Root and Press Newsletter Worcester's Independent Blog, Cafe and Bookstore

We have had lots to do in our apartment the past few weeks, so much so that the newsletter will have to be somewhat short this week. But! We have a double batch of new releases, all of which are available now at Root and Press. 

Please order either online or stop down the shop to get your copies.

For store updates: we have decided for now to forego any designs on indoor seating. We feel that our store is too small and the threat of the variant strains looms too large to justify opening our store to indoor diners at this point. We have been able to get by on takeout and food orders and feel we are hopefully on the precipice of a major move towards putting the worst of the virus behind us if we can just hang on a little longer (what's a few more months?) We are as excited as anyone to resume a lot of the hobbies/events that we have missed for almost a full calendar year - and we feel this decision is the best for ourselves, staff, and customers.

It cannot go without mentioning that the ability to have the flexibility to decide whether or not to have indoor dining is because of the awesome support of the community. Many food-service establishments simply are not afforded this luxury and have had to operate similar to normal despite any reservations about COVID control. We are fortunate and thankful for the support! And humbly ask for similar support going forward until we beat back the numbers with vaccinations. 

Until next week, stay safe and well!

New Books!

Cowboy Graves: Three Novellas by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer

Cowboy Graves is an unexpected treasure from the vault of a revolutionary talent. Roberto Bolaño's boundless imagination and seemingly inexhaustible gift for shaping the chaos of his reality into fiction is unmistakable in these three novellas. In Cowboy Graves, Arturo Belano--Bolaño's alter ego--returns to Chile after the coup to fight with his comrades for socialism. French Comedy of Horrors, takes the reader to French Guiana on the night after an eclipse where a seventeen year old answers a pay phone and finds himself recruited into the Clandestine Surrealist Group, a secret society of artists based in the sewers of Paris. And in Fatherland, a young poet reckons with the fascist overthrow of his country, as the woman he is obsessed with disappears in the ensuing violence and a Third Reich fighter plane mysteriously writes her poetry in the sky overhead.

These three fiercely original tales bear the signatures of Bolaño's extraordinary body of work, echoing the strange characters and uncanny scenes of his triumphs, while deepening our reverence for his gifts.

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song by Henry Louis Gates

From the New York Times-bestselling author of Stony the Road and one of our most important voices on the African-American experience, a powerful new history of the Black church in America as the Black community's abiding rock and its fortress.

The companion book to the upcoming PBS series.

For the young Henry Louis Gates, Jr., growing up in a small, segregated West Virginia town, the church was his family and his community's true center of gravity. Within those walls, voices were lifted up in song to call forth the best in each other, and to comfort each other when times were at their worst. In this book, his tender and magisterial reckoning with the meaning of the Black church in American history, Gates takes us from his own experience onto a journey across more than four hundred years and spanning the entire country. At road's end, we emerge with a new understanding of the centrality of the Black church to the American story--as a cultural and political force, as the center of resistance to slavery and white supremacy, as an unparalleled incubator of talent, and as a crucible for working through the community's most important issues, down to today.

In a country that has historically afforded its citizens from the African diaspora tragically few safe spaces, the Black church has always been more than a sanctuary; it's been a place to nourish the deepest human needs and dreams of the African-American community. This fact was never lost on white supremacists: from the earliest days of slavery, when enslaved people were allowed to worship at all, their meeting houses were subject to surveillance, and often destruction. So it continued, long after slavery's formal eradication; church burnings and church bombings by the Ku Klux Klan and others have always been a hallmark of the violent effort to suppress the struggle for equality for the African-American community. The past often isn't even past--Dylann Roof committed his slaughter in Charleston's Emanuel AME Church 193 years after the church was first burned down by whites following a thwarted slave rebellion.

But as Gates brilliantly shows, the Black church has never been only one thing. Its story lies at the vital center of the civil rights movement, and produced many of its leaders, from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on, but at the same time there have always been churches and sects that eschewed a more activist stance, even eschewed worldly political engagement altogether. That tension can be felt all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement and the work of today. Still and all, as a source of strength and a force for change, the Black church is at the center of the action at every stage of the American story, as this enthralling history makes vividly clear.

 

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates

Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.

He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, he describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions, where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively, where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete, practical plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions--suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers, and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise.

As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but if we follow the plan he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.

Calhoun: American Heretic by Robert Elder

John C. Calhoun is among the most notorious and enigmatic figures in American political history. First elected to Congress in 1810, Calhoun went on to serve as secretary of war and vice president. But he is perhaps most known for arguing in favor of slavery as a "positive good" and for his famous doctrine of "state interposition," which laid the groundwork for the South to secede from the Union--and arguably set the nation on course for civil war.

