Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review: The Spirit of '76: From Politics to Technology, the Year America Went Rock & Roll

The Spirit of '76: From Politics to Technology, the Year America Went Rock & Roll The Spirit of '76: From Politics to Technology, the Year America Went Rock & Roll by David Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very short look at the year 1976. It was the year of Rocky Balboa, the election of Jimmy Carter, the beginning of Apple Computer, and the year that Saturday Night Live went from a late-night lampoon show to an award-winning icon of late-night television. The author finely weaves all of these iconic moments in history into a nice overview of the mid-70s.

View all my reviews

Review: Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s

Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s by Daphne Duval Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Black Pearls cover the blues scene of the 1920s and specifically follows the careers of notables Sippie Wallace, Victoria Spivey, Edith Wilson, and Alberta Hunter. Each woman had her own style from the strong seductive voice of Sippie Wallace who was known as the "Texas Nightingale" to the high pitched moans and groans of Victoria "Vickie" Spivey. The author does a fine job of analyzing these careers and each woman's specific songs and style. An interesting read for the music lover of blues.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 30, 2019

Review: The Pirate

The Pirate The Pirate by Harold Schechter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short story about the true-crime of Albert Hicks, a man who boarded a sloop in 1860 off the coast of New York and killed the captain and two mates before robbing them and sneaking via a lifeboat in the early morning. The story follows the gruesome discovery of the ship, the capturing and trial of Hicks and the outcome of his sentencing. Schechter is well known for his true crime stories.

This is a quick read and is great to read as a "Kindle in Motion" that should be read via the Kindle app on an iPad or Kindle Fire to check out the fun moving graphics.

View all my reviews

Review: Humanity: How Jimmy Carter Lost an Election and Transformed the Post-Presidency

Humanity: How Jimmy Carter Lost an Election and Transformed the Post-Presidency Humanity: How Jimmy Carter Lost an Election and Transformed the Post-Presidency by Jordan Michael Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great little book about Jimmy Carter's post-Presidency. Carter was one of the least favorite President's in our nation and yet during his post-Presidency he is much beloved. This book covers Carter's time from his landslide loss for a second-term through 2015. Carter certainly had issues as President. He left office basically destitute financially. While other past-Presidents of his era concentrated on making money by writing books and speaking across the nation, Carter concentrated on human rights, Habitat for Humanity, and working internationally toward peace. Smith does a very good job showing how the man went from being almost hated to being a Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian and beloved by Americans.

View all my reviews

Review: President Hanks

President Hanks President Hanks by Jim Cullen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick read about the career of Tom Hanks. The author tried to compare Hanks to Abraham Lincoln (who was a distant relative from Lincoln's mother's line) which I didn't think went over very well; however, it was a nice review of Hanks' movie career, including how he got started and how some films became iconic while others were panned.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Review: We Should All Be Feminists

We Should All Be Feminists We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short book of a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the subject of feminism. Adichie tackles the stereotype of a feminist from the 2nd wave era of the 60s and 70s and colors a modern picture of women and men who recognize that gender roles have changed. Although the gender gap has shrunk over the years, there is still a large disparity. Women are still often overlooked as inferior to their male counterparts. A feminist is not an angry, anti-male woman, but any person who recognizes that there should be equal rights for all people regardless of gender.

View all my reviews

Review: Counterfeit Justice: The Judicial Odyssey of Texas Freedwoman Azeline Hearne

Counterfeit Justice: The Judicial Odyssey of Texas Freedwoman Azeline Hearne Counterfeit Justice: The Judicial Odyssey of Texas Freedwoman Azeline Hearne by Dale Baum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very thorough look at the life of Azeline Hearne. Hearne was a freedwoman in Texas who, during the Reconstruction era endured years of lawsuits contesting the will and estate of her former slave owner, Samuel Hearne. Sam Hearne was not only Azeline's owner but her lover as well. They cohabitated during a time when miscegenation was highly frowned upon. They had several children but only one son lived to adulthood. Sam left his estate to his son Dock Hearne with the stipulation that he would support and care for his mother, Azeline, and should Dock precede Azeline in death, the estate would then be left to her.

That is indeed what happened as Dock died in his 30s from smallpox. In the years following the deaths of both men, Azeline was sued by Hearne's extended family and multiple men who all had designs on the Hearne estate, a prosperous cotton plantation in the Brazos River Valley of Texas. These suits were appealed all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. At one time, there were three suits pending with the higher court. The suits would sometimes end in Azeline's favor often being overturned against her. Her final effort was to sue her own lawyer who failed to make sure she was cared for and who also failed to file proper tax documents throughout the years.

Azeline's story is a sad one but one that shows the gumption that she had to persevere for what was intended to be hers and for the human rights of freedwomen in the Reconstruction era.

View all my reviews

Review: The Seneca Falls Convention: Working to Expand Women's Rights

The Seneca Falls Convention: Working to Expand Women's Rights The Seneca Falls Convention: Working to Expand Women's Rights by Deborah Kent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quick read on the background of the Seneca Falls Convention, the meeting that started the suffrage movement in the United States. This book is listed as more of a young adult's book, but I think it is perfect for the adult that knows little of the convention. This is a well written and concise book and one I'll use for reference.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Review: Christmas with the Queen

Christmas with the Queen Christmas with the Queen by Brian Hoey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very short read that details the holiday traditions of Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family. Written in 2014, the author covers the details of holiday preparations that start as early as Easter time to prepare for Christmas at Buckingham Palace and more specifically Sandringham, where the Queen spends time from early December until early February. There are many celebrations with family, friends, and staff and the Queen makes sure everyone has a good time and is recognized through gifts and time off.

View all my reviews

Review: A Christmas Memory, including One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor

A Christmas Memory, including One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor A Christmas Memory, including One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a set of three short stories by Truman Capote set during the holiday season. The stories include A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor. They follow a young boy named Buddy and his relationship with cousin Miss Sook. These stories are somewhat autobiographical in nature and show the innocence of a young boy in the rural depression-era south. Buddy recalls fruitcake making time, a trip to visit his dad for Christmas, and a particular Thanksgiving day when their family had a visitor who needed some special understanding and forgiveness. These are great stories that can be read over and over during the holidays.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 23, 2019

Review: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an important read in today's society. This book is a look at the iGen generation that seems to be obsessed with technology and social media. The authors look at how ready access to news and social media affects attitudes and higher education. iGen students seem to be obsessed with protecting themselves against any other opinion than their own. They are less open to expanding their worldview and listening to opposing views to gain a broader understanding of today's society. This has led to students feeling "unsafe" when dealing with someone who does not share their views. Are they truly physically unsafe or are they just unable to process opposing views? Instead of engaging in open, civil debate or listening to gain understanding, students are sheltered and professors and administrators kowtow to students, offering special "safe spaces," firing faculty who simply exercise their first amendment right, or even canceling guest speakers whose views are not shared with the majority of students. In essence, the authors suggest that we are coddling America's youth and young adults, sheltering them to the point that they are unable to process opinions and ideas that they do not identify with.

