Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review: BORN A CRIME

 by Trevor Noah (non-fiction, 2016) “Stories From a South African Childhood”

The author Trevor Noah, as an adult, earns his living as an international comedian, basing his humor on the inconsistencies of the people and the society around him. He grew up in South Africa in the era of apartheid, when the white South African minority declared it a crime to have social contact with anyone of the colored majority races. Separate schools, separate public seating, eating places, neighborhoods, were enforced during the rule of South Africa's National Party, from 1948 to 1990. With a black mother and a Swiss father, his parents could face five-year jail terms, and he himself could legally be seized and sent to an orphanage simply by the fact of his birth.
His mother raised him; contact with his father was secret and infrequent. His mother was a rebel by nature, working as a typist for a pharmaceutical firm, defiantly attending several churches – black, white, or mixed – prudent, but not caring about other people's opinion of her. But she loved her child unconditionally, and vowed he would have a better childhood than hers had been. She disciplined him when he needed it – which was often – made sure he attended school and church; and saw that he had a safe home.
Apartheid never made sense to Trevor, nor did the Catholic church, which refused his mother communion, because she wasn't Catholic.
Trevor pointed out to his Catholic school teacher, “Jesus wasn't Catholic, he was Jewish.”
Well, yes.”
So you're telling me that if Jesus walked into your church right now, Jesus would not be allowed to have the body and blood of Jesus?”
Well . . . uh . . . um . . .
One morning before mass,Trevor was hungry; he sneaked behind the altar and drank the whole bottle of grape juice and ate the whole bag of Eucharist. He was caught, and laughed while he was being punished. The school principal recommended he see a psychiatrist. “Mrs. Noah, your son was laughing while we were hitting him.”
Well, clearly you don't know how to hit a kid. That's your problem, not mine. Trevor's never laughed when I've hit him, I can tell you.” His mother thought the school rules were stupid.
She taught me to question the system,” wrote Trevor. “The only way it backfired on her was that I constantly challenged and questioned her.”
Trevor had other problems. In a land where blacks and whites were separated, he was neither. Nor was he Chinese nor Indian. He was “colored”, and belonged to no group in schools he attended. Rather than risk exclusion, he found himself accepted when he could make the other kids laugh. When apartheid ended in 1990, he discovered his niche in the entertainment field. His story of his partnership with his mother is a mixture of hilarity and terror.
He almost lost her when she later entered a marriage that turned very, very bad.
Thought-provoking and a good read.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

Book Review: HILLBILLY ELEGY by J. D. Vance (Non-fiction 2016)

“A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”

J. D. Vance's book tells two simultaneous stories. One is the migration of working whites from the factories and mines of the “Rust Belt” – roughly the Appalachian mountain region – to the cities and villages of the Ohio River valley, seeking jobs. The other is about his family, trying to survive with little education but with a system of honor stretching back to the feuds of the Kentucky Hatfield and McCoy clans.
His grandfather at age 17 married his grandma, age 13, in Jackson, Kentucky in 1947. Low pay in the coal mines was the only option around Jackson, so Papaw and Mamaw joined the post-war flow of people out of Appalachia to Ohio. They settled in Middleton, where Armco Corporation was recruiting workers for its steel mills. J.D.'s Uncle Jimmy was born there, and ten years later, after eight miscarriages, Mamaw gave birth to J.D.'s mother Bev in 1961, and his aunt Lori in 1962. Just three kids. But the grandparents' marriage grew more and more violent, despite their being financially better off than those who stayed in Kentucky.
Perhaps it was Papaw's heavy drinking, perhaps Mamaw's gradual withdrawal from the world around her. Perhaps it was a “code of the hills,” with sincere love for their own children and grandchildren, but their insistence that no one outside the family must ever know about the violence within it. The grandparents wanted their children to have better education and a better future, but misread the effect that their own violent fighting caused. Yet J.D. sees his Mamaw and Papaw as the greatest people he knew in his youth. Neither had ever set foot in high school, yet Papaw would explain multiplication and division; Mamaw would see that J.D. got a library card and books to read. Both encouraged him daily.
His Mom was the smartest person he knew, salutatorian in her high school class, yet she had a growing drug habit, and many marriages. Her temper could rise from zero to murderous in a heartbeat that often made J.D. and his sister Lindsay take shelter with their grandparents. It reached a point where Mamaw told J.D. he could stay at her house whenever he chose to, and if his Mom ever had a problem with that, Mom could talk to the barrel of Mamaw's gun, “This was hillbilly justice, and it didn't fail me,” writes J.D.
He had done poorly in grade school, living with his mother, her fights and her parade of father-figure husbands, but living with grandparents during high school, his grades came up. He had time to look around him and see how others worked. On a summer job packing flooring tiles for shipment, the boss also hired another young man whose wife was expecting her first baby. The boss also gave her a job in the office. J. D. noticed the man rarely came to work on time, and took frequent toilet breaks lasting half an hour or more. His wife hardly ever came to work three days in a row. The man soon got fired, and blamed the boss, not himself – “How could he take a job away from a man whose wife was pregnant!” But J.D. knew his grandparents always expected him to do work, not just talk about it.
Not all the white working class struggles . . . My grandparents were self-reliant, hard working. My mother was another type: consumerist, isolated, angry, distrustful. I always straddled the two worlds, but there was always a safe place and a loving embrace if ever I needed it. Our neighbors' kids couldn't say the same.
He wanted to be the first in his family to go to college, but he couldn't afford tuition costs for even Ohio State U. Instead, he joined the Marines and found he still had a lot of growing up to do. He came out of the next four years fit and forty-five pounds lighter, a self-confident adult after deployment in Iraq and nine months as a media relations officer in a large Marine base on the east coast. J.D. entered Ohio State University in 2007, went on to study law at Yale, and met and married the woman of his dreams.
Some might accuse this reviewer of spoiling the story by telling the ending. But the point of this book is not what happened, but how and why it happened, and why it is still among the top ten best sellers on the New York Times non-fiction list, a year after being published. While so many low-income earners in USA remain chronically struggling and dis-enchanted, what choices did J.D. make differently?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Book review: IT'S ME, HANNAH

