Archive for March, 2010

Paul Gaston recognized at AFL-CIO program, on C-Span Book TV

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 by Andrew

NewSouth author and preeminent southern historian Paul Gaston has received high praise from those attending recent events in support of his new memoir Coming of Age in Utopia: The Odyssey of an Idea.

Gaston was recently the guest of honor at the AFL-CIO where civil rights activist Julian Bond spoke and introduced him to a large and receptive crowd. Gaston discussed his new memoir, which highlights his life as a southern historian and social justice advocate during his time in Charlottesville as a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Renowned author and academic Vernon Burton, who attended the AFL-CIO event, sang Gaston’s praises. “What a wonderful testament to a life so well lived and to what an academic can do,” he said. “I might add that [Gaston] was, and is, a model for many of us who were not his students at UVA as well.”

Event organizer and former Gaston student Roger Hickey also spoke highly of his mentor. He said, “Bob Welsh and I organized this book event because in the 1960s, we had the exciting experience of being students of Paul Gaston, the most courageous professor at the University of Virginia. At the conservative UVA of that time, Paul Gaston was our hero.”

Gaston also recently spoke, along with another former student and SNCC historian Andrew Lewis, at an event hosted by the University of Richmond. Gaston and Lewis discussed their recently published books with a focus on the role sit-ins and nonviolent resistance played in the civil rights movement.

Watch the entire University of Richmond program at C-Span’s Book TV.

Coming of Age in Utopia is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.

Boston Globe warns against UGA’s Michael Adams for NCAA

Monday, March 29th, 2010 by Brian Seidman

Behind the Hedges by Rich Whitt“I fear [the NCAA is] about to make a colossal mistake,” writes Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, “that I would attribute to not doing their homework.” Part of that homework, Ryan continues, is reading NewSouth Books’ Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics at the University of Georgia, which details the controversies over UGA President Michael Adams’ performance and financial decisions during his tenure at the university. Ryan suggests the NCAA should think twice before naming Adams as their own new president.

“If the NCAA people want to investigate Adams for themselves, all they need do is pick up a book written by the late Rich Whitt titled, Behind the Hedges,” Ryan notes. “It’s all there, in exquisite detail.”

Behind the Hedges is the only place that the public can read in full the Deloitte & Touche report commissioned by the UGA Foundation to investigate financial choices made by Adams. Ryan calls the Deloitte & Touche report “an astonishing indictment of an operation fundamentally out of control.” He quotes Robert Miller of King & Spalding (involved in creating the report), who says that “if this report had pertained to a senior executive of a major corporation, he would have been removed from power in 24 hours and would not have even been given an opportunity to reply.”

In Behind the Hedges, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rich Whitt focused his investigative lens on recent events at the University of Georgia, and in so doing examined the bigger story of “a sea change in how America supports its institutions of higher education.” Through interviews with many key figures in a struggle for power at UGA over the last decade, Rich examines the controversial tenure of Michael Adams as UGA president, and how this controversy led to the unprecedented split between the Board of Regents and the UGA Foundation, with implications for the landscape of higher education funding nationwide.

“If one-tenth of what’s in that book is true,” one source tells Ryan, “[Adams] must be stopped. You read that book and you say, ‘You’re [bleeping] me.’”

Behind the Hedges: Big Money and Power Politics at the University of Georgia is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Publishers Weekly profiles NewSouth Books on tenth anniversary

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Brian Seidman

Publishers Weekly recognized NewSouth Books’ tenth anniversary this week in a feature article by Rachel Deahl, noting that despite the tough publishing climate, NewSouth is “quietly thriving.”

With all the exciting things going on at NewSouth Books — the release of Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, and great titles on the way like Wade Hall’s Interview with Abraham Lincoln, Ted Dunagan’s Secret of the Satilfa, and David Rigsbee’s The Red Tower: New and Selected Poems — we’ve barely had time to stop and celebrate the ten year mark. But as Publishers Weekly notes, evidence of this landmark can be seen in NewSouth’s increasing larger print runs and stronger submissions, and in events like NewSouth publishing the Alabama Big Read edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in conjunction with the National Endowment of the Arts.