Calhoun has catapulted back into the public eye in recent years, as some observers connected the strain of radical politics he developed to the tactics and extremism of the modern Far Right, and as protests over racial injustice have focused on his legacy. In this revelatory biographical study, historian Robert Elder shows that Calhoun is even more broadly significant than these events suggest, and that his story is crucial for understanding the political climate in which we find ourselves today. By excising Calhoun from the mainstream of American history, he argues, we have been left with a distorted understanding of our past and no way to explain our present.

The Uncommon Case of Daniel Brown: How a White Police Officer Was Convicted of Killing a Black Citizen, Baltimore, 1875 by Gordon H. Shufelt

In 1875 an Irish-born Baltimore policeman, Patrick McDonald, entered the home of Daniel Brown, an African American laborer, and clubbed and shot Brown, who died within an hour of the attack. In similar cases at the time, authorities routinely exonerated Maryland law enforcement officers who killed African Americans, usually without serious inquiries into the underlying facts. But in this case, Baltimore's white community chose a different path. A coroner's jury declined to attribute the killing to accident or self-defense; the state's attorney indicted McDonald and brought him to trial; and a criminal court jury convicted McDonald of manslaughter.

What makes this work so powerful is that many of the issues that the antipolice brutality movement faces today were the very issues faced by black people in nineteenth-century Baltimore.

Both Brown and McDonald represented factions in conflict during a period of social upheaval, and both men left home to escape dire conditions. Yet trouble followed both to Baltimore. While the conviction of McDonald was unique, it was not a racially enlightened moment in policing. The killing of Brown was viewed not as racial injustice, but police violence spreading to their neighborhood. White elites saw the police as an uncontrolled force threatening their well-being. The clubbing and shooting of an unarmed black man only a block away from the wealthy residences of Park Avenue represented a breakdown in the social order--but Jim Crow in Baltimore was not in danger.

Prior to 1867 a Maryland statute barred African Americans from testifying against whites in proceedings before police magistrates or in any of the state's courts. During the trial of McDonald, the press described the Baltimore police as "blue coated ruffians," and there was a general distrust of the police force by both blacks and whites. Brown's wife, Keziah, gave damning testimony of Officer McDonald's actions. The jury could not agree on verdicts of first- or second-degree murder, and after an attempt to reach a compromise verdict of second-degree murder failed, the majority acquiesced to the manslaughter verdict.

The Uncommon Case of Daniel Brown adds to the historiography of policing and criminal justice by demonstrating the pivotal role of the coroner's inquest in such cases and by illustrating the importance of social ties and political divisions when a community addresses an episode of police violence.

Consent: A Memoir by Vanessa Springora, translated by Natasha Lehrer

Sometimes, all it takes is a single voice to shatter the silence of complicity.

Thirty years ago, Vanessa Springora was the teenage muse of one of the country's most celebrated writers, a footnote in the narrative of a very influential man in the French literary world.

At the end of 2019, as women around the world began to speak out, Vanessa, now in her forties and the director of one of France's leading publishing houses, decided to reclaim her own story, offering her perspective of those events sharply known.

Consent is the story of one precocious young girl's stolen adolescence. Devastating in its honesty, Vanessa's painstakingly memoir lays bare the cultural attitudes and circumstances that made it possible for a thirteen-year-old girl to become involved with a fifty-year-old man who happened to be a notable writer. As she recalls the events of her childhood and her seduction by one of her country's most notable writers, Vanessa reflects on the ways in which this disturbing relationship changed and affected her as she grew older.

Drawing parallels between children's fairy tales and French history and her personal life, Vanessa offers an intimate and absorbing look at the meaning of love and consent and the toll of trauma and the power of healing in women's lives. Ultimately, she offers a forceful indictment of a chauvinistic literary world that has for too long accepted and helped perpetuate gender inequality and the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

Translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer

 

Later by Stephen King

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine - as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King's classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

The Desolations of Devil's Acre by Ransom Riggs

 The last thing Jacob Portman saw before the world went dark was a terrible, familiar face.

Suddenly, he and Noor are back in the place where everything began--his grandfather's house. Jacob doesn't know how they escaped from V's loop to find themselves in Florida. But he does know one thing for certain: Caul has returned.
After a narrow getaway from a blood- thirsty hollow, Jacob and Noor reunite with Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children in Devil's Acre. The Acre is being plagued by desolations--weather fronts of ash and blood and bone--a terrible portent of Caul's amassing army.
Risen from the Library of Souls and more powerful than ever, Caul and his apocalyptic agenda seem unstoppable. Only one hope remains--deliver Noor to the meeting place of the seven prophesied ones. If they can decipher its secret location.

