All kinds of new North Carolina books

Summer has suddenly come to an end. And I bet there is a stack of books by your bed or somewhere in your house, ones you meant to read this summer.

Watch out!

Here comes another batch of new North Carolina books, some of which belong at the top of your pile and others you ought to know about, even though they might not end up in your reading pile.

It has been gone for 50 years, but people still talk about the Dixie Classic, that holiday basketball tournament with Duke, Carolina, State and Wake and four more of the best teams in the country. Greenville’s Bethany Bradsher, author of “The Classic: How Everett Case and His Tournament Brought Big-Time Basketball to the South,” follows the Classic from its origins to its scandalous end. She will be the guest on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch on Friday, September 28, at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, September 30, at 5 p.m.

Charlotte poet Judy Goldman’s two novels, “Early Leaving” and “The Slow Way Back,” explored the complicated, beautiful, and painful relationships that come with being part of a family. Now she turns her poet’s and storyteller’s talents to a memoir, “Losing My Sister.” It tells the story of her family and her complicated and sometimes hurtful relationship with her sister. Their anger at each other runs side by side with their love. It is a poignant relationship that will resonate with everyone who has a sibling. (Oct. 5, 7)

Ten years ago, David Cecelski’s great book, “The Waterman’s Song,” introduced me to Abraham Galloway, an ex-slave from Wilmington who became an incredible leader of blacks in North Carolina during the Civil War and later in state government. I became fascinated with Galloway and wrote then, “He is my candidate for North Carolina’s greatest civil rights hero.  He packed into his short life a story of an escape from slavery, intrigue and dedication, leadership and audacity, and political achievement that is as inspiring as the tales of Robin Hood, King David, and Rob Roy MacGregor.” I waited a long time for Cecelski to tell me more. Now he has done it with his new book, “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War.” (Oct. 12, 14)

Longtime Charlotte lawyer Jon Buchan represents newspapers and once was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer. Now he is a novelist. His powerful first book,  “Code of the Forest,” is about inside politics in both Carolinas. Political and business leaders look out for each other based on loyalties formed in exclusive prep schools and at hunting lodges deep in the forest. Buchan also takes his readers through the terrible and challenging mess a libel action lawsuit can be. (Oct. 19, 21)

Novelist Lee Smith says that this book is “deeply moving, disturbing, haunting, and important.” She is talking about “Leaving Tuscaloosa,” the debut novel of Walter Bennett, a former lawyer and judge. He is also known as the husband of N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences retiring director, Betsy Bennett. Walter Bennett’s “Leaving Tuscaloosa” is set in the 1960s and features two Tuscaloosa, Alabama, teenagers, one white, Richeboux Branscomb, the other black, Acee Waites, who, although they are the same age and live in the same town, hardly ever cross paths, until their parallel lives explode tragically and memorably. (Oct. 26, 28)

One of the greatest horrors of slavery was the breakup of families. A husband sold away from his wife, a mother from her child. UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Heather Andrea Williams tells another chapter in that story. Her new book, “Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery” relates how separated families attempted to find each other and reunite, before and after the Civil War. (Nov. 2, 4)

Is Perry 'Roast' in North Carolina?

“After what he said about our barbecue, he is a dead duck in North Carolina.” A Democrat was celebrating the report that Texas Governor Rick Perry once made a disparaging remark about our favorite food. According to a news report that quoted one of my favorite books, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue” by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, Perry, when he ate Eastern North Carolina barbecue in 1992, said, “I’ve had road kill that tasted better than that.”

Sure enough, after the North Carolina barbecue road kill story started circulating, Perry’s campaign, which had been sailing along at a pace that made Perry look like the sure nominee, took a nosedive.

The news reports said his debate performance was sub-par. His opponents attacked his decision to require girls in Texas to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus associated with vaginal cancer. They jumped on his advocacy for tuition support for illegal immigrants attending college in Texas. Then Herman Cain crushed him (37 percent to 15) in the Florida straw poll, and Mitt Romney did the same in Michigan (50 percent to 17).

“Don’t mess with Texas,” Perry says. Maybe he will have to learn, “Don’t mess with North Carolinians and their barbecue.”

