Remembering Inez, edited by Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr.

Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Mulholland, Suffrage Martyr, Selections from The Suffragist, 1916 by Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr., editor.

This is an odd little book. Edited by the author of a comprehensive and adult-focused tome about the women’s suffrage movement, Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement, this 90-page gem is billed as a “brief tribute” which “pays homage to this fallen leader and her last campaign.” The introduction has a brief biographical about Ms. Mulholland, but the first part of the book is made up of the text of her famous speech, “Appeal to the Women Voters of the West”, in which she asked the women in western states where women’s suffrage was already in place to vote against Democrat candidates for national office because those Democrats had promised women the vote but had not done anything to make that happen. In particular Inez Mullholland railed against presidential candidate Woodrow Wilson, who said that, although he supported woman suffrage, he could not do anything about votes for women until the women themselves convinced the majority of Democrats to back their right to vote.

The rest of the book is a series of articles and obituaries from The Suffragist, a weekly publication of the National Woman’s Party. Inez Mulholland died in 1916 at the age of thirty. She died of pernicious anemia, a “martyr” in the eyes of her fellow suffragists. I doubt that she and I would have seen eye to eye on many issues.

However, I was reminded of the current political and social controversies as I read of the dehumanization of women that Mulholland and others preached so forcefully against.

“There are people who honestly believe—honestly believe!—and they are not only Democrats—that there are more important issues before the country than abortion suffrage, and that (it) would be very becoming on our part to say nothing more of the matter, to retire at this time and take the crumbs from the table—if there are any. Now I do not know what you feel about such a point of view, whether it finds sympathy among you,—but it makes me mad!
Have infants women no part in the world’s issues? Have they we no brains? Have they we no heart? Have they we no capacity for suffering? Have they we no needs? Have we hopes? To believe that they we have no right to breathe part in the determining of national events is to believe that babies in the womb women are not human beings.
Now there are people that do not believe that babies women are human beings . . . But I believe, and every woman of spirit and independence believes, that babies women are human beings, with a definite part to play in the shaping of human events.”

The parallels should have been obvious even without my strikeout substitutions. We dehumanize and deny basic rights to others at our own peril. Inez Mulholland is remembered partly for her poignant question which was taken up as a banner slogan by the woman suffrage movement, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” I would ask, “Mr. President and citizens of this country, how long must babies wait for the basic right to live?”

The author has a website where you can find out more about Inez Mulholland.
Read more here about the dehumanization of persons, propaganda to that end, and the will not to believe.

Young Adult Nonfiction: Cybils Suggestions

Do you need a suggestion for a book to nominate for the Cybils in the category of Young Adult Nonfiction (my judging category)? Nominations are open through October 15th, and anyone can nominate a book, as long as the book was published between October 15, 2014 and October 15, 2015. And here’s link to the nomination form.

The following books are a few titles that haven’t been nominated yet that I’ve read or heard good things about:

Cyber Attack by Martin Gitlin and Margaret J. Goldstein. Semicolon review here.

Place Hacking: Venturing Off Limits by Michael J. Rosen. Semicolon review here.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Student Edition) by Eric Metaxas. Thomas Nelson, May 2015. Bonhoeffer’s own writings and Eric Metaxas’ biography are quite inspiring. Someone should write a teen version of The Cost of Discipleship, or teens should just step it up and read the original.

Stories of My Life by Katherine Paterson. Dial, October 16, 2014.

Hidden Gold: A True Story of the Holocaust by Ellen Burakowski. Second Story Press, October 1, 2015.

The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown. Viking, September 2015. I read the adult version last year, and it was great. NOMINATED

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand. Delacourte, November 2014. If ever a book cried out for a wide audience, this one does. NOMINATED.

Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowinger. Annick Press, August 2015.

Springs of Hope: The Story of Johann Sebastian Bach by Joyce McPherson. CreateSpace, May 2015. I have a wonderful biography of John Calvin by this author in my library, and I would very much like to read this biography of Bach.

Make It Messy: My Perfectly Imperfect Life by Marcus Samuelsson and Veronica Chambers. (Teen edition of autobiography Yes Chef) Delacourte, June 2015.

