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Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom

Angie Abdou. ECW (Baker & Taylor, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $17.95 trade paper (260p) ISBN 978-1-77041-445-7

Novelist Abdou (Bone Cage) takes a deep dive into world of competitive youth hockey in a memoir that is at once witty and sincere. Abdou, married with two kids in British Columbia, tells of the dizzying expenses and time commitment that go into keeping her nine-year-old son, Ollie, playing travel hockey. She touches on many aspects of youth hockey: travel logistics that have to be worked out with one’s spouse; angry parents acting out during games (some clubs in Vancouver do not allow parents to watch the games); the fear of concussions (as of 2013, body checking is not allowed until players are 13 years old); and the camaraderie of hockey families, rivals or not. “Sometimes I am the kind of hockey parent I hate,” she admits, explaining away the passion that rises to the surface during games. Throughout she writes of her brother’s encounter with hockey coach Graham James (who molested a generation of NHL hockey players as teens), as well as her own story of an online flirtation and near romance she had with an American academic as an escape from her overly scheduled life. This is a lively, honestly written account of parenting that will resonate with readers who are fully involved in their children’s sports. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Death of the Territories: Expansion, Betrayal and the War That Changed Pro Wrestling Forever

Tim Hornbaker. ECW (Baker & Taylor, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $19.95 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-77041-384-9

Hornbaker (Turning the Black Sox White) turns the spotlight away from the wrestlers and onto the behind-the-scenes promoters who controlled the shady, loosely regulated world of professional wrestling in the 1950s–1980s. Memorable figures include Leroy McGuirk, a professional fighter who was blinded in a car accident and became a promoter in the 1950s, controlling Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as the fiery ex-footballer Jack Adkission, who fought as a German villain under the name Fritz Von Erich and became a promoter in the 1960s, controlling the Dallas territory. The narrative moves swiftly to the 1980s, when the World Wrestling Federation established a virtual monopoly on the business, shutting out the regional players who had run the sport for decades. “It was difficult to find many territories not being directly impacted by the WWF one way or another,” Hornbaker writes. Most influential in the wrestling world was Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the voice of the WWF, who in the 1980s took the best-known wrestlers from all the TV territories and created WrestleMania just as growth in cable television and pay-per-view programming began to boom. There is a dizzying amount of detail—such as how WWF charged $30,000 for a 30-second ad in 1985—and the general reader may get lost in the blow-by-blow, but tried-and-true wrestling fans will find lots to get excited about. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Traditional Newfoundland Kitchen

Roger Pickavance. Boulder, $34.95 trade paper (306p) ISBN 978-1-927099-92-6

Pickavance, who moved to Newfoundland from Wales in 1968 as a young man, celebrates traditional Newfoundland cooking in this thorough collection of historical recipes. The book is well organized and clearly written and opens with three chapters explaining the Canadian province’s culinary history. He closely examines the importance of root cellars, which had to be built below the frost line. Twenty subsequent chapters offer 500 relatively simple recipes for breads, vegetables, soups and dumplings, salt meats, sweet pies, and, of course, the Newfoundland staple, cod: prepared as fish filets, in stews, boiled, and in fish cakes. Even cod tongues are pan fried. Other seafood includes eel (stewed with onions) and salmon (stuffed with onion, thyme, and bread crumbs). Meat dishes include rabbit stew, roast chicken, and fried veal. For desserts, Pickavance suggests partridgeberry pie, ginger biscuits, and baked custard. Though not for everyday cooking, Pickavance’s volume is a solid history of traditional, hearty Newfoundland dishes. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Southern Discomfort

Tena Clark. Touchstone, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6794-2

