12 Booklist May 15, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam as well as in The
Breakbeat Poets (2015). The double meaning
of her first collection alludes to the speaker
in Hodge’s poems having relationships with
figureheads of hip-hop, from well-known
rappers to broke-down hustlers, and having grown up during the genre’s golden age.
But Hodge backs away from nostalgia and
instead confronts the frustrating difficulty of
coming-of-age as a black woman in America.
She leverages the severe weight of misfortune
through innovative, unforgettable language
(“we had a fire in the house / everything
curled into damage”), and unexpected imagery (“His thoughts are ivory that protrude
from the center / of his head”). In “Drake
questions the deceased, Vegas,” Hodge transports twenty-first-century R&B icon Drake
to the site of Tupac’s murder in Sin City, delivering a devastating homage: “if you had
been taught fame / was a fate crime against
black men, / would you have still stepped in
the booth?” —Diego Báez
YA: Teens will relate to Hodge’s fresh
and candid style, and will appreciate the
throwbacks and shout-outs to classic hip-hop. DB.
Geography & Travel
Full Moon over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey
to Mount Ararat and Beyond.
By Rick Antonson.
2016. 384p. Skyhorse, $24.99 (9781510705654). 915.
The nitty gritty of the author’s trek to the
summit of Mount Ararat is the focal point
of Antonson’s story, but there’s more. Located in present-day Turkey, Mount Ararat
stands in a region where tensions among
Turks, Kurds, and Armenians are palpable
and, as it has for generations, remains of
symbolic importance to many. Religion
is added to this cultural and political mix,
as Ararat is believed to be the place where
Noah’s Ark landed. From the beginning,
Antonson establishes himself as a perceptive
and evocative travel writer. A farmer he encounters at a train station, for instance, is
described as having a face “lined with stories
but not worries.” The various viewpoints he
encounters both on the climb and in subsequent visits to the region are respectfully
and sensitively presented, with some historical background to assist the reader. History
is not always pretty and hikes don’t always
go according to plan. But both are combined
here in an engaging and entertaining book.
Kingdoms in the Air: Dispatches
from the Far Away.
By Bob Shacochis.
June 2016. 400p. Grove, $26 (9780802124760). 910.
In the afterword, National Book Award–
Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest
winner Shacochis (The Woman Who Lost
Her Soul, 2013) urges travelers to test com-
fort zones, as if that impulse was avoidable
while reading this exuberant travel and
cultural anthology. Destination becomes ir-
relevant as Shacochis brings each setting to
life with a perceptive eye, an edgy devotion
to fresh language, and mastery at capturing
group interaction. He often wrestles with
a dilemma faced by many living in poor,
touristy regions—how to
balance development while
preserving character. A hid-
den Himalayan kingdom
allows some visitors, then
becomes overrun. A sleepy
Caribbean island sprouts
resorts and casinos. Rus-
sian thugs control entire
rivers, poaching caviar and leaving piles of
dead salmon. Mexican villagers earn more
money and watch more TV yet long for the
simpler lives they led before a resort usurped
their beaches. Cuba embraces glitzy tour-
ism to finance the communist revolution.
Conservation-minded readers may balk when
Shacochis plows through natural habitats on
a tank-like ATV, an Amazonian power boat,
or low-flying helicopters. But his unflinching
treatment of many Third World predica-
ments will engage every reader. Shacochis
lauds people with little money who claw
their way to adventure, and his diverse, vi-
brant essays, brimming with initiative, may
inspire some to seek the unique rewards of
unstructured travel. —Dane Carr
State Influences the Rest of the Country.
By Craig Pittman.
July 2016. 336p. illus. St. Martin’s, $26.99
(9781250071200); e-book (9781466882171). 975.9.
Ever since the Spaniards arrived, in the
1500s, Florida has beguiled and fooled
visitors, producing a body of human comedy journalist Pittman ( The Scent of Scandal,
2012) mines to risible effect. A native Floridian, Pittman built his assemblage of
newsy oddities both historical and current
on Florida’s essential magnetic attribute: its
semitropical coastal real estate. Millions of
vacationers and retirees want a piece of it,
spurring huckstering developers to pave over
the Gulf and Atlantic seashores—hurricanes
and sinkholes be damned! With the permanent and transient populations so confined,
no wonder tempers run short and bizarre
crimes, Pittman’s forte, abound. He provides
humorous accounts of court cases and social
trends originated in the Sunshine State that
have spread through America: Seminole casinos, state lotteries, plastic surgery, tabloid
newspapers, and police reality-TV shows.
Also noting the Floridian penchants for official corruption and theme parks, Pittman
wonders what compels Floridians to take
leave so often of their financial, sexual, and
ethical senses. Proposing carpe diem attitudes
and cash-in-now business mentalities, Pittman appropriately closes with a fleecing plea
to readers to keep Florida’s tourism economy
humming: “Bring your cash and credit cards.
We’re waiting for you!” —Gilbert Taylor
If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten
Promise of American Liberty.
By Eric Metaxas.
June 2016. 272p. Viking, $26 (9781101979983). 973.
New England Bound: Slavery and
In a goofy bobblehead of Nathan Hale, cre-
ated by waggish Yale alums, Metaxas discerns
a disturbing symptom of a cultural disease af-
flicting America. Evident in
the myriad ways that many
Americans now deprecate all
that is noble and inspiring in
their country’s history, this
disease greatly alarms Metax-
as as a threat to the republic
the American founders creat-
ed two centuries ago. Readers
willing to contemplate that threat will see how
cultural amnesia has dramatically dimmed
America’s collective awareness that freedom
depends ultimately on virtue. Once recognized
not only by Americans such as Washington and
Adams but also by European thinkers such as
Montesquieu and Tocqueville, this relationship
between liberty and virtue defines the center of
an impassioned appeal for a renewed American
patriotism. Anticipating pushback from readers
who regard patriotism as outmoded, Metaxas
argues that a healthy patriotism will lift us out
of narrow self-interest and motivate us to ad-
dress our nation’s still very real defects. And at
a time of increasing secularism, Metaxas dares
to affirm the enduring role of religion in foster-
ing virtuous patriotism in a nation still bearing
the formative marks of the Great Awakening.
A bracing challenge to both do-your-own-
thing liberals and free-market conservatives.
Colonization in Early America.
By Wendy Warren.
June 2016. 352p. illus. Norton/Liveright, $29.95
Most surveys of our “peculiar institution” of
chattel slavery concentrate upon the antebellum South. Warren asserts that both slavery and
the slave trade were a fundamental part of the
economic and social fabric of the New England
colonies, especially in the seventeenth century.
To support her thesis, Warren marshals some
impressive facts. Even before the large-scale
importation of African slaves into Southern
colonies, Native Americans were being enslaved
in New England, and African slaves were sent
to the North by way of the West Indies. Ships
built in New England transported enslaved
Africans across the Atlantic, and the economy
of the Northern colonies quickly became tied
to the developing slave-based economy of the
Southern colonies. Unfortunately, Warren
makes some sweeping and highly questionable
assertions. For example, despite her confident
claim, “colonization” of the Americas did not
make slavery inevitable, any more than other
mass migrations have. Still, this is a valuable
work that reminds us that the curse of slavery
cast a very broad net. —Jay Freeman