E-book Review: Lynching in America

“In all of the subject states, we observed that there is an astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching.” Introduction, key point 5.

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, a report of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Published online at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/, Montgomery, Alabama.
Accessed in July 2017.

This report walks the reader through the events surrounding racial terror lynchings in America, including case studies of individual lynchings and photographs, illustrations, legal reactions, and original source quotations.

Lynching in America image resized
Lynching in America Report Introduction. Freely available at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/ .

I don’t recall how this crossed my path.  Normally I prefer to read books in person, whether I purchase, checkout from the library, or borrow from a friend.  However, some popular books are easier to get from the library as ebooks and older books that are out of print can often be found online for free.

This book doesn’t fit either of those categories.  Instead, this is a report from a team led by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.  His book’s been on my TBR for a while now (I even had it checked out, but had to return it as there was a hold).  After reading this report, Just Mercy got bumped up on my must-reads.

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Review: Bad Blood

“On the few occasions when someone did challenge the study directly, a defender invariably pointed out how long it had been going on, how much work the PHS had invested, and how science would benefit if the study continued.” page 173

Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (New and Expanded Edition) by James H. Jones.
The Free Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981, my edition 1993 expanded reprint.
Adult non-fiction, 297 pages including notes and index.
Not leveled.

The true story of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment reads like a work of fiction.

Bad Blood resized

Normally I don’t read horror, but I’ll make an exception for non-fiction.  This was a chilling read, made all the more horrific by the fact that it occurred in my own country in the fairly recent past.  Sadly, some accounts of the racism and prejudice present in this study read like they could be happening today.

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Review: I’ll Scream Later

“In February of 1987 when I went on Nightline to discuss Gallaudet University’s controversial Deaf President Now movement, the show was captioned for the first time. Anchor Ted Koppel used most of the intro to explain to the audience about the captioning they would see – technically open captioning, since anyone could see it – interpreters they would hear, signing they would also see.” page 182

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin, with Betsy Sharkey.
Originally published 2009 Handjive Productions, my edition Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.
Autobiography/memoir, 327 pages.
Not leveled.

Marlee Matlin is one of the few Deaf performers well-known to hearing audiences, but there are also many other aspects of her life and self.  She was catapulted to fame with a Best Actress Oscar on Children of a Lesser God.  Now twenty years later, she’s written a tell-all memoir about drug addiction, abusive relationships, and more.

I'll Scream Later resized

This was a book full of surprises.  I was moved by what an important part her Jewish faith has played in her life, especially how her childhood synagogue was fully inclusive as a hearing/Deaf worship space, with a signing rabbi.  How beautiful that her early use of language included a rich religious environment where she was able to learn about God through her own language, ASL.

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Review: Dave the Potter

“To us / it is just dirt, / the ground we walk on. / Scoop up a handful. / The gritty grains slip / between your fingers.” page 3

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Little, Brown, and Company Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Picture book biography, 40 pages including end notes.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2011.
2011 Caldecott Honor recipient.
Lexile:  AD1100L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  6.0 (worth 0.5 points) .

Dave the Potter was a real-life African-American slave and artist.  He must have been incredibly strong, because he was able to successfully make pots as large as forty gallons.  He knew how to read and write, because he marked poems into the sides of some of his pots.  Beyond that we may never know many of the details of his life.

Dave the Potter Cover resized

This book came up several times before I bought it.  The first time, it was mistakenly labeled as fiction.  Later I realized it was non-fiction and added it to the bottom of my TBR.  After reading When the Beat Was Born by the same author, I decided to purchase this book, knowing that the writing would be excellent.  And I loved it!

Since so little is definitively known about Dave, this book focuses on the process of making his pottery that Dave would likely have gone through, using sparse poetry, detailed and realistic images of the process, and collage backgrounds imagining the world he inhabited.

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Review: The Lucky Few

The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis.
Zondervan, HarperCollins, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.
Adoptive parent memoir, 223 pages.
Not Leveled.

This is the story of one woman who couldn’t become a mother even though all she yearned for was motherhood.  This is the story of her three children, and the journey she and her husband went through to bring them home and accept them as forever family.

The Lucky Few

This was a fairly light and quick read.  (I finished it in a few hours, your mileage may vary.)  I think if I didn’t know so many people in situations very similar to hers, this might have had more impact.  As it was, I felt like she kept the story extremely positive and glossed over a lot of the harsh realities.  However, that makes sense given that the goal of this book is to reach as many people as possible.

In parts it is more obvious than others that Avis was extremely lucky.  She glosses over the birth family of their daughter Truly Star, which makes sense because she is quite young yet and not ready to decide if she wants to disclose that information to the world.  She has close and loving relationships with the birth families of her other two children.  That’s fairly unusual, especially the birth family reaction to her.  Perhaps it’s a different scenario because they have Down Syndrome as opposed to other challenges.

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Review: Children of the Fire

“The southwest wind in Hallelujah’s face blew pieces of flaming cloth and chunks of blazing hay high above her head.” page 33

Children of the Fire by Harriette Gillem Robinet.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 2001.  Originally published 1999.
MG historical fiction, 134 pages including author’s note.
Lexile:  590L .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 4.0 points) .

In 1871 Chicago, Hallelujah wants nothing more than to watch one of the fires burning around the city, but has no idea how one of those fires will change her life.

Children of the Fire cover

I hadn’t been reading much historical fiction so I impulsively bought this.  We’ve visited Chicago, so I thought it might make a good family read-aloud.

The cover was so irritating.  Why did they include the rich white girl?  Once I started reading, I also noticed that Hallelujah’s hair was wrong on the cover.  In the book it specifically states that her sister redid it into loose braids, not twists (and the cover looks more like ponytail poofs to me)  A large theme of the book is that Hallelujah is able to blend in with different groups because she wears a simple dress, but custom-made shoes, is the daughter of a slave, yet can read and write.  Different people see her in different ways.

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