Of course I had noted Gerber's pictures before, but like so many of our "journeyman" photographers, her work has most often been published in our epheOf course I had noted Gerber's pictures before, but like so many of our "journeyman" photographers, her work has most often been published in our ephemeral media and with that comes a tiny name credit all that marked it as hers, likely often missed. And oddly for such a visual city, the writer of words is usually given prominence over those who use a camera. It's not that photographers are never celebrated: Gerber's own photography mentor Michael Smith is renowned as are at least a half dozen or more names. But since working photographers are thankful to get one shot at a time published, it is often only when you see a number of photos together that the individual's viewpoint emerges.
This book offers Gerber's sensitive and sensible view of her city and of her neighbors. You notice she is often at near-to-middle distance, close enough to catch an eye or to elicit a smile or gesture, but not too close to influence the moment, which points to her work as a photographer for Gambit and other news outlets. Action permeates her work, but just as often she appreciates a simple moment of acknowledgement. Humor more than glee, sadness more than despair make it seem like she just happened to photograph a thousand normal days here. And gives me a sense of the photographer quietly saying to me over my shoulder, "see that guy? he..."
The physical space of New Orleans is covered here, especially in the time of Katrina when less people were here and those who were did not need their picture taken (as Gerber well knows) but her favorite subject seems to be a single person. Even when there is more than one in the photo, the others are usually reacting to the protagonist. And that seems very right in a book about New Orleans since musicians, parades, sporting events and yes even murder scenes all have main characters who propel or narrate the action, all done publicly. Yet the choice of photographs and the layout of this book means the juxtaposition of two or more images on a single page or across two pages forces us to to consider each photo as part of a more complex story; even the choice of Chris Rose and Lolis Elie as the essay writers at the beginning tell us to prepare for that. A photo at the JCC uptown pool with white children jumping in is paired with two African-American boys landing on a pile of mattresses outside of a boarded up house. The two photos uncannily mirror each other in the physical layout and are connected by the childish joy seen in both but still, the divide is vast. Both the connection and the distance between linked images is presented again and again, although not with one image dominant over the other. As a matter of fact, the pairings or clusters seem necessary to tell the entire story of each. Buffalo Soldiers and NOPD on horseback, Metairie Cemetery gleaming and paved next to weedy, handwritten Holt, Roller Derby girls as bulls on skates next to Mardi Gras Indians with horns, even David Vitter and his Canal Street Madam (well that one made me laugh)...all together tell the story. I don't think I have seen the life here shared in photos any better....more
TKAM was not only a realistic portrayal and indictment of the laissez-faire racism that is so common here in the South, but also has a very believableTKAM was not only a realistic portrayal and indictment of the laissez-faire racism that is so common here in the South, but also has a very believable and natural heroine at the center who also happens to be a child. Scout, Boo Radley, Ewell, Atticus, Dill, Jem and Miss Maudie are all archetypes known to me and so it read like a family story told well rather than as a work of fiction. I remember it being oddly soothing to me in my Watergate 1970s childhood in that it taught me that some adults could be trusted to do the right thing and that some could not, and that children could know the difference. And that taking the shame out of the shadows and forcing the whispers to be dealt with publicly might force the truth to be seen and the good to be honored. Thank you Harper Lee....more
A slim memoir from Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein, but be warned: it is definitely not about that work. Instead, this is about her early family life iA slim memoir from Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein, but be warned: it is definitely not about that work. Instead, this is about her early family life in the Northwest and her young woman life in one of the best unknown bands of the 1990s/2000s, Sleater-Kinney. Of course, they are still around and releasing good music, but their unknown status is probably past, largely because of Brownstein's new TV fame and because the teens that found them then are now critics and paid writers and can reciprocate with open love and respect and everyone else can pretend to have followed them for years. For those who do follow them, this book will be familiar in its existentialist language and how events are presented plainly with a touch of wryness and only rarely as outright funny. All of that seems perfect for a book about this painfully present band that was always more about intense performances with alternately obscure or in-your-face lyrics and that was much less- if it all- about any rock posturing or god(dess) complex. Brownstein certainly understands and communicates that just being in a band was a lifesaver, but that she used it to find her adult voice to say something rather than just using it to seem cool is also clear.
