Atlanta Magazine :: November 2009 :: Shelf
 
November 2009

The Shelf

Teresa Weaver on Georgia writers

Andrew B. Lewis

Nearly half a century after the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in North Carolina, historian Andrew B. Lewis revisits the “ragtag band” of young people who kick-started a flagging civil rights movement with their sit-ins, voter registration drives, and protest marches. For The Shadows of Youth: The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation (Hill and Wang, $28), Lewis focused on seven crucial members—Marion Barry, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Atlanta’s U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Bob Moses, Diane Nash, and Bob Zellner—and did prodigious research into the critical role the youth culture played in the success of the movement, including time in Atlanta. “At every step,” Lewis writes, “young African Americans demonstrated their expectation that they would have the same opportunities as other middle-class teenagers . . . The more they were confronted with the truth of their constricted freedom, however, the more they chafed, and the more primed they were to rebel.” Many brilliant books have been written about the defining moments of America’s civil rights movement, and many are cited in The Shadows of Youth. In this articulate volume, though, Lewis reminds us that there is still much to illuminate in the long shadows of modern history. n

A GOOD FALL

Pantheon Books, $24.95
In this new collection of stories, former Emory University professor Ha Jin reflects on the life of Chinese immigrants in America, crafting each fleeting portrait with a spare precision and attention to detail uncanny for a relative newcomer to the English language. Since leaving his native China in 1985, Jin has written five novels, three story collections, and three volumes of poetry. “Our grandchildren hate us,” begins one story in A Good Fall. “The boy and the girl, ages eleven and nine, are just a pair of selfish, sloppy brats and have no respect for old people. Their animosity toward us originated at the moment their names were changed.” Jin’s characters struggle with monumental gaps of generation, gender, and culture as they maintain sentimental ties to their homeland and navigate a strange new world.

LITTLE RICHARD: THE BIRTH OF ROCK ’N’ ROLL

Continuum, $19.95
David Kirby, a poet and professor in Tallahassee, Florida, is on an uphill, uproarious mission to rewrite the legacy of Macon’s outsize Little Richard. “‘Tutti Frutti’ occupies a finite space smack in the middle of our huge-ass Crab Nebula of a culture,” Kirby writes. “It’s like the skinniest part of an hourglass; everything that came before flows into this narrow pass, and the world we live in today flows out the other side.” Even if you don’t agree with the sentiment, you have to admire Kirby’s enthusiasm. This is a very personal biography, full of good-humored energy and insightful wit.

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