Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Book review: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, by Kali Nicole Gross In 1887, in a pond just outside of Philadelphia, the dismembered torso of a man was discovered, triggering a search that eventually led to Hannah Mary Tabbs, a Maryland native and seemingly very unpleasant lady, according to many who knew her. She had been, quite scandalously for a black woman in 19th century … Continue reading Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Exploitation and Triumph of Two Brothers, in the Circus and the South

Book review: Truevine, by Beth Macy Beth Macy, a former Roanoke Times journalist, first heard about the Muse brothers during her work at the paper in the 1980s. Their story was well-known, but not in much detail: the outline was that two albino African-American brothers were kidnapped by the circus and spent years touring in the freak show before their mother found them again. Whether they’d … Continue reading Exploitation and Triumph of Two Brothers, in the Circus and the South

Injustice and the Transgender Tipping Point

Book review: A Murder Over a Girl, by Ken Corbett Psychologist and professor Ken Corbett exhaustively covered the trial of Brandon McInerney, who at age fourteen, executed a classmate, Larry King (not THAT one.) Supposedly because King, who was gay and beginning to express himself in ways that indicate he was probably transgender, was sexually harassing him. The case in Oxnard, California made national headlines when Larry … Continue reading Injustice and the Transgender Tipping Point

Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Book review: The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer I like Amy Schumer’s comedy, but I’m not enough in love with it that her book was a priority when it came out nearly a year ago. Until I happened upon a review praising it as something much more meaningful than a reiteration of Schumer’s jokes or skits from her show. The review stressed that … Continue reading Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Russia Through The Lens of Chelyabinsk

Book review: Putin Country, by Anne Garrels “When the meteor hit Chelyabinsk, it blazed across the sky, spewed out its shards, and then sank quietly into a lake. That’s what many hoped the breakup of the Soviet Union would be like. It would end with a compliant Russia as benign as the rock that is now sitting in Chelyabinsk’s museum. That has not occurred. The shards continue to … Continue reading Russia Through The Lens of Chelyabinsk

The Yogurt Shop Murders and a Look at False Confessions

Book review: Who Killed These Girls?, by Beverly Lowry What do we actually know and how do we know it? Neuroscience teaches us that our brains are never still, even when we’re asleep and have plunged into dreams. Neurons still continue to spark and fly, jumping synapses, digging up memories, creating new ones, adding, subtracting, removing, revising. Until the story feels right. Correct. What we want … Continue reading The Yogurt Shop Murders and a Look at False Confessions

One Month In Maryland Homicide

Book review: A Good Month for Murder, by Del Quentin Wilber Reporter Del Quentin Wilber spent an extended chunk of time shadowing the homicide division of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Police Department. He wasn’t exactly sure what he intended to write about the embedded experience, but he was interested in how detective work had changed in the two decades since the publication of David Simon’s Homicide, a … Continue reading One Month In Maryland Homicide

Tea Partiers in Their Own Words

Book review: Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild In the last decade, but especially the last few years, we’ve seen an especially polarizing shift between the American political left and right, culminating in the election of a previously non-politically-involved narcissistic billionaire (or is he?) bully with an inferiority complex. But even before that menace was in the White House, the unrest and dissatisfaction from the … Continue reading Tea Partiers in Their Own Words

Guilt, Grief, and Finally Getting the Truth

Book review: Alligator Candy, by David Kushner When he was four years old, journalist and writer David Kushner’s older brother Jon took off on his bike, riding through the woods of their neighborhood in Tampa, Florida en route to the 7-11, on a quest for candy. Before he left, David asked him to bring him the titular ‘alligator candy’, actually Snappy Gator Gum. Jon didn’t come home, … Continue reading Guilt, Grief, and Finally Getting the Truth

Musings on Art and Loneliness

Book review: The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing “It was becoming increasingly easy to see how people ended up vanishing in cities, disappearing in plain sight, retreating into their apartments because of sickness or bereavement, mental illness or the persistent, unbearable burden of sadness and shyness, not knowing how to impress themselves into the world.” Olivia Laing unexpectedly became a British expatriate alone in New York City, … Continue reading Musings on Art and Loneliness

Some Light Hollywood Trash-Talking

Book review: Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins, by Kathy Griffin I love Kathy Griffin’s standup. Sometimes if I’m feeling down, clips of her energetic, overexcited, judgmental storytelling work as a quick fix cheerer-upper. I haven’t read her other book, Official Book Club Selection, which I think got positive reviews, but I started reading this one when I couldn’t focus on anything serious (thank you, massive stress over apartment/moving) but still … Continue reading Some Light Hollywood Trash-Talking

Essays from the Outdoors

Book review: Upstream, by Mary Oliver ‘Come with me into the field of sunflowers’ is a better line than anything you will find here, and the sunflowers themselves far more wonderful than any words about them. Quoting herself, renowned and much-loved poet Mary Oliver opens this collection of essays about nature and our connection to it, need for it, what it can teach us and how it feels … Continue reading Essays from the Outdoors