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On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the secretary of war to prescribe military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” Eventually this order was applied to one-third of the land area in the United States, mostly in the West, clearing the way for the relocation of 120,000 people with “Foreign Enemy Ancestry,” in other words, those of Japanese descent. This time of fear and prejudice (the U.S. government formally apologized for the relocations in 1982 after determining they were not a military necessity) and the Arkansas Delta are the setting for Camp Nine. The novel’s narrator, Chess Morton, lives in Rook, a place that is rural Arkansas in the extreme, a town too tiny to have a bank, a library, a restaurant, or even a church. Chess’s days are quiet and secluded until the appearance of a relocation center built for what was in effect the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans. Chess’s life becomes intertwined with those of two young internees, Henry and David Matsui, and that of an American soldier mysteriously connected to her mother’s past. As Chess watches the struggles and triumphs of these strangers and sees her mother seek justice for these people who came briefly and involuntarily to call the Arkansas Delta their home, she discovers surprising and disturbing truths about her family’s painful past.
In her first book, Chord Box, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers envisions a world where each place is best known by its sound. Weaving complex junctions between music, speech, the body, and sexuality, these poems trace the arc of adolescence and early adulthood, rooting themselves in gritty landscapes of the South and Appalachia, China and its borderlands. Part narrative and part lyric, Rogers’s poems make use of the whole field of the page, assembling an innovative poetic vocabulary that includes word, character, and symbol. By calling on figures from the recent as well as the distant past, this coming-of-age collection asks us to consider history, both personal and political. Whether struggling to make vibrato on the guitar or stringing together her first sentences in Mandarin, the speaker of these poems assumes the role of the eager student, edging her way toward an understanding with both fierceness and a sense of humility. Chord Box is exquisitely crafted and rich with feeling, a dazzling debut collection.
Beyond Battles and Leaders
In many of the poems in The Coal Life, Adam Vines, an avid outdoorsman and former professional landscaper for nearly twenty years, explores the cultural landscape of Alabama coal-mining camps in the first half of the twentieth century and how the industry can shape and distort a cultural text similar to the way it contorts and upturns the physical landscape.
The Civil War Memoir of Joseph M. Bailey
Joseph M. Bailey’s memoir, Confederate Guerrilla, provides a unique perspective on the fighting that took place behind Union lines in Federal-occupied northwest Arkansas during and after the Civil War. This story—now published for the first time—will appeal to modern readers interested in the grassroots history of the Trans-Mississippi war.
Daniel A. Rudd's Ecclesiologically-Centered Vision of Justice in "The American Catholic Tribune"
Daniel Rudd, born a slave in Bardstown, Kentucky, grew up to achieve much in the years following the Civil War. His Catholic faith, passion for activism, and talent for writing led him to increasingly influential positions in many places. One of his important early accomplishments was the publication of the American Catholic Tribune, which Rudd referred to as “the only Catholic journal owned and published by colored men.” At its zenith, the Tribune, run out of Detroit and Cincinnati, where Rudd lived, had ten thousand subscribers, making it one of the most successful black newspapers in the country. Rudd was also active in the leadership of the Afro-American Press Association, and he was a founding member of the Catholic Press Association. By 1889, Rudd was one of the nation’s best-known black Catholics. His work was endorsed by a number of high-ranking church officials in Europe as well as in the United States, and he was one of the founders of the Lay Catholic Congress movement. Later, his travels took him to Bolivar County, Mississippi, and eventually on to Forrest City, Arkansas, where he worked for the well-known black farmer and businessperson, Scott Bond, and eventually co-wrote Bond’s biography.
A Memoir of Farm and Family
Jo McDougall brings a poet’s sensibility to memoir. Recounting five generations of Delta rice farmers, through family archives and oral histories, she traces how the clan made their way into the fabric of America, beginning with her Belgian-immigrant grandfather, a pioneer rice farmer on the Arkansas Delta at the turn of the twentieth century. As John Grisham has for a 1950s Arkansas cotton farm, McDougall illuminates an Arkansas rice farm in the 1930s and 1940s. The Garot family’s acreage near DeWitt and the town itself provide the stage for McDougall’s wry, compelling, and layered account of the day-to-day of rice growing on the farm that her father inherited. In that setting she discovers a rich “universe of words” in the Great Depression, comes of age during World War II, and finds her way alongside “that whole quirky, compelling cast of characters” that comprised her kin. In this conflicted, ironic, southern-but-universal account of betrayal, heartbreak, loss, and joy, “the vagaries and the grace” of the land join forces with the power of money as family bonds are both forged and dissolved. Deeply felt, unsentimental, and often humorous, Daddy’s Money presents McDougall’s life and the lives of her relatives in the way that all our lives are eventually framed—as stories. “When all else is lost,” the author maintains, “the stories remain.”
“Katherine E. Young’s Day of the Border Guards is very much about crossing borders – those between reality and, in this case, Russia. Which is to say she offers us a Russia of direct experience and the transformed country of the imagination. Her text is dense with marvelous detail, dramatic intensity, and intentions that are unmistakable in their insight and judgment. Young chooses to represent both herself and the voices of various personae, sometimes, in fact, as one blended voice: hers and Akhmatova, hers and Mandelstam.” —Stanley Plumly, author of Orphan Hours: Poems Katherine E. Young is an award-winning translator of Russian poetry, as well as the author of two chapbooks of original poetry.
The Nation’s Capital at Play
The World War II Love Letters of Sgt. Leland Duvall
Leland Duvall was a now-and-again farm worker with a grade-school education when he received his World War II draft notice at his father’s farm near Moreland, Arkansas, in March 1942. He departed for training in California, where he began to write to Letty Jones, a Pottsville girl he’d had a crush on for several years. From the first correspondence through the end of the war, Leland sent Letty a torrent of letters, hundreds of careful and undeniably heartfelt missives—utterly tender but never sentimental, reliably charming and gently humorous—written daily from desert sands, pup tents, hospital beds, armored cars, and bombed-out buildings. That Duvall’s writing is a tour de force of wit, elegance, and erudition is all the more poignant because he was a man who was almost entirely self-taught. The letters, discovered by Duvall’s daughter after his death, are here enriched by his longtime friend and colleague Ernie Dumas, who provides facts about where Duvall was and the perils he endured while penning his epistles, information that was often missing in dispatches that were necessarily censored and always guided by Duvall’s effort not to bore or worry his “dearest Letty.” Duvall’s lively intelligence and obvious joy in writing come through on every page, joining the patina of the era and the bright shine of a timeless love affai.