I enjoy reading nonfiction, recommending it, and using it in storytimes and programming. Hosting Nonfiction Monday on the Fourth of July seemed to call for something special. At first I was thinking of something red, white, and blue — patriotic and celebratory. But I also wanted a book that makes an impact, and I started thinking about freedom and what it means to be free. In May I attended the International Reading Association conference and had the good fortune to hear Susan Campbell Bartoletti, along with a group of remarkable authors, speak about They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010).
Confession: I remember seeing this book when it first came out, and recognizing its’ importance, and feeling certain that it was a quality work, while not being all that eager to read it. I grew up in the South. I felt I knew all I wanted to about the KKK. Not that I knew that much, as it turns out, but when you grow up in the South you learn your Civil War history pretty well. Or at least one version of history. And I thought I knew enough about the KKK — a group that spews hate? Well, I didn’t feel like I really needed to know more.
And then I heard Bartoletti speak. About the importance of remembering. Even about things we’d rather forget. About the danger of silence. We have to remember so that they don’t happen again. It seems barely conceivable that such a group could exist, could thrive even, in a country dedicated to freedom. But it did — and does. It was chilling to hear Bartoletti talk about attending a recent KKK convention. Freedom, even in the United States, is not guaranteed. It is something to be valued and guarded — never taken for granted.
The story of the KKK is closely tied to the story of the South after the Civil War. To the Reconstruction period and all the misconceptions and corruption that went along with that part of history. It is linked to the myth of the Old South, the romantic notion of what was lost as a result of the Civil War. It is the story of racism in America, a story that is still unfolding. It is the story of ignorance, some of which has yet to be overcome. It is brutal, yet Bartoletti does manage to end on a hopeful note. She quotes Frederick Douglass in my favorite passage from the book, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress . . . those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” (150)
This book is a model of good nonfiction, including a Civil Rights Time Line, detailed quote attributions, and a thorough bibliography of source notes. I also really appreciated the quotes from many people interviewed about their experiences coupled with their photographs and the many illustrations from periodicals of the time, like Harper’s Weekly. Here is Bartoletti talking about her research:
You can also read more on the author’s website: http://www.scbartoletti.com/?page_id=5
If you have a post for Nonfiction Monday, just leave the link in the comments below. I’ll be updating this post throughout the day (in between the parade and the fair downtown, so thanks for your patience.) And Happy 4th of July!
From MsMac: I am traveling but I have the post for tomorrow done at my site. Could you please link: http://maclibrary.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/nonfiction-monday-i-like-vegetables/ Thanks for hosting NF Monday.
From Brenda at ProseandKahn: My contribution is Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot by Anita Silvey with amazing paintings by Wendell Minor. Here’s the link: http://proseandkahn.livejournal.com/238009.html.
From Kim: Wild About Nature blog reviews Honk, Honk, Goose! Canada Geese Start a Family by April Pulley Sayre. http://wildaboutnaturewriters.blogspot.com/2011/07/nonfiction-monday-honk-honk-goose.html Happy 4th! Thanks for hosting this week!
At Abby the Librarian, I have a review of The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution by Jim Murphy. http://www.abbythelibrarian.com/2011/07/crossing.html Thanks for hosting, and Happy Independence Day!!
From Jennifer: I have a review of Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson
http://jeanlittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2011/07/nonfiction-monday-sugar-changed-world.html Thanks for hosting!
From Shirley Duke: I have April Pulley Sayre’s Rah Rah Radishes A Vegetable Chant at SimplyScience today. I love all of her books. Thank you for hosting on this holiday Monday!
From Roberta: Happy Fourth of July! Today at Wrapped In Foil, I pulled out Bonnie Christensen’s Fabulous: A Portrait of Andy Warhol for a change of pace http://blog.wrappedinfoil.com/2011/07/fabulous-a-portrait-of-andy-warhol/ Your book review is a nice holiday tie-in with the freedom theme.
From Rebecca: Thanks for hosting! And Happy 4th to you! Over at the Joy of Literacy, I reviewed a classic children’s book, People by Peter Spier:
From Janet Squires: Thanks for hosting.
In honor of our American holiday, I’ve selected “Ballet for Martha : making Appalachian Spring” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan with illustration by Brian Floca. http://janetsquires.blogspot.com/2011/07/nonfiction-monday.html
From Sondy: Thanks for hosting! I’m finally participating with a review of Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming. Here’s the link: http://sonderbooks.com/blog/?p=3691