Pollock, Donald Ray. Knockemstiff.  New York; Doubleday, 2008.

Knockemstiff is a really ray of sunshine.  Pollock’s collection of inter-related short stories of desperate people living desperate lives is somehow able to relate a more depressing human condition with each tale.  From the first story, “Real Life,” which involves a father brutally beating a man in front of his son, then beating up his wife, each story becomes a little more hopeless.

I think the following line from “I Start Over” kind of sums it up:

I’m beginning to believe that anything I do to extend my life is just going to be outweighed by the agony of living it. (163) Continue reading

Politics, Race, and Schools

Watras, Joseph. Politics, Race, and Schools: Racial Integration, 1954-1994.  New York; Garland Publishing, 1997.

This sounds worse than intended, but I would not recommend Politics, Race, and Schools to the casual reader.  It is not a beach read.  The storyline covering desegregation and integration in Dayton public and private schools in the 1960s and 70s, is broken up throughout the text.  The story is retold told over and over again as separate chapters about the city, school administration, the Board of Education, and the court battles.  Each chapter is self-contained, but as a whole it is a burdensome read.

If you do not want to make a long commitment to Politics, Race, and Schools, I would recommend the chapters “School Board Elections and Racial Integration” and “Racial Desegregation and Dayton’s Catholic Schools” and work from there.  The discussion of the School Board Elections in the 1970s gives a good overview of Dayton’s integration story and the views of the communities involved.  Watras’ work is somewhat unique that it tells the history of school integration and private schools.  (Initially, Catholic Schools were very adamant about not taking in students fleeing public school integration.  But, enrollment appears to  have generally increased during this time.)   Continue reading