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Reggie Reads: November 2010

Illinois State is proud to be able to acknowledge the work of graduates who are successful authors. If you’ve written a book, submit it for review by Professor Emerita of English JoAnna Stephens Mink ’73, M.S. ’75, D.A. ’85. Your book will be added to a collection of work by other alums and faculty on display in the Alumni Center. Autographed copies are especially appreciated. Please send your book to Illinois State editor Susan Blystone at Illinois State Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main Street, Normal, IL 61790. Inquiries can be sent to sjblyst@ilstu.edu.

Leatherman, Lyndell.  Best-Loved Hymns I: A Practical Anthology for Church and Home.

Ft. Lauderdale: The FJH Music Co., 2010. 161pp.

 

Summary. Best-Loved Hymns I is an anthology of intermediate keyboard arrangements of 75 hymns most commonly included in a wide spectrum of American hymnals published since 1970.  Hymns have been used since the early days of Christianity, explains Leatherman in his Foreword, to reinforce and spread doctrine and faith. The New Testament contains a number of hymn fragments. Putting the words to a melody aids in memorization, of a creed, for instance. A supplementary feature of this book is the brief paragraph preceding each hymn of its historical background.

In addition to providing the expected information (composer, dates, national origin, etc.), many of Leatherman’s discussions include lesser-known but interesting details, written in an engaging style. For example, about the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” he explains that “Thomas O. Chisholm (1866-1960) was an American by birth, a Methodist by rebirth, and a life insurance agent by career choice.” The hymn was often featured on WMBI (the Moody Bible Institute radio station), featuring the singing talents of George Beverly Shea, who “introduced the hymn to British audiences during a series of crusades by a young evangelist named Billy Graham, and it quickly became a favorite there too.”

Biographical information about Ray Palmer, who wrote the lyrics for “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” adds to our enjoyment of this familiar hymn. Forced by his family’s poverty to leave school at age 13, Palmer had the good fortune to have his intelligence and devoutness recognized by his pastor, who helped him attend Phillips Andover Academy, from which he graduated, then Yale University. Palmer served for 30 years as a Congregational minister.

Paging through Best-Loved Hymns takes one back to years of singing in Sunday School, church, and at other gatherings. From “Faith of Our Fathers” to “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” to “Joy to the World,” readers will find hymns old and new, making this anthology a welcome supplement to home and church libraries. This anthology includes a Table of Contents by title, three indices (by hymn tunes; by authors, translators, and composers; and by topics, seasons, and occasions). Two pages of guitar chord diagrams conclude the book.

When completed, the Best-Loved Hymns series will have at least six volumes, making it a comprehensive hymnody reference library in addition to its value as a resource for service music.

About the Author. Lyndell Leatherman, M.M. ’77, is a freelance composer, arranger, music editor, and engraver. He serves as pianist and orchestrator-in-residence at First Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri, where he resides.

Castle, Mort. Moon on the Water.

New York: Dorchester Publishing, 2002. 300pp.

Castle, Mort. The Strangers.

Hiram, Georgia: Overlook Connection Press, 2005. 260pp.

 

Summary. Moon on the Water is a collection of 22 short stories wherein Mort Castle demonstrates his proficiency of the genre. Many are written from the first-person point of view or, like the three-page “FDR: A Love Story,” include poetic elements as a tribute to the president’s guidance to the nation during the Depression. “Dani’s Story” incorporates several narrative forms, opening with a letter from “Mort Castle,” using first-person omniscient prose narration, as well as lines of poetry.

Although Castle is considered a master of horror, many stories in Moon on the Water do not fall into that genre. For instance, “Altenmoor, Where the Dogs Dance” is a poignant story where a boy’s learning to accept the death of his dog Rusty helps him when his grandfather dies soon after.

“At that moment of complete understanding, the younger man cut Fred Harley’s throat.” Thus ends the short Prologue to Castle’s The Stranger. The novel was originally published in 1984, and reissued in paperback in 2005. The protagonist is Michael Louden, a typical young American husband and father, mowing the lawn of his suburban home. He works hard at his boring job in order to provide for his family. But Michael seethes with furious impatience for the coming of the Time of the Strangers, when he and millions like him will reveal their true selves as Strangers to a horrified, helpless world. There will be meaningless torture and senseless murder. Rivers and streets will run red with blood (www.fantasticfiction.co.uk).

