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A Black Sharecropper's Recollections of the Depression
"I grow up a dirt farmer and retired a dirt farmer. Never got rich and didn't want to be. My childhood stomping ground is now concrete, stores and houses. I remember the good times and bad. It was not the money we made but how to stretch that last dime. It was not the wind, rain or snow. It was about the love that flow. It was not the hot sunshine nor the clouds that hung low. It was the grace of God that help us swang that hoe. I want my grandchildren to understand. My grands, your grands and their grands." In 1929, near Plano, Texas, Eddie Stimpson, Jr., weighing 15-1/2 pounds, was born to a 19-year-old father and a 15-year-old mother. The boy, his two sisters and mother all "grew up together," with the father sharecropping along the old Preston Road, the route used by many freedmen trying to escape Texas after the Civil War. His childhood was void of luxuries, but full of country pleasures. The editors have retained the simplicity of Stimpson's folk speech and spelling patterns, allowing the good-natured humility and wisdom of his personality to shine through the narrative. "Tough time never last," he writes, "but tough people all way do." The details of ordinary family life and community survival include descriptions of cooking, farming, gambling, visiting, playing, doctoring, hunting, bootlegging, and picking cotton, as well as going to school, to church, to funerals, to weddings, to Juneteenth celebrations. This book will be of extraordinary value to folklorists, historians, sociologists, and anyone enjoying a good story. "My spelling is bad, my hand writing is bad, and my language is bad," Stimpson writes. "But my remembers is still in tack."
Four Multicultural Plays by Sterling Houston
Sterling Houston is an innovative African American writer whose plays are known for biting social commentary combined with eye-popping theatricality. Despite many successful productions, his work has never before been widely available in print. The four plays in this collection represent Houston’s full range of themes and styles. High Yello Rose deflates the Alamo myth by casting the heroes’ parts entirely with women. Isis in Nubia is a love story that sets the Isis/Osiris myth in West Africa. Black Lily and White Lily is a realistic domestic drama exploring racial tensions. Miranda Rites returns to Houston’s broadly farcical style, enacting Martha Mitchell’s last days in a hospital, where she hallucinates about Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Dandridge, and is escorted to the underworld by Carmen Miranda. “It is up to the artists to be the healers, the visionaries, to retell our stories so that they resurrect us. This is what Sterling does when he collects the lives fallen and forgotten between the cracks. What a marvelous gift Sterling has given to American culture by remembering, and not remembering as some do with retribution, but with wisdom, humor, generosity, and heart. For his labor and research, for his lifework and lovework, I am not only deeply grateful, but inspired.”--Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street and Caramelo
She flew the swift P-51 and the capricious P-38, but the heavy, four-engine B-17 bomber and C-54 transport were her forte. This is the story of Nancy Harkness Love who, early in World War II, recruited and led the first group of twenty-eight women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army. Love was hooked on flight at an early age. At sixteen, after just four hours of instruction, she flew solo “a rather broken down Fleet biplane that my barnstorming instructor imported from parts unknown.” The year was 1930: record-setting aviator Jacqueline Cochran (and Love’s future rival) had not yet learned to fly, and the most famous woman pilot of all time, Amelia Earhart, had yet to make her acclaimed solo Atlantic flight. When the United States entered World War II, the Army needed pilots to transport or “ferry” its combat-bound aircraft across the United States for overseas deployment and its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. Most male pilots were assigned to combat preparation, leaving few available for ferrying jobs. Into this vacuum stepped Nancy Love and her civilian Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Love had advocated using women as ferry pilots as early as 1940. Jackie Cochran envisioned a more ambitious plan, to train women to perform a variety of the military’s flight-related jobs stateside. The Army implemented both programs in the fall of 1942, but Jackie’s idea piqued General Hap Arnold’s interest and, by summer 1943, her concept had won. The women’s programs became one under the name Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Cochran as the Director of Women Pilots and Love as the Executive for WASP. Nancy Love advised the Ferrying Division, which was part of the Air Transport Command, as to the best use of their WASP ferry pilots. She supervised their allocation and air-training program. She proved adept at organizing and inspiring those under her command, earning the love and admiration of her pilots. Her military superiors trusted and respected her, to the point that she became Ferrying Division commander Gen. William H. Tunner’s troubleshooter. By example, Love won the right for women ferry pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on twenty-three different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17 Flying Fortress. Her World War II career ended on a high note: following a general’s orders, she piloted a giant C-54 Army transport over the fabled China-Burma-India “Hump,” the crucial airlift route over the Himalayas. Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.
