Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Fearless Fighter for an Ignoble Cause

Madison Smartt Bell writes a fictional biography of the deeply flawed Confederate warrior Nathan Bedford Forrest

The subject of Madison Smartt Bell‘s Devil’s Dream is enough to send a lot of readers—even Bell’s fans—running for the exits. A hefty novel on Confederate hero Nathan Bedford Forrest may not be an alluring prospect, unless you happen to belong to the dwindling cohort of folks who go misty-eyed when they hear “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” From its first paragraphs, however, Devil’s Dream defies expectations, combining meticulous research and vivid accounts of warfare with a complex character study of the South’s dubious hero. On November 20 at 7 p.m., Madison Smartt Bell will discuss Devil’s Dream at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville.

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That Close

A high-school cheerleader gets up close—but a long way from personal—with Stokely Carmichael during the March Against Fear in Memphis 1966

In the first week of June 1966, Stokely Carmichael was in Memphis. Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and a veteran of the civil-rights trenches, he had been arrested repeatedly since 1961’s Freedom Rides. At 24, he was becoming frustrated with the pace of change, doubtful it could be achieved without violence. In the first week of June 1966, Stokely Carmichael was days away from breaking with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., days away from raising his fist as he emerged yet again from prison in Greenwood, Mississippi, and making his famous speech advocating “Black Power.”

In the first week of June 1966, in Memphis, I was a high-school cheerleader.

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Not Far from the Tree

Cash biographer Michael Streissguth follows Rosanne as she records a cathartic album

In 1973, Johnny Cash gave his daughter Rosanne a list of 100 songs, many from the Southern tradition, that he thought a young musician was obligated to know. Always Been There tells the inside story of the album that, more than thirty-five years later, she finally made from “the list.” Based on interviews conducted in the studio, at home in New York City, and on tour in Europe, Always Been There chronicles the both the making of an iconic album and the remarkable career of one of popular music’s most gifted singer-songwriters.

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Skloot & Peelle, Plus Poetry

What’s new in Tennessee books—and at Chapter 16—on November 12, 2009

This week, Memphis writer Rebecca Skloot lands on the cover of Publisher’s Weekly, Nashville writer Lydia Peelle travels to Brooklyn to be honored at the National Book Association’s “5 Under 35” celebration, and Chapter 16 introduces its poetry collection.

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A Political Awakening

D’Army Bailey recounts his student days of protest and outrage

D’Army Bailey has embraced many roles in public life. He’s been an activist, a politician, and a distinguished jurist, serving on the Circuit Court bench in Memphis since 1990. He was instrumental in the founding of the National Civil Rights Museum, and he’s also done a few turns as an actor, appearing in films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and The People v. Larry Flynt. No doubt he has many stories to tell, but in The Education of a Black Radical: A Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey 1959-1964, he confines his memoir to one narrow segment of history: his college years, when he evolved from a very bright, conventional young man to a civil-rights firebrand who was expelled from his all-black school for leading student protests.

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Country's First Elvis

Barry Mazor discusses the musical reach and influence of American icon Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers became known as “The Father of Country Music,” but as Barry Mazor illustrates in his new book, Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, Rodgers was much more than a musical ancestor of The Outlaws. Though his last recording took place over 80 years ago, his influence remains pervasive in popular music and culture. Mazor goes beyond Rodgers’s biography to explain how he changed not just country music but the landscape of popular music as a whole. For Mazor, Jimmie Rodgers isn’t a relic of music history; he’s a modern icon.

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