james-mcpherson

Image: American author James Alan McPherson, photographed in 1984. (Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

Writer James Alan McPherson – who in 1978 became the first African-American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction – died last Wednesday at the age of 72.

McPherson spent his career writing short fiction and essays that explored race and class in America. Later in life, he also spent many years as a professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where our own Glen Weldon studied under him.

“American history was a passion of his,” Glen says, “and though his work often evinced a wry humor, in person he struck me as a serious man who cared deeply about the shadow that history casts on the present.”

Read Glen’s full remembrance here.

-Nicole

Writer James Alan McPherson, Winner Of Pulitzer, MacArthur And Guggenheim, Dies At 72

Pulitzer prize–winning author Annette Gordon Reed leads a discussion of emancipation, Lincoln, and the Civil War on Thursday, January 24, at 7 p.m.

Panelists include James McPherson, Pulitzer prize–winning historian and professor emeritus at Princeton University; Edward Ayers, Civil War historian and president of the University of Richmond; Eric Foner, author and professor of history, Columbia University; and James Oakes, professor of history, City University of New York and author of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865.

A book signing will follow the program. Presented in partnership with the National Archives Afro-American History Society.

Sacred Land For Sesquicentennial

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States, the Civil War Trust (CWT) recently announced that it is launching a national campaign to protect 20,000 acres of battlefields. This grand endeavor is planned to take place over the next five years.

The project was announced at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg by CWT Chairman Henry Simpson. Called the “Campaign 150 Initiative,” other board members present to make the announcement included Gettysburg Military National Park Superintendent Robert Kirby, Pulitzer Prize winning author James McPherson, and new member, country singing star Trace Atkins.

The CWT has protected over 30,000 acres in 20 states. Because this year kicks off the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, the time is rife for the CWT to take advantage of public awareness and support by making a large-scale initiative to preserve battlefield land across the country.

The codes of duty and honor were not exclusively masculine. Many young women who watched brothers march away were heard to exclaim, “I wish I were a man!” Some of them acted on this wish. Several hundred women, from Maine to Texas, disguised themselves as men and passed superficial medical examinations to enlist in volunteer regiments. Their motives ranged from patriotism and love of adventure to a desire to stay with husbands or lovers who had joined the army.
Some women soldiers were son discovered and discharged. The usual reason for discovery was hospitalization for illness or wounds, as in the case of an Ohio private, “Charles Freeman,” who was hospitalized for fever, found to be Mary Scaberry, and discharged for “sexual incompatibility.” Six female soldiers were found out when they had babies. As a male soldier in a Massachusetts regiment described one of these cases in a letter home, “There was an orderly in one of our regiments & he & the Corporal always slept together. Well, the other night the Corporal had a baby, for the Cpl. turned out to be a woman! She has been in 3 or 4 fights.”
A few women soldiers served through the war without discovery. The most famous was Albert Cashier of the 95th Illinois, whose name is inscribed on the Illinois monument at Vicksburg along with those of all other soldiers from the state who fought there. Cashier went to bachelor farming after the war, and not until an accident in 1911 required “his” hospitalization was Albert Cashier discovered to be Jennie Hodgers.
—  James M. McPherson and James K. Hogue, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction
Rotten

I think, when I first wrote this, it was going to be part of something else (C&C, maybe), but it got cut. I just found it floating and cleaned it up a bit. A touch of body horror, and a heavy dose of angst. Y’all like that, right?

——-

            McPherson stank of the chemicals from the bronzer. His touch was familiar and jovial, and there was a roughness at the edges of his voice. The regents had left her in the Bronze Sector with no intention of releasing her, he explained. No one had even known she was there, and it was really still a rotten world.

            And then he had left her behind in a London hotel room, with instructions to bring him the imperceptor vest and return to Warehouse 13. The handle of the duffel bag he gave her, filled with modern clothes he’d selected himself, cut into her fingers. A young girl had been paid handsomely to explain the basics of the bathroom to her without asking questions about why that was necessary. By the time the girl left, Helena was able to turn on a lamp in the bedroom and navigate the bathroom by that light without suffering.

            Her clothes crackled when she peeled them away from her skin. The stitching had sunk into her like teeth, leaving a crosshatch of lines along her arms; the imprint of her corset was bruised. At the small of her back, her stomach, her wrists, the tugging of cloth away from flesh had resulted in a trickle of blood. Her stockings would not come off until she’d soaked them under running water. When she did remove them, a sock of skin came with them, ragged edges curling back around her ankle.

