Rumbles, Recycling, Roots, Researchers | What We’re Reading & Watching

On this Halloween, a core team of LJ/School Library Journal staff discuss what they’re ritually reading and witchily watching this week. Don’t be scared, come enjoy our tricky treats! BOOO.

Mahnaz Dar, Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
I recently saw Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. Directors Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana highlight Native musicians whose voices have gone unheard but left an indelible mark on the world of blues and rock and roll. The movie examines ways in which Native music continued to have an impact, despite the U.S. government’s history of attempting to erase Indigenous cultures. There were so many great artists and songs discussed in the film, from Redbone to Buffy Saint-Marie to Charley Patton. While on the whole I enjoyed Rumble, I did note missed opportunities. The film frequently quotes white journalists who extol the authenticity of these artists and stress how important they are, and the filmmakers emphasize how white musicians often made the effort to include Native artists. For instance, Jackson Browne invited guitarist Jesse Ed Davis to perform on his song “Doctor My Eyes,” and George Harrison included Davis in his Concert for Bangladesh after Eric Clapton dropped out. However, it’s depressing to think that Davis joined the concert only after Clapton couldn’t make it—that these musicians were, ultimately, dependent on the approval of white male musicians. Bainbridge and Maiorana never question why it is that white male musicians and critics are held up as gatekeepers, which kept me from truly loving the film. Further, Rumble also neglects to unpack seemingly laudatory comments that are often problematic. At one point, a musician quotes Ozzy Osbourne, stating that Osbourne loved to play with Indigenous artists (such as drummer Randy Castillo) because he found them so spiritual—a statement that relies on a stereotypical understanding of Native people.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
After the LJ editors’ marathon reading of all the nominees for Best Books (24 titles this year!), I usually lapse into a movie coma and refuse—for a short period of time—to read anything more than the newspapers and maybe a magazine or two. This year, though, I had such a store of recreational reading stacked up that I immediately dove back into the biblio pile. I have Kate White’s new Bailey Weggins Mystery, Even If It Kills Her (Harper), right next to my bed for nighttime scares, and a YA loaner from SLJ nonfiction editor Della Farrell, The Magician and the Spirits: Harry Houdini and the Glorious Pastime of Communicating with the Dead (Viking) by Deborah Noyes for Halloween reading. Houdini is buried near where I live in Queens, so maybe I can figure out how to communicate with him on the 91st anniversary of his untimely death. I also have begun walking the walk instead of just talking the talk: after reviewing Silver Hair: Say Goodbye to the Dye and Let Your Natural Light Shine (Workman) by Lorraine Massey & Michele Bender for my colleague Stephanie Sendaula, I decided to embrace my own grays—er, silvers—with as much style as I can muster.

Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, LJ
I recently read Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink (Houghton Harcourt), a big, fun historical novel. It was just what I was in the mood for—smart and sweet and packed with interesting history, with a mysterious twist: 17th-century Portuguese Jews in London (by way of Amsterdam) during the Inquisition, counterposed with a pair of contemporary London academics tracking down their story via archival documents. Kadish has done her research well, but the book wears it gracefully, and that makes her philosopher protofeminist protagonist both believable and likable, in a prickly way. That goes for all the characters, including two terrific librarians named Patricia. Plus, it was a hard week and I really needed a happy (if slightly bittersweet) ending. The reading itself was not without a little drama—my library ebook turned out to be missing Chapter 29, toward the end, and I just knew it was important. I returned the ebook and put a hold on what I hoped would be a fully intact version, even if I had to wait another six weeks for it. But a friend saw me bitching about it on LibraryThing.com and very sweetly sent me her print copy—and yes, that missing chapter was definitely critical and quite moving as well. If you like a good historical yarn with a bit of academic drama, this one is highly recommended (and I spy an ARC on the office giveaway shelf—someone snap it up!)

Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ
I just finished a mystery that I probably shouldn’t name because I need to rant about the ending: argh argh argh, the detective is the killer. This makes zero sense. Why would you spend all this time patiently and slowly figuring out what you already know? Plus, I just wasted an hour of my life identifying with someone who turns out to be a sociopath. I was stuck on a plane at the time and I still would rather have watched another old episode of House Hunters. I recycled it at the airport with malice aforethought.

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench

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