World War II Legacies

WWII bk coverI love reading about World War II. It’s not the battle tactics, the strategies, or the overall historical views that interest me; it’s the personal stories. The books I love the most are those which focus on ordinary people who are thrown into incredibly difficult situations. Combatants and civilians alike have told amazing stories of bravery, treachery, suffering, heroism, love, and hatred.

Local author Kayleen Reusser is passionate about preserving the stories of WWII veterans. She has compiled stories from veterans living in this area in her new book World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. On September 3, the Dupont library will launch a new monthly program — also called World War II Legacies — facilitated by Kayleen Reusser and featuring local WWII veterans telling their stories. Join us on the first Thursday of each month at 6:00 at the Dupont branch.

In the meantime, check out some of my other favorite WWII books.

berlin Margarete Dos’ Letters from Berlin tells an important story — that of an average German family living through the war in Berlin and, later, living as prisoners in a Russian gulag. We cannot truly understand a war unless we see the stories from all sides.

tearsI was devastated by Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman. Before reading this one, I had no idea of the horrors that American prisoners endured at the hands of the Japanese. The men who survived the march ended up in prison camps, where they suffered through months of starvation, disease, and torture.

ghost soldiersHampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission describes the secret mission to rescue Bataan Death March survivors being held in Japanese prison camps on the Philippine island of Luzon.

In We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese, angelsElizabeth Norman tells the stories of women who served as nurses in the war. These amazing women cared for the injured and sick men while enduring starvation, disease, and injuries of their own.

old breedWith the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa was one of two books which formed the basis for the TV series The Pacific. Eugene Sledge writes of his experiences in two of the bloodiest battles of the war.


image via syndetics

With a distinct hard rock bent, Wasted on the Dream, JEFF the Brotherhood’s latest album, feels to be channeling some quite well-known rock acts including but not limited to Ozzy Osborne and Jethro Tull, (BTW, not just channeling, that eyebrow raising flute riff on the title track: ACTUALLY Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull…), not to mention (and I really wish I didn’t have to) Kid Rock (icky) and, uh, Yellowcard? (meh).  Now, I listened to this album for the first time pretty early in the morning and I was a little strung out on coffee.  That said, I really wish Karaoke, TN and Coat Check Girl had not happened.  I don’t get it, that’s all.  Was it some sort of intellectual, rock music survey album gimmick?  Do the Brotherhood really appreciate lyrical cretinism and teenagey, melodramatic vocals?  Can JEFF and I still be Facebook friends!?! … Absolutely.  They’ve really put together quite a great album.  I mean, IAN ANDERSON!

Suggested Use: Feeling rowdy?  Need a little simultaneous stimulation of your intellect and your baser nature.  Pop this disc in and take your evening (or morning) to the next level.  See disclaimer below.

Utilize with caution.  Guaranteed to influence your inner 12-year-old towards misbehavior.

We’ve all heard the cliché about books being able to transport us to another time and place. And like most clichés, it’s a cliché because it’s true. There’s nothing like a book to transport you to somewhere you’ve never been. Sometimes books take us somewhere we could go, if we had enough time off work and money for the plane ticket. But sometimes, books take us somewhere that exists only in the imagination of the author, and those are often the places we would most like to visit. So here’s a list of a few places I would love to go see, if only they were real.

Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowlingharrypotter

Moving staircases, potion-making, friendly ghosts, spell casting, a Forbidden Forest, and house elves to do your laundry. Who wouldn’t want to go to school at Hogwarts? (Minus the evil megalomaniac trying to take over the world and kill all the Muggles, of course.)

Twelve Oaks from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchellgonewiththewind

The equally loved and despised Scarlett O’Hara may have lived at Tara, but it’s Ashley Wilkes’ antebellum home that I would most like to see. While the movie version of Gone with the Wind presents Tara as a classic Southern plantation home, the book describes it differently, saying “the house had been built according to no architectural plan whatever, with extra rooms added when and where it seemed convenient.” Twelve Oaks, on the other hand, is described as “tall of columns, wide of verandas, flat of roof, beautiful as a woman is beautiful who is so sure of her charm that she can be generous and gracious to all. Scarlett loved Twelve Oaks even more than Tara, for it had a stately beauty, a mellowed dignity that Gerald’s house [Tara] did not possess.”

