Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Book Review: Between Shades Of Gray

Name: Between Shades Of Gray

Author(s): Ruta Sepetys

What’s It’s About: In the middle of the night Lina, her brother, and her mother are taken away by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) for no apparent reason. Along with many others they are shuttled to Siberia where they are accused of being criminals with 25 year sentences and forced to work on a beet farm with inhumane conditions. Lina starts to put clues of where they are in her drawings and passes them on in hopes that at least one will reach her father. She also writes (and hides) detailed accounts of the horrors she and those around her face. But as conditions get worse and worse, and everybody close to her starts to die (or gets very, very close), how will she and her family survive?

*Content Warning: mentions of prostitution, suggestive content*

My Review: I actually finished this book a few days ago, but I put off this review because I wasn’t sure what to say. I’m still not. This story may be fictional, but it rings with truth, and the fact that people had to go through things like what happens in this book is heartbreaking. WHY? How could people do this to others? There’s an old Latin proverb that goes “Man is a wolf to man.” I look at what some people have done to each other and I go, “Forget wolf, HURRICANE is more like it.” It just makes me so sad. That aside, I think there’s a moral in this story, faint but always there. It’s never preached on, but I picked it up all the same. ALWAYS HAVE HOPE. I’m pretty sure that’s how Lina survived. She had hope, and that hope turned into determination. The book actually has an open ending, but I didn’t mind. Why? Because I just knew that somehow, someway, in that fictional world Lina was going to survive. And it’s the way that this book makes me think and hope that really makes me like it. So maybe I did have something to say after all.

Blubberworthy seal of approval (final)
Though I didn’t actually cry (because, you know, I’m HEARTLESS) this definitely brought me close to doing so.

Re-Readability: High. I don’t even feel the need to explain.

Quotes

“You traitor! You pathetic old man!” I said. “Pathetic, and yet I survive. Surely, my survival is my punishment. That has to be it. This woman closes her eyes and she is gone. I’ve wished for death since the first day, and yet I survive. Can it really be so hard to die?”

‘The repeater spoke of nothing but America. He tried to draw maps of the United States, discussing details he had heard from friends or relatives. He needed to believe it was possible.”

“A man in group twenty-six got caught stealing wood. They sentenced him to an additional five years. Five years for one log. It could have been fifty. Our sentences were dictated by our survival.”

“You think of nothing but yourself. If you want to kill yourself, what’s keeping you?” I said. Silence sat between our stares. “Fear,” he said.”

“Mrs. Rimas brought her hand to her mouth. “She really intended to return home.” I looked at Papa’s shirt. My mother was freezing. She could worn these clothes. She kept them, to return to Lithuania in a clean set of clothes.”

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Book Review: Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream

Name: Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream

Author(s): Tanya Lee Stone

What It’s About: This book tells the true story of 13 women who shared the dream of becoming astronauts in a time of prejudice, where women were considered basically treated as accessories to the home. And they almost made it. They took the tests, they proved their worth, and got shot down by a bunch of politicians. But not without a fight. This is the story of 13 women who paved the way for others like Sally Ride and Eileen Collins by questioning the “social order” that was widely accepted as the way of life. The “Mercury 13.” The almost astronauts.

My Review: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Okay, I’m goofy. But this is a really great book. It has great writing, lots of pictures, an interesting story, and intriguing information. Books like this make me disgusted at how we used to treat some people. The fact that people used to think that women only exist to play housekeeper is enraging. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I’m glad I wasn’t alive back then. I would recommend this to anybody who has the slightest bit of interest in history.

Re-Readability: Very High. Go read this book now.

Quotes

“Some of the woman were criticized for taking on “unnatural” roles. Doubters questioned their devotion to their children and husbands. Jane Hart’s husband, a U.S. senator, received bags of mail from constituents who thought it disgraceful that his wife was flying all over creation and told him he should exercise more control over her.”

“Editorial cartoons poked fun. Reporters included her physical measurements alongside her test results. Or they dropped the test results completely, asking her what kind of meals she liked to cook and marveling at how slim, blond, and dimpled a pilot could be. “[That] has nothing to do with flying. I never read about men pilots who had their measurements listed in stories about them,” Cobb later said.”

“Back in New York, where Jerrie Cobb was staying, it was the middle of the night. Her phone started ringing. Her parents’ phone started ringing. Her friends’ and colleagues’ phones started ringing. And they didn’t stop. The world wanted to know who this woman was.”

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Book Review: Courage Has No Color: The True Story Of The Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers

Name: Courage Has No Color: The True Story Of The Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers

Author(s): Tanya Lee Stone

What It’s About: As the name of this book implies, it is about the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers. Formed during World War II, this is the story of the struggles and injustice they faced, simply because of their skin color. Even though they were treated as inferior, they stepped up, they volunteered to fight for their country. They volunteered to help fight the world’s worst racist, Adolf Hitler, in the world’s most segregated army. And even though they never saw the battlefield, they made an important contribution to our society by helping prove that you shouldn’t judge one another by what they look like.

