Tag Archives: American History

History Nuggets – Chicken

Three bite-size non-fiction reviews tied together with a delicious topical dipping sauce!

The theme: chicken. Underappreciated, delicious, and nutritious. But the ubiquity of chicken on our plates and eggs in our frying pan only became possible due to advances in chicken nutrition itself. Meet the Red Junglefowl.

Red Jungle Fowl rooster and two hens.

By Lip Kee Yap [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Red Junglefowl is to the domestic chicken as wolves are to dogs. They live in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Since they’re a tropical bird, they can lay eggs year round, and they some breeds of domestic chicken lay an egg every day. Up until the last several decades, though, chicken was very expensive to eat. If you sheltered your chickens in a shed, and fed them corn, trying to farm them in large groups, then they’d get rickets. It wasn’t until the discovery and addition of Vitamin D to chicken feed that it was possible to farm chickens in large numbers, driving down the cost, and transforming the bird from a Sunday treat to cheap chicken nuggets. Advances in understanding nutrition didn’t just put an end to several deficiency diseases, it changed the availability of the food we eat. If you’re looking for an upshot to how all life on Earth really is (in the literal sense) one big family, this is it. You’re close enough to a chicken that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Roast duck with sauce.

By cyclonebill from Copenhagen, Denmark (Andebryst) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Like this, but vitamins. Also, this is duck.

Want to take a closer look at nutrition and poultry keeping?

Vitamania cover.

Surprisingly gripping reading about the interplay of marketing and the nutrition revolution of the early 20th century.

Before the discovery of vitamins and essential nutrients, people’s relationship with food was mostly based around how filling and energy-packed it was. Even before germ theory really took off and the adoption of first-generation antibiotics, vitamins were the first “miracle cure” for several fearsome and debilitating diseases. Vitamins completely changed our relationship with food, and opened up whole new horizons of marketing for food manufacturers and medicine.

Tastes Like Chicken cover.

Read this to explore in greater depth the rise of chicken as a cheap source of protein.

Tastes Like Chicken details the monumental changes in the way Americans have raised chicken over the course of the 20th Century. From a cost-effective sideline for farmers, to the focus of a massive industry in its own right, chicken has had a strange journey to the factory farms of today. As conventional farming practices for chickens face more criticism, it pays to have a good grounding in how the animals we eat came to be kept the way they are.

Chicken Whisperer's Guide cover.

Which brings us to this book, whether you want to raise your own chickens or just know more about them, this comprehensive treatment is a good starting place.

Keeping chickens at home is making a roaring comeback, as objections to conventional intensive farming rise, and prices for free range chickens and eggs remain high. The lure of endless eggs is a powerful draw. Chickens and vitamins are a reminder that everything is connected, sometimes in weird and unexpected ways.

Reviews by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story by Timothy Tyson

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

On May 11, 1970 in the North Carolina town of Oxford, an African American man named Henry Dortress Marrow, Jr. was viciously beaten and murdered in public by three white men who would all three be acquitted by an all-white jury of this horrendous, cold-blooded crime. In response to this travesty of justice, there were demonstrations, riots, and a months-long boycott by African Americans in the community of white-owned businesses that eventually forced the leaders of Oxford to end segregation practices there. That’s right, end segregation practices in 1970, despite the passage by the Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


This is very difficult book to read, and I am not referring to the writing or narrative style. The violence and injustice that is recorded within its pages is repugnant and infuriating, but this is an important story to hear. I feel certain that there may be some who would say: Why write this book and drudge up hard feelings? Nothing good can come from it. To these people I would reply that in order for a country and its society to move forward as a unified people, it is essential to study the past, most especially those events that continue to divide, so that chasms may close and wounds healed.

Mr. Tyson, the son of a white Methodist minister who was a strong and public advocate for the Civil Rights Movement, was ten years old and living in Oxford at the time of Mr. Marrow’s murder, and it is this crime and its fallout that shaped the person that Mr. Tyson developed into as an adult. The reader joins Mr. Tyson in reflecting very deeply upon the Civil Rights Movement and the history of race relations in the United States, which leads to a litany of questions. How does one define freedom? How is change most effectively encouraged by a movement? What is the current state of race relations in America today?

It is absolutely vital that these and additional questions be examined by all, as the future of our country really does depend upon everyone facing our past in order to understand the present so that we may make progress together as a single people. And Blood Done Sign My Name serves as an emotional and powerful impetus for just such a purpose.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”
Maya Angelou
Conversations with Maya Angelou, 1989

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), Audiobook (CD), Downloadable Audiobook

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

“My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fears, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes.” – Starla



Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is one of those books that changes your heart and gives you a view of America’s south in 1963 through the eyes of a child. The story begins with a child and follows her throughout a life altering journey. Starla is a feisty nine-year old, who states her mind and continually challenges authority. She is being raised by her grandmother and father because her mother has gone to Nashville to become a famous singer. Her grandmother rules with a strict hand and Starla fights back against her rule every chance she is given. Starla quickly decides to flee town to escape her grandmother and to reunite with her mother because she believes that her mother is the only one who loves her. We eventually find out her mother’s true character later on in the story.

Starla is found on the roadside by a black woman that is currently caring for a white baby that she has taken from a church’s front step. Eula and Starla continue on a journey towards Nashville that is briefly halted by Eula’s abusive husband, however they eventually make it to Nashville to find Starla’s mother. This adventure brings Starla face to face with race relations, abuse, and murder.

This book is unique because writers normally do not decide to depict the tension in the American South at that time through the eyes of a child. The only faults that can be found in this book are some of the side stories that the writer introduces. For example, the story of the white baby that Eula has stolen seems to just fizzle out at the end. Overall this book is well written and a page turner to the end. Some readers may even identify with Starla because they also grew up at this time in the South.  For those of us that weren’t alive during those times, this book gives an authentic view of the race relations of the South at that time.

Formats available: Book, Large Print

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch


Upcoming Author Talks at LFPL

Bestselling author and historian

H.W. Brands


Main Library, Monday, June 15, 7 p.m.

Join bestselling author and historian H.W. Brands for a discussion of his latest book Reagan: The Life. Brands teaches history and writing at the University of Texas at Austin. #LFPLAuthors

This is a free event, but tickets are required – click here.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

David Hoffman


Main Library, Thursday, July 21, 7 p.m.

Join Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist David Hoffman for a discussion of his latest book The Billion Dollar Spy. Hoffman is a contributing editor at The Washington Post. #LFPLAuthors

Tickets available starting June 1, 2015.

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The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel

I enjoyed John Ford’s 1956 classic Western The Searchers when I saw it some fifteen years ago, so I thought reading this book about its production would be worthwhile.



What I didn’t expect was the detail in which Frankel first discusses Cynthia Ann Parker, the woman kidnapped by Comanche Indians upon whose ordeal the novel and ultimately the film The Searchers was based. Indeed, the first half of the 400-page book concerns Cynthia Ann’s abduction and the events that follow, as well as the life and cultural impact of her son, Quanah



This fascinating truth, obfuscated through the personal agendas of historians and politicians, perfectly sets up Frankel’s discussion of Alan LeMay’s novel and Ford’s subsequent film.




Billed as simply another John Wayne vehicle, the film is considered by many now as a complex examination of the myth of the American West.



I encourage anyone with an interest in film history, and history in general, to pick up The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend.

If you want to more about the history of Quanah Parker, you should check out Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne.