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review 2017-11-08 09:18
Review: March Volume 3 by Rep John Lewis et al
March: Book Three - Andrew Aydin,Nate Powell,John Lewis Gaddis

The final book in the March trilogy takes on the Selma march as the main plotline, but also shows how the differing CRM groups had conflicting agendas and intra-fighting led Lewis away from SNCC and towards working with all the groups. He also takes on the bombing of the church that killed four young girls, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Malcolm X along with a trip to Africa to speak with activists working for their respective countries' independence from colonial rule. There is a lot of history, both personal and country, packed in this book.

 

I think LBJ gets a little too much credit for the signing of the Civil Rights legislation, and the story from Rep John Lewis about how that legislation came about shows the shrewd back room manipulations that are very familiar to modern readers.

 

I don't know how to explain it, but this series made history come alive in a way I just couldn't get from history textbooks or documentaries - those resources look at the Civil Rights Movement era in such clinical terms and dates/places. Rep John Lewis' story focused on the people and their work, setbacks and victories that make them relatable to modern readers and activists.

 

Highly recommend.

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text 2017-04-18 20:43
ARGH! Read 50 out of 352 pages
We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese - Elizabeth M. Norman

The story of these nurses is one I have been eagerly wanting to read. The women profiled (20 of the 99 original POW nurses) are starting to blend into one another - all farm fresh-faced, glossy hair, cute, perky, boy/man-crazy. These women have such an important story to share and the author is focusing on the most trivial crap in these women's lives - all while under enemy fire/invasion! I just feel like their story should have better writing than what is here...I am going to finish this book because the story needs to be told, but the book itself is going to probably get a low rating due to the awful writing.

 

On top of author's choices in what to write about and how she wrote the story, it is very academic - dry, textbook, with no sense of creative non-fiction storytelling. And the graphic descriptions of injuries/surgeries/piles of amputated limbs and jungle animals crawling on nurses/patients in the night are starting to get repetitive and certainly not needed in the amount that is present.

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review 2017-04-18 11:13
Review: Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky
Polio: An American Story - David Oshinsky

*Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History

 

For such an in-depth look at how we got to now in regards to poliomyelitis (polio for short), it was an enjoyable and easily readable book. There is drama in the real life story of trying to contain a virus that strikes children. And Holy Scientific Egos, Batman!

 

The story begins with outbreaks from the late 1880s and how the disease became epidemic when hygiene standards were elevating and other diseases were decreasing. Then FDR, then a rising star in the political arena, was stricken. His recovery paved the way for a new kind of charity (National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis), and the race for a vaccine.

 

There is seventy years worth of history, both with the foundation's fund raising and the science behind the vaccine. There are a lot of people to keep track of; some were doctors, some were researchers, and foundation employees. The work was built very slowly; while Dr. Jonas Salk is the celebrated scientist, his work was basically the culmination of breakthroughs of other scientists, such as John Enders and Albert Sabin. Sabin's vaccine was used around the world to eradicate polio; Salk's was used predominately here in the US and Netherlands. Ultimately, due to some complications with Sabin's vaccine, the shots given to kids today are Salk's version.

 

Oshinsky does give a page or two to the AIDS-polio vaccine link that was circulated in the 1990s, but only to discredit that link (and the faulty science that went into that thinking). He did the same with the SV-40-polio vaccine link. He also mentions that polio is still not eradicated from the world due to hostilities and uncooperativeness of certain countries (India, Pakistan, and Nigeria). He also takes in the time periods he is writing about - the Jim Crow South and how that played into incidence rates and problems with the vaccine trials, poverty levels, WWII, and Great Depression. The science and the social were mixed well into the story.

 

Overall, an enjoyable and engrossing read but very in-depth, so it will take time to read and absorb the story.

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text 2017-03-23 20:00
DNF at 20%
Elegy for a Disease: A Personal and Cultural History of Polio - Anne Finger

This is a rambling, incoherent mess. Finger's writing is also very annoying to read due to her constant condescending attitude toward the reader. She does not inform on the history of the disease or how it affected her personally. The final straw was when she wrote about how the oral polio vaccine may be the linchpin to the AIDS epidemic as proof that eradication of polio from the world may not be as awesome as we all want it to be.....wtf?

 

 

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review 2017-03-22 21:08
Review: The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade - Ann Fessler

This was a fast read, but heartbreaking look at the America's "golden era" (post-WWII to 1973). The author is an artist and art professor who works mainly in video and photography; this book is more or less a literary version of her gallery work. It is also deeply personal, as the author was one of the babies surrendered and adopted during this era. The book opens and closes with the author's journey to finding her birth mother.

 

This book is HIGHLY repetitive, to the point that the repetition becomes almost satirical. Every woman profiled is/was white, middle class or upper middle class, Christian, from a two-parent heteronormative family, and never had sex education (either by parents or an organization). Their stories started to blend into one another. The author does broach the subjects of class, race, and religion in the last two chapters devoted to the women and explains why the women profiled were all from the same background. Those chapters were the most interesting from a intersectional feminist historian angle. There were inclusions of women who were date-raped, but at the time did not have the information (or even the words) to understand they had been raped until much later in life. For most of the women, they went in search of their children or made it possible to be found by their children; the author does go into the methods and organizations that are working with both groups to reunite families.

 

These are heartbreaking stories, even if they run together in the readers' heads. Families were particularly cruel to the pregnant teen, but the staff at hospitals and homes for unwed mothers were even more so. They sheer amount of lies, money, and judgment the adoption industry created in the post-WW II years was astounding. However, this book is not anti-adoption, a claim that is brought up in many reviews. They adoption process/legal rights is vastly different today than it was during this time period (much of that is credited to the work of the unwed mothers and surrendered children of this time, who banded together in the late 1970s and early 1980s).

 

I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in maternal issues or women's history.

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