The Making of a Navy SEAL: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best by Brandon Webb. St. Martin’s Griffin, August 2015.

The Case for Grace (Student Edition) by Lee Strobel. Zondervan, February 2015.

Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef. Clarion, August 2105. I read her book on the Bronte sisters and really enjoyed it.

The Courage to Compete: Living with Cerebral Palsy and Following My Dreams by Abbey Curran and Elizabeth Kaye. HarperCollins, September 2015.

Real Justice: Branded a Baby Killer: The Story of Tammy Marquardt by Jasmine D’Costa. Lorimer, September 2015.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Readers Edition) by William Kamkwambe and Bryan Mealer. Dial, February 2015. I read the adult version and found it to be quite an inspiring story.

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek, March 2015.

Legends: The Best Players, Teams and Games in Baseball by Howard Bryant. Philomel, March 2015.

Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr by Robert P. J., Jr. Cooney. American Graphic Press, March 2015. Semicolon review here.

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Roaring Brook Press, September 2015. NOMINATED

Smart and Spineless: Exploring Invertebrate Intelligence by Ann Downer. 21st Century Books, August 2105.

Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army by Greg Rauch. BYR, February 2015. NOMINATED

The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp by James M. Deem. HMH Books for Young Readers, August 2015. NOMINATED

Somewhere There Is Still a Sun: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Michael Gruenbaum and Todd Hasak-Lowy. Aladdin, August 2015.

Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery by Janet Willen and Marjorie Gann. Tundra Books, September 2015.

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain. University of Nebraska Press, March 2015.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Linda Lowery, with Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley. Dial, January 2015.

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes. Chicago Review Press, February 2015.

What have you read in the category of Young Adult nonfiction this year? What book(s) can you recommend? What will you nominate for a Cybil award?

Place Hacking by Michael J. Rosen

Place Hacking: Venturing Off Limits by Michael J. Rosen.

“Place hacking” is not a term found in my New Oxford American Dictionary. One definition of “hack” is to gain unauthorized access. And that’s about what place hacking is: gaining unauthorized access to a place, like a bell tower or an abandoned mine or the sewers of Paris or even a state dinner at the White House. The author defines place hacking as “recreational activities that explore an adventure in off-limits spaces.” Yes, place hacking often involves breaking the law, and it can be dangerous.

Leaping from the Eiffel Tower in a wingsuit. Scaling Shanghai Tower, one of the world’s tallest buildings. Camping on the roof of Philadelphia’s abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. These scenarios are real examples of explorations, adventures, and infiltrations of the built environment. Thousands of people around the globe engage in the recreational activity of place hacking: climbing, wading, jumping, or even ironing their way into prohibited or obscure spaces.

There’s a whole list of warnings and disclaimers near the beginning of this attractively designed, 72-page book about people who do crazy things. I wouldn’t give this book to a teenager who’s already inclined to break the rules and indulge in dangerous, exploratory behavior, but for the teen who wants (needs?) to experience some vicarious adventure, it might be just the right fit. Of course, the one who’s already place hacking and venturing off limits probably wouldn’t slow down long enough to read even a 72 page book.

Anyway, I thought the book was interesting, although I would have liked to know more about what makes the “place hackers” tick. Their answer to the “why” question was some variation on George Mallory’s famous reason for climbing Mt. Everest: “Because it’s there.” I would have liked a little more probing into why people might want to iron (clothes) on the side of a cliff or explore an abandoned subway tunnel. But maybe the target readers won’t care about the why, but rather just be fascinated by the how and where.


Cyber Attack by Martin Gitlin and Margaret J. Goldstein

Well, I certainly know a lot more about cyber crime and computer security and hacking than I did before I read this young adult nonfiction treatment of the history and current state of cyber attacks on the information we keep in our computer networks, thumb drives, hard drives, cell phones and and other internet connected devices. I also don’t feel nearly as safe as I did before I read about worms and viruses and bots and phishing and ransomware and Blackshades and lots of other nasty cyber-stuff.

