A gritty memoir of a man who rose out of a violent and transient childhood to become a scientist for NASA. Instead of falling into a downward spiral of poverty, abuse, violence and drugs Hakeem discovered early on that he had a super power that would save him - he was smart. The more he learned, the more he wanted to understand which got him countless whippings as a kid but gave his curious mind somewhere to go other than the streets. His life was a yo-yo which included gang trouble and drugs but education led him eventually to Stanford and a career at NASA. He is blunt and honest in his accounting of the challenges and triumphs and hopefully his story will inspire young people at a crossroads to succeed and appeal to those who have the power to lift up rather than force down. 4 stars
Take one 63 year old woman who has never really been out of her little Maine town but has a burning desire to see the Pacific Ocean, add a horse who needs a second chance, a faithful dog and no reason to stay in Minot after losing the family farm and you have the basis for this enchanting adventure. Annie Wilkins finds herself in 1954 with nothing left to lose and just enough money to make it tramping as she calls it as she sets out to travel cross country by horseback. What she finds is more attention is paid her than she expected, the mountains out west should be taken seriously and there is kindness from strangers wherever she goes and whenever she needs it. Elizabeth Lett's easy going writing style is perfect in the telling of this grand adventure and spunky determination of Annie to finish her quest. It is a story of a simpler time, a love of animal companions and the kindness of people. Fans of her other horse books will enjoy as will readers of Steinbeck's TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY. 4 stars
Most performers are nervous on opening night on Broadway but few are worried that the evening may result in violence and possibly death. This was indeed the case when Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake's first all- African American cast musical played Broadway in 1921. Thankfully, there was much applause and the success of "Shuffle Along" grew into a long running hit. In a time where the only entertainment showing African Americans was done by white actors in black face makeup, this show broke barriers and introduces theatre goers to the real African American experience and talent. These brave men and women whose careers were launched from that show were fortunate to finally have a showcase for their considerable talent. They still faced racism, inequality in pay and recognition. A solid choice for those interested in early Broadway and African American performers. 5 stars
Katherine Johnson was a pioneer on so many levels and crossed barriers due to her skin color and the fact that she was a woman as well as helping to launch the US into space. Following the movie "Hidden Figures" she became well known overnight as we learned of her long career with NASA as a black female mathematician. She was who John Glenn wanted to check the calculations before he would climb into the tin can that would hurl him into space. She also worked hard to break barriers outside of NASA and was active in civil rights. All this coming from humble beginnings in West Virginia in a family where education was everything. She led a full life and shares her hopes, joys and defeats in this sweet memoir that mixes the history of the space program with the civil rights movement and stressing the importance of a good education and perseverance. 4 stars
Give me the worst time of your life and I am pretty sure Eddie Jaku has seen worse but you would never know it. Here is a man who lives by love and friendship after almost being exterminated and in a string of camps enduring a host of atrocities the vast majority of people did not survive. This slim memoir is a testament to choosing to embrace life and happiness. He honors those who died by giving joy to those who live. This is a testament to the absolute evil that human beings can inflict on one another and the absolute joy in spreading happiness. This will make a optimistic gift for graduates or young people who are having a hard time understanding the hate in our society. 4 stars
A young Korean-American woman deals with the illness that robs her of her mother and the grief that comes after losing her. Food connects us to where we come from, to our family, and our own history.
This memoir is a celebration of that connecting her to her mother's dishes, to the food they experienced during their trips back to Korea and to Michele's recreation of those dishes in the states. It is a powerful, painful and heartfelt story that shows the connections between mother and daughter, the two cultures that helped shape her and losing her mother to a horrible disease that she was felt powerless to control. It is a story that speaks to all of us. 4 1/2 stars
Having always been interested in larger than life Nellie Bly I knew that there had to be many more women journalists who were pioneers in a world dominated by men. So, how do you get out of writing snippets in the society pages and do some real journalism when you can't even vote, sit on a jury and are not taken seriously? You work for free, work under an assumed male name or become a "girl reporter". These brave women put themselves in dangerous situations that even their male counterparts would not have done to expose scandals , dangerous situations and deplorable social conditions. They searched out women like themselves and became advocates for women's rights.
Some, like Nellie Bly, would achieve fame but most had their best efforts go unnoticed by the public.
Not only is this an in depth look at the "girl stunt reporters" but it is also an interesting look at the high jinx between the two biggest publishers - Heart and Pulitzer in their endless feud and quest for being crowned king of the publishing world. Kim Todd shares her research at the end of the book which tied up loose ends and I found very interesting. For any reader who enjoys learning more about the unsung female heroes.
A powerful memoir of a life surrounded by and later saved by food. Her childhood was tough working under the thumb of her oppressive father in the family diner. He didn't dish out praise and was often verbally abusive but working with the family did give her an appreciation for hard work and good food. She became a single mom, then found herself in a bad marriage, failed at a business and slid further down the rabbit hole of addiction before getting clean and starting a very successful restaurant. Her story is tough to read at times but the writing is totally honest and hopeful. This will appeal to anyone who has dreamed of owning a restaurant or readers of gritty memoirs like THE GLASS CASTLE. 4 stars
We think of National Geographic Society explorers as a group of men who head off to the unknown hacking away jungle brush with machetes, blindly heading into a blizzard in the Arctic or joining nomad tribes in the brutal Sahara. What we don't think of are the equally (if not more so) brave female adventurers who not only had to face the same challenges and danger in territories unknown but also had to fight their male counterparts and society to be taken seriously. The members were as diverse as their backgrounds and area of study. They were more interested in the study of social conditions, native cultures and nature than many of their male counterparts who were only interested in conquest. This is a fascinating look at how these women flourished with the help of their association to the society and its members. The most remarkable point is that the society began in the 1920's. While most of the names will not ring any bells, their stories and accomplishments are fascinating. 4 stars
Warning- after reading this book you will feel differently when you reach for the cheapest holiday decor or cute ceramic knickknack. A Chinese man whose only "crime" was following the outlawed religion of Falun Gong is sent to a "reeducation camp" run by the Chinese government. There his life is much worse than any prison in the states. He sleeps head to feet with other prisoners in horrific unsanitary conditions and is made to work exhausting hours assembling electrical parts, holiday decor, stuffing goose feathers into clothing, and much more. If they do not keep up with the unrealistic schedules they are beaten, force-fed, and beaten again. In a heroic act that could have ended his life and others, he begins to write s.o.s notes and hiding them in the goods they are creating for the United States. This is the story of what happened when a woman in Oregon found one of those notes and tried to help. This amazing story of courage and an unspeakable horror is difficult to read and even more horrific is that it is still going on in many parts of the world. Anyone who is interested in world relations, manufacturing, and the economy or civil rights will get much out of this book. 4 illuminating stars
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