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Save the Story: Save History

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Save the Story: Save History

This evening I read an article entitled Little House On The Controversary: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Name Removed From Book Award, by Kat Chow. It discusses how a division of the American Library Association voted unanimously to strip Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a significant children’s literature award over concerns about how the author referred to Native Americans and blacks.

The famously read Little House on the Prarie book series was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1935. Based on her childhood growing up on the American Great Plains in the 1800’s. This work of fiction has been criticized since its publication for its treatment of Native Americans and blacks.

The thing is, many books, fiction, and non-fiction written in the past, have depicted forms of racism, bigotry, and sexism. Historical writing typically gives the reader a vision of the times. In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the setting is in the South during the 1930’s where racism was prevalent and real.  In the story, words such as Nigger and Nigger- loving show the speech and mindset of the time. Yet, the educational significance of this story in teaching generations the horror of racism is monumental.

I fear that we will remove the novels and stories of times past and lose relevant pieces of our history. These stories, no matter how painful they be, lead us to open our hearts and minds to a more compassionate way to treat others. Often, the best lessons are learned through negative and appalling examples read in safety removed from the experience.

One example is reading Night by Elie Wiesel. His telling of his experiences with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust is horrifying. It leaves the reader to question how human beings can be so cruel to each other. It teaches about anti-semitism, evil, death, darkness, but also the strength of the human spirit, and hope.

As a society, it would be detrimental to strip our writers of their tales or the characters the ability to stir emotion just because we don’t agree with their viewpoints or words. Charles Dickens who penned stories like A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist, wrote on controversial topics and was one of the most important social commentators who used fiction effectively to criticize economic, social, and moral abuses in the Victorian era. Mr. Dickens contributed to many important social reforms. He was an author who used his characters to demonstrate compassion and empathy towards the vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of English society.

His characters were not always politically correct or very benevolent. The famous character, Scrooge, in A Christmas Carol whose quote, “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge refers to the poor in England. Readers are repulsed by this opinion and are called to action.

I don’t agree with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s opinions on Native Americans nor blacks in the 1800’s. It is hard for me to fathom how people could think and act as they did in the past.  However, I am better for reading those stories regardless of how horrifying, cold-blooded, and eye-opening they may be. It will be a fatal end to free speech and free thinking if we shun the authors and books that express historical and controversial opinions. It is nothing more than book burning without the fire.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Bio

Charles Dickens

Elie Wiesel in NY Times

Night by Elie Wiesel

To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 6/25/2018.

 

 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Book Review: Brides of Prairie Gold by Maggie Osborne

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Brides of Prairie Gold (Dangerous Men, #2)Brides of Prairie Gold by Maggie Osborne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maggie Osborne has done it again! This historical romance has twelve mail order brides from Chastity, Missouri, embark on a journey to find their husbands in Clampet Falls, Oregon. The wagon master, Cody Snow, is doing his best to keep them healthy and safe as they travel across the western expanse, however, the perils are many. Each of the women has their own unique qualities, but Snow is especially interested in Perrin Waverly. Perrin is in charge of the women and finds it difficult to earn their trust due to her past.

Unbeknownst to the brides, the wagon train is not only taking them to Oregon but also hauling whiskey and guns. This sets the wagon train up for ambush and death.
This book is exciting and easy to listen to on audio. There are themes of racism, social bias, forgiveness, and of course, finding true love. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Esperanza Rising Book Review

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Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan was a surprisingly good novel set in Post Revolutionary Mexico and Great Depression Era California.  Esperanza is a young girl who was born into a wealthy family and has never known poverty.  That is, until her father is killed by bandits, and her uncles take over the land.  Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their home to avoid a forced remarriage of Esperanza’s mother.  The two, along with three loyal servants steal away in a mango cart toward California and the promise of freedom.
In California, Esperanza learns what it is like to be poor and an immigrant.  She learns to work hard, to make do, and to think about someone other than herself. Like the mythical Phoenix she rises from the ashes to remake herself.  This was an excellent book and one I want to share with my students.

