North Carolina Books For Last Minute Gifts

Just in time for holiday giving, here are some good ideas about a variety of North Carolina related books, one or two of which might be perfect for a last minute gift.

But first a bit of news about UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch’s broadcast schedule. Beginning in January, the program will air on Sundays at 12 noon, with a repeat on the following Thursday at 5 p.m.

Now, back to possible gifts, here is an idea for any beer lover on your list, “North Carolina Craft Beer & Breweries” by Hillsborough craft brewer, Erik Lars Myers. “Once upon a time,” says Myers, “I would have said brewing beer was my hobby. Now, it’s my life.”

In his new book he shares his bountiful knowledge about the history of the craft beer business in North Carolina and where you can go to get the freshest and best local brews at small breweries all across the state. He will share more of that knowledge on North Carolina Bookwatch this weekend. (Friday, December 21, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday December 23, at 5 p.m.)

For a North Carolinian who is interested in World War II, here is a perfect suggestion: “War Zone—World War II off the North Carolina Coast.” Author Kevin Duffus reviews the first seven months of the war when German U-boats destroyed U.S. ships off the North Carolina coast at will. He also tells some of the human interest stories that accompanied military action in the North Carolina zone of that war. (Dec. 28, 30)

A book that will be important to people who like to read about the Civil War and those interested in the struggle for Civil Rights is David Cecelski’s “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War.” Galloway was an escaped slave from Wilmington, who became a James Bond-like agent for the Union Army. After the war, he turned his charisma and savvy to politics and ran circles around his white fellow legislators. Cecelski’s great storytelling gifts make this biography better reading than much of today’s historic fiction. (Note: This weekend the schedule will change. North Carolina Bookwatch will air on Sunday, January 6, at 12 noon, and Thursday, January 10, at 5 p.m.)

Cecelski’s friend, Bland Simpson, has a new book that covers the Civil War era from two different perspectives. The first is that of a talented waterman and captain, but one who was enslaved and badly treated. The second perspective is that of a naval officer who had his own set of challenges as he served first the United States and then the Confederacy. It is hard to see how anyone could bring these points of view together in the same book, but Simpson, has done it in “Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War.” (Sunday, January 13, and Thursday, January 17)

In Emily Colin’s debut novel, “The Memory Thief,” a young woman begs her mountain-climbing husband not to take on Mount McKinley in Alaska. He goes anyway, promising, “I will come back to you.” But, as she feared, he falls to his death. Still, that promise to return is haunting. Learning how it is fulfilled is the backbone of the novel. (January 20, 24)

Finally, an idea for children and young teens if you are wondering what they are reading now that the Harry Potter series has come to an end. Sheila Turnage faces this challenge in “Three Times Lucky” by introducing us to the crime-solving talents of two pre-teens from Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo LoBeau is sassy, charming, and smart. She and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, lead Turnage’s readers through a most entertaining murder investigation. (January 27, 31)

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV until the end of December. For more information or to view prior programs, visit the webpage at A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.

A Call for Peace

I am Miriam Thompson, a member the Triangle Branch of Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Jews for a Just Peace NC and part of a growing number of local Abrahamic faith leaders seeking a just and secure peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

Gaza is in the news, but seldom will you hear in the mainstream media that our government gives $3.1 billion military aid to Israel, in violation of our laws that forbid use of that aid against civilian populations.  $3.1 billion gives our government, our President, leverage to intervene not only to help assure permanent ceasefire brokered by Egypt,  but to condemn Israel’s savage and disproportionate bombing of Gaza.  Already the bombing has caused hundreds of civilian death and injuries in Gaza and the toll rises. 3 Israelis are reported dead from Hamas rockets.

Our government has leverage to end Israel’s brutal siege of Gaza’s 1.7 million people – a siege that Israel has imposed since Hamas was democratically elected in 2006.  80% of Gazans need food aid, 45% are unemployed, economic development has been disrupted by the Israeli blockade. Further fueling the crisis was Israel’s recent assassination of Hamas Military leader, Ahmed Jabari.  Known to Israeli intelligence, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Jabari was poised to negotiate a permanent cease fire brokered by Egypt and was instrumental in securing the release of an Israeli soldier.

Our government needs to hear our voices that demand not only a permanent cease fire in Gaza, but an end to the blockade, an end to the Occupation, an end to Israeli land expansion through its building of  illegal settlements and demolishing  Palestinian homes.  Israel’s actions with the support of our U.S. tax dollars endanger its security, democracy and world standing. Our voices must call for bringing the $3.1 billion war dollars home, including right here in Orange County to secure funding for our pubic schools, build affordable housing, expand health care services and early childhood programs. Please call and get others to call the White House comment line at (202) 456- 1414,  the State Dept. at (292) 657-4000, and Congress members and Senators at (292) 225-3121, and call or write media outlets to tell the whole story. For more information go to where you can find other important news links.

