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Paperback Picks of the Week

We review the best books for the week of April 5, 1991

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MY TRAITOR’S HEART Rian Malan First published in 1990, this is the most passionate — and personal — of the recent books on South Africa. By questioning the heredity and history that have formed his take on events, Malan manages to suggest the complexity behind all South African perspectives. A

WE ARE NOT AFRAID Seth Cagin and Philip Dray The 1964 murder of three civil rights workers sparked a long season of dissension and hate. Although the events surrounding the crime were distorted in the 1988 movie Mississippi Burning, they were restored to their proper historical perspective in this 1988 work by Cagin and Dray. This is a narrative nonfiction at its best. A

NAMING NAMES Victor S. NavaskyThe 1981 winner of the American Book Award, Naming Names is the story of the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ investigation of Hollywood in the 1950s. Probing the rationalizations of the accusers and the motives of the witnesses, Navasky poses the real purpose behind the committee’s blacklist. A-

SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS Laura Cunningham This Comic 1989 memoir of an orphaned girl raised by her two eccentric bachelor uncles — Gabe, a gospel-singing Jew, and Len, a private eye — is effortlessly charming. It’s tempting to call Cunningham a female Woody Allen, but to do so underrates the warmth. A

ORDINARY LOVE AND GOOD WILL Jane Smiley Alice Munro may own the short story right now, but Smiley (The Age of Grief has laid claim to the novella. Like Munro, Smiley writes the subtleties of “ordinary” experience. The two novellas here, first published in 1989, are about parents and children and their sudden, momentous effects on each other. A+