The authors spend a lot of time discussing how technology and social media have affected current attitudes and lifestyles. Where once young kids would go out and play in the neighborhood, without constant adult supervision, they are today being watched by helicopter parents, suggesting that kids are being overprotected. Are we coddling the younger generations to the point that they are unable to psychologically handle uncomfortable positions? It is certainly worth thinking about and this book will open that discussion to consider if we are doing a disservice to our youth.

I think this is a must-read for parents, teachers, and faculty of higher education. These are the children that will one day rule our nation. How will they handle our future?

View all my reviews

Friday, December 6, 2019

Review: Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story

Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story by Ann Kirschner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful yet heartbreaking story. This is the biography of Sala Garncarz, a young Jewish woman from the Silesia region of Poland in the 1940s. The story is told by Sala's daughter who often asked her mother what her experience was like in Poland during World War II. Sala would refuse to discuss this time until she was much older and she knew that if she was going to tell her story to her family, it should be sooner than later.

The story is told through a series of letters that Sala wrote and received during the war, as well as through diary entries she made and kept. Sala was the youngest of the large Garncarz family. As the war began in Europe, each Jewish family in Sala's small town had to send a family member to work for "six weeks" in a Nazi-run labor camp. The dreaded letter came to the Garncarz family requiring Sala's sister Raizel to report for work. The only way out would be to pay up or bribe the officers, but the Garncarzs did not have the money. Raizel was the more frail and frantic daughter and Sala was a young, bright, and vivacious teen who stepped up to take Raizel's place. After all, it was only to be for six weeks. It was one of many lies the Nazis told. On the appointed day, Sala gathered her diary and a few postcards and was accompanied to the train station with her mother and some of her siblings. There she met Ala, a young woman who promised Sala's mother that she would look after the young girl as if she were her own.

What follows is the details of Sala's life in a series of labor camps. Many people know about the concentration camps, but few books have been written about the labor camps. These were the factories that the Nazis needed running to help provide provisions for the war. Most of the people in these labor camps fared far better than those sent to the death camps. Mail and parcels were mostly allowed in and out of the labor camps but were not to be kept. Sala risked her life to keep these letters hidden through several transfers and inspections. Over 300 letters survived. It is through this correspondence that we see into another aspect of Nazi rule and the atrocities that Jewish people faced during the war. This story is at times heartbreaking but it also shows the courage that many had to keep going in light of what was happening around them.

View all my reviews

Review: The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Feminine Mystique is the classic book that sparked a national discussion on women's roles and "the problem that has no name" in the 1960s. It became the bible for the second-wave of feminism. It was written in a post-war era when women were sent back home from the factories to concentrate on family and home and to be the dutiful wife in a paternalistic society. Women were expected to go to college to find a husband, not an education. Women who wanted a career were considered to have emotional issues. Mainstream society thought they were broken and that a good husband and children would fix their problems. Friedan calls out this way of thinking and challenges readers to consider that women, like men, may need more than home life.

It is now over fifty years since this book has been written. Women now regularly manage homes and careers. The idea of a family unit of a mother, father, and children are less the norm as we see more single-parent and same-sex parent families. It does not mean they are less a family, it just shatters the traditional roles that were the norm in a post-war era. Although the text was written for an audience in a much different time, the themes are still important in today's society. Women still have not seen an Equal Rights Amendment. We have the vote, but we are far from equal in the eyes of the law. We are still fighting an uphill battle. We still have not seen a woman in the executive office of the nation but the time is coming and I hope it is coming soon. This book is still worth the read to hopefully continue the conversation of equality and to continue chipping away at the glass ceiling.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: The Golden Lane: How Missouri Women Gained the Vote and Changed History

The Golden Lane: How Missouri Women Gained the Vote and Changed History The Golden Lane: How Missouri Women Gained the Vote and Changed History by Margot Ford McMillen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Golden Lane is a short overview of the fight of Missouri suffragists to gain the right to vote. The book leans heavily on St. Louis, the site of the "Golden Lane." The Golden Lane was a protest by suffragists in St. Louis during the 1916 Democratic National Convention, the brainchild of Emily Newell Blair of Carthage, Missouri. A swarm of women dressed in suffragist white accented in yellow holding yellow parasols lined the street outside the convention to gain the attention of lawmakers for women's right to vote.

Whereas the book is a good overview of key people and events, it does tend to drift off into topics that have no bearing on the titled subject. A discourse on St. Louis and the Busch family/beer company is more detailed than some topics that I would expect to read about. A couple of the important suffragists like Victoria Minor and Emily Newell Blair have chapters dedicated to them but they garner a few paragraphs instead of the whole chapter and discussion about their dress and demeanor in pictures tends to be more detailed than their suffrage work. The cathartic moment of the Golden Lane seemed to be little more than a passing few comments than the building up of the moment.

What you do get is more of an overview of the suffrage movement in St. Louis, not of the whole state, and of a timeline of the city from the civil war through the ratification of the suffrage amendment. For those studying the movement, this book provides a jumping-off spot to begin research.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Review: Wicked Harvest

Wicked Harvest Wicked Harvest by Karen MacInerney
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Autumn has arrived in the little town of Buttercup, Texas and once again a killer is loose. Buttercup is the home of novice farm girl Lucy Resnick who is struggling to maintain her grandmother's farm. The town is in the throes of Oktoberfest and a new brewery is opening up with a long family history to the area. During the grand reveal of a new beer from an old family recipe, one of the proprietors turns up dead.

Lucy, who is a former investigative reporter, goes in search of the killer and motive behind the murder while also handling her own mystery back on her farm. Can Lucy put the pieces of the puzzle together before another Buttercupian meets their demise?

I thoroughly enjoy all of Karen MacInerney's cozy mystery series. I especially enjoy her Dewberry Farm Mysteries for the Texas references and setting. I am looking forward to the further adventures of Lucy in Buttercup, Texas.

View all my reviews

Review: Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community

Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold is specifically about the history of the Lesbian community of Buffalo, NY from the 1940s-1960s. The authors interviewed a range of women identifying as both butch and femme, as well as those that just simply identify as lesbian. These women were often closeted but sometimes weren't. They spent a lot of time in bars and at house parties. Some were young and naive to the community others were older and acted as mentors to the newcomers of the community. They lived in a society that told them they had to be dainty and subservient to men and husbands. Some were women whose husbands were gay, so each went on with their secret lives, living as the "normal" couple in the mainstream public. For the women who identified as butch, they were able to eventually feel like they could dress the part in the 1940s as women began to dress in slacks and blouses while filling in jobs that men left behind to go to war. They felt more accepted and felt like they could be themselves.