Book review: IT'S ME, HANNAH by Carleen Bunde ( fiction, 2017)

A Novel About Growing Up

Hannah is an eight-year-old girl as the story opens with the sudden death of her mother in a gruesome auto accident in the town of Munich, North Dakota. Her only nearby relatives are her father, Johan, who is a Swedish immigrant farmer, and her maternal grandma, Lieula. But Munich is a small town, where most people know each other, and Hannah has many friends, especially Annabelle Murger, her same age; their mothers were best friends.
This is a well-written series of fast-forwards of Hanna's life, mostly her teen-age years. She and her father are both devastated by her mother's death, but Johan takes charge of his home, his farm, and his daughter's needs. She gets into many adolescent scrapes, tries to hide them, but ultimately can depend on both her father and her grandma for emotional support and help. She does her part well in the farm chores along with her father, and in her studies in the little one-room school; she even copes with a mentally disturbed school teacher whom the school board finally dismisses. She becomes an able cattle herder with the help of her horse Sally, and her dog Maggie.
Puberty and high school in town, both beginning in the same year, are difficult times, shared with her friend Annabelle. Hanna and an older boy are attracted to each other, causing arguments with her father. She gets a part-time job as a car-hop at Nick's Drive-In and loves it, gets along well with the other workers. Gets in trouble driving Papa's pickup without his knowledge, and gets stuck in a ditch in the middle of the night.
She is stressed out when her Papa, after several years as a widower, starts dating Lucy Swan, a newcomer to town. Some weeks later, after work, he tells Hanna, “ Get in the car and go pick up your grandma, I have something to say to you both.” When they return, Papa's best friend, Jacob, is sitting with him at the kitchen table.
Grandma arrives, worried about what trouble her son-in-law may be in. Says, “Johan, do you want us to sit in the parlor?”
No, Lieula, vat I got to say, I can say right here in the kitchen.” He took his pipe out of his mouth, leaned back in his chair . . . “Now jou know as vell as I do dat I've been courtin' Lucy Swan for some time. She's a mighty fine voman.”
He turned to me. “Hannah Marie, you're almost grown-up now.”
I nodded.
All of a sudden, I'm grown-up?
Vell, folks, vat I've got to tell you is: Lucy and I are getting married.”
The news almost took my breath away.
I can't imagine Papa married to anyone but Mama, and I really can't imagine Papa and Lucy kissing or anything like that.
Papa, did you say that you and Lucy are getting married?”
I've asked her and she said yes.”
Grandma's mouth dropped open and her face went white. “Well, I never.”
Jacob scratched his head hard and fast. “The hell you say, Yohan.”
In a faint voice, Grandma uttered, “What's this world coming to? She's half your age. Johan, you could be her father.”
Age is yust a number.”
Don't you care what people will say?”
Papa rubbed his chin and looked over his bifocals at Grandma. “Jah, I care, but I care more about Lucy. I yust told you, I'm marrying her and dat's dat.”
Jacob slapped the table with his big hand. “Goot for you, Yohan.”
Grandma pushed back her chair, stood up and strode right out the door.
Come on, Hannah,” she wailed.
In a hurry to leave the table, I nearly turned over my chair. Papa heaved himself from his seat and walked with me to the back door with his arm across my shoulders.