Brownstein writes about herself in a rush, seemingly annoyed by her own youth and spends more time and positive energy on the others who make up that time, like her father, her bandmates Corin and Janet and even legendary bands around her such as Bikini Kill or known names like Eddie Vedder (was oddly glad to hear that he is a good guy). That makes sense because the best descriptions in the book are of seeing bands and in describing the scene (maybe the first era that this term was used without irony) in the staplegun marketing of rock and politics back then. Those chapters definitely brought that time back clearly and without false nostalgia. Those pieces reminded me of the best writing of Ellen Willis, which to me is saying something.
Brownstein can dazzle with phrases and apt opinions such as "Within the world of the band there was a me and a not me" and "Anything that isn't traditional for women apparently requires that we remind people what an anomaly it is, even when it becomes less and less of an anomaly" but also can run circles around herself and an opinion so long that it makes you put the book down for a bit. I can relate to that as a writer and I suspect that she is both afraid of revealing too much and unable to resist showing the many sides of any situation that she notices. Both can be disconcerting for autobiographical writing, but lucky for us, she does her best to curb those impulses and her undeniable charisma comes through at almost all times. I hope for many more books by Brownstein, and much more of Sleater-Kinney and yes, many more seasons of Portlandia. ...more
I read this book around 1986; picked up while working as a community organizer in Ohio, trying to quickly to fill as many holes in my radical educatioI read this book around 1986; picked up while working as a community organizer in Ohio, trying to quickly to fill as many holes in my radical education as possible. It was my first feminist reading in long form and I kept it with me for the better part of a decade, re-reading parts when I felt like I needed a reminder. After reading it the first time, I remember that I felt clearer and sadder, clearer because of the no-nonsense and practical way that Steinem wrote, and sadder because I could find no examples of others writing as well or with the same bravery and fresh perspective as she was writing then. Also because many of the younger women I worked with were beginning to pooh pooh the term of feminist and had never read her work and would probably never read her. Instead, upon seeing my book, they tossed the same epithets their parents probably assigned her without ever examining why they did that. Still, I was glad to finally have her good words and reasoned history to frame my protestations to them that they were indeed feminists. Not that it did much good. I wondered a lot then if white, middle class young women were just treading water and losing us ground at every bend because of their unwillingness to call male privilege what it still was while benefiting from those feminists they professed to hate.
If you had asked me at any time in my life past the age of 9 or so (around 1972) if I was a feminist, I would have firmly answered yes, supported by my love of Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur television and my awareness that I would, like my mother, work for a living. Let me tell you in case you think that statement is meant to be precocious, it is not; I had plenty of childhood pals who when asked what they were going to do when they "grew up", answered matter-of-factly to get married or have kids. (Actually, this is one of the reasons I finally moved away from Ohio less than 20 years ago once and for all; I grew tired of being asked by women mostly upon introduction if I was married and immediately after if I had kids. Not that there is anything WRONG with it...I just grew tired of being a unicorn.) However, if you would have asked me WHY I was a feminist up to the age 22, that answer might have been a little more fuzzy. I didn't really know the things I was up against and it never occurred to me why all but one of my bosses had been men. I got along well, never examining if it was because I knew how to do their bidding, to speak their language rather than my own. I was too busy working at being indispensable to visualize myself as a leader back then; I only hoped to be a solid blue-collar girl friday. As a matter of fact, the only woman I had as a boss prior to 22 was one who was known as a bitch around the workplace. Whether she meant to be one or was assigned it by virtue of being the only executive, I cannot tell you now but I knew I didn't want to be called that and largely dismissed her. I wish I could ask her about it now. After the age of 22 however, I began to work with empowered women and to delight in the diversity of opinions and approaches they had. To see that many women did not resort to uptalk or to placate with flattery to get their point across or ever say they were "sorry" when they took charge of the room. I was mentored by some of them, including Steinem through her writing and speaking, all of which helped take me to the next level of leadership and purpose in my life. Freed of guilt. Driven by my own ambitions and desires just like my male counterparts, yet also a dutiful daughter, a loyal sister, a smart accomplice, a funny girlfriend and so on when I wanted to be. How sweet it still is when I function on all fronts well. I contain multitudes after all. All of this is necessary to say because through today, I meet women and men who mock the term feminist and women who tell me that they 'don't hate men' so they couldn't be a feminist. I think if they would just read Steinem or her peers when they were really rolling (as seen in some essays in here), they may wonder about how they ramped up that anger towards her and might finally see her as she is: a prototype second wave feminist who has stayed on the front lines and used popular media and organizing campaigns to continue the work, step by step, person by person. That she was considered a radical in the early days and now is seen by a few as out of touch is ironic or maybe it is actually progress that she and her peers are responsible for, the many voices speaking at once. Some of the reviews on here point out some the dated language in some of the essays but this work (and Ms. magazine) represented the forefront of progressive movement gender politics at that point. And truly, over the years I also have heard some of the most calmly radical statements come from her and her other well-educated peers. So like many social movements, class is not necessarily the deal killer over the life of the thing, but can be handled when the shared knowledge starts to accumulate. Good to remember that. At my middle age, I do understand (and largely agree with) criticism of 1970s feminism as often shortsightedly capitalist in its goals and even to have made some missteps like focusing almost entirely on passing the E.R.A. and in winning government-sanctioned abortion rights. And to have allowed itself to have split over sexual identity was also a mistake (see how much she has led me to read since?) was unfortunate too.
