Books to Ring In the New Year
Monday, December 31, 2012
Meta G. Carstarphen and John P. Sanchez
Chester Higgins Jr.
Mark A. Huddle
Valerie Coleman Morris
"Gov. Bev Perdue pardoned the Wilmington 10 on Monday, offering strong acknowledgement that their racially-charged cases of four decades ago were tainted by bias and prosecutorial misconduct," Anne Blythe reported Monday for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.
"With only five days left in office, the governor offered a full pardon of innocence for the nine black men and one white woman whose cases became causes for international human rights groups.
" 'I have spent a great deal of time over the past seven months reviewing the pardon of innocence requests of the persons collectively known as the Wilmington Ten. This topic evokes strong opinions from many North Carolinians as it hearkens back to a very difficult time in our state's past, a period of racial tensions and violence that represents a dark chapter in North Carolina's history. These cases generate a great deal of emotion from people who lived through these traumatic events. . . ."
The NAACP circulated an online petition aimed at pressuring Perdue (D) to pardon the 10.
- Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio: The Wilmington 10: North Carolina Urged to Pardon Civil Rights Activists Falsely Jailed 40 Years Ago (video)
- Cash Michaels, Wilmington Journal: Why the Wilmington Ten were called "political prisoners" and The Witness Who Never Testified
Richard Prince's Book Notes™: Reads for 2013 (Part 2)
Drawing up a list of books to read in 2013?
You could do worse than to choose among these books by or about journalists of color. Others were presented in this space Dec. 7 as potential holiday gifts.
This list of nonfiction includes a black journalist's contemporaneous look at a race relations in the U.S. Army in World War II Europe, a big-picture view of the racial polarization promoted in the broadcast media by the "culture wars," D.C.'s go-go music scene, the range of issues facing Native Americans in journalism, the 1970s lawsuit that opened reporting jobs to women at Newsweek and an inspirational tale about a woman left blind by an attacker.
Meta G. Carstarphen, Gaylord endowed professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, and John P. Sanchez, associate professor in the College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University, edited "American Indians and the Mass Media" (University of Oklahoma Press, $24.95, paper; online price: $19.96 until Jan. 6).
Journalists guffawed at the Unity 2004 conference in Washington when Mark Trahant of the Native American Journalists Association asked President George W. Bush what "tribal sovereignty" meant for Indian tribes in the 21st century. The president couldn't get much beyond "tribal sovereignty means that — it's sovereign" (video).
In this collection of essays by academics and working journalists, Paul DeMain, CEO of Indian Country Communications and editor of News From Indian Country, devotes a chapter to "The Notion of Somebody Sovereign: Why Sovereignty Is Important to Tribal Nations." "Sovereignty, in my view, is a plain principle and basic right of human beings to exist and function in society as they choose for themselves and without interference," DeMain writes.
Stacey J.T. Hust and Debra Merskin explore "The 'S' Word" — "squaw" — and why it is considered offensive: "Many argue that it is a derogatory word that refers to an American Indian woman's genitalia."
Patty Loew, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, producer at Wisconsin Public Television and secretary of the Unity Journalists coalition, notes in the introduction that mainstream accounts of Native people have been described as tales of "neglect and stereotype" and that "sensationalism is a recurring theme." She tells readers the book will "explore the misrepresentation of Native people by the mainstream media, but also the contemporary insurgent redefinition of Indigenous people and cultures by Native Americans themselves."
Among the contributors are Juan A. Avila Hernandez, Yoeme and Yoi (Yaqui and Mexican), former reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco; Ray Chavez, a former city editor of the El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post; DeMain, a citizen of the Oneida Nation; Lynn Klyde-Silverstein, who has worked at the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport and the Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C.; Loew, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe; Ruth Seymour, who has worked at the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News; and Trahant, a member of Idaho's Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, independent journalist, board chairman of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and former editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which folded in 2009. Many of the former journalists are now academics.
Eric Deggans, television and media critic for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, has "Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation" (Palgrave Macmillan, $28; ebook, $14.99; Amazon Kindle, $13.49; Nook ebook, $14.99.)
Deggans has written a well-reported complement to the column you're reading. It delves more deeply into some of the journalism topics on the broadcast side and also tackles hate radio, reality shows and television entertainment. While others have written about the "culture wars," few have examined, as Deggans does, how those wars play out when paired with race and media.
"These are just a few examples of what this book will dissect: the powerful ways modern media often works to feed our fears, prejudices, and hate toward each other, garnering sizable audiences, advertising dollars, and political power in the process," Deggans declares in the introduction. ". . . today's fastest-growing media platforms now focus on smaller segments of the audience — the plumpest parts of a seriously fragmented viewing/reading/listening public. And one way to ensure that those audience segments develop fierce loyalty is to feed them messages demonizing other outlets and the groups who might gather there."