Clark paints a raw and deeply honest picture of her childhood in 1950s and ’60s Mississippi. Clark, who is white, writes movingly of her black maid and stand-in mother, Virgie, who was not allowed to eat in her kitchen or white restaurants; of her mother’s forced stay at a barbaric mental hospital, at the insistence of her father; of her father’s casual and continued cruelty toward her sister, Toni (he hit her when she was a child and insulted her weight gain as an adult); and, ultimately, of the forces that helped Clark to leave her hometown for the Univ. of Southern Mississippi to pursue a career in music and the short-lived relationship that resulted in her daughter, Cody. What Clark shows so beautifully is that the people she discusses, as unredeemable as they may at first seem, are much more complex: her father, never one to shy away from using racial epithets, secretly helped build the local black church; her alcoholic mother, trying to deal with her husband’s many affairs, eventually stood up to him; and Clark herself realized at the age of six that she was gay, but she still dressed up like a conventional Southern belle. Clark’s narrative draws the reader in to a wonderful story of the South going from old to new. Agent: Brettne Bloom, Book Group. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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City of Champions: An American Story of Leather Helmets, Iron Wills, and the High School Kids from Jersey Who Won It All

Hank Gola. Tatra, $27 (465p) ISBN 978-1-73222-270-0

New York Daily News sportswriter Gola (Tiger Woods: A Pictorial Biography) recounts the story of the 1939 high school football national championship between two remarkably different teams. Gola writes how the working-class students of Garfield High School in New Jersey took on the more wealthy and renowned team from Miami, Fla. The narrative tracks each team’s progress throughout three seasons, with game summaries and analyses drawn from old tapes and news reports, culminating in the championship game in Miami’s newly built Orange Bowl. Gola also touches on life in America between the world wars, especially for the working-class immigrant families that made up and supported the Jersey team (including many Italians and Eastern Europeans), and the prejudiced Southern atmosphere around the segregated Miami Senior High. Throughout, Gola depicts a watershed period in American history as the country began climbing out from the Depression and war loomed. Football fans will relish this history of a bygone era in the sport—complete with 45 photos—and delight in the many anecdotes (the Garfield team’s stay at the upscale Alcazar hotel is particularly endearing) and play-by-plays of Miami’s Davey Eldredge muscling through Garfield’s defense and Benny Babula’s game-winning field goal. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy

Carol Anderson. Bloomsbury, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63557-137-0

In this insightful study, Anderson (White Rage), Charles Howard Candler Professor of African-American studies at Emory University, scrupulously details the history of racially and politically motivated disenfranchisement in the United States. She focuses on four tactics that are currently harming the principle of “one person, one vote” enshrined by the Supreme Court in Baker v. Carr: voter identification laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, and “starving minority precincts of resources to create untenable conditions at the polls.” Keenly aware of both legal and social barriers to voting (such as lack of access to transportation, the internet, or wheelchair ramps), Anderson lays out in clear terms—often aided by damning, surprisingly blunt quotations from the perpetrators—how systems for disenfranchisement have been conceived, implemented, and defended. She illustrates their effects using relevant numbers and other statistics: for example, black Alabama households are three times more likely than white ones not to have access to a car, in a state where public transit is virtually nonexistent. She also takes a deep look at the multipronged, successful effort to restore black voters’ access to the polls to defeat Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in 2017, suggesting this as a model for future change. Anderson brings home that the current state of voting rights in parts of the U.S. is reminiscent of the height of Jim Crow. Anyone interested in American democracy or how equality can be not only legislated but realized will find this account illuminating and clarifying. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century

Kehinde Andrews. Zed, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-78699-278-9

Andrews (Resisting Racism: Race, Inequality, and the Black Supplementary School Movement), associate professor in sociology at Birmingham City University in England, develops an intriguing analysis of black radical politics in this dense and erudite book that speaks to both British and American issues. He argues that black radicalism is, at its core, nothing short of a revolutionary global movement to upend the status quo that leads to oppressive systems. Throughout the majority of the book, Andrews looks to create a blueprint for black radicalism as a concept and practice by critiquing past attempts that fall short, such as the Pan-African movement, black nationalism, and Marxism. In order to defend his claims about the limitations of black radicalism, he turns to the past, drawing from radical thinkers, such as Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton, and others he defines as nonradical, such as Aimee Cesaire and Marcus Garvey. His critique of the nation-state as the foundation for racial oppression is incisive, and his argument that “Blackness is a political rather than cultural essentialism” usefully resolves contradictions (e.g., between deploring cultural stereotyping in society and reinforcing it in the context of black studies) and exclusions (for example, of LGBTQ black people) in previous theories. This analysis will be of interest to anyone looking for a deep, considered take on liberatory politics. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Addicted to Outrage: How Thinking like a Recovering Addict Can Heal the Country

