April 23, 2021

A Biography of the Reconstruction Era President

From the publisher:

How do you remove an unpopular president from office?

On February 24, 1868, members of the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson on thirteen separate charges of having committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the government and the people.

In this impressive biography, Noel B. Gerson examines how these extraordinary events came about, the circumstances leading up to it, and the aftermath of a trial that was unique in the history of the country.

Born into poverty and with no formal education, Johnson rose to prominence through perseverance and hard work. Entering politics, he became an adept stump speaker, championing the common man and vilifying the plantation aristocracy. Nominally a Democrat, who advocated free homesteads and education for all, he was soon to discover that not all agreed with his desire to see the nation reunited under the Constitution, as it had been before the Civil War.

Sworn in as seventeenth President of the United States following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Johnson faced the enormous task of presiding over the tumultuous first years of Reconstruction, a task made harder by his enemies, notably radical Republicans Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner and Edwin Stanton, who turned the tide of support against him and were instrumental in the campaign to disgrace Johnson and drive him from office.

By utilizing a wealth of primary sources, including quoted speeches, letters and press articles, Gerson masterfully portrays a sympathetic national figure devoted to his country and the Constitution, who escaped conviction by a single vote and went on to achieve a level of popularity he had never before known.

The Trial of Andrew Johnson is an ideal read for those who wish to find out more about the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson and his fight for vindication against the radical Republicans in the United States Congress.

Noel B. Gerson was a prodigious author of many books, the majority of which were historical. He was an unabashed patriot with a great deal of his books concerned with U.S. history.  Among his better known works are “55 Days at Peking,” the “Naked Maja,” and the “Swamp Fox.”

The “Trial of Andrew Johnson” was first published in 1977 and brings to light a figure previously not greatly touched upon in American history. Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the U.S. and as the vice president during Abraham Lincoln’s term ascended to the office when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated.      

Like Lincoln before him, Johnson came from a very poor family and lifted himself up by his own bootstraps, teaching himself how to read and write. He got into politics and made a stump speaker out of himself. Rising through a progression of offices for his home state of Tennessee he was selected by Lincoln to run as his vice president and held that office during the tumultuous years of the Civil war and until elevated to the presidency by Lincoln’s assassination.      

After the cessation of hostilities Johnson championed the reentrance of those states that had seceded as part of the Confederacy with no penalty providing that affidavits of loyalty be signed by residents and elected officials as conditions of acceptance back into the union. He faced a large group of members of Congress that wanted to lay blame for the war and charge reparations to the seceding states. When Johnson could not be moved from his position the never before use of impeachment with an ensuing trial and forced removal from office was started by those that demanded blame be placed on the recalcitrant states.     

Gerson’s forte was the writing of historical fact in a manner that made reading his books almost a work of enjoying a good novel while learning about the area the author was touching upon. It would be interesting to read again or for the first time those books that are reissued.  His writing is not dated and would appeal to all that enjoy a good historical book.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE TRIAL OF ANDREW JOHNSON by Noel B. Gerson. Sapere Books (March 8, 2021). ISBN: 978-1800551015. 138 pages.






THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR by Ellen Marie Wiseman

August 12, 2020


A Heroic Novel of Survival During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

From the publisher:

From the internationally bestselling author of What She Left Behind comes a gripping and powerful tale of upheaval—a heartbreaking saga of resilience and hope perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams and Kristin Hannah—set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak—the deadly pandemic that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population…

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.

Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”

Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.

Ellen Marie Wiseman presents her readers with the most hard-hitting and well-researched novel that it has been my pleasure to read. It provides a microcosmic view of a worldwide pandemic that devastated the world right on the heels of the First World War. The Spanish Flu, as it was termed, actually surpassed the deaths of the combatants in its mortality rate. Beginning in 1918 as the war was winding down towards its end, the first “wave” of the disease began and continued in two additional waves before it had run its course.

