Educated

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Educated: A Memoir

By:  Tara Westover
Published:  2018
# of pages:  334
Challenge:  Full House (memoir), A to Z
Quote:  “To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s. I have often wondered if the most powerful words I wrote that night came not from anger or rage, but from doubt: I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

5stargreen

Goodreads description:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

My review:  This was an incredibly interesting memoir.  My mom had told me a little about it, but I wasn’t prepared for the shock of all the details put together.  I grew up in a conservative religious homeschool community and at the risk of exaggerating my upbringing or trying to “one up” Westover’s story, I could at times see some similiarities (thankfully not the violent aspects).  I’ve said it many times over the years, but I’m glad my parents weren’t as legalistic as many of the parents in our community and now I’m even more glad.  I’ve changed a lot over the years and while I’ve retained some of my upbringing, there’s even more I’ve left behind.  Times are changing and I have hope for the future.  Westover’s memoir gives me even more hope.

The sad aspects, besides what’s stated in the book’s description, is the confusion and heartache Westover experienced as she left her family behind.  I often hear people judging women who live in abusive environments.  Why don’t they leave?  Can’t they see they aren’t safe and their life is literally at stake?  If they obviously have the means to leave, what’s keeping them in the relationship?  This problem isn’t unique to Westover.  We’ve all heard about people who remain in abusive relationships and situations, as confusing as it seems to outsiders.  So Westover’s accounts of her struggle is incredibly honest.

I also appreciated the gradual change she made in her worldview.  Not everything she had been taught was wrong, but she had to analyze everything and come to her own conclusions.  Sometimes she admitted she didn’t have the answers and didn’t understand.  I think that’s a mark of a truly educated person.  I’ve tried to do that in my own life.  Religion, politics, lifestyles…I’ve had to think about all of that and accept that other people think and live differently.  Another quality of an educated person is to continue thinking about these things and being open to change.

I wish Westover happiness and acceptance in her future.  I also recommend this book to everyone because it’s important to realize that as foreign as her previous situation sounds to many of us, it still happens to people in this modern era in which we live.  Take it from me, it’s thought provoking and will make you think about your own upbringing, beliefs, and actions.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, interesting subject, thought provoking.

The Girls Who Went Away

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The Girls Who Went Away

By:  Ann Fessler
Published:  2006
# of pages:  354
Quote:  “According to the prevailing double standard, the young man who was equally responsible for the pregnancy was not condemned for his actions. It was her fault, not their fault, that she got pregnant. This was in that period of time when there wasn’t much worse that a girl could do. They almost treated you like you had committed murder or something.”

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Goodreads description:

A powerful and groundbreaking revelation of the secret history of the 1.5 million women who surrendered children for adoption in the several decades before Roe v. Wade

In this deeply moving work, Ann Fessler brings to light the lives of hundreds of thousands of young single American women forced to give up their newborn children in the years following World War II and before Roe v. WadeThe Girls Who Went Away tells a story not of wild and carefree sexual liberation, but rather of a devastating double standard that has had punishing long-term effects on these women and on the children they gave up for adoption. Based on Fessler’s groundbreaking interviews, it brings to brilliant life these women’s voices and the spirit of the time, allowing each to share her own experience in gripping and intimate detail. Today, when the future of the Roe decision and women’s reproductive rights stand squarely at the front of a divisive national debate, Fessler brings to the fore a long-overlooked history of single women in the fifties, sixties, and early seventies.

In 2002, Fessler, an adoptee herself, traveled the country interviewing women willing to speak publicly about why they relinquished their children. Researching archival records and the political and social climate of the time, she uncovered a story of three decades of women who, under enormous social and family pressure, were coerced or outright forced to give their babies up for adoption. Fessler deftly describes the impossible position in which these women found themselves: as a sexual revolution heated up in the postwar years, birth control was tightly restricted, and abortion proved prohibitively expensive or life endangering. At the same time, a postwar economic boom brought millions of American families into the middle class, exerting its own pressures to conform to a model of family perfection. Caught in the middle, single pregnant women were shunned by family and friends, evicted from schools, sent away to maternity homes to have their children alone, and often treated with cold contempt by doctors, nurses, and clergy.

