By TERRI SCHILICHENMEYER
Sept. 11, 2021
‘Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood’
By DAWN TURNER, c.2021, Simon & Schuster, $26.99 / $35.99 Canada 321
Go left or go right?
It seems that at every point in life, you need a decision: take a familiar street, or a route you rarely travel? A restaurant you frequent or something new for dinner? Sometimes, the choices won’t matter next week or in a year, but—as in the new book “Three Girls from Bronzeville” by Dawn Turner—other decisions are more consequential.
One of her earliest memories involves her newborn sister.
Dawn Turner was no more than a toddler herself then, living in a hotel room with her mother because her father was gone again. Turner remembers the weight of her baby sister, Kim, and knowing that everything had changed.
For the rest of their childhoods, the girls were inseparable though, like many big sisters, Turner sometimes resented Kim’s tag-alonging. That became more pronounced when Turner found her first best friend, who lived in the apartment directly above theirs in a new housing project in Chicago’s Bronzeville.
Turner wanted Debra to herself, but she had to share the friendship with Kim and that was fine. Summer days and after-school was often better with three. The girls made their own fun, hiding from maintenance men in the building, hanging out on fire escapes, and reading in a secret spot on an accessible rooftop. In the shadows of deteriorating apartment complexes and abandoned buildings, their childhoods were almost idyllic.
And things changed again.
As high school loomed, Turner and Debra slowly started to drift apart, a slide that was defined by Debra's family’s move to Indianapolis. Turner began to plan for college, while Kim struggled in school. Time passed and as the neighborhood that nurtured three little girls fell into a state of disrepair, so did the girls' bond and suddenly, they “were on different trajectories.” One went south, one went to college, boys came around, and so did trouble.
One took a gin bottle, one took a baby bottle, and one took a gun...
Have you ever wondered what life might’ve been like if you’d made different choices, picked a different spouse or another job? Yep, then “Three Girls from Bronzeville” is for you.
And yet, this book isn't entirely about choices; it’s also about taking what life seems to hand you and molding it to fit. On that, author Dawn Turner is irresistibly nostalgic and her memories will leave you with a sense of carefree childhood in the city—but she's also realistic, describing her surroundings with decreasing enthusiasm that speaks volumes.
Turner points no fingers here but you'll see likely culprits to blame along the way. Substance abuse plays a large part in this tale. Opportunities existed to seize or discard freely, the latter of which is painful to watch. Responsibility is taken for wrong turns.
And readers will be thrilled to see that angels existed, too.
This is one of those books that’s warm to the start and envelopes you like a hug mixed with gravel. It’s harsh and gracious, jagged and loving. Yep, “Three Girls from Bronzeville” is all right.
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By Jarrette Fellows Jr.
For more information please call (612) 669-7215
Central Standard Time, Monday thru Saturday.
Language : English Publication Date : 2/24/2021
Format : Hardcover. Dimensions : 8.5x11
Page Count : 52. ISBN : 9781665701334
Format : Softcover. Dimensions : 8.5x11
Page Count : 52 ISBN : 9781665701327
Format : E-Book. Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 52. ISBN : 9781665701341
About the Author
Jarrette Fellows Jr. has worked for more than four
decades as a journalist, editor, and publisher. He earned a bachelor of arts in journalism from California State University, Los Angeles. He is the author of a wide range of articles, stories, features, editorials, and commentaries and also currently publishes two digital-specific newspapers. He currently lives with his family in Los Angeles.
‘The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat’
By MATT SIEGEL c.2021, Ecco $27.99 / higher in Canada 288 pages
Your morning cuppa joe came from Hawaii last month.
Mixed with a little milk from a farm upstate, it's the perfect pick-me-up. When you add cereal from Iowa, grapefruit from Arizona, and a tiny bit of chocolate from Pennsylvania, you’re set for awhile. And when you’re hungry again, grab a napkin and bite into "The Secret History of Food" by Matt Siegel.
Mom and Dad were more influential than you thought they were.
Not only did they each give you half your genes, but they also set up your food preferences. Siegel says that the things you like, and the amounts you consume, were impressed upon you before you even drew your first breath. Your taste for sweet and bitter, your love of garlic, even your ability to drink milk was determined in utero.
