Books From My Closet

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Archive for the category “Historical Non-Fiction”

She’s a Heroine

Hello Dear Followers,

I have finished “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” by Erin Blakemore and while I don’t know exactly which book I will read next, I have some thoughts to share about Ms. Blakemore’s book.

I loved it. I realized as I was reading that she should be included in the list of authors/characters she mentions as a “heroine” simply for the connections she makes to modern-day life and how she shares many similarities of authors that lived hundreds of years ago.

I loved reading more about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austen, Anne Shirley and many more.  These were girls/women that stood out on their own and became icons in their own right.  I think with this book, Ms. Blakemore has done the same, she is a heroine. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

So a big thank you to Ms. Blakemore for the time she took to write this book and re-introducing me to the heroines we have grown to love.

Until next time…

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We Are All Human

Hello Dear Followers,

I didn’t plan to post tonight, I just got home, but I had a few things to share with you.

First things first – We are doing a giveaway, Ms. Blakemore and myself will give a free copy of “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” to one winner who tells us who their favorite heroine is and why. So reach me on here, on Twitter at @BooksFrMyCloset and on Facebook at Books From My Closet and tell me!

Secondly, reading Ms. Blakemore’s book the last couple of days and learning a bit more about my own favorite heroines I’ve realized as I assume most of you already know about our favorite writers is that we are all human.

All of us have our daily struggles, worries, our happiness and none of us are exempt from that not even the women who have broken the mold and remain a part of our literary lives forever.

Jane Austen

In her introduction, Ms. Blakemore says and I quote, “As women, we are the protagonists of our own personal novels, we are called to be the heroines of our own lives.”

This is so true. We have to be strong every day to deal whatever life throws at us and we somehow have to find a way to survive it all. Ms. Blakemore also said in her introduction, “Luckily, we’re not required to be brave to be heroines…all we have to do is show up for our own stories, even if the reality is less glamorous than fiction.”

I always think these women lived harder lives, and I am sure they did, they had to manage households and rarely got any credit and if they dared to set out on their own and be an individual they were subject of scandal.

Today women, whether you are a writer or not, have to wake up every day and show up for our own life story. So that later we have something to tell. Our struggles, our happiness are all part of our story that may be worth telling someday.

When I was a child I honestly wanted to live Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. I wanted a man just like Almanzo Wilder come pick me up in horse drawn carriage, I must have read “These Happy Golden Years” several times just so I could re-live every moment of her love story, (I was always a romantic).

My other heroine was Louisa May Alcott, I loved “Little Women” so much, I felt I could relate to Jo March’s character in so many ways. I often hoped she would end up with Laurie myself.

When I first saw the movie “Becoming Jane” the story of Jane Austen, I related to her as well, not wanting to conform to what is being demanded of me, I loved that she was a bit awkward, a “height above the company” as Tom Lefroy told her. I loved that she was a bit of elitist, from the way the movie portrayed her, she was all together different. I loved that.

I am not anywhere near being close to these heroines, I get up every day and go to work like everyone else, deal with family and financial obligations just like everyone else. It’s difficult to consider myself as any kind of heroine.

Until next time my dears…

Romance and History

Hello Dear Followers,

For someone who has enjoyed history her entire life, this book certainly was an excellent read. I thought Ms. Lauren did a great job of capturing a time period and  a romance between two people kept me wanting to read more. I do recommend that readers grab a copy of this book and begin reading immediately. I want to personally thank the author for introducing me to this book and allowing me to discover a great read.

I found that I could really relate to the character of Amanda and her travels of historic homes and I feel that the author spoke to not only the history of the time but also captured today’s day and age well. I think she spoke to the past and present very well. I definitely look forward to reading more.  I would welcome the author to speak further as a guest blogger on her book.

Just the other day I myself said I wish I could time travel to a different period, I would choose the 19th century and the early 20th century. What time period would you choose my dear followers? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Until next time..

“Night”

Night by Elie Wiesel

Hello Dear Followers,

If my life wasn’t busy enough with reading and a full-time reporting job, I’ve decided to add another book into my reading regimen. I consider it the “before you go to bed” book. I am reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel. Mr. Wiesel recounts his life in 1944, at the time when he was a teenager living in Sighet, Translyvania. Mr. Wiesel and his family are taken from their home and brought to Auschwitz concentration camp and then to Buchenwald.

While I have only read the first 6o something pages of this book, I am just sickened that there were people that could do such horrific things to a group of human beings treating them like animals simply because of their religion.