Their lives were also often thrown into turmoil as friends and lovers came and went. They kept their true identities hidden from family and at times, the law. Some built lasting relationships that are still going strong today.

This book is narrowly focused on one small community which may or may not have had a similar experience to other small communities across the country. The stories are very interesting and at times shocking. Many suffered double oppression of patrimony, relegated to be subservient as women and also second fiddle to the male gay community. These women had to carve out their own niche to find places where they could be out in public and be comfortable with who they were in a society that did not accept them.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Review: Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation

Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Stonewall Uprising was the cathartic moment that began the gay liberation movement in 1969. During the 70s activism for the LGBTQ community continued in the decade before the AIDS epidemic came to the forefront. Jim Downs provides 7 essays in Stand by Me that discuss various aspects of the gay liberation movement in the 70s. He begins by detailing a deadly fire the broke out in a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973. The fire resulted in the deaths of thirty-two people and is considered one of, if not the largest massacres of gays in American history. The discussion then turns to religion, specifically discussing the Metropolitan Community Church, founded by and for gays people. The MCC offered solace and understanding to a community shunned by most other religious organizations. Downs also discusses the usage of bookstores, print media, and poetry as resources for advocacy in the gay community. The book concludes with a discussion of the image of gay men in the 70s as many worked to shatter the stereotype of an effeminate man, proudly showing the world that you can be macho and be gay.

This was an engaging read that pulled the reader in from the beginning and tugged on your heartstrings reading about the fire at the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans. Such a tragic event eclipses more recent events that we have seen in the news, such as the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016. Advocacy for the LGBTQ community really took off in the 1970s and Stand by Me shares the beginning of the story for a subset of the community. Their work is far from done.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review: Cybercrime and Digital Forensics: An Introduction

Cybercrime and Digital Forensics: An Introduction Cybercrime and Digital Forensics: An Introduction by Thomas J. Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review is for the updated version 2017 edition:

I used this book this year for a Cyber Criminology class I teach. It is a good text for an overview/introduction class. The first 10 chapters cover different types of cybercrime such as hacking, cyber terror, digital piracy, and cyberstalking / bullying. Cybersex crimes are also covered and in this 2017 edition, child pornography and sex crimes have been separated out from the adult versions of these crimes. There is one chapter on old school criminology theories / the scientific method and how they apply to the cyber world today. The last chapters cover digital forensics, touching on subjects like spoliation and collecting forensics in the cloud.

This is my second year teaching with this text and I will likely use it again. As with any text, it is going to be quickly outdated, so I hope the authors continue to update the text. It is well laid out with a nice progression between subjects, interspersing historical information as well. Real-world examples are used, but I would have liked more examples that are more in-depth. Another plus is that the book uses technical terms, while clearly explaining terms and concepts for beginners to understand.

I also liked the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. These are thought-provoking questions that have the students thinking beyond what is discussed in that chapter. They made great essay questions for tests. If you are an instructor, the publisher has a website with extra material that can be used in the classroom, such as Powerpoint presentations and test questions.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Review: Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays

Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays by Camille Paglia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Can a woman be both a feminist and be sexual? There is a feminist thought that women suffer from oppression by men and that all feminists hate men. Camille Paglia challenges the stereotypical identity of feminism in her book. Her main thesis answers the question that women can be feminists and embrace sexuality. Women can be strong and independent and be sexual. The images of these women are found in many forms of art from literature, print, and music. According to Paglia, the identity of a feminist as taught by academia has it all wrong.

Paglia is not your typical feminist scholar. She is brash, and she is loud. She does not conform to many streams of feminist thought. She has her ideas and opinions, and she is not afraid to share them and go against the grain. Paglia has roots in academia, having studied at Binghamton and Yale universities and makes her living as a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Despite being grounded in academia Paglia is often critical of traditional study and calls for broad changes in learning constructs at the university level. Her unique view of academia and many other topics are tackled in Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays.

Two major themes come to the forefront in Paglia’s essays. The first is Paglia’s views on women, feminism, and sexuality. Her belief that sex one should embrace sex in all its forms and portray all forms of art. The second theme is her strong views on psychological theory. Paglia is a follower of Freudian thought and is appalled at those that follow the tenets of Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida.

Paglia’s book is comprised of twenty-one essays on her views of feminist thought as they apply to sex and art. Many of these articles are published in magazines and journals. Paglia’s main discourse throughout her book does not conform to mainstream feminism. Paglia feels that sex should not be shunned. She boasts that she is pro pornography and prostitution. Sex is beautiful. Women are beautiful. She feels that feminists should not shun commercial ads that use women to exude a sexual theme to sell a product but to see the ad as a sensual work of art that portrays women as a beautiful, sexual being. Paglia uses examples of Madonna and Elizabeth Taylor to support her thesis that women can be beautiful, and they can be sexual, they can be sensual and also be strong independent women who embrace their identity and sexuality. These images are also seen in music and art, and Paglia goes as far as challenging a fellow professor who offered a lecture on the negative aspects of women’s sexuality depicted in art. To Paglia, these were works of art that showed the power women have as sexual beings. Art should be looked at for its positive messages on sexuality, not on its negative messages of oppression.

Paglia seems to contradict herself, though, when speaking on the subject of date rape. Paglia lays much blame on women for most cases of date rape, especially in regards to collegiate women who attend fraternity parties and follows a young man to their room. Paglia views this as a signal that the woman is open to sexual liaisons, and therefore there is no date rape but consensual sex. Many people would consider Paglia’s views as victim-blaming, but Paglia states her case unequivocally.

Paglia is not your typical feminist. She has ideas on women and sex that goes against the norm. She is radical and appears to go off in left field. However, her views should be considered. These views allow one to see feminism from a different lens. Her views challenge the current ideology on the role of art and sex in feminist thought. It is discourse, like Paglia’s, that allows people to expand their worldview and consider a different side of sexuality.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Review: Intersectionality

Intersectionality Intersectionality by Patricia Hill Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Collins and Bilge present the topic of Intersectionality, which is the interconnectedness of race, class, and gender as it applies to individuals and groups. It is a person's holistic multi-faceted identity. The term is attributed to Kimberle Crenshaw who first coined the term in 1989; however, it was not a new concept at that time. Collins and Bilge utilize several examples of using intersectionality as a tool to explore and understand social inequality through inquiry and praxis. The authors also give voice to those that contest the concept. To put the concept into practicable terms, consider an African-American lesbian woman. Through the lens of intersectionality, they would identify as the collective person rather than as just an African-American, or just as a lesbian, or just as a woman.

The authors also explore feminist movements, such as the Combahee River Collective through the lens of intersectionality and its effects on modern movements like Hip Hop and our digital world.