It’s often argued that fire was mankind’s best invention, but Siegel argues that it was cooking. The act of cooking food not only saved lives by destroying deadly bacteria, but it expanded our ancestors’ palates,
too. Siegel says cooking also saved them energy because cooked food is softer, which cut chewing time considerably. That’s a small thing with big results: it ultimately altered us physically, as a species.
Though the Colonists attempted to bring familiar food to the New World when they arrived, they went hungry a lot, Siegel says. It’s ironic that they had access to what was basically the world’s largest open-air grocery store but they didn’t heed the Iroquois’ gardening or food-processing tips. The Colonists brought pie to America, though, so there’s that...
The corn that makes up your breakfast (and hundreds of other products you consume throughout the day) literally wouldn’t exist without humans, Siegel says, and vice versa. Potatoes were once thought to be “evil,” bees can make consumable (for you) honey from poison oak flowers, and an adolescent slave boy figured out how to hand-pollinate vanilla plants. And if you’re bored with what’s on the menu, remember this: you have more options at a single fast-food restaurant than your ancient ancestors had their entire lives.
What’s for lunch? Chances are, you’ve already thought about it. You can practically taste it now, but where did it come from? “The Secret History of Food” helps you know.
Through tales that can sometimes be unpalatably urpy, Matt Siegel takes readers down the garden path to the dinner plate to see why we eat what we eat, even when it’s clearly not good for us, even when our bodies rebel over it.
And yet, there’s nothing preachy here, and nothing meant to make you feel bad about yourself. Siegel, in fact, uses plenty of humor in this highly-researched book, telling facts with snorting asides and footnotes that leave you with a good taste in your mouth. It’s like enjoying a buffet with an adventurous foodie.
So pick up that fork and consider your meal. It might taste a little different, after you’ve read “The Secret History of Food” because this book’s a recipe for a good read.
‘The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal’
By MARY L. TRUMP, Ph.D.c.2021, St. Martin's Press $28.99 / $38.50 Canada
You can barely stand to look.
You open your eyes quick, though, and scan because you need to be informed but the news is sometimes hard to take lately. Consuming in small bites may be best, or devour it if you can, but take care. In “The Reckoning,” Mary L. Trump, Ph.D. says you may have been the victim of trauma, and she offers a way to work beyond it.
“This country was born on trauma...” says Trump, through war, hardship, theft of land, slavery, and betrayals of all sorts—not to mention disease. As a psychologist, she wondered what things “might be like” for America after months of divisive politics and pandemic.
Trump, who was diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, blames much of her PTSD on her uncle but for America as a whole, she says we’ve been through something deeper and wider-ranging: the trauma of slavery, injustice, and ongoing inequality—
for Blacks but also for Native Americans, and LGBTQ people—that continues to permeate every corner of American life.
White people inherently enjoy white privilege, Trump says plainly, and they might try to deny it but the fact is that the world Whites walk in so blithely is not the same one Black citizens live. That causes trauma to extend both ways because “Trauma shapes us in ways we may not be aware of, and will always do so unless we face what has happened to us...[and] what we've done to each other.”
And that’s where politics enter, especially since the end of the Civil War: politicians have become adept at convincing White America, subtly or overtly, that Black people are lesser; that "moving on" without reckoning is possible; and that we should put transgressions aside by whitewashing them, minimizing them, and by refusing to demand accountability.
"But as seductive as it is, wiping out chapters in our history," says Trump, "... leaves future generations vulnerable. We know this. Only remembering will heal us. Maybe it will even set us free."
Let's start here: readers who come to "The Reckoning" for another dose of author Mary L. Trump's family story will not be disappointed. She has plenty of acid left to spray on the last presidential administration's years, but that's not this book's primary focus.
White privilege and the dismantling of racism is, and that comes as some surprise, in both the history Trump uses to make her points and in the obvious passion in her arguments. What she writes, however, and the lofty ideals she espouses are nothing new, yet here they feel like small terriers at your feet, nipping for unwavering attention, demanding focus and deep consideration.
You may not like what you read but it's going to force you to think, hard, about the future, individually and nationally.
Unfortunately, "The Reckoning" is going to be politicized, when it's not, not entirely. Though it shouldn't, that may chase away politics-weary readers who would otherwise get a lot out of a book like this, one that may be an absolute eye-opener.