The Evolution of a Texas German Slave Plantation
In the 1840s an organization of German noblemen, the Mainzner Adelsverein, attempted to settle thousands of German emigrants on the Texas frontier. Nassau Plantation, located near modern-day Round Top, Texas, in northern Fayette County, was a significant part of this story. James C. Kearney has studied a wealth of original source material (much of it in German) to illuminate the history of the plantation and the larger goals and motivation of the Adelsverein. This new study highlights the problematic relationship of German emigrants to slavery. Few today realize that the society’s original colonization plan included ownership and operation of slave plantations. Ironically, the German settlements the society later established became hotbeds of anti-slavery and anti-secessionist sentiment. Several notable personalities graced the plantation, including Carl Prince of Solms-Braunfels, Johann Otto Freiherr von Meusebach, botanist F. Lindheimer, and the renowned naturalist Dr. Ferdinand Roemer. Dramatic events also occurred at the plantation, including a deadly shootout, a successful escape by two slaves (documented in an unprecedented way), and litigation over ownership that wound its way to both the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
An Oral History of the Assassination of President Kennedy
No More Silence is the first oral history of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, from eyewitness accounts through the police reactions, investigations, and aftermath. Based on in-depth interviews conducted in Dallas, it features narratives of forty-nine key eyewitnesses, police officers, deputy sheriffs, and government officials. Here—in many cases for the first time—participants are allowed to speak for themselves without interpretation, editing, or rewording to fit some preconceived speculation. Unlike the testimony given in the Warren Commission volumes, the contributors openly state their opinions regarding conspiracy and cover-ups. Of particular interest are the fascinating stories from the Dallas Police Department—few of the policemen have come forward with their stories until now. No More Silence humanizes those involved in the events in Dallas in 1963 and includes photographs of the participants around the time of the assassination and as they appear today. Was there a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy? No More Silence gives readers the best perspective yet on the subject, allowing them to sift through the evidence and draw their own conclusions. "Sneed accomplishes what has never been done before, which is to tell the story of the four days from the Dallas point of view . . . Sneed's contribution [is] a brilliant one . . . He presents every notable event as if through a prism, with each interviewee corroborating the basic facts but never exactly matching the other accounts, adding a detail here and there and at times even contradicting earlier ones. The result is a page-turner, not only because the story is dramatic but because the reader becomes eager to see how the next person saw it."—Max Holland, The Nation
The Life and Music of Lenny Breau
“Mr. Guitar” Chet Atkins called Lenny Breau (1941-1984) “the greatest guitarist who ever walked the face of the earth.” Breau began playing the instrument at age seven, and went on to master many styles, especially jazz. Between 1968 and 1983 he made a series of recordings that are among the most influential guitar albums of the century. Breau’s astonishing virtuosity influenced countless performers, but unfortunately it came at the expense of his personal relationships. Despite Breau’s fascinating life story and his musical importance, no full-length biography has been published until now. Forbes-Roberts has interviewed more than 175 people and closely analyzed Breau’s recordings to reveal an enormously gifted man and the inner workings of his music. “Lenny Breau was, and will always be, a great treasure. We need him today more than ever.” —Mundell Lowe
The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell
Texas singer/songwriter Vince Bell’s story begins in the 1970s. Following the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, Bell and his contemporaries Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and Lucinda Williams were on the rise. In December of 1982, Bell was on his way home from the studio (where he and hired guns Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson had just recorded three of Bell’s songs) when a drunk driver broadsided him at 65 mph. Thrown over 60 feet from his car, Bell suffered multiple lacerations to his liver, embedded glass, broken ribs, a mangled right forearm, and a severe traumatic brain injury. Not only was his debut album waylaid for a dozen years, life as he’d known it would never be the same. In detailing his recovery from the accident and his roundabout climb back onstage, Bell shines a light in those dark corners of the music business that, for the lone musician whose success is measured not by the Top 40 but by nightly victories, usually fall outside of the spotlight. Bell’s prose is not unlike his lyrics: spare, beautiful, evocative, and often sneak-up-on-you funny. His chronicle of his own life and near death on the road reveals what it means to live for one’s art.
