Book Notes 8.10.20: History in Haiku, Jodi Thomas’ new novel

Book Notes 8.10.20: History in Haiku, Jodi Thomas’ new novel

By Glenn Dromgoole


This is probably the weirdest book on American history I have ever read. And the most creative, too.

J.W. Brands, a distinguished author and professor at the University of Texas, has compiled the history of the U.S. three lines – 17 syllables – at a time.

He’s been working on it for years, Tweeting his haiku verses to friends and followers, and now he’s collected them into a book. Even the book’s title is a haiku:


Haiku History
The American Saga
Three Lines at a Time


Brands is a stickler for the more conventional haiku style of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

The Mayflower Compact of 1620 is summarized: “We solemnly swear/As a joint body to seek/The general good.”

The Salem witch trials: “Shivers and specters/Flit over souls in Salem/As nineteen are hanged.”

The Bill of Rights in 1789: “The Congress convenes/Its first order of business:/To guarantee rights.

One section of the slim 134-page volume deals with the Civil War – three lines at a time, of course, ending with Lincoln’s assassination. Other haiku concern World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Afghanistan, Iraq.

The 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott: “Footsore Rosa Parks/Declares, ‘Enough!’ and rejects/The back of the bus.”

The 9/11 attack: “Hijacked airliners/Like manned cruise-missiles target/New York and  D.C.”

Brands said he has written more than a thousand history haiku, but he thought that would be too overwhelming for a book, so he limited his selection to 335 or so, ranging from 15,000 B.C. to the 2016 election.

The book, published by the University of Texas Press, is $21.95 hardcover.


Jodi Thomas Fans: Amarillo novelist Jodi Thomas has a big following in Abilene. She’s been here several times to speak and sign books and was the A.C. Greene Award winner in 2013.

Her new novel, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café (Kensington, $15.95 paperback), kicks off a new series set in the fictional Central Texas community of Honey Creek, where Mayor Piper Jane Mackenzie finds herself in the middle of a potential scandal, and an undercover state trooper is sent in to protect her.

Meanwhile, a firefighter-turned-preacher arrives in town to serve as interim pastor of the community church while trying to get over the death of his one true love.

And two high school seniors who don’t seem to have anything in common find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other.

Jodi pulls together three quirky romances into one fine small-town tale.