THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST/ SAMANTHA POWER/ DIPLOMACY MATTERS

I just completed former UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s memoir THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST. She is also the author of A Problem from Hell, America and the Age of Genocide which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Her latest book is extremely timely in light of the current focus on diplomacy as the result of the Trump impeachment inquiry. It’s insight  during Power’s earlier career as a reporter in Bosnia has direct ties to what is currently happening to the Kurds in Syria.

THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST is a deep dive into foreign policy during the Obama Administration and how diplomacy and the UN functions.  Power writes, It is true that the foundation of US leadership abroad is the strength of our democracy at home. But it is also indisputable that the policies we pursue overseas can have huge effects-good and bad-on our daily lives.

Let me hasten to add that Power is remarkably candid in this memoir. She came to America with her divorced mother as an immigrant from Ireland. She prospered, became an acclaimed reporter starting from the ground up filing stories on spec from the war zone in Bosnia. That background led her to serving in the Obama administration and ultimately being appointed and con firmed to the UN Ambassadorship. In light of current events the book is extremely relevant as evidenced in this Power quote. The insistence of diplomats to go on serving their country, even when being ignored and insulted, because they know that our nation is bigger than any one leader. Prescient!

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says it best.  Samantha Power’s captivating memoir is a rare and intimate revelation of the inner workings of international diplomacy as well as a heartwarming beacon of a book for young women and men everywhere.

 

EDUCATED/TARA WESTOVER/ ASTONISHING!

i just finished reading The New York Times  best selling memoir, Educated by Tara Westover.  More on that in a moment, but first I transgress too when I first read the classic novel Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. Why?  When Wolfe’s heralded novel was first published  some literary critics charged that it was not in fact a novel but rather an auto-biography. Some accused Wolfe with telling his life story, an autobiography, rather than creating an original manuscript.  When Look Homeward Angel was published in 1929 the term Memoir was not part of the general descriptions of literary work. Autobiography covered that category.
Now, back too Educated, a memoir. Tara Westover’s life story is so incredulous that this reader was tested on page after page as to whether I was reading a  novel or a memoir. My thoughts were the flip-side  of Look Homeward Angel as I observed , “This can’t be a novel it must be true.” I mean to offer no criticism of Educated or Westover for telling of her remarkable story.  Having read many, many excellent  memoirs ( search gordonsgoodreds.com ), I have  no problems with  memoir authors adopting the necessity of some literary license in bringing a story to life. If you read the memoir  The Glass Castle , by comparison, you may find  Educated a story that in places boarders on disbelief. I make that observation not as criticism but in awe of Westover’s survival and success.
Turn the pages and enjoy.   

THE HEARTBEAT OF WOUNDED KNEE/TRAGEDY/HOPE SURVIVAL

David Truer is a Ojibwe Native American from the Leech Reservation in northern Minnesota. Truer has a PhD in anthropology and is a prolific author and professor at the University of Southern California. His latest book, THE HEARTBEAT OF WOUNDED KNEE, NATIVE AMERICA FROM 1890 TO THE PRESENT is a combination of memoir and a work of historical non-fiction.

The books prologue is a sweeping history of the Native American story from the arrival of the first North American explorers, the colonists, westward expansion and the decimation of the Native American way of life through to the 1890 massacre of over 150 Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek.

Truer’s focus turns to the ensuing Indian reservations, forced “civilization,” Indian boarding schools, the allotment system of Indian land, broken treaties and false promises. Truer, through his  personal experience, details what Native Americans have been overcoming since Wounded Knee. Even from all of the heartbreak come rays of hope as evidenced in Truer’s own uncommon story of survival and success.

Within the pages of Gordon’s Good Reads, followers will find many volumes written of the Native American story and THE HEARTBEAT OF WOUNDED KNEE earns an important place among those narratives.  Another non-fiction work by David Truer is, Rez Life: An  Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life.  His latest work is titled  Prudence, a novel of WWII.

Throughout the  pages within Wounded Knee the word heartbreak can be easily substituted for heartbeat. Words not easily separated in the telling and re-telling of the Native American story.

 

ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN/ A MEMOIR GORDON HASTINGS

This is a personal Memoir by the editor of Gordon’s Good Reads. Rocky Road To Dublin is now available at Amazon. 

