Reconnect@RRPL – Keep Calm … and Read Historical Fiction

2020 has been something else! To escape, lately I’ve been reading one historical fiction novel after another. Not only does taking a peek at the trials and tribulations across centuries help me feel like we really don’t have it that bad, but it is also really entertaining.

The atmospheric The Lost Orphan by Stacy Halls is set in 1754 in London. Bess is a street hawker of shrimp who is forced, due to poverty, to give up her illegitimate day-old daughter to the nearby foundling hospital, with the intention to reclaim her one day. Six years pass before Bess has enough money to do just that, but instead learns that the girl has already been taken, years previously, by someone claiming to be Bess. As she seeks to find out what happened to her little girl, Bess’s story is contrasted with that of a wealthy woman who, under the guise of protecting her own young daughter from the dangers of London, does not allow her to leave the confines of their home. This captivating novel about family, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood is a good reminder that the struggle between the haves and have-nots is indeed a very old story.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is another page-turning historical about the plight of less fortunate women. It is set in the early 19th-century in Van Diemen’s land, a penal colony in Australia, where thousands of convicts were shipped from overcrowded English prisons and forced to provide free labor to the settlers there. This novel follows the journey of two such young English women, Evangeline and Hazel, both of whom were wrongly accused and imprisoned. Their stories intertwine with that of an Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, who at the age of eight is adopted as a “curiosity” by white colonists who attempt to “civilize” her. Impeccably researched, this novel educates and enthralls. I read it in one sitting.

Perhaps you also need an escape. Find it in these and other books when you Reconnect@RRPL.

-Carol

5Days4Democracy: Wrap-Up

Why Democracy? –Citizenship– Protest–Advocacy– and Why Vote?

These are the topics we discussed this week, and what an incredible time to be talking about them! It’s no secret that the United States is living in tumultuous political times, full of discord, strong opinions, and heartfelt concern for how to protect our democracy and the principles on which our nation was founded.

I think many of us who were born and raised in the U.S. take democracy for granted. We can’t imagine any other way and believe that of course, we should have a say in the laws that govern and define us! As difficult as these political times have been, one good thing that has come from it is more and more people taking an interest in “politics” and the people we are electing to represent us. For years, much of the population has been complacent about voting, about government policies- believing “neither party is any good”, “no matter what I do, politicians are crooks.”

But difficult and volatile political times have caused many people to rise to the challenge of living in a democratic community. Feeling the risk to “life as we know it” has caused us to realize that important issues such as healthcare, welfare, social security, homelessness, poverty are not political issues- they are human issues that affect us all. Political awareness, activism, and plans to vote are on the rise among young people. According to a Tufts CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning and Engagement) survey,

“Young people see 2020 as a time to exercise their potential power. Overall, 83% of those surveyed believe young people have the power to change the country, 60% say they feel they are part of a movement that will vote to express its views, and 79% of young people say the COVID-19 pandemic has helped them realize that politics impact their everyday lives.”

Tufts University Tisch College · CIRCLE
Source: CIRCLE/Tisch College 2020 Pre-Election Youth Poll “New Poll: Young People Energized for Unprecedented 2020 Election”, June 30, 2020.

I believe one good thing happening this election year is that everyone, young and old, are beginning to believe it’s never too late to advocate for what you believe in, to truly work towards the good of all people–for these are the things that make a great nation and a great democracy. Thank you to the City Club of Cleveland for giving us a chance to celebrate 5Days4Democracy.

November 3, 2020

5Days4Democracy: Why Vote?

In preparation for this blog posting I ran across the following and am including a sampling of opinions.

100 Influential Women on Why They’re Voting in the 2020 Election

 https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a33264457/women-voting-2020 election/ 

 Stacey Abrams, 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate; Founder of Fair Fight Action

“I am voting because voting is power.” 

Madeline Albright, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN; former U.S. Secretary of State

“It is the privilege and responsibility of every U.S. citizen to vote this November.” 

Nikki Haley, Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN

“Voting allows us to make America more free, more just, and more equal for all.”

 Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator (D-MN); 2020 presidential candidate

 “Vote because it’s your right—and your responsibility.”

Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. National Security Advisor; former U.S. Secretary of State

“Voting is the most important way to make our voice heard in pushing for change toward a better America in which all can prosper.” 

Continuing my research, I found an excellent article available through the EBSCOhost database patrons have access to at the Rocky River Public Library’s website under “Research Resources”. In the article Shonda Rhimes interviews Michelle Obama about voting and its importance.

Rhimes, S. (2020). Why You Need to Vote. Harper’s Bazaar, 3684, 72.

“…At the end of the day, someone is going to be making the decisions about how much money your schools get and how tax money is distributed. Voting gives you a say in those matters. It can also be your way of saying that you care about your community and the people in it, that you are going to keep showing up and making your voice heard, even when the candidates don’t set your heart on fire. Because if you wait for that to happen, you might be waiting a long time. And meanwhile, the world moves on without you. But when we all vote, in all elections, we get the kind of responsive leadership that speaks for our families and our communities…” 

Michelle Obama states that “when you don’t vote, you are giving away your power to someone else—someone who doesn’t see the world the same as you. You’re letting them make some really key decisions about the way you live.”

