The Twelve Tribes of Hattie -- A Novel by Ayana Mathis, Knopf '12, $24.95, 243 pages, ASIN #0385350287.
Among the most radical population shifts in American history, including those initiated by the Irish Potato Famine and the Westward Movement, was the Great Migration of the early 20th century by which tens of thousands of poor Southern rural blacks sought a better life by moving to cities in the North. In her first novel, Ayana Mathis recounts the lives of Hattie Shepherd, who fled her Georgia home and settled in Philadelphia, hoping for a better life for her and her nine children, "whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.
"She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind." Mathis's publisher calls this debut novel "an emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit, and the driving force of the American dream...."
Ayana Mathis, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, has received the distinction of three starred reviews for her book, from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews.
Hanging off Jefferson's Nose -- Growing Up on Mount Rushmore by Tina Nichols Coury, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, Dial Press '12 in oversized format on glossy stock, $16.99, ASIN #0803737319. No index, select bibliography, dozens of full-color images, many full page.
Many of us know that Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Gutzon Borghum, but few realize that Gutzon never lived to complete the task. It was his son, Lincoln Borghum, ironically named for one of Mount Rushmore's subjects, who completed the 14-year project.
Anyone familiar with the travails involved in constructing the Panama Canal can relate to what it took to execute Mount Rushmore. "The men (of Gutzon's crew) built over 500 wood steps to reach the top of Mount Rushmore, where they constructed a small city where they housed tools, cables, and drills, writes author Tina Nichols Coury....Mount Rushmore was to be carved mostly with dynamite, and a storage shed was built to house the explosives and keep them dry."
Author Tina Nichols Coury worked closely with the Mount Rushmore parks department to ensure her story's accuracy. She has created illustrations and paintings for Warner Brothers Records, Universal Studios, and Bon Appetit Magazine. She lives in California.
The Two Worlds of William March by Roy S. Simmonds, UAlabama Press '84 paperback, 367 pages, ASIN #0817356878. Index, selected bibliography, notes, unillustrated.
Those familiar with the 1950s book The Bad Seed and the play of the same name that it inspired may be interested in learning more about its author, William March, who has been called "the greatest short story writer America has produced." Author Roy S. Simmonds called his subject "one of the most remarkable, talented, and shamefully neglected writers that America has produced." Ironically, though The Bad Seed brought March a measure of fame and fortune, he considered it his worst work.
Maxwell Anderson adapted The Bad Seed for Broadway, opening in 1955. Like the novel, the play turned out to be a hit and ran for 332 performances. New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson called The Bad Seed "an extraordinarily literate horror story and a superior bit of theater."