Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for the Civil Rights in America's Legendary Subburb

The Levitts didn't invent suburbia and they didn't invent mass production, but they joined the two with impeccable timing, easing the critical postwar housing shortage by building modern, affordable communities with lightning speed. The events in David Kushner's riveting book occurred in Levittown, Pennsylvania, the second Levitt development, which, like its Long Island predecessor, had a whites-only policy. During the summer of 1957, a left-wing Jewish couple, the Wechslers, quietly arranged for an African-American family to buy the house next door. What followed was a months-long campaign by a group of hostile residents to drive Daisy and Bill Myers and their young children from their home, complete with burning crosses, smashed windows, and round-the-clock harassment. The local police did little to protect the family, while William Levitt, the flashy chairman of Levitt & Sons and a national hero, ignored the controversy altogether. (Levitt, who claimed that 90 to 95 percent of whites would refuse to buy into an integrated Levittown, had once said, "We can solve the housing problem or we can solve the racial problem, but we cannot combine the two.") Kushner's fast-paced account deftly re-creates the drama, which, though largely forgotten today, received nationwide coverage as it unfolded. It is the author's good fortune that the Wechslers and Daisy Myers are still alive and kept meticulous records of their ordeal; the result is a page-turner that's rich in detail and that also illuminates Cold War politics, suburbanization, and civil rights.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."