Library Column: New large-print non-fiction 

Published 8:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2021

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features new non-fiction titles from our Large Print collection.

Author Jennifer Neves gives us a collection of essays about growing up and raising a family in rural Maine in her book “Freedom Farm.” We know that being born the daughter of a surgeon doesn’t make you a surgeon, but what about being born the daughter of a farmer? This collection is filled with memories and stories that inspire and continue to guide and shape the author throughout her life. It is also an exploration of family lore and how it evolves with each individual and each generation. She explores the complexities of human nature and how the places where our stories take place influence us. Some family stories may get tangled and wrap back around on themselves and Neves does her best to untangle some of her own family’s lore. In the end, she does a good job of explaining how to appreciate the entirety of one’s journey and to understand that there is more than one story to describe it.

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Bill O’Reilly — with co-author Martin Dugard — continues his historical narrative series with “Killing the Mob: the Fight Against Organized Crime in America.” They trace the brutal history of 20th Century organized crime in the U.S. and explore the history of our country’s most notorious serial robbers, conmen, murderers, and, especially, the mob family bosses. O’Reilly and Dugard cover the period from the 1930s to the 1980s, tracing the prohibition-busting bank robbers of the Great Depression like John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby-Face Nelson. There is also an exploration of the creation of the Mafia Commission, the power struggles within the “Five Families,” the growth of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover’s leadership, as well as the mob wars to control Cuba, Las Vegas and Hollywood. They also highlight the feud between Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and legendary Teamsters’ boss Jimmy Hoffa. Fans of true crime will find this history of the mob in America fascinating.

In “Everything is Fine: a Memoir,” author Vince Granata explores grief, mental illness and the bonds of family. He delves into the tragedy of his mother’s violent death at the hands of his brother who struggled with schizophrenia. Granata remembers standing in front of his suburban Connecticut home on the day his mother and father returned from the hospital with his three new siblings in tow. He had just finished writing their names in chalk on the driveway — Christopher, Timothy and Elizabeth. Twenty-three years later, Vince was a thousand miles away when he gets the news that Tim killed their mother in their childhood home. He had been compelled by his uncontrolled schizophrenia. For Vince, the grief of this senseless act seemed to overshadow any happy memories of growing up in a seemingly idyll middle-class family. To deal with the pain, he reconstructs his life and memory from the grief by writing a beautiful testament to the therapy of art, the power of record and his undying love for his family.

“Come Fly The World: the Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am” by Julia Cooke tells the story of the titular airline through the lives of the young women who staffed its planes in the “Mad Men” era of commercial flight. Pan Am World Airways attracted the kind of young woman who wanted out and wanted up. But the airline had high standards. Young women were required to have a college education, speak two languages and possess the political savvy of a Foreign Service officer. Stewardesses serving on iconic Pan Am flights between 1966 and 1975 also had to be between 5’3” and 5’9”, between 105 and 140 pounds, and under 26 years of age at the time of hiring. Cooke weaves the stories of the real-life cast of characters, from small-town girl Lynne Totten, a science major who decided the lab life wasn’t for her, to Hazel Bowie, one of a relatively few Black stewardesses of the era, who embraced the liberation that the jet-set life provided them. Cooke also highlights the role of Pan Am stewardesses in the Vietnam War, as the airline added runs from Saigon to Hong Kong for plane loads of weary soldiers straight from the battlefields, who were off for R&R, and then flew them back to the war. She also tells the story of Operation Babylift — the dramatic evacuation of 2,000 children during the fall of Saigon.

“Robert E. Lee and Me: a Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause” is by Ty Seidule. Former soldier and head of the West Point history department, Ty Seidule challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy and explores why some of this country’s oldest wounds have a hard time healing. Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his Southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part of his life reinforced the Lost Cause myth: that Lee was the greatest man who ever lived, and that the Confederates were underdogs who lost the Civil War with honor. He deconstructs the truth about the Confederacy and directly challenges the idea of honoring those who labored to preserve the system of slavery. This book is part history lecture, part meditation on the Civil War and its fallout and part memoir that provides a surprising interpretation of the truths and divisive nature of the Civil War.