Sunday, December 03, 2006

Jonathan Yardley's 2006 book picks

Today Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley joins the parade of end-of-year book listers. Here is one fiction title and one nonfiction title from his list.
How the white South responded to the civil rights movement is the subject of There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975, by Jason Sokol, a young scholar who has done exhaustive research in primary sources and who has shown how difficult it is to generalize about white Southerners in that time of astonishing social, political and cultural upheaval. He gives all due attention to those who reacted bitterly, noisily and sometimes violently to black protest, but he also shows how some whites were embarrassed by these troublemakers and sought other ways to deal with change. Without ever losing sight of the indisputable justice and necessity of the civil rights movement, Sokol manages to understand those who were caught on the sidelines yet found their lives irreversibly altered.
[I]t was my pleasure to discover an uncommonly accomplished first novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin, a young writer who was born in the Soviet Union but now lives here in Washington. In English more fluent and graceful than that written by many well-known American writers, she tells the story of a Soviet cultural bureaucrat who dances along a fine line between capitulation to the inflexible demands of the communist system and his own artistic beliefs and longings. She sees him as clearly as Jason Sokol sees his conflicted white Southerners, and her sympathy for his dilemma is matched by her withering account of his willingness to let a taste for luxury and position override his convictions.
Click here to read about Yardley's other 2006 favorites.

--Marshal Zeringue