Particularly welcome is Deggans' chapter on the lack of coverage of poverty. He quotes Andrew Cline, an associate professor of journalism at Missouri State University, who suggests that journalists add "actionable" information for poor and working-class readers to stories, such as news about which businesses might hire working-class people, shops where those below the poverty line can find affordable, quality merchandise, or agencies where they can receive assistance.
"The goal: to change the perspective from which stories are told, so that the very DNA of news pieces shifts a bit, landing somewhere closer to the sensibilities of poor citizens. But to manage that, journalists must also fight another habit of news coverage regarding poverty: the tendency to associate it with people of color," Deggans writes.
A chapter called "Talking Across Difference" suggests ways to avoid the "debilitating loop" that ensures that "any talk across race stays confrontational, explosive, and mostly of limited progress."
Sadly, Lyne Pitts, a former NBC vice president of strategic initiatives who left NBC in 2009, says that since her departure she has seen less diversity progress than she expected. "I feel like what I'm seeing on TV is a bit of retrenchment, and no concern about it. Why is nobody worried that their [prime time] lineup is all white? Why is CNN not worried that they have just white people on from 5 p.m. on or whatever?"
Deggans concludes, "One of the biggest problem with talk about diversity and inclusion is that white people miss out on an important distinction: Segregation limits them, too."
Karl Evanzz, an author best known for "The Messenger," about the Nation of Islam's Elijah Muhammad and "The Judas Factor" about Malcolm X, has "The Wilma Chestnut Story" (New Wave Books, paper, $15.99 list price, sale $7.99; audio book, $25 plus shipping and handling).
Evanzz, a St. Louis native and a former researcher at the Washington Post, explained via email last week: "Wilma was blinded on September 23, 1971. . . . When I called home on the 23rd to wish my sister a happy birthday, my mother asked whether I had heard about the girl whose eyes were 'cut out.' I had not, since the media was unaware of the incident at the time. (My mother worked for a black newspaper and the editor had told her about the incident after hearing about it from a police source).
"The person who had attacked Wilma was still on the loose (he was captured six days later). Instinctively, I had concerns about the safety of my sisters and my fiancee as well because she lived less than two blocks from Wilma. The attack seemed random, and I remember from conversations with friends still in St. Louis that within days there was a feeling in the black community that a white psychopath was randomly attacking black girls. White serial killers were cropping up in the media more and more frequently around that time, and 'everyone' black assumed that no black person would have committed such a horrendous crime.
"When the media published the first stories about the attack (it made front page on every local paper, but black newspapers had banner headlines for weeks), they uniformly talked about the girl whose 'eyes were cut out.'
"I didn't learn until I met Wilma in 2001 that Johnnie Lee Brooks had not, in fact, literally gouged out her eyes. But he had cut through her closed right eye with a shard from a drinking glass. The blood must have startled him, as he lifted the lid on her left eye and cut completely across her pupil. She is completely blind.
"My agent tried to interest publishers in the book but they said the story was 'too local.' So with Wilma's permission (and half the proceeds), I made her story the first book of my new company. It has sold well in St. Louis, but I haven't been able to get a national distributor. I'll be placing the paperback edition on Amazon next week.
"The ebook, as stated, is already available. However, it does not include the 48 pages of photographs and illustrations. The list price is $15.99 but it generally sells at a generous discount."
The jacket says, "Wilma reveals how she refused to let blindness deny her a normal life. She discusses raising her daughter alone after her marriage failed, becoming a star athlete, and how she fought those who wanted to shut down her small store. If you think that you can't make it because the odds are stacked against you, you must read this book."
Chester Higgins Jr., staff photographer for the New York Times since 1975, is photographer for "Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile," edited by Marjorie M. Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Salima Ikram and Sue D'Auria (American University in Cairo Press, $59.95, cloth).
"This book is the most comprehensive work to date done on this subject, edited by an outstanding team of Egyptologists led by Drs Margaret Fisher and Peter Lacovara," Higgins told Journal-isms by email. "The team reached out to me and selected images from my archives, from three seasons of work in northern Sudan, to illustrate the 452-page book. The result is a stunning book, more than 85% of the in situ photographs are mine. In ancient times Egypt ruled the world and in the 25th Dynasty, Nubia ruled Egypt."
In their acknowledgments, the authors say of Higgins, "His eye for its beauty will inspire others to see into this hidden culture."