A sweet slipstream stew, a call and response to Hemingway’s In Our Time, Geoff Schmidt’s debut collection Out of Time is a meditation on meaning and mortality, and the ways that story and the imagined life can sustain us. In these stories, vengeful infants destroy and rebuild the world, rivalrous siblings and their mother encounter witches and ghosts and the possessed, Barack Obama and Keith Richards smoke their last cigarettes, men and women with cancer variously don gorilla suits or experience all time simultaneously. Time is running out for all of the people in these stories, yet the power of language, the human ability to tell, to imagine and invent, is a redemptive force. “The stories in Out of Time chase after the secrets and sorrows of families, revealing the lengths people will go, and the harm they will do, to keep their worlds together. These characters are not crazy, they are in love and afraid. Geoff Schmidt writes a lucid, new mythology in prose that's limned with fear and awe. To read these stories is to feel the force and urgency of a new and vital literary voice.”—Ben Marcus, author of Age of Wire and String, and judge
From Jane Roberts Wood comes a quietly riveting novel revealing the banal faces of evil in a small East Texas town. In 1946 a young couple is brutally murdered in Cold Springs. And, now, thirty-four years later, the rumor is that Jackson Morris, who had been the only person of interest in the murders, has come home. Or has he? When the four women of the Tuesday bridge club hear this rumor, their responses range from a reckless excitement to a shaky uneasiness. There’s Isabel, compelling and passionate, who foolishly and inexplicably longs to see Jackson, her first love, again while the seemingly innocent Mary Martha prays that the sheriff will put Jackson’s head in a noose. Although the eternally optimistic Sarah looks to the law to determine Jackson’s fate, the fourth woman, an Irish immigrant and a misfit in Cold Springs, is guided by the spirit world, including a cat, in deciding his guilt or innocence. When a second murder occurs after Jackson’s return, Cold Springs reacts with fear and paranoia while the women struggle to protect their friend’s reputation and desperately try to find a murderer.
World War II in the Central Pacific
Pacific Blitzkrieg closely examines the planning, preparation, and execution of ground operations for five major invasions in the Central Pacific (Guadalcanal, Tarawa, the Marshalls, Saipan, and Okinawa). The commanders on the ground had to integrate the U.S. Army and Marine Corps into a single striking force, something that would have been difficult in peacetime, but in the midst of a great global war, it was a monumental task. Yet, ultimate success in the Pacific rested on this crucial, if somewhat strained, partnership and its accomplishments. Despite the thousands of works covering almost every aspect of World War II in the Pacific, until now no one has examined the detailed mechanics behind this transformation at the corps and division level. Sharon Tosi Lacey makes extensive use of previously untapped primary research material to re-examine the development of joint ground operations, the rapid transformation of tactics and equipment, and the evolution of command relationships between army and marine leadership. This joint venture was the result of difficult and patient work by commanders and evolving staffs who acted upon the lessons of each engagement with remarkable speed. For every brilliant strategic and operational decision of the war, there were thousands of minute actions and adaptations that made such brilliance possible. Lacey examines the Smith vs. Smith controversy during the Saipan invasion using newly discovered primary source material. Saipan was not the first time General “Howlin’ Mad” Smith had created friction. Lacey reveals how Smith’s blatant partisanship and inability to get along with others nearly brought the American march across the Pacific to a halt. Pacific Blitzkrieg explores the combat in each invasion to show how the battles were planned, how raw recruits were turned into efficient combat forces, how battle doctrine was created on the fly, and how every service remade itself as new and more deadly weapons continuously changed the character of the war. This book will be a must read for anyone who wants to get behind-the-scenes story of the victory.