“Every book we publish has to count,” NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa told Publishers Weekly. “Our feeling is, if every book sells where we think it will … this company will be viable.”

“And NewSouth,” Publishers Weekly notes, “is certainly viable.”

Read the full article at the Publishers Weekly website.

Anna Olswanger remembers Sid Fleischman

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Kali Mobley

Anna Olswanger, author of Shlemiel Crooks, remembers fondly fellow Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators member Sid Fleischman, who died of cancer on March 17, 2010, the day after his ninetieth birthday.

Sid Fleischman, the Newbery Award-winning author of The Whipping Boy, was originally born in Brooklyn, New York, but he grew up in Sand Diego. A magician at heart, he traveled in vaudeville as a performing magician, but his live performances were transformed into the mysteries of writing. Fleischman attempted, at first, to write for adults, and then, he wrote some screenplays. Only when he began to write children’s books did he find literary success. He wrote over thirty-six books for children, including the McBroom series, By the Great Horn Spoon!, and Mr. Mysterious and Company.

Anna Olswanger was very fortunate to capture Fleischman’s love for his writing and his audience in an interview she conducted in 2002 at a Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in L. A.:

Olswanger: What are some of the intangible rewards of writing for you? 

Fleischman: There’s the satisfaction in knowing that your books have had an impact. You discover that from the letters you get. Kids tell you they have gotten pleasure from your books, or parents and teachers let you know that one of your books turned a resistant child on to reading. There’s also the reward of doing a good job. When you finish a novel, and you’ve solved the problems, that’s a tremendous satisfaction. And there’s the reward of the lifestyle that writing has given me. I have complete freedom, although we writers work ourselves much harder than people who have a boss. I work seven days a week, and I don’t know how many hours between doing all the things that go along with it — researching, writing, answering the mail. If I were working for a salary, I would want a raise!

Olswanger: Which of your books are you the proudest of?

Fleischman: The Whipping Boy is one. By the Great Horn Spoon!, a novel about the California Gold Rush, is a second. By the Great Horn Spoon! has been continuously in print for more than 40 years and sells a huge number of copies every year. It’s widely read in fourth grades in the West. That and The Whipping Boy, I suppose, will be my legacy. It’s not to say there aren’t others out there I’m happy with. I’ve had fun with the McBroom stories. I love Mr. Mysterious and Company — I can’t tell you the magicians I’ve met who were turned on to magic by that novel. And I think Scarebird is the best piece of work I’ve done. I wish I could do. It’s a picture book, one of those books you feel you wrote under special grace that doesn’t visit you often. I had all kinds of problems with it, but the finished book is as close to perfection as I will come.

Fleischman left behind his son, Paul Fleischman, who is a writer and poet. Like father, like son: Paul received the Newbery Award for his book of poetry Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices in 1989. Fleischman received his award in 1987.

As an amazing author and a talented magician, Fleischman’s love for these performing arts remains timeless and can be found in several of his published works as well as in the hearts and imaginations of many children.

Shlemiel Crooks named one of best Passover books for children

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Andrew

As noted on Media Bistro, NewSouth children’s author Anna Olswanger recently had her award-winning book Shlemiel Crooks included on a shortlist of “The Best Passover Books for Children” by Flashlight Worthy, a website devoted to handpicking book recommendations on hundreds of topics.

From the review:

This off-beat and funny story — set in St. Louis in the early 1900s — is based on the author’s grandfather. It involves the attempted robbery of Reb Olschwanger’s saloon by two shlemiel crooks who are instigated by the ghost of Pharaoh and foiled by a talking horse and a neighborhood “shtuss.”

Flavored heavily with a Yiddish inflected narration and illustrated with earthy, heavily outlined linocuts, this gem of a story requires considerable practice before reading aloud… but it’s worth the effort.

Congratulations Anna on this noteworthy and timely selection.

Shlemiel Crooks is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.