The majority of the women Fessler interviewed have never spoken of their experiences, and most have been haunted by grief and shame their entire adult lives. A searing and important look into a long-overlooked social history, The Girls Who Went Away is their story.

My review:  I heard about this book and decided to read it for a few reasons, one of which is that adoption/fostering is something my family is considering.  I’m glad I read it and I want to start by saying that if anyone you know has surrendered a child or has been surrendered, you should tell them about this book.  Even if it wasn’t in the time period this book concentrates on, this is still relevant today.

This book stirred up a lot of feelings.  I’ve always looked at adoption from the adoptive parents’ point of view.  This changed the way I view the whole process and it really makes me wonder how things have changed in the years the 50s, 60s, 70s.  And how international adoption then and now works.  Also, thinking about the religious aspect makes me especially sad.  Even after abortion was legal, it was frowned upon by the religious community so you would still have young women feeling pressured to give up their child because abortion wasn’t a choice, but single motherhood was also frowned upon because it meant you were caught in your sin.

As far as abortion goes, it wasn’t really mentioned at all in the book.  I feel that Roe vs. Wade shouldn’t even be mentioned in the title.  It may have changed theea women’s stories to some degree, but honestly, I’m not sure it would have been any better at that point in time.  Women who choose abortion often face extreme feelings of guilt, inadequacy, low self esteem, and the “what ifs” similar to what the young women in this book went on to feel after they surrendered their babies.  It’s a decision that needs to be made carefully and followed up with counseling, which the professionals at the time didn’t think was needed for adoption and probably wouldn’t have provided it for abortion either.

I read some reviews on Goodreads and several people mentioned how tedious they thought the stories became because they were so repetitive.  However, that’s the whole point of this book.  Millions of young women went through this and it’s heartbreaking that their stories are so similar.  That’s the worst part.  It wouldn’t be so remarkable if their stories were extremely different or if only a few were shared.  The large number of stories in the book that are “just alike” make the reader realize that this was something common even if it isn’t talked about or shared, even 30+ years later.  Maybe your grandparents or parents went through this and you don’t even know.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  The author has personal experience with the subject and that is clear in the way she wrote the book, the interviews were honest and real, the subject is important.

Gracie: A Love Story

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Gracie: A Love Story

By: George Burns
Published: 1988
# of pages:
319

Goodreads description:

Her name was Gracie Allen, but she was on a first-name basis with America. There was only one Gracie, and Gracie: A Love Letter is the story of her life, as told by the only person who could, George Burns. Brings to life the charming woman who was smart enough to become the dumbest woman in show business history.

My review:  My mother-in-law gave me a copy of this book after telling me a little about it first.  I’m so glad she did because I would never have picked this up and given it a chance otherwise.  I had vaguely heard of George Burns and Gracie Allen before this, but I didn’t know anything about them, but they have a fun story.

This biography is written by George Burns, vaudeville/television/film star who was married to Gracie Allen, also a vaudeville/television/film star.  They worked together on stage and were able to convert their act to television when it became popular.

Burns is a great storyteller and the narrative was filled with lighthearted jokes and quips, usually at his own expense.  Just when that becomes overwhelming, he changes the tone to be more serious while discussing Gracie and how quietly intelligent and practical she was.  Honestly, it’s amazing that I was able to thoroughly enjoy a biography written about a person and by a person I never cared about before reading this book.  Now that I’ve read it I’d like to look up an episode of their TV show just to see them in action.  They also starred in a film with Fred Astaire that I’d also like to watch.

Gracie sounds like an amazing woman and I only wish there had been more serious discussion about her day-to-day life.  It’s great that George gives her the credit for their success and that one of his reasons for writing the book was to tell everyone that she wasn’t as ditsy as she made herself out to be.  But she sounded so fun, I wish I could transport myself back in time to meet her.

