It’s that time of year! Although Heartlands has been on hiatus, the reading has been ongoing and it’s time to take stock of the year that was in reading. Since its inception in 2016, Heartlands has been offering book reviews based on my eclectic tastes.
Each year I comb through the list to choose ten books that reflect excellence in the areas that interest me: strong sense of place, particular attention to the South and Texas, race, history, faith, and poetry. You’ll find all of those in this list. Books published this year got more weight in the selection process, so you’ll see some gems by the likes of Willa Cather and Emmanuel Carrère in the honorable mentions only because of that thumb on the scale.
So let’s get started. First up, at #10, is John Archibald’s searing Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Revolution, a memoir written by the son of a white Methodist clergyman who was preaching in Alabama’s largest city during the 60s when it was known as Bombingham because of the violent resistance to the civil rights movement. Archibald, who went on to become a prominent and outspoken Alabama newspaperman, takes us through his father’s old sermon files and asks, “Is it enough to be a good man? A good person? Are there not times when you must say more and do more? Are there not moments in history when you must take your fist or your head and pound on your podium, on your pulpit?” (218-9)
As a preacher, it’s a disturbing read, but for all people of good will and faith it’s an important book that helps us wrestle with how to be more than good-natured allies in the continuing struggle for racial equity. Read my full review here.