I recently spent a leisurely morning off reading a book that ultimately led to a good hour of YouTubing vintage video and culminated in my own private dance party. I bet you’re wondering what book could possess such formidable influence as to distract me from such tasks as laundry and sweeping the floor, right? The book was Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound, by New York Times bestselling author Andrea Davis Pinkney, and it was fabulous.
Framed as a road trip through the 60’s narrated by none other than a character named the Groove, this book brings the reader along on a sometimes smooth and sometimes turbulent ride through the history of Motown. If you’re like me, you know some basic facts, like Motown stands for the “motor city” of Detroit and is responsible for some of the best American music to date (My Girl, ABC, Heard It Through the Grapevine, anyone?) But you might not know that owner Berry Gordy, Jr. mimicked his dirt-floor, garage studio record company after the assembly line at Ford Motor Company where he worked after coming home from military time in Korea. Gordy sought out to be a hit-making music machine, complete with weekly Friday morning “quality control” meetings that were used to decide what the country’s next number one hit would be. Check out this pretty amateur looking performance of Motown’s very first hit song in 1960, “Shop Around,” by The Miracles. Those moves! I was surprised to learn that all Motown artists were required to spend several hours a day in Maxine Powell’s (aka Miss Manners) “Artist Development” program across the street learning dance moves, etiquette, and elegance.
You might have noticed that this book is shelved in our young adult nonfiction collection. That’s absolutely correct, but don’t let that scare you away. As a teen librarian, I’m here to tell you that young adult non-fiction can be just an intellectually stimulating as an adult book. In fact, I often find them more engaging and compelling than some adult non-fiction. The Young Adult Library Services Association gives an annual Excellence in Nonfiction Award to the best titles published each year. 2016’s winner, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, is currently on my night stand AND was a National Book Award finalist. If you’re a nonfiction reader I highly recommend you check out some of the other finalists and previous year titles. So go ahead, read a young adult nonfiction book (you don’t have to show anyone the spine label!) You might just find a good groove to keep you warm this winter.