This isn’t the first time I am learning about the Holocaust, when I was about 12 or 13, my friend and I participated in what was known as History Day, it was an exhibition competition where we had to single out a time in history and re-create it in some fashion. Well, we built a replica of a concentration camp. And I realize now by reading this account I never really knew or learned about this horrific time in world history.

I kept saying as I was reading, “why isn’t the United States helping these people,” “why aren’t other nations helping these people, why are they going through this.”

Elie Wiesel

It was a terrible time in history and while we don’t live with any certainty in today’s world, I can’t begin to imagine what those people must have gone through. It’s interesting though, I see major similarities between 9/11 and the Holocaust. Horrific is the same word I would use for 9/11 as well. It’s horrible how much control one person had.

I think Mr. Wiesel’s attempt to take himself back to such an unspeakably horrible time in his life and re-live every detail, every emotion is remarkable. I don’t know that I could do it.

Mr. Wiesel writes in his Preface : “There are those who tell me that I survived in order to write this text, I am not convinced. I don’t know how I survived, I was weak, rather shy; I did nothing to save myself. A miracle? Certainly not.”

I don’t agree, I do believe it was a miracle he survived, and maybe he didn’t do anything extraordinary to survive, but the fact that he did and wrote this book to tell his story is remarkable. I had read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and I thought that book was excellent, terribly sad, but excellent.

I think this is definitely worth reading, it is gut wrenching so far, but it definitely worth truly understanding what happened during that time in our history.

Until next time…

L.M. Alcott

Hello Dear Followers,

Well, I finished “Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography” by Susan Cheever. Overall I thought this book was a great read, it really gave me good insight to who Louisa was as a person, her relationships with others in her life, especially her family.

I found myself saddened by the mention of  her death in the end, because through out my reading the book, I found I had somewhat relate to who she was as a person, but I’m sure many of us can.  I thought Ms. Cheever did a great job at describing the various locations in which Louisa lived and traveled.

It made me realize that I need to travel back to Concord at some point soon and really spend a good deal of time there, because I think there is so much to learn about who this woman was.  I thought it was sad when Ms. Cheever said that Louisa had burned some of her journals, could you all imagine how many more books could have come out of that? But I guess some things were to remain private.

Reading through Louisa’s life made me realize how short life can be and how quickly time passes. She carried a great burden of taking care of those she loved for most of her life. She to me, was not only meant to be an excellent writer remembered for generations, but a caretaker remembered by those who loved and knew her best.

I really look forward to reading more about her in the future and hope to do so! I hope you all enjoyed my posts on this book! Later this evening, I will formally announce my new book choice.

Until Then…

Meg,Jo,Beth and Amy

Hello dear followers,

Well, I haven’t reached the end of “Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography,” quite yet, but I’m almost there! I got to the chapter where Susan Cheever begins to talk about Louisa’s journey in writing “Little Women.”

I honestly couldn’t wait to get to this part of the book, I am always fascinated by excellent writers and how their words are crafted into what many believe as works of art.

I was probably around eight or 10-years-old when I first read “Little Women” I was looking for my next “heroine” so to speak, I had just finished the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series and that was when I found Louisa.

I remember getting a short version of “Little Women” that I think left out a lot of the whole story, but at the time I didn’t know any better.

I have to admit I never read any of Louisa’s other books, so I am not sure whether I’ve had the opportunity to fully capture the full essence of who she was as an author.

While reading the chapter on “Little Women” I felt I could relate to Louisa’s struggles in a very minor way when it comes to writing something we don’t necessarily want to write, but we simply have to. I’ve had those days, while I would never compare myself to  Louisa in terms of a writer, I am a news reporter and there are days where there are stories I don’t want to write, but I have to, and some of those stories (not all, but some) have come to be some of my best and cherished work. It’s those stories that have had the most profound impact on the readers.

I wonder if Louisa had any grain of thought that “Little Women” would be something like that. Did she know generations upon generations would still be reading her work, did she know the words she crafted in her bedroom in Orchard House would still be remembered nearly 200 years later?  I doubt it. Writers are never fully aware their greatness, at least I don’t think so.

Ms. Cheever says it best here in the chapter, “Great writing will always be a mystery. Why now, after everything she had been through, reluctantly tackling a novel for young girls, did Louisa May Alcott get suddenly catapulted into greatness? There are two kinds of artists – those who seek and those who find”

I believe Louisa found a true jewel when she wrote that book, a jewel that was right in front of her eyes her entire life, although she probably never knew it. It was when I saw the movie “Little Women”  with Wynona Rider, was when I learned to be inspired as a writer that I could one day inspire others with my words. (It’s still a work in progress.)

