Humanitarian Hospitality

I’ve been listening to news about Hurricane Harvey and reports of the rescues by first responders and good Samaritans. Disasters like this seem to bring out the best in folks who are willing to help wherever they can.

I’d like to think that everyone would step in to help in the face of a great emergency. Having just read The German Girl, by Armando Lucas Correa, I’m not so sure.

In 1939, a German ship, the MS St. Louis, set sail for Cuba with over 900 Jewish refugees aboard. Shortly before the ship arrived in Cuba, the Cuban government had a change of heart and denied entry to all but a few of the passengers. The United States and Canada also refused to allow the refugees into their countries. The St. Louis returned to Europe where the refugees were accepted into several European countries. Eventually, as World War II waged on, many of these people fell victim to the death camps.

The German Girl, a novel, is the story of Hannah, who was twelve years old when she and her family set sail on the St. Louis. The story is told alternately by Hannah and her descendant, Anna, who is learning to deal with a tragedy of her own. It was one of those “can’t put down” books; despite the heart-wrenching story, it was enjoyable and easy to read.

While The German Girl is not specifically labeled for young people, I would encourage older high school students to read it. The plight of Jewish refugees during World War II is one of those stories that needs to be told and retold.

Enjoy your Free-Reading Friday!

The German Girl

Advertisements

It’s Time

I had planned for this post to be about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. I’ll have to put that one on hold for a later post. Recent news has compelled me to comment, or rant, about another topic.

It is high time for President Trump to go away.

Yesterday, Donald Trump granted a pardon to Joe Arpaio. Arpaio had been convicted of defying a federal injunction to stop detaining individuals based on what amounts to racial profiling. Trump’s pardon of Arpaio flouts both the law and the power of the federal courts.

This isn’t the first time Trump has thumbed his nose at decency.

By his remarks in response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump has emboldened white supremacists and other hate groups.

He has repeatedly offended leaders of other nations.

He seems to govern by tweet.

His financial dealings are shady at best.

His bombastic remarks aimed at North Korea created some tense moments over the possibility of nuclear war. The threat is still there, but Trump has moved on to create havoc on other fronts.

Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax, and pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. (This seems to be a total reversal of his views in 2009 when he signed a letter calling for urgent action on climate change.*)

The President called for an investigation into voter fraud seemingly because he thought he didn’t win the election by a wide enough margin.

He has spent an inordinate amount of time playing golf.

He has also spent way too much time pandering to his base and holding rallies that look like campaign events. He is less than a year into his first (and I hope only) term. He should be using that time to take seriously the tasks of governing.

His supporters have continually turned a blind eye to his displays of racism, cruelty, and mental instability.

And then there’s the Russian problem.

If none of this terrifies you, you haven’t been paying attention; or maybe you just don’t care.

It is time for Congress to stop enabling this madness. It is time for Donald Trump to go away.

I remain cautiously optimistic that this country will one day return to sanity.

To my fellow Americans: Please use the power of your voices and votes where you feel they will do the most good.

To my readers who are not Americans: Please pray for our country.

einstein quote *http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/12/trump-climate-timeline/

 

It’s Friday Somewhere

Yikes! I’m a day late for Free-Reading Friday. I got wrapped up in a project and spaced out what day it was. These hot August days melt into one another. I can hardly remember what day it is unless I mark the calendar.

Can I make a case for it being Friday somewhere in the world? Maybe not. I know it’s tomorrow somewhere, and my today is someone else’s yesterday; but I may be too close to the International Date Line for my today to be tomorrow anywhere.

At any rate, any day can be a free-reading Friday as long as you spell it with “day” at the end.

I’ve just finished reading The House Girl by Tara Conklin. It is a quick, enjoyable read that switches back forth between Josephine, a young woman who lives as a slave in Virginia in the 1850s, and Carolina, a present-day lawyer who works on a lawsuit seeking reparations to descendants of slaves. As Carolina digs into history, she learns of Josephine’s difficult life. Meanwhile, Carolina has issues of her own to solve. I won’t spoil it further. If you like historical fiction, you might enjoy The House Girl.

I’m settling into my next book, Sisters in Law, by Linda Hirshman, about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sandra Day O’Connor. My book group friends tell me it’s an interesting read.

Enjoy your Free-Reading Friday on this Saturday. It will be Friday again soon enough.

House Girl

 

What if…?

I have fond memories of going to the movies with my cousins and brother when we were kids. One of our moms would drive the five of us to the theater and drop us off. As the oldest, my cousin David and I each had a dime tucked away in a pocket for the phone call home. We were also in charge of the three younger ones, although for David that meant putting up my brother, the youngest, to some interesting mischief. I don’t remember many of the movies we saw but we had plenty of fun. We often sat through a couple of showings before calling for a ride home.

A few things have changed about the movies since those days back in the 1960s. Newsreels and cartoons have given way to previews and product advertisements. One can no longer gain admission for 35 cents. Nevertheless, going to the movies is a great way to spend a hot July afternoon.

My husband and I did just that a couple of weeks ago when we decided to see Dunkirk, which tells the little-known story of an incident that happened during World War II in 1940, before the U.S. entered the war.

British and French troops, fighting against the Germans, had been cornered in Dunkirk, France. They were stranded on the beach. Across the channel was England. The military launched Operation Dynamo to evacuate the soldiers from the beach and return them to England. The military were aided by hundreds of civilian craft, dubbed The Little Ships of Dunkirk. These civilians braved enemy fire to make trip after trip ferrying soldiers from the beach to the larger ships which could not reach the shore.

