Book Reviews

Black Klansman – Memoir by Ron Stallworth

I’ve seen the movie at the cinema at the start of last year and I was absolutely enthralled with the concept. A black man joining one of the most bigoted and uncultured and ignorant cult there is? The KKK? That must be a good read!

I was thoroughly disappointed in the book! Read in a dull voice with dry facts and “I did this and I did that” type of sentences, I was soon looking to get some dialogue, a bit of action, something! Anything!

The Story

The story is pretty much the same as the movie:

black-klansman-2As the department’s first black detective, Ron Stallworth thought it might be interesting to see what would come from answering that ad. Figuring on a few pamphlets, maybe a brochure or leaflet, he wrote a note to the P.O. Box, using his real name and asking for promised information. To this day, he’s still not sure why he used his name, and not one of his undercover aliases.

On November 1, 1978, he received a call on the department’s undercover line.

The caller identified himself as a “local organizer” of the Ku Klux Klan who was trying to raise membership there in Colorado Springs. He asked Stallworth several questions, then invited him to meet in person; they agreed upon a time and, once they hung up, Stallworth swung into action.

BlacKkKlansman-trailer-700x300.jpgHe asked for permission to proceed and for a colleague’s help, but was denied; sure that this could be a major matter, he went to higher authorities. He already had in mind a sharp colleague who was white and could “be” Stallworth when Stallworth needed to attend Klan events… because the real Ron Stallworth, remember, is a black man.

For the next ten weeks or so, Stallworth and his co-detective, Chuck, worked their way into and through the Klan. They attended rallies and meetings, thwarted cross-burnings, and Stallworth spoke many times with Grand Wizard David Duke. There was certainly danger in what he’d done but mostly, because of the amateurishness of the organization he’d infiltrated and the mistaken tenants its leaders held, it was a lesson in absurdity.

“It was,” says Stallworth, “as if Dennis the Menace were running a hate group.”


The Good Bits:

The story was good and the description of how he was initially treated by his policemen peers was pretty accurate for the time period and was pretty funny at points. The idiocy of the KKK members was pretty funny too. Where this book excels is in exposing what a hack many of these hate groups are/were in the 1970s. Advertising their meetings in the newspaper? David Duke answering the national headquarters phone line?

Instead of painting the KKK as pure evil, Stallworth looks at the complexity of the group and what drives its members towards heinous acts and an irrational aversion to non-whites and multiculturalism. As he gets closer to Grand Wizard David Duke, his position becomes even more endangered of being discovered.

The Bad Bits:

There were so many abbreviated groups that after a while I stopped caring which group was on what side. I also hated how every so often the author had to remind the reader how he was the one in charge of the investigation by parenthesizing that he was the one the KKK members were talking to, even when some of the conversations were with his partner playing him undercover. He didn’t need to keep reminding me that it was him running the show.

Stallworth’s lengthy charade amounted amounted to little more than a funny story and speculation regarding crimes that may have been prevented. He himself admits that the tangible effects of this operation were tenuous at best.

It’s a dry read and I found myself meandering over course of the book. The whole book comprised of the Colorado chapter and he didn’t give the insight of the KKK


Book Reviews

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It was 1935 and there was entertainment on the radio, there was no TV and the kids could play outside unsupervised. And a black man was accused of raping a white woman.

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

It’s been a few years since I’ve purchased this book and planned to read it. I kept on moving my finger past it when browsing for books in my bookcase. I decided to give it a go and for the first half, it went dreadfully slow. I had seen the movie and knew what the plot was about but it felt like the book was written about something else entirely. It was about racism in America in the inter-war period but it was also about faith, being human, being innocent and what it means to raise a child right!

Book Reviews

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah Book Review

As a kid I understood that people were different colors, but in my head white and black and brown were like types of chocolate. Dad was the white chocolate, mom was the dark chocolate, and I was the milk chocolate. But we were all just chocolate.

This is the life story of comedian Trevor Noah as he looks back on his childhood growing up as a mix-race child in Apartheid- South Africa. He looks back at the most important person in his life, his mother, and how he shaped his life, his future, his true being despite her circumstances as a single mother living in a very traditional country and then as a victim of spousal domestic abuse that ends with a gunshot.

Stephen King

A bag of bones * Stephen King Book Review

The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.

I read this one while I was still in high school and I thought it was quite dark and (in parts) extremely troubling. This was an amazing book then and I wondered whether it would have aged well like wine. And I re-read it again over the span of two days, skipping over parts I knew well and cared little about, spending a lot more time on the parts that were interesting.
Set in the Maine territory King has made mythic, Bag of Bones recounts the plight of forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving following the sudden death of his wife Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his computer.

This is how we go on: one day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time. Dentists go on one root-canal at a time; boat-builders go on one hull at a time. If you write books, you go on one page at a time. We turn from all we know and all we fear. We study catalogues, watch football games, choose Sprint over AT&T.

We count the birds in the sky and will not turn from the window when we hear the footsteps behind us as something comes up the hall; we say yes, I agree that clouds often look like other things – fish and unicorns and men on horseback – but they are really only clouds. Even when the lightening flashes inside them we say they are only clouds and turn our attention to the next meal, the next pain, the next breath, the next page. This is how we go on.

First published in 1998, Bag of Bones was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. It was lauded at its publication as “hands down, Stephen King’s most narratively subversive fiction” (Entertainment Weekly) and his “most ambitious novel”

Book Reviews

The Summoning * Bentley Little

If you like vampire stories and have read a little Bram Stoker here, a bit of The Strain there, (even Anne Rice counts) then you’ll know that the fascination with the undead continues to make a good horror read.
Mix in some Chinese legends and you’ll get a twist. A vampire that is not deterred by crosses and even wants to make his own church! But he is afraid of Jade and Willow.

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Book Reviews Children's Classics

Of Mice and Men * John Steinbeck

George and Lennie are migrant American labourers –the one alert and protective and the other strong, stupid and potentially dangerous. This is the powerful story of their relationship and their dreams of finding a more stable and less lonely way of life.