The Last Days of Old Beijing, Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, Michael Meyer -
Soon, we will be able to say about Old Beijing that what emperors, warlords, Japanese invaders, and Communist planners cannot eradicate, the market economy has. Nobody has been more aware of this than Michael Meyer. A longtime resident, Meyer has, for the past two years, lived as no Westerner, in a shared courtyard home in Beijing's oldest neighborhood, Dazhalan, on one of its famed hutong (lanes). There, he volunteers to teach English at the local grade school and immerses himself in the community, recording with affection the life stories of the Widow who shares his courtyard: co-teacher, Miss Zhu; and student, Little Liu; and the migrants - Recycler Wang and Soldier Liu; among many others who, despite great differences in age and profession, make up the fabric of this unique neighborhood.
Their bond is rapidly being torn, however, by forced evictions as century old houses and ways of life are increasingly destroyed to make way for shopping malls, the capitol's first Wal-Mart, high-rise buildings, and widened streets for cars replacing bicycles. Beijing has gone through this cycle many times, as Meyer reveals, but never with the kind of dislocation and overturning of its storied culture now occurring as the city prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Weaving historical vignettes of Beijing and China over a thousand years through his narrative, Meyer captures the city's deep past as he illuminates its present. With the kind of insight only someone on the inside can provide, The Last Days of Old Beijing brings this moment and the ebb and flow of daily lives on the other side of the planet into shining focus.
And, The Robertsons, The Sutherlands and The Making of Texas, Anne H. Sutherland -
All Texans, or their ancestors, started as something else. The families that came here molded the state and were molded by it. Anne H. Sutherland explores just how the experience of two of the early Anglo land-grant families, the Robertsons and the Sutherlands, shaped Texas events and how they handed down those experiences from one generation to another, transforming two Scotch-Irish families into what in hindsight we have branded Anglo-Texans.
The story of these two pioneering families, told through their letters, poems, diaries, and oral histories, embodies western expansion and political upheaval. Settling in central and southeast Texas, these families struggled to build a new Texas and make a life for their children. The Texas Revolution and the Civil War acted as catalysts for the emergence of their Texas identity.
A unique blend of family and Texas history, Sutherland's The Robertsons, The Sutherlands, and the Making of Texas positions personal stories as windows of insight onto Texas identity. She peels back the layers of family tradition and textbook history to show how her forebears experienced the transforming events of the settlement of Texas and its war for independence.
By placing the families within Texas history, Sutherland effectively and innovatively traces identity from the early 19th century to today. As settlers in the western wilderness, the Robertsons, the Sutherlands, and others like them actively shaped Texas, even as they changed themselves.
And, Willie Nelson, an Epic Life, Joe Nick Patoski -
The sea of humanity swells and rolls all the way to the horizon, thousands of eyes fixed on him, thousands of hands clapping, a chorus of voices cheering and yelling, lips whistling, feet stomping, smiles everywhere, all because of him. Lone Star flags and arms thrusting skyward, hands clutching cigarette lighters and cans of beer above heads bobbing like buoys because of the music. The old man with the wild white eyebrows and wrinkled skin, his long white hair pulled back into two braids, tries to make eye contact with as many eyes as he can in 10 seconds before glancing off handedly over his shoulder at the musicians standing and sitting in place behind him. He straps on his guitar and steps to the microphone with a casualness that betrays a lifetime of going through the very same ritual night after night, year after year. He half sings, half talks, five magic words that trigger a sonic roar.
- From Willie Nelson, an Epic Life.
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