Julie Williams uncovers Wright brothers Birmingham connection

Friday, March 19th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Julie Williams, author of Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama, recently published by NewSouth Books, brought her search for information on a Wright brothers-Birmingham connection to the pages of the Birmingham News in an op/ed piece on March 14. In her article, Williams recounted meeting and hearing from several locals with personal stories about the Wrights.

Julie met descendents of Frank Kohn, donor of the plantation the Wrights used for their field, who now live in Birmingham.

She received an email from a descendent of Earl Kreis, who served as the Wrights’ “water boy,” and spoke with Miller Gorrie, whose ancestor built the Wright hangar in Montgomery. The family business, Brafield & Gorrie General Contrator, is headquartered today in Birmingham.

Julie was also contacted by a descendent of David Clark Wright, a distant cousin of the brothers who helped them with the bicycle.

Andy Davis shared with Julie his story of meeting Orville Wright:

Orville visited Edwarda, widow of Orville’s distant cousin, when Davis was around age 5 or 6. As Davis recalled, Edwarda called him in from outside to meet Orville. “Nice to meet you,” little Andy said politely, and turned to leave.

Edwarda stopped him. “You don’t understand,” she said. “This is the man who invented the airplane.”

Young Andy stared up at Orville and asked, “May I go get my friends to come see him?” This amused the adults, who turned down the offer. “‘Oh,’ I said,” Davis recounted. “So I took my ball and went outside to play.

Davis had a news clipping about Orville’s visit for many years, but it got lost. He’s hoping to locate another.

Julie was able to “solve” another Wright mystery by searching the internet. She discovered that the eldest of the Wright brothers, Reuchlin, probably did live in Birmingham:

Reuchlin was a member of a club called “The Ten Dayton Boys.” When the club met on Feb. 12, 1887, it threw a reception in honor of Reuchlin, who was leaving soon for Birmingham.

Julie Williams asks that anyone with more information about these or other connections to the Wright brothers in Alabama contact her by email at jjwillia (at)

Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online book seller.

Robbie Baldwin attends fourth World Congress to Abolish the Death Penalty

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Robert Baldwin, author of Life and Death Matters: Seeking the Truth about Capital Punishment, published by NewSouth Books, continues his campaign against the death penalty with some high profile events.

In February, he participated in the fourth World Congress to Abolish the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland, where 1,700 people discussed ways to abolish capital punishment worldwide. Speakers included Iranian Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking. Dr. Baldwin made many new contacts and friends from all over the world. As a result of that meeting, he has been invited to be a speaker at an all-day rally supporting death penalty abolition at the United Nations Headquarters on April 30, sponsored by Voices for Death Row Inmates, a non-profit abolitionist organization based in England.

At the London meeting, Dr. Baldwin will also introduce his first CD of contemporary Christian music, entitled, “Simply Jesus.” Proceeds from sale of the CD will benefit prison ministry and efforts to obtain a morartorium on the death penalty in Alabama.

Life and Death Matters is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Remembering Dan Pollitt

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by Brian Seidman

Dan Pollitt, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina Law School and contributor to two volumes of political essays published by NewSouth Books, Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent and American Crisis, Southern Solutions, died earlier this month; he was 88.

Pollitt was a graduate of Wesleyan University and Cornell Law, and he served in World War II as a Marine Infantry Officer. He served on the Southern Regional Council, on the board of the American Association of University Professors, and on the national boards of the ACLU and Southerners for Economic Justice. He has litigated and published widely in the areas of labor law, civil liberties, and civil rights. He fought for integration in the 1950s, supported gay rights in newspaper editorials, and supported the abolition of the death penalty.

In one of his last editorials, published in the News & Observer, Pollitt sympathized with soldiers fighting in Afghanistan after his own experiences in World War II. Some suggestions he made included stopping the drone bombings when innocent civilians might be killed; re-purposing rather than destroying poppy plants so as not to deprive the farmers of their livelihood; and bringing in more doctors and construction works to help heal and rebuild the country. Friends suggested that Pollitt’s progressive opinions here were suggestive of his character.

