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Archive for the 'books' Category

Historians in Service of a Better South honors Paul Gaston, author and activist

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 by Brian Seidman

Historians in Service of a Better South: Essays in Honor of Paul GastonHistorians in Service of a Better South, new from NewSouth Books, has as its subtitle “Essays in Honor of Paul Gaston.” The book is a Festscrift, a collection of essays by Gaston’s students and colleagues over his long career at the University of Virginia and through his long-time involvement in civil rights causes. Robert Jefferson (Jeff) Norrell and Andrew Myers edited the book.

Gaston himself sent a video message to the contributors and to NewSouth, thanking them for what he called a “handsome book.”

Gaston joined the history department of the University of Virginia in 1957, teaching Southern and civil rights history until his retirement in 1997. His involvement in civil rights and social justice began with his role as a community organizer and participant in protest movements and sit-ins during the 1960s. At UVA he led student and faculty efforts to dismantle segregation. He served as research director of the Southern Regional Council; he was a member of the SRC’s executive committee from 1974-1998 and presidentfrom 1984-1988.

Books by Paul Gaston include The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award), Women of Fair Hope, Man and Mission: E. B. Gaston and the Origins of the Fairhope Single Tax Colony, and Coming of Age in Utopia: The Odyssey of an Idea, all published or returned to print by NewSouth Books. He also contributed essays to Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent and Dixie Redux, itself a Festscrift to scholar Sheldon Hackney.

Contributors to Historians in Service of a Better South: Essays in Honor of Paul Gaston include Edward Ayers, Raymond Gavins, James Hershman, John T. Kneebone, Matthew Lassiter, Gregg Michel, Lynda J. Morgan, Stephen O’Neill, Robert Pratt, Steve Suitts, Randolph Werner, Myers, and Norrell.

Gaston called Historians in Service of a Better South “something that I never imagined I would have.” He said, “Thank you … for publishing a book that’s so important to me. I hope it will be important to others.”

Historians in Service of a Better South: Essays in Honor of Paul Gaston is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Remembering Leslie W. Dunbar

Thursday, January 5th, 2017 by Brian Seidman

Leslie DunbarWriter, professor, and civil-rights activist Dr. Leslie W. Dunbar died January 4, 2017 in New Orleans, three weeks from his 96th birthday.

In the turmoil of the 1960s, Dunbar worked with the Southern Regional Council, helping — among other initiatives — to create the Voter Education Project; the project is credited with registering two million African American voters. Later that decade Dunbar directed the Field Foundation, dedicated to child welfare and civil rights, including funding Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dunbar also taught political science at a number of colleges and universities, and worked with the Ford Foundation. Even after “retirement,” he continued to be active in political and social justice causes. He is the author, editor, or contributor to at least nine books, including from NewSouth Books Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent; American Crisis, Southern Solutions: From Where We Stand, Promise and Peril; and Looking for the Future: A Meditation on Political Choice. In summer 2016 NewSouth also published a collection of tribute essays, Leslie W. Dunbar: Reflections by Friends, that included a message from Congressman John Lewis among others.

Friends and family remember Leslie Dunbar, including his son, author Tony Dunbar.

NewSouth Books celebrates seven years of partnership with the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at Auburn University

Friday, September 30th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

In the Company of Owls by Peter HugginsNewSouth Books has enjoyed working the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning in a partnership that has continued for seven years. OLLI is a program for learning in retirement for adults 50 and older. Members can choose from offerings that include academic courses as well as recreational and health activities.

Authors including Rev. Robert Graetz (A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation), Warren Trest (Nobody But the People: The Life and Times of Alabama’s Youngest Governor), Rheta Grimsley Johnson (Hank Hung the Moon, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, Poor Man’s Provence), Frye Gaillard (Go South to Freedom, Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters, The Books that Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir, Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music), Kathryn Tucker Wyndham (She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life, Spit, Scarey Ann and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, Alabama, One Big Front Porch, Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories), Robert Baldwin (Life and Death Matters: Seeking the Truth About Capital Punishment), and Skip Tucker (Pale Blue Light) have given presentations at OLLI. The speakers unanimously praise the great interest and participation of audiences and the superb hosting of the OLLI staff.