At the risk of being repetitive in my dis-taste in Bronson Alcott, but did he really have to take credit for Louisa’s genius? Really? I have to say I got mad when I read this – “His journals reflect his conviction that her success is due to  his wisdom in the way he conducted family life. She had the advantage, he congratulated himself not quite truthfully, of being raised by a man who knew enough not to send her to school. Thus she was able to write from experience.”

As a child and now as an adult I have such respect for her as a writer and storyteller and I know for years to come she will continue to inspire young girls and women with her work.

Look for my final post on this book later this week! Thanks dear followers!

Father and Daughter

Hello followers,

I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you this evening, last night and the night before I did some extensive reading of “Louisa May Alcott:A Personal Biography”  and as I kept reading, I found myself terribly disappointed in the father’s role in Louisa’s life.

Bronson Alcott

He was what we would consider today a “dead beat” Dad, at least I think so, while Ms. Cheever I feel doesn’t go into  extensive detail about the relationship between Louisa and her father, she does highlight his role as a father and husband within the family. I am finding though, the author is trying to single these two people out through her telling of Louisa’s life.

I constantly felt disappointed in his absence which like Ms. Cheever explains, may be the reason Louisa didn’t have a strong father character in “Little Women” because it was Abba Alcott who was the breadwinner, the one who fought for the family when it was bad, when it was hard. When Bronson Alcott was off dreaming, it was Abba who managed to keep the family together.

Louisa May Alcott

I thought it was extremely progressive of Abba to take a job in Boston to keep the family afloat from poverty, in the 19th century it was a rarity to see the woman go to work, they weren’t given a voice during that time. But I guess in Abba’s case, what had to be done needed to be done.

I admire her for that.  I have always felt I could relate to some of my favorite authors such as Louisa, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gilbert. Growing up I had a father who was absent in many ways. Unlike Bronson, my father worked extremely hard to put food on the table and I will always respect him for that, but he was never there for my brother and I emotionally and still isn’t today. He was always off dreaming through his music.  While that too helped pay the bills, he neglected knowing his kids on the level he should have. Connection was never found.

It was my mother who ran a household, went to school full-time and had a full-time job. She made sure the lights were always on and that we were well taken care of both physically and emotionally. If I were like Louisa writing a book of my own, I too, probably wouldn’t include my own father.

I guess my resentment toward Bronson could in some way be re-directed to my own.  My brother said not to long ago, that I was my father’s favorite because I was older, but I never felt that connection. I knew a father who was only partly there, a father who knew how to discipline and criticize rather than console and understand. 

Like Abba, my mother always made father’s shortcomings acceptable. It is a wonder Louisa never married, how could she feel any real connection to any man, when the one man didn’t know how to a strong role model in her life.

A Trip To Concord…

Last summer I finally made my way to Concord, Mass. After years and years of wanting to go, I finally gathered up the courage and took a two day trip to Massachusetts.  I spent an entire day in Concord and my experiences were very similar to the description author Susan Cheever, author of “Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography gave. I could visualize her trip as my own. And oddly enough she was able to make me long to go back like I’ve not been there before.

My own trip began early in the morning, I ate a quiet breakfast in the hotel, a little nervous but very excited about my solo adventure into the life of Louisa May Alcott and many other famous authors who coincidently I guess all lived in the same town.

Orchard House

Louisa had the opportunity to live next to Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and relatives of many other famous literary figures.

I toured it all that day. I, of course began with Orchard House, (Louisa’s home where she wrote

“Little Women”) which is very different than I had expected. I expected it to look exactly like the movie adaptation of “Little Women,” but it doesn’t, only the exterior is the same.  The inside and the grounds around the house are  different.  And like Ms. Cheever says in her introduction, most of the events that occurred in “Little Women” did not occur in Orchard House, but rather next door at the Wayside House when Ms. Alcott was in her teen years. The Alcott family moved to Orchard House when Louisa was a young woman.

I began with a tour of  the Orchard house, I was so beyond myself excited about this, after all these years. I couldn’t believe I was there.

The tour began in the kitchen and then traveled on to the other rooms in the house.   The tour begins in Alcott’s kitchen and moves on to the dining room and then they move on to the parlor and then up to the bedrooms where visitors will see Louisa’s sister May’s drawing on the walls, her sister was

a talented artist similar to the character of Amy in the book.  They see where Louisa slept and worked on what would become the most beloved book in history. (Again, it was nothing like the movie) The tour continued to the parents master bedroom.

The Home of Ralph Waldo Emerson

After I left Orchard House, not knowing where I’d go next I found the Wayside, and unfortunately that was closed. I then drove myself to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home then to the grave sites of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Alcotts and Thoreau.

