What Truth Sounds Like

What Truth Sounds Like

What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race In America by Michael Eric Dyson (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

In May 1963, Robert F. Kennedy called for a meeting with James Baldwin, one of the most powerful voices of the civil rights movement. Baldwin brought the singers Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, scholar Kenneth Clark, and freedom rider Jerome Smith. Kennedy expected a polite, deferential meeting, but his guests weren’t willing to be patient
and work on policies. Smith was recovering from a savage beating by white supremacists; Baldwin and his friends angrily gave witness to “blackness seen through the prism of pain and trauma.”

You're Not From Around Here, Are You?

Book cover image for You're Not From Around Here, Are You?

You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? : a Lesbian in Small-Town America by Louise A. Blum (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001)

I’d never consider living in a small town, and when my wife and I drive past or through one, I usually comment that I’d go crazy if I lived there. I’d miss the diversity of race, religion, sexual orientation, the cultural events, and relative tolerance for lesbians and gays. A lot has changed since Blum wrote her book in 2001, notably the ability for me to say “my wife” legally, but I’m sure the attitudes in her small town are still slow to catch up.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

Book cover image for Fire Shut Up in My Bones


Fire Shut Up in My Bones opens with the author driving down the highway, crying, screaming, with a gun on the car seat beside him, headed toward revenge. Then we’re pulled back into the childhood of that wounded man, a story told so well that by the time we come to that scene’s resolution, we’ve almost forgotten it.

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver

Book cover image for Blue Horses

Blue Horses (New York: Penguin Press, 2014) is a slight book of deceptively simple poems, “something/inexplicable/made plain” as Mary Oliver says in “What We Want.” It’s only when you think further into them that you realize these poems have a lot to say. Oliver’s spirituality, like her imagery, springs from the natural world and the senses.

Two Views of Columbine

Book cover images for A Mother's Reckoning and Columbine


A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

I didn’t plan to review this book, but halfway through my reading, news broke of the Parkland, Florida shooting. So, sadly, the topic is freshly relevant.

The Witches: Salem, 1692

Book cover for The Witches

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff is an exhaustive (and at times, exhausting) account of the accusations, imprisonment, trials and executions of fourteen women and five men. It’s a story we all think we know, but Schiff places us in this world so completely, we can feel the chilly air and hear the howling of dogs at night.

Backwards and Forwards

Librarian on horseback

For many folks, the word “library” conjures up a quiet building full of books and periodicals, perhaps offering a place for community activities, and branching out into digital media in recent years.  This image of libraries as conservative organizations, slow to respond to changes, slow to offer new services, is very well-established.  And entirely wrong.

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