Compared to Stephen King and Dean Koontz as writers of horror and to Ernest Hemingway in prose style, Castle builds character, setting, and atmosphere in this acclaimed novel.

Both Moon on the Water and The Strangers have been translated into Polish and were cited by Newsweek (Poland) as two of “the best books published in Poland in 2008.” The Strangers has been optioned for a film directed by Rick Rosenthal and Whitewater Films (letter from author).

About the Author. Mort Castle is a 1968 English alumnus who has published hundreds of short stories and a dozen books. Many have been translated into several languages. They have been nominated for several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Pushcart Prize (four times), and the Bram Stoker Award (seven times). “I am a teacher who writes. I am a writer who teaches” explains Castle on his website. He presently lives in Crete.

Snyder, Sandy. New Orleans Dogs Allowed. Illus. Susie Ferrenburg.

Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2008. 60pp.

 

Summary. New Orleans Dogs Allowed, Sandy Snyder’s first published children’s book, tells the stories about two dogs left homeless by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is a natural topic for Snyder, since she adopted a Katrina dog.

Book 1 describes Ginger, a two-year-old Border Collie living with the Green family in New Orleans. When residents are encouraged to leave the city, the Greens debate where to evacuate, finally deciding to go to family in Memphis. They could not take Ginger to their relative’s small apartment, so they decide to put her in a kennel not far from their home. Of course, while the Green family drive to safety, things get progressively worse for poor Ginger. The kennel owner takes her to an overcrowded animal shelter in New Orleans. She is then transported to a shelter in the Midwest, where she is renamed Cheyenne and adopted by an older couple. Cheyenne spends that Christmas in her new, happy home, while the Greens, now back in New Orleans, have a new puppy.

Book 2 is about Percival, a one-year-old Beagle puppy, living with his family in Gulf Coast Mississippi. Several pages describe Percival’s playfulness, but he is afraid of loud noises so runs off during the Fourth of July fireworks. He ends up in an animal shelter but is returned to his family. The end of August, as the family prepares to evacuate because Hurricane Katrina is approaching, Percival again runs away. But the family must leave—now. Fortunately a rescue worker spots Percival floating on a door from a house. The family has resettled in Jackson but, amazingly, finds Percival listed on the internet.

These two stories are not only about two dogs. We learn how two families coped differently with taking care of their pets during this disaster. We also learn about rescue workers, conditions at animal shelters, and the stress on both humans and dogs. Luckily, and appropriately for a children’s book, both endings are happy. But the stories about Ginger/Cheyenne and Percival lead us to wonder about pets who were not so fortunate, thus providing an opportunity for children to learn about the ramifications of decisions made in adversity.

About the Author.  Sandy (Rohman) Snyder completed an elementary education degree in 1960. She taught elementary education in Olympia School District 16. Now retired, she  resides in Bloomington.

About the Illustrator. Susan (Mossberg) Ferrenburg earned an art teacher education degree in 1991. She is employed as an elementary art teacher in Unit 5 in Normal, where she resides.

Cable, Ted T. and LuAnn M. Cadden. Driving Across Missouri: A Guide to I-70.

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010. 162pp.

 

Summary. In Driving Across Missouri, Ted Cable and LuAnn Cadden provide a plethora of details about the State of Missouri (why it’s called the “Show Me State,” for example) and a mile-by-mile description of what motorists will find between St. Louis and Kansas City along I-70. What, one wonders, can these coauthors say about this long expanse of interstate. What is different between highway marker 80.0 and 78.0?

We learn that at marker 79.4 is a poultry farm, as well as details about how chicks are raised (they must be hand-fed for the first four days) until they are shipped to the Tyson plant in Sedalia, Missouri. The quarry at highway marker 78.0 is one of more than 900 quarries worldwide owned by the LaFarge Corporation. Between 2000 and 3000 tons of rock are removed per day from this quarry. Moreover, at highway marker 77.0, we can see limestone layers. A detailed description of the limestone, which one cannot discern from a moving car, follows.

An explanation of what agronomists do signals highway marker 159.0. At 158.0 we learn about the development of the big hay bales which can be seen from our car windows, while the purpose of farm ponds informs us about the one at 155.0. But not all facts pertain to farming or landscape. The Winston Churchill Memorial in Fulton (taking Exit 148 near marker 150.0) is placed where he made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in 1946 to a crowd of 25,000 people.