This story is easy reading (although an author's written version of a foreign language dialect can be a stumbling block for the reader.) It will be of interest to those parents and teen-agers hoping to someday understand each other. Author Bunde relates family conflicts in brief, vivid scenes. The constant theme is that children are much more likely to prosper if there is an adult in their life who loves them unconditionally.
The last ten pages summarize the rest of Hanna's life and end in a surprising sign-off.

Friday, July 14, 2017

book review: BLIND MAN'S BLUFF by Sontag and Drew

Book Review: BLIND MAN'S BLUFF by Sontag and Drew (1998)
“The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage”

Obviously, no book available to the public is going to be up to date on this subject. Never mind; this book is a vivid history of the Cold War years between USA and Russia, and their strenuous efforts to stay ahead of each other in submarine warfare capability. It has enough detail and documentation to enthrall (and alarm?) any history buff.
The first submarine purchased by the US Navy in 1900, could hold six men. [That was three years before the Wright brothers flew their plane at Kitty Hawk.] A sub's purpose, in the century's first half, was to sink ships carrying supplies to enemy nations. In the latter half, the purpose was to spy on enemy naval activity and communications. A diesel-electric powered sub could travel underwater for up to 24 hours, navigating by periscope and sonar, surfacing only to recharge its batteries. Later, with nuclear power, subs can now stay submerged for three months or more, limited only by the bulk of food needed to feed a crew of 100 to 150 men and women. Presumably they extract enough oxygen and pure water from the surrounding ocean.
Admiral Hyman Rickover pioneered the first nuclear subs, with a vigor unfazed by cost or Congress. He recruited young naval engineers (future president Jimmy Carter among them) by challenging their imagination and abilities. He ordered one candidate,“Piss me off, if you can.” Without a word and with a single motion of his arm, the candidate swept all the contents of the admiral's desk onto the floor, papers, pens, books and all. (and was accepted into the program.)
Silence and stealth are the keys to discovering what the other side is up to. The Sea of Okhotsk, between Russia and Japan [the book includes good maps] has little shipping activity, and an American nuclear sub sought and found the undersea cable connecting Russia's easternmost naval base with the rest of Russia. The sea is shallow; the sub could settle on the bottom while divers attached a monitor to the cable and recorded telephone conversations for months.
The Soviet navy had some “firsts” too. One commander took his sub under the polar ice to the North Pole, and surfaced by breaking through the ice there. He confirmed that his nuclear missiles survived and could still be accurately programmed to reach almost any part of North America below him to the south. Russians regularly patrol international waters off American coasts, just as American subs do off the coast of Russia and other nations.
In 1986, with both nations realizing the increasing danger of nuclear war and total annihilation, President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met in a diplomatic conference at Reykjavik, Iceland. Both nations had, by that time, developed their espionage to the point where their submarine forces were second lines of nuclear war defense, able to fire missiles from unpredictable spots in answer to the other side's land-based missiles and air force, in the event that either would attempt to start a war. The expense of maintaining defense readiness was a growing economic problem. Negotiators agreed that they could cut ballistic missiles to 6,000, and delivery vehicles to 1,600 for each side to start with, and further reductions to come.
In 1991, The Soviet Union dissolved, into fifteen independent republics, including Russia. Gorbochev handed over the Union's powers, including the Soviet nuclear missile codes, to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Two years later, American CIA director Robert Gates visited the Kremlin with, among other matters, a video tape of the recovery of six Russian sailors' bodies from a sunken Russian submarine and their burial at sea, years before. “Two weeks later, the tape appeared on Russian television. The families [of the long-missing Russian crew] got to see American sailors standing at attention as both national anthems were played and as the Americans added Russian prayers to the naval service for the dead. . . . They were astonished and moved that Americans, their enemies for so long, would treat their men with such respect.”
In the years since that time, new leaders have brought new distrust, and no one except perhaps the spies and the intelligence services, know how close we are now to a huge World War III, from which relatively few humans would survive. But Sontag and Drews' well-documented book will give the reader hope and desire for a diplomatic solution. “Trust, but verify” seems the best watchword we have for now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: The Shepherd's Life

