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

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

My Reading Journal

Greetings! This Free-Reading Friday, I have just finished reading My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. It is a memoir inspired by the reading journal the author has kept since she was in high school. If you like books about reading, you may find this one interesting.

I, too, keep a reading journal.  I am a life-long reader, but I did not begin to keep track of my reading until I was well into my 40s. My journal began as a simple list of titles and authors in the back of my personal journal, and has evolved since then.

Around 1997, I added the number of pages each book held. I had an ulterior motive. The staff at the elementary school where I taught at the time wanted to teach the students what one million looked like. The school began a massive reading campaign. In exchange for so many pages read, students and teachers alike received “Washington Bucks” which were then posted onto the walls of the school. We never reached $1,000,000. The fire department deemed the paper-plastered walls a fire hazard in the 19th century school building. Nevertheless, we all kept reading.

In 2013, I decided I wanted to keep my reading list all in one place, so I began a separate notebook. The format allows me space in which to write responses to my reading as I desire.

Four years later, my notebook is nearly full. From the front of the notebook, I’ve listed books I’ve read. From the back, I’ve listed interesting titles I’d like to read. The two lists are about to meet. It seems there are always more books on the “want to read” list than on the “have read” list.

It’s always exciting to begin a fresh notebook for any reason. As I begin my new reading journal, I am eager to see what worlds I will visit via the written word.

Happy Free-Reading Friday!

reading journal

 

What Did Jesus Say?

Now and then I will see a  Facebook post by a modern-day Pharisee who claims “Jesus said this,” or “Jesus said that”, without including the Scripture reference. I’ve been a student of the Bible for forty years, but my response is often, “Really? I don’t remember Him saying that.”

I’ll search the Gospels for the reference. Sometimes the quotation has been cherry-picked out of context, sometimes misquoted. Other times, the quote is just plain revisionist scripture.

These occasions led me to want to better educate myself about what Jesus actually said. Thinking a red-letter edition of the Bible would be helpful, I looked through the several translations and editions we had at home. I found no suitable Bible to use. The only red-letter edition on hand was a small, King James gift Bible I had received as a child. The print was way too small for my 67-year-old eyes. Besides, King James language, although poetic and beautiful, can no longer be considered the vernacular. I needed something I could read and understand.

I went Bible shopping. I was overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, none of which was within my budget. There were large tomes with large print and space for taking notes, small Bibles with too-small print, myriad translations, even a few with the words of Jesus in red.

I also found something called journaling Bibles. These are intended for those who do art work in their Bibles in response to Scripture. Margins are ample, paper is sturdy; some even include drawings to be colored. (I consulted Pinterest. Apparently Bible journaling is quite a fad. It is telling that I found a greater variety of these in the craft store than in the book store, artfully displayed next to specialty “Bible journaling markers” and lettering templates. Someone is making a green killing on these.)

I threw up my hands in frustration and did not buy a new Bible that day. Instead, I bought a pink Bible highlighter–the kind that is erasable and will not bleed through thin paper. I would make my own red-letter edition.

The plan? Using my favorite study Bible, I would read the Gospels as an Advent discipline. As I read, I would highlight Jesus’ words with pink. I am not the most consistent, disciplined student. I have made progress, but Advent was over months ago. Here it is June, and I’ve reached the 16th chapter of Luke. That speaks to my humanness, I suppose.

Not having a deadline to finish has its advantages. I’ve been able to go at my own pace, thinking about what I read. Reading the Christmas story right after Easter gave me a new perspective. I read it not as a routine ritual, but as something to consider in relation to the Resurrection.

The highlighter has also slowed me down. I have focused on Jesus’ words. Even His shortest utterances have a power I had not before realized.

I’m glad I undertook this red-letter project. It continues to teach me much.

Bible pix

… about Book Club

I just returned home from a book club meeting. It’s an activity I look forward to each month.

Some might say we use the phrase “book club” loosely. We’re more of a ladies’ literary eating society. Once a month, seven or eight of us, all retired school teachers, get together. The hostess regales us with a delicious luncheon, and we visit about this and that before getting down to the business of discussing what we’ve read over the past month.

Our group decided a couple years ago to take a different direction from traditional book clubs. After getting bogged down with a couple of  books no one enjoyed, we dispensed with the idea of all reading and discussing the same book. Now we all read whatever we want during the month. At book club, each of us reports on her favorites; then we share books around so everyone has a chance to read them.

Some (most) of us are addicted to purchasing new books, so there are always plenty to share around. Today, a couple of the ladies brought multiple tote bags full. If someone can’t find a book she wants to read, she isn’t paying attention.

We visit all afternoon. The discussions are lively, the company pleasant. I never fail to return home with a hefty list of books that I’d like to read. It’s a wonderful way to spend a Free-Reading Friday.

books

Photo: public domain

Unlocking the World

I ran across the featured picture while I was looking for something else. The quilt in the photo was one of my very first attempts at applique and patchwork years ago. I don’t name all my quilts, but I named this one “Reading Unlocks the World”.

How true that is. I grew up an ordinary kid in an ordinary suburb of Boise, Idaho. When my family traveled, we went one place–to Sacramento to visit relatives. My world was quite small.

Reading indeed unlocked the world for me and allowed me to travel far and wide.

As a youngster I traveled to the Land of Oz, visited a little girl and her grandfather in a small cabin in the Swiss Alps, and trekked along the Oregon Trail.

I met movie stars, Presidents, sports heroes, and Helen Keller. I also met ordinary kids like myself, who taught me how to navigate my growing world.

The adventures have continued throughout my reading life. I cannot imagine a life without reading.

This snowy spring day, I have begun a new journey into the life of Albert Schweitzer via his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought. I have read many biographies over the years. Somehow I missed this one  until now.

Enjoy your Free-Reading Friday!