If he wants some background about the political implications of “messing” with our barbecue, he can talk to our former attorney general and secretary of state, Rufus Edmisten. According to “Holy Smoke,” Edmisten “learned a painful lesson” when he was running for governor more than 25 years ago. At the time, somebody heard him saying, “I’ve eaten enough barbecue. I am not going to eat any more. I’m taking my stand and that is it.”

Today, Edmisten can laugh about his mistake. “Holy Smoke” quotes him, “I’d be eating barbecue three times a day for a solid year, and I got up one night and, in a very, very lax moment—the devil made me do it—I made a horrible statement. I said, ‘I’m through with barbecue.’ Well, you would have thought I made a speech against my mother, against apple pie, cherry pie, the whole mess.”
It was not a joke during the campaign. On September 20, 1983, a Wilmington Morning Star editorial, titled “Swine cooks the Rufus goose” took him to task, “If his opponents have the sense God gave a yam, they will mount Mr. Edmisten on a spit and roast him patiently on hickory coals until he is done, And then they will pick his bones.”

Now, another North Carolina commentator, Jeffrey Weeks, makes a similar suggestion in response to Perry’s “road kill” comment. “If Rick Perry wants to bring his campaign to the Carolinas we, of course, won’t reject him. We’ll welcome him with good ol’ southern hospitality. We’ll even show him how to cook real barbeque, not with a cow (Lord have mercy) but with a pig. And I know just the pig we’ll roast. ‘Governor’ Perry.”

So is Perry’s campaign mortally wounded? Is it “toast”—or, as Weeks suggests, “roast”?

Not so fast.

A couple of weeks ago former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs surprised me with his comments about Perry. Although he declined to speculate about which possible Republican presidential candidate would be easier or harder to beat, he cautioned not to underrate Perry. Gibbs thinks that Perry could be a strong candidate in the general election, notwithstanding his seemingly over-the-top positions on Social Security and North Carolina barbecue.

What Perry has, according to Gibbs, that the other Republican candidates lack, is “that he is comfortable in his boots—like Ronald Reagan.”

If Gibbs is right, Perry will not be thrown off course by his campaign’s recent downturns, and this time next year, he will be a formidable challenger to President Obama.

New books and a new Bookwatch

UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch begins a new season on Friday, August 5, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, August 7, at 5 p.m.
My editors let me share with you my reading suggestions. They know that the suggestions parallel exactly upcoming Bookwatch shows.
Because earlier columns have already discussed several books on the list, some descriptions will be short.
The new series opens with one of North Carolina’s most respected authors, UNC-Greensboro’s Michael Parker. He discusses “The Watery Part Of The World,” an imaginative story that blends coastal history and legends with race and other complexities to make a gripping and lovely story.  (Aug. 5, 7)
In “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next,” John D. Karsarda, director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill, explains why efficient, well-designed airports attract economic development and will be the central cities of the future. He discusses the challenges and opportunities that face North Carolina’s major airports. (Aug. 12,14)
Can a retired professor of religious studies write a successful science fiction novel? David Halperin’s “Journal of a UFO Investigator, ” proves that UFOs, science fiction, and religion can come together to make compelling fiction in a most unusual way. (Aug. 19, 21)
Sara Foster’s “Southern Kitchen: Soulful, Traditional, Seasonal” will be the first of several food-related books featured on Bookwatch this season. Foster, who once worked with Martha Stewart, generously shares favorite recipes from her family and from her market. (Aug. 26, 28)
Best-selling author Steve Berry’s many visits to eastern North Carolina led him to set much of his newest adventure novel, “The Jefferson Key,” in and around the town of Bath, where fictional modern-day pirates live in palatial estates. (Sept. 2, 4)
Rosecrans Baldwin’s first novel “You Lost Me There” is set in Maine, and Baldwin has only recently settled in North Carolina. But when the book was named one of National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2010, a Best Book of Summer 2010 by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, I knew Bookwatch viewers would want to learn about Baldwin and his highly praised book. (Sept. 9, 11)
Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes” is a guide to finding the best seasonal foods in our region. She organizes her recipes into about 40 chapters, each featuring a different vegetables or fruit. (Sept. 16, 18)
Where do you get these seasonal foods? Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh North Carolina: The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.” Durham’s Daniel’s great travel writing skills describe where doors are open for us to learn how the best North Carolina foods are grown and raised. (Sept. 23, 25)
Marjorie Hudson’s “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas: Stories about newcomers and natives, and the healing power of the rural South” is a collection of fiction that gives a true look at how rural North Carolina is changing and staying the same. (Sept. 30, Oct. 2)
“Butterfly’s Child” by former N.C. State writing teacher, Angela Davis-Gardner, is a sequel to Puccini’s opera. It answers fictionally the question, “What ever happened to Madam Butterfly’s son after she committed suicide when her American lover came back to Japan with his American wife?” (Oct. 7, 9)
Morehead Scholar and Rhodes Scholar Robyn Hadley used her experience in counseling students in the Alamance-Burlington school system to write a book for students planning for college. The book is “Within View, Within Reach: Navigating the College-Bound Journey.” Hadley’s good advice might be even more important for parents of prospective college students. (Oct. 12, 14)

