A Woman of No Importance

“A Woman of No Importance” by Sonia Purnell

This book is about Virginia Hall, a woman of great importance who rarely received recognition for her accomplishments as an American Spy. She was born of privilege but spent her entire adult life fighting for peace during World War II and the years that followed. In 1942 a transmission from the Gestapo termed her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies” saying that they “must find and destroy her.”

Details of Hall’s exploits are riveting and I found this book hard to put down. She fought in France for the Resistance and then in many other countries for the Allied forces. Her assignments were as dangerous and physically demanding as those of any male’s and she carried them out with precision despite having an artificial leg. Many of those she worked with were not even aware of her disability.

I have read extensively about WWII but I had not heard of Virginia Hall and had no idea that women were used as spies on the frontlines of armed conflict. In fact, few did, but Hall fought bravely and saved many lives by her efforts. She should be a hero to us all. I recommend this thrilling true story.

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A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London.

 

 

Book Review: “Educated”

“Educated” by Tara Westover

Tara Westover’s memoir is both enlightening and frightening. She tells the story of her life growing up within a large family of children who were “homeschooled” in name only. They actually had no education at all except what they taught themselves. The author was seventeen-years-old the first time she entered a classroom. Amazingly she earned a PhD from Cambridge in 2014. This is her first book and I recommend it.

Westover recounts growing up in the shadow of a beautiful Idaho mountain on which her father owned a junkyard. Her mother was a midwife who helped support the family by selling medical remedies made from herbs and oils. The children received no immunizations and never saw a doctor through illnesses and serious injuries that children should never have to endure.

The father of this family was a religious zealot and all decisions were made by him based upon his interpretation of the Bible. To make matters worse he was mentally unstable as was one of the sons. The result of these factors made growing up emotionally as well as physically dangerous.

Tara Westover’s journey to become “educated” is troubling but very inspiring. Her memoir is a #1 New York Times bestseller.

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Instincts

Do you follow your gut instincts and if so are they usually right?

I believe we are given instincts for a reason and I do try to pay attention to what my “gut” tells me. If I am in a place that is potentially unsafe and I have the feeling I should not take a certain direction, or elevator perhaps, then I don’t take that way. It has never failed me.

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“It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.” Sigmund Freud

Brain Diagram (1 altered) by Pixabay

by Solomon Abrams

It’s no accident that:
We learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B. DuBois
We learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington.
We learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves.
We learned about black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street.
We learned about the New Deal, but not “red lining.”
We learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals.
We learned about “black crime,” but white criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race.
We learned about “states rights” as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the articles of secession.
Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.
Racism is perpetuated by people (and systems) who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality.
You have a choice.

Red Summer

Tonight, the President of the United States will hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Many believe the rally should not be held there because of the city’s history of violence against African Americans almost 100 years ago. Tulsa was only one of many cities wherein Black Americans were tortured, beaten, burned, or hanged during the so called “Red Summer.”

Red Summer occurred in 1919 and lasted from late winter through early autumn and took place in over three dozen cities in the United States. The NAACP and other activist groups organized peaceful protests that were soon overrun by white supremacists leading to the months’ long riots that burned Black-owned businesses, homes, and families.

I wonder what city might be exempt from the history of such events and therefore appropriate for political rallies.

I wonder how many of you readers learned about this time in American history during your years in school. I know that I did not. I don’t think it is by accident that we were not taught about this and other times of conflict between White and Black Americans.

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This photograph taken June 1, 1921, is part of a collection at the University of Tulsa.            (USA Today)
St. Louis Red Summer
Photo from Bing

20 Bucks

Case 1

Several months ago, a college student was shopping at a craft store. She paid with a $20 bill which she had received at another retail establishment. The clerk checking out her order looked at the bill and said, “I’m sorry, but this is counterfeit.” The student was shocked and produced another bill that was accepted. Except for the embarrassment that was the end of that.

Case 2

On May 25, 2020, a man was in a grocery store. He paid with a $20 bill that was deemed counterfeit. The police were called. Four officers arrived and handcuffed the man. He died while being restrained by an officer’s knee.

What do you think was different in these two cases?

I know the person in Case #1 and she is white.

I do not know the black man in Case #2 but I have witnessed his murder.