My Review: This was an amazing and inspiring book. It always makes my blood boil when I hear about the lengths of segregation, and it made me feel good to see how these men rose above that, and helped reshape our nation by showing that skin color doesn’t matter. The book also had plenty of pictures, and included information I found truly interesting.

Re-Readability: Medium to Very High. It really depends on your love of history, though I myself am leaning towards the Very High end.

Quotes

“Little by little, things had been happening behind the scenes to improve the status of blacks in the military. These changes had created the climate that led to Gaither’s order being possible. Morris had made his move in the right place at the right time.”

“In addition to Eleanor’s involvement with politics, she was a sympathetic ear for those who reached out to her. She received frequent letters from black soldiers alerting her to discrimination taking place on military bases.”

“Lena Horne was the first African American to sign a movie contract that promised not to cast her in negative roles. But then she guest-starred as herself and said, “They didn’t make me into a maid, but they didn’t make me into anything else either.” Directors placed her in scenes that could be cut when shown in the south so Southerners wouldn’t protest her non-subservient roles.” 

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Book Reveiw: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight For Civil Rights

Name: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight For Civil Rights

Author(s): Steve Sheinkin

What It’s About: This is the true story of 50 brave men who stood up for what they believed in, and stood up to the U.S. Navy and it’s injustices in the time of segregation. The United states has just entered World War II.  Americans from all over the country are called to join the battle, but it isn’t that easy for African American people, for with all the prejudice of the time the regulation is that they can only serve as mess attendants. President Roosevelt was not so keen on  desegregating the Navy, but he was a politician, and counted on their votes to be reelected. Ignoring black leaders complaints to do something wasn’t going to fly. So he compromised. The policy change was unveiled in 1942. Black volunteers would now be accepted for training as sailors. Sounds good, till you look at the details. Limited to low ranks, and still not able to serve at sea unless as a mess attendant, African Americans were not impressed. However, plenty of young men rushed to sign up. Some such men were sent to the U.S. Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois. There they immediately encountered… segregation. White recruits and black recruits stood in separate lines for lunch, were housed in separate camps, etc. They were not allowed to compete with white recruits for the opportunity to go to special schools that trained sailors to be electricians, radiomen, and mechanics. Instead they took swimming tests, practiced on the rifle range, and cleaned their barracks. They exercised, marched, and  stood at attention. They were not trained how to handle explosives. When boot camp drew to an end, they were sent to the Port Chicago Naval Magazine. There they learned what exactly they would be doing. Loading ammunition. Day after day, they loaded bombs they had never been told how to handle. Day after day, they lived in fear of a explosion. Then in April of 1944, Captain Merrill T. Kinne took command of Port Chicago. His job was to get the ammunition loaded as fast as possible. How he planned to do that was by promoting competition between divisions with the prize of free movies. Officers pitted division against division now, betting on the outcome. Then one night, two ships and the pier exploded. Everyone on the ships and pier were killed. The death count was over 300. At the beginning of August, the men were moved to Mare Island Naval Shipyard. They had a pretty good idea of what they would be doing there, and were dreading it. On August 9, 1944, the men lined up and started marching toward the nearby river. They came the a split in the road. Go right, a day of routine exercise. Go left, a day of loading ammunition. The lieutenant ordered them to go left. Somebody stopped. Or maybe many. Everyone came to a stop. They refused to load ammunition. Superiors came. Superiors threatened. Of the 328 scheduled to load ammunition that day, a total of 258 refused. They were marched onto a prison barge. On the third day there Admiral Carleton Wright came. He accused them of mutiny- reminded them that death was the penalty of such. The men were given another chance to come back to work. 214 men complied. The next morning, guards led six men onto the barge to join the 44. They were all charged with mutiny. This is the story of their struggle before and after the accusation.

My Review: If I had to use one word to describe this book, I would say powerful. The story of these men is inspiring, infuriating, and powerful. Inspiring because no matter the struggle of facing all that was against them, they hung together. Infuriating because of the lengths of segregation in that time, and the injustice of segregation itself. Powerful because of, well, everything. The feeling that comes along with these men. I would suggest you read this because it really gives you a look into the worse side of our history.

Re-Readability: Medium to High. It really depends on your mood and what you like to read.

Quotes

“The men at Port Chicago described the scene on the loading pier as frantic, stressful, loud, chaotic – bombs rolling and clanking together, winch engines chugging and smoking, nets swinging through the air, sailors shouting and cursing, officers urging the men on.”

“But it’s important to remember that before Brown vs. Board of Education or Truman’s executive order, before Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson – before any of this, there was Port Chicago.”

“Just how deeply ingrained was segregation? Absurdly, the military even segregated it’s blood supply. Military leaders knew there was no difference between the blood of black and white men. They knew it was a waste of time and money to store two separate blood supplies. But that was the tradition, and no one in power wanted to challenge it.”

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