This is a good, comprehensive book that can be dry and dense at times and engaging at other moments. Worth reading and discussing.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Review: Reshaping Women's History: Voices of Nontraditional Women Historians

Reshaping Women's History: Voices of Nontraditional Women Historians Reshaping Women's History: Voices of Nontraditional Women Historians by Julie A. Gallagher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not everyone has the chance to have a traditional college experience or forge a traditional path in their professional career. In today’s society more and more young adults finish high school and matriculate to a college campus to begin a four-year Bachelor’s program. A portion of those students who complete their undergraduate studies goes on to obtain a Master’s degree in their chosen field. Far fewer complete their educational journey by receiving their Doctorate. The percentage of women who complete the entire curriculum is likely low compared to men, as personal challenges present themselves throughout their adulthood. The low percentage includes women pursuing a Doctoral degree in History. Women who take a non-traditional route to higher education and professional careers are the subject of Julie A. Gallagher’s Reshaping Women’s History: Voices of Nontraditional Women Historians. Gallagher’s work is a compilation of 18 autobiographical essays by women who have persevered through incredible odds to obtain a post-baccalaureate degree in History. They are women who have received the Catherine Prelinger Award

The Catherine Prelinger award is given yearly to a woman who has shown evidence of a non-traditional professional career and has worked on a project to develop women’s role in history. Many of the recipients have interrupted their studies to devote time to family and personal matters. Finances are usually an issue as these women struggle to maintain a home with daunting bills and lack of income. Some have started on a different trajectory in their studies, never expecting to find themselves in the field of history, but by chance have found a passion uncovering the stories of past generations. The Prelinger award is given out by the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH), and the monies received by the recipients have no specific earmark for usage. Some women utilize the money to help pay bills that will relieve them of a financial burden. These financial burdens hinder them from time-consuming research needed to complete a project of turning their dissertation into a published book. Some utilize the money to purchase equipment for recording oral histories, and some spend their money on travel to foreign countries to complete on-site research. However the monies are used these women are relieved of a financial strain so that they may achieve a goal that they believe they could not make. It has allowed them to join the ranks of fellow female historians contributing to an expanding body of scholarly women’s historiography.

Gallagher’s request of the eighteen women who form the body of Reshaping Women’s History is to write their story. They are autobiographical and each woman brings her voice and style to their essay. Some write in a scholarly voice, likely reminiscent of their academic voices, while others write more in a creative stream of consciousness form. These stories evoke passion and heartache for their projects and the hurdles they faced. They are at times raw and open as they lay out the details of their lives and journey toward completing scholarly works supporting women in history. The culminating result is a body of work that encourages other women to persevere through what may seem like insurmountable odds to complete their academic and professional goals. They are a group of women who have stories that need to be told and who can tell the story of other women overlooked in history.

Reshaping Women’s History should be required reading for all women pursuing a degree in history or comparable studies. Some of these women did not start out looking toward a profession in history, but their paths led them there. Reshaping Women’s History is a book that highlights the lack of scholarly work in women’s history and the voices that are still unheard waiting to be uncovered to be written and read by those that follow in their footsteps.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Review: The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement

The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement by Winifred Breines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of essays by Winifred Breines and the role of women in the feminist movement of the 1960s through the 1980s. Breines follows a chronological history of feminists beginning with white women and African-American women's roles in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and how these two groups of women forged their own campaign for equal rights. Breines also details the role of African-American women in the Black Power movement, specifically detailing specific leaders with the Black Panthers. Two other groups are noted, the Bread and Roses group and Combahee River Collective. These groups were socialist feminist group, the former a white oriented group and the latter an African-American group. The Bread and Roses organization was anti-capitalist and anti-racial, hoping to be inclusive of all women of race. The divide between the two races continued into these organizations that began in the days of SNCC. The author then wraps up her discussion as she details the issues in Boston in the 1970s and 1980s when many African-American women were being killed. Women of all colors began to come together to fight capitalism, racism, and sexism.

Well written, scholarly work discussing the oppression of women during the anti-war and New Left movement era. The overriding theme is that solidarity is power and should cross race and class lines.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 23, 2019

Review: Redeeming La Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights

Redeeming La Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights Redeeming La Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights by Gabriela Gonzalez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent look at the lives and work of transborder activists from 1900 to 1950. While the United States and Mexico modernized in areas like industrialization, urbanization, and technology, Euro-Americans prospered as racial and ethnic groups were marginalized. Mexican-Americans suffered abuse and discrimination across racial, gender, and class lines. Many activists in the borderlands of Texas and Mexico fought for equal rights through many avenues such as print media, non-profit organizations, and community services. Gonzalez spotlights many Mexican-American activists and organizations in detail including the Idar family, the Magonista movement, Emily Tenayuca, Latin American PTA organizations, and LULAC. Drawing on oral histories, diaries, letters, and newspapers of the time, Gonzalez paints a picture of the rebuilding of La Raza and gente decente, the people of the Mexican-American community and the oppressed middle-class of south Texas.

I thought this was a fascinating look at the history of Hispanic and Chicano/a people of the Texas borderlands.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Review: Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism

Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism by Devon Abbott Mihesuah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Devon Abbott Mihesuah passionately discusses the role of Indigenous American Women in tribal and American life. Three themes are covered in her book: Research and Writing, Colonization and Native Women, and Activists and Feminism. In Research and Writing, Mihesuah explains that writings on Native women and tribal culture should be expertly researched and include the voices of Native women. Broad generalizations should be avoided. Each tribe has their own culture and caution should be used to generalize culture across all tribes. Specific examples are used. In Colonization and Native Women, Mishesuah discusses how Native women have lost their gendered roles after colonization. Where women were once revered within their tribes, many have suffered from abuse and relegated to subservient roles. Boarding houses and seminary life is examined showing how colonization has contributed to abuse and violence toward women and how they have been taught to be "civilized" at the expense of losing a part of their culture. Finally, Mihesuah covered today's activist and feminists who work hard to raise awareness of the female gender role in Native American life.

This is an excellent book. I do think that overall, Mihesuah discusses tribal life in general and does not always discuss just the female role. A lot of time is devoted to the American Indian Movement and the long-unsolved mystery around the death of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Mikmaq indigenes woman who went to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s to help with their grassroots civil rights movement.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Review: Woman's Consciousness, Man's World

Woman's Consciousness, Man's World Woman's Consciousness, Man's World by Sheila Rowbotham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a short discussion by Sheila Rowbotham on the state of socialist feminism in the mid-1970s. Rowbotham is a British social feminist who offers the argument that sexist attitudes pre-date a capitalist society. Although more women leave the home to work a job in a capitalist society, they are still expected to manage the home which is a job in and of itself. Women do not receive equal pay or equal treatment and are relegated to female-oriented jobs, such as secretarial positions. Life at home resembles a feudal institution as women are provided a home and needful things in exchange for managing the home. Rowbotham believes that the feminist movement needs to make societal changes to eradicate the patriarchal life that women are bound to.