Kg: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between by Keven Garnett, with David Ritz

 Kevin Garnett was one of the most dominant players the game of basketball has ever seen. He was also one of its most outspoken. Over the course of his illustrious twenty-one-year NBA career, he elevated trash talk to an art form and never shied away from sharing his thoughts on controversial subjects. In KG A to Z, published ahead of Garnett's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he looks back on his life and career with the same raw candor.

Garnett describes the adversity he faced growing up in South Carolina before ultimately relocating to Chicago, where he became one of the top prospects in the nation. He details his headline-making decision to skip college and become the first player in two decades to enter the draft directly from high school, starting a trend that would be followed by future superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. He shares stories of playing with and against Bryant, James, Michael Jordan, and other NBA greats, and he chronicles his professional ups and downs, including winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. He also speaks his mind on a range of topics beyond basketball, such as fame, family, racism, spirituality, and music.

Garnett's draft decision wasn't the only way he'd forever change the game. His ability to play on the perimeter as a big man foreshadowed the winning strategy now universally adopted by the league. He applies this same innovative spirit here, organizing the contents alphabetically as an encyclopedia. If you thought Kevin Garnett was exciting, inspiring, and unfiltered on the court, just wait until you read what he has to say in these pages.

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption by Justin Fenton

 Baltimore, 2015. Riots are erupting across the city as citizens demand justice for Freddie Gray, a twenty-five-year-old Black man who has died under suspicious circumstances while in police custody. Drug and violent crime are surging, and Baltimore will reach its highest murder count in more than two decades: 342 homicides in a single year, in a city of just 600,000 people. Facing pressure from the mayor's office--as well as a federal investigation of the department over Gray's death--Baltimore police commanders turn to a rank-and-file hero, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, and his elite plainclothes unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, to help get guns and drugs off the street.

But behind these new efforts, a criminal conspiracy of unprecedented scale was unfolding within the police department. Entrusted with fixing the city's drug and gun crisis, Jenkins chose to exploit it instead. With other members of the empowered Gun Trace Task Force, Jenkins stole from Baltimore's citizens--skimming from drug busts, pocketing thousands in cash found in private homes, and planting fake evidence to throw Internal Affairs off their scent. Their brazen crime spree would go unchecked for years. The result was countless wrongful convictions, the death of an innocent civilian, and the mysterious death of one cop who was shot in the head, killed just a day before he was scheduled to testify against the unit.

In this urgent book, award-winning investigative journalist Justin Fenton distills hundreds of interviews, thousands of court documents, and countless hours of video footage to present the definitive account of the entire scandal. The result is an astounding, riveting feat of reportage about a rogue police unit, the city they held hostage, and the ongoing struggle between American law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve.

Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina

 Elizabeth's mother was working as a nightclub hostess on U.S.-occupied Okinawa when she met the American soldier who would become her husband. The language barrier and power imbalance that defined their early relationship followed them to the predominantly white, upstate New York suburb where they moved to raise their only daughter. There, Elizabeth grew up with the trappings of a typical American childhood and adolescence. Yet even though she felt almost no connection to her mother's distant home, she also felt out of place among her peers. Decades later, Elizabeth comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both her and her mother, and attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people. Clear-eyed and profoundly humane, Speak, Okinawa is a startling accomplishment--a heartfelt exploration of identity, inheritance, forgiveness, and what it means to be an American.

Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels by Ioan Grillo 

 The gun control debate is revived with every mass shooting. But far more people die from gun deaths on the street corners of inner city America and across the border as Mexico's powerful cartels battle to control the drug trade. Guns and drugs aren't often connected in our heated discussions of gun control-but they should be. In Ioan Grillo's groundbreaking new work of investigative journalism, he shows us this connection by following the market for guns in the Americas and how it has made the continent the most murderous on earth.

Grillo travels to gun manufacturers, strolls the aisles of gun shows and gun shops, talks to FBI agents who have infiltrated biker gangs, hangs out on Baltimore street corners, and visits the ATF gun tracing center in West Virginia. Along the way, he details the many ways that legal guns can cross over into the black market and into the hands of criminals, fueling violence here and south of the border. Simple legislative measures would help close these loopholes, but America's powerful gun lobby is uncompromising in its defense of the hallowed Second Amendment. Perhaps, however, if guns were seen not as symbols of freedom, but as key accessories in our epidemics of addiction, the conversation would shift. Blood Gun Money is that conversation shifter.