Still, you gotta know where you have been to know what path is best to take next, right Riot Grrls? So read this seminal book, then go read her newer stuff too which is partly why I am posting this now (her new book is my nighttime reading and I realized that I had never reviewed that first important book of mine. By the way, the new one is so far, excellent. Review soon.) Not that it really matters, but you might catch a prism that lights your understanding. Or, you might just like her.
Saw this while checking out the local/regional shelves at Lemuria Books in Jackson MS; yes you need to stop in there if you are a book lover. And if ySaw this while checking out the local/regional shelves at Lemuria Books in Jackson MS; yes you need to stop in there if you are a book lover. And if you live around Jackson, I might even suggest a nice trip one hot weekend to spend a few hours in the bookstore, some time in the Fondren co-op and maybe a stroll through Eudora Welty's garden. The title was underwhelming, but the size of it, the extensive bibliography in the back and the subtitle did intrigue me, as did the identification of it as being from the same author as Matzoh Ball Gumbo, which I had read and appreciated.
The book is broken into 3 sections: antebellum and post antebellum Southern food ("Plantation South"), late 19th c/early 20th c ("New South") and post 1950 ("modern South"), which is a very useful way to think about food and folkways in any American region actually. Each section has fascinating information about growing food or cuisine and uses scads of citations from prior research and popular books.
The author, Marcie Cohen Ferris is a professor of American studies at UNC Chapel Hill and is well known among local food activists across the South. In this book, she has taken a wide view of Southern food since Jamestown days, using a great many of our most respected scholars work to weave a compelling and absorbing narrative. What is tricky about the long history here is the need to address earlier inaccuracies and overt racism embedded in some of that scholarship. The author does a deft job addressing those shortcomings without deleting what is useful from her predecessors' work.
The Plantation South section was less comprehensive than I had hoped, especially knowing the beginnings of my own region around New Orleans as a tobacco company for the French, which has led to a commodity and export agricultural system that extends to this day. I had hoped for more about that era and more details of the enslaved and forced labor system of the Southern agriculture system, but it is quite likely that the scholarship was just not there to use.
The New South section however, should be required reading for any researcher or embedded activist working in the South. The founding of the Extension Service, of the home economics and demonstration movement and the research into healthy foods to reduce diet-based illnesses across the impoverished South are examples of the rich tapestry the author does explore and, for my money, is the best part of the book. Many times, I found myself referring to the notes and bibliography to record the name of the book she refers to in the section. Additionally, I much appreciated the section on Old Southern Tearooms and the account of the deliberate development (at the turn of the 20th century) of the myth of the genteel South, where a "southern narrative of abundance, skilled black cooks, loyal servants and generous hospitality of gracious planters and their wives" was displayed at places like Colonial Williamsburg, Charleston and of course New Orleans. That set of tableaus created masked the story of a much more complicated and less romantic time. I certainly hope that her detailed work here separating fact from fiction may help put these embellished or completely fabricated stories of the "old South" in their proper place.
The Modern South section adds history on civil rights (how does it relate to food you say? lunch counter sit-ins, men’s-only lunch rooms anyone?), and history on federal programs like national school lunch program which are thoughtfully offered. The pieces on organizing natural food coops and buying clubs were so very welcome as little is available in popular research about how important these efforts were to the beginnings of the current local food/farmers markets movement happening today. Unfortunately, I was taken aback by the scarce information on the last 35 years which has been a dizzying and somewhat gratifying time for food sovereignty work.I can only hope for another book from this author that has the same level of detail, and covers the last era from a grassroots or even a policy point of view. In any case, as I told a market leader in one of those vibrant places of local food in the South, this book is definitely a keeper and one destined to be used extensively among researchers, activists and policy makers.