            She turned on the shower, like the girl had shown her, and stepped under the water flow. From her wounds, skin pulled back and tore away. Dead layers bunched like fabric in the wake of her hand down her arm.

            This explained the itching.

            It was like scaling a fish, gentle strokes and careful cleaning to leave nothing behind. The bathtub stopped draining, and the water pooled around her raw ankles and grew cloudy with layers of her.

            This was all there was of 1901, of the years before. This was the end of those parts of her that had touched that world. The new one had not yet felt her presence.

            It would. So little had changed, much as the sounds and smells were new to her. Pain hammered at her rib cage, and the trident tugged at the edges of her mind. Death was waiting, perhaps not much longer now, but what was time to death? She shut the water off and stared a moment at what death had already taken of her: yards of skin thinner than paper, dashed with blood like ink from an ill-behaved pen.

            Living was still a bloody rotten business. 

So here's my thing...

H.G. went through all that work to get into the Escher vault to her get ring, locket and compact.

Okay? So what?

Why was it so important to McPherson that she get that stuff? How does any of it, in any way, have anything to do with their master plan?

Or was it supposed to be a whole she refused to help until she got her belongings back type thing?

I have not mentioned it on this blog yet...

…but I am a big Civil War…not buff, I guess. I’m not one of those people who collects memorabilia, or God help me, re-enacts. But still, the Civil War, and the run-up to it is one of my favorite periods in U.S. history.

Possibly it’s because I love to pick fights, or play the spoiler, or both, because what I can only refer to as Civil War Fandom drives me to the brink of my sanity. The overwhelming belief in the “Lost Cause,” Confederate aplolgism, straw-man arguments over “states’ rights,” Shelby Foote, The Killer Angels, and all the related drivel drives me to the brink of my sanity.

So it’s good to read people like Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of the writers dedicated to reminding us that the Civil War was about not only slavery, but white supremacy. Read his latest post, and anything he writes about the Civil War.

Also, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, is probably the best book on the subject.

Separate Ways // Morgan & James

[[Fair warning, it’s really long as a starter b/c I had to set it up. Feel free to make your reply shorter :P ]]

It had been what, ten years, now? Morgan had almost lost count. Ten years since she and James had parted ways. And it hadn’t been pretty, either. It had all started when Morgan nearly got herself killed on a relatively easy job. Luckily Adrian had been there to help her out. She’d suddenly gotten dizzy, falling to her knees, and she’d vomited. It was especially weird because she hadn’t had so much as a cold in years. So she took a few days off to try and recover. When she still wasn’t much better the next day, she texted Adrian about it, not wanting to worry James. He’d suggested that maybe she was pregnant. Three hours and four separate pregnancy tests later, she was sitting in the kitchen alone, in shock, having sent Adrian home after bringing her the tests. 

Over the next year, she and James were fighting at least weekly, if not daily, on some occasions. He desperately wanted her to quit the business. After all, with what Carolina paid them, they could easily live on his salary alone. But Morgan refused angrily. She loved what she did, and she wasn’t willing to give up what she considered to be her only skill. Even after the baby was born, James and Morgan argued about it. And when Becca was three months old, Morgan finally told James to leave. She sent the divorce papers a week later, and a month after that, everything was official, and he’d left Carolina’s employment. The two agreed on joint custody of Becca, with Morgan’s one stipulation being that neither of them would tell her about their actual jobs until she was old enough to understand. 

Ten years later, and Morgan still couldn’t stand to be in the same room as James. She wasn’t sure she could say she hated him, but she still couldn’t forgive him for what had happened, even if she couldn’t quite put that into words. James had stayed in the same city so he could still see their daughter, and they’d eventually decided that she would spend every other week with him. Today was supposed to be James’ day to take Becca. Normally, Morgan would get her ready and then send her downstairs to where her father would be waiting- she would watch from the window to make sure she got out safely. Today, however, she was waiting upstairs for James to buzz up. Becca had hit someone at school that day, and was going to be suspended for James’ week, and they were supposed to sit down together with her after discussing it. 

“But Mom…” Becca was not happy about this either. She hated having her parents in the same room- it always ended in them arguing over something or other. “Why d'you have to talk to Daddy about it? Isn’t being suspended enough?” she whined- which only happened when she was especially upset with Morgan or James. 

