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American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen

Book cover of American UprisingHistorically, the most frequently told story of a slave revolt in America’s history has been that of John Brown’s ill-fated attack at Harper’s Ferry. This is, as Daniel Rasmussen points out in American Uprising, was not the biggest revolt of slaves. It is simply the one that is the best known. In January, 1811, a group of about 500 slaves living in appalling conditions gathered behind two of their own, Kook and Quamara, and set out to attack the city of New Orleans. They had many things in their favor: the element of surprise; two leaders who were well versed in warfare; a rigid order of command; and well laid-out plans. In pouring-down rain between the dates of January 8 and January 11, 1811, they attacked their owners and went on to attack the city. Their plan might well have worked if not for several factors: a few slave owners surviving the attack and warning others, a lack of weapons and the reluctance of many fellow slaves to join the plan. By January 18, many of those who participated in the rebellion were dead. Had it been up to the slave owners, the account of the rebellion would also have been equally laid to rest. It is fortunate that a few remembered, and kept the memory alive, for us to be aware of it two centuries later.


As we currently read about atrocities happening overseas, one is reminded that such appalling oppression also happened on our own shores. The average life expectancy of a slave on a sugar plantation was just four years. Punishment and torture were common-place. One wonders how the owners could be blind to such suffering, and yet they were. Furthermore, the establishment did their best to wipe this matter from the record, to have it be forgotten lest others try to do the same—attempting to claim their freedom, their humanity, and their dignity. As I read this, I wanted the revolt to succeed, and knew it could not.  I was more curious as to how far the revolt went before it was suppressed, and found myself quite disappointed that it did not get very far indeed.


If there is one thing that disappointed me about the book in particular, it is that it did not spend very long on the rebellion itself. The author lost himself in other matters—how the white ruling class ignored the signs of rebellion and discontent (while at the same time being terrified of the monster they themselves had created); the aftermath of the rebellion, and how the revolt resurfaced as a historical fact. Certainly the author is not to blame too much for this; the attempt to suppress the record was very thorough. Yet the rebellion itself was far too brief for me to really appreciate what they must have gone through to nearly reach the point of victory--it's climax is far too brief. Nevertheless, I am indebted to the author for bringing attention to this event for us to appreciate several centuries after the fact. This is just the type of thing that books are meant for: to shine light where there once was darkness, and to be aware that unwritten events can be written once again. The efforts of Kook and Quamara were not in vain.

Posted by Bill Bowman on May 14, 2011 | Comments: 0 |


Book jacket of BossypantsFans of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live will appreciate Bossypants, a witty and insightful new memoir by comedian and writer Tina Fey.


From her childhood in Chicago to her rise in fame, Tina Fey takes us through the backroads of her life in and out of the spotlight. Delightfully awkward, and sarcastic, Fey turns the routine memoir on its head with her rendition. Written as a series of essays detailing various aspects of her life, Fey lets down her guard. Her breezy writing style and one-liner jokes has the feel of an intimate side-by-side chat with the actress. For an added kick of humor, make sure to request Bossypants in the audio version, read by Tina Fey herself.


If this book isn't enough, make sure to check out these additional Tina Fey comedies:

Sookie is Back!

Cover of Dead Reckoning by Charlaine HarrisCharlaine Harris has done it again! Dead Reckoning, is the latest in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Get on over to the catalog and request it right away!


Sookie is wondering if her love for her vampire boyfriend is real, or is it an effect of the blood bond between them. At the same time, she discovers she is also under the effects of a different sort of bond with the Fae members of her family who recently moved into her spare bedroom. Of course, someone is out to get her and the story moves at a fast pace over the course of several days while she and her supernatural allies sort things out.  And you finally find out why Sookie can read minds!


If you were avoiding this series because you thought it would be full of raunchy scenes, don't! The books have just a little bit when the plot requires it. So jump in to the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana and have a good ole supernatural time!

Words of Wisdom

Book cover of Wisdom by Andrew ZuckermanGet up close and personal with today's celebrities! In Wisdom, photographer Andrew Zuckerman profiles portraits and words of wisdom of more than 50 prominent figures in arts, politics, music, film, religion, and business. On the list you could find Madeleine Albright, Clint Eastwood, Judi Dench, Jane Goodall, Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela, Dave Brubeck, Willie Nelson, and many more. Access code for a free downloadable movie is provided in the book.

Gunn's Golden Rules

Book cover of Gunn's Golden RylesI try to incorporate a little fun reading during my lunch/dinner hour at the library.  This week a new book caught my eye:  Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work, by Tim Gunn. Hmm… there was Tim Gunn on the cover, looking perfectly groomed as an old fashioned teacher with a twinkle in his eyes. What in the world could I learn from this icon of the television reality series Project Runway? Thinking it was light, fluffy stuff to read during my break, I checked it out and waited for lunch hour. Well, as I expected, the book was totally entertaining, with lots and lots of dishy stories about Gunn’s encounters  with celebrities and  designers as well as heartwarming stories about his pre-Runway life. Much to my surprise, the book was well written, humorous with a serious undercurrent consisting of Gunn’s guidelines for making life a little better for yourself and others. What comes through is Gunn’s civilized philosophy of life in a world that is often way too informal and rude. Gunn is one polished gentleman who knows style: in fashion and in living a well mannered fulfilling life.   