I recommend this to everyone.  Even if you don’t think it’s something you’d enjoy, give it a chance!

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, funny yet sincere, interesting.

Elon Musk

25541028Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

By:  Ashlee Vance
Published:  2015
# of pages:  392

5Stars

Goodreads description:

In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.
Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our time: can the nation of inventors and creators which led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk–one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history–is a contemporary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

My opinion:  I added this to my TBR list after my husband told me a little about the car company Tesla.  He didn’t mention Musk by name, but just talked a little about the company.  I was interested, but not overly so.  When I saw this biography on Goodreads, I decided to check it out, especially since I’m always looking for books my husband will enjoy too.  I’m very glad I decided to give it a try even though non-fiction in general, especially biographies, aren’t what I usually read.  I’m glad I checked it out since it’s an awesome book about a man who has created some impressive companies.

This biography tells the story of Elon Musk and how he became the founder/co-founder /major shareholder of companies such as PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity.  Basically, he took the concept of a Silicon Valley startup and went on to create major industries that are completely different than anything that came before.  Aerospace and car manufacturers have been around for decades, but Musk has not only created new spacecraft and cars, he’s changed the entire manufacturing processes to make those products.

I’m not terribly interested in space travel, but I was impressed with how much cheaper Musk has made launching rockets and transporting things to space.  I also admire his goal in reducing waste in the aerospace industry by reusing rockets.  Musk’s plans to travel to Mars actually seem possible to me after reading about how determined he is and how he’s created these companies through all kinds of trials.

I also fell in love with Tesla.  I’m ready to buy one!  Once again, I’m impressed with how Musk has deviated from the traditional auto industry through design, the manufacturing process, and the process of selling Tesla’s vehicles.  I’ve been on Tesla’s website a few times and visited some forums discussing the Model X SUV to find out more about Tesla.  I can’t afford a Model S or Model X, but maybe someday I could buy one used or maybe the Model 3 at some point after it’s released.

I wish more people who are as innovative and determined as Musk would come to be involved in other industries, companies, and even government.  Just because something has always been run a certain way doesn’t mean that way is best.  The fact that Musk has turned the space and auto industry upside down gives me hope that other things in the U.S. and other parts of the world can drastically change to be more cost effective, more creative, more efficient, and less wasteful.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  A very well written biography that held my attention, fairly portrayed Musk, and described technical things in a way even I can understand.

The Radium Girls

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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
By:  Kate Moore
Published:  2017
# of pages:  399
Challenge:
  Full House (non-fiction)

5Stars

Goodreads description:

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger.

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive – until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

My opinion:  Wow, I don’t really know how to start.  This book made a large impact on me.  I’m so thankful that Kate Moore chose to tell the story of “the radium girls,” so many courageous women who played such an important part of U.S. history.  

The book is a non-fiction that follows the stories of two groups of women who worked at two different dial painting companies that used paint containing radium to produce light up watches, clocks, and instrument panels.  One was in Orange, New Jersey and the other in Ottowa, Illinois.  Moore sketches brief biographies of many women, but she concentrates on ten women in particular: the women who chose to stand up and publicly fight the companies who were responsible for not only exposing them to radium poisoning, but purposefully deceiving them in regards to the danger.

It was horrifying to read much of this book.  I kept wishing I could go back in time and stop the women from trusting their supervisors and putting the brushes in their mouths to shape them, playing with the paint, eating at their desks, taking the paint home to let their siblings play with it, etc.  The descriptions of their physical health problems was also heartbreaking to read.  I was also so frustrated when they were trying to find both medical and legal help.  Not only do I feel so thankful to Moore for telling the stories of these women and what they went through to make the future a safer place, I feel so thankful for the few doctors, dentists, lawyers, and reporters who helped the women.  Those professionals, along with the women, are true U.S. heroes.