September 11: Remembering what we thought and wrote back then

Ten years ago, what were we thinking?

Here is what I wrote in September 2001:

War. War. War.

What is it about this word that excites us, that unifies us, that puts aside at least for a moment our selfish preoccupation with ourselves?

The word brings with it a spirit of action that rises out of September 11’s time of despair, questionings, and anger. It rushes through my system like a miracle drug, wiping out my depression and lifting my spirits to new heights.

A flag banner decorates our front porch. My chest puffs out with pride as the army calls my son to a week’s active duty to help process other reservists who are being called for longer periods of service during this war on terrorism.

War. War. War.

Oh, what a word. We will fight a war against terrorism. We will find it, destroy it, root it out, and avenge its murder of our friends and countrymen.

It is exhilarating and comforting.

But underneath I know it is not going to happen that way.

There is not going to be a quick, happy ending, no VE Day or a VJ Day, as there was at the end of the Second World War. Even if there is a successful military strike against bin Laden or his terrorist training camps, it will not win our “war.”

Indeed, we must expect that an attack will unify and strengthen the terrorists and their supporters, just as the attack on the twin towers and the Pentagon brought us together and strengthened our resolve.

Do not mistake me. A military strike may very well be an important part of our response to this challenge. If terrorism is a kind of cancer affecting the entire world, then radical surgery is probably a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. But radical surgery on a cancer patient is often an incomplete cure. And sometimes the surgery brings about its own set of unintended consequences.

Similarly, military action cannot bring about a complete solution to the terrorism cancer, and every military strike will bring about its own set of unintended consequences.

Our efforts against terrorism and its causes are going to be long and drawn out. We can’t maintain a “wartime” footing for so long. Maybe “war” is not the best word to describe to describe our commitment against terrorism.

Of course, this is not the first time our government has rallied us around a commitment to solve a serious problem by calling for a “war.”

We have the war on poverty. The war on drugs. The war on crime. And we have declared war on racial hatred, on AIDS and other diseases, on under performing schools, on unsafe automobiles, on the polluters of the environment, and on many other varieties of “evil.”

We haven’t yet won any of those wars. There have been some great victories. Things are better than they would’ve been. But “complete victory” was probably never possible. Our national effort in all these areas continues–but without a “total war” commitment. We learned each time that we could not sustain a total national commitment to all these “wars” at the same time.

As we begin our national effort against worldwide terrorism, it might be well for us to remember our prior wars against these other endemic problems. Remember that they last a long time, remember that there are few decisive victories, and remember that Americans’ attention spans don’t last through long drawn-out indecisive wars.

Remembering those lessons and putting aside the war terminology, our leaders can better emphasize our country’s need for a sustainable, long-term commitment to the development and patient implementation of wise policies to track down terrorists, clear out their breeding grounds, and deal with the root causes of their activity.

Using more restrained words to describe our resolve against terrorism, it may be easier for us to remember that there are other common tasks that are also critical to a healthy and safe America: fighting crime, promoting health, building a strong economy, strengthening education, improving the environment, and working together for a stronger, better country.

If the terrorists have diverted us from those on-going tasks, they have already won.

Let's Go Beyond Civil War Markers at Town-Gown Border

On either side of downtown Franklin Street’s stonewall are not one but two Confederate markers. If we are what we remember, it is long past time for UNC and Chapel Hill to recognize similarly the town’s first African-American mayor: Howard Lee.

The monument known as “Silent Sam” sits on the “gown” side. It was erected in 1913 in honor of fallen Southern soldiers with UNC ties. On the town side is a highway marker dedicated to Jefferson Davis in 1955, ninety years after he led the Confederacy during America’s Civil War.

For a community that prides itself for being at the forefront of racial progress having these two markers greet the diverse student body, community members, and town visitors is incongruous. (Two other nearby markers — one referencing Daniel Boone, the other highlighting UNC Chapel Hill’s place as America’s first state university — do nothing to address the issue of having the principle commemorative focus of one of North Carolina’s most prominent thoroughfares be on the Civil War yet silent on civil rights.)

Luckily, addressing the oversight is easy. Commemorating black political pioneer Howard Lee, who in 1969 became the first African-American elected to lead a predominantly white southern city, would pay tribute to a remarkable man and acknowledge the advancements Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the South and our nation have made since the Civil Rights Movement gained steam in the 1950s.

The real dilemma is not whether to commemorate Howard Lee but where? Lee — former Chair of the state Board of Education and an education leader during his years in the state Senate — has done so much to improve K-12th grade and college-level learning that a campus marker would be fitting. Equally deserved would be a town side marker focusing on his many municipal contributions including his work to upgrade Chapel Hill’s bus system.

Wherever its placed, I support the addition of a tangible testament honoring Howard Lee. How about you?