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fahrenheit 451 is a must read classic and an original dystopian novel. Ray Bradbury, who just recently passed away, was a prolific science fiction writer with over 500 pieces published. Fahrenheit 451, one of many celebrated books written by Bradbury, focuses on Guy Montag who is a fireman. The twist is that he starts fires rather than put them out. He is charged with the duty of burning books. For years, Montag has burned books. He says, “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”
One day, Montag is called to burn the books of Mrs. Hudson. She refuses to allow her books to be set on fire. She would rather die than lose her books. Haunted by Mrs. Hudson’s convictions, Montag collects a few of the books that have been saved by the fire and takes them home. He begins to read them in secret and his perspective on life begins to change. Fueled by his growing dissatisfaction of his profession and the meaninglessness in his life he seeks out a man named Faber. Montag once gave Faber a light charge after being caught with books. Ironically, Faber and Montag agree to copy an old salvaged Bible to save its contents from being destroyed.
The book is separated into titled sections that seem to represent the changes in Montag. Censorship is the most prevalent theme of this story. It seems the government and society does not want information to reach the people. The only information comes from media that seems to suggest radio and TV. Amazingly, in Montag’s home, he has a room where three walls hold screened TV, and his wife cannot wait until they can afford to have all the walls covered. This is surprisingly similar to the huge flat screen TV’s that current society has in every room of their homes.
Another theme is knowledge versus ignorance where Montag was happy with his life before he was bestowed the knowledge of reading. It is impossible to put the knowledge aside once he has it in his possession. It changes his beliefs and his life.
The writing style Bradbury incorporates into Fahrenheit 451 is a more formal style than what people are familiar with today. Published in 1953, the novel is often used by high schools and colleges. Francois Truffaut wrote and directed a film adaptation of the book in 1966, and it is available on DVD.
This novel’s themes are relevant today for it seems that many of Bradbury’s visions of the future have materialized in society. Thoughts and musings on these themes will haunt the reader long after he or she has finished the novel. Read this book!

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Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the most fascinating biography books; I have ever read. Written like a fiction novel, it relates the story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic Track star who survives World War II as a hero.

Zamperini possesses a unique spirit and grit that allows him to survive his plane being shot down over the Pacific, 47 days adrift on a raft with two companions, and the internment in notorious Japanese POW camps. His quick mind and nimble body suffer untold horrors throughout his ordeals. Especially when Louie meets up with an evil Japanese jailor named “The Bird”.

Hillenbrand, the author, has extensively researched and interviewed Zamperini’s life. The book includes many photos, that have been saved by the Zamperini family and many illustrious stories of Louie. Laura Hillenbrand interviewed Louie 75 times and retells his life in a positive and descriptive story-like fashion.

You do not need to be a World War II buff to enjoy this amazing story of heroism, America, and survival. Read this book today!

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Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This non-fiction book reads like a great mystery novel. It won me over immediately due to its setting of Chicago in 1893. This was at the time of The World’s Fair (The World’s Columbian Exposition) and the great architect Daniel H. Burnham who created the “Great White City”.

The book revolves around Herman Webster Mudgett (aka Dr. H.H. Holmes) who lured his victims from the fair and murdered them. This serial killer even built his own building, “The World’s Fair Hotel” with a plan to gas the victims in the gas chamber, dissect them at the dissection table, and rid himself of the bodies in the crematorium. Dr. Holmes often removed the skeletons of his victims and sold them for medical and scientific study. Many of those skeletons may have been used in medical colleges and hospitals.

The interesting thing about this book is how the author wove this story of murder and mayhem with the story of the architect Daniel Burnham. The reader is given insight to the character and dream of Burnham and of the politics that went into creating a World’s Fair.

This excellent book leaves the reader hungry for more. Leonardo Di Caprio purchased the film rights to this book in 2010. Word is that a movie starring Di Caprio is in production. No word as to when it might be released. If the movie is half as good as the book, it will be a blockbuster.

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Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jeannette Walls writes her deeply disconcerting memoir, The Glass Castle that recounts her life growing up with dysfunctional parents. Jeannette’s father was an amazingly intelligent man who could teach his four kids physics, geology, and fearlessness when he was not drunk. Jeannette’s mother was an artist who would rather get lost in her art than feed and raise her children. Mother and father were a perfect storm of two people who should never have had children. The memoir takes the reader on a tour of great ups and horrific downs for this wandering family.
From the very beginning, I was completely enthralled with this book. The story is expertly woven and easy to read. At times, the book touched a nerve, and it would make me so angry with Jeanette’s parents that I would just have to scream. This was a great book for my book club where we discussed the story with emotion and dismay. I would highly recommend this book.

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Copyright © Jamie Nowinski and Grandmother Wisdom/ Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 
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