All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr;2014; $27.00; 530 pages; Scribner, New York, NY; 978-1-4767-4658-6;purchased at Multnomah County Library, Title Wave Used Bookstore; 4/7/16-4/16/16
Why did I read this? The Corner Reading Society, a book group I belong to, is reading this for our May meeting.
An achingly beautiful look at the lives of two people in occupied France during World War II. One is a beautiful French girl who lives with her father and is blind. They live in Paris and the father works at a Museum, where she learns her way around and about the subjects covered in the museum. A young man lives in an orphanage with his sister in Berlin where they listen on the wireless to a Frenchman expound and play Claire De Lune. Their lives intersect when Adolph Hitler comes to power and invades France. Their lives change when through the course of the war.
Zero Night, The Untold Story of World War Two’s Greatest Escape by Mark Felton; 2014; $25.99; 299 pages; Thomas Dunne Books, New York, NY; 978-1-250-07374-7; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Midland; 3/27/16-3/29/16
An escape unlike any other from a camp deep inside Germany by a group of English and other commonwealth officers. Think The Great Escape with no Americans involved and going over the wire instead of under it. Felton uses some interviews with some of the escapees and their memoirs to document every step of their captivity from their initial captures to their final escape and freedom for a few. It is an exciting and riveting account of many men working together, some of whom wouldn’t actually be involved directly in the escape.
The Train to Crystal City, FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell; 2015; $30.00; 392 pages; Scribner, New York, NY; 9781451693669; I don’t remember how or where I got this; 2/26/16-3/2/16
Why did I read this? Because it looked interesting and was a piece of the history of the United States that I did not know about.
I knew of the internment of Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans along the west coast of the United States during WWII, what I didn’t know that entire families of Germans, Italians and Japanese were kept in one camp in the middle of southwest Texas. Crystal City begat a whole new industry during the war, the care and feeding and guarding of those thought to be “enemies” of the United States. Families were split with the start of the war and then reunited in Crystal City. These families, made up of citizens and noncitizens, were then traded for Americans held in Japan, Germany and Italy. It was called repatriation, but how can you be repatriated if you were born in the United States. Many of those housed in Crystal City and then sent to the enemy’s doorstep were ill treated by those natives, who viewed them suspiciously. This is what happens when fear rules the day and we conveniently overlook constitutional protections.
Grade-A, strong writing and uncovers a piece of United States History that many would rather not see. It could happen here again.
The Port Chicago 50, Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin; 2014; $19.99; 200 pages; 978-1-59643-796-8; purchased from Multnomah County Library Title Wave Used Bookstore; 2/23/16-2/24/16
Why did I read this? I had heard about the Port Chicago 50 but I didn’t anything about what had actually happened.
In 1944 at Port Chicago, California U.S. Navy sailors were loading ammunition by hand onto several ships. They were loading all sizes of bombs. The U.S. Navy had allowed African-American sailors to enlist in the service, however they were only allowed to go to sea as mess men. The ammo handlers at Port Chicago were all African-American commanded by white officers. The officers were only minimally trained in how to load ammunition and the men themselves were given no training. The officers bet on which division would load the most ammunition per day. On July 17, 1944 two ships and munitions on the dock exploded killing 320 and injuring 390. Most of those killed were African-American sailors and no changes were instituted in the way ammo was handled. One month after the accident several men were asked to load a ship with ammunition. Due to the unsafe conditions 50 of the men refused to load. These men were charged with mutiny and subject to a mockery of a court martial. What they did did not meet the definition of mutiny but they were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. With the end of the war in 1945 men of the men’s sentences were commuted and the men were sent to sea and assigned menial duties. All of the Port Chicago 50 died with a conviction for mutiny still on their record. There are still people working to get the members of the 50 pardoned.
Did I learn anything? I had the knowledge that prejudice is an ugly thing which overrules common sense reinforced. I thought the men had mutinied but they had simply refused an order. The fix was in on the verdict of the court martial and all of these men should be pardoned. When I become I will do that along with pardoning the skipper of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
Burdy by Karen Spears Zacharias; 2015; $15.00; 182 pages; Mercer University Press, Macon, GA; 978-0-88146; 539-6; purchased from Amazon.com; 9/4/15-9/8/15
A follow up to Karen’s debut, Mother of Rain, Burdy begins to receive someone that she thought was dead. As she corresponds with him she decides to visit him and see if she can determine while he has hidden his true fate from those who love him. She decides to visit him and learn from him what happened. Her adventures while traveling far from the hollers of Tennessee are extremely moving. There are things that I did not see coming and I was incredibly moved by the story.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, I was incredibly moved by some of the passages in the book. There are several dog eared pages in my copy because I want to remember Karens’ phrasing. I am looking forward to the third book.