The planners of Operation Dynamo expected to rescue 35,000 troops, a number which turned out to be a gross underestimate. In the end, some 340,000 British and French soldiers were evacuated. (Various sources differ on the actual number, but most of those rescued were British.) Not everyone made it out of Dunkirk. Some 80,000 were taken prisoner by the Germans.

While the evacuation itself makes for a good story, here’s the important thing about Dunkirk. If those soldiers had not been successfully evacuated, Germany would have won the war. Imagine how different our world might be in that alternate version of history.

A small digression is in order. In 1879, eleven year old Annie Nielsen sailed from Denmark to America. She and her brother were traveling with family friends to join their mother who had come to Utah the previous year. One day, Annie went too close to the ship’s railing and nearly fell overboard. She was rescued by a sailor.

In San Diego in the early 1930s, another little girl about the same age was playing on a pier by the ocean. She saw and boarded a raft, thinking it was tied to the pier. It wasn’t. She began to drift out to sea. She was rescued by a stranger who happened along in his boat.

Annie Nielsen was my great-grandmother. The second little girl grew up to become my m other. If either had been lost at sea, I would not be writing this.

As I think back to Dunkirk, I am struck by the sheer magnitude of the rescue, and the possible consequences if it had failed. If those 340,000 men had been lost, who among us would not be here? How would our world have been different? Would the U.S. have entered the war? If not, would my parents have met? (Many Baby Boomers might ask the same question.) Would Germany have come across the Atlantic and caught America unawares? Would we live under a very different government?

While I am glad things turned out as they did, I think it’s interesting to imagine alternate endings to the stories I encounter.

Note: For readers who seek more information, I suggest Dunkirk by Joshua Levine. I found it a bit tricky to keep track of characters and events, but it has a lot of good information about the events leading up and including Operation Dynamo.

dunkirk

 

 

 

 

Becoming Unstuck, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being stuck on a quilting project I had begun way back in January. I’m happy to announce that I’ve finished the quilt!

Whew! This quilt ended up being a much bigger project than I had intended in more ways than one.  Not only did I have to put it aside a time or two while I thought about what to do next, the sheer size of the quilt caused me to have to take many breaks. I began to refer to it as a behemoth. Lugging it around and pushing it through the sewing machine was physically taxing.

Finishing a quilt is something like finishing a good book. I have many “next quilt” ideas in my head, but I need to enjoy this one for a while before beginning another.

Taking a break from quilting gives me a good excuse to begin reading the next book. Happy Free-Reading Friday!bedspsread quilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a Break

Is it possible to get PTSD from the news? I am beginning to think it might just be so. It  would be hard to argue that the current news climate is anything but stressful and depressing. It seems as though every day we are bombarded with nothing but bad news.

A healthcare bill that threatens to devastate the many who depend on Medicaid.

Syria.

Yet another child left to die in a hot car.

Russia’s tampering with our election process.

One more outrageous “Presidential” tweet.

STOP!

I needed a break today, so I spent an inordinate amount of time watching  cute pet videos.

I went to the sewing room and lost myself in my current quilt project.

I spent some Friday Free-Reading time and finished a book.

Finally, I went in search of some good news stories.  I found several. (Thanks, Google.)  Here are a few.

In Florida, dozens of strangers formed a human chain in the Gulf of Mexico to save people caught in a riptide.

Closer to home, an Idaho couple was reunited with their dog that had been lost in the wilderness for months.

Preschool sweethearts, who had lost touch with one another, have been reunited and married. (He proposed in front of their old preschool.)

Malala Yousafsai has graduated from secondary school and continues to advocate for women’s education.

President Jimmy Carter has been released from the hospital after having been treated for dehydration. He’s 92. He still builds houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Robinson Cano just hit another home run.

Good news is all around us. Sometimes you just have to go in search of it. I’m glad I did. I can’t make the bad news go away, but I feel better.

20160504_121728

 

Summer Reading

booksHot summer days mean extra reading time as I stay indoors to escape the 100+ degree heat. I’ve just started reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I loved the movie, but I’m told the book goes into greater depth over a longer period of time. It’s what books do.

It’s been a while since I’ve offered up some suggestions for your reading pleasure. The titles I’m suggesting today are not thematically related, or even the same genre. They’re simply good books.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom tells the story of Lavinia, a little girl from Ireland who is orphaned while on the ship bringing her family to America. The ship’s captain, who also owns a plantation, indentures her and places her in the care of his slaves who raise her. Because she is white, Lavinia never quite belongs in either the slaves’ world or the plantation owner’s world. Her situation makes for an interesting, thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing read.

Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie is a page turner about a serial killer in Seattle, Washington. Alexie addresses a number of themes, including cultural identity, Native Americans, racism and mental illness. This is not a story for the faint of heart; if you live in Seattle, I do not recommend you read alone at night.

If you’re looking for a lighter read, Still Life by Louise Penny might fit the bill. Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the quaint village of Three Pines, south of Montreal, to solve the murder of a longtime resident The first in a series of mystery novels featuring Inspector Gamache, Still Life is reminiscent of Murder She Wrote.

I hope at least one of these books suits your taste as you escape the summer heat. Stay cool and enjoy a happy Free-Reading Friday!