Book Review: THE SHEPHERD'S LIFE by James Rebanks non-fiction (2015)

James Rebanks dropped out of school at the age of fifteen, disgusted with teachers who wanted him to “make something of himself.” Totally uninterested in meaningless school lectures, he looks forward to working full time as a farmer, raising sheep alongside his father and his grandfather. He is proud to be part of an ongoing family, honest working folk who have lived on the hills and lakes of northwestern England since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Shepherding hundreds of sheep is more than just leading them along a country lane. There are tups (rams) to buy and mate with the ewes, with all the attention to future performance that a race horse would be given. Swaledales and Herdwicks are the two breeds of sheep best suited for the high hill country. Sheep must be sheared, lambs birthed, diseases prevented. Hundreds of sheep must be moved to the high country grass in summer so that valley fields can produce enough hay for winter. Rock walls to be built and repaired, ears to tagged for identity. Lost sheep to be searched for, flocks to be sheltered during winter blizzards and springtime rains. Every day, rain or shine. This was the life James had chosen, and loved.
But something was lacking in his life. Drinking, fighting, hanging out with friends wasn't enough to look forward to. Then he met Helen, his sister's friend. He was 21, she was 18. “She had worked hard at school, read books, and knew all the stuff that I didn't. She believed I could do anything I set my mind to. That made everything possible.”
One of the pubs in town had shelves lined with books that no one ever read. Occasionally, James would borrow one, quietly with the landlord's permission. It wasn't cool to be into books.
A Korean War vet noticed James was carrying a book one night, and said that young guys knew nothing about war; he challenged the pub crowd to even name the plane on the book cover. The crowd looked blank. “Messerschmitt one-oh-nine,” James said. He gradually discovered he knew more about things than his pub-mates. One of them told him “What are you doing here . . . with us idiots? You should go to university and do something smart . . . .”
“Sometimes you can't go back when people know something new about you,” James discovered.
“My two younger sisters turned out far smarter than me: straight-A students. Sometimes I'd help the elder one with her homework. One night she challenged me to do her history homework. I think she had a hot date or something, so she left me to it. A few days later, she was seriously pissed off because the essay came back with a rave review from her teacher. I laughed. She told me that was it, no more goes at her schoolwork. From then on, I knew I could do A-levels if I wanted, or needed to.
“I went to the local adult education center when I was twenty-one, and got straight A's. It was easy if you had read the books I had. The instructor asked me all sorts of questions, ending with “Had I thought about applying for Oxford or Cambridge?” It seemed ridiculous that I might get in. But they were apparently looking for people from 'different backgrounds', which secured me an interview. I needn't have worried. It was easy if you weren't really bothered. So, much to the amusement of the other professors, I got into a row with one of them. I like arguing. I'm good at it. When he went too far and said something a bit silly, I teased him and said he was losing his grip. As I left when my time was up, I smiled at them as if to say, “F-you. I could do this all day.”
“They all smiled back. I knew I was in.”
But he went back to full time farm work after University. His book mentions study trips to foreign lands, but doesn't doesn't say how he found time for them. He divides a year into its four seasons by detailing the work load each season demands, and most of the book is about sheep, and quite interesting. He tells about a blizzard when he trudged through a chest-high snowdrift, to break trail for his best sheep dog, leading a band of sheep to safety at lower altitude.
He and Helen married, and have three young children, all aiming toward working the farm as they grow older. He describes a springtime afternoon in lambing season, guiding his six-year-old daughter, Bea, while she manages a difficult delivery of a lamb. She is exhausted at the end, but tells him, “We have to go for breakfast, Dad, and tell Molly I lambed one. And its bigger than the one she lambed.”
This is a book to be read to the very end, including the acknowledgements. He ends his story with his father's code of ethics: “Work that needs doing should be done.”
And he adds, “This is my life. I want for no other.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Review: A Gentleman In Moscow


Book Review: A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, by Amor Towles (historical fiction, 2016)