Check out the City Club Forum at https://www.cityclub.org/forums

Friday, October 02, 2020, 12:30 p.m. (Virtual Forum)

5Days4Democracy: Protests

Protests are as American as apple pie. Since that December day in 1773 when colonists dumped 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act of 1773, Americans have used protests to make their voices heard and to advocate for change.

Throughout our history peaceful protests, which are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, have resulted in significant changes to our laws, our culture, and even our Constitution. Here a few of our most well known protests:

Women’s Suffrage Parade, March 13, 1913

This march, on the eve of President elect Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, was the first of many large demonstration in favor of giving women the right to vote. It would take another seven years to get the 19th Amendment ratified, which finally gave women the vote, though in practice it was primarily white women who got to vote. It would take another twenty years for Asian-American immigrants to gain suffrage and 45 years for Black American and Native American voter rights to be guaranteed with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While suffrage for all women is now part of the Constitution, women are still waiting for protections under the Equal Rights Amendment of 1923 to be ratified.

We are all familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but did you know that idea for the famous march came from civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph in 1941? Randolph organized a march to protest FDR’s New Deal programs and the exclusion of Black people from post WWII jobs. The march never happened because Roosevelt issued an order to prohibit discrimination in hiring for government and defense jobs. In 1963 Randolph, backed by the NAACP and King, with the support of Southern Christian Leadership Conference joined forces for one large march for jobs and freedom. Their joined forces led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further protests let to the Voting Rights Act a year later in 1965.

The Stonewall Riot, June 28, 1969

From 1952-1987 homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in the DSM. In the 50’s and 60’s it was not unusual for the police to raid gay bars and harass patrons. When police raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, people had had enough and fought back. Protests lasted for six days and resulted in a more cohesive gay and lesbian community and lead to the development of new gay rights organizations. The one year anniversary was recognized with the first Pride parade. Since the 1990s the Supreme Court has ruled on a number of landmark cases that decriminalized homosexuality, legalizing gay marriage, and recently, making it illegal to fire an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Americans have taken to the streets to protest against wars, nuclear weapons, and tax policies. They have taken to the streets in solidarity. They have marched in favor of science and rights for marginalized communities. They have marched for women and the environment and gun control laws.

Today there are active protests occurring throughout the United States. Citizens have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against Black people. Americans are preparing rallies and marches against evictions and the inclusion of 1619 Project in school curriculums. Citizens are marching for Breonna Taylor, in remembrance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and in support of the police.

Democracy depends on the participation of citizens. Protests are just one means of participating and advocating for change.

Reconnect @ RRPL – #GrumpLit

There are so many fans of A Man Called Ove, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and books along those lines, that there is indeed a hashtag for books starring lovable curmudgeons. I am not sure why this is a trend but let’s face it, Charles Dickens gave us Ebenezer Scrooge and we’ve wanted more ever since. So stop your scowling, because I may have found your next new favorite book!

In The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons, Eudora is an 85-year-old with no friends or family in her life. Although in decent physical shape (she swims laps at the local pool almost daily), Eudora considers herself done living. Having cared for her mother at her own end, Eudora never wants to be in a position where she is forced to rely on someone else when she can no longer care for herself. She’s decided she will end things on her own terms and has written to a clinic in Switzerland that promises to allow her to do just that. Eudora is eagerly awaiting to be accepted into this program when she meets and is befriended by her new neighbors’ daughter, Rose, an adorable, wise-beyond-her-years 10-year-old with a built-in wild fashion sense and an inability to take “no” for an answer.

Rose inserts herself into Eudora’s world, bringing along another older neighbor and widower named Stanley. Their kindness and exuberance for life forces Eudora outside of her comfort zone, and she finds herself not only trying new things, but also reflecting on her past and the possibilities of what might lie ahead.

Although you’ll need a handkerchief nearby (not a Kleenex—Eudora is a classy lady), this novel is ultimately a feel-good story that will lift your spirits and make you laugh out loud.

-Carol

Great Book Series to Great TV Series

I was late to reading Michael Connelly’s excellent, hard-boiled crime novels starring Harry Bosch as a tough, no-nonsense war veteran and LAPD cop, a modern-day Philip Marlowe, who goes after justice no matter what it takes. Connelly started writing about Bosch in 1992 and there are now 20 books in the series. I’m not yet through with them all but am enthralled and entertained so far by the series’ fast-paced action, its true-to-life descriptions of relationships and police work, and its gritty and bustling setting of Los Angeles, where just about anything can and does happen.

Late to the party as I am, I guess it also makes sense that I’ve only just discovered that the series “Bosch” was adapted for television in 2014 by Amazon who has just ordered its seventh and final season. With the weather turning chillier, I’m looking forward to working my way through all of them.

So far, I’ve binged-watched the first season, which stars Titus Welliver who magnificently embodies Bosch. Let me tell you, he’s not the only thing about this series that won’t disappoint. Unlike most TV adaptations, in fact, each of the characters in “Bosch” feel as real and complex as they are portrayed in the novels and some of the novels’ characters get even more developed on the screen. This is likely due to the fact that Michael Connelly serves as an executive producer and writer for the show. And, despite updating Bosch’s timeline as well (in the books he is a Vietnam vet but has served in the Gulf war and Afghanistan on the show), everything else rings just about right for this reader/viewer.

Want to jump in? No, I can’t buy you an Amazon Prime membership, but I can tell you to start reading the series with book #1, The Black Echo

-Carol