Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Green
This nonfiction takes place in McIntosh County which is located roughly an hour south of Savannah. Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of the area consisted of a mostly empty outlet mall and a couple gas station off of I-95. We've stopped there twice maybe.
The story begins in the 1970's with a rather corrupt sheriff in a county where the good ole boys system was accepted as the norm. While the opening scene of a sheriff permitting the pillaging of a truck wreck at first seems justifiable given the poor economic environment, one soon learns of far more unjustifiable practices. Thurnell Alston becomes the "hero" to stand up to Sheriff Popell and his corruption, gradually bringing the long delayed civil rights movement to a coastal Georgia community. However, even heroes sometimes fall and the last fifty pages illustrate that Alston is merely mortal. Green does brings an Agee-like quality to her writing and does an excellent job of capturing her subjects through interviews with parties on all sides.
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray
If I were a writer, I would want to write a book like that offered by Janisse Ray. She artistically weaves her experience as a child and her insight as an environmentalist to convey a tale of the environments impact on humanity and humanity's impact on the environment. Set in Appling County, Ray creates a patchwork of local history, genealogy, and personal reminiscence tied to the driving theme of the work; the impact of capital gain on the unique ecology of the long leaf pine forests. Her story is especially moving, because she rarely openly preaches in "Save the Pine Gopher" picket sign fashion. Instead, she gently guides the reader, building a bond of trust and acceptance. She then utilizes this trust to persuade readers to see the same value she sees in an ecosystem that is quickly disappearing. Granted, I did not grow up in Georgia and could not tell the difference between long leaf or slash pine. Still, the story reminds me of the old growth "black swamp" ecosystem of home, a story that is likely familiar to others in many parts of the nation.
Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community by Tom Kohler and Susan Earl
One the one hand, this book is short and easily read during a lunch break. On the down side, the story lacks the detail that would flush the story, leaving the reader wishing to know more about the central character, Waddie Welcome. Waddie grew up in Savannah and had CP. Through time, family members who had cared for him died or moved on, and Waddie was placed in a nursing home away from the community. Through the efforts of many active citizen volunteers, Waddie was able to live his final years among friends and family in Savannah. By pushing for more personalized care for Waddie, he was able to change the medicare system. It's an amazing story with excellent photo images. Yet, there is so much more the reader is left wondering about Waddie. Still, in just the few short pages of this book, the reader will be in tears by the end.