Wiseman uses two women living in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area during the period of the outbreak and spread of the flu as the principal characters of the novel. The first is a young girl of 13 who is faced with the most horrible situation that any human can encounter. Pia Lange is the daughter of a family that emigrated from Germany before the war began. In order to convince people that he was not a traitor Pia’s father enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to France and life in the trenches. Pia’s mother was forced to handle the family’s problems, tending to Pia and two twin baby brothers. There was very little social network support in those days and her mother was destroyed by both her work in the apartment they lived in as well as having to bring in money. When the lady died from being run down and contracting the flu, Pia had to take her place. Wiseman’s descriptions of Pia’s struggles and problems are heartbreaking when she is used as an example of how orphans were treated in the past.

Bernice Groves is the other woman involved in the story. She has just had her baby pass away due to the disease and is understandably devastated by it. Bernice sees Pia leaving her building one day and makes a decision that will affect both women and the near future course of their lives. The decision and its consequences are the gist of the story and the means of writing about the effect the flu has on everyone living at the time of the event. Wiseman is extremely effective in fleshing out the characters that take part in the novel and the personal agonies that they suffer in trying to survive a disease that seems to have no end in sight.

8/2020 Paul Lane

THE ORPHAN COLLECTOR by Ellen Marie Wiseman. Kensington (August 4, 2020). ISBN: 978-1496715869. 304 pages.



BATTLE STATIONS by Roger Jewett & Irving A. Greenfield

May 12, 2020


US Navy Historical Thrillers, Book 1

From the publisher:

A heart-stoppingly realistic military thriller

An authentic naval thriller series you don’t want to miss! Perfect for fans of Patrick O’Brian, Alexander Fullerton, C. S Forester and Alexander Kent.

Lives are changed forever in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor…


Andrew Troost, heir to generations of naval tradition, has just been made admiral, when reports fly in of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Troost’s son, Warren, has followed in his footsteps and is one of the men fighting for his country on a PT boat in the Pacific.

In New York City, Tony Trapasso hears the call to action and gets ready to join the naval action.

With him is Jacob Miller, a young man choosing to become a naval pilot instead of following the rabbinical calling of his Jewish forebears.

They meet Glen Lascomb, a fresh-faced youth, raised on an Iowa farm, who is about to be catapulted into a sea of flaming oil in the Leyte Gulf…

This is their story — the saga of heroic Navy men caught in the raging crosscurrents of a war that thrust them together and tore them painfully apart…

BATTLE STATIONS is the first military action and adventure story in the US Navy Historical Thriller series: a heart-pounding international Second World War thriller, encompassing major battles such as Midway and Okinawa.

The author undoubtedly did a good amount of personal interviews with surviving veterans of World War II in order to come out with the very satisfying book that he did just have published. Jewett concentrates on the U.S.Navy and selected fictional characters serving there in order to tell the story of events that occurred during the war.

He begins the novel a little before the outbreak of hostilities for the U.S.  Andrew Troost, a captain in the U.S. Navy, is seconded as liaison with the British Navy prior to his country entering the war.  Troost is aboard a ship moving to become one of the escort vessels for a fleet of tankers and cargo ships sailing to deliver their cargos to an England at war. He experiences the ship that he is on being torpedoed and sunk. He and one other sailor are the only ones surviving the attack.

Returning to duty, Troost is reassigned to an American ship just in time to go through the attack on Pearl Harbor and that begins the story featuring the US Navy and its place in the war in the Pacific.  Other characters introduced include the son of Andrew Troost starting his own career in the navy. At the same time, Andrew Troost is promoted to Rear Admiral.

The son of a gangster in New York City refuses to allow family influence to keep him out of combat. There is the son of a Jewish Rabbi whose family envisioned him becoming a Rabbi and studying for that. He becomes a Naval aviator and finds that he loves flying. Another individual was raised on a farm in Iowa. With them are the women that also take part in the war, either as actual combatants or as lovers of the men described.

Roger Jewett blends all the personnel he has created and made a very powerful story about war and the real effect on the people that take part in it.  No one leaves a war the same as when they enter it.  Jewett does an excellent job of logically bringing this change in all the characters in front of his readers.  We all understand that someone placed in a position of kill or be killed can never emerge from this experience without complete change, and the author does an excellent job of bringing this out.

The novel ends near the final stage of WWII as the U.S. is waiting to invade Okinawa. This may mean that another novel is planned, moving through the last days of the war and possibly touching on the return of the combatants described to civilian life. In any situation that means another Roger Jewett book; I will head the line to pick it up and enjoy it.