Pemberley (Darcy’s home) from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austenprideandprejudice

When Elizabeth Bennet goes to tour Pemberley, she has already thoroughly and emphatically rejected a marriage proposal from its owner. Upon seeing the house she thinks, “And of this place … I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own.” It must be quite the house to make her show a bit of regret over a man she turned down with such intense conviction. (Okay, we know she really liked him deep down, but still, the house must have been pretty great.)

Avonlea from the Anne books by L.M. Montgomeryanne

The fictional town of Avonlea is set in the actual province of Prince Edward Island in Canada, which is known to be an exceptionally beautiful place. But beyond that, Montgomery paints a picture of a charmingly old-fashioned little town, where friends and neighbors are noisy and opinionated, but ultimately helpful and reliable when one is in need; life is simple (or at least simpler); and days and seasons pass gently and quietly. A week or two there sounds just like the vacation I need!

The Gatsby Mansion from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgeraldthegreatgatsby

If The Great Gatsby teaches us anything, it’s that money can’t buy happiness. And while I wouldn’t want to live the life of the filthy rich during the Roaring Twenties, I would love to take a peek into their lifestyle and get a tour of Gatsby’s mansion.

So, how about you? Which fictional place would you love to visit?

We are constantly being warned about the food we eat and the beverages we drink.  Almost daily headlines warn of contaminated poultry, harmful additives in processed food, or dangerous levels of caffeine in energy drinks. Creative, deceptive advertising adds to our confusion — when is “natural” not natural?  Oreo-Thins, anyone?

Bone to PickAt least we can pay just as much attention to watchdogs of the food industry; those who look out for the consumer’s best interest and do their research. One such watchdog is Mark Bittman, the New York Times’ only columnist to cover the “food beat.” His latest book, A Bone to Pick, is a collection of columns from 2011-2014.  The contents can be treated like a buffet, sampled here and there, in no particular order.  The selections are thoughtful, enlightening, erudite, with touches of wit. They often produce “a-ha” moments or food for thought:

“It comes down to eat more fruit and vegetables and less junk and red meat.  But, most people don’t.”

“Rule of thumb: avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.  Eat a dried apricot (1 ingredient) rather than a fruit roll-up (13 ingredients, numbers 2, 3, and 4 of which are sugar of forms of added sugar.)”

“Food companies are well aware of the health crisis their products cause, and recognize that the situation is unsustainable.”

“When people cook their own food, they make better choices.  We should provide food education for children … and cooking classes for anyone who wants them.”

“Lawns are an attempt to dominate and homogenize nature. Gardens, however, are “constantly reminding us of the complexities and poetry of growing food and eating.”

Take a look at what you eat, how you shop, and what you order in restaurants.  Enjoy sampling A Bone to Pick, and read until you’re satisfied but not stuffed.

William Faulkner!


image via Wikipedia

I’m gonna have to read more of this dude.  And not just because he’s got another Pulitzer win coming up in a decade or so of Pulitzers.  But because in about 35 pages of this first Pulitzer win of his from 1955, A Fable, he put to rest any real doubts I had about him as a writer I could appreciate.  Look, I read As I Lay Dying in college and that stream-of-consciousness stuff is not so much for me, and since that was the only Faulkner I had ever read I was worried that he might not have any range beyond achingly annoying, pseudo-insightful internal monologues.  I stand with anxiety assuaged.

I’m happy to think that my enjoyment and esteem of this novel, this “fable” would have made Faulkner very glad.  He seems to have considered it his masterpiece, though the world of critics has given it the status of only a “lesser novel” (and now I am driven to arrive at my own conclusions).  I suppose A Fable could be seen as a little pedantic, perhaps lacking some subtle element of humanity that exists in other works, and yet I found it so much less pretentious than his cluttered, jerky, unceasing stream-of-consciousness gimmick.  Again, sure, I could have gone in for shorter sentences, better antecedents, and less use of the word “myriad” in A Fable, but overall I was delighted to be holding such a work in my hands, absorbing its intellectual and visceral examination of war and power, belief and memory, all against the backdrop of one of the bloodiest, most miserable international conflicts the world has ever seen: WWI.

So, though I’ll clearly be avoiding As I Lay Dying (hopefully the stylistic exception and not the rule for Faulkner’s catalog) this post is really all about the good news of my new found hope in William.  I thought I might need some new or just some different eyes to be able to jump on the Bill Train, but I have found that the eyes I have are adequate, and I’ll be coming back to Bill.  He has shown me his soul and I have found it exceptional, even if a little vain.

