The Local Gift Guide: Books

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Books

The journalists, novelists and academics who contribute to the aggregate picture of the Gate City in 27 Views of Greensboro create the impression of a place that’s always been both fractured and diverse. There’s the old Greensboro, as portrayed by Logie Meachum’s reminiscence about the ’60s R&B stars who stayed at the segregated Magnolia Hotel or Diya Abdo’s reflecting on life as a Palestinian-American mother and academic in a city where the rarest of Arabic delicacies can be found at Super G Mart and a particular apartment complex is known as Saudi Central. Contributions from Fred Chappell, Michael Parker, Ed Cone, Lorraine Ahearn, Allen Johnson, Jeri Rowe and Valerie Nieman fill out this volume. (Get a copy at amazon.com.)

Buffalo, NY is the setting for Greg Shemkovitz’s debut novel, but the Elon University creative-writing teacher lives in Greensboro and wrote the first draft of Lot Boy as his MFA thesis at UNCG. The engrossing novel, a brisk read at 265 pages, tells the story of Eddie Lanning, a maladjusted teenage sociopath — aren’t they all? — who grows up in the culturally confined world of a Ford dealership and embarks on a path of fraud and petty crime as he seeks to sort out his relationship with his ailing father. (Visit sunnyoutside.com to buy a copy.)

Poems about suicide from various vantage points may not exactly summon the requisite holiday cheer, but then again for a particular kind of recipient — maybe a friend in recovery who likes to keep things real as everyone else takes leave of their sanity — Rebecca Foust’s Paradise Drive might be just the thing. “Tell me… where to find/ the manual that tells how to respond/ to the loved child who from his snug bed/ whispers, I wish I were dead, Mom?/ Tell me, Dr. Spock, what do about that,/what does a mother f***ing do about that?” Foust writes in one of the poems in this collection published by Press 53. That’s just one example of the heavy lifting that the Winston-Salem publishing house is known for.

No less substantial, though probably more hospitable, is Hotel Worthy, a collection of poems by Greensboro’s Valerie Nieman. “The Guide: Cave Paintings at Font de Gaume” provides a good example of Nieman’s gifts for observation and perspective: “Ignore those childish scratchings,/ please. See the mammoth, here,/ the aurochs’ curving horns./ So long ago, yet those artists understood/ perspective; this leg is clearly behind that one./ How long until we learned that again?/ Centuries.” (Visit press53.com to peruse Paradise Drive, Hotel Worthy and other titles.)

If there’s an uncle in the family who loves John Prine or is otherwise enamored with the early ’70s troubadours who laid the groundwork for Americana, then you most definitely can’t go wrong with Burlington music writer Eddie Huffman’s unauthorized biography. The subject declined to cooperate for John Prine: In Spite of Himself, but there was plenty of archival material available to flesh out the biography of one of the most revealing, literary singer-songwriters of the last 50 years. (Get your copy at utexaspress.com.)

Shrimp was a fitting topic for Chef Jay Pierce earlier this year when he was running the show at Rocksalt, Charlotte’s sustainable seafood restaurant; he’s since returned to Greensboro to serve as head chef at the Marshall Free House. There are recipes for every meal and occasion in this cookbook, which is part of the Savor the South series. But the introduction, which includes a history of the shrimping industry on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts along with Pierce’s reminiscences of hauls with his family, might be the most compelling part of the book. If you know someone who is a fan of Pierce’s cuisine — and they’re an intensely loyal cohort — they need this book. (Visit uncpress.unc.edu to order your copy.)

Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford, two Triad-raised political radicals who now live in Durham are the authors of Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South. Published by a California-based anarchist press, the collection tells seven stories from a slave rebellion in the Great Dismal Swamp and the coalfields of eastern Tennessee to a 1975 uprising at NC Correctional Center for Women. (Order it at akpress.org.)

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