Cyber Attack provides students and computer innocents (like me) with a basic introduction to the state of the internet, security-wise. Anyone with an interest in the subjects of cyber crime and cyber warfare is going to want to go deeper, and a bibliography in the back of the book provides readers with several avenues for exploration. I was freaked out enough by the information in the 72 pages of this little book to want to go off-grid for the duration.

Did you know that the computer software called Blackshades, which can take over the camera in your personal computer and take pictures of you in your own home, is a reality, not a myth? According to the author, “one Dutch teenager used his copy of Blackshades to take secret pictures of women and girls on about two thousand computers.”

Did you know that the U.S. has been involved in a secretive cyber war with Iran, trying to shut down or damage their nuclear facilities and capabilities, since 2008? And it’s probably still going on.

Did you know that the Russian and Chinese governments are actively engaged in cyber spying and attacks on U.S. companies and government computer networks, trying to get information about our economic secrets as well as military and other governmental information? And they’ve been quite successful in stealing quite a bit of information that has been of use in business negotiations and could be useful in the future if we ever do have a military confrontation with either country.

Did you know that the entire nation of Estonia–government services, banks, media outlets and other computer networks—came under cyber attack in 2007 from hackers located inside Russia? And even when the hackers were identified, Russia refused to arrest them or do anything to restrain or punish them.

Maybe you knew a lot of this stuff and more that’s in the book, but I didn’t. Again, Mr. Gitlin’s little book is a good introduction to the subject of cyber attacks. And how can a simple little old woman keep her herself and her information secure? Well, says the book, “You could cancel your Internet service, ditch your cell phone, close your bank account, throw away your debit card, and turn off your electricity. You could quit school and never take a job, vote in an election, get a driver’s license, or fly on an airplane. Of course, such a solution is completely unrealistic.”

Of course, the information in this book, published in 2015, is already incomplete and out-dated, to some extent. There’s a publisher’s note in the front of the book:

“This book is as current as possible at the time of publication. However events change rapidly and hacks, big and small, occur on a daily basis. To stay abreast of the latest developments related to hacking, check the New York Times and other major national newspapers for current, up-to-date information.”

Here are a couple of hacking-related news items that were not included in the book because they just happened in 2015:

Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, kept her emails on a privateserver located in some part of her house. (Hackers’ goldmine!) She says her information was secure, but no one really knows. “Was her server hacked? We don’t know. Private servers are considered more difficult to protect, in general, than the ones big e-mail hosts like Google use.” (Everything we know about the Hillary Clinton emails, September 15, 2015)

A hackers’ group calling themselves The Impact Team stole and published the private information for millions of users of the website Ashley Madison, a portal for people (mostly men) who wanted to commit adultery. Reporters and cyber security insiders keep saying that if it could happen to Ashley Madison, it could happen to any company on the web. So just know that your financial and personal information is not really safe anywhere on the web.

And the cyber attacks go on.

Dreamland by Sam Quinones

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones.

Mr. Dreher told me to read Dreamland, and so I did. Click on the previous sentence link to read a synopsis. Or read an excerpt from the book here. I found the story to be fascinating and very sad.

“We need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic, and it is taking too many of our young people,” Carly Fiorina said during the recent Republican debate. “My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction.”

Deaths from overdose of prescription painkillers (opioids) are rising, and Dreamland shows how opiod abuse, if it doesn’t kill you, can lead directly and tragically to heroin addiction. The book also chronicles the rise of a Mexican drug business model that sells “black tar heroin”, specifically targeting mid-size Midwestern towns and cities where opioid (especially Oxycontin) abuse is already a problem. The book looks at the complicity and duplicity of the drug companies who sold these pain killers by emphasizing their supposed non-addictive qualities while knowing that patients were becoming addicted. Quinones also writes about the lives of young men from the Mexican state of Nayarit who come to the United States to take part in the family business of selling and delivering black tar heroin and get hooked on another “drug”, easy money and all the Levis, yes, blue jeans, that money can buy.

I was fascinated and appalled to read about the problem of heroin addiction and overdose that is manifesting itself yet again in American towns and cities. I remember the seventies when heroin addiction was enslaving and killing the hippies and the the wannabe hippies of my generation. I read The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and other books of the same ilk, and I knew then that drug abuse was something that I never wanted to see “up close and personal,” certainly not in my own life or in that of my family.