Although this was written in the mid-1970s, many of the concerns highlighted by Rowbotham continue today. This is a good foundational discussion on the modern feminist movement.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Review: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anthony Bourdain is a no holds barred kinda guy. He is extremely candid and unapologetic in life and that attitude comes across loudly in Kitchen Confidential. The man could be an ass and he admits it. He has been around the block a few times, been chewed up, and spit out. That is what you call experience and when it comes to the culinary world, he has that in spades. This book is Bourdain laid out raw from his youth traveling to France with his family and discovering what food should really taste and look like to being a well known culinary personality known worldwide. The art of eating is about using all the senses and Bourdain gained this understanding at an early age. As a young man, he went on to be a mediocre sous chef before going on to school at the Culinary Institute of America. He worked his way up to be an Executive Chef at Les Halles in New York and finally as a journalist and television host of shows like No Reservations and Parts Unknown. This man knows food, how to cook it, how to eat it, how to savor it.

I have seen Bourdain's shows off and on over the years. I was never very fond of him because of the way he would bash other chefs in the media, but then I saw him on The Taste, a short-lived cooking competition that seemed to try to copy cat The Voice. I had more respect for him after watching him on there. He was less "loud" and more compassionate and I could see the respect he had for culinary arts. I was saddened to hear of his passing in 2018. The man was extreme and likely dealt with a lot that did not come out to the public. I had planned to read this book for some time. It's sad to see how full of life he was when he wrote this book. He was a person that never considered giving up but would cut his losses at one job to go on to something that would be better and build on his skills. Something got lost somewhere along the way, I suspect. He definitely had a heart and was compassionate of people, at least those he was close with, outside of work. All of these aspects of his personality come out in this book.

I will say that after reading this book if I ever had an inclination to go into the restaurant business, this has killed that desire. I appreciate restauranteurs and others that work in the business more than ever. It's a hard job and takes a lot of work and planning. I much prefer to enjoy the end result, something that Bourdain often did himself. It's what made him an icon in the culinary world.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review: In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On November 15, 1959, in a quiet town in western Kansas, a family of four were sound asleep resting up for another day on the prairie. It would be their last night alive. During the night two men, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith broke into the home of Herbert Clutter with the expectation to rob the family of the tens of thousands of dollars apparently sitting in a home office safe. There was no safe and there was only $40 total in the house. The men planned to leave no witnesses, executing the four members of the Clutter family still living at home. The murderers and would-be thieves left quietly in the night and thought they were scot-free.

Truman Capote follows the movement of the Clutters and Hickock and Perry through the days leading up to the murders, the night of the murder, and the aftermath including the eventual arrest and trial of the criminals. The reader also learns their eventual fate. Capote's work is based on facts and interviews of the case but reads like a novel. Written in 1965, this book is an early example of true crime stories and is still a best selling book.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Review: Scone Cold Dead

Scone Cold Dead Scone Cold Dead by Karen MacInerney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Karen MacInerney's 9th 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 number of guest in town teaching and attending classes at the new art guild. As it turns out, a couple of the guests seem to know each other from a prior time in their lives and the reunion is less than amicable. Meanwhile, the men of the local lobster coalition are up in arms over a strange incident of boats being cut loose during the night. There are rumors of illegal fishing and selling of lobsters, causing in-fighting within the group. To add to the island's hullabaloo, one of Natalie's B&B guests turns up dead and the killer could be any one of a number of locals and guests.

I thoroughly enjoy Karen MacInerney's cozy mystery series. The characters in this series have become so well developed over time that reading the stories feel like you're reading about great friends and family. 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.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 5, 2019

Review: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the culmination of a career's worth of work and research by David W. Blight on Frederick Douglass' life. From Douglass' first memories as a slave on the Auld plantation through his death, Blight tells the story of the African-American abolitionist that worked tirelessly to help free people of bondage, advocate for the end of slavery, and work toward civil rights and franchisement of African-Americans.

Douglass could not remember much about his mother or his family, he never knew his father or his true birth date. He was tortured as a slave and eventually became a fugitive on the loose. He met and married Anna and began his own family as he began to advocate for emancipation through lectures and writings. To avoid recapture, Douglass left his family behind to run the lecture circuit in Europe until his freedom could be bought. He sparked a professional friendship with President Abraham Lincoln, to influence his understanding of slavery and civil rights for African-Americans. He watched his sons go off to war in the fight against slavery and continued on the lecture circuit during Reconstruction to argue for the right to vote for all men regardless of color.

Throughout his married life, Douglass became the patriarch of a large family who would forever burden him financially, causing Douglass to never retire. His life seemed to have constant ups and downs riddled with death and monetary woes. As much as he was admired for his work in the abolition movement, he was also hated by his enemies who fought against civil rights. His words and works live on and still resonant today as racial issues are still at the forefront of our nation's mind.

This book is very well researched and Douglass' life is meticulously chronicled by Blight. It is easy to understand why this book earned the Pulitzer Prize.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Review: A Dance with Dragons

A Dance with Dragons A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This last book (so far) has been the toughest to read. As long as it took me to read the first four books, is about the length of time it has taken me to read this last one alone. A Dance with Dragons is the "other half" of book four of the Song of Ice and Fire (aka A Game of Thrones) series. Book four, A Feast for Crows, tells the continuing story of the fight for the Iron Thrones of Westeros, concentrating on major characters such as Cersei, Jaime, Tommen, Arya, and Sansa, while book five concentrates on major characters Bran, Jon, and Tyrion, along with many secondary characters like Theon and Asha Greyjoy. The timeline for these two books are in parallel. Martin states that the overall story at this point was simply too big for one book, so he simply divided the story into the two books.

In both of these books, there is little to no action. The story at this point is mostly background for what we hope will be major action in the forthcoming novel(s). If you've ever been told to read a book and to not give up after the first hundred pages because "they are background that's needed for the rest of the book", consider books four and five that hundred pages of background tied up in roughly two thousand pages total.

I don't dislike this book or any of the Game of Thrones books, but book five felt like a long slog through a lot of needless information. Many chapters were highlights of what seem to be minor characters and many of those character's stories are just left hanging. This book is full of loose ends. I would certainly suggest that anyone invested in the series to read this one, but with a warning that it drags out and is far from riveting. Take your time with this one, it's not like you need to be in a hurry to finish since book six doesn't seem to be on the near horizon.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Review: The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West

The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1788 a group of pioneers left the New England area set to explore the Northwest Territory. This was an area of land ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris, land that was larger than the whole of the United States. McCullough chronicles the exploration and establishment of the Northwest Territory by a Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler, along with his son Ephraim, and Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam and two other men. The story centers on Marietta, a settlement established on the banks of the Ohio River. They had to clear timber by hand, build homes, forts, and businesses. They braved the elements and wild animals while fighting a war with Native Peoples whose land they overtook. They survived disease and hunger when food supplies diminished. They persevered to fulfill the three goals that were named in the Northwest Ordinance, the agreement by which they began their journey. They agreed to build a place that was free from slavery, supported the freedom of religion, and offered education through the establishment of Ohio University and Marietta College, both institutions that are around today.