What books are you looking forward to this fall? Let me know below.

Fiction tells the truth about North Carolina’s changing rural landscape

We have changed.

More urban. Less rural and farming.
At least that is what the latest Census is telling us.
But the story is more complicated. It is more interesting, too. Out in the formerly all-rural counties of our state, new kinds of residents have moved in. But lots of the old-time residents are still there.
How do fifth-generation farming families interact with back-to-the-land newcomers, suburbanite encroachers, and retirement community residents?
The census does not give us the answer.
Maybe the answer can be found best in fiction.
Chatham County’s award-winning writer Marjorie Hudson has given it a try in a new book of short stories, “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas: Stories about newcomers and natives, and the healing power of the rural South.”
Hudson sets her stories in a fictional Ambler County, which is much like her own Chatham County. Like Chatham, Ambler is rural by tradition, but growth from nearby cities is expanding across the county lines. At the same time, idealistic young people from all over the country are still moving to rural Ambler to try their hands at living on the land and off the grid. The natives and the “accidental” newcomers are characters who move through Hudson’s stories.
In “The Clearing,” a woman running away from a broken relationship moves into an old farmhouse in bad repair. When the pipes freeze, a crusty local plumber named Whiskey Collins fixes them. Before you know, he is fixing everything for her. They may be an unlikely pair, but when they wind up making love in the water of a spring hole, neither seems to care that they might not be meant for each other.
In “Rapture,” an old-timer named Sarton Lee and his wife, Miss Irma, had a daughter Trudy, who was a mess. When she died of a drug overdose, Sarton and Irma were left to raise Trudy’s daughter, Nancy. They love her. Then she falls sick, and, as Sarton says, “The good Lord in his wisdom dragged it out for a full year, that son of a bitch.” There is much more to the story but, quoting Sarton again, “You are never so alone as when a child dies.”
“The High Life” is the story of Dip, a 15-year-old runaway, who is working at a carnival that has stopped in town. He helps Royal, a hard-core carnival man, who, ugly and dirty as he is, still is a great seducer. Dip has a hard time adjusting to his new life and ultimately runs away again.
Nina is married to a mentally ravaged-by-war soldier who turns his wrath on her. A voice tells her to leave. Driving through North Carolina, she sees a sign, “Providence,” which gives the story its title. She stops, finds an old house to rent for $50 a month, and settles in.
In “Home,” a young woman marries Carter, who lives on a farm. Carter’s son from his first marriage loves the farm where he, his mom, and Carter, once lived. The new wife’s marriage is haunted by her thoughts of Carter’s first family’s life on the farm where she now lives.
In the title story, a retired Army colonel trying to get used to subdivision life in Ambler County loses his wife unexpectedly. He finds himself ill equipped to deal with his new circumstances.
 “The Outside World,” really a novella, tracks the marriage of a student at Chapel Hill who falls in love with her professor. She follows him to a farm in Ambler County, where he tries to replicate the experience of Henry Thoreau, resulting in special challenges to their lives and marriage.
Sometimes fiction is the best way to tell the truth.
This time, Marjorie Hudson’s fiction does the job.