The Internet says the fact I don’t feel comfortable around dogs indicates I have a high percentage of Neanderthal DNA and am thereby a less evolved human being. Or words to that effect.

The InvadersActually, this is pretty cool. The dog-loving blogger was riffing humorously off a recent book by anthropologist Pat Shipman called The Invaders that suggests Neanderthals died out partly because they didn’t go to the dogs. Or rather, that modern humans — the invaders — figured out how to domesticate wolf puppies into a “wolf-dog” sub-species. Given that the humans had missile weapons, they and their canine allies were able to track down and kill a lot more big animals than Neanderthals could manage in a harsh climate. The canines also could help protect large stores of mammoth meat from other predators, including Neanderthals. Bottom line: the Neanderthals couldn’t compete successfully for food and quickly died out, maybe 40,000 years ago.

Shipman’s ideas put wolf domestication tens of thousands of years earlier than the standard beliefs, and that’s part of the fun.  Of course, this is just a new theory, and the scarcity of evidence may leave it open to question indefinitely, but it’s a joy to read popular science and gain a bit more insight into how pre-history unfolded and the universe may work. The library has thousands of items to feed that joy.

This summer I’m listening to The Origin and Evolution of Earth, a lecture series by mineralogist Robert Hazen. It’s full of interesting (and not-so-interesting) facts about rocks and chemistry and life, but the part that wowed me was hearing that the moon has been going away from Earth for 4 billion years. (Maybe that’s old news to you, but I’m just catching up on the leap in lunar science made possible by the moon landings.) The leading theory says that after it was formed by a planetoid collision with Earth, the moon was less than one-tenth the distance from Earth that it is today. Meanwhile, the Earth was spinning much faster. Imagine the storms! Imagine the moon rises!

Long ago I realized my life will end with huge scientific questions still unresolved, but it’s still exciting to be alive in a time when so much more is being learned than was known before. When I was a child, few scientists believed the continents could move; now it is a given that plate tectonics is one of the fundamental processes of our planet. It’s not quite on a par with living during the Copernican Revolution, but I’m not complaining.

Since you’ve read this far into my rave, give us a visit at the Business, Science & Technology Department and let us turn you on to new science books. Or drop us a line below to tell what amazes you about what is being learned — or at least theorized — today.

Momma Said

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Have you ever wondered what your children would write if they wrote a book about you?  Would it be Dreams from My Father, or more like Mommie, Dearest?  I think my children would make a picture book and call it Momma Said.  I have recently discovered a few of the things that I inadvertently taught my mommy 1children.  For instance, I taught my oldest child that if you are going to lie it has to be believable.  She had drawn all over a wall in our house and tried to blame it on her 2-year-old sister.  I told her that if she wanted to blame someone else for something she had done, she should not sign her name next time.

momma 2I also taught them to keep secrets.  I would sometimes spend more that I had intended on a shopping trip and then (jokingly, I thought) say to my children, “Shh! Don’t tell Daddy.”  My daughter remembers hearing this on many occasions.  What she apparently didn’t know was that I always went home and told Daddy.  He paid most of the bills, anyway.  How was I going to hide anything?  Of course, when I really meant “Don’t tell Daddy,” because it was a gift for him, one of the kids always blurted it out as soon as they saw him.

I taught my children how to project their voices.  Children instinctively know how to yell, but with indoor voices you need amomma 3 different technique. (mom, mom, Mom, MOM, MOM!)  This has come in handy in their chosen pursuits:  one is active in theater; one is a teacher; and the third plays an ogre or a dwarf in live action role playing.

I also taught them, with varying levels of success, how to read, count and be good neighbors.  OK, I actually turned on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood so I could pick up the house and cook dinner.  I needed that hour and a half and those shows were the perfect combination. momma6Sesame Street got them excited and singing and dancing with short segments and commercials from the letters and numbers, the Mr. Rogers came in and put on his sweater and sneakers and calmed them down with his gentle words.  My second child actually did teach herself to read from watching Sesame Street.  She asked when she would be able to read and I said, you already can.  She knew her letter sounds, so I gave her a few simple books and showed her how to sound out a word or two.  She took it from there.  Sometimes I got one right.

If you are worried that you are teaching your children similar lessons, I want to assure you that my now grown children are wonderful people.  If you are still worried, ACPL has plenty of books on parenting.

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