Most Americans think of Twentieth Century Russia in terms of its Communist government. That is certainly the background scene throughout this novel, but in the foreground is Count Alexander Rostov, a man under house arrest for most of his adult life.
The story begins with Rostov's appearance before the People's Commissariat prosecutor in 1922: “Our inclination would be to have you taken from this chamber and put against the wall. But there are those among the party's senior ranks who regard you as a prerevolutionary hero. Thus, you will be returned to the Metropol Hotel where you live. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside the Metropol again, you will be shot.”
The hotel moves Rostov from his suite to a single room 10 x 10 feet on the unused fifth floor. He is permitted to keep certain personal articles; the rest become “property of the people.”
Well educated, polite, rarely at a loss for words, Rostov is cordial to all. A nine-year-old girl sits down uninvited, at his table in the hotel restaurant. “Is it true you are a count?”
“'Tis true.”
“Have you ever known a princess?”
“I have known many princesses.”
Her eyes widened. “Was it terribly hard to be a princess?”
“Terribly.”
Several days later, the girl, Nina Kulikova, has more questions. “What are the rules of being a princess? Those things expected of her?” She explains that her Papa is wonderful, and knows all about tractors, but he knows absolutely nothing about the workings of princesses.
Count Rostov patiently explains the basics of good manners and behavior of princesses, and a bond of friendship gradually grows. In return, the nine-year-old knows everything about the hotel, having purloined a pass key from somewhere, allowing access to everywhere in the hotel, from wine cellar to spying from the grand ballroom balcony, to the view of the Kremlin from from the roof. And the Count gains allies in Vasily the concierge, Andrey the the head waiter, Marina the seamstress, Emile the chef, and many others.
Months and years pass; 1930; Russia's first five-year plan has begun, which will change the nation from farming to an industrial power. Rostov is now head waiter in the exclusive Boyarsky restaurant on the hotel's second floor. Nina, now age seventeen, is part of a young team heading eastward into a farming province to oversee the exile of farm owners to Siberia; their farms now belong to the laborers. The province has only eight tractors, but factories are booming and the workers need bread. Alas, the combination of mismanagement and one of the worst droughts in history results in many deaths from starvation across the nation.

In 1930, a Colonel Osip, apparently part of the Foreign Affairs office, had required Rostov to meet with him for lunch once a month not only to learn French and English, but to help Osip understand the customs of those people.
It was a couple of years later that Nina showed up again. She had married one of her team, and has a 6-year old daughter. Her husband had just been arrested and sentenced to five years at hard labor. She needs to find lodging to be near him but needs someone to look after her daughter.”Only a month or two. I have no one else to turn to. Please!” With years of friendship between them, there can be only one answer. He crosses the hotel lobby to be introduced to Sofia. He has no idea what to do with a six-year-old, but noticing that the doll she clutches has no dress, he takes her to Marina, the hotel seamstress, who bonds with her easily. Sofia will stay with the Count for eighteen years.
She is easily her mother's equal in intelligence. And in mischievousness. At age thirteen, racing up the hotel's service stairs, she falls and hits her head on the cement steps. A chambermaid finds her unconscious and bleeding and calls Rostov. Rostov picks her up carefully and hurries down the stairs, across the lobby, out the door. It's the first time in twenty years he has been outside. He tells the taxi driver “St. Anselm's Hospital!” They arrive in minutes, but in the thirty years since Rostov was last there, the hospital is no longer Moscow's finest. The young nurse receptionist drops her magazine, summons the doctor on call, who calls a surgeon. But it is a different doctor who appears. “I'm Lasovsky, chief of surgery at First Municipal. I will be seeing to this patient.” He turns. “Are you Rostov?”
“Yes,” says the Count, astounded. Lasovsky takes a brief, competent history, assigns everyone their task, reassures Rostov, who must wait in the corridor.
It's perhaps two hours later when the surgeon comes out again, with a favorable report . Simultaneously, a guard opens the door for Colonel Osip, who confers with the surgeon.
Then he led Rostov down a back stairway to a metal door. “This is where we part. It's best if you never mention to anyone that either of us were here. You have been at my service for over fifteen years. It is a pleasure for once to be at yours.” Then he was gone.
It will be another ten years before Rostov and Sofia will each find freedom. But the depth of insight shown by author Towles will lead the reader to a satisfying end, including why Osip had rescued Sofia.