David McCullough is quite a historian who wove this story together through letters, diaries, and manuscripts of the men who settled the area. McCullough was inspired to research the area after delivering a commencement address at Ohio University in 2004. He already knew a bit about Ohio from his research for The Wright Brothers. McCullough is quite a storyteller who brings the story of these men to life. This is an area of the U.S. that I was not familiar with but am glad I was able to read about these early settlers and the pioneering spirit that our country was founded on.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review: A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really the first book of a two-parter. Martin explains this at the end of this book. When writing the fourth installment of the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) series, Martin realized that the book had grown so large that he needed to break it into two parts. His options were to just break it in half or to tell the story from the viewpoint of one series of characters in the first book and from the viewpoint of another series of characters in the second book. That gives us books four and five.

In A Feast of Crows, the story follows the characters of Kings Landing, mostly Cersei and Jaime. We also follow Brienne on her quest to find Sansa Stark. We check in with Samwell Tarly who is on his own quest at the bidding of Jon Snow and we also check in with both of the Stark girls. There are also a few chapters that follow what's happening with the Greyjoys. Those who are not included in this book are Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon Snow, Bran, and Rickon. You'll have to read book five to get their stories.

Overall I thought this book was beyond slow compared to earlier books, especially book three. After all of the action in the previous book, Martin puts the brakes on this one and it tended to drag out. He makes amends at the end but showing some interesting connections, intertwining, and some definite cliff-hangers that I have a feeling won't be picked up in the next book. So until Martin releases book 6, we'll have to ponder the fate of characters like Brienna, Sansa, and Arya.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 24, 2019

Review: The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures by Library of Congress
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting little book that discusses how libraries came to be and specifically about the establishment of the Library of Congress and the cataloging of books. Full of pictures, this book covers the earliest known cataloging of scrolls and books dating back to ancient times and finishes up with the modern computerized catalog system. There is a final section on what has become of the old fashioned index cards that most of us remember using in our public libraries.

Also included are some great pictures of books, authors, and old paper catalog cards.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the third installment of the Ice and Fire series by Martin, the battle for the Iron Throne continues. Five major contenders have been vying for the crown and they're dropping like flies. Everyone is turning on each other and no one is safe. There are those you love to hate and those you hate to love. Some villains turn out to be halfway decent people if they're not lobbing off someone's head or literally stabbing someone in the back, and the heroes end up feeling to safe to realize their demise is around the corner. There are three weddings in this book and lots of people are "dying" to attend.
There's high body count in this one with some unexpected twists and turns. I think this is my favorite of the series so far.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review: A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Clash of Kings is Martin's second in the Ice and Fire series. Now that King Robert Baratheon is dead and his Hand Lord Eddard Stark has been beheaded, five family heads have come forward claiming themselves as kings (or queen) over Westeros or part thereof. King Joffrey, is Baratheon's oldest son and seems to be the rightful king, but his paternity is in question within the realm. If that is indeed the case, Baratheon's brother Stannis should be the next in line for the throne, yet his younger brother Renly believes he is better suited to reign supreme. Daenerys Targaryen, known as the Mother of Dragons, is the eldest child of the original line of kings who ruled the land until they were thwarted by Robert Baratheon. Finally, there is Robb Stark, son of Lord Eddard Stark and heir to the northern lands of Winterfell. He is dubbed as King of Winterfell by his supporters. These four men and one woman declare that they are the rightful rulers and each build armies and alliances to depose each other. It is a clash of kings. Expected lots of bloodshed, and manipulation among all of the families.

Besides the storylines of each family, we follow the paths of Jon Snow, Lord Stark's bastard son who has taken his oath as a defender of the north wall, as well as his legitimate daughters Sansa and Arya. Sansa is betrothed to King Joffrey, the evil young boy who currently claims the Iron Throne. He's an ass and you love to hate him. Arya has escaped the King's court and is hiding as a young servant boy on the road to the northern wall to take the oath of the brotherhood. She hopes to make it back to Winterfell and her family before Joffrey and his hateful mother find out. Heads will literally roll if she is ever found.

This is a great fantasy novel, intricately woven with a high body count and evil scheming.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 26, 2019

Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since the final season of the HBO Game of Thrones series is being aired, I decided it was time to get on the bandwagon and read the books and watch the series. A Game of Thrones takes place in medieval times and centers around the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. It centers around several warring families including the Starks, Baratheons, Lannisters, and the Targaryens. Each family either has designs to rule the lands of these continents or have a hand in helping someone out, ergo, it is a "game of thrones" between these families to see who will take the throne as King. The Starks are generally the good guys who butt heads with the Lannisters who are trying to gain the throne through their marriage into the Baratheon family.

As the series begins, Robert Baratheon is King of the realm and his wife (evil) Cersis Lannister is Queen. King Robert's "right hand" man Lord Jon Arryn suddenly dies, and the good King selects Lord Eddard Stark as his new right hand. Although he doesn't want the job, he takes it to hopefully keep peace in the land and to keep the evil Lannisters from taking over the kingdom. Lord Ed and his wife Lady Catelyn suspect the Lannisters of killing King Robert's hand Lord Jon. Taking the job is King Roberts new hand, Lord Ed can hopefully find out if their suspicions are correct. Then there are the Targaryens who have their own little plot to take over. Well, this leads to all kinds of scheming, colluding, and downright evilness. Many are killed and many end up in bad places.

I have enjoyed this first book in the series and will continue on. It is very well crafted with a little humor sprinkled among the dark and incestuous scenes throughout the book.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 15, 2019

Review: Dyeing Season

Dyeing Season Dyeing Season by Karen MacInerney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spring has arrived in the little town of Buttercup, Texas and once again a killer is loose. Buttercup is the home of novice farm girl Lucy Resnick who is struggling to maintain her grandmother's farm. The town is in the throes of Easter season when a spring thunderstorm produces a tornado in the quiet Texas community. Lucy and her friend Quinn rush next door to check on her neighbor, Dottie, who is an elderly housebound senior. The group weathers the storm but missing from the area is Dottie's home health worker Eva and Lucy's new baby goat, Cinnamon. As Lucy ventures out to survey the damage and search for Cinnamon, she discovers a body whose demise was far from weather-related, but points to murder.

