Friday, December 14, 2012

N.C. books on the KKK, dwarfism and more

There’s nothing like a great first sentence to pull readers into a story. Check out these recent books by N.C. writers, along with their first sentences:

“Drinking Water: A History,” (Overlook; $27.95). Author James Salzman, a Duke University professor who holds dual chairs in law and environment, examines water through the lens of current affairs, popular history and science.

 First sentence of first chapter: “In the winter of 1512, Juan Ponce de León had it all.”
“Dwarf: A Memoir,” (Plume, $16). Tiffanie DiDonato, born with a rare form of dwarfism, stood 3-foot-8 as a child and was told she wouldn’t get any taller. After undergoing bone-lengthening procedures, she’s now 4-foot-10. She lives with her husband, a Marine, at Camp Lejeune. Rennie Dyball is co-author.

 First sentence of prologue: “Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as a child.”

“Lizard Tales: The Wit and Wisdom of Ron Shirley,” (Three Rivers Press; $15). Shirley, who lives outside Raleigh, is the star of TruTV’s “Lizard Lick Towing” series and the owner of the repo business Lizard Lick Towing & Recovery.

First sentence of first chapter: “Momma always told me that if you eat one live toad first thing in the morning when you wake, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

North Carolina and the Klan:
The focus of “Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan” may surprise you.

This new history (Oxford University Press; $29.95), by Brandeis University’s David Cunningham, centers on North Carolina. Why? Because in the 1960s, the Tar Heel state had the nation’s largest Klan membership – more than the rest of the South combined.

Not what I would have guessed. North Carolina, as Cunningham writes, was considered progressive, at least compared to most of the South. N.C. officials didn’t fight desegregation mandates with massive resistance as some Southern states did.

And that, Cunningham finds, is why the Klan thrived. While many Southern states had high-profile segregationist voices (Strom Thurmond in South Carolina, George Wallace in Alabama), North Carolina had no official spokesman for segregation.

Klan rallies drew thousands in North Carolina into the mid-1960s. But by the late ’60s, the state had cracked down on the Klan and membership was on the decline.