Mark A. Huddle, assistant professor of history at Georgia College and State University, has edited "Roi Ottley's World War II: The Lost Diary of an African American Journalist" (University Press of Kansas, $29.95, cloth; $19.95, paper).
Ottley's story for PM, a New York newspaper, on relations between African American and white U.S. troops in Europe and both groups' relations with their host countries is worth the price of this book. "The noose of prejudice is slowly tightening around the necks of American Negro soldiers, and tending to cut off their recreation and associations with the British people," the 1944 story begins. "For — to be frank — relations between Negro and white troops have reached the proportions of grave concern . . . in essence, there are those here who are still fighting the Civil War — this time on British soil."
Huddle tells readers, "It was extremely rare for an African American journalist to write for a white publication in that period. It is a testament to Ottley's celebrity and political connections, as well as PM's poltical connections, as well as PM's antiracist editorial positions, that he was hired for such a high-profile job. The novelty of his position might also help us comprehend the unique reporting he did during his time as a war correspondent.
". . . Black correspondents were forbidden to take battlefield photographs, especially when they depicted the second-class status of Black troops. Ottley's close friend Ed Toles was chastised by army censors when he filed a report stating that Black nurses were only allowed to tend German prisoners."
Ottley (1906-60) was not concerned exclusively with racial issues, but they dominated his diary. His entries provide a contemporary look at World War II through a black journalist's eyes that history books can't match. He comments on Africans he met in England and France, including Jomo Kenyatta, who became Kenya's first prime minister; fellow reporters in both the black and white press; and the sexual activities of blacks and whites in the civilian population and among the troops. Celebrities he met along the way, such as Joe Louis, Edward R. Murrow and Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, make cameo appearances.
Ottley also speaks truth to power about colonialism. On his list of questions for Dr. H.J. Van Mook, Dutch minister of colonies in 1944: "There are more colored peoples in the world than all whites put together. All colored peoples are under domination of the whites. If freedom is not given to them after the war, don't you think a major catastrophe will surely overwhelm the world?"
Sadly, Ottey is largely forgotten today, though he authored four books, worked for both black and white newspapers and magazines, hosted radio shows and traveled 60,000 miles in Europe and Africa. His first book, "New World A-Coming: Inside Black America" (1943), inspired a tone poem of the same name by Duke Ellington. He wrote regularly for the Chicago Tribune, starting in 1953.
Natalie Hopkinson, a contributing editor to the Root and a former Washington Post reporter who teaches journalism at Georgetown University, has written "Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City" (Duke University Press, $79.95, cloth; $22.95, paperback).
For Hopkinson, go-go music "serves as a metaphor for the black urban experiences in the second half of the twentieth century." Go-go is the indigenous rhythm 'n blues of the District of Columbia popularized by Chuck Brown, who died in May, soon after this book was published.
Matt Miller wrote for Southern Spaces, "Rather than focus on musicians, promoters, and others associated with the music industry, Hopkinson draws upon interviews with an array of participants — including collectors of live recordings, urban wear designers, suburban drug dealers, and preachers who use 'gospel go-go' to draw young people into their churches — to show this scene at its most grassroots. . . ."
Writing in the Washington City Paper, Shani Hilton said Hopkinson did not quite succeed. ". . . the text is difficult to penetrate and does not quite illuminate go-go or its larger context. The book is a history of D.C., a drive into the suburbs, a work of ethnomusicology — and an argument that the city has turned its back on go-go just as it is leaving behind its black identity. . . ."
But in the Baltimore City Paper, Michael Corbin found broader relevance. "Hopkinson remains haunted by the dispossessed. She says that we may try to remove them, but we won't be able to get that music out of our heads, our ears: 'If history is a judge, some other iteration of the black musical tradition will pop up . . . Someone will make the call. Someone will give the response. This is the essence of the story told by black music. Change. Movement. Rise. Repeat. Never death — only freedom.' "
The book made Spin magazine's list of best music books of 2012.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the veteran journalist who in 1961 was one of two young black students to desegregate the University of Georgia, offers "To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement" (Roaring Book Press, $22.99, cloth).
". . . I wrote this chronicle of the movement not just for the record, but to give this generation the history that will help them appreciate the groundbreaking freedom trail they and their country traveled," Hunter-Gault explained this year for the Root. "I hope to help them understand that 1) there can be no progress without struggle and 2) it is important to remain vigilant in order to protect the gains of the past, and to hold America and its leaders accountable when our hard-won democratic rights are threatened, as they appear to be today, in some instances. . . ."