A stunner of a book. This was the first of his books that I read, way back when I was starting on my food system work. I think all of the plants choseA stunner of a book. This was the first of his books that I read, way back when I was starting on my food system work. I think all of the plants chosen are excellent examples of use and manipulation by humans, but I think that in particular the potato and marijuana chapters are illuminating for food and farming advocates to read. Where would we be without those enterprising hydroponic marijuana growers of the 1970s? And have we learned nothing from the lack of diversity among potato varieties that led in part to the Irish potato famine?...more
Picked this up on for a Tuesday flight out of town and finished it by Thursday. My speed is partly due to the bumpy flights to Portland but more crediPicked this up on for a Tuesday flight out of town and finished it by Thursday. My speed is partly due to the bumpy flights to Portland but more credit should be given to the interesting essays included. Most of these writers research labor or New Orleans as their work, starting with Eric Arensen, the well-known labor writer and author of the landmark book "Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics." Arensen encapsulates that history here again while taking the time to credit other history and labor writers and researchers in this update. In his essay and in the entire book, a prime topic is the bifurcation of race in New Orleans that has meant black and white class struggles remain separate and rarely equal. Matheny's essay on how the two local musician unions (one black and one white) struggled for cohesiveness during the Civil Rights era is a telling story about how cultural connections can often be stretched but how political power remains less elastic. Additionally, the subjugation of new ethnic minorities in the city can be seen in Murga's excellent day laborer essay that centers on the growing Latino population who toiled at the thankless jobs that grew in those toxic days directly after the 2005 levee breaks, and in the Schneider/Jayaraman ROC essay on the shocking statistics of the restaurant and construction workers. These essays should encourage us all to stand with our sistren and brethren in active support or at least, to tip VERY well and stop honking at those work trucks in front of us. Both of those essays include the researchers process for the data collection which is a nice addition. The labor and organizing essays are almost all well-researched and definitive, but the historical pieces on work are the choice meat. Ugolini's piece on African-American women and the market economy, Roberts' piece on Voodoo economics (not the Reagan version, but those New Orleans spiritual entrepreneurs) were both engrossing, as was the praline mammy story and its accompanying myth. Writer Nunez presents the last so skillfully that the full shame of those mid-century life-sized dolls chained to the front of the shop door can be felt by even modern readers. I also appreciate the addition of historic terms such as "higglers" (Ugolini) and "hoodoo" (Nunez) which will send me back to the New Orleans WPA guide for further research (is Nunez asserting that hoodoo is a term that denotes voodoo mixed with capitalism? love the idea if so). Dillard professor and author Nancy Dixon offers a parallel review of the service industry using its appearances in New Orleans literature over the last 200 years (as befits her experience as the editor of the recent anthology N.O. Lit), interwoven with her own personal recollection of waitressing and bartending in some of the infamous holes across town while she worked through college. Her empathetic view of the unequal nature between black and white workers gives another example of the racial segregation that continues to this day.
