Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: From Sit-ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

From Sit-ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s From Sit-ins to SNCC: The Student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s by Iwan W. Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a look at the rise and fall of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) through the lens of 10 different essays. Each essay concentrates on a different view of the impact of the student-led protests starting with the 1960 Greensboro sit-in that led to the organization of SNCC. Topics covered include the effects of the sit-ins on white southern segregationists, the black power movement, the British and international civil rights movements, fictional writing by activists, and the election of Barack Obama.

SNCC may have gone by the wayside, but the impact of the direct action peaceful protests of the 1960s is still seen today. This book is really more about SNCC than it is about the sit-ins, but it was these protests that brought the organization together and started a wave of student activism.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Review: Rethinking the Chicano Movement

Rethinking the Chicano Movement Rethinking the Chicano Movement by Marc Simon Rodriguez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good analysis of the Chicano movement of the 60s and 70s. The rise of the Chicano movement happened about the same time as the Civil Rights movement. Several activist groups contributed to the education and support of these communities. Rodriguez looks at how political activism, urban politics, youth and college campuses, the media and Chicano authors, and art supported the Chicano movement. He specifically concentrated his discussion in cities that had a high concentration of Mexican-Americans such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and San Antonio. As African-Americans fought for civil and human rights and equality, so did Mexican-Americans. And that fight continues.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: Claws for Alarm

Claws for Alarm Claws for Alarm by Karen MacInerney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Karen MacInerney's 8th edition to the Gray Whale Inn mystery series, Natalie Barnes, owner of the Gray Whale Inn Bed and Breakfast on the little Maine community of Cranberry Island, is hosting a yoga retreat. A strange cast of characters have Natalie making strange looking power drinks rather than her usual homebaked goodies. Meanwhile, a new couple has taken up residence on the island looking to make some major changes that are not going over so well with the locals, leading to a murder and finger-pointing at Natalie's good friend Claudette. So it's up to the Inn's owner to figure out the mystery and save Claudette and her goats from being framed for the murder.

I generally don't read many mysteries but I thoroughly enjoy Karen MacInerney's cozy mystery series. There are bonus recipes at the end of the book of all of the food mentioned in the story. As always, I look forward to new books in all of Karen's series.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a little girl, I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up an hours drive from Laura and Almanzo's home in Mansfield, Missouri. I watched the series starring Melissa Gilbert and Charles Landon. I felt I knew a lot about Laura and her life, but what I knew until I read Prairie Fires only scratched the surface. Laura Ingalls was the embodiment of the prairie girl. Born in Wisconsin to Charles and Caroline, Laura was one of four girls who traveled from homestead to homestead in the late 19th century. Charles was determined to find the farm of his dream that would bring a comfortable living for his family. He was a frontiersman and a farmer and he yearned to live off the land. Times were hard, though, and the Ingalls seemed to be constantly dodging debt and destruction where ever they seemed to hang their hat. By the time they made it to De Smet, Dakota Territory, Laura was on her way to becoming a young lady capable of running a household and helping take care of the family. It was in De Smet that she met her future husband, Almanzo Wilder and where they would marry and welcome their daughter Rose.

When times fell hard (were they ever not hard?) on the family in De Smet, the Wilders would venture to Mansfield, Missouri where they would make their home permanently. It was in Mansfield that Laura would pen her classic children's stories of her life growing up on the midwest prairies. It is also where her daughter would get her own start as an author. And herein lies the controversy of the true author(s) of the Little House books. Some believe they are the work of Laura's pen, while others believe that Rose either ghostwrote the series or at least had a heavy hand at the editing. No doubt Rose was an integral part of the writing and publishing of Laura's semi-autobiographical stories. The other controversy surrounding the books is how much is true and how much is fictionalized. Laura always stated that "all that I have told is true but it is not the whole truth." How much of her childhood did she remember? How much did she embellish and how much has been altered to make a better story?

