Archive for the ‘non-fiction’ Category

As the Sycamore Grows By Jennie Miller Helderman

Title: As the Sycamore Grows

Author: Jennie Miller Helderman

Publisher: The Summers Bridgewater Press

Date: 2010

Every now and then a true story comes along that leaves a searing impression imprinted on your brain. The white heat of the pain and suffering of the people’s lives contained within the pages of a book can so seldom cut you to the quick and take away your breath. As the Sycamore Grows not only takes the wind from you with the brutality that only spousal abuse can evoke…but it also makes you double over and wrench with pain for all the shame, and humiliation that the wife must feel at the hands of her iron-fisted, hardheaded, Bible thumping spouse. The visceral knee-jerk reaction to the all too common human story that emerges from this work makes you grit your teeth and have to press on to get to the end of the story.

Helderman shows the reader the rise of the bully, through the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of the victim and her children, and follows them as they escape and learn to not only survive but thrive as they claw their way to freedom. Gripping, raw, and filled with the universal story of every victim’s slippery slide down the spiral of spousal abuse’s As the Sycamore Grows chronicles the lives of Ginger, Mike, and three children from Texas to Tennessee. The pattern of abuse so entrenched in their lives that it seems normal and to be expected and creates a sense of complacency so that each can make sense of the neurotic behavior of their abuser, Mike.

Helderman does an excellent job of not just telling us the story of Mike and Ginger but shows us the story letting the truth and the details of their co-dependent relationship unfold before the reader. Her masterful mixture of fact, documents, and the stories of the abuse are recounted in such a way that the reader’s attention is raptly held. Abuse is a tough subject to write about, but As the Sycamore Grows tells more about the toughness of those that survive abuse than of the twisted events that precede it. This book is a solid read and a must have for anyone who works or volunteers with the victims of abuse.


The Knight Family Legacy – One Family’s Story by Marilyn R. Hill-Sutton

Title: The Knight Family Legacy – One Family’s Story

Author: Marilyn R. Hill-Sutton

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc

Date: 2010

The Knight Family Legacy is an in-depth study of the world of a plantation owner and mulatto progeny in dispute with his white heirs as they fight over the legality of their benefactor’s last will and testament.  Filled with documents, transcripts, and historical records of the time, Hill-Sutton’s book is an interesting study into an unprecedented court battle between white and black heirs.

Major Knight, a decorated civil war veteran and attorney fathered several children with Violet a slave on his property. Knight’s siblings end up locked in a court battle over the fact that Knight bequeathed his entire estate to his former slave now emancipated children.  This was unprecedented as many anti-miscegenation laws were coming to fruition in the deep south out of a fear of the black majority rising up and assuming political and economic control of what was firmly clutched in the fists of white upper middle class society of the time. In order to quash the rising tide of  white fear and to promote a ‘healing’ of sorts, the lands that were previously awarded to or held by blacks under Lincoln were taken back under Johnson. Jim Crow laws and apartheid were alive and well when Major Knight died and left his estate to his black children instead of his white siblings. Perhaps what is of even more interestin this book is that Knight’s mulatto son Jacob (Jake) fought on behalf of his mother and siblings to champion his father’s final wishes.

Hill-Sutton has amassed page after page of documentation to reveal what transpired both in the life of Maj. John Knight, Jr. as well as during the fight between his children for their inheritance. While her depth of research is to be commended it was wished by this reader that more of the story telling of events would have occurred and less enumeration of price of buggies and saddles.  These are all of great interest from a historical perspective but a deeper connection to the man and his love for Violet and the children or his sense of guilt for their circumstances would have benefited the reading of the lengthy tomb.

The countless documents and the transcriptions of the court documents paint a stark picture of the realities for white and black alike during reconstruction and post reconstruction in the south. This book will prove to be an invaluable resource for Pike County, GA researchers. The Knight Family Legacy’s exhaustive study into one family’s interwoven connections will hopefully pave the way for many others to come as researchers try to unravel the cross section of multiracial family connections in the post Civil War south.

The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman by Britt Santowski

Britt Santowski The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable WomanTitle: The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman

Author: Britt Santowski

Publisher Aviva

Date: 2010

Britt Santowski’s book The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman is a solid “awaken you to your life” kind of book. Santowski’s premise to kick the reader into gear is to focus on three basic strategies: Accountability, Collaboration, and Initiative. Following her basic blueprint for change set forth in the The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman, the reader move toward achievable realistic personal goals and figure out how to truly grow and take the hard steps that result in real lasting change.

Filled with useful exercises for achieving clarity, tips for success, and a call to action after every instructional objective, this is a good book to help you make the break through you have been trying to find that propels you to the next level of your personal and professional success. Santowski’s book is a good book for anyone seeking to dig down within them self for the empowerment they know is necessary to reach the next level of personal growth and development. Get out of your comfort zone, do the real work it takes to change, and use The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman to achieve your individual aspirations.