Yet, I still have people, members of my own family, who tell me that marijuana isn’t like those other illegal drugs. Or alcohol is OK in moderation, and of course, they would never, never drink to excess. Or they can experiment with other drugs, cocaine for example, and still remain in control. I say they are playing with fire—and very likely to get burned. To extend the metaphor, if you need a little fire, perhaps a prescription painkiller for a limited time and for a specific purpose, to do a job, you had better be careful to use as directed and not become engulfed in the flames. Apparently, a lot of people are becoming enslaved to drugs, and many of them are dying of drug-related causes. I am willing to draw the lines sharp and clear in order not to become one of their number.

For me:
No alcohol. (it tastes nasty anyway)
No marijuana. (never tried it, not interested)
No illegal drugs of any kind.
Very few and limited prescription drugs, only when needed.

Your lines may be different, but please draw some and find your joy somewhere else besides in substance abuse or greed. If you’ve already become enslaved, Jesus is still in the business of rescue. Get some help, and turn to the One who resurrects dead people.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

Anne Fadiman’s 1997 book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures won her literary prizes, national attention, particularly from the medical and social work communities, and many similar accolades. I read that the the book is required reading for first year medical students in many American medical schools, and I am convinced after reading the book, that it should be required reading for all doctors and medical students. It should also be required for spiritual “doctors”, missionaries and pastors, especially those who relate to refugee populations or who attempt to minster cross-culturally.

The book tells the story of a Hmong family from Laos and their difficulties with the medical system in Merced County, California, as it related to their epileptic daughter, Lia Lee. However, the story is much more than just a history of tragic misunderstandings across cultures. Ms. Fadiman also intersperses a great deal of the history and folklore of the Hmong people, and she explains some of the deep cultural differences between the Hmong and the Americans who welcomed them into this country. The story of Lia Lee and her family shows how those differences became insurmountable walls that led to Lia’s eventual “living death” of entering into a persistent vegetative state for the final twenty-six years of her life.

Hmong spiritual practices such as shamanism and ritual sacrifice clashed with modern medical practice. Hmong beliefs in patriarchy and demons causing sickness conflicted with doctors who believed that their authority and medical education entitled them to prescribe what treatment Lia should get. The doctors expected Lia’s parents to trust them and follow their directions. Lia’s parents expected the doctors to “fix Lia” and then leave them alone to care for her as they saw fit. Neither the doctors nor the parents were listening to the other, partly because of the language barrier, but even more because of a cultural barrier that made them disrespect and distrust one another. As a result of miscommunication and stubbornness on both sides, Lia became “quadriplegic, spastic, incontinent, and incapable of purposeful movement. Her condition was termed a persistent vegetative state.’

My thoughts about this story tended toward the spiritual, even though the very few brief mentions of Christians or Christianity in the book are uniformly disparaging. How would I talk about Jesus or share His love with a Hmong neighbor? To begin to communicate the love of Christ to a person of a very different background and culture would take what Eugene Peterson called “long obedience in the same direction.” (The phrase actually comes from Nietzsche, of all people.) I would have to put myself and my own feelings aside and live my life before God as a loving and patient and understanding neighbor, always being ready to give a reason for the hope within me. In fact, that’s what we are going to have to do more and more as our culture moves away from a Christian consensus such that there’s a deep cultural chasm between Christians and almost anyone else that we try to love and evangelize. We have to be patient and kind and persistent and faithful.

And we have to be willing to fail, and leave the ending to God and His mercy.

Lia Lee 1982-2012
Lia Lee died on August 31, 2012. She was thirty years old and had been in a vegetative state since the age of four. Until the day of her death, her family cared for her lovingly at home.

The Envoy by Alex Kershaw

The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II by Alex Kershaw.

