Duck Duck Book

2 – african-american gardens
07.7.2004, 12:04 am
Filed under: technology

African-American gardens and yards in the rural South / Richard Westmacott.
Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, c1992.
[MCL call number: 635.0896 W531a; three copies, no holds]

Westamacott, a British landscape architect, surveyed 47 African-American families and individuals living in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina about their gardens, their gardening practices, and their beliefs about gardening in general. All the gardeners were more than fifty years old, except for two who lived with their parents on the same property. Most had decades of gardening experience, and had lived on their land for most of their lives.

The book details the results of that study, reproduces large portions of the author’s interviews with gardeners, and includes a brief history of African-American gardening from before reconstruction through the twentieth century. From the small amount of garden history reading I’ve done, I can tell you that this history is largely missing from other books.

African-American Gardens and Yards is incredibly readable, and is intellectually valuable for anyone interested in gardening, rural life, or African-American material culture.


2 – the book of hip hop cover art
07.7.2004, 12:03 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

The book of hip hop cover art / Andrew Emery.
London : Mitchell Beazley, c2004.
[MCL call number: 741.66 E53b 2004; two copies, no holds]

This book is a pictorial history of, yes, hip hop cover art. Nice repros of album covers from the early 80s to the early 00s, with a heavy focus on the more mainstream artists, and with very very few pictures of albums by women. Still, I found it interesting, especially since I know very little about hip hop and I like pictures.

2 – mongo
07.7.2004, 12:02 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

Mongo : adventures in trash / Ted Botha.
New York : Bloomsbury : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2004.
[MCL call number: 790.132 B749m 2004; six copies, six holds]

Ted Botha spent a couple of years finding other people who, like him, love to get stuff out of the garbage. The book is basically a long essay detailing the stories of the trash-happy people he finds, interviews, and hangs out with. Some collect only one kind of thing, some pick up whatever suits their fantasy, some sell their finds, some keep them, and some give them away to other people.

The writing in Mongo isn't great, Botha knows nothing about anarchism (but talks about it as if he does), and he is under the mistaken impression that resistance to the 1999 WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle was led by Ralph Nader; but the stories are so unusual and interesting that I found reading the book wholly worth the bother of having to wade through Botha's mistaken impressions and sometimes uneven prose. It's lightweight, but interesting.

2 – chávez ravine
07.7.2004, 12:01 am
Filed under: history & geography

Chávez Ravine, 1949 : a Los Angeles story / Don Normark.
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, c1999.
[MCL call number: 979.494 N851c 1999; two copies, no holds]

In 1949, twenty year old white photographer Don Normark wandered into Chávez Ravine, a little canyon containing three Mexican/Mexican-American neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and was enchanted.  He spent a year photographing the people, houses, businesses, and neighborhood life of Chávez Ravine.  Shortly after, the 1,000 or so families who lived there were forcibly evicted to make way for a new federal housing project that never saw the light of day.  Dodger Stadium was built there a few years later. 

In 1997, Normark started tracking down many of the people he had photographed, and this book is a combination of his 1949 photographs and his recent interviews with the people of Chávez Ravine.  The photographs are compelling, but the memories of the people who are in them are what really grabbed me.  The book is as beautiful to read as it is to look through.