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New books tell stories of race fears, history of black women, country music

The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death and America's Dilemma. By Alex Kotlowitz. Nan A. Talese/-Double-day. $34.95.

Historical journalism: In 1991, the body of a black youth was discovered in the St. Joseph River, separating mostly black Benton Harbor and mostly white St. Joseph, Mich. The investigation into his death became a screen onto which each community projects resentments and fears.Early review: "An engaging, knowing, probing, thoroughly accessible moral narrative, a story of American apartness, by virtue of race and class; a story that ought to help us understand one another better," writes Robert Coles.

A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America. By Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson. Broadway. $27.50.

History: The authors use scholarship of the past two decades to create a panoramic account of the political, social and cultural evolution of black women as a whole and individually.

Early review: According to Publishers Weekly, "this stirring tour de force moves black women from the wings to center stage."

Nashville's Unwritten Rules: Inside the Business of Country Music. By Dan Daley. Overlook. $27.95.

Business culture: A guided tour of how the Nashville country music system, which the author sees as more feudal than modern, is closely controlled by a handful of producers who are responsible for 80 percent of the hits.

Early review: "A solid plumbing of the forces driving a dominant and uniquely American industry," writes Kirkus Reviews.