On Saturday morning, I went to this protest at Planned Parenthood, Gulf Coast, the site of the largest and most lucrative abortion facility in the United States. On Saturday afternoon and evening, I read The Envoy, the story of the final months of World War II in Hungary and the genocide organized by Adolf Eichmann as a “final solution” to the “Jewish problem” in Hungary. Even though, as Jen Fulwiler writes in this piece, the analogy between the Jewish Holocaust of World War II and the abortion holocaust of the United States (and much of the developed world) is not complete or tidy, the parallels are obvious and undeniable. In both cases, a class of people were/are “dehumanized”, spoken of and then treated as less than human, unworthy of basic human rights and protections. (Bob DeGray on The Christian Response to Dehumanization)

The more I read about World War II or about Hitler’s Holocaust, the more I realize that I have huge swaths of ignorance about what took place during that time. Did you know that during the summer of 1944, when it was becoming clearer and clearer that the Germans were losing the war and that the Russian army was headed toward Budapest, Eichmann insisted upon continuing his program of exterminating the Jews of Hungary? During that summer, from May to August, over 500,000 Jewish men, women and children were transported to Auschwitz, mostly from Hungary’s provinces, outside of Budapest itself. The deportations were suspended in late August because the Romania had surrendered, putting the Russian army only weeks away from Budapest. However, after the Germans blackmailed Hungary’s puppet regent, Miklas Horthy, into resigning by kidnapping his son and holding him hostage, the Arrow Cross, Hungary’s viciously anti-Semitic Nazi party, took over the government. “The pogroms began that evening. Hundreds were pulled from their homes or off the streets and slaughtered in plain sight in the first hours of the Arrow Cross regime.” (p.160)

Then, Eichmann returned to his pet plan for liquidating the Jews of Budapest. When he couldn’t get trains to transport the Jews to Auschwitz, he forced them to march to the Polish border on foot, by the thousands. Many died on the way, and others were killed as soon as they reached Poland. Even though Eichmann (and everybody else) knew that the Russians would soon take Budapest, he was intent on killing as many Jews as possible before the Nazis were defeated.

All these details were things I didn’t really realize about the Holocaust, not set in context as they are in The Envoy. I had heard of Raoul Wallenberg; I read an account somewhere of his using his Swedish diplomatic immunity and his ingenuity to save Jews. However, The Envoy puts Wallenberg and his heroic work to rescue the Jews of Budapest into perspective. I was amazed at Wallenberg’s courage and that of many others during the latter half of 1944, and I was surprised and saddened to learn of Wallenberg’s fate after his work in Budapest was over. Probably, Wallenberg never knew that many of the Jews he rescued with fake diplomatic protection did survive the war, and he may very well have thought that no one knew or cared about his attempts to rescue at least a remnant of Hungary’s Jewish population.

Reading the story of Raoul Wallenberg and the Jews of Budapest made me remember that many of us, maybe most of us, will never know in this life the results of our attempts at kindness, courage, truth-telling, and goodness. Sometimes those actions bear fruit many years later. Sometimes Satan deceives us into thinking that our actions don’t really matter, that no one is listening, nothing is changing, no one cares, and evil wins. But God wins, and goodness outlasts and extinguishes evil, and our actions, for good or for ill, do matter. One man, or even a group of men, may not have been able to save all the Jews from the evil that was Hitler’s and Eichmann’s final solution, but one man and his co-conspirators made a difference. And I am determined to use my one voice and my one life to do whatever I can to make a difference for truth and justice, too.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose.

The Newbery honor and National Book Award winning author of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, Phillip Hoose, has chronicled the fascinating true story of a group of Danish boys who jump-started the resistance to the Nazis in Denmark during World War II. Knud Pedersen, a pastor’s son, joined with his high school buddies to harass and subvert the Germans who were occupying Denmark. They stole guns, burned German vehicles, confused signage, posted graffiti,and cut phone lines, among other acts of sabotage and resistance. And they acted when almost no one else in Denmark was resisting the Germans at all. Pedersen says they did it because they were ashamed of Denmark’s easy capitulation to the Nazis and the collaboration that characterized the Danish response to the German occupation.

“I kept asking myself: How on earth could I lie on the beach sunning when my country had been violated? Why were we not as brave as Norway? Had Denmark no pride?”

Eventually, the boys, who after all were just boys with no military or resistance experience, were arrested and imprisoned. But they became an inspiration to the adults of Denmark who began their own resistance movement. Mr. Hoose credits Knud Pedersen and his Churchill Club with “setting the ball in motion” and making Denmark “a hotbed of resistance.”