Lucy, who is a former investigative reporter, goes in search of the killer and motive behind the murder and uncovers a fraudulent scam aimed at the local senior citizens of the community. Can Lucy put the pieces of the scam together before she meets her own demise?

I thoroughly enjoy all of Karen MacInerney's cozy mystery series. I especially enjoy her Dewberry Farm Mysteries for the Texas references and setting. I am looking forward to furthering adventures of Lucy in Buttercup, Texas.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: Grand Slam Murders

Grand Slam Murders Grand Slam Murders by R.J. Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The "Gin Girls" of the Rosalie Bridge Club meet for an afternoon of card playing and strategy planning before their next tournament and turn up dead before the first hand is dealt. Known for their wild and crazy antics in their youth, these four widowed women are the social elite of the area harboring secrets about their past. They are still the pride of Rosalie but their deaths cast quite a bit of suspicion and fingerpointing to the housekeeper and groundskeeper of the club's host Miz Liddie.

Wendy Winchester, local newspaper columnist and daughter of Officer Bax Winchester is assigned to cover the life story of the wealthy widows. As their stories start to unravel, Wendy begins putting the pieces of the mystery together as to who would off the entire group of Gin Girls. Along with her dad and her policeman boyfriend Ross, Wendy rushes to solve the mystery behind the last hand played and keep herself from being the next victim.

This is a great start to a new series by R. J. Lee. It is full of southern charm and great characters. Looking forward to the next in the series.

View all my reviews

Review: Civil War Springfield

Civil War Springfield Civil War Springfield by Larry Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short but thorough look at the battles and occupation of Springfield, Missouri during the Civil War. Soon after Fort Sumter, Union forces moved into Springfield with Confederate troops arriving soon after. The constant back and forth between the two sides lead to the battle of Wilson's Creek and two "skirmishes" in Springfield that kept the city in the Ozarks a pivotal area during the war in Missouri. Larry Wood covers all aspects of the area from the time the first troops arrived until they left in 1865. Beyond the military movement, Wood details life in the Ozarks for the 2000 inhabitants, medical concerns after a very bloody battle, and the political pulse of the citizens of southwest Missouri.

This is a great little book full of information and perfect for the person who is looking for details of Springfield during the Civil War.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Review: Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction

Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction by Jim Downs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 was to be the defining moment for African Americans held in bondage. Slaves became freed people no longer forced into servitude. The Reconstruction era after the Civil War should have been a time for freed people to rebuild their lives on their terms. What many faced, however, were the vagaries of life, unknown challenges that would be life-altering and life-threatening. Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction by Jim Downs explores the medical issues that freed people faced during and after the Civil War. For people formerly held in bondage, life after the war led to sickness, disease, and death.

Downs explores the lives of freedpeople during and after the war years through the eyes of those that endured sickness, disease, and the death of loved ones. Downs also utilizes the experiences of medical caretakers and staff of the Freedmen’s Bureau, formally known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, the agency employed to freed slaves and indigent whites in the aftermath of the Civil War. Down’s thesis suggests that the Civil War was the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century. In their quest for freedom, former slaves endured diseases such as smallpox, cholera, dysentery, and yellow fever and received little help from doctors and staff of the Medical Division of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Children, women, and men often died before they could get the help they needed. These are the cases that Downs details along with data and statistics gleaned from physicians and hospitals that were underfunded and understaffed.
Downs supports his thesis by describing six areas that contributed to the devastating losses of freed people due to disease and sickness. Downs begins by looking at the political and social status of free people that led to unhealthy living environments. Downs posits that these conditions led to disease and outbreaks of illness and widespread epidemics. The second area that Downs details ask why disease broke out among unemployed freed people and why the bureau was unable to support a free labor system in the post-war south. In response to the labor crisis, The Freedmen’s Bureau establishes a Medical Division to handle the healthcare of freedpeople. Downs then transitions to a discussion on Freedmen Hospitals and the challenges faced within the structure and hierarchy of the Medical division of the Bureau. Downs feels that the hospital systems were unstructured and unable to handle the massive load of illness among freed people. Downs uses hospital records, and the lack thereof to support this discussion.

Downs then turns his attention to the smallpox epidemic of the late nineteenth century that left many dead in its wake. This discussion transitions into the fifth area that covers the outbreak of other diseases and sicknesses. Downs utilizes specific case studies of freed people and the challenges they faced in obtaining medical care.

Downs wraps up his thesis by highlighting the eventual downfall of the Medical Division of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Drawing on the autobiography of O. O. Howard, commissioner of the Medical division of the Bureau, Downs shows how the needs of the medical care of freed people transitions to state and local governments.

In the epilogue, Downs discusses the illnesses that affected Native Americans. Many of the same issues and concerns that freed people faced during Reconstruction, native Americans endured during the forced removal toward the west. Beginning with the Trail of Tears forced migration in the early 19th century through the Reconstruction, native people endured disease, illness, and death. Downs compares and contrasts the political, social, and medical issues that native Americans and freed people faced drawing parallels between the two groups.

Jim Down’s extensive research brought to life portraits of freed people who endured disease, sickness, and death in the aftermath of the Civil War and the staff and caretakers of the Medical Division of the Freedmen’s Bureau who were tasked to support free people during the Reconstruction era. Downs also reviews similar issues with poor white Americans and Native Americans and draws parallels to the issues faced by freedpeople. These case studies bring to light an area of the Reconstruction narrative often overlooked in Civil War scholarship. To truly understand how the war affected freedpeople during and after the war more attention and consideration needs more attention on all aspects of their lives, including sickness and death.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 22, 2019

Review: A Short History of Reconstruction

A Short History of Reconstruction A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is the abridged version of Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. This version is a concise review of the Reconstruction period from roughly 1863 through 1877. Foner looks at the political and social aspects of the period, covering the presidencies of Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, and the beginning of the Hayes administration. Foner specifically reviews Reconstruction in five areas: the Black experience, the remodeling of Southern society as a whole, racial attitudes and relations, the expanded authority of the nation-state and national citizenship, and a look at how the North's economy and class structure affected Reconstruction. Although this is a shorter book than his unabridged version by about half the pages it still comes across as a thorough discussion of the era.

This is a great read and very engaging. I'll read the bigger book at some point, but this one packs a punch for what it is.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Review: Finding Dorothy

Finding Dorothy Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderfully woven tale of the life of Maud Baum, wife of L. Frank Baum. This historical fiction story closely follows the real life of Baum from her youth through the time of the premiere of the movie The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Elizabeth Letts takes the reader on a journey showing the magic that inspired the book and the movie. As a young coed, Maud meets her roommate's cousin L. Frank Baum and is enamored with his love of theatre. They soon married and spent many up and down years through plenty of good times and bad. Despite living from one financial hardship to another, L. Frank never lost his love of wonderment and eventually wrote the story that brought financial comfort, love, and magic to his family. His wife Maud was there by his side and beyond, as she made sure that his legacy, Dorothy, was taken care of after his death and in the filming of the movie. Finding Dorothy is about finding not just the character that brought to life the book and film but finding the magic in everyday life despite hurdles and hardships.

