Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, January 24, 2104

Week ending January 24, 2014

Henry, Murphy Hicks. Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass. Univ. of Illinois. 2013. 528p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780252032868. $90; pap. ISBN 9780252079177. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780252095887. MUSIC
prettygood012414Alison Krauss, the Dixie Chicks, Rhonda Vincent, and others are only the latest in a long line of female bluegrass performers. More than 80 of these foremothers are featured in this title; 44 of them are spotlighted in short biographies of eight to ten pages each. The author goes on to describe the life, style, and work of 43 others, including some groups, in this thorough work. Herself a well-known banjo player, Henry had been told she was pretty good “for a girl” nearly all her life. While working on her MA in literature in 1999, she began her 15-year study of women in bluegrass. The first featured musician is Sally Ann Forrester, who played accordion with Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s. The book has lots of black-and-white photos, 17 pages of source material, and a detailed bibliography and index. The individual biographies are easy to access separately without reading the whole book.
Verdict A massive, well-researched work that students of music and women’s studies will find useful.—Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA

Sullivan, Louis Wade with David Chanoff. Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine. Univ. of Georgia. (Sarah Mills Hodge Fund). Feb. 2014. 288p. photos. index. ISBN 9780820346632. $29.95. MED
Best known as secretary of Health and Human Services during the presidency of George H.W. Bush (after C. Everett Koop left the position), Sullivan tells his story here. He grew up in segregated Blakely, GA, and attended Morehouse College, which was followed by medical school at Boston University and an internship and residency at Cornell Medical Center. Hematology was his chief interest, and Sullivan soon headed the hematology unit at Boston University. In his early 40s, he was asked to return to Morehouse to establish a medical school dedicated to expanding the pool of minority physicians, a mission it still promotes successfully. During his time with the Bush administration, Sullivan navigated turbulent political currents and pushed the department toward research and treatment of AIDS, antismoking campaigns, mandated health labels on foods, and, unsuccessfully, much-needed insurance reforms. Within hours of the end of the Bush administration, he was back at Morehouse, until his retirement in 2002. He now promotes public health in the United States and in Africa through various nonprofits.
Verdict One of the first of the civil rights generation to achieve national distinction, Sullivan is an engaging narrator as well as a passionate advocate for his beloved Morehouse and a variety of public health initiatives, particularly expanding medical education for African Americans. Sullivan is an outstanding example of a “Morehouse man” who has made a difference; this narrative of his life and legacy will entertain and inspire.—Kathleen Arsenault, St. Petersburg, FL