Hello again, after what seems like ages since I’ve posted. I’m blaming all on the events that are happening around the world and in just the U.S.A. alone. Being fearful of being exposed to the virus, I have stayed home a lot and gotten more and more depressed.
Well, ENOUGH OF THAT. My promise to myself is to carry on as if life were indeed normal. And at some point in the future, perhaps it will be what I consider normal.
In the meantime, I have been reading books—lots of books. Some okay, some good, and some outstanding.
The three I’m sharing today all fall into the final category.
The first one continues the journey of Natt Silver’s horrors under Stalin’s Russian rule. He was a cruel man and prone to disliking those who didn’t approve of his way of doing things.
A Boy Is not a Ghost
Presumably based on the author’s family history, this story continues Natt Silver’s saga of escaping antisemitic sentiments during WWII. Natt’s father has been sent to a gulag in Northern Russia for no reason that Natt can figure out. He and his mother are shipped off to Siberia for no reason that he can figure out. The continuance of his journey in 1941 from his original departure from Romania apparently because he’s Jewish, and Stalin doesn’t like Jews. Stalin doesn’t seem to like anybody very much. The story takes us along with Natt first on a train and then from one internment camp after another. Because things aren’t bad enough, his mother is sent to prison for trying to get food for her very hungry son. Natt now has to live with a foster family, who fortunately help him get his mother out of prison. The story is based on the author’s personal history. Along the way, Natt does make friends and discovers that there, indeed good people in the world. Teachers can many discussions started in this book, such as why there are such villains in the world and are there still such villains.
BIBLIO: 2021, Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
Those of us who live in the so-called developed countries can’t conceive of not having running water and good sanitation. Of course, that really isn’t true when you think about it. Even in the U.S. we have places where the drinking water is poisonous. Of course, these areas are where poor people live, especially those who aren’t lily-white or native English speakers.
Burying the Moon
Illustrated by Sonali Zohra
Latika hates the moon because she has to wait until dark to “do her business” with all the other females in her Indian village. Which means, if the moon is bright, everyone can see her. Men, of course, can “do their business” where ever. The small, very poor, village has no running water, not even a common well, from which to get their water and, of course, there are no toilets. Latika, though she has the interest and the intelligence, know she won’t be allowed to become an engineer, just because of her sex. But then a very nice government water engineer comes to town to build a common well, so the town will have a safe water supply. He encourages all the children, girls included, to aspire to being engineers. Latika points out to the engineer the lack of sanitation in the village and that she wants to build latrines. He encourages her ambitions and helps build latrines for the villages. He also encourages her to think about continuing her education. Teachers will find a wealth of information to mine in this book, starting with the health risks of not having clean water available.
BIBLIO: 2021, Groundwood books/House of Anansi Press, Ages 8 to 12, $19.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle Grade Fiction
Again, on the theme of not feeling welcome where you live, this book discusses how living in a country that is not of your cultural genealogy affects you. In this case a woman of Punjabi heritage, who grew up in Africa. She doesn’t feel she belongs anywhere. Or perhaps we should think of her belonging everywhere.
Illustrated by Divya Seshaori
Ms. Sethi was born in Tanzania to Punjabi parents and, as an adult, moved to the United States where she married an African-American man. Together they have children who could most decidedly be considered American Mutts, as are most of people born and raised here, including the Native Americans. In her memoir/commentary on human cultures and societies, she uses free verse and short non-fiction to write about her life and her ways of trying to figure out where she fits in the scheme of things. Of course, she has been plagued with racism and discrimination, never feeling she really belongs anywhere. She may be ethnically Indian Hindi/Pakistani Muslim, but she really knows little of life there. She, of course, knows something of the foods from the area. She could be considered African since that’s her continent of birth, but she’s not of Negroid genetic background. In the U.S.A, she is an immigrant, and though she’s genetically Caucasian, her skin tone is not so-called white. Here she is called a “person of color.” The book is well written and intriguing, but it too pithy to be read in one sitting. Still, teachers most decidedly could and should use the book to launch year-long projects on the issues of race, ethnicity, and where we all belong.
BIBLIO: 2021, Mango & Marigold Press, Ages 14 +, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult Memoir
My ethnic and cultural heritage is a mix. One my father’s side I am French, Scottish, Welsh?, Irish, and, according to his mother, a dash of Cherokee. Since I’m a faded redhead with very white skin, I don’t see the Cherokee, but my grandmother was a raven-haired beauty, with an impish grin. She looks like she could have had a bit of Native American blood in her. People do say I have what they decide is an indication of such genes. They say I have high cheek bones.
On my mother’s side of the family, aside from a smidge of English blood and a bit of Swiss blood, I’m almost exclusively German. The bottom line is I am an American Mutt. For the most part, both sides of the family tree have been in the U.S. since before it even was such. In fact, my fifth-generation paternal great-grandfather was Thomas Jefferson’s grammar school teacher, along with other well-known men.
My point of all this family history, is that even I don’t feel I fit comfortably in any particular niche. Though, of course, it’s not the same as being slandered and sneered at and disregarded because of the simple fact of my skin color or ethnic background.
We should all try to find the good in other people and how much we do have in common. Mostly we have more similarities than differences.
As I have in the past, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my blogs. If you disagree with what I’ve said, that’s fine. All I ask is that you be civil in your response. Thanks and stay healthy. Sarah