After walking through the grave site, I went all over town looking for Walden Pond and was saddened by the fact that it was turned into a community beach for residents. I thought that while it was great for residents to have a place to swim, it had lost its historical purpose. I didn’t go in. I also visited the Museum of Concord( I believe that is what it was called) and my final and last stop was a battle ground that was used  during the  American Revolution where I spent a good hour or so.

That was a memorable trip to Concord that I was happy I did it on my own without any one else.  I am continuing with my reading now of the book, it seems good so far, but I am bias.

For more information on Orchard House, visit http://www.louisamayalcott.org.

The Real “Jo March”

This was a hard choice, in the last few weeks I had been really thinking about what my next book choice was going to be, I am trying or was try-

ing to work my way from my older books to my newer books, but I couldn’t resist with this book choice.

I have chosen “Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography” by Susan Cheever. Simply because it is my heart, Louisa May Alcott has been one of my favorite authors since I was a little girl reading “Little Women”. For years I’ve wanted to visit Orchard House in Concord, Mass., and finally did last summer. And I truly was in my element. (Pictures will come later)

“Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography” tells the story of the author of “Little Women” who passed away at the age of 55 in 1888, according to Ms. Cheever’s Web site. Ms. Alcott wrote other books such as “Jo’s Boys”, “Little Men” and much more.

When I saw this book at the book store not too long ago, I had to have it. And while I have a ton of other books in my closet right now that I have had for years that still haven’t been read, I just couldn’t resist.

Also, I promised myself after “Middlesex” that I would read a really short book, well it is shorter, just not as short as I had hoped.

Anyway, I hope you all follow me in reading “Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography.”

Not In America..

“We hope for better things, it will rise from the ashes” – Jeffrey Eugenides

On September 11, 2001,  3,000 lives were taken when two airplanes hit the World Trade Center in New York City , one airplane slammed into the Pentagon, in Washington D.C. and one in an open field in Pennsylvania, many believed was headed for the Capitol.

This was an act of terrorism that our country was not accoustomed to, sure we heard about similar acts in other countries, or in our history books, but never as an eyewitness.

It changed our country’s view of  safety, it launched us into a war we are still fighting,  back then we thought were safe, but now all we wait for is for the terrorists to do it again.

The truth is, our country has been fighting acts of terrorism since before  the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the later half of the 18th-century, an American Revolution broke out when the 13 colonies joined to make the United States of America.

On April 14, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by actor John Wilkes Booth just days after the Civil War was drawing to a close.

Our country has gone through two World Wars, on Dec. 7, 1941, the naval base on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was attacked by the Japanese navy. This was a preventative action to keep U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions with the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States.

On November 22,1963, Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy while the Presidential motorcade drove openly in the streets of Dallas, Texas. This was an act of terrorism, an act that changed our nation in many ways  for years to come.

(I swear I have a point here, it came to me while I was reading…)

In Detroit on July 23, 1967, a police rade of an unlicensed after-hours bar known then as the “blindpig” located on the corner of 12 and Clairmont Streets near Detroit’s West side, police confrontations with patrons and observers evolved into one of the deadliest and destructive riots/insurrections in American history lasting for five days surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit’s 1943 race riot which occurred 24 years earlier.

This act of terrorism, was recounted in the beginning of Book 3 of “Middlesex”, now while I usually wait for the end, I felt strongly about what I read and I felt I could form an opinion about this. The truth is, it would be a joke to think we are safe from terrorists both overseas and domestic. We aren’t.

In the last 10 years or so , we have experienced acts of terrorism in our schools beginning with Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado,  on April 20, 1999 and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 16, 2007.

In Book 3, Calliope said it best (it was what sparked this post) “To live in America, until recently, mean to be far from war. Wars happened in Southeast Asian jungles, they happened in the Middle Eastern deserts, They happened as the old song has it, “over there”.”

Believe it or not, it has and can happen in our own backyards. Generations of families have buried loved ones because of war.  It isn’t happening “over there” it is happening right here and while we are a long way away from stopping war, we must certainly try.  War of any kind changes people, it changes a community and a nation.

What I also realized while I was reading this section was that Calliope’s theory about war has not changed much in the last 4o something years. We still have this naive notion that stuff like that happens “over there” wherever “over there” actually is. In reality, we have experienced as a nation many acts of violence and terrorism in front of our own two eyes.

I’m sorry if this may be too political to some readers, but I felt it should be noted.

***Information in this article was from Wikipedia, with the exception of dates, I actually knew all of them by heart!***

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