Roundup Local Interest

April 19, 2009|By Diane Scharper | Diane Scharper,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Becoming Billie Holiday

Poems by Carol Boston Weatherford, art by Floyd Cooper

Wordsong / 117 pages / $19.95

These brief, first-person poems tell the story of Eleanora Fagan, who grew up impoverished on Durham Street in a rough East Baltimore neighborhood, yet became a world-renowned jazz singer. With little education and no vocal training, Billie Holiday (she changed her name when she began singing) had an obsessive love for jazz, an excellent ear for rhythm and a voice that was almost able to float. This ability and her strong sense of drama resulted in hits like the harrowing protest song about black lynching, "Strange Fruit," and the prayerlike paean to childhood, "God Bless the Child." Weatherford (originally from Baltimore) translates pivotal moments from Holiday's youth to mid-20s into sharply detailed, ironic poems.

Almost Home

By Christine Gleason

Kaplan / 224 pages / $26.95

Dr. Christine Gleason cared for some very sick newborns at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she was chief of neonatology. This gripping memoir tells the stories of several babies she treated in her approximately 30 years as intern, resident and medical doctor. As Gleason describes the overwhelming medical problems and the extensive efforts of doctors and nurses, her book takes on the tension of a well-paced adventure story.

Until It Hurts

By Mark Hyman

Beacon / 160 pages / $23.95

Sports programs for children aren't about kids having fun. As Mark Hyman sees it, they're a means to an end. His latest book offers an eye-opening look at youth sports. The YMCA introduced youth sports in the 1880s to encourage moral fitness; by 1903, the Public Schools Athletic League used sports to lower the crime rate; in the 1920s, the American Legion pushed sports to encourage patriotic values. Hyman, a Baltimore resident, sportswriter, coach and parent, interviews educators, doctors, major league baseball players, parents and kids who say that children's organized sports do more harm than good. According to Hyman, it's about competitiveness, scholarships and adults wanting to bask in reflected glory.

Diane Scharper teaches English at Towson University.

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