Review: The Underground Railroad

“His patients believed they were being treated for blood ailments. The tonics the hospital administered, however, were merely sugar water.” p. 124

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
Anchor Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
Adult fiction, 313 pages.
Lexile:  890L  .
AR Level: not yet leveled

Cora is a young woman on a Georgia plantation when a new arrival asks her to run away with him.  Only one slave has ever successfully escaped the Randall plantation, but Caesar believes that if they run together, they’ll make it to the elusive Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) resized

It took me a good while to get to this one.  I’d seen a lot of mixed reviews, and in general I’m not a fan of magical realism (which is what most people were calling this).  Finally I saw this at Target and decided to use it as one of my targetpicks selections.

Going into the read with low expectations definitely helped this novel blow me away.  It’s a very difficult book to classify.  Whitehead uses elements of many different genres, including historical fiction, adventure, science fiction, magical realism, and realistic fiction.

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Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

“Mollie was one of the last people to see Anna before she vanished.” p. 8

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.
Vintage Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.  Originally published Doubleday, 2016.
Nonfiction, 377 pages including notes and bibliography.
Lexile:  1160L  .
AR Level:  8.8 (worth 14.0 points)  .

Through an unusual turn of events, in the 1920s the Osage people became astonishingly rich.  Unable to stomach an autonomous American Indian tribe, the United States government appointed “guardians” who would watch over their every purchase, and white settlers moved in to the area with ridiculously overpriced goods and services.  And then came the murders.  Many were focused around one family, and the FBI eventually got involved in their case.

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Normally I read books about more Northern tribes because that’s where we live and travel most often, but after passing through Oklahoma, the Osage interested me.  If you are looking for a book about the Osage, this one keeps coming up, so when I saw it at Target I decided to give it a try.

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Review: Queen of Katwe

“Phiona had never read a chess book. Never read a chess magazine. Never used a computer. Yet this girl was already a national champion.” page 132

Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion by Tim Crothers.
Vintage Canada, Penguin Random House, Toronto, Canada, my edition 2016, originally published 2012.
Nonfiction, 232 pages.
Not leveled.

Phiona Mutesi followed her brother to a place where children were learning to play chess.  Initially motivated more by a free daily meal, she soon found she had a gift for chess which might propel her out of the slums of Katwe, Uganda.

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Normally I am very strict about always reading first before seeing any movie based on a book.  In this case both my family and I really wanted to see the film, so I did watched before reading the book.  Sometimes seeing the movie version first can color the interpretation of the book.

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Review: Being Mortal

“Nursing homes have come a long way from the firetrap warehouses of neglect they used to be. But it seems we’ve succumbed to a belief that, once you lose your physical independence, a life of worth and freedom is simply not possible.” p. 75

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.
Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Co, New York, 2014.
Nonfiction, 282 pages.
Not leveled.

Because his parents both immigrated to America from India, Gawande didn’t have much first-hand experience with aging or mortality – the elderly members of his family were a continent away, being cared for by others.  He certainly didn’t learn much about it from his medical school classes.  Then he came face-to-face with the reality of American aging through his grandmother-in-law and patients, and decided to raise some questions about end of life-care and the meaning of life, and death.

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Gawande has an interesting perspective on mortality and his second-generation-immigrant perspective gave him an insight into other methods of dealing with age that helped him turn a critical eye on how we deal with it here in America.  This book reminded me of Another Day in the Death of America in that way – it takes a subject that most Americans wouldn’t even think twice about, and presents it to everyday readers.

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Review: Come to Believe

“The typical higher education board is 30 percent women, and 10 percent people of color. At Arrupe, 50 percent of our board members are women and 57 percent are people of color.” p. 65

Come to Believe: How the Jesuits are Reinventing Education (Again) – Inside the First Year of the New Arrupe College by Stephen N. Katsouros.
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2017.
Non-fiction, 181 pages.

The first year of Arrupe college, a two-year, debt-free Associate’s Degree program aimed at providing low-income, first generation minority college students with a high quality liberal arts education.

Come to Believe

A friend recommended this.  First, I will mention that this is religious because the author is Jesuit priest.  So he talks about homilies and Bible stories and there is a religious motivation behind this college (the name of it is based off of a famous Jesuit apparently).  However, I did also feel that this book could be read by non-religious people too.  Most of the book is focused on creating the college whether it’s the practicalities or the stories of different students.

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Review: Hope Against Hope

“Unlike most literature about New Orleans, this book focuses on what makes the city ordinary rather than extraordinary.” page 5

Hope Against Hope:  Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr.
Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2013.
Nonfiction, 317 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
Not leveled.

The story of how a wave of mostly outsider-led charter schools are dramatically changing education in New Orleans, through a year long 2010 study of three different schools.

Hope Against Hope

Carr took such an interesting tactic in this book, and not one I would have thought of myself.  She worked closely with three different people: a student, a teacher, and a principal.  They are all at different schools, each with its own take on solving the education crisis and its own method for resolving the problems that the 2005 hurricane have only exacerbated.

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Review: On That Day, Everybody Ate

“Just outside the city, as the sky seemed to expand and the barren mountain range came into full view, we pulled over to buy two stalks of sugarcane from a street merchant.” p. 122

On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti by Margaret Trost.
Koa Books, Kihei, Hawai’i, 2008.
Non-fiction/memoir, 143 pages. n

The story of Margaret Trost’s experiences with Haiti which led to her developing a charity to feed and aid children in partnership with a parish there.

On That Day, Everybody Ate

Although I’m trying to focus on Africa this year, I went down a rabbit hole because I got interested in Haiti after seeing Rebecca’s Caribbean reading goal.  I’ve seen lots of books around about the earthquake and have even read a few, but I really wanted to read books written before 2010.

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