Books: May-June 2005

June 1, 2005

 

Pelican and Pelicant By Sarah Froeber '68
Pelican and Pelicant
By Sarah Froeber '68. Illustrated by Kim Mosher.
Toucan Press Inc., 2003. 35 pages. $17.99.

The following is a collection of reviews by members of Sandi Graham's fifth-grade class at E.K. Powe Elementary School in Durham. E.K. Powe is one of seven public schools in Durham participating in the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership Initiative, designed to improve the quality of life and strengthen education in the neighborhoods surrounding Duke's campus.

Here's the basic story: On the island of Buxtonia there lived two Pelicans, Pelican and Pelicant. They were exact opposites. One was brave and self-confident, the other timid and meek. You could probably guess which one is which by looking at the end of their names.

Pelicant was afraid of heights, which is called acrophobia, and of people and other creatures, which is called anthrophobia. She is afraid of leaving home, called hodophobia. Pelicant is also afraid of new things: canophobia.
--Bailey Clemmons

Sarah Froeber, the author, is from North Carolina, so it is no surprise that she added details about her home state. For example, she changes the name of the town where the pelicans take residence from Buxton to Buxtonia. Ms. Froeber also changed Ocracoke Island to Okracokia.
--Blue Van de Cruze

The mood of the story is joyful. Pelican is flying all over the island, doing exciting things, attending parties, and trying to convince Pelicant to join her. It is a very lively plot. It would be more captivating if there were more action.
--Sally Hodges-Copple

The illustrations in this book are simple, bright, and colorful. They catch the reader's attention almost immediately and almost blind you when you turn the page. The main colors are green, orange, yellow, red, blue, and pink. There are also thought bubbles in the book showing what the birds are thinking. They add personality to the book. And there are some interesting details, like a mysterious little woodpecker on every page. What is the purpose? Is he the narrator?
--Dynasty Reed

 

The moral is always to try something new. If you never try to do something, then you will never know if you can succeed. And the moral also tells you to have confidence in yourself. If you say you can't, you can't. But if you say you can, you can. And if you try again and again, you will slowly get better and learn from your mistakes and accomplish your goal.

I would recommend this book to a little kid. Older kids would probably be bored. Children age three to six, however, might learn a lot and find it very entertaining.
--Bailey Clemmons

 

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story By Timothy B. Tyson Ph.D. '94.Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story
By Timothy B. Tyson Ph.D. '94.

Crown Publishers, 2004. 368 pages. $24.

Daddy and Roger and 'em shot 'em a nigger." Tim Tyson was ten years old when he heard those words. It was 1970. He was standing in his driveway, just off Main Street in the still-segregated town of Oxford, North Carolina, when his best friend arrived with the news: Robert Teel, a white store-owner, and his two oldest sons had chased a twenty-three-year-old African-American man named Henry Marrow out of their store. They caught him, beat him, and, as Marrow pleaded for his life, killed him in public.

Thus begins Tyson's journey into memory, Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, a return to a childhood at the seething center of racial unrest. What began as his master's thesis in the history department at Duke chronicles only one small piece of the modern story of race in America. Yet it renders a story so powerful that vandals desperate to stifle the truth ripped out pages from the Oxford Public Library's copy.

Any semblance of civil rights was a long time coming to Oxford. By the late Sixties, the national movement had come and gone, and in that small tobacco-market town of eastern North Carolina virtually nothing had changed. But in response to Marrow's murder, a long tradition of peaceful black resistance and organizing through the church turned increasingly violent. Young African Americans, many just returned from fighting in Vietnam, began to stand their ground against the Ku Klux Klan and white moderates. Invoking Black Pride, they took to the streets, boycotted white businesses, and destroyed white property.

Tyson, who is white, says he was too young to grasp the full significance of events at the time. He knew nothing of his parents' entanglement with the town's racial politics, or why, as the downtown tobacco warehouses burned, his father, an anti-segregationist minister, risked his job to reconcile the two sides. The Tysons were eventually forced to leave town. But, as he writes, "Oxford would burn in my memory forever." And Tyson would return, unable to leave the story behind.

The author of three previous prize-winning histories of the South, Tyson manages to combine poignant, personal reflection with the shrewd analysis of a detached observer. In Blood Done Sign My Name, this analysis challenges the traditional narrative of the civil-rights movement, and Tyson rejects the "cheerful and cherished lies we tell ourselves about those years." The events in Oxford were not solely violent or nonviolent, neither staged for a national audience nor met with legislative and political changes. And because they occurred so long after the demonstrations in Selma and Birmingham, they do not fit within the civil- rights struggle as we have come to know it. But the movement was not completed with the Civil Rights Act. It kept going, well beyond 1964. By tracing its continuation in the struggle for economic justice that roiled Oxford, Tyson offers an antidote to what he calls the "sugar-coated confections that pass for the popular history of the civil-rights movement."

In doing so, he brings a fresh voice to what historian Jacquelyn Hall has called "the new long civil-rights movement" scholarship. Tyson draws on the most current scholarship on race and the South, newspaper reports, and other archival sources. Critical to his multifaceted understanding, however, are the dozens of oral histories he gathered from the men and women who lived through these times. Young black radicals, longtime movement veterans, and many others, including Robert Teel himself, told Tyson their stories.

"Stories can have sharp edges," Tyson asserts. Yet he believes, he says, in the necessity of facing a history that, as William Faulkner has assured us, "isn't even past." And as he renders Oxford in all of its racial turbulence, Tyson delves unflinchingly into a parallel family history. He describes the dilemmas facing white moderates like his father, and he conjures up his own bumpy road to racial reconciliation. No one is untouched in this telling, least of all the author. Through schoolyard fights in the newly integrated Oxford Junior High and such mundane daily acts as drinking out of the school water fountain, we watch as Tyson first encounters and attempts to expel the infection of white supremacy.

Although he acknowledges that the infection remains, Tyson concludes his book having found "peace with the heritage that had been both a blessing and a burden." There is much to learn from Blood Done Sign My Name, about the strength of prejudice, the structural frameworks of race, and the good and evil acts of ordinary people.

"Anyone intent on moral clarity may want to find another book," Tyson writes. But like the blood of the old spiritual referred to in his title, a history acknowledged and explored has the power to redeem.