African American Politics
Kendra A. King ’94
What better time to publish a comprehensive study of African-American politics than on the heels of the election of the nation’s first African-American president? President Barack Obama’s elevation to the country’s highest elected office was a watershed moment but also the latest development in a political journey that, as Kendra King demonstrates, is even more complex than most Americans realize.
King, associate professor of politics at Oglethorpe University, explores the challenges of the relationship between African Americans and politics, introducing readers to the reality and remnants of Jim Crow, forces at work in the post-civil rights era, the obstacles to African-American political participation, and the revelatory difference between symbolic and substantive politics. (The comparison of presidents Nixon and Clinton is particularly interesting).
The book plumbs polling and U.S. census data, the political stance of hip-hop culture, and the true power in Congress, among other sources, to provide a picture that is both compelling and sometimes startling. King, in the introduction, says her aim in the book is the same as her mission in the classroom: to provide “a laboratory of genuine dialogue, exchange, exposure, and uplift as I seek to take my students on a journey of intellectual empowerment and emancipation.”
Readers can expect the same.
Jane Brox ’78
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2010)
One-word review? “Illuminating.”
Not just the fascinating and thorough history of how, over millennia, the lives of men and women were transformed by tallow and oil lamps, then gaslights, and finally electric bulbs. It is also an illuminating glimpse into the mind of a writer steeped in the liberal arts, curious about every aspect, open to a serendipity that launches delightful digressions.
Brox established herself as a writer of lyrical nonfiction grounded in New England farm and family life. Brilliant shifts to the social history of the technology of artificial lighting. She begins in the caves of Lascaux, in southern France, and draws a convincing portrait of primitive humans drawing cave art by the light of tallow lamps.
She describes ominous nights in cities before outdoor lighting, noting that the word “nightlife” did not exist until the mid-19th century. She introduces Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, churns through the development of hydropower at Niagara Falls, and shows her agrarian roots discussing rural U.S. electrification in the mid-20th century. “Electricity changed the country way of living,” said a Pennsylvania farmer whom she quotes. “It put the country people more on a par with the city people.”
In her serpentine narrative, Brox winds from Lascaux to Conakry, Guinea, where kids nightly flock from their dark homes to the international airport to study in bright parking lots. And in America two thirds of the people can no longer see the Milky Way because of light pollution. Is it possible, she asks, that “we are hampered more by brilliance than our ancestors ever were by the dark”? —S.B.C.
Asia’s Flying Geese: How Regionalization Shapes Japan
Walter F. Hatch (government)
Cornell University Press (2010)
The title of Associate Professor Walter Hatch’s new book refers to a metaphor applied in Japan to Asia’s flock of national economies. As the “lead goose” during the region’s economic boom of the 1990s, Japan and its highly developed economy supplied capital, technology, and know-how to lesser geese: Singapore and South Korea. Making up the rest of the flock’s V-shaped formation were Thailand, Malaysia, and other less developed economies.
From an interdisciplinary perspective, Hatch shows how Japan’s political and economic elites benefited from their country’s lead status, sharing Japan’s model of capitalism. The flock was disrupted by the economic decline in Japan in the late 1990s, the associated disruption of East Asia’s dependent economies, and the rise of the People’s Republic of China. Now, Hatch demonstrates, Japan, like the rest of Asia, is a very different place. There are lessons here for anyone interested in the effect of globalization on national economies.
Mark Radcliffe ’93
While Mark Radcliffe ’93 busily went about his life—travel writing and teaching English—he also made music. He eventually focused on songwriting and began playing clubs in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. In 2009 he teamed up with Rob Giles of The Rescues to create The Sea Before Us, Radcliffe’s first studio release.
A lush blend of 11 songs, The Sea Before Us is an acoustic pop-rock collection with echoes of Jack Johnson, Duncan Shiek, and Chris Isaak. But Radcliffe has his own distinct sound with a soothing voice, heartfelt lyrics, and solid instrumentation that fuse into melodic songs that stay with you.
From the opening song, “In The Sun,” a bright, romantic piece, to “Tumbleweed,” with a gorgeous piano opening and a powerful chorus, to the breezy “Santa Monica Daze,” The Sea Before Us confirms Radcliffe as a talented singer songwriter and supple musician. This is a CD you’ll reach for often, and before long you will know the songs by heart.
Radcliffe, from Auburn, Maine, launched a fall tour in September. True to his roots, he opened in Portland and shared the stage with singer songwriter Jason Spooner ’95. Radcliffe may be a self-described late bloomer but The Sea Before Us is a welcome addition to folk and pop-rock collections everywhere. —L.M.
Sand and Gravel
Sam Otis Hill & Co. (Sam [Otis] Hainer ’96)
In the liner notes of Sand and Gravel, Sam Hainer ’96 thanks Colby voice instructor Elizabeth Patches, with whom he studied classical voice for four years. An odd notation, perhaps, as Sand and Gravel sits squarely in the country music genre.
From Patches, Hainer learned technique and stage presence. He also studied music theory and sang with the Colby Chorale and Collegium. Back in his dorm room, however, he soaked up the music his Texan roommate played: Jerry Jeff Walker and Steve Earle.
Named after Sam Cooke and Otis Redding (he adopted “Hill” as a stage name) Hainer once fronted The Billies and hosted the Boston City Limits Festival. His latest project, Sand and Gravel, contains 10 outlaw country songs with titles like “Ballad of the Kirkland Cafe,” “Conman,” and “My Texan Friend.” Hainer’s polished, steady voice leads a four-man band that includes a versatile fiddle player and commanding lead guitarist. Together they produce toe-tapping, beer-drinking music infused with ’60s soul and folk music. Join their CD release party at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Mass.,November 20.
Thank you, Elizabeth Patches. —L.M.