The last nod of approval goes to the late Michael Mizell-Nelson and his examination of the short-lived unity among the (white) streetcar and (black) gas workers in the 1920s, as well as the sad story of their later resegregation. Having his writing on New Orleans blue-collar work contained in this book gives it an added level of authenticity and hopefully in future editions (Mizell-Nelson passed away in December of 2014), the editors will add a posthumous postscript for New Orleans' own Streetcar Mike....more
A well-written and in-depth look by local historian Rien Fertel on Louisiana and New Orleans amid the age of periodicals, letters and novels in the 1 A well-written and in-depth look by local historian Rien Fertel on Louisiana and New Orleans amid the age of periodicals, letters and novels in the 19th/20th century, a time responsible for many of the romantic American myths that we learned in schools and for some of us, from our own Southern forebearers. To show how these myths remain, one can simply recall hearing and regularly defended in open conversation the terms still used to describe the Civil War such as the "War of Northern Aggression" and "States Rights, Not Slavery." Another relevant reason for this book is the recently reignited protests centering on race inequities and immigration across America, a conversation that is always sadly necessary in the American South. Fertel addresses it in this historical context by writing about the white Creole literary circle that, starting in the 1820s/1830s, largely created and sustained the story of the region's "exceptionalism." That era of virtuous manifest destiny was mirrored across the U.S and is largely to blame for the lack of understanding among those who continue to grow up amid their own ethnic myths. Why most people know the story of Creole culture only through those self-defined Creoles of color who continue to inhabit the city is partly because they are largely responsible for much of what we continue to value culturally in New Orleans such as live music, street and family culture, and informal Carnival activities. However, it is also convincingly identified here as the shift from the writers contained in this book simply defining themselves and their "heroic" time as the heirs to French culture in the New World to their expanded Reconstruction-era unapologetic and often incorrect assertion of their whiteness and its embedded privileges. Yet, the historical details captured here give that shift context and perspective; Fertel's description of the politics of post-Louisiana Purchase New Orleans and the concern at the White House on any potential allegiance to the Old World as partially responsible for the Creoles' sensitivity about the eclipse of their history is especially informative. By offering individual profiles of prominent writers of Creole history starting with eminent historian Charles Gayarré, "Transcendentalist" New Orleans Choctaw missionary Adrien Rouquette and through those writers who took up the "cause" in the 20th century, including Grace King, Robert Tallant and Lyle Saxon, Fertel has a more human-scaled and understandable timeline of events than has been previously offered. After all, New Orleans is a city that has had 4 flags fly over it: French, Spanish, Confederate and American and each era has its own stories to tell and its own heroes and demons. Having the book end with the profile of George Washington Cable and his more accurate and inclusive history of the Creoles and of the city in whole shows the correction of history that began with his popular works but also led to tension among his fellow writers and historians leading (partly) to teh beloved writer's self-imposed exile from the city. Fertel does his best to fairly catalogue both good and bad (or the long and the short) of that tension; for example, he shares how one of the most significant New Orleans voices of the 20th century, Grace King's later-in-life (albeit tepid) acknowledgement of Cable's value to the city showed the potential for change among those earlier devoted only to the "gallant" Creole story.
Certainly, the details gathered by many of these writers offer a rich tapestry of Louisiana life and therefore cannot be entirely eclipsed by their insistence on what Fertel aptly describes as heroic Sir Walter Scott-style epics or even their insistence on racial "purity" and entitlement that belied the truth that existed in the tumultuous and complicated times of Jim Crow's America. Even so, the dismissal of most of these writers works in the last 50 years as provincial cheerleading with either a stated or unstated allegiance to the "Lost Cause" should be a lesson in these Tea Party days and is vitally important for any writer or activist to consider. New postscript: one of my favorite writers on New Orleans is C.W. Cannon who recently replied to the growing body of "anti-exceptionalism" (I don't view this book as in that camp btw); Cannon has rightfully addressed the lack of nuance in some of the criticism and believes that without context, both exceptionalism and anti-exceptionalism arguments both become modern reworkings of history that fail to capture the nuances. He contends that Cable also ignored or glossed over salient facts in order to make his Americanism argument. All good points and so I recommend that any reader of Fertel's history also track some of Cannon's work as well. ...more
I am among that group of readers that found this book when it first came out and was bowled over by the writing and championed Tartt to my friends andI am among that group of readers that found this book when it first came out and was bowled over by the writing and championed Tartt to my friends and colleagues. Meaning I was not among the group of readers that followed the reviews and the buzz and climbed on later. I have no idea why I needed to tell you that, except that it seems important. I think it's because I am proud of myself for finding it and loving it because it's not a every day thing to recognize authors who write beautifully and avoid falling in to the deep, deep pit of contemporary story lines and know how to use classical fairy tale or epic tale structures. I grew up treasuring similar character-driven stories-Salinger's works and most of Fitzgerald's, Dickens (most of all) and the identical thrill that I experienced then (don't you find different thrills for different genres? I do) was present after a page or two at most in this book. The excitement at finding the same graceful writing in a page-turning coming of age story full of secrets was tremendous. The plot is fine and works well, but what is really significant are the well-drawn characters whose motivation or intent is only slowly made clear to you; nothing is broadcast beforehand and no one is extraneous. The discipline that is necessary to avoid relying on tropes and huge plot twists is undervalued among readers, but Tartt especially should be commended for it. TSH is a modern fairy tale with real implications for those involved, as is necessary in true fairy tales. I have read her other two books and love them too as her brevity and her deep appreciation for her people and what they have in front of them is palpable, but nothing will replace this first story of Tartt's. I wish I could read it again for the first time....more