5/2020 Paul Lane

BATTLE STATIONS by Roger Jewett & Irving A Greenfield. Sapere Books (April 24, 2020). ISBN: 978-1913518639. 351 p.


THE LAND BEYOND THE SEA by Sharon Kay Penman

March 13, 2020


From the publisher:

From the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Sharon Kay Penman comes the story of the reign of King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s defense against Saladin’s famous army.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as Outremer, is the land far beyond the sea. Baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in the early twelfth century, the kingdom defined an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and a medley of cultures, a place where enemies were neighbors and neighbors became enemies.

At the helm of this growing kingdom sits young Baldwin IV, an intelligent and courageous boy committed to the welfare and protection of his people. But despite Baldwin’s dedication to his land, he is afflicted with leprosy at an early age and the threats against his power and his health nearly outweigh the risk of battle. As political deception scours the halls of the royal court, the Muslim army–led by the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin–is never far from the kingdom’s doorstep, and there are only a handful Baldwin can trust, including the archbishop William of Tyre and Lord Balian d’Ibelin, a charismatic leader who has been one of the few able to maintain the peace.

Filled with drama and battle, tragedy and romance, Sharon Kay Penman’s latest novel brings a definitive period of history vividly alive with a tale of power and glory that will resonate with readers today.

Penman presents a truly monumental portrait of the Kingdom of Jerusalem during a period beginning about the time the first crusade succeeded in opening up the land to Christianity until the city was retaken by the Saracens under the sultan Saladin. The research done by the author is briefly outlined by her in an afterward of the book. And, while it was written as a novel, Penman makes the case for it’s being based on the facts as researched by her and various historians writing about the period.

In order to tell the story as a novel, the author has put words, conversations, and personal feelings into the actions of the novel’s persona and first and foremost that action allows them to become real for the reader. During the period dealt with a young man named Baldwin became king of the area and is depicted as wise beyond his years. He developed leprosy early in his life with the disease affecting him until his untimely death in his 20’s. He is credited with consolidating the territories involved in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and at the same time militarily holding off the constant attacks by the Saracens attempting to recover the lands held by them prior to the first crusade.

There are only a few people that Baldwin can trust, and two of these play leading roles in the book. The first is the archbishop; William of Tyre and the other​ Lord Balian d’Ibelin. Balian rides in support of Baldwin during the battles staged against the invading Saracens and has his personal life including marriage to a member of the royal family become a centerpiece in the novel.
The sultan Saladin plays an important part in the story, as he did during real life as he leads his people into war against those that usurped the lands belonging to them. He was a military genius and while shown as handling the people his armies conquered; killing or selling many into slavery his wisdom at many instances is noteworthy and described by the author.

The novel culminates at the time that Jerusalem is recaptured by Saladin and describes briefly what happens to many people affected by the conquest and who must leave their homes for other places. A brief summary of the presence of King Richard of England, including his capture by Saladin and later ransom by his brother John, ties this book into the legend of Robin Hood which involves the efforts of this picaresque outlaw to free King Richard.

The study of history is subject to interpretation and is really never the result of hard facts. It is, therefore, to Penman’s credit that she has written a history of the period in the packaging of a completely engrossing novel. In either case, it is beyond doubt a five-star work.

3/2020 Paul Lane

THE LAND BEYOND THE SEA by Sharon Kay Penman. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-0399165283. 688p.



THE SECRET GUESTS by Benjamin Black

January 28, 2020


From the publisher:

“When you’re done binge-watching The Crown, pick up this multifaceted wartime thriller.”
Kirkus Reviews

As London endures nightly German bombings, Britain’s secret service whisks the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret from England, seeking safety for the young royals on an old estate in Ireland.

Ahead of the German Blitz during World War II, English parents from every social class sent their children to the countryside for safety, displacing more than three million young offspring. In The Secret Guests, the British royal family takes this evacuation a step further, secretly moving the princesses to the estate of the Duke of Edenmore in “neutral” Ireland.