The Body

“THE BODY – A Guide for Occupants” by Bill Bryson

The size of this big book might be off-putting but if you are interested in how your body works I suggest you read it. Being a Registered Nurse I wondered if this would be of interest to me since I expected it to be just anatomy and physiology with which I’m familiar. But, when I realized that the author was the same witty Bill Bryson who I had read before, I wanted to give it a try.  Read more about this prolific author here:      https://crookedcreek.live/2019/07/04/bill-bryson-book-review/

This fascinating book is twenty-three chapters long, beginning with the skin and hair and ending with the end, i.e., death. Each system of the body is described along with its functions. There is much history included regarding discoveries and photos of those who made them. Anecdotes included are purely Bill Bryson showing off his dry humor from time to time. Borrow or invest in this operator’s manual for your body!

This book has won much acclaim including The New York Times bestseller and The Washington Post book of the year.

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On Tyranny

Here’s a book that I recommend for all citizens of a democracy. It’s cheap, it’s small but it is loaded with information that we need.

“On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder

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In the twentieth century, many Europeans saw their democracies yield to fascism, communism, or Nazism. Twenty years into the twenty-first century we have the advantage of this knowledge but we must be aware and mindful. Timothy Snyder, an Oxford graduate, presents twenty lessons we can learn from the last century.

We need to be prepared for the uncertain years to come and this little book can help us in that effort. I recommend that you read “On Tyranny” soon.

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“Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present.” —The New York Times

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

“The Travelling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa

When I borrowed this book I was expecting a silly cat story. Boy was I wrong! This is truly a chronicle of a cat who traveled. In fact he traveled all over Japan. The cat is the narrator and he is very funny and wise. His relationship with his master was one that made me smile page after page. This small book is packed full of interconnections of small boys as they grew into adulthood and the emotions run the gamut. I recommend this book for anyone who is an animal lover, especially a lover of cats.

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A book that “speak[s] volumes about our need for connection—human, feline or otherwise” (The San Francisco Chronicle), 

A Rebooted Brain

Do you ever wish you could reboot and start over? I think that sometimes we do and yet maybe not really if you hear the story I want to share with you. I came across a tiny article about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor that piqued my interest so I researched her and was fascinated by what I learned. Dr. Taylor’s profession was the study of the human brain when she had a severe stroke. She refers to it as a “stroke of insight.” She was 37 years old when this disaster struck and she spent the next eight years recovering.

She tells her fascinating story most entertainingly in her Ted Talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_my_stroke_of_insight

 

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Graphics by Pixabay

The Last Lecture

“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

I just read this book for the second time and still found it very interesting and uplifting. Professors often give a “last lecture” at the end of their illustrious careers. Randy Pausch, a tenured professor at Carnegie-Mellon, gave his when he was in his late forties and dying with pancreatic cancer. He had many reasons to give this lecture to an overflow crowd of over 400, but his real audience was his three young children. His talk covered things he wanted his children to know one day because they were too young to remember him and all the love he had for them.

It is a beautiful true story that I think any of us can learn important lessons from, but if you aren’t inclined to read the book you can hear and see Pausch give his Last Lecture on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7zzQpvoYcQ

 

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Leaders

If you could sit down with any influential leaders from any country living or dead; who would it be and what would you say to them?

My Answer:

MOTHER TERESA
WASHINGTON, DC
JUNE 10, 1995

 

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These are my top three at the moment and they need no name tags. What I would say would be unimportant because I would be so interested in hearing what they had to say, but I would probably have a question to get the discussion started.

 

Photos from Wikipedia, Pixabay and Bing in the order above.

Wee Free Men

A Book Review by Dianne Bynum

So much fun, a great escape…It’s April of 2020 and the world is in the throes of a pandemic. I’ve been sick for a month with a virus that no one fully understands. I needed a book like The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. When my fever broke and I began to feel like reading but I was too feeble to walk about, I’d pick up this book and I’d be transported. Transported back to the time when I was a little girl that looked for evidence of fairies. A little girl that was intrigued by witches and wouldn’t have minded it at all if one crossed my path. It was a beautiful book of rolling Celtic hills, herds of sheep and farmhouses where fine butter is produced. But don’t think that this story is a mere fairytale. I found some First Sight while reading this book. I’ll let the Kelda, queen of the Wee Men explain, “First sight is when you can see what is really there, not what your head tells you ought to be there.” There was a lot to think about in this book. I love this line from Granny Aching, “Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voice.” I found strength in those words in a time of such unknown. I’ll have to warn you, there’s lots of “it’s a dream in a dream” stuff that may turn some readers off. You really need to enjoy fantasy before you can earn that Second Thought I spoke of earlier. Also if you’re a fan of Discworld, a series written by Pratchett, you won’t recognize this author. It has some of the same silly humor but this book is deeper and more traditional than the other books that I’ve read by him. I’m lucky to have found this book and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an escape.

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