Attorney at Prophesy, or Visionary at Law

Have you ever wondered what science fiction would be like if it was written by a lawyer? Okay, me neither. But the answer turns out to be, “pretty good.” John C. Wright’s Golden Age trilogy feels like a hero’s epic from classical mythology, and has elements of adventure, intrigue, and philosophy. Wright has carefully constructed a highly detailed and interesting future society in which artificial intelligence mediates all aspects of life, and then he delves into the ethics and ramifications of a human society which lives in symbiosis with artificial servitors who are wiser and smarter than the people are, and where the dividing line between human and machine is obscure, and unimportant. Follow Wright’s protagonist as he crusades across this fascinating world, falling from grace and fighting his way back to triumph. The volumes of the trilogy are:



Book cover of The Golden AgeBook cover for The Phoenix Exultant Book cover for The Golden Transcendence

Tales of the City

Tales of the City book coverTales of the City the Musical, based on Armistead Maupin’s famous eight-novel series of the same name, opens on May 18, 2011 at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco. The story follows Mary Ann Singleton, a naïve young woman who visits San Francisco in the 1970s and decides to stay and soak up its openness and eccentricities.


Tales of the City was first published in 1976 as a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, and audiences were immediately smitten with Maupin’s humorous and poignant storytelling. Maupin seemed to be channeling Charles Dickens, not only through the serial format (famously used by Dickens), but also through his interweaving of current events and saga and his clever use of stock characters. Also like Dickens’ novels, Tales of the City has managed to straddle the realms of pop melodrama and critically-acclaimed literature.


If you want to experience these quintessential San Francisco stories for the first time, or if you simply want to read them again before seeing the musical, you can reserve your book today!


SJPL has copies of each of the eight Tales of City novels, including electronic copies of Maupin’s 2010 release, Mary Ann in Autumn. The library also has non-reservable copies of the TV mini-series Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City, starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney, first released in 1993.


Finally, you can listen to an interview between local radio personality, Michael Krasny and Maupin in KQED’s Forum archives. Maupin, Carey Perloff (the director of ACT), and Jeff Whitty (playwright) discuss the upcoming opening of the Tales musical.

Swashbuckling History

Book cover of The First Samurai Many people avoid history because they’re afraid it’s just a list of facts and dates, and sometimes it can be. But in the hands of a skilled writer, history can read like a novel. Karl Friday is just such a skilled writer, and The First Samurai, his tale of an ambitious noble’s rebellious bid for power, is reminiscent of a James Clavell yarn. Friday is a historian who has figured out the trick of how much detail to leave out and how much to include, so that his books are both highly informative and highly readable.

David Foster Wallace, a Brilliant Author

Cover of The Pale KingDavid Foster Wallace completed one novel, Infinite Jest, and several short story collections in his brief life. The content is a stream of consciousness, complex look at individual's desire to cut through media and bureaucracy to connect. His work is the rare fiction that includes footnotes. And within the footnotes are important background information about his characters. The Infinite Jest title refers to a film that viewers find impossible to stop watching. The writing flowed from a place that only the really gifted find. His agent has posthumously released his new novel, The Pale King, to big advance reviews in Time Magazine and other sources.  

Welcome to Mesopotamia

Book cover of Eyewitness MesopotamiaEncountering the term Mesopotamia in the news, social media, or even surfing the Web, is the reality of facing history and searching for the real historical facts. Then, what is Mesopotamia?  Is it a nation, a civilization, a mystery, or is it an art? Realistically speaking, reviewing the history lessons would be the best rationale. Mesopotamia is the term that we have known in the history of the Ancient Civilizations, and it’s an integral part of the Near-Eastern Studies, Oriental Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, or even the Western Civilization. Mesopotamia is the modern nation of today’s Iraq. The country is also called “The Land between the Two Rivers” (Tigress & Euphrates) and it’s the Cradle of Civilization. The valley of Mesopotamia is the home of the great civilizations of Akkadian, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians empires. This is the land where the alphabet was developed, art was flourished, inventions were created, and the first cities were built. It is the land of Hammurabi that produced the first laws of the land, and it’s the center of a first library in the world which was built here by the Assyrians in Nineveh. In today’s Mesopotamia (Iraq) the existence of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, City of Babylon, the Capital of Nineveh, the treasures Nimrud, and the Iraqi Museum of Baghdad are the witness of this great civilization. Today’s Mesopotamia is the transparency of the great civilizations to humanity and multicultural society with ethnic groups and languages. It is the home of many Arab speaking groups, Kurds, Assyrians Turkmans, Armenians, and others.