Author and professor Dan Carter remembered long-time friend Pollitt. “The last time I saw him,” Carter said, “he and Gene Nichol and I agreed to do a book presentation at the Regulator in Durham. It was a small crowd, but Dan gave his spiel with the kind of passion that most people reserve for an audience of thousands. And his indignation over the way in which our government had betrayed our best values as a nation seemed more conservative — in the best sense of the word — than radical. We often talk glibly about ‘inspirational mentors’ but Dan was the best kind and a needed reminder that we can’t give up, no matter how difficult things may seem.”

Read the News & Observer obituary of Dan Pollitt.

NewSouth Books expresses our condolences to Pollitt’s friends and family for their loss.

Publishers Weekly, others praise Rheta Grimsley Johnson memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie

Monday, March 15th, 2010 by Brian Seidman

Publishers Weekly calls Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s new memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming a “notable story of [a] devoted journalist,” and indeed the Birmingham News‘s Kathy Kemp notes that “to many young, Southern female journalists making their way in the 1980s, Rheta Grimsley Johnson was our hero and role model, not to mention the best writer we’d ever read.”

This praise comes as part of a bevy of well-deserved positive reviews for Rheta’s new book. Alabama Public Radio’s Don Noble has called Enchanted Evening Barbie “moving [and] utterly believable,” and John Branston of the Memphis Flyer‘s “City Beat” blog noted that “good [memoirs] have perspective, emotional highs and lows, sharp writing, strange places, revealing glimpses of famous people, and humor … [Enchanted Evening Barbie is] a good one.”

Kemp notes that in writing the emotional Enchanted Evening Barbie, Rheta found inspiration in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

[Enchanted Evening Barbie] traces the life of a busy girl and woman who, right out of Auburn, started a small newspaper in Georgia. She married a newspaper cartoonist, moved from here to there, got divorced, dated a man who killed himself in front of her, married for a second time to the man of her dreams and then found him dead at home, last March, four days after his heart surgery.

“Joan [Didion] said you expect to be crazy with grief when you lose a spouse, but you don’t expect to be literally crazy.”

Rheta still sounds tender when talking about her late husband, journalist Don Grierson, a UAB journalism professor … She’s having minor second thoughts about having published the memoir, but she hopes it will help someone in the way Didion’s book helped her. And, as always, Rheta couldn’t stop herself from writing it.

As Florence-Lauderdale Library director Nancy Sanford told the Times-Daily, “Knowing how much women’s lives have changed in the last 25 to 30 years, and how our expectations change, I think that’s hit a chord, and I think [Enchanted Evening Barbie] is going to hit a chord for us.” NewSouth is proud to see that chord already beginning to resonate.

Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Gerald Duff discusses Fire Ants and fiction at South Carolina Book Festival

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 by Andrew

NewSouth author Gerald Duff recently traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to discuss his collection of short stories Fire Ants and Other Stories at the fourteenth annual South Carolina Book Festival. Held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on February 27-28, Duff was one of many authors participating in the festival, appearing on two panels and participating in a “Brunch with the Authors” event.

One panel, entitled “Book Club Picks,” saw Duff joined with novelist Dale Neal and scholar and wine writer David Shields. Among other topics, Duff and the panelists discussed the question of how authors research background for their work and how conscious of the need to be true to facts a writer of fiction must be. “We all agreed,” Duff said, “that, though admirable in themselves, facts must never stand in the way of the story. Where you need to lie about facts, you must do such in the service of a larger truth.”

The second panel,”Beyond the Novel,” concerned the differences in form between drama, poetry, and prose fiction. Duff quoted the statement from William Faulkner that every short story writer is a failed poet and that every novelist is a failed short story writer. Duff said, “All three of us on the panel—a dramatist, a poet, and a short story writer—deferred to Mr. Faulkner.”

This is the fourteenth year for the South Carolina Book Festival, which generally draws crowds of nearly 5,000 book lovers, and Duff noted the strength of this year’s programming. “The crowds at all sessions were large, lively, and literary,” he said, “and I left the South Carolina Book Festival energized about the reading and writing of fiction.”

Read more about the festival at the Free Times.

Duff’s next appearance is in April at the Wisconsin Book Festival where he’ll also read and comment upon Fire Ants.

Fire Ants is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online retailer.