A female English secret agent, Miss Celia Nashe, and a young Irish detective, Garda Strafford, are assigned to watch over “Ellen” and “Mary” at Clonmillis Hall. But the Irish stable hand, the housemaid, the formidable housekeeper, the Duke himself, and other Irish townspeople, some of whom lost family to English gunshots during the War of Independence, go freely about their business in and around the great house. Soon suspicions about the guests’ true identities percolate, a dangerous boredom sets in for the princesses, and, within and without Clonmillis acreage, passions as well as stakes rise.

Benjamin Black, who has good information that the princesses were indeed in Ireland for a time during the Blitz, draws readers into a novel as fascinating as the nascent career of Miss Nashe, as tender as the homesickness of the sisters, as intriguing as Irish-English relations during WWII, and as suspenseful and ultimately action-packed as war itself.

A known fact about actions by British families taken during the period of the Blitz of London by Germany during World War II was the sending of their children out of the city to the country to escape those raids. Black’s book is an account, which he indicates is substantiated by the information he received, that the Royal family sent their two daughters Elizabeth later Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret out of London for the same reason.

The novel begins with the sending of the girls to Edenmore, a castle located in than neutral Ireland. They were accompanied by Celia Nashe, a British secret service agent, and Garda Strafford, a young Irish detective. In addition, they were protected by a company of soldiers that patrolled the grounds of the estate on a 24 7 basis.

Characterizations are extremely well done beginning with the young Princesses. Two young ladies that have been raised to always project a royal visage but are still girls that are away from home for the first time. They miss their family and feel hemmed in by the constant supervision they are subjected to. While at Edenmore they are to use names other than their real ones and keep their identities secret. Celia wants to do well in this, her first important assignment, but as a pretty young woman is subject to male admiration and her own interest in developing a romantic relationship. Strafford is also a young man involved in his first important assignment. While doing so he struggles with feelings or no feelings towards Celia.

The period described is relatively close to the war of Independence waged between Ireland and England and there are people described that suffered losses during that period to the British army. The author’s style and the story make the novel into one that is read with the reader’s interest kept up wanting to know how it ends.

1/2020 Paul Lane

THE SECRET GUESTS by Benjamin Black. Henry Holt and Co. (January 14, 2020). ISBN 978-1250133014. 304p.



TO THE EDGE OF SORROW by Aharon Appelfeld

January 27, 2020


Translated by Stuart Schoffman

From the publisher:

From “fiction’s foremost chronicler of the Holocaust” (Philip Roth), here is a haunting novel about an unforgettable group of Jewish partisans fighting the Nazis during World War II.

Battling numbing cold, ever-present hunger, and German soldiers determined to hunt them down, four dozen resistance fighters—escapees from a nearby ghetto—hide in a Ukrainian forest, determined to survive the war, sabotage the German war effort, and rescue as many Jews as they can from the trains taking them to concentration camps. Their leader is relentless in his efforts to turn his ragtag band of men and boys into a disciplined force that accomplishes its goals without losing its moral compass. And so when they’re not raiding peasants’ homes for food and supplies, or training with the weapons taken from the soldiers they have ambushed and killed, the partisans read books of faith and philosophy that they have rescued from abandoned Jewish homes, and they draw strength from the women, the elderly, and the remarkably resilient orphaned children they are protecting. When they hear about the advances being made by the Soviet Army, the partisans prepare for what they know will be a furious attack on their compound by the retreating Germans. In the heartbreaking aftermath, the survivors emerge from the forest to bury their dead, care for their wounded, and grimly confront a world that is surprised by their existence—and profoundly unwelcoming.

Narrated by seventeen-year-old Edmund—a member of the group who maintains his own inner resolve with memories of his parents and their life before the war—this powerful story of Jews who fought back is suffused with the riveting detail that Aharon Appelfeld was uniquely able to bring to his award-winning novels.

The novel is a well-done story of people forced by circumstances beyond their control into a horror beyond any one’s dreams, or probably nightmares. It is told in the first person by a young boy named Edmund, who at 17 years of age is swept mercilessly from the life of a student living peacefully with his loving parents into the role of a killer.

The story begins with Edmund and his parents being forced by their captors into boarding a train. The train is to take the family to a concentration camp and the captors are German soldiers under the orders of Adolf Hitler. Edmund is told by his parents to run away from the train and hide someplace. He does so due to the prodding by his mother and father and in his traveling away meets a group of other people, all Jews that are seeking to hide from the soldiers.