Joining this list of illustrious presenters is Peter Huggins (In the Company of Owls), who will lead a workshop on writing poetry at the OLLI Writers Workshop at Pebble Hill on Thursday, October 13. Huggins is an Alabama State Council on the Arts poetry fellow. Other session leaders for the day include AU Professor Frank Walters on memoir writing; prolific children’s author and poet Charles Ghigna on writing for children; and award-winning short story author Carrie Spell on writing fiction.

Enrollment in the day-long program is limited to 40 participants with a cost of $25 for OLLI members and $50 for non-members; lunch is included.

If you haven’t discovered the pleasures of the OLLI experience, don’t delay in exploring the offerings at the OLLI closest to you.

NewSouth Books titles are available direct from our website or your favorite bookstore.

William Heath wins Western Writers of America Spur Award

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

The Children Bob Moses Led by William HeathWilliam Heath (The Children Bob Moses Led) is the winner of the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Nonfiction for his new book William Wells and and the Struggle for the Old Northwest. The Spur Awards are given by the Western Writers of America. Heath’s is the first biography of William Well, a frontiersman born to Anglo parents and captured and raised by Miami Indians.

Heath has written on a variety of topics, with works of fiction, history, and poetry published. His novel The Children Bob Moses Led was named by Time magazine as one of the eleven best novels of the African American experience in 2002. The novel was recently republished by NewSouth Books.

Congratulations Bill on the Spur Award!

The Children Bob Moses Led is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Faye Gibbons celebrates literary legacy of Sue Pickett

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

The Path was Steep by Suzanne PickettOne NewSouth author pays homage to another in the current issue of Alabama Heritage magazine. Faye Gibbons, author of the young adult novel Halley, penned a beautiful appreciation of Suzanne Pickett, whose memoir The Path Was Steep: A Memoir of Appalachian Coal Camps During the Great Depression was rereleased by NewSouth Books in 2013. Gibbons writes that though Pickett worked as a newspaper writer, “her memoir offers the most endearing insight into her life and the lives of others who survived during the Depression.”

Gibbons is no stranger to hard times herself, having grown up in a large Appalachian farm family and lived in mill towns in Georgia. Her article follows Suzanne Pickett from her birth in a mining family to her marriage to a miner, David Pickett. Struggling to survive the Depression, the family moved to follow jobs, and tried farming. Sue landed a newspaper job for a brief time that helped to supplement income. Even after her husband landed a more secure job, Pickett continued to write, producing plays for local students and short stories. She then went on to write the memoir that Gibbons says “captures the Depression in all its misery and shows how one family was able to endure hardships.” Adds Gibbons, “Even at a time when few women in her circumstances had literary ambitions, Suzanne Pickett was able to use words to create a compelling portrait of a formative time in our history.”

Suzanne Pickett

Suzanne Pickett

Halley and The Path Was Steep are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Harper Lee remembered by Bob Zellner

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 by Suzanne La Rosa

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Bob Zellner, civil and human rights organizer and NewSouth Books author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek, offers a personal reflection on the passing of literary great Harper Lee, who died on February 19; she was 89.

A great Alabamian has died. When I first read Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, I could tell the author was a Southerner by her description of the cordite smell of green pecan hulls and the indelible green stain they leave when crushed by young bare feet.

It also reminded me of the time when I got my first BB gun. Daddy sternly admonished me never to aim at anything I did not intend to kill. Especially, he warned, do not kill a mockingbird. Walking outside with my birthday gun in the spring of 1945 I saw a mockingbird perched in the top of a bush way over there in the back yard. Thinking I could not possibly hit a swaying bird with my very first shot, I aimed and pulled the trigger. To my absolute horror the bird slowly toppled to the ground and lay perfectly still. Not even considering a cover up, I rushed over and cupped the warm carcass in my hand, walked back in the house, and showed it to Daddy, knowing he was going to tear me up as only a Southern Methodist preacher could whip a willful six-year-old. Teacher, pastor and father in one package, the Rev. James Abraham Zellner taught me a good lesson that day. Maybe a God lesson. “I’m not going to whip you today, Bobby,” he said, “because you have just proved the wisdom of what I told you. You’ll remember this your whole life: Never kill a mockingbird.”

Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was one of hope, young hope. Her last, Go Set a Watchman, a sad acknowledgment of the incredible power of racial hate in my home state of Alabama, reveals that Atticus was a Kluxer. She gives us one more reminder about how America, especially the American South, has yet to confront, admit, and rectify the original sin of legal racialism enshrined in its founding documents — African Americans were three fifths of a person.

When President Barack Obama won in 2008 only 11 percent of Alabama white voters could bring themselves to pull the lever enabling a black man and his family to move into the White House. So maybe it’s fitting that Atticus Finch — a huge hero in the early sixties for mounting a tepid and legally flawed defense of a black man in a Southern court — turned out to be a stone racist.

No wonder the South, as revealed by the Presidential campaign, is still the most reliable exponent of racial extremism. Are we indelibly stained by green pecan shells and the rank odor of racism or will poor and working class Southern whites finally scrub out that damned spot? We must stop voting against our own economic interests. Rich white people, “one percenters,” may indeed profit from racism, but poor and working class Southerners never have and never will. We have, along with black people, been grievously wounded by our racist practices. I believe that Harper Lee, and all the progressive folks who surrounded and sustained her, would agree with me that sisterhood and brotherhood is not so wild a dream as those who profit by postponing it pretend.

Bob Zellner, SNCC/NAACP

Bob Zellner’s memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement is available in print and ebook from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Randall Williams remembers author, friend Wade Hall

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Wade HallNewSouth Books co-founder and editor in chief Randall Williams eulogized his friend author Wade Hall, who passed away on September 26, in an article for the Montgomery Advertiser. NewSouth Books published five titles by Hall: Conecuh People: Words of Life from the Alabama Black Belt, An Interview with Abraham Lincoln, Waters of Life from the Conecuh Ridge: The Clyde May Story, Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor, and The Outrageous Times of Larry Bruce Mitchell. Due out in spring 2016: Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards, which showcases 400 plus postcards from a large bequest Hall made to the University of Alabama Libraries. Hall’s many gifts as scholar, writer, educator, and philanthropist are warmly recounted in Williams’s piece.

Louisville NPR station WFPL also noted Hall’s passing and praised him as a teacher and scholar. Charles Whaley, former Courier-Journal education editor, told the paper, “Through his work with and advocacy of Kentucky poets and writers Wade Hall established himself as a centrifugal force for literature in Kentucky and the South.”

Conecuh People: Words of Life from the Alabama Black Belt. An Interview with Abraham Lincoln, Waters of Life from the Conecuh Ridge: The Clyde May Story, Reflections of the Civil War in Southern Humor, and The Outrageous Times of Larry Bruce Mitchell are all available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.: in anticipation of Feb. 2016 release, book appearances, book trailers, more

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken: A Novel by Ross Howell Jr.February 2016 isn’t far off, at least in book publishing terms. With the release of Forsaken around the corner, the hard work of promoting the book begins.

For author Ross Howell Jr., this includes a book tour before his official book tour, which started with his appearance last weekend at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance big fall conference — SIBA’s 40th. Ross Howell Jr. signed advance reading copies of Forsaken for dozens of booksellers in attendance, stopping long enough to have his photo taken with long-time SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell — the creative force behind the organization — and also Kathy Giuffre, author of The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato, also at the show promoting her book. From SIBA, Howell travels to the NAIBA and NEIBA conferences, in the mid-Atlantic and northeast, where he will meet more bookstore buyers and managers and talk up Forsaken.

Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr and SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell celebrates SIBA's 40th anniversary
Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr and The Drunken Spelunker's Guide to Plato author Kathy Giuffre

Top: Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr. and SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell celebrate SIBA’s 40th anniversary; bottom: Howell and The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato author Kathy Giuffre.

Two book trailers also announce the release of Forsaken and speak to the book’s powerful underlying history. The first generally introduces the story of the sensational crime committed by Virginia Christian, a young black girl who, in 1912 Hampton Roads, Virginia, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. She was the only female juvenile to be executed in the history of the state. In the second, Ross Howell, Jr. speaks to Dr. Derryn Moten, whose dissertation of twenty years ago inspired the writing of Forsaken.