Carolinas Connections

A gala wedding party was thrown at Litchfield Plantation in South Carolina last weekend, and among other things it was a great example of why people who live in both Carolinas argue and joke over which is the REAL Carolina. Each state has so much to offer, no wonder so many people claim them both.
Because the bride is the daughter of former UNC basketball player and assistant coach Eddie Fogler, the Carolina mix was evident from the moment everyone arrived. Besides almost 200 friends from both states, many were people who live in North Carolina and summer in South Carolina.
Here are some of the uncanny connections.
Emma Lee Fogler was conceived in Chapel Hill, grew up in Wichita and Nashville (where her Dad coached) but for the last 18 years lived in Columbia, where Fogler finished his coaching career with eight years at South Carolina. Emma’s new husband is Boyd Jefferson (B.J.) Phillips, her high school sweetheart who went on to play football at NORTH Carolina.
Phillips, in fact, is the subject of a great UNC football trivia question. He played games in consecutive seasons in Kenan Stadium for DIFFERENT teams. After graduating from UNC in three years, Phillips got his Masters at The Citadel, where he played his last season of eligibility and returned to face the Tar Heels in 2009. (FYI, quarterback Mike Paulus is the other player with such a distinction, transferring to William & Mary after the 2009 season and nearly leading the Tribe to an upset over Carolina in 2010.)
The crowd in the bar at the elegant Carriage Club gathered around the TVs, watching the end of the NORTH Carolina game in the NCAA Baseball Tournament and the start of the SOUTH Carolina game. Both teams advanced and are in opposite brackets of the College World Series that starts Saturday.
“Carolina won today,” said so many people. “Which Carolina?” was a popular retort.
The Tar Heels’ first game in Omaha is against Vanderbilt, where Fogler’s son, Ben, is going on a golf scholarship this fall after growing up a Tar Heel fan. Ben, one of the top-ranked juniors in the Carolinas and a straight-A student, wanted to go away to school and chose Vandy because, frankly, it did a better job recruiting him than recently retired UNC golf coach John Inman. 
Robin Fogler, a UNC graduate, and her daughter planned most of the wedding, from the short-but-sweet ceremony in a small church with family ties in nearby Murrells Inlet, to the fabulous flowers and incredible food. But when they needed to hire a great band, Eddie turned to his old fraternity brother in Charlotte, Larry Farber, at East Coast Entertainment. Farber delivered with the six-piece Rhythm Nation, which kept the dance floor under the massive tent rocking all night.
Out there shagging was Roy Williams, the UNC Basketball coach in a stunning Carolina Blue sport jacket, and his wife Wanda. The Williams’ drove up from their beach home at Wild Dunes; Roy would not miss the wedding of his former cohort’s daughter as much as he would not miss attending the CWS to support Mike Fox. In between, Williams played in the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. In the midst of it all, Williams is conducting the Carolina Basketball School (camp) and paying attention to his potentially top-ranked 2012 team that is spending the summer in Chapel Hill.
Williams’ love for his alma mater runs so deep that he often tries to be in three places at the same time. He was approached, but not bothered, by numerous wedding guests who live in the Carolinas and have some ties to Chapel Hill and the Tar Heels. Gracious as ever, Williams shook dozens of hands and posed for repeated pictures. He and Wanda paid special attention to former UNC coach Bill Guthridge and his wife, Leesie, who also attended and are both healing up after recent medical procedures. That’s what true Carolina coaches do, look after each other like members of the same family they represent.
After 30 years in coaching, during which he won SEC championships and national Coach of the Year honors at Vanderbilt and South Carolina, Eddie Fogler retired from the sideline 10 years ago. He remained living outside of Columbia and raised a beautiful family, while staying connected to the game through TV color commentary, tournament administration and, most recently, helping colleges find new basketball coaches. His latest assignment was at Penn State, which hired Patrick Chambers but not before granting 70-year-old Larry Brown an interview.
Brown is currently out of coaching and living in Philadelphia after leaving the Charlotte Bobcats last season. The former UNC player and Hall of Famer was Fogler’s freshman coach in 1967, and they remain friends. Fogler’s old freshman teammates were also at the wedding, Jim Delany, Commissioner of the Big Ten, and Rich Gersten, a second-generation Tar Heel whose 90-year-old father Bobby was captain of the 1942 UNC team and played in the 100-year anniversary alumni game in February of 2010.
Fogler and I have been friends since we were fraternity brothers at UNC and, in 1979, opened Four Corners sports bar on Franklin Street. Fogler was Dean Smith’s chief recruiter at the time but got his boss’ blessing to be a silent partner because Smith wanted Fogler to make more money than he was earning from the state in those days.  So Fogler kept coaching and usually stopped in after practice.
On one of those days, he met the stunning young hostess we had just hired. They began dating and the rest, as they say, is Carolinas history.
What’s your favorite crossover Carolinas story?