The style of the narration by Edmund and reactions of other people in the group that he meets and joins is blase and describes the horrors they live with in a manner that makes them just everyday occurrences. In traveling away from the enemy and their own city, they settle on an elevated area and convert it into a defensive position. A member of the group begins drilling them in order to convert peaceful people into a group that can use weapons and fight against soldiers hunting them. They begin raiding homes and farmhouses in the area around them in order to pick up food and clothing. They use weapons taken from the soldiers that they kill as their own and expand their fighting ability.

All the while everyone involved just dreams of a day when the enemy is defeated and they can return to a normalcy that is in a distant past. The group also begins to raid trains taking people to concentration camps until they can no longer feed and care for more people.

The question posed is can these individuals, including a young teen like Edmund, ever really return to a normal life or are they marked by their forced experiences to be perpetually haunted by what has been forced on them. I came away from this read with a feeling that I have just dealt with something that will stay with me for a long long time, whether I like it or not.

1/2020 Paul Lane

TO THE EDGE OF SORROW by Aharon Appelfeld & Stuart Schoffman. Schocken (January 14, 2020). ISBN 978-0805243420. 304p.




March 29, 2018

Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I

Hart is a renowned historian whose particular interest is World War I, its battles, politics, and results. The Last Battle deals with the final year of the war to end all wars.

The continuation of massed charges through no man’s land existing between the two sides setting men against all the mechanized killing machines that were developed to kill as many of them as possible. The book is scheduled for publication at a time that roughly coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the armistice that ended hostilities on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918 and provided for a short period awaiting the more definitive Treaty of Versailles that set out the formal terms of the surrender of Germany to the allies – England, France, and the United States.

Battles during the months prior to the armistice included the fifth battle of Ypres, the Sambre, the Selle and the scene of the United States’ greatest contribution to the war effort: the Meuse- Argonne. Hart utilizes a method he has perfected in his other books  dealing with the war which is to find written pieces by men fighting in the battles, that describe what they felt and experienced and incorporate those pieces into their proper places allowing the reader to get more of a feel for what happened.

There are , in effect, three sections of the book. The first is a description of the battles with the horrendous slaughters that are part and parcel of massed charges across a short stretch of land between two sets of trenches separating the two sides. The next segment concerns the participation by men with the feeling that the war will shortly be over and wanting to live and return to normal life. The final section brings into play the somewhat reluctant feeling of many soldiers about leaving the comradeship of being part of a band of brothers and having to go it alone in civilian life. They have had decisions made for them for the years spent in the trenches and now will go it alone.

The world is different after the conflict: attitudes and mores have been shaped by a global conflict that killed and wounded millions, a flu epidemic that strikes and causes probably more casualties than the war did. The conditions of the participants are radically changed with the U.S. emerging as a great power, Germany bankrupt after funding their war and having to pay reparations assessed against them by the allies that placed the blame for the conflict on them. England and France drained of young men and with their own enormous war debts. Worse, another world war less than 20 years after WWI ends looking like a continuation of the first and merely waiting for another generation of men to be readied to rush into combat.

Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. president, presented Germany with a 14 point program to accept in order to reach an agreement to end the conflict. This was basically accepted. Wilson was in a unique position to place himself into the group that handled the details to end the conflict. He had won the presidential election in 1916, taking office in 1917 with the slogan, “He Kept us out of War.” Then several months after the election he found cause to enter the war on the ally’s side. With neither side having sufficient strength to make war on the U.S. it may have been a carrot handed to Wilson to entice him to enter the war on the ally’s side in order to have a strong voice in setting the terms of any peace treaty.

Peter Hart has the gift of being able to present nonfiction as an interesting read with his audience coming to an understanding of what it really meant to be subjected to the horrors of war and the battlefield. Very well done.

3/18 Paul Lane

THE LAST BATTLE by Peter Hart. Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2018).  ISBN 978-0190872984. 464p.

THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin

June 25, 2017

Click to purchase

Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks

Last year I heard an interview with this author on NPR and she was fascinating. The book sounded really interesting, but I never did get around to looking at it.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Florida Library Association’s annual conference this year. The opening keynote speaker was Toni Tipton-Martin, and once again, she was completely mesmerizing. I didn’t want to put this on the back burner again so as soon as I got back to the library, I checked out her book.

