As different as these three books are - memoir, photograph collection and political discourse - each examines the past as a way to explain the present.
Out Came the Sun
By Judith Scott
Academy Chicago Publishers / 260 pages / $17.95
With her corn-silk blonde hair, blue eyes and round cheeks, Emily Katherine Scott seemed perfect. But she was disabled "across the board - developmentally, cognitively, neurologically, and psychologically." That diagnosis was only the beginning as Judith Scott (a Montgomery County high-school teacher and aerobics instructor) tells it in her memoir. The true story of Emily's first 10 years, the book provides a blow-by-blow account of the obstacles faced when raising a severely disabled child. Although Scott writes this account in the present tense, which feels forced, the book is powerful because of its gut-wrenching honesty. Scott lays out her frustration and anger as she, her husband and her daughter try to live a normal life when the odds are stacked against them.
Spirit of Place / Baltimore's Favorite Spaces
By Sarah Achenbach and Bill McAllen
Charm City Publishing / 132 pages / $29.95
Sarah Achenbach asked 50 or so Baltimoreans to choose their favorite place in the city and explain their choice. The result is a book of photographs and short essays describing the way people feel about the places they like. Generally, the photos show VIPs such as Vince Bagli, Laura Lippman and Bill Struever. Because of their status, their choices are inherently interesting.
Notes on Democracy
By H.L. Mencken, with Introduction by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers and Afterword by Anthony Lewis
Dissident Books / 208 pages / $14.95
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) believed in liberty but not necessarily in democracy. Democracies were founded on the principle of majority rule, and, according to Mencken, the majority is stupid. Did he mean it? Or was he trying to make a point? A little of both, thinks Marion Elizabeth Rodgers (Mencken, The American Iconoclast) in her introduction to this new edition. The original book was published Oct. 20, 1926, and had its genesis in a series of articles appearing in the magazine Smart Set.
Diane Scharper is the co-editor of the anthology "Reading Lips and Other Ways to Cope with a Disability," winner of the first Helen Keller Foundation International Memoir Writing Competition. She teaches English at Towson University.