All About Books: Americans Edition

I attended virtual talks in February about Louise Erdirch's book, "The Round House," and another with Jonathan Holloway about his book, The Cause of Freedom." One of the benefits of the pandemic for me has been my willingness to attend a variety of online events.

I had already read Erdrich's book, but I hadn't even known that the new Rutgers University president, and history professor, had written something that he was going to reference during at his presentation. So afterward, what did I do? I promptly went to Amazon and bought the book. And I'm glad I did. I can see how Holloway was (as is, because he does do classes at RU), an awesome professor.

While at RU in the mid-1980s, I had a history professor, Richard McCormack, who is the only professor I ever had to receive standing ovations at the end of his lectures; not all of them, but many of them were easily that good. He, too, became president of Rutgers, and he changed the school. I believe Hollway will do the same, driving the school to even greater heights.

This post is a part of the Book Beginnings and Friday 56 blog memes.  And I always add a little extra, a quote from page 100. Visit more of my All About Books posts.


The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Book Beginnings: Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation. They were just seedlings with one or two rigid, healthy leaves. Nevertheless, the stalky shoots had managed to squeeze through knife cracks in the decorative brown shingles covering the cement blocks. They had grown into the unseen wall and it was difficult to pry them loose. My father wiped his palm across his forehead and damned their toughness.

Friday 56 (actually p. 58 this week): Zack had confirmed, from listening in on his stepfather’s burping police radio (he did this constantly), where the crime against my mother had taken place. It was the round house. A two-track bush road led to the old log round house on the far side of Reservation Lake. Early that morning, I got up and stepped quietly into my clothes. I slipped downstairs and let Pearl out. Together, we peed outside, in the back bushes.


The Cause of Freedom by Jonathan Holloway

Book Beginnings: What does it mean to be an American? In telling the story of the African American past, "The Cause of Freedom" demonstrates how difficult it is to answer this question. Even if we ignore for a moment that the history of the African American presence in North America predates the establishment of this country by over 150 years, we are left with a puzzle: the United States of America takes great pride in its commitment to freedom and yet somehow accepted the preservation of slavery in its founding documents.

Friday 56: These reformers saw it as their duty to uplift the race. The notion of "uplift" was simultaneously subversive and conservative. At its core, it was an ideology committed to improving the quality of African American life that also aligned with the restrictive gender and class conventions of its era. Its roots can be traced to the  American Baptist Home Mission Society, a northern, white-run effort to educate southern African Americans.

Photo: Composition In the Catskills by Asher B. Durand, San Diego Museum of Art [Credit]