And one of my final thoughts – is this situation that seems so obvious to us today truly something that will stay in history?  Is there something today that we come into regular contact with/ingest/medicate with that is deemed safe by medical professionals and the government but is actually dangerous?  I’d say the average person in the U.S. is quick to say that certain vaccines, medications, etc. are safe because they are recommended by doctors, the FDA has approved them, etc, etc.  But perhaps we don’t  know everything and it’s only a matter of time before we are horrified to discover the side effects of something that seems so safe.  Just food for thought…

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Kate Moore did a fantastic job making a non-fiction book, including details and statistics, interesting and she also brought the women to life.  I was amazed that I had never heard of these women or even the aftermath that industries using radium had on the environment.  It’s important to hear more about these forgotten (hidden) parts of history.

 

 

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts
By: Joshua Hammer

Published: 2016

# of pages: 280

Challenge: Full HouseWhat’s in a Name?

Official description:  To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.
In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers.
In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.
Over the past twenty years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara’s heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali’s—and the world’s—literary patrimony. Hammer explores the city’s manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants’ march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.


My opinion: I wish this book had pictures and more descriptions of the actual librarians who risked their lives to save the manuscripts. The book mainly concentrates on the terrorism in Mali and North Africa, which is necessary to the story of the libraries. The problem for me is that there were more details about the terrorists themselves, including the history of several of the leaders, than about the librarians. The only librarian that is really discussed is Haidara, and he didn’t physically transport the books. It was awesome that he organized everything, but I wish the readers could learn more about his nephew Touré and others who were smuggling the books.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars: Interesting read about a subject I had never heard of before, but most of the book had nothing to do with the title, which leads readers to believe they will be reading about true heroes and not the “bad guys.”

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

His Needs, Her Needs

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
By:  Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Published: 2001
# of pages: 224

Official description: Marriage works only when each spouse takes the time to consider the other’s needs and strives to meet them. In His Needs, Her Needs, Willard Harley identifies the ten most vital needs of men and women and shows husbands and wives how to satisfy those needs in their spouses. He provides guidance for becoming irresistible to your spouse and for loving more creatively and sensitively, thereby eliminating the problems that often lead to extramarital affairs. The revised anniversary edition of His Needs, Her Needs is a celebration of how the book has helped thousands of couples revitalize their marriages during the last fifteen years. This best-seller identifies the causes of marital difficulties and instructs couples on how to prevent them, guiding them to build a relationship that sustains romance and increases intimacy. With today’s soaring divorce rate and prevalence of affairs, Harley’s insights are needed more than ever before.An unabridged recording of His Needs, Her Needs, the 15th anniversary edition, is now available as an audio book.

My opinion:  I changed this from 3 stars to 2 stars after thinking about it overnight. First of all, this book is obviously written by a man! Someone who has never given birth or stayed at home full time with babies/toddlers/preschoolers. 

Secondly, the book definitely uses fear and negativity throughout the chapters. I understand that probably every family that deals with a cheating spouse never thought it would happen to them, but I don’t think that it is as common as the author makes it out to be, and even if it is, I don’t think it’s necessary to continually use guilt and scare tactics to make the reader feel insecure. 

Third, the author uses modern ideas of beauty in his chapter on physical appearance. Men should appreciate a woman’s natural beauty. A woman shouldn’t have to put chemicals on her face, on her skin, or in her hair to keep her husband from cheating on her. It wasn’t so long ago that makeup, hair dyes, and trendy hair and clothes were not beautiful to American men and women. Prostitutes were the ones wearing makeup and dying their hair. Now the typical American’s idea of a beautiful woman is very thin, tan, wearing makeup, and highlighted hair. It is just a phase and women shouldn’t feel forced to take place in that just to make a man happy. There is always going to be someone prettier that your husband comes into contact with to put more “love units” into his “bank.” If that’s what it takes for him to cheat, it won’t matter what you do to make him happy with your physical appearance.

There are some positive ideas in the book. His advice about affection and mutual activities are very helpful. It is also helpful to know that men and women have different needs and that it may be uncomfortable, but trying to meet some of those needs will be helpful in your marriage



Why I gave this book 2/5 stars: Negative, untrue concepts, some good ideas

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.