Fire and Icepicks

In this month's East Bay book news, hippies dream and a hippo drifts.

Southern discomfort: “Did Alex Haley’s Roots leave you thirsty for something more — perhaps some payback?” asks the promo for Love in Times of Outrage (2ndsight, $16.95). Berkeley author John Hatch‘s novel spans the 20th century as, inspired by César Chavez, a loving couple “invade Mississippi,” where, as wife Catherine puts it, they set about “giving the oppressor a dose of his own medicine,” aka “goin’ out killin’ white folks for a career.” Favoring icepicks and rattlesnake poison, they slay people who call them “coons” and “jungle bunnies.” The promo muses: “A haunting question from not-yet-multiracial publishers always is: How many will buy an African American turning the tables on white folks?”

Rebel, rebel: “At Drop City, you don’t have to work. You can do anything you want. … Drop City is Utopia,” a friend told John Curl in ’65, that giddy era when “to my circle of college friends the Cuban Revolution represented the possibility of a breakthrough” and youths mused hopefully that fragging would help end the war. As detailed in his engaging Memories of Drop City (iUniverse, $19.95) — the nonfiction counterpart to T.C. Boyle’s novel, Drop City — the artistic first-of-its-kind Colorado commune drew hundreds who shared egalitarianism, acid, and bodily fluids in and around colorful geodesic domes. Curl is now a Berkeley planning commissioner.

Wild kingdom: A lone baby hippo was found adrift in the Indian Ocean after its mother and the rest of its herd vanished in the 2004 tsunami. Transported to a Kenya animal sanctuary, the six-hundred-pounder made friends with a huge 130-year-old tortoise. Philanthropist and Tribeca Film Festival founder Craig Hatkoff created Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship (Scholastic, $16.99). It became an instant New York Times best-seller. Stuffed versions are in the works at Oakland-based toy firm MerryMakers.

So long: Are any fictional characters’ parents not dying of cancer these days? Dave Eggers got that sad party started, and in the first story in Berkeleyite Robin Romm‘s new collection The Mother Garden (Scribner, $22), the narrator’s mom is “a hairless woman who puts an oxygen canister in the seat of her wheelchair.” Other tales also feature dead or dying mothers. One narrator muses: “If I write that my mother died of cancer, no one will publish this story — cancer being too ubiquitous.”

Midlife stories: Why don’t Minnesotans say much? What do you do when your eightysomething dad sobs like a baby? And how do parents of hyperobservant teens have sex? Answers await in Something That Matters: Life, Love, and Unexpected Adventures in the Middle of the Journey (Harwood, $15). Edited by Elizabeth Fishel and Terri Hinte, it’s an anthology of true-life tales by members of Oakland’s Wednesday Writers group. Proceeds from sales will benefit the Alta Bates Summit Hospital Breast Health Center.

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