Glenn Beck. Threshold, $28 (379p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9886-8

Beck, the controversial conservative talk-radio host and founder of TheBlaze network, deplores America’s vitriolic political rhetoric, but ends up stoking it, in this scattershot jeremiad. Beck (Common Sense) denounces the polarizing outrage widely acknowledged to be ubiquitous in the United States of 2018; most of his targets are on the left, such as Twitter campaigns against Roseanne Barr and campus scolding of politically incorrect professors, but he also chides President Trump’s attacks on the press. Beck also calls himself “an addict currently recovering from social-media-driven moral outrage.” He conceives outrage “addiction” in neurochemical terms and lays out a scattered 12-step recovery agenda informed by his experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous, focused on respectful dialogue and conciliation between ideological opponents. Unfortunately, Beck’s rambling, repetitive, overstuffed text frequently wanders off into alarmism—the robot takeover is a particular concern—and conspiracy theories, with less-than-soothing results. He suggests that Bernie Sanders wants to establish a Hunger Games–style dictatorship, warns that “there are agents of chaos on all sides,” and speculates about the horror of a North American superstate (“If our government then hid the actual reports of our children being abducted, raped, sold into slavery, and set on fire, what would we do?”). The book’s feverish tone seems likely to inflame readers’ outrage rather than quell it. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better

Rob Reich. Princeton Univ, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-691-18349-7

Surveying philanthropy from ancient Athens to the modern-day Rockefeller Foundation, and political philosophers from John Stuart Mill to John Rawls, Stanford political science professor Reich (Education, Justice, and Democracy) mounts a wide-ranging critique of charity and the government preferments that subsidize it. Far from an unalloyed good, he contends, charitable giving is often “an exercise of power and plutocratic voice that warrants democratic scrutiny.” Charitable tax deductions subsidize the gifts of rich people more than those of ordinary people; most charitable giving doesn’t go to the needy and doesn’t reduce inequality (some of it, like parental donations to affluent public schools, worsens inequality); and giant philanthropic foundations impose the obsolete priorities of their long-deceased donors on society for centuries, “the dead hand extend[ing] from beyond the grave to strangle future generations.” However, Reich points out, charities and foundations do have other virtues, such as pursuing idiosyncratic causes and long-term social-policy experiments that governments and markets don’t explore. His reform agenda suggests tax credits instead of deductions, foundation life spans, and lots more pondering of what charities should do. Although his writing is rather dry and academic, Reich gives a lucid, thought-provoking analysis of the public impact of charity. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Radiant: Farm Animals Up Close and Personal

Traer Scott. Princeton Architectural, $24.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-61689-715-4

Photographer Scott (Raptors: Portraits of Birds of Prey), known for her portraits of dogs and wildlife, turns her attention to farm animals in this loving tribute. The elephant (or Jersey cow) in the room, of course, is how many of these species are used for food. Scott doesn’t shy away from this topic, nor does she dwell on it. She chooses instead to focus on her subjects, all of whom were photographed under ideal circumstances—close to the humans they know and love, and at the sanctuary farms they call home. This allowed Scott to truly capture the confidence and regality of Henri, a Slate Heritage Breed turkey (favorite snacks: grapes and watermelon) who has assumed the role of caretaker for a flock of chickens; Marcia, a Nigerian Dwarf goat who loved (human) kids; and Buffalo Bill, a gentle, affectionate water buffalo being trained as a therapy animal for autistic children. Each entry begins with an overview of the breed’s heritage and key characteristics (the donkey’s famous stubbornness, for example, is actually a valuable self-preservation instinct) along with the individual animal’s unique traits. Scott’s look at these species is equal parts affectionate, informative, and respectful. Agent: Joan Brookbank, Joan Brookbank Projects. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/21/2018 | Details & Permalink

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