I would have liked to have read more about the religion “ghosts” (hints about a religious or Christian influence that aren’t fleshed out) in this story. Pedersen’s father was a pastor, but we are never told what denomination or what that fact meant to Knud Pedersen. Pedersen tells how the boys decided that they would have to be willing to kill Germans in order to form an effective resistance cell, but he never says anything about how they reconciled the violence they were willing to commit with their Christian background or faith. In fact, it is hinted, but never stated, that perhaps Knud Pedersen and his brother, who was also involved in the Churchill Club, didn’t have much faith or Christianity to reconcile. However, perhaps they did, but the author doesn’t tell us about it. Pedersen is filled with hatred: for the Germans, for the Danish collaborators, and for his jailers. A struggle with what to do with such hatred in a Christian context is never mentioned.

Religion ghosts in the text:

“Holy Ghost Monastery . . . would host Edvard Pedersen’s Danish Folkschurch and provide living quarters for the Pedersen family.” Folkschurch?

Most of the boys of the Churchill Club attended Aalborg Cathedral School, presumably a Christian private school?

Knud Pedersen: “Each Sunday morning Jens and I practiced shooting the guns in the gigantic open loft at the top of the monastery during father’s church services. We would lie on our stomachs, waiting for the music to swell, and when it did we’d blast away, firing at targets positioned in the hay on the other side of the loft.” So the boys didn’t attend church services?

Pedersen on Christmas in prison: “I wanted to cry, but I had forgotten how. I finally discovered that by softly singing Christmas songs in my cell at night I could make the tears flow down my cheeks. I sang every song I knew and wept the whole next day.”

Knud Pedersen, describing the end of the war for him: “Father distributed hymnals. I ended the war at the monastery chapel just a few meters away from the room in which the Churchill Club was born–singing hymns with the men of my K Company group. I was eighteen.”

Knud’s brother, Jens, “struggled with depression.” “He died in a hospital after a very unhappy life.”

After the war, Knud Pedersen wrote a memoir about the Churchill Club. His father, “Edvard Pedersen, arranged to have a secretary type the finished manuscript, but—unbeknownst to Knud and his club mates–he had the typist cross out all the curse words just before publication. This angered the group when they finally saw the book.”

These ghosts/hints are interesting for what is not mentioned: no prayer, no consolation from remembered Scripture or Biblical truth, no Christ or Christian commitment. Judging from a quick skim of his blog, Mr. Hoose himself seems to have Buddhist sympathies, so it’s understandable that he would not be as interested in the Christian underpinnings or lack thereof of the Churchill Club and its members. But I was. Unfortunately, since Mr. Pedersen died in December of last year, 2014, I can’t ask him whether he rejected or found strength in the faith of his parents or what exactly that faith was.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is a book about teen heroes, young men who decided that if the adults wouldn’t do anything for the honor of Denmark and the confusion of her enemy, the German invaders, they would. As such it’s an interesting and exciting portrait of youthful zeal and even foolhardiness which can sometimes trump an adult over-abundance of caution and planning. I just would have liked to know more about the boys’ foundational thinking, about what motivated them and sustained them, or didn’t sustain them, through prison and life after the war.

1776 by David McCullough

I feel as if I learned a lot about the first year of the American War for Independence while reading this book, and I did enjoy it. However, all I can really remember right now is a few broad impressions.

The war went really, really badly for the Americans right up until the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton at the very end of the year. This defeat of the Hessian troops left there to “guard” Washington’s army was such a great victory because the year up until the day after Christmas was such a disaster.

Washington’s greatest attribute was perseverance.

“Above all, Washington never forgot what was at stake, and he never gave up. Again and agin, in letters to Congress and to his officers, and in his general orders, he had called for perseverance—for ‘perseverance and spirit,’ for ‘patience and perseverance,’ for ‘unremitting courage and perseverance.'”

And he needed that character attribute. He also needed it in his soldiers and officers, who would have been praiseworthy in the eyes of many, including their own friends and families at times, to have given up and gone home. I wonder if the United States of America produces men, and women, nowadays like those who persevered and fought in the grandly named, but not so grandly supplied, Continental Army of 1776.

