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Search tags: Memoirs
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review 2018-11-28 19:00
SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT
She Landed by Moonlight: The Story of Secret Agent Pearl Witherington: the Real 'Charlotte Gray' - Carole Seymour-Jones

"SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT" is a fantastic story of a most remarkable woman, Pearl Witherington, an Englishwoman born in Paris of English parents, who carried a deep love and devotion for her adopted country France as great as her love for Britain.   

 

During the Second World War, Witherington managed to spirit herself, her mother, and two of her sisters out of France to Britain following France's capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940.   Three years later, Witherington joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), trained as an agent and was parachuted into German-occupied France in September 1943.    The book goes on to describe Witherington's achievements in the field over the following year against heavy odds.    Indeed, at one point, the Germans had learned of her identity after the leader of the spy network of which she was a part had been captured by the Gestapo in May 1944.    As a result, a ƒ1,000,000 bounty was put on Witherington's head.    Undeterred, Witherington took on a new code name ('Pauline') and led the SOE Wrestler network in operations against German forces in the Valencay–Issoudun–Châteauroux triangle of central France.     The 4,000 marquisards she organized, armed, and trained would play a significant role in tying down thousands of German soldiers after the Allies had landed in Normandy in June 1944.       

 

This is a story that seems too incredible to be true.  But it was all too real.    Witherington survived the war, married the man she had long loved (who had also fought with her as a member of the Resistance in 1944), and went on to live a long life.     

 

"SHE LANDED BY MOONLIGHT" also provides an interesting overview of SOE, how it came to be in July 1940, the opposition it faced from Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (i.e., MI-6), its organizational structure, and the contributions made by SOE's F Section (of which Pearl Witherington was a part) in France towards defeating Nazi Germany.    I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about a true 'Warrior Queen.'

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review 2018-11-18 13:27
AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ FOR ANYONE WHO LOVES LARGER-THAN-LIFE TRUE STORIES
Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster - Stephen L. Carter

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing at a local bookstore the author Stephen L. Carter speak about his paternal grandmother Eunice Huston Carter (1899-1970). Sometime later, after the Q&A session, I had the opportunity to speak with Professor Carter as he autographed my copy of this book.

"INVISIBLE: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster" puts the reader into an era in U.S. history barely half a century behind us, when African Americans were restricted by law and what was accepted custom from realizing their full potential in what was an overtly racist America (Jim Crow segregation). Notwithstanding all that, what I found to be deeply inspirational from reading this book is learning about the life of this most remarkable woman - as well as the lives of her parents (who were both fully engaged social activists; Eunice's father with the YMCA (its 'colored' section) for whom he worked tirelessly both in the U.S. and abroad til his death in 1916 and her mother Addie was a graduate of Boston Latin School, and a college graduate who later served as a teacher and worked with a variety of organizations promoting racial and gender equality til her death in 1943) and younger brother, from whom she became estranged. 

This is a book that would be instructive (as well as inspirational) to any reader who wants to learn about the value of living -- in spite of the obstacles and challenges arrayed against someone because of his/her color and/or gender -- a purposeful, committed life wholly dedicated to advancing socio-economic justice, as well as racial and gender equality.

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review 2018-10-23 18:26
THE ODYSSEY OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN VETERAN OF WORLD WAR II
Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond - Emiel W. Owens

Born in Texas in 1922, Emiel W. Owens went on to live an extraordinary life as an educator and economic/financial consultant. He shares with the reader his life experiences from growing up under Jim Crow segregation in Texas, through his service in the U.S. Army during World War II with the 777th Field Artillery Battalion (which was engaged in almost constant combat in Europe between October 1944 and V-E Day in May 1945), and his subsequent reassignment to a quartermaster unit that was shipped to the Philippines shortly before the end of the Pacific War.

Owens was honorably discharged from the Army shortly after returning to the U.S. in early 1946. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Prairie View A&M University and graduate degrees (a Masters and doctorate) in economics from Ohio State University. He would go on to teach and serve in a variety of educational and consultative endeavors both in the U.S. and abroad.

I very much enjoyed reading this memoir. It is well-written and a rare work, because there are very few memoirs from African American veterans of World War II. That in itself makes "BLOOD ON GERMAN SNOW" a book to treasure.

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review 2018-10-23 02:27
Book Review: Ripe: Letters by Alan Semrow
Ripe: Letters - Alan Semrow

Definitely not my usual fare, as this is non-fiction, written entirely in memoir-style short letters to the many men the author has met or seen over the course of learning about himself and who he is.

Each letter details a moment, a few days, a few weeks, in the life of the author, ruminating about encounters with men, some with whom he spent some time, and some he never even met, and learning about himself and life in general as he explores the intricacies of intimacy, friendships, relationships, and the difference between lust and love. 

Each letter, whether written to Dear Weekend Love or Dear Athlete or Dear Stallion or Dear Lobster Bisque, provides an honest look at what that particular person meant to the author, how each of these men influenced him in some way, no matter how long or short the encounter. 

Many times we're given hints at bedroom exploits that never become too explicit, but serve to strengthen the intimacy of each letter, as the author reflects back on the encounter. There's poignancy here, many, many times; there's an honest vulnerability, a hopefulness, a youthfulness, a promiscuous recklessness. There is humor, reflection, longing, learning. 

This probably won't appeal to everyone, but I found myself many times thinking back to my own youth, the choices I made, and the letters I might write. This book definitely makes you think. 


** I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-10-15 15:32
A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary 1939–1940 - Iris Origo

A very compelling and eloquent account by Iris Origo which conveys both the tempo and temper of life that existed in Italy as she went from being a sometimes uneasy German ally and neutral to a full-fledged co-belligerent with Germany after June 10, 1940. The diary begins on March 27, 1939 and ends on July 23, 1940.

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