A bouquet of books for spring reading


D.G. Martin - Contributing Columnist



Spring is finally here for good, and as light green and new blooms fill our landscapes, it might be time for me to suggest a few books for the new season.

In “Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog,” Carrboro author Ralph Hardy retells the classic adventure story of Odysseus’ travels after the battle of Troy. Seagulls, sparrows, turtles and other animals tell the dog Argos about his master’s encounters in the cave of the Cyclops, on the island of the lovely Kalypso, and on the sea at the mercy of Zeus and other Greek gods.

Young Adult author Renee Adhieh from Charlotte has wowed the Young Adult book market with “The Rose & The Dagger” and her earlier book, “The Wrath and the Dawn.” Both are based on an ancient Persian tale in “The Arabian Nights” about the beautiful Scheherazade. She volunteers to marry a murderous king who each night marries a woman and then has her killed the next morning. Her stories reminded me of the Biblical book of Esther. Adhieh says her stories are like a Persian version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Duke Professor Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” relates the 1955 kidnapping and brutal killing of Till, a 14-year-old black youth from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi. Till’s encounter with an attractive white woman broke the color code and prompted her husband and brother-in-law to punish him. When Till’s bloated and mangled body was discovered and returned to Chicago for an open-casket funeral, America was horrified, and, according to Tyson, “the impact of the Till lynching resonated across America for years, touching virtually everyone who heard.”

These are the opening words of Hillsborough author Nancy Peacock’s novel, “The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson”:

“I have been to hangings before, but never my own.”

Her book is a wild adventure tale of a slave, who escapes, serves in the Union Army, and becomes a ranch hand in Texas. Then, after being captured by Indians, he becomes one of their warriors, attacking and killing white settlers, stealing their horses and burning their homes and barns — all the time seeking his beloved, another former slave.

Every North Carolinian who wants to understand our state’s struggle for social justice should know the role Julius Chambers played in opening the doors for blacks and other minorities and in opening the eyes of whites to see how an oppressive segregated system burdened all citizens.

“Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights” by Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier tells Chambers’ amazing story.

Beginning in 1964 when Chambers opened his law practice in Charlotte, he initiated a whirlwind of legal actions that attacked and often overturned traditional discriminatory practices in education, employment, and government.

How Chambers overcame the racism that permeated North Carolina public life to gain recognition as one of the nation’s greatest lawyers is an important story the authors tell very well.

Greensboro native Matthew Griffin’s debut novel, “Hide,” is the story of two older men who have long lived together on the outskirts of a small North Carolina town. Frank is a World War II veteran, tough talking and covered with tattoos. Wendell is a taxidermist. They have paid a heavy price for being gay, but the story’s power comes from the tortured and tender way in which Wendell and Frank adapt to the aging Frank’s rapidly deteriorating physical and mental condition. Griffin’s accomplished and beautiful writing signals that “Hide” will be only his first in a long line of successful novels.

All these books will be featured on UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch” during April.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

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D.G. Martin

Contributing Columnist

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