John Edgar Wideman's Bookshelf
By Taylor Branch
Reading At Canaan's Edge, Taylor Branch's final installment of "America in the King Years," caused me to second-guess a choice I made once upon a time. I'm not sure I would have served out my three years as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford if I'd read this book before I left for England in 1963. Of course, that's an easy, even silly thing to say now, but sobering waves of nostalgia, regret, and loss hit me as Branch chronicled—dramatically, poignantly, gratitude and wonder mingled painfully with bitterness—what I'd missed by choosing to live abroad. Branch tells King's story so it's LBJ's story, the story of Vietnam, the story of a people divided by class, race, gender, and war, the story of a nation squandering its resources, its ideals, refusing finally a golden opportunity of healing itself peacefully. We couldn't see past Martin Luther King's color to the principles of nonviolent witness, nonviolent liberation he personified. Instead we choose the shackles of race, the dead end of power, profit, privilege. Could I have made a difference. Could you. What about now.