighed in at 700 pages and basically covered his first two years in office. There are returns to his boyhood on Hawaii and his education as he gradually moved into local then state and national politics. The book is very conversational as he talks about his family and especially his wife Michelle and his daughters. He maintains the tone which is highly readable when talking about politicians and world leaders, but he really gets into the detail of the BIG issues of his first two years, namely the worldwide financial collapse of 2008-9 and the Affordable Care Act-Obamacare. If you were not a poli sci major in college you might wish for some serious editorial oversight on topics like these but his writing about foreign policy,especially the hunt for Osama Bin Laden are edge of seat reading. I'd recommend it regardless of political leanings as the writing of a very smart man.

Another earlier gift from my daughter got read as I racked up miles all winter on the recumbent bicycle downstairs. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson was truly a transformational book for me as she pursued in vast historical scope (she interviewed more than 1,000 people) of the Great Migration of Black Americans from the Jim Crow South of the 1920s to the 1970s, focusing on three people--  Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat ; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida orange groves and potential lynching for Harlem and work as a Pullman porter on the NYC to Florida train, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God ; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career in the military and in Los Angeles, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home but exposed him to Vegas gambling and the horses. This book helped me better understand my years growing up in the Calumet Region and news from Chicago on red-lining, race riots and the protests.

A third book by a Black author that I enjoyed immensely was J. Drew Lanham's  The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature which is set in the southwestern corner of South Carolina near Augusta GA. It is the story of his boyhood and family as seen through the lenses of history and nature as he presents the history of the Lanham name originating with a great, great grandfather , a slave in the late 1790s working on the Lanham plantation, tracing down to his grandmother and father living in the Jim Crow south. But equally important are the lessons he learned observing nature on the family's wild lands that led him to college and a Wildlife Ecology professorship at Clemson University. Now retired Lanham still revels in ornithology but he's very aware of his surroundings.

And speaking of the South, we made our first trip of the Covid years to North and South Carolina in late April, May and toured the Kings Mountain National Military Park on the NC/SC border. The Park Ranger strongly recommended  a the book to read to understand the Revolutionary War fought in the South, specifically the Carolinas. and he was right though the 400 pages were somewhat daunting.  The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas opens with the 1776 Battle of Sullivan’s Island where Patriot forces successfully defended the Charleston Harbor and concludes with the British victory at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. While these two events bookend this military history, the meat of the work is a battle-by-battle march through the skirmishes and battles of the Southern Campaign, culminating at Guilford Courthouse. The author, John Buchanan, examines not only the battlefield strategy and tactical decisions made in the Carolina back country, but also the personalities and military careers of the major characters of Daniel Morgan, Nathanael Greene, Francis Marion, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Cornwallis, Banastre Tarleton and Scotsman hero of the Kings Mountain battle, Patrick Ferguson

The final book I wanted to focus on is guitarist extraordinaire Richard Thompson's  brand new book Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967-1975. This presents the early years career of Fairport Convention, a super group of folk and rock musicians who scuffled along Great Britain but made exceptional music. And Thompson can write!