A young boy grows up during period of innocence in the womb of a small Massachusetts town. His bucolic world implodes with the tragic death of his mother opening the pathway to an incredible story of trust and love between a father and son.

This extraordinary dad was neither a captain of industry or master of the universe. He was an unassuming man of modest means and little formal education. He proudly carried his lunch pail every day and dedicated his hard labor and his life to his family. He met the challenge of a family tragedy armed only with his native intelligence, honesty, loyalty and love. He was victorious even in his own death.

The Hastings’s were a typical small town rural nuclear household, mother, father and three children. The father teaches life lessons by his own example. He is intuitive in recognizing his son’s anxieties and panic attacks. Everyday chores become adventures that lay the groundwork for an abiding trust that they will soon rely upon heavily. The 1940s and 1950s in this small neighborly New England community are a time warp but the lessons learned there resonate.

The predictable routine of a secure childhood is dashed by the unexpected sudden death of the boy’s mother when he was eleven. Dad, a factory worker, overnight at age fifty-two is catapulted into becoming a single parent of three children all under sixteen. He must keep his family together knowing that his youngest is the most fragile of all.

Father and son create a life filled with simple yet great truths about dealing with life’s travails. They bring out the best in one-another as a dad dedicates himself to giving his son confidence and encouragement. He gently nudges his boy away from the confines of a small town and into a future of which he once dreamed for himself.

Then it becomes the son’s turn, as he must cope with the tragedy of the father’s untimely illness and death. The wonderful memories of their life together nourished their final hours.

 

 

 

 

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS/MAYA ANGELOU

I came to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings only recently.

I consider myself fortunate that my tardiness did not preclude this Memoir of Maya Angelou’s adolescence. The openness of the beautifully written narrative is welcoming to the reader. The vivid details of a black child growing up in Arkansas under her grandmother’s loving care is all-encompassing.

Don’t wait. You will thank me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIANT OF THE SENATE/FRANKEN/ ROBUST SATIRE FINDS TRUTH

Al Franken  is a wonderful writer and story-teller and GIANT of the SENATE  is a  powerful memoir and a highly recommended read.

GIANT of the SENATE is filled with insight into Franken the individual (SNL), his politics, the legislative process  and skewers many of the political personalities of our time.   Franken has no problem pulling out the daggers shrouded in his unique brand of humor. His use of satire energizes the narrative.

Franken covers all the terrain. Health care, bi-partisanship, immigration, begging for money, running for office and the degrees of comity among senators.  This insightful book is for readers who love politics and Franken’s style makes the lessons enjoyable. Of course, it is a call to arms for Progressives:

” Even if you don’t run for office, in order to be part of determining what our shared future looks like, you have to be willing to give up things like time, energy and money…. You have to endure an overwhelming amount of noise and  nonsense… and the worst part is, you’re not guaranteed a return on your investment…..but I’ll tell you this: I’m glad I’m here. ”

I wholeheartedly agree with Franken that we should strike the word “robust” from political discourse even though I satirically used it in the headline. You’ll see!

Also from Al Franken:  Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot, Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them- A Fair and Balanced look at the Right and The Truth (with jokes).

 

 

 

 

HILLBILLY ELEGY/ A BEST SELLING MEMOIR

Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir written by J.D. Vance , is a brisk read that has established itself on the New York Times Best Seller List.  The book is a captivating personal story with a broad reach into class distinctions within American society.  Vance extends the hillbilly narrative beyond the hollers of his Kentucky heritage.

I am reminded of two similar memoirs,  Jeannette  Walls’ The Glass Castle  and Tobias Wolff’s  This Boy’s Life.  I would not attempt a ranking here but the status of Wall’s book as a best seller in this genre speaks for itself.  Time will tell if Hillbilly Elegy has similar staying power.

J.D Vance’s personal story is  a narrative of a culture that few American’s know or understand.  It’s impact is broadened because it is contemporary and opens a greater understanding of the polemic in which the country finds itself today.

Narrated with  shocking honesty, Vance’s story took  great courage to tell. It is deserving of your summer reading list.

J.D. Vance is a graduate of Yale Law School and is an Investment Banker in San Francisco.