The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman should be in the hands of every young woman entering college, graduate school or the professional world. This book has so many good nuggets that you will want to savor it with your book club, women’s group, or professional networking organization. Brit Santowski’s book should be required reading for young people. While targeted toward women, this book has universal appeal. The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman is a must read.

How the Economy Grows and Why it Crashes by Peter D. Schiff

Title: How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes

Author: Peter D. Schiff

Publisher: Wiley

Date: 2010

How the Economy Grows is a wonderful allegorical explanation of how all the pieces of economy fit together. With illustrative stories and humorous anecdotes, Schiff explains the economy in a way that the average Wal-Mart shopper would be able to understand. Covering topics from economic growth, trade, risk, and inflation, How the Economy Grows makes it all incredibly easy to understand.

How the Economy Grows is a timely book on difficult subject. He puts forth strong language warning against the prolonged consequences of printing more money to sooth the market. This book helps the casual economist gain a powerful understanding of how the economy works and why we as a nation are in economic decline as a result of the burden of our collective debt. According to Schiff,  “For years we have been living beyond our means, and we must summon the resolve to finally live within them. If we can do that, and allow free market forces to operate unhindered, we can rebalance our economy and set the stage for a real expansion.”

Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson

Scopes Monkey Trial Summer for the GodsTitle: Summer for the Gods – The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion

Author: Edward J. Larson

Publisher: Basic Books

Date: 2006 (original 1997)

The Scopes Trial occurred during a particularly colorful and Christian centric era of American politics. It was the Summer of 1925 in a small rural Tennessee town pitted anti-Darwinists against the ACLU in a fierce war over religion, science and state sponsored education.  William Jennings Bryan on the righteous right and Clarence Darrow on the more liberal left elegantly, passionately, and wearily debated before the court the argument of teaching evolution in the classroom and the whole country was watching. The implications of their impassioned arguments are still rippling through the country to this day.  Both sides still sling motions first exercised in the Scopes Trial from one side of the country to the other the argument continues.

Larson was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in History  in 1998 for Summer for the Gods. This scholarly work is incredibly thought provoking regardless of the stance you take on the issue. Bryan was a failed politician and master orator who could whip up the frenzy of any crowd with his mesmerizing style. Darrow, the Agnostic son of a Unitarian minister, was a great supporter of reformist politics that sought to create an America that did not favor the wealthy over the poor. While Darrow lost the case for his client, his skills as a criminal attorney and orator were outstanding in the case. Unfortunately, the argument was heard before a jury in the American Bible belt that clutched to their beliefs and were apparently closed to any other ideas. This case heralded the close of one century and opened another which continued the tension that continues to grow between science and American Christian Fundamentalism.

Excellently researched and well documented, Summer for the Gods is an excellent study of not only the events and conditions leading up to the Scopes Trial but also of the current unresolved controversy of evolution teaching in the US today.

Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer by Jeff Vandermeer

Title: Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century WriterBooklife Book Review

Author: Jeff Vandermeer

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Date: 2009

This is the writer’s manual for writers who want to succeed. If you want to write and get read Vandermeer’s book is a critical weapon for you to have in your writing arsenal. Whether you are struggling with craft or just haven’t a clue what you have to do next in building your author’s platform, Booklife holds the answers to most if not all your burning questions on the writing life.

Practical, funny, down-right irreverent in spots, this book will grab you from the start and make you a more productive writer and a more savvy brand builder. The real life examples found through out the book make this better than attending a writing workshop unless of course it is one of Vandeermeer’s workshops! From the A-Z’s of writing to shamelessly selling your expertise on the available technology, Booklife covers it all.

This is a book you will want to read and reference again and again. Part education, part exploration, but completely entertaining and motivating, Booklife is worth paying full price. You will want to keep this book on your reference shelf for years to come!

Enhancing Your Life Now by Dr. Jeudi Boulom, DC

Title: Enhancing Your Life Now – Four Basic Principles to Achieving Wellness

Author: Dr. Jeudi Boulom, DC

Publisher: Aviva

Date: 2010

Enhancing Your Life Now is a potentially life changing book from a real in the trenches community health care provider who genuinely cares about the wellness of not only her patients but her community as well. Dr. Boulom’s four guiding principles in this book clearly illustrate the need for healthy eating as a means for achieving optimal health.

This book is a terrific resource for those plagued with health issues and frustrations and who are seeking additional information to help them make significant life changes that lead to wellness. What we eat is a huge part of what impacts our health. Toxins in our foods, unhealthy over-processed food, and lack of exercise are undermining the gains mankind has made in longevity. Childhood obesity, adult onset diabetes, heart disease, and cancers can all be traced to our food and the environmental influences they are grown in and around. Dr. Boulom’s book provides a frank look at our habits as humans, or over-processed foods, and the negative impact of both on the species.

The English Prover, “Don’t dig your grave with your knife and fork” is so appropriate for this generation of gluttonous consumers. If we don’t take charge of our diets, our food choices, our exercise, and our health, no one else will. It is up to us to act like informed consumers and begin to advocate for what is best for us as humans. Enhancing Your Life Now is  a terrific guidebook to help you get started.