Monday, April 10, 2017

book review: A Lawyer's Journey, by Morris Dees

Book Review: A LAWYER'S JOURNEY by Morris Dees (biography, 2001)

A tame-sounding title of an attention-gripping story. Those of us who lived in northern Idaho in the 1990's might have called it “Stifling The Swastika In America.” We remember Richard Butler and his militant white supremacist Aryan Nation compound in the town of Hayden Lake, just north of Coeur d'Alene. Claiming their First Amendment rights, they would parade down the street behind a Nazi flag. Many people on the sidewalks would turn their backs to them in disapproval.
In 1999, a woman and her son were driving past the Aryan compound when their car happened to backfire. Guards on the compound immediately fired live ammunition, and the pair found themselves surrounded at gun-point. Though unharmed physically, they had several bullet holes in their car.
The resulting public indignation attracted Morris Dees, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Alabama, who assisted the woman in suing Butler and his organization “for gross negligence in the selecting and supervision of his armed guards.” The six-million-dollar legal judgment bankrupted Butler, putting him out of business without bloodshed.
This was not Butler's first encounter with Mr. Dees. Butler had gone south in 1981 to assist the “Grand Dragon” of the Texas Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Louis Beam, to drive out – violently if necessary – the South Vietnamese who had immigrated to the Texas coastline after the Vietnam war ended. Many were now citizens, and some had shrimp boats in Galveston Bay. The unofficial leader of the Vietnamese in Texas, Colonel Nguyen Nam, had fought the communist North Vietnamese for years. Now the KKK leader accused Colonel Nam himself of being Communist, and accused lawyer Dees of being an agent of Satan.
The federal judge in Houston was not impressed with these assertions, and granted an injunction against the KKK, its leaders, and its illegal armed militia. The Texas KKK was forbidden to harass the Vietnamese fishermen, forbidden to ram or burn their boats, or commit other acts of violence.
Dees's book, essentially a declaration of war against racial violence, goes on to follow the Southern Poverty Law Center's activities in defending various victims of violence or threats by white supremacist groups. Son of a small-time cotton farmer in rural Mount Meigs, Alabama, he grew up working with his family's black hired hands. He saw a future as a country preacher, but his Daddy set him straight: “Bubba, you can do that on Sundays. But you need to do something you can make a living at. Be a lawyer. No boll weevil ever ruined a law book.”

His turning point came in 1963, when the dynamite bombing of a Sunday school class in Birmingham killed four small girls. Married, and back home from law school, he and his wife were good Baptists; he spoke to his adult Sunday school class about giving financial and spiritual help for another Baptist church in trouble. The class members nodded, sympathetic. “Where is the church?” someone asked.
“The Sixteenth Street [black] Church in Birmingham.” The members in the room quickly fell into two camps – those angered by even the suggestion of helping blacks, and those too shocked to be angry. Dees closed his eyes in silent prayer. When he opened them a few minutes later, only he and his wife were left in the room.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which Morris Dees helped establish, provides free legal help for those who need it, charging only those who are able to pay; financed in part from income from his private law practice and his previous businesses, or books he has published, and mass mailings soliciting contributions. The book details many of his legal battles with white supremacists. The most dramatic one pits the black mother of a young man selected at random and beaten to death and then hung from a tree by members of the United Klans of America, with the knowledge and consent of the Klan's national commanders. Dees showed the jury photographs of the victim, printed in the Klan newspaper. His questioning of those commanders [the defendants] reveals their methods of training and arming Klan members with military weapons. It took the all-white, southern jury only about four hours to bring a verdict == “guilty on all counts”, and setting damages at seven million dollars.
Dees often moves back and forth in time between chapters, mentions many clients, colleagues and opponents (but provides a detailed and helpful index.) He freely expresses his emotions, sometimes anger, sometimes sadness or amused disbelief, but rarely fear. He does his research thoroughly. Conflict neither slows him down nor keeps him from doing what he believes is right. In my opinion, he himself exemplifies the best of both Christians and social activists.
At one point he hired armed guards 24 hours a day to protect his home. The scene in his first chapter is the floor of a room where he and his fourteen year old daughter crouched in the night, while the guards, one inside and one outside the house drove off two armed invaders. “Why do you do this work?” the girl asks him. In the last chapter; now age 17, she is in the balcony of the courtroom as the verdict against the Ku Klux Klan is announced and she sends him a note: “Good work, Daddy.”