When someone researches then writes a book that they are passionate about, it shows on every page, as is the case here. Martin has a collected hundreds of African American cookbooks over a number of years, and puts that collection to good use, sharing info from 150 cookbooks, dating back to 1827.  The New York Times review stated,

“The Jemima Code” is no ordinary book. It’s a heaping helping, a long overdue acknowledgment of African-Americans who have toiled in this field since the country’s beginnings.

All I can add is that it is truly inspiring and despite the sometimes scholastic tone, very readable and interesting. I kept this book for four weeks, taking my time going through it. There is a lot of information to digest here, and there are some interesting recipes as well. It is laid out chronologically, starting with Nineteenth Century Cookbooks including Mrs. Malina Russell’s “A Domestic Cookbook: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen” (1866) then moving through about twenty-five years in each chapter. Some of the cookbooks included:

How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, by George W. Carver (1925)

Cookbook “Work and Serve the Home,” compiled by Mamie Cook, chairman of Ways and Means Department, New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (1928)

A Date with a Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes by Freda De Knight (1948)

Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: From Chicken n’ Ribs to Buttermilk Biscuits and Blackeyed Peas – A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes from Manhattan’s Most Spirited Chef, by Princess Pamela (1969)

The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis* (1976)
*Top Chef, season 14, started out in Charleston, SC. This was the first time I ever heard of Edna Lewis, who was called the “Julia Child” of Southern cooking.

The Presley Family Cookbook by Vester Presley (Elvis’s uncle) and Nancy Rooks (Presley family maid and cook since 1967) (1980)

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From the publisher:

Winner, James Beard Foundation Book Award, 2016
Art of Eating Prize, 2015
BCALA Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, 2016

Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially Southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.

The Jemima Code presents more than 150 black cookbooks that range from a rare 1827 house servant’s manual, the first book published by an African American in the trade, to modern classics by authors such as Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor. The books are arranged chronologically and illustrated with photos of their covers; many also display selected interior pages, including recipes. Tipton-Martin provides notes on the authors and their contributions and the significance of each book, while her chapter introductions summarize the cultural history reflected in the books that follow. These cookbooks offer firsthand evidence that African Americans cooked creative masterpieces from meager provisions, educated young chefs, operated food businesses, and nourished the African American community through the long struggle for human rights. The Jemima Code transforms America’s most maligned kitchen servant into an inspirational and powerful model of culinary wisdom and cultural authority.

6/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE JEMIMA CODE by Toni Tipton-Martin. University of Texas Press (September 15, 2015).  ISBN 978-0292745483.  264p.


VICTORIA by Helen Rappaport

February 22, 2017

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen: Official Companion to the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS

From the publisher:

The official companion to the Masterpiece presentation on PBS, Victoria delves into the private writings of the young Queen Victoria, painting a vivid picture of the personal life of one of England’s greatest monarchs.

From the producers of Poldark and Endeavour, ITV’s Victoria follows the early years of the young queen’s reign, based closely on Victoria’s own letters and journals. Now explore this extensive collection in greater depth, and discover who Victoria really was behind her upright public persona.

At only eighteen years old, Victoria ascended the throne as a rebellious teenager and gradually grew to become one of the most memorable, unshakeable and powerful women in history. The extensive writings she left behind document this personal journey and show how she triumphed over scandal and corruption. Written by author and Victoria historical consultant, Helen Rappaport, and including a foreword by Daisy Goodwin—acclaimed novelist and scriptwriter of the series—Victoria details the history behind the show. Revealing Victoria’s own thoughts about the love interests, family dramas and court scandals during her early reign, it also delves into the running of the royal household, the upstairs-downstairs relationships, and what it was like to live in Victorian England.

Full of beautiful photography from the series and genuine imagery from the era, Victoria takes you behind the palace doors and discover the girl behind the queen.

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This is a beautiful book made with heavy paper and stunning photographs. I loved seeing portraits of the real Victoria and the other characters, and all I can say is the casting and the makeup are amazing. Victoria’s diary entries are fascinating, as are the reproductions of letters. This is a treasure trove for any fan of the TV series and of British history.