The trailers also share early praise received by the book. Author Minrose Gwin calls it “a haunting, riveting work of fiction that raises very contemporary questions about the racial politics of justice.” Jennie Fields adds, “A deep and powerful discourse on racism and redemption, Forsaken and the characters who live and breathe within its pages will not be soon forgotten. Not since Atticus Finch have we met a character spun from the threads of integrity as beautifully as Charlie Mears in Ross Howell Jr.’s exquisite novel.”

Last, a newly developed reading group guide, suitable for teachers, is now available.

Forsaken will be available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore in February, 2016.

Tavis Smiley Show hosts Clifton Taulbert to discuss memoir, The Invitation

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 by Blair Johnson

The Invitation by Clifton Taulbert

Radio host and commentator Tavis Smiley interviewed Clifton Taulbert, bestselling author of titles including the award-winning Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, in early June in connection with Taulbert’s new memoir, The Invitation.

In a smart and engaging interview that you’ll wish lasted longer than its nine minutes, Smiley draws Taulbert into candid discussion about his transformative experience in South Carolina as chronicled in The Invitation. The book recounts Taulbert’s invitation to dinner at a former plantation house, about which he was immediately apprehensive, sharply evoking memories of his childhood as the son of a sharecropping family. Taulbert recounts how upon seeing the old South Carolina plantation surrounded by acres of cotton, he was immediately transported back to his days as a child in Mississippi. “[I felt] the weight of the segregated South on my shoulders as I sat in this car in the twenty-first century,” Taulbert told Smiley.

Taulbert discloses that it took him seven years to write The Invitation as he had to become “very, very honest, open, and vulnerable” with himself. “I had to say, ‘Yeah, I’ve taught at Harvard University, I’ve taught at the Air Force Academy . . . but I’ve also picked cotton, I’ve also slept on a cot that was so small you could fall off of it.'” As he describes to Smiley and also discusses in The Invitation, there is never a moment in which “the lessons of race and place” are not present. Taulbert explains that as a professional man he is proud of his accomplishments and intellectually understands that the world has changed, and for the better. But there’s a daily emotional adjustment to past history that’s required — even when (or maybe especially when) he is as graciously received as he was in South Carolina.

To listen to the entire interview, visit The Tavis Smiley Show’s website.

Clifton Taulbert’s The Invitation is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

NewSouth Books Remembers Virginia Pounds Brown

Friday, June 20th, 2014 by Blair Johnson

Virginia Pounds Brown

On May 26, 2014, NewSouth Books lost a longtime friend and beloved author, Virginia Pounds Brown. Although we will miss her in our books family, we will always remember her as a woman who was lively and engaged into her nineties and a very fine writer. Brown was a Birmingham native, a writer as well as a publisher and a bookstore owner, and a well known and respected authority on Native American, especially Creek Indian, history.

Brown’s obituary in The Birmingham News quotes her: “My writing career started when a German scientist working in Huntsville, walked into the bookstore looking for an ‘easy reading’ book about Alabama for relatives in Germany. We didn’t have such a book, but out of that request came Alabama Mounds to Missiles, an answer to his need. The success of the book turned a budding interest into the pursuit of discovering and writing about previously ignored or unknown facets of Alabama and southern history mostly blacks, Indians, women.” Her desire to tell the untold stories of those who had been ignored realized itself in her many historical books.

NewSouth Books’s titles authored by Brown include The Gold Disc of Coosa (2004), a fictional account for middle-school aged children of the meeting between De Soto and the Alabama Indians, and two classics of Native American history:The World of Southern Indians: Tribes, Leaders, and Customs from Prehistoric Times to the Present (2011) and its companion title, the more recent Southern Indian Myths and Legends (Spring 2014). NewSouth also published Brown’s Mother & Me: An Intimate Memoir of Her Last Years (2003).

NewSouth Books will publish a fifth work by Brown, posthumously, which is co-authored by Linda McNair Cohen. Drawing By Stealth: John Trumbull and the Creek Indians will be released as an ebook in fall 2014. The book is a historical account of John Trumbull, an American artist during the period of the Revolutionary War and painter of two portraits of George Washington, and his encounter and subsequent drawings of the Creek Indians who fascinated him, just like they did Brown. NewSouth looks forward to publishing Drawing By Stealth in celebration of Virginia Pounds Brown’s lifetime of good work, passion for books, and our long friendship with her.

The works of Virginia Pounds Brown are available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.