Caroline Fraser tackles all of these questions and gets down to the bones of Laura's story and life. As much as the book is about Laura, it is about her daughter Rose as well. The two had a strained and at times tumultuous relationship. Mother and daughter did not see eye to eye on a lot of things. Each woman was headstrong, yet each had demons that they wrestled with. Laura's story would be incomplete without examining Rose's life as well. At times, the book becomes Rose's story as we deviate from the expected look at Laura's later years, but in the end, it comes full circle. Fraser covers the full spectrum from the early years before Laura was even born through Rose's death and the outcome of the Wilder and Lane estates.

This is a very thorough look at the Ingalls, Wilder, and Lane histories and it will leave you seeing these women in a different light. I knew some of the backstories, but I feel like I have a better understanding of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The questions are not all answered, but I think I'm happy with that. I'm still and will always be a fan of the series that made me enjoy reading as a young girl. I'll also know that what is written is true, but it is not the whole truth.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review: We the People: An Introduction to American Politics

We the People: An Introduction to American Politics We the People: An Introduction to American Politics by Benjamin Ginsberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a textbook on American Politics. It covers pretty much every subject you would expect to find in a textbook on politics. If you have to read a textbook on American politics, this will do fine, but as you would imagine, it can be dry and boring.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review: The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy

The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy by Sherri Mora
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good textbook on Texas politics and policies. It covers the whole gamut from Texas history and political history, the organization of the state government and court system, policies and financing, political parties, lobbying, and voting.

This was an easy to read textbook with great pictures and charts to supplement the discussion.

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review: American and Texas Political History: A Maze of Racialized Thought in America

American and Texas Political History: A Maze of Racialized Thought in America American and Texas Political History: A Maze of Racialized Thought in America by Mario Marcel Salas
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm very conflicted on how to review this book. On the surface, this book is touted as a discourse in American and Texan political history. It is really a book on racism in Texas. The author, Mario Salas, is an Afro-Mexican Civil Rights leader living in San Antonio, TX. His main message throughout the book is that Texas' war of independence was based on the perpetuation of slavery and the appropriation of land from Mexico in order to raise more crops on the backs of slaves. That is an important and truthful message, for which I will give this rating a star. Salas has offered plenty of research to support this fact. That message and his final thoughts could really be summed up in one to two short chapters.

The rest of the book, however, is full of repeated rants and angry rhetoric with no cohesiveness or organization. There were many times I had to flip back to see if I had somehow lost my place and was re-reading something I already had. There was also a couple of chapters where Salas quoted other's works in painfully long details. Chapter 3, in particular, rounds out to about 50 pages of the 1847 writings of Benjamin Lundy on the war in Texas. Of those 50ish pages, Salas' writes but three paragraphs. Of those pages of Lundy's document, only a few comments were needed to make the point that Salas should have been making.

Salas comes off as an angry man who does not hold back on calling out all kinds of people for being racists. He devotes several paragraphs across multiple chapters attacking African American Republicans for kowtowing to white racists to further their careers. He even attacked the former mayor of San Antonio, Ivy Taylor, the first African American woman mayor and a Democrat, suggesting that she crossed party lines to get herself elected and has become a racist because of it. He fails to mention that her only opponent was also a minority woman and a Democrat.

This book is very dated. It is just about three years old and is already outdated. Many of the politicians and "current events" are long past, now, causing his supporting themes to be lacking in substance. The message that comes across is that he is holding on to grudges, rather than having supporting evidence for his thesis.

My other criticism of the book is that it is one hot mess when it comes to grammar. The man is a college professor and holds two Masters degrees, yet he is unable, apparently, to utilize spellcheck or Grammarly. It's obvious that the book has not been edited or reviewed and was likely self-published. The book comes off as personal rantings rather than a scholarly work.

So the tl;dr version of my own rant is that this book has a singular, important message but it is wrapped up in an unorganized mess, going off on repeated rants full of hate about the haters. I don't believe you can fight hate with hate. I say, skip this one as there are many great books to read on Civil and Human Rights.

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