The journey across Missouri ends near the junction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, but not so this book. In the second part of Driving Across Missouri, we drive from west to east with similarly detailed descriptions, practically mile by mile, of the history and the sights along I-70. These are just a few examples of the kind of information provided in Driving Across Missouri. Clearly, the authors are enthusiastic about their subject. Cable coauthored a similar book on driving across Kansas on I-70.

The authors’ goal is “to slow things down a bit for you on fast-paced I-70 so that you, through our stories, may enjoy the history, the people, and the landscape, while at the same time speed up a long trip by filling your time with stories that interpret the spirit of Missouri.” Serious history buffs as well as casual readers will find fascinating bits of information which will make driving the 251 miles of interstate more enjoyable.

Driving Across Missouri includes a bibliography, list of relevant Web sources, a detailed index, as well as an extensive list of persons interviewed who provided information included in this guide.

About the Coauthor. LuAnn (Aiello) Cadden completed an English degree in 1993. She is a freelance writer and naturalist who has worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation. She and her husband Mike Cadden, D.A. ’96 in English, reside in St. Joseph, Missouri. This is her first book.

Fox, Rebecca and William Sherman. Measure by Measure.

Nashville: Pearlsong Press, 2009. 384pp.

 

Summary. Before being published in book form, Measure by Measure was introduced by Rebecca Fox and William Sherman as a serialized soap opera in Dimensions magazine online. This novel was inspired by Armistead Maupine’s San Francisco tales and their local chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, fictionalized as RADFAm (Respect And Dignity for Fat Americans).

Described as “A romantic romp with the fabulously fat,” the novel’s quirky cast of characters depicts the struggles and triumphs of size esteem communities. Plot twists involve intrigue and romantic entanglements. The book opens with a typical social dilemma, dowdy Jenny’s hesitancy at going to the Sweetheart Dance, but she is encouraged by her boss. “I pack 220 pounds in this compact chassis,” exclaims Lissa, who points Jenny in the right direction towards self-confidence. At the Figs ‘n’ Dates Lounge, Jenny meets Paul and several other men who want to dance with her. She’s amazed to be chosen over the many other full-figured women at this RADFAm event. Paul, however, is enamored of Connie, who describes herself as being “beyond the range of most mainstream plus-sized shops” (7).

Episodic intrigues fill this novel. Interspersed are more serious observations as characters comment on the difficulties of negotiating physical space in a world designed for smaller sized people. (Stalls in women’s restrooms are particularly challenging.) More significant are their trials when encountering prejudice against them as Fat Americans. For instance, Misty addresses a meeting of RADFAm: “I wanted to say how much this chapter has meant to me. … It’s being in the same room with so many beautiful fat women and men. It’s being in a place where I’m not the Fat Girl. Here, I’m one of many. Being in this group has given me such encouragement to feel okay about myself” (125).

And Misty’s newly found self-confidence is part of what drives this book, the idea that plus-sized people want and deserve the same opportunities to develop their careers and their social lives as the rest of society. While many of their current fears are the result of past discrimination related to their size, they crave acceptance for themselves, as individuals and as a group.

Fox and Sherman say that Measure by Measure has been a labor of love. In their Afterwards, Becky remembers the “short-sighted, small-minded, insensitive clones” who teased and taunted her because of her size. Ironically, they compelled her to move beyond, to develop her own sense of dignity, and to write about it. Bill adds that working on this book “with my lovely wife has been a heady experience.”

About the Authors. Rebecca Fox and William Sherman, ’72, M.S. ’74 English degrees and M.S. ’93 in human services education, established a chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) in Central Illinois. They have coauthored romantic and fantasy fiction, as well as critical essays and reviews on body esteem and pop culture. Fox has spoken on size acceptance to college students and younger children. They currently live in Safford, Arizona.

Phillips, Joshua Daniel. 1,800 Miles: Striving to End Sexual Violence, One Step at a Time.

New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2010. 171pp.

 

Summary. In the summer of 2008, three college friends walked from Miami to Boston in order to raise awareness about sexual violence. 1,800 Miles is about their walk. Joshua Phillips explains his reasons for writing this book in his Introduction. More important than simply to record his accomplishment is his sense of responsibility to put down the stories and experiences shared by the people he encountered. His hope is to bring “attention, understanding, and compassion to all those affected by sexual violence.”

