Mini-Reviews: Crouch and Guy-Sheftall

12Mar14

I’ve got a longer review of something in the drafts folder, but once again due dates force me to give only highlights of some of the great books I’m reading. Here are two short summaries of two very different, but equally excellent, kinds of books.

Kansas City Lightning, Stanley Crouch. Kansas City was one of early jazz’s major urban centers. Did you know that? I did not know that. Even if you DID know that, you will find Crouch’s book a surprise and a delight. Technically what we have here is the first half of a two-part biography of Charlie Parker, but Crouch has given us so much more than an individual biography: he’s illuminated the cultural context, not just for Bird, but for so many of the other musicians on the scene. Crouch’s book is thick with names and references, to the point where you will read a paragraph, put down the book, search YouTube to get a listen, and then go back to the book. This is not a complaint. Delivered in poetic language that mirrors the music it attempts to describe, Kansas City Lightning is a wonderful choice for anybody who wants to learn more about jazz and have a good time while doing so.

Image taken from NPR.org - click through to read a lengthier review.

Image taken from NPR.org – click through to read a lengthier review.

Words of Fire, Beverly Guy-Sheftall. This amazing anthology is a must-buy for anyone interested in African American feminism, because it demonstrates, and gives many examples from, the long lineage of black women thinking and writing about their lives in terms of race AND gender. Arranged chronologically, Guy-Sheftall’s collection features many women most people have probably never heard of, as well as the established names you’d expect to find from a comprehensive anthology.¬† As if this weren’t enough, the collection is heavily supported with footnotes, references, and titles for further reading and research, so much so that you could probably spend the rest of your life exploring everyone and everything you discover in Words of Fire and still not reach the end. The value of this book goes far beyond its list price, and is a core purchase for anyone making a serious study of black women’s experience. Graciously loaned by Dickinson College.

It’s really frustrating to have to return books to the library before I can do them justice! But in all fairness, now you can go and read these books too (and I hope you will!). I’m really happy that I came across the reading lists I’m using this year, and I hope they are beneficial to you as well.

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