“Rebecca Rose McPherson, do not give me that tone,” she replied, cringing when she heard the door buzz, signalling James’ arrival. “Go to your room and start on your homework while I talk with your father,” she told her. A few minutes later, she was letting her ex-husband into what used to be their apartment. “Your daughter got into a fight today." 

anonymous asked:

You're probably being swarmed by questions at the moment, but if you have the time to answer this, I was just wondering if you could suggest any books, articles or websites about, or in relation to, the worldwide history of oppression? (Or just world history in general, anything which can provide further information to what you've been posting about). I find your posts very informative, so I'd like to somewhat know where you acquired that knowledge, if it makes any sense? Thank you!

Hi anon, a lot of this stuff is definitely accumulative from multiple places indeed. I’ve put together a list of some books I’ve read about global conflicts and the history of oppression, which I think are quite illuminating. One area my repertoire admittedly falls short is Latin America, however, and anyone who wants to recommend stuff from there is welcome to. 

Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson. A Pulitzer Prize winner, this book is about the American Civil War. He illustrates in detail the increased turmoil in the 1850s caused by socio-economic changes, the Mexican-American war, and how issues about slavery; the fugitive slave laws, the abolitionist movement and slave planters that all led up to the conflict that almost permanently tore the United States into two. A great read for anyone wanting to understand the various factors that led to the Civil War and an account of the various military and political battles.

The Pianist- This movie tells the real life story of Polish-Jewish concert pianist Władysaw Szpilman and how he survived the Holocaust. Most of his family did not, however. Note that some of the violence in this movie is quite jarring, so discretion there is advised if you are triggered by stuff like seeing people get shot in the head and whatnot.

MAUS, by Art Spiegelman. A Pulitzer Prize-winning comic about the Holocaust, written by the Jewish-American son of two Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors. Why “MAUS?” That’s German for mice, and the Nazis portrayed Jewish people as rodents and vermin. The Jews are drawn as mice and Germans as cats, the French as frogs etc. Spiegelman’s entire story is not only a harrowing tale of how his parents survived the Holocaust but one where he ultimately deconstructs the stereotypes of all these actors.

Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick sheds light onto the lives of North Koreans through detailed interviews with defectors. A beautifully written book that gives North Koreans a voice and what it is like to live in such a totalitarian regime. It contextualises how big, sweeping events like World War 2, the Korean War and the Cold War affected individual human lives.

When a Billion Chinese Jump, by Jonathan Watts delves into the environmental costs of economic exploitation in modern China and its implications for the planet as a whole. Despite the seemingly controversial “how China will destroy mankind or save it” tagline (which is probably a product of marketing), as a person with Chinese ancestry, I found this book very fair because this wasn’t a condescending harangue about how environmentally-unfriendly China is compared to Europe and the US. He interviews Chinese environmentalists and activists and points out how the developed world is “green” precisely because it has actually been exporting all its pollution to China, despite the high human costs. A breath of fresh air in contrast to a lot of privileged economists who just measure living standards by GDP or percentage growth and pay no attention to the other costs borne by the country.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. It’s a long book that illustrates the Mandela’s life growing up in apartheid South Africa and eventually as a lawyer, then a political prisoner. Long, but I found it a great read and Mandela is a vivid writer.


Hotel Rwanda is a film about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who bravely resisted the madness sweeping his country, and used his hotel and government contacts to shelter over a thousand Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees.  All while the US, UK, Russia, France and China sat doing nothing, even denying that what was happening was genocide-going so far as to cut back on the UN peacekeepers stationed there.

King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild. This is a popular history book about Belgian King Leopold’s Congo and the horrific rubber slave trade where Congolese had their hands chopped off for failing meet rubber quotas. Millions of Congolese died. The profits for this “red rubber” btw, are what funded the building of the many beautiful palaces you see in Brussels today.

A Problem from Hell, by Samantha Power is about the various genocides in the 20th century and the failure of the international community- often the US, to intervene. She takes us from the Armenian Genocide witnessed by the US Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau, in an era when even to COMMENT on a state’s internal affairs was considered a no-no of diplomatic relations, through the Holocaust to the most recent crises in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan etc. She argues that military intervention at times is justified to stop genocide. Whether you agree or not, this book is a good read that really opens your eyes to the universal human capability for evil.

For stuff that is a bit more challenging but also very important deconstructions of colonialism, this is one text commonly used in academic studies in this field:

Edward Said’s Orientalism. Said is a Palestinian-American, so certainly he indeed writes from a perspective of a person who knows what it is liked to be considered part of the “Orient” and the “Other”. I have not finished reading it, but I did refer to his book when doing a research essay about colonial African literature.