I grew up loving the Wizard of Oz books, almost to an obsession. I thoroughly loved this book and became engrossed in the story behind the story. It's a great read for anyone that loved the book series and movie.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review: Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front

Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front by Judith Giesberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a look at the effects of the Civil War on women in the North. Giesberg details six specific areas of Northern life that were indelibly changed by the war on the homefront. Areas discussed include the life of rural women who were forced to manage farms alone without husbands and sons, women and their families that were displaced when they were no longer able to make house payments and rents, women in the workplace including those young ladies who lost their lives in the Alleghany Arsenal explosion, freedwomen who began the early civil rights movement, middle-class and working women whose loyalties were divided due to oppressive working conditions and marginality, and women who were left to find and bury the men they lost on the battlefields. In the Conclusion, there is a discussion of how little women were memorialized after the war, unlike their southern counterparts. The author surmises that for the women of the north, the line was blurred between the war on the battlefields and the war raging back at home for the women left to carry on without help or hope.

I thought this was a very good read and quite eye-opening. It seems that when women of the Civil War are discussed, many people think of southern women, the "Scarlett O'Hara" romanticized ideal women depicted in so many Civil War movies and novels. This book gives an accurate portrait of the trials and tribulations of the women left to manage life on the homefront. These women were the army at home.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 1, 2019

Review: Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War

Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War by Catherine Clinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of essays on different aspects of gender studies in relation to the Civil War. The topics range from abolitionist manhood, Civil War nuns, prostitution, women and children left destitute by the war, and memorialization in the South.

Dr. Catherine Clinton and Dr. Nina Silber include their own essays, as well as those by noted Civil War historians such as Jim Downs and John Stauffer. This book provides a good cursory review of issues faced by women of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Review: Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World

Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World by Eric Foner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Our Lincoln is a collection of eleven essays on various aspects of Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Each work highlights new insights into the man known as The Great Emancipator. Topics include Lincoln's rhetoric and literary style, his thoughts on religion, how his family helped shape him, and his role as Commander in Chief of the Union army. The book covers four specific aspects of Lincoln's life: The President, The Emancipator, The Man, and Politics and Memory. Each essay is written by well known Civil War historians including Eric Foner, James McPherson, David Blight, Catherine Clinton, and Mark E. Neely, Jr.

This is a well-written collection that is very interesting and thought-provoking.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review: Educated

Educated Educated by Tara Westover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Educated is the memoir of Dr. Tara Westover, the daughter of fundamentalist survivalist Mormon parents from Clifton, Idaho. Westover grew up as a bit of a tomboy, in a house full of brothers and a sister. Her father ran his own scrapyard business and did some construction work on the side. The Westover children were homeschooled but spent most of their time helping their father in the scrapyard. According to the author, "homeschooled" is a very loose term, which meant that the family had a few textbooks and little to no formal instruction. What they did learn came from their father's survivalist preaching, learning to prepare for the end days or a time that may come when the government would invade their property Ruby Ridge style. Guns and gas were buried throughout their property and canned goods lined shelves for a future moment when the world will be pitched into chaos. Westover would also learn about life skills from her mother who trained to be a midwife and healer, specializing in essential oils, tinctures, and salves. This was the path that the author was destined for, according to her parents and family. But Tara Westover was drawn to another world. She longed to learn and spread her wings. She was constantly pulled back by her family, afraid of disappointing them or succumbing to the depths of hell that another life would lead her to.

A couple of Westover's brothers broke the cycle attending college at BYU. One, in particular, encouraged the author to study for the ACT test and apply to the university as well, despite having no formal education and knowing very little. This would alter her destiny, as well had her familial relationships in ways she could not conceive of. She was thrown into a constant cycle of psychological and physical abuse that led to physiological and sociological effects on her life. This book is not just about how the author learned how to formally educate herself, but about expanding her worldview and educating herself about the cycle of abuse in a world that is closed off from mainstream society. Her actions did not come without its own consequences, a lesson she constantly struggled with. Ultimately, for Westover, the rewards of an education outweighed the consequences to her family life. Tara Westover obtained a formal education and at the same time, found her own identity through a personal education in life.

There are some horrific experiences that Westover details in this book. She admits, in notes scattered throughout the book and in references to communications with her siblings that her memory may not be 100% accurate. Who really remembers the details of their life? She draws on her own diaries and correspondence with family to build a picture of dysfunction within her family. For most people, perception is reality and leads to differences in memories of events for multiple people. So the question begs to be asked, how accurate is Westover's account in Educated? This is Westover's recollection and therefore her reality. This book is the story of the author's trauma and the process of healing from it in the best way she knew how.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: The Atomic City Girls

The Atomic City Girls The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fictional account of a few residents of the Clinton Engineer Works production installation in Oak Ridge, TN during World War II. The story follows the lives of several very different people whose lives intertwine during the production of uranium in the secret bomb-making city. June and Cici are two young girls who are placed together in a dorm and become fast friends. Cici is out to find her an Army husband and June is looking for an escape from her droll life and the sad news that her fiance has died in battle. Joe and Ralph are long-time friends thrilled to be making more money than they would have a chance to back in Georgia. The job comes with downsides, as they are separated from family and find that life for black residents in Oak Ridge is no better than on the outside. Sam is a physicist who is asked to come to Oak Ridge to work on the bomb. He is one of a few people that know what is being produced at the CEW and sadly, he understands the possible outcome of the final product and the effects it can have on mankind.

Each person has their history to deal with. All have some kind of struggle to overcome and Oak Ridge brings more chaos amidst some happy moments. Their stories are interesting and engaging and it is easy to fall into their world. They have triumphs and heartbreaking stories. Although the story and characters are fictionalized, they are based on real stories that the author mined from detailed research. I enjoyed this book and loved that the author added an epilogue to let the reader know what happened to these characters after the end of the war. Although it's fictionalized, it's easy to picture what the real people behind the stories must have dealt with in this super secret city.

My only frustration is that the title indicates that the book is about the women at CEW, but the stories are as much about the men as the women. It is about families and individuals, white and black, men and women. There is another book by Denise Kiernan titled The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. Kiernan's book is the non-fiction, true story of several women who worked at the CEW. I had previously read Kiernan's book and had to check at one point to make sure I wasn't reading the same book. This is different but each could easily be a companion to the other. I was glad I had read Kiernan's book first. I think it added to my enjoyment of Beard's book. I do wish Beard had a completely different title that would not be easily confused with Kiernan's book and one that would give equal billing to the men as well as the women. I still recommend this to anyone interested in the CEW and the making of the atomic bomb during World War II.

View all my reviews