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review 2016-05-11 23:40
Watch WGNA's Underground and Read This BOOK!!!!!!
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad - Eric Foner

At times, I was frustrated with the weight given to NYC and for a while it almost seems like too much background material. Yet, after finishing this book, I understand more and know more than simply Harriet Tubman. Rich in information.

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review 2016-01-30 21:43
Edge of Seat Account
Collision Course: The Classic Story of the Collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm - Alvin Moscow

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                I’m not sure when I first heard of the Andrea Doria.  I think it was a series on the History Channel or National Geographic.   There was some series about famous shipwrecks that was pretty awesome. That’s where I first heard about this accident that occurred in the 1950s.


                The Andrea Doria was the ship of Italy. It was a flagship, a queen, an empress of the seas.  She was the Titanic without the term “unsinkable” and the proper number of lifeboats.   It sank hours after it was struck by the ship Stockholm.  The reason for the collusion was the subject of court and lawyers. 


                Moscow’s account of the accident, republished in this edition by Open Road Media, traces the events leading up to the collusion as well as the successful rescue that occurred afterwards.   While the writing is edge of your seat, even though you know what is going to happen, Moscow is even handed and fair in his reporting.  And it is reporting.  


                While the focus is primary on those responsible for the two ships as well as the passengers (in other words, the crew of each ship), Moscow does relate the experiences of passengers from every class of the Doria as well as the experiences of some of those on the Stockholm and even the ships that arrived to rescue Doria passengers.  Moscow does so in a way that is not melodramatic, and is all the more powerful because of that.   From the then mayor of Philadelphia, Dilworth and his wife, to the 13 year old boy looking for his parents, to the three women sleeping au natural and finding themselves thrown around without clothes on - while not milked for the drama, the stories do not lack for impact.  This is particularly true about Camille Cianfarra, a foreign correspondent whose was traveling on the ship with his family.


The viewpoints, or considerations, of some the captains on the rescue ships – ships who left their routes to come to the aid of the stricken Doria.   This is particularly true with the ship Ile de France.  


This edition includes updated information, including that about safety issues as well as the history of diving the wreck, including accounts from various divers.   Moscow does debate the ethics of retrieving from the wreck (though he is careful to note that the many of the divers pass along “souvenirs” to souvenirs), for that would be outside the scope of his book. Yet, the section can give a rather disquieting feel to it.  Also included are pictures, including the photo series by Harry A. Trask that won the Pulitzer Prize.

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review 2016-01-25 20:13
Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America - Kali Nicole Gross

Disclaimer: ARC read via Netgalley.


                It shames to know that I live in Philadelphia and never heard of this case.  Thankfully, Gross wrote a book about it.


                In a book about a murder case, Gross does far more than look at police procedure.  She showcases how a woman was able to maneuver in, around, and thorough the system.   Gross does this without turning a murderer into folk hero.  The book also presents information about African-Americans in large cities post Civil War.


                Honestly, it is great read.  Gross’ writing has vigor, and she tells the story in a gripping way.  The book is the best kind of a teacher - one that teaches without seeming to.

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review 2015-12-13 20:16
Audubon of Botany
The Life and Times of Mary Vaux Walcott - Marjorie G. Jones

Disclaimer: Arc via Netgalley.

                While I live in the same city which Walcott spent much of her life and have been to the Smithsonian many times, I can honestly say that the name did not register with me.  I can say that after reading the book, I must have seen some of her paintings of plants (she was call the Audubon of Botany), but it never stuck.


                Shame really.


                Walcott was a Quaker who married for the first time in her fifties, angering her father who saw her as his permanent nurse. 


                That’s not the most fascinating thing about her however.


                Jones’ book is a short biography, more like an introduction to Walcott.   Yet, there is much here that will make any reader want to investigate further, not just about Walcott but about the other women who she sometimes met, and whom her father blamed for her betrayal.  It is almost as if these women, who explored the environment are their own club.  It’s quite interesting.


                Perhaps the iffiest part of the book is the section concerning Walcott’s view on Native Americans.  She was appointed a commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Walcott’s view on Native Americans, while sympathetic, was more in keeping with her times and is, at the very least, disturbing and disappointing to read today.  It is true Jones’ credit that she doesn’t try to whitewash this and even compares Walcott’s reaction to that of Estelle Brown, whose views are more in keeping with today.  She also examines why the views were different and why Walcott would not have supported someone such as Lydia Maria Child.

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review 2015-10-14 23:06
This I Believe: Philadelphia - Dan Gediman,Mary Jo Gediman,Elisabeth Perez-Luna

Disclaimer:  I received an ARC via Netgalley.  I also live in Philadelphia.  Furthermore, I teach at the same college, same department, as one of the contributors. 


                Despite being in Philadelphia for all my life, I have never heard of this series until this popped up on Netgalley.  The volume is a collection of short essays by various people from Philadelphia.  By and large, the essays are meditative and reflective, usually looking at religion and community, or service and community.  The contributors range from politicians (Mayor Nutter) to community activists/workers (Sister Mary Scullion) to the famous (Margaret Mead) to the everyday.  Writers, teachers, artists, and religious men and women are included.  The essay is divided into voices from the past – the Radio series – and current voices. 


                It is a rather beautiful collection.


                There are also some surprises.  I always forget about Edith Hamilton and her connection to the area, hardly surprising because her Mythology is taught in a quasi-vacuum, with little biographic information given.  Hamilton’s essay in this volume, “Of Sonnets, Symphonies, and Socrates,” is about mercy, art, and truth of spirit.  Perhaps it is too scholarly for some, but seen in light alongside her work on mythology it is a source of a meditation. 


                John B. Kelly Sr’s essay is no less well written, though it is far less scholarly.  The father of Grace Kelly reflects on sports and faith.  If you enjoyed the recent book, The Boys in the Boat, you might enjoy this.  James Michener’s essay is about brotherhood and sameness.  It is connected to the themes of some of his novels.  It is nicely read alongside another essay from the volume, “The Anchor of Life” by Theodore Roosevelt III, a reflection on life and family.


                The modern writers are no less poetic, though they are more direct in connection to community and service.   They are also seemed more varied in terms of religious beliefs, race, and sexuality. There is a wonderful essay by Carmen Febo-San Miguel about race.  Frank Fitzpatrick writers about what it means to be of Philadelphia, a city that is often forgotten about in the news, totally left out in the discussions about New York and Washington, DC.  Kenneth (Kenny) Gamble’s essay about race and education is important, especially in light of recent books and such series as The Wire.  This essay’s themes.  It perhaps reaches the ultimate conclusion with Mayor Nutter’s essay about service told via his personal history.  There are essays detailing works such as Philadelphia’s Women’s Way as well as the mural arts program.


                The use of the two parts as well as the varied authors – rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic, straight, homosexual, teacher – gives an portrait of a city.  A more accurate portrait of what it means to be part of that city’s fabric and one connects with those who share that space. 

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