Reviewing the book in the New York Times, Pamela Paul explained, " 'To the Mountaintop' is the latest in a continuing collaboration between Roaring Brook Press and The New York Times. That partnership is very much in evidence in the book, in which each chapter is preceded by a visual reproduction of archival New York Times pages, with the text of the relevant articles reproduced in full in a kind of appendix at the back. Tellingly, the introduction begins with the front-page headline heralding the election of Barack Obama, whose inauguration the author describes attending.
"And that author, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, is an excellent guide to the momentous changes decades earlier that led up to Obama's election. . . . "
Morris writes, " 'It's Your Money So Take It Personally' provides money-management tools that let you approach your finances in a personalized way. The aim is to 'right size' your thinking about what you can control when it comes to your money. As you rebuild after the Great Recession, this book will demonstrate why 'getting back to normal' when it comes to money isn't wise. Rather, it will help you establish a new normal."
Thomas Peele, digital investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project, wrote "Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist" (Crown, $26, cloth; $13.99, ebook).
Peele wrote many of the stories for the Chauncey Bailey Project's investigation into the 2007 killing of journalist Bailey.
Yusuf Bey IV, leader of Oakland's Your Black Muslim Bakery, was convicted in 2011 of ordering Bailey and two other men killed and was sentenced to three consecutive life terms without parole.
Scott Martelle wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "I knew Bailey — we were distant colleagues at the Detroit News from 1986 to 1992 — and there's something deeply chilling about reading the intimate details of his violent death. But that graphic encounter forms only one of many chilling moments in . . . a deeply reported look at the rise and fall of what can best be described as a multigenerational cult of thugs. . . ."
C-Span has archived an April discussion of the book between Peele and Martin G. Reynolds, senior editor for community engagement of the Bay Area News Group.
Lynn Povich, who in 1975 became the first female senior editor in Newsweek's history, has written "The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace" (PublicAffairs, $25.99, cloth).
When the women at Newsweek magazine decided to file the first female class-action suit in the news media over discrimination, only one black woman, Karla Spurlock, who worked part time in the Letters department, would join. "There was a feeling that there had been all these conversations going on among the white women about agitating for more women to be reporters and we were an afterthought," Diane Camper, a researcher who went on to become a New York Times editorial writer, explains in the book.
Still, Povich's quick read establishes connections between the Newsweek women's action and the civil rights movement led by African Americans. The women's lawyer was Eleanor Holmes Norton, veteran civil rights activist, self-avowed feminist and currently District of Columbia delegate to Congress. "I said to black women, 'Yes, you must be part of the women's movement,' " Norton said. A 1972 complaint by black reporters to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at Newsweek's sister publication, the Washington Post, put pressure on the Washington Post Co. to resolve the Newsweek women's case. And this passage partly explaining the women's frustration might sound familiar: ". . . the judgment of what is good reporting and good writing is purely subjective. . . . the editors were united in believing that no woman could do it."
As a result of the case, Margo Jefferson, who two decades later would win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism while at the New York Times, became the first black female writer at Newsweek and the first woman to write in its Arts department. Fifty Newsweek women had signed a memorandum of understanding with Newsweek on June 28, 1973, that stipulated that by Dec. 31, 1974, approximately one-third of the magazine's writers and domestic reporters would be female.
"It's hard to believe that two generations later there are still so few females in the executive suite," Povich concludes. "Who would have thought it would take so long? We believed the lack of advancement was merely a pipeline problem: once there were enough women in the workforce, they would naturally advance — all the way to the top. We didn't realize how hard it would be to change attitudes and stereotypes."
Drew Sharp, sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, has written "Dave Bing: A Life of Challenge" (Human Kinetics, $17.95, paper and ebook).
Fellow Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley wrote in November of this book about the former NBA star, now Detroit's mayor: "The book traces Bing's life from the Washington, D.C., basketball courts to Syracuse University to the Detroit Pistons to business and, finally, politics. Sharp leaves a breadcrumb trail that offers a greater understanding of Bing's psyche and how he uses lessons he learned."
Sharp writes of Bing, ". . . because he's embraced a more business-centric at finding solutions in the past 30 years, he gets easily pigeonholed in the black community as someone who tries 'acting white.'
"It's an insulting premise because it automatically assumes that 'acting black' is something less significant. But it raises important questions in painting the portrait of Bing. Why did he feel more comfortable operating within the rules of an establishment bent more toward keeping outsiders on the outside? Why doesn't Bing's mission statement of duty and honor better serve as a blueprint for today's more financially secure professional African-American athletes to follow?
"But, more important, what lessons can we learn from a life full and still flourishing, from a man not satisfied with leaving behind just one significant imprint?"