2/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

VICTORIA by Helen Rappaport. Harper Design (January 31, 2017). ISBN 978-0062568892. 304p.


August 13, 2016

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Click to purchase

Biography of the Building

I was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. School field trips meant visiting some of the greatest museums in the world. Family outings to Sunday Broadway matinees. Real Chinese food in Chinatown, the great Peter Luger steakhouse. Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas extravaganza. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, walking around looking at all the incredible Christmas displays in the store windows. Pretzels from street vendors in summer, roasted chestnuts in winter.

I was about 8 years old or so when the World Trade Center was built. I remember going there with my mom and having lunch at the top at the Windows on the World restaurant. The view was amazing.

I went to the University of Miami in 1975 and never really lived in New York again. A brief summer when I took algebra (for the second time) at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, right down the road from my house. I still visited a couple of times a year, I had family and friends there, usually in the Hamptons during the summer. But I never felt any need to go back to New York City. Until 9/11.

I got really homesick after that devastating day. A couple of years later, we took a family vacation to One World Trade centerManhattan. We stayed in a beautiful suite at the Helmsley Park Lane, overlooking Central Park. We did all the touristy things, some of which I’d never done like visit the Statue of Liberty, and most of which I hadn’t been to since I was a kid – the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the New York Public Library. We went to Chinatown and Little Italy. We went to see “Wicked” on Broadway with the amazing Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. It was a fantastic week and probably the best family vacation we’d ever taken. The trip would not have been complete without paying our respects at Ground Zero, which was a sobering sight indeed.

My husband and I have been visiting NYC pretty much every year since. A couple of years ago my son moved to Brooklyn, and the International Thriller Writers annual conference is in Manhattan every July, giving me even more reasons to go. We occasionally went by Ground Zero, which eventually became the building site of One World Trade Center – often with a trip across the street to Century 21 –  a little retail therapy at one of my favorite discount stores. And then finally, the building was complete.

reflecting pool ground zeroLast year we went to visit One World Trade Center. There were long lines for the museum tour, but as we walked passed the the reflecting pools and tower, I was already crying. I told my husband that I couldn’t do it and as always, he understood. We stayed for a while then went back uptown.

This book is an extraordinary look at this building. I hope to be able to visit the museum eventually, but for now, I’ll stick with the book.


From the publisher:

The behind-the-scenes story of the most extraordinary building in the world, from the bestselling author of Skyscrapers
In this groundbreaking history, bestselling author Judith Dupré chronicles the most astonishing architectural project in memory: One World Trade Center.
The new World Trade Center represents one of the most complex collaborations in human history. Nearly every state in the nation, a dozen countries around the world, and more than 25,000 workers helped raise the tower, which consumed ninety million pounds of steel, one million square feet of glass, and enough concrete to pave a sidewalk from New York to Chicago.
With more than seventy interviews with the people most intimately involved, and unprecedented access to the building site, suppliers, and archives, Dupré unfurls the definitive story of fourteen years of conflict and controversy-and its triumphant resolution.
This fascinating, oversize book delivers new insight into the 1,776-foot-tall engineering marvel, from design and excavation through the final placement of its spire. It offers:
  • Access to the minds of world-class architects, engineers, ironworkers, and other tradespeople
  • Panoramas of New York from One World Observatory-1,268 feet above the earth
  • Dramatic cutaways that show the building’s advanced structural technologies
  • A time-lapse montage showing the evolution of the sixteen-acre site
  • Chronologies tracking design, construction, and financial milestones, with rare historic photographs
It also features extensive tour of the entire Trade Center, including in-depth chapters on Two, Three, Four, and Seven World Trade Center; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; Liberty Park; St. Nicholas National Shrine; and the soaring Transportation Hub.
One World Trade Center is the only book authorized by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and the one book necessary to understand the new World Trade Center in its totality. This is a must-have celebration of American resilience and ingenuity for all who are invested in the rebuilding of Ground Zero.
You may be surprised by what you find inside-and you will undoubtedly be inspired.


08/16  Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER by Judith Dupré. Little, Brown and Company (April 26, 2016). ISBN 978-0316336314. 304p.