Anthony O. Edmonds is Professor of History at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He is author of The War in Vietnam (Greenwood, 1998).
Herman Melville’s epic novel, Moby-Dick, was a spectacular failure when it was published in 1851, effectively ending its author’s rise to literary fame. Because he was neglected by academics for so long, and because he made little effort to preserve his legacy, we know very little about Melville, and even less about what he called his “wicked book.” Scholars still puzzle over what drove Melville to invent Captain Ahab's mad pursuit of the great white whale.
In Melville in Love Pulitzer Prize-finalist Michael Shelden sheds light on this literary mystery to tell a story of Melville’s passionate, obsessive, and clandestine affair with a married woman named Sarah Morewood, whose libertine impulses encouraged and sustained Melville’s own. In his research, Shelden discovered unexplored documents suggesting that, in their shared resistance to the “iron rule” of social conformity, Sarah and Melville had forged an illicit and enduring romantic and intellectual bond. Emboldened by the thrill of courting Sarah in secret, the pleasure of falling in love, and the excitement of spending time with literary luminaries—like Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne—Melville found the courage to take the leap from light works of adventure to the hugely brilliant, utterly subversive Moby-Dick.
Filled with the rich detail and immense drama of Melville’s secret life, Melville in Love tells the gripping story of how one of our greatest novelists found his muse.
In this indelible memoir that recalls the life of her remarkable ninety-five-year old grandmother, Guardian journalist Aida Edemariam tells the story of modern Ethiopia—a nation that would undergo a tumultuous transformation from feudalism to monarchy to Marxist revolution to democracy, over the course of one century.
Born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar in about 1916, Yetemegnu was married and had given birth before she turned fifteen. As the daughter of a socially prominent man, she also offered her husband, a poor yet gifted student, the opportunity to become an important religious leader.
Over the next decades Yetemegnu would endure extraordinary trials: the death of some of her children; her husband’s imprisonment; and the detention of one of her sons. She witnessed the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia and the subsequent resistance, suffered Allied bombardment and exile from her city; lived through a bloody revolution and the nationalization of her land. She gained audiences with Emperor Haile Selassie I to argue for justice for her husband, for revenge, and for her children’s security, and fought court battles to defend her assets against powerful men. But sustained, in part, by her fierce belief in the Virgin Mary and in Orthodox Christianity, Yetemegnu survived. She even learned to read, in her sixties, and eventually made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Told in Yetemegnu’s enthralling voice and filled with a vivid cast of characters—emperors and empresses, priests and scholars, monks and nuns, archbishops and slaves, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents—The Wife’s Tale introduces a woman both imperious and vulnerable; a mother, widow, and businesswoman whose deep faith and numerous travails never quashed her love of laughter, mischief and dancing; a fighter whose life was shaped by direct contact with the volatile events that transformed her nation.
An intimate memoir that offers a panoramic view of Ethiopia’s recent history, The Wife’s Tale takes us deep into the landscape, rituals, social classes, and culture of this ancient, often mischaracterized, richly complex, and unforgettable land—and into the heart of one indomitable woman.
Gold, homesteads and Texas longhorns lured thousands of oppressed Europeans to America in the mid-1800s, riding on steamships and railroads that now made long-distance travel feasible. Prussia established its European dominance in 1871 when railroads closed by war reopened to civilians, allowing Matej to flee his beloved motherland for a free homestead in Nebraska. He found a difficult life on the prairie with grasshoppers, drought, hail and fires destroying crops—spurring his 14-year-old son to join a Texas cattle drive and then to dodge Indians and gunfighters throughout the romantic era of the Wild West. Matej died in 1902, leaving his family little wealth, but a legacy, the first 100-years of which is covered in this book.
Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison and other inventors were creating a New World, and the Czechs finally found independence thanks to World War I, which put an end to feudalism but gave birth to Communism. Technology in transportation, agriculture and communications continued to expand during the Roaring Twenties, and a Democratic America became the hope to millions still victimized by brutal dictators. Good times gave way to the Great Depression and the author was born on a primitive Nebraska farm as a new war spread around the globe. Germany and Japan were brought to their knees, but the world was introduced to nuclear horror and was soon threatened by Russian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese Communists—ungrateful allies vowing to bury American Capitalism.
The Middle East and Africa were now freed from European colonialism, but instead of developing natural resources for the benefit of their citizens, rival leaders wallowed in tribal warfare. Israel became the incendiary target for Muslims who controlled much of the world's oil, now in great demand as the automobile and airplane gave new mobility to man. As the world's leader, America became its policeman, taking on one evil empire after another. Korea and Vietnam were not proud moments, yet Communism fell to economic demands that only Democratic Capitalism could meet.
The Czech Republic and the entire Russian Bloc were suddenly free, but as the world relaxed, a war of terror began, financed by Arab oil and executed by Muslim extremists. Outmatched in technology, failing regimes retreated to guerilla warfare, determined to outlast a culture softened by instant gratification. Lebanon, Palestine, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq became major hotspots while Africa simmered under tribal warfare with millions dying from AIDS and starvation.
Matej's Legacy integrates the world events of the past 100 years with the Chmelka family story, including the author's journey from farm boy to engineer and executive in the automotive and aerospace industries. He retired in 1997 and began writing a two-volume epic, concluding in 2003 when the United States remained the world's primary protector; but sadly, often criticized and hated by cynics and political opportunists. American immigrants are generally grateful for the opportunities and freedom our great country offers, and many of the world's downtrodden continue their desperate journeys to our shores. Others jealously preach hatred and death to America, but as descendants of those who sacrificed much to be here, let us never forget our legacy.
The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.
In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.
At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.
Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.