Saturday, August 20, 2011

Potpourri of Pages: Summer Reading List

OK, maybe I should call it "Fall Reading List" since it is closer to fall than summer, but, hey, it's still August people. Read fast.

You may notice as you go down the list that I tend to favor light juvenile historical fiction. Nothing wrong with that! I like a book that informs me, but also is easy to read while stressed or distracted. All of the books are interesting and give good views into everyday life during the time period they are set in. So go ahead, take a break from your latest thriller, romance, or political manifesto. Step into another time and place and see life through someone else's eyes. In doing so, you'll learn more about your own life.

If you love Louisa May Alcott, then you will enjoy this book. I read several biographies of her as a child, but none came close to revealing the true nuttiness of her father's grandiose ideas. "Fruitlands" was aptly named! The book is a fictionalized account of their time in Fruitlands, framed as Louisa's secret diary, but it is all based on the historical records we still have of their great experiment. What gets me is how very much Louisa loved and admired her father even though he was not a very---practical---person. To put it mildly. The other thing that struck me is how incredible it is that someone could write such down-to-earth stories when she was raised in the 1800's equivalent of a hippie commune.

This book was amazing. I can't believe that Elaine Goodale Eastman's story has never been made into a movie! (All you aspiring screen writers out there, take note!) She was a sheltered New Englander who journeyed to the Dakotas when the Plains Indians were barely less dangerous. She worked as a teacher on the reservation, traveled alone all over her territory as a single woman, helped treat the wounded after the Wounded Knee Massacre, and eventually married a gorgeous Indian doctor. And as you can see from the cover, she was beautiful herself!

It was interesting to read this from a Christian perspective. She worked for the government, but only so she could be a missionary to the Native Americans. Even though she was somewhat a product of her times and her language can be less than politically correct, she still showed so much understanding and respect to all of the Native Americans as a people. It really highlighted for me what God would have liked to see happen with the Native Americans, instead of the mess the reservation system immediately became.

(In the interest of full disclosure, they did divorce later in life as the stress of such an early inter-racial marriage took its toll, but it's still a great story. Plus the book ends long before there were any marital troubles)

This is a fun book to read "just because". It tells the story of Ginny who must travel to England to stay with her father when her mother becomes very ill. Only her father is an archeologist, and he's spending a year in a Bronze Age living history experiment. The story is decent, but it's setting that really makes the book fly. That probably sounds kind of boring, but it really isn't. The concept is based on a mini-series the British did in the 70's recording an experiment of the same type; during the year they were out there, there was a terrible blizzard in Britain. Power was out and people everywhere were freezing in their little houses. But not in Bronze Age land. They had wood, food, shelter, and didn't even know there was a problem until days later when someone could fight their way in to them.

These two books make good companions. They both cover the Dust Bowl era, but one is set in Oklahoma/ California, and one is set exclusively in California.

Both of them deal with the terrible prejudice shown to Dust Bowl refugees by their own countrymen. It was a time of crisis and people were fearful; fearful people are never at their wisest or most compassionate. It's especially pertinent to me in my modern setting, since I am inadvertently part of an on-going mass migration to North Dakota. Nobody here is as mean as those nasty old Californians back in the day, but I did have someone ask me once, "Why do you people come here, anyway?" Even though they are not the same people, it is also interesting how back then it was California with all the jobs and an unfriendly spirit, and now it's the Californians who travel about the country, hat in hand, seeking shelter and work. Truly, what goes around, comes around.

And for your spiritual enrichment, may I recommend this book. It's a book/workbook, and I've been going through it lately (for some reason!). It's been a big blessing, and I can suggest it to any parent any time for any situation with no reservations.

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