The first chapter “Walk” begins appropriately with a whimsical photograph of three pairs of walking shoes on three pairs of legs. The message in this chapter is serious, however. Sexual violence, defined as “any act where sexual dominance is the goal to be achieved through power and control,” may be “the single most indiscriminate act in U. S. American culture” (6). These three (two women and Phillips) pondered how to address this problem, usually categorized as a “women’s issue” and marginalized in our male-dominated society.

Following a brief overview of the reasons for and effects of sexual violence in our society (there is a very limited Influential Readings at the back of the book), Phillips describes the genesis of the walk. It had to be accomplished during the 100 days of summer break from classes, and walking 20 miles per day yielded 2000 miles, a distance they considered reasonable. They planned to walk from Miami to Boston, choosing Boston simply because they could get reasonably priced flights to Detroit from there in time for the opening of fall semester.

The first 10 days were the most grueling, not only in terms of feet-and-leg pain but also in the three becoming accustomed to being together, to becoming partners in this trek. They learned about themselves and their capacities—and on the sixth day, stopped at a UPS store to ship back over half of the belongings in their backpacks. They learned about others. A“mean and dismissive” deaconess would not allow them to set up their tent in the church gym.

But a friendly waitress in a greasy diner, who confided that her daughter was raped at age 12, reminded Phillips why he had begun advocacy work: for the survivors of sexual violence. Any media notice this trio may achieve was to bring to attention the many who silently endure the after-effects of the violence which has been done to them.  “Please embrace the message tighter than you embrace the messenger,” pleads Phillips.

The people whose stories are related in Phillips’ engaging voice make 1,800 Miles an enthralling narration of 100 days of summer break. Walking the East Coast was about changing people’s attitudes: “Those of us who understand the cultural pervasiveness of sexual violence cannot allow ourselves to become silent because silence only communicates our acceptance with the status quo” (167).

About the Author. Joshua Phillips is an alumnus of ISU’s University High School. Throughout his undergraduate and graduate work, he was an advocate, working at a homeless shelter and running after-school programs. Currently living in Southern Illinois, he is a volunteer, an advocate, a community member, and an educator (end matter).

Dunn, Charles W.  The Scarlet Thread of Scandal: Morality and the American Presidency.

Lanham and Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000.  209pp.

Dunn, Charles W.  The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership: An Introduction to the American Presidency.

Upper Saddle River: Pearson, Prentice-Hall, 2007.  260pp.

 

Summary. What role should morality play in the decision-making of the president of the United States, one of the most powerful elected officials in the world? This is the question which Charles W. Dunn explored in his first book (1975) and prompted The Scarlet Thread of Scandal. His method is to examine White House scandals throughout presidential history, using anecdotes to illustrate his analysis.

The book is divided into seven chapters: The Scarlet Thread of Scandal, The Moral Kaleidoscope, Origins of Moral Conflict in the Modern Era, Presidential Scandal in a Golden Age 1932-1960, Tarnishing the Golden Age 1961-1975, Postmodern Presidential Morality, and The Seamless Garment of Morality. Notes and a detailed Index aid the reader who wishes to focus on a particular era. Although he cites examples from every administration from Washington through Clinton, there is a disproportionate emphasis on recent presidencies, as Dunn acknowledges.

Strategies which presidents employ during scandals are: delay, deny, discredit, deflect, and diminish. Nixon failed during Watergate, but Clinton survived Whitewater because he employed this five-fold strategy (5). The public’s expectations of a president’s personal morals greatly determine his success. For example, George W. Bush offered “a highly moral persona,” while Clinton confessed to using marijuana and “causing pain in his marriage” (9).

This book, Dunn explains in his Preface to The Scarlet Thread of Scandal, “continues a professional lifetime of writing on American government and politics, integrating and applying much of what I have written in earlier books.” Conversely, The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership presents “traditional information through an innovative method that sparks student interest and increases teaching options for the instructor” (vi).

More than 30 years of teaching and writing inform this text, which includes extensive chapter notes, comprehensive bibliographies on each president (through George W. Bush), and appendices. The book is divided by Laws of: History, Rhetoric, Theory, Culture, Morality, Politics, and Management, allowing the student and instructor great flexibility.

About the Author. Charles W. Dunn completed a degree in social sciences education in 1962. He is dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University, and resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The author of several books, he has served in many political posts, including as a special assistant to the minority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and chief of staff to a U.S. Senator from New York. He was a member and chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board under presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton (dust jacket).

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