BIC Book Reviews: June 2015

Falling From Horses by Molly Gloss
MG falling from horses coverLooking for your city’s next community reads? Try Molly Gloss’ Falling From Horses, an engaging story that grips readers of all ages before revealing its quiet wisdom and insight into that most quintessential American myth: cowboys and the Wild West. When a Depression-era Oregon cowboy tries his hand at stunt riding/falling for Hollywood films during the early 20th Century, he comes face to face with the harsh and unromantic realities behind the cowboy movies he (and millions of Americans) idolize.

A compassionate, clear-eyed, and often humorous story, Falling From Horses touches on many of the darker sides to the American love affair with cowboy films and myths, such as the violence, sexism, and animal abuse involved in the filming process, as well as how these myths impact how ordinary people and communities behave. It appeals to readers of all ages and genders as it explores the stories, myths, and heroes we romanticize without counting the cost it takes to create them.

“Now that I’m writing what I remember of that year, I have begun to wonder if we only invent the past. When we think back over our lives, maybe we just take a few things remembered out of so much unremembered and stitch those bits together so they spool out like a movie and make a kind of sense.”

The Caning by Stephen Puleo
For those tired of partisan politics, don’t worry–PrintAmerican history has seen far worse! In his nonfiction book The Caning, Stephen Puleo introduces readers to the Senate floor assault that horrified America and helped push the nation into the Civil War. Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner gives a scathing speech against Southern slave owners’ incitement of thuggish violence in Kansas and election rigging. Congressman Preston S. Brooks beat him up on the Senate floor with a gold-topped cane as a result of his comments. Puleo delves into how this beating’s repercussions rippled across American society and politics, and how it might have been the spark that drove America into the Civil War and destroyed the Southern lifestyle Congressman Brooks hoped to save.

The Caning delves into how disagreements, cultural values, personal actions, and clashing morals can split a community apart. It’s especially timely for communities and college students asking themselves how communities composed of people with diverse backgrounds, values, definitions of justice, and goals can work together. Community Reads and First-Year Experience programs can also use The Caning to place the current discussions of the Ferguson protests and on-campus racial slurs within the larger context of America’s troubled history with racism.

The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas
The True AmericanWhat does it really mean to say someone is a true American? The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas explores precisely that question. In September 11th’s aftermath, two men’s lives collide when a white American man walks into a gas station convenience store and shoots the Bangladeshi clerk. Anand Giridharadas traces the complicated life paths that brought both men to this fateful encounter: the Bangladeshi immigrant pursuing his American dream, and a red-blooded American tough guy who wants revenge on Arabs for the Twin Towers.

With a keen eye for the humanity of everyone involved, Giridharadas guides readers into discussions about racism, immigration, Muslims in America, the American Dream, economic inequalities, justice, the death penalty, American ideals of masculinity, opportunity, perseverance, mercy, foster care/social services, and the impact of drug use on communities and families. The True American speaks to readers of all ages, including high school and college students learning to make their own important life decisions, as well as community read participants interested in learning more about the America we now inhabit.

“Remarkable… a richly detailed, affecting account… Giridharadas seeks less to uplift than illuminate… Which of these men is the ”true American” of the title? That there is no simple answer to that question is Giridharadas’s finest accomplishment.” –Ayad Akhtar, New York Times Book Review

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