Flu

By Gina Kolata

Touchstone; $15 by Jessica Borges

The great flu of 1918 claimed an estimated 40 million lives across the globe and was considered to be one of the largest epidemics the world had seen. Yet not much is remembered of the monstrous killer that left a trail of destruction.

In her latest book, Flu, renowned science writer Gina Kolata brings to life detailed reports regarding the unforeseen entry of the deadly flu — as well as its sudden departure. The flu baffled scientists and for the longest time left them with more questions than answers about the origin of the disease, how the disease chose its victims and how it could be battled.

The virus knew no boundaries and at times wiped out entire communities. Kolata’s book gives us a gripping view of the suffering the flu caused and provides us with numerous accounts, spanning decades, of attempts by scientists and researchers, who valiantly tried to comprehend this mysterious killer.

Kolata masterfully guides us through the events as they took place, relying on civilian testimony, as well as the reports of doctors and researchers who tried to deal with the disease.

In light of the recent outbreak of the avian flu, this book gives readers a better understanding of what we are up against. Kolata’s engrossing, fascinating and detailed writing gives this tale a spin that seems, at times, like a fast-paced sci-fi thriller. It makes for an informative and thought-provoking read.

DMZ

By Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchelli

Vertigo/DC Comics

by Sean Hansen

The city as a wasteland has been explored by its fair share of visionaries and hacks. Published monthly by Vertigo/DC Comics, DMZ takes another swing at the concept. Presented by writer/auxiliary illustrator Brian Wood (Channel Zero and Demo) and primary illustrator Riccardo Burchelli, DMZ is about bloody revolution and the rubble left behind.

In the world of DMZ, military adventurism abroad has spread the military complex at home thinner than cheap jam. Worse, a rebellious militia faction known as the “Free States” has seized the day — along with a good deal of East Coast territory. By the time this new civil war is 5 years old, the demarcation line is split at what many would call the heart of the country: New York City. The United States has retained Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, the “Free States” have held onto New Jersey and Inland.

The demilitarized zone, the DMZ, is Manhattan Island.

In something of a press coup, Channel 5: Liberty News has decided to send in famed reporter Viktor Ferguson for the first ever look at Manhattan after the war’s start. Everyone has heard the rumors, but no one knows the facts. Five minutes into the Ferguson’s filmed exploration of the island the entire crew is ambushed. Everyone is either lost or dead except Matty Roth, phototech intern. In the end Roth finds himself in the care of a peaceful inhabitant of Manhattan.

DMZ is smart, original and a fun read. The third issue comes out Jan. 11.

The Habit of Art: Best Stories from the Indiana University Fiction Workshop

Edited by Tony Ardizzone

Indiana University Press; $50

by Rita Kohn

Twenty-one works of contemporary fiction represent the best of IU’s 25 years of “instilling the habit of art” in this groundbreaking fiction writing program. From the first piece, “Bocce,” set in Pittsburgh’s Italian neighborhood, to the final story, “All Saints Day,” set in East Windsor, there is an arc of engagement to inward landscapes, childhood, finding one’s place and value. The authors brazenly embrace intimacy and repulsion with alluring ease. Daring is the best description of the collection; engaging is the best reason for them to be read and shared.

“Pork Chops,” set in Bloomington, Ind., is filled with aromas of a lost love midway to marriage. “Three Parting Shots and a Forecast” is drenched in agony of imagined images of Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and a cast of tragic characters. “Who’s Your Daddy?” drips with irony; it’s very L.A. And so it goes, one gripping story after another.

The Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow

By Donnie Williams and Wayne Greenhaw

Lawrence Hill Books; $24.95

by Rita Kohn

A sense of history and a passion for justice undergird this riveting disclosure of the behind-the-scenes story of events and personalities surrounding Dec. 1, 1955. When, some 20 years later, Donnie Williams’ father-in-law purchased bus 2857 from the Montgomery, Ala., bus company, he purposefully secured the material evidence of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat. Carefully guarding his secret until the time would come when the bus could be safely exhibited, Williams used the quarter-century to research what preceded the boycott. Bus 2857 is now in Dearborn, Mich., at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The bus rolled off the GM assembly line in Pontiac, Mich., in 1948.

With journalist and author Wayne Greenhaw, Williams traces Rosa Parks’ connections with E.D. Nixon, whom insiders recognize as the father of the civil rights movement. This is a must-read book to be aware of what gets left out of popular media coverage, and to understand the web of violence, hatred, rhetoric and passive resistance that shaped another movement in the city touted as “the cradle of the Confederacy.”

Along with the civil rights movement’s well-known names, like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., are others who didn’t make headlines, but who made a difference. Also included are the voices of those opposing equal rights. In a recent interview, white supremacist Terry Leon Hall recalled that at age 14 he firebombed Negro neighborhoods because “I wasn’t gonna stand for them to keep on doing this thing they called a boycott. What the hell, it was un-American.” He says he has no regrets and would do it again.

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