The war in 1776, for enlisted men, was 95% slogging through forced marches and living in destitute conditions while not getting paid and worrying about your family back home. Communications were poor; disease was endemic; and if you made it through the actual shooting part of the war, you were only marginally likely to survive the other part in which sickness, starvation, and privation were daily dangers.

Several times during the battles and retreats of 1776, God seems to have saved the Continental Army, by His mercy providing a concealing fog or other helpful weather conditions or human intelligence that just came in the nick of time to preserve the army from certain destruction. At the end of 1776, when a great part of Washington’s army had their enlistment time ending and when a goodly number of them were sick and tired and ready to go home, Washington offered a bounty of ten dollars to those who would stay for six more months and managed to talk many of them into reenlisting. General Nathaniel Greene said, “God Almighty inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew.” (p.286)

I do think that God had a hand in creating and preserving this nation, and I do wonder if He has finished with us —as a nation. I pray not, but we heartily need Washington’s perseverance and God’s mercy and provision now more than ever. And how many of us are praying and looking for His hand in our history?

Peter Stuyvesant by Anna and Russel Crouse

The Landmark series of history books, published by Random House in the 1950’s and 1960’s, were a series of American history books written by such famous and talented authors as John Gunther (best-selling author and journalist), Mackinlay Kantor (Pulitzer Prize winner), Sterling North (Newbery honor), Armstrong Sperry (Newbery Award winner), Robert Penn Warren (Pulitzer Prize winner), Pearl S. Buck (Nobel Prize for Literature), Jim Kjelgaard, Quentin Reynolds (World War II reporter), Van Wyck Mason (historian and best-selling novelist) and C.S. Forrester. There were 122 titles in all. For any upper elementary or middle school age student trying to get a handle on American history, these books are the gold standard.

My plan is to read as many of these Landmark American history books as I can over the course of this school year, since I am teaching American history to or exploring American history with my youngest child, age 14, this year. Z-baby will be reading some of these books with me, and I’ll be reading others on my own. I’m excited to be able to do this project and enjoy these “living” history books written by skilled historians and authors.

Peter Stuyvesant is the biography of a man, the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam, as well as the history of the founding and growth of a city, New York City. I learned about Mr. Stuyvesant’s famous wooden leg, the result of his having his leg blown off by a cannonball on St. Martin’s Island in the Caribbean. After having recovered from his injury and being fitted with a wooden leg with silver bands around it, Stuyvesant married his long-suffering wife Judith and took her to New Amsterdam where he was appointed to serve as governor by the directors of the Dutch West India Company. These investors were still waiting for their investment in a colony in the “new world” to pay off, and Peter Stuyvesant was just the man to take charge and make sure that the furs (money) began to roll into the coffers of the company.

According to the authors, Stuyvesant was a mostly good governor, if somewhat dictatorial, and he fell in love with New Amsterdam and the New World. He attempted, with some success, to keep the peace with both the Native Americans and the English to the north and south, in Massachusetts and Virginia. He made and enforced laws that brought prosperity to the Dutch settlement and its burghers until 1664 when Stuyvesant was forced to surrender the colony to British warships off the coast of Manhattan.

Students in New York and bordering states should find this story especially interesting since it’s really a history of early New York City and Manhattan Island in particular. And because NYC to some degree belongs to us all, the rest of the country might want to know where the place names we’re all familiar with—Wall Street, The Bowery, Coney Island, Sandy Hook, Flatbush, Harlem–came from. All Dutch.

On June 28, 1945, Anna Erskine married Russel Crouse, the playwright who, with his longtime partner Howard Lindsay, wrote such Broadway hits as State of the Union and Life With Father. Mr. Crouse was 23 years Anna’s senior. They had two children, the actress Lindsay Crouse, who was married for a time to playwright David Mamet, and the writer Timothy Crouse. Russell Crouse died in 1966, and Ann died at the age of 97 on December 29, 2013. The couple wrote this Landmark history book about Peter Stuyvesant and the history of old New Amsterdam and also another, Hamilton and Burr.