ON THE SHELF: Adult nonfiction for every interest

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 31, 2022

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

This week’s column features a few titles from our New Adult Nonfiction collection.

“Jimmy the King: Murder, Vice, and the Reign of a Dirty Cop” is by Gus Garcia-Roberts. For four decades, one of the country’s largest police departments was the breeding ground for murder, power and corruption. Suffolk County, New York was rocked by the gruesome murder of a 13-year-old boy in 1979. While county officials hurriedly worked to bring the case to a questionable resolution, a troubled local teenager came forward with a convenient story to tell and was rewarded with a job as a cop. As he ascended the ranks of one of the country’s largest law enforcement jurisdictions, he and his crew of like-minded allies used vengeance, gangster tactics and political leverage to become the most powerful and feared members of their suburban empire. Then, a purloined bag of “intimate paraphernalia” brought the corrupt cop and his minions crashing down.

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Joseph C. Ewoodzie, Jr. pens a portrait of African American life in today’s urban South with “Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class and Food in the American South.” The author uses food — what and how people eat — to explore the interaction of race and class in the lives of African Americans of the South. He examines how “foodways” — food availability, choice, and consumption — vary widely between classes of African Americans in Jackson, Miss., and how this reflects the very different experiences of a shared racial identity. Edwoodzie goes food shopping, cooks and eats with a young mother living in poverty and a grandmother working two jobs. He works in a Black-owned BBQ restaurant, and he meets a man who decides to become a vegan for health reasons but who must drive across town to get tofu and quinoa. He also learns about how sour food is changing and why it is no longer a staple survival food. He also attempts to show how food choices influence and are influenced by the racial and class identities of Black Jacksonians. Edwoodzie’s research helps challenge the persistent homogenization of blackness in American life.

Linguist Gaston Dorren takes an interesting look at communication in his book “Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages.” English is considered the world language, except that 80 percent of the world doesn’t speak it. In fact, Dorren has calculated that to speak fluently with half of the world’s people in their mother tongues, you would have to know no less than 20 languages. Here, he sets out to explore these 20 languages, which range from the familiar (French, Spanish) to the not-so-well-known (Malay, Javanese, Bengali). He traces how these languages rose to greatness while others fell away and shows how speakers today handle the quirks of their mother tongues. Dorren shows that these mother tongues are a lot like nations — each has its own customs and beliefs — and he also highlights the tongue-tying phonetics, elegant though complicated writing scripts, as well as the eccentricity of grammar. He also reveals why modern Turks can’t read books that are a mere 75 years old, what it means in practice for Russian and English to be relatives, and how the Japanese developed separate “dialects” for men and women. This witty and fascinating book will make you curious about how the rest of the world speaks.

Ron M. Shelton looks back on his 1988 film Bull Durham in “The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham.” The breakthrough film is now considered by many to be the best sports movie of all time, but back in 1987, Ron Shelton was a first-time director, and no one was willing to finance a movie about baseball — especially since it was set in the minor leagues. The jury was out on Kevin Costner’s leading-man abilities, and Susan Sarandon was already considered a has-been. So, there were doubts. Then, things started falling into place. Shelton details how they organized a baseball camp for the actors and how key scenes were re-written while on set as well as how they dealt with the short production schedule and how they overcame the challenge of filming the sport itself. This is also a book about baseball and its singular romance in the world of sports. Shelton spent six years in the minor leagues before making this film and his experiences and love of the game influenced the movie and this book.

“The Earth Is All That Lasts: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the Last Stand of the Great Sioux Nation” is by Mark Lee Gardner. This book is a dual biography of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the two most revered and important American Indian leaders, who triumphed at the Battle of Little Bighorn and led Sioux resistance in the fierce and bloody final chapter of the so-called “Indian Wars.” Their names are iconic and together, these two Lakota chiefs crushed Custer’s haughty Seventh Cavalry. Crazy Horse was the fabled warrior whose bravado was tempered by Sitting Bull’s reputation as a holy man. Both were born and grew to manhood on the High Plains of the American West in an era when vast herds of buffalo covered the land, and when their nomadic people could move freely, following the buffalo and showing their fighting prowess against rival Indian nations. Neither man had known a time without whites, however, since fur traders and government explorers had penetrated Sioux lands. Soon after Oregon-California Trail travelers, gold seekers, railroad men, settlers, town builders, and Bluecoats followed. The buffalo population plummeted, diseases decimated villages, and conflicts with settlers increased. On June 25, 1876, in the valley of the Little Big Horn, these two chiefs and their warriors who followed them fought the last stand of the Sioux. It was their greatest victory, but it was also the beginning of the end for their beloved way of life.