Books of the region: Cancer, craft, King

March 08, 1998|By James H. Bready | James H. Bready,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A problem in writing about kids with cancer is, your reader may start crying on page one and be unable to go on. Yet if the kids can put up with horror, how insulting to them for a cancer book to be cheery.

Harry Connolly worked around this impasse, while getting to know the patients and staff of pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He photographed (in black and white), listened, thought, wrote. The result: "Fighting Chance: Journeys Through Childhood Cancer" (Woodholme House, 144 pages, $27.95), a book of strong, but controlled, emotion.

Connolly followed 54 children, in hospital and out; 17 have died. His book is about three of those who made it: Heather Brogdon, city, age 9, acute lymphocytic leukemia; Eli Kahn, suburb, 2 1/2, the same; Keith Patrick, Shore farm, 16, T-cell lymphoma.

Connolly, who spends years on a book, earlier photographed kids' baseball in Patterson Park. His work is catching the country's attention.

The golden age, if one ever happened in Maryland, was in Annapolis, from late 1760s to early 1780s; i.e., from its founding through Continental Congress' sojourn there. Then, if ever, were cultivated gentry present, and virtuous politicians, merchants, limners and craftsmen. Or so the accepted story goes, presenting today's Annapolis with a standard hard to live up to.

Scholars and popularizers have worked over the evidence; Norman K. Risjord does it now, in his lively, informative "Build-ers of Annapolis: Enterprise and Politics in a Colonial Capital" (Maryland Historical Society, 198 pages, softbound, $18.95). Risjord spotlights nine persons, all of roadside-marker eminence.

Martin Luther King Jr. guided two distinct causes - civil rights, in the '50s; social and economic justice, in the '60s. Success in the former left most African-Americans no better off in their daily lives. War in Vietnam then distracted the nation; regardless, King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference undertook not just a march on Washington but a bivouac there.

Gerald D. McKnight, a faculty pillar at Hood College in Frederick, revisits that tumultuous 1968 scene in "The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI and the Poor People's Campaign" (Westview, 192 pa-ges, $25). These are a scholar's findings, in haystacks of congressional-hearing testimony and FBI data now in public domain.

These are also a citizen's views. The FBI and others deliberately set out to wreck the Poor People's Campaign (after King's

murder, it wrecked itself) and to soil King (McKnight laughs at the massive FBI effort for its failure to notice the plagiarism in King's doctoral dissertation). Taylor Branch and others write of King's causes, but "The Last Crusade" may well influence "the shape and battle lines of mass protest movements . . . the next time around."

Since 1987, The Sun's Harford County edition has been publishing sketches by a countian; they are now compiled in "Picturesque Harford County: The Artistic Impressions of William Turner" (Duncan & Duncan, Box 1137, Edgewood, MD 21040, 120 pages, $29), with captions by his wife, Patricia R. Turner. His forte: old buildings.

Askiminikansin, Tundotank, Tockwogh, Ozinies, Chicone - Indian names, these, from Eastern Shore Maryland; of towns and villages, not just tribes. Today's map has its Assateague, its Assawoman and Rockawakin, but what do we know of the predecessors who lived there far longer than Caucasians have so far? While the two sets of people coexisted, natives had no way to record impressions of the newcomers. As to the "religious, historical and mythological associations that places, people, plants and animals had" for the Indians, "no English . . . were interested enough to record them."

This observation is from Helen C. Rountree and Thomas E. Davidson, anthropologist and archaeologist, and co-authors of "Eastern Shore Indians of Virginia and Maryland" (University Press of Virginia, 329 pages, Paper, $16.95). The one aspect open to reconstruction now is economic; colonial orders, deeds and wills have provided a wealth of insight. This book is an instant component of the basic regional shelf. In it, some will find modern, Third-World resonances.

Business-minded Calverts made the Shore out of bounds for the first generation of white settlers, lest they disrupt the trade in beaver furs. (Virginia's Indians were farmers; whites moved right in.) Later, the General Assembly declared war on Nanticokes, on Wicomiss. In the 1700s, the Indians were penned inside half a dozen reservations and then mostly assimilated - not driven out, mainland-style.

Is there more to the story? Archaeology, the authors note, has hardly touched the Eastern Shore. The very site of Ozinies, Tockwogh, et al. is uncertain.

James H. Bready wrote for The Evening Sun for many years as a reporter and a book editor. He writes a monthly column on Maryland books.

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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