- Rene M. Astudillo, treasurer of the Asian American Journalists Association, AAJA's executive director from 1999 to 2008 and a food blogger, has "My Bay Kitchen: Memories of my homeland, travels and more . . . " (self-published, $21.95, paper). "Growing up in Baguio City, Philippines, I learned most of my cooking from my late mother, just watching her in the kitchen," Astudillo writes in the 80-page volume. ". . . I honestly believe that the best dishes are the ones that are passed on by word of mouth and practice . . . " Astudillo is executive director of the Lupus Foundation of Northern California, based in the Silicon Valley. The book may be previewed here.
- Sue Ellen Christian, an associate professor of journalism in the School of Communication at Western Michigan University, has "Overcoming Bias: A Journalist's Guide to Culture & Context" (Holcomb Hathaway, $25.20 paper, online price; $23 ebook, online Price, $20.70). This book on achieving inclusiveness in journalistic practices is described as "appropriate for undergraduate and graduate journalism courses focusing on journalism practice or journalism ethics; it will also be useful for professional newsroom training." Included is the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education's Fault Lines concept and a foreword by Jonathan Blakley, foreign desk producer for NPR.
- Jackie Jones, veteran journalist and career coach, has "Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track" (Wealthy Sistas Publishing House, $15.95, paper, Amazon or Barnes and Noble). Glenn Proctor, former executive editor of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, now editing a group of weeklies and monthlies, writes, "There are plenty of books that provide tips on becoming a more attractive job candidate, how to retool a resume or how to look the part for a sought-after position. What they don't tell you, however, is how to be as sharp on the inside as you appear on the outside. In just one week (a chapter a day) — Taking Care of the Business of You — helps build the confidence needed to develop a solid career plan."
- Erin Aubry Kaplan, former columnist at the Los Angeles Times, has "Black Talk, Blue Thoughts and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista" (Northeastern University Press, $19.95, paper; $12.99, ebook). Characterizing the 33 pieces collected here, the cover blurb says, "Los Angeles has had a ringside seat during the long last century of racial struggle in America. The bouts have been over money and jobs and police brutality, over politics and poetry and rap and basketball. Minimizing blackness itself has been touted as the logical and ideal solution to the struggle, but in Black Talk . . . Erin Aubry Kaplan begs to differ."
- Leonard Pitts Jr., the syndicated Miami Herald columnist, wrote "Freeman" (Agate Publishing, $10.98 paperback; $9.99 Nook), a novel that might be of special interest given Quentin Tarantino's newly released film "Django Unchained," about a former slave trying to find his enslaved wife. Pitts' novel has the same theme, but is centered after the Civil War, not before, and violence is not a motif. Howard Frank Mosher wrote in the Washington Post, ". . . 'Freeman' is an important addition to the literature of slavery and the Civil War, by a knowledgeable, compassionate and relentlessly truthful writer determined to explore both enslavement in all its malignancy and also what it truly means to be free." Excerpt.
- Tracy Price-Thompson and TaRessa Stovall edited "Other People's Skin: Four Novellas" (Atria Books, $14, paper; Nook, $17.48). With colorism a continuing conversation topic — Soledad O'Brien's "Who Is Black in America?" aired on CNN in December — this overlooked 2007 book might be of interest. Author Price-Thompson and journalists Stovall, Elizabeth Atkins and Desiree Cooper each contribute a novella on, as the cover blurb says, "the self-hatred caused by intra-racial prejudice and the ongoing obsession with skin tone and hair texture. In other words, the skin/hair thang among black women." Excerpts
- Ingrid Sturgis, assistant professor of new media at Howard University, and former editor in chief of Essence.com, has edited "Are Traditional Media Dead?: Can Journalism Survive in the Digital World?" (International Debate Education Association, $24.95, paper). It is primarily a book for students on debate teams. One essay contains this idea from Victor Pickard, Josh Stearns and Craig Aaron: With the expansion of AmeriCorps' domestic service program, why not devote a small percentage of the jobs to "journalism positions, fellowships, or even to journalism projects to report on the new initiatives being created through this Act. These could also provide a much-needed service if combined with or subsumed under university media literacy programs."
- Leroy Williams Jr., former journalist and onetime board member of the National Association of Black Journalists, co-wrote "Living With Sickle Cell Disease: The Struggle to Survive" with Judy Gray Johnson (self-published; $29.95, cloth; $14.95, paper, also available as an ebook through Barnes & Noble and Apple's iBookstore). "What makes [Johnson's] story somewhat unique is that she is nearly 70 and has outlived most sickle cell patients, despite being born in rural southern Virginia and not being diagnosed with the disease until she was 16. But she was told little about her ailment, and lived most of her life suffering in silence," Williams told Journal-isms.
Happy New Year!
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
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