This is an historical fiction placed during WWII, but depicting the lesser-known terror of the Stalin regime rather than Hitler's. I loved the portrayThis is an historical fiction placed during WWII, but depicting the lesser-known terror of the Stalin regime rather than Hitler's. I loved the portrayal of characters with compassion--Lina's Mother judged no one, giving humanity to both fellow captives and captors when she was being treated so inhumanely. The group that was randomly thrust together in the cattle cars recognized their need to stay together and support each other to survive.
Recognizing tender mercies and the goodness of people side-by-side with the inhumanity of others, Lina says: "I felt as if I were riding a pendulum. Just as I would swing into the abyss of hopelessness, the pendulum would swing back with some small goodness." p. 78
Commenting on her mother's optimism, even when there was little reason to have it: "'you know what?' said Jonas. 'Looking at the sky, it's like I'm on the grass at home, in Lithuania.' That sounded like something Mother would say, throwing color onto a black-and-white picture." p.90
On the desire to survive: "The bald man's questions kept me awake in thought. Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived? I was sixteen an orphan in Siberia, but I knew. It was the one thing I never questioned. I wanted to live. I wanted to see my brother grow up. I wanted to see Lithuania again. . . There were only two possible outcomes in Siberia. Success meant survival. Failure meant death. I wanted life. I wanted to survive. Part of me felt guilty. Was it selfish that I wanted to live, even though my parents were gone?" pp319-20.
Recognizing that love, not temporal circumstances, is the purpose of life: . "It could't end like this. It couldn't. What was life asking of me? How could I respond when I didn't know the question? "'I love you,' I whispered to Jonas."p.330
Finding joy amidst sadness, seeing good amongst evil, failing to judge others based on appearances are all themes of the book. They are portrayed in one of the final scenes, as well as the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel": "I left the jurta to chop wood. I began my walk through the snow, five kilometers to the tree line. That's when I saw it. A tiny sliver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon. I started at the amber band of sunlight, smiling The sun had returned." p.336
". . .evil will rule until good men or women choose to act. . . This testimony was written to create an absolute record, to speak in a world where our voices have been extinguished. These writings may shock or horrify you, but that is not my intention. It is my greatest hope that the pages in this jar stir your deepest well of human compassion. I hope they prompt you to do something, to tell someone. Only then can we ensure that this kind of evil in never allowed to repeat itself." p. 338
author's note: "Some wars are about bombing. For the people of the Baltics, this war was about believing. In 1991, after 50 years of brutal occupation, the three Baltic countries regained their independence, peacefully and with dignity. They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light. . . These three tiny nations have taught us that love is the most powerful army. Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy--love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit." p.341 ...more
Great middle-school book on friendship, compassion, and kindness. Encourages discussion and more conscious choices about not judging others or assuminGreat middle-school book on friendship, compassion, and kindness. Encourages discussion and more conscious choices about not judging others or assuming what they think and feel, but trying to understand them.
Quote from the book:
"my head swirls on this, but then softer thoughts soothe, like a flatted third on a major chord. no, no, it's not all random. If it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds." p. 204 ...more
This book was eye-opening to me about the number of youths traveling alone attempting to enter the US illegally and their experiences. I'm glad I readThis book was eye-opening to me about the number of youths traveling alone attempting to enter the US illegally and their experiences. I'm glad I read it and have another perspective on their journey.
I was especially touched by those who repeatedly showed compassion to the migrants. Some who just lived near the railroad and in poor circumstances themselves, yet willing to continually offer food, showers, and what they could to someone worse off than they were.
Father Leonard Lopez Guajardo was a local priest in a border town dedicated his life to serving them and through his leadership encouraged compassion in others:
"He is humble and lives modestly. He gives his salary to the church to help it pay staff salaries. When someone gave him a nice truck, he sold it to pay church utility bills.. ."
"'Either we are with the poor, or we are not. God teaches us to help the poor. Any other interpretation is unacceptable,' he says. To Padre Leo, the people in most need in Nuevo Laredo are migrants. They go for days without food, for months without resting their heads on a pillow' they are defenseless against an onslaught of abuses. His vow is to restore a bit of their dignity."
"'He saw that these people are the most vulnerable, the most disliked by the local population. So he gave himself to them,' says a church volunteer."
"Padre Leo gave up the two-bedroom priest's apartment attached to the church so that female migrants would have a safe place to sleep. He settled himself into a tiny room off the pantry."
"A steady stream of migrants flows into the church. Padre Leo attends to them one by one.... To help the migrants look more presentable, he gives away most of the few shoes and clothes he owns. He brings a haircutter to the church. A doctor treats the migrants' illnesses for free. If they need blood, Padre Leo is the first to donate."
". . .Once, the local director of la migra threatened to lock up the priest for several years on smuggling charges if he didn't bar migrants from entering his church. Padre Leo promised to behave--and then ignored the warning."
"Now three-quarters of the people in his parish agree with his work. 'We should say thanks that we don't have to go through this--but maybe with a bit of bread, a smile, you can help lessen their load,' a volunteer says. Without the church's help, she adds, the migrants would be even more desperate, and the impact on the city would be worse."
"The volunteer, who cooks dinner for the migrants daily, says, 'Padre Leo has taught me to give to others without expecting anything in return.'" pp.123-5...more
Historical fiction inspired by Sarah Grimke--a woman who fought slave's freedom and women's rights. One of my favorite lines in the book was when SaraHistorical fiction inspired by Sarah Grimke--a woman who fought slave's freedom and women's rights. One of my favorite lines in the book was when Sarah had come back to SC for a brief visit, the slave that she had grown up with said:
"I watched her fold her few belongings on top of the quilts and thought, 'this ain't the Sarah who left here.' She had a firm look in her eye and her voice didn't dither and hesitate like it used to. She'd been boiled down to a good, strong broth." p.355
I hope I can be boiled down to a good strong broth someday!...more
I have found this quote from "Little Bee" to be too true with some of my refugee ESL students:
"Horror in your country is something you take a dose oI have found this quote from "Little Bee" to be too true with some of my refugee ESL students:
"Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it. For me and the girls from my village, horror is a disease and we are sick with it. It is not an illness you can cure yourself of by standing up and letting the big red cinema seat fold itself up behind you. If I could do that, please believe me, I would be already standing in the foyer, . . . But the film in your memory, you cannot walk out of it so easily. Wherever you go it is always playing. So when I say that I am a refugee, you must understand there is no refuge." (p.45-6)
In spite of loving that quote, I walked out of the book. I only read the first 50 pages of this book, and probably only that far because I was stuck at the hospital while my son was in surgery and had nothing else to do, but I didn't finish it because I was not at all interested in the London woman and the garbage the author was putting in her story. I was interested in the Nigerian refugee's story; I'll just have to find another book that tells it (I did read the notes at the back to see what was true). ...more
LOVED this book! He is humorous as he tells his story, yet humble and grateful for the opportunities he has been given, acknowledges the hand of God iLOVED this book! He is humorous as he tells his story, yet humble and grateful for the opportunities he has been given, acknowledges the hand of God in his life, and works to give others the same hope.
quotes from the book:
On gratitude and choices: "Life may have been hard, but we were happy. Yes, boys died and food was difficult to come by, but at least no one was shooting at us. We only ate one meal a day, but for me, coming into the camp at the age of six, I accepted this as normal. I never thought that life was unfair because I had to eat garbage. Instead, I looked at the scraps of food from the dump as a blessing. Not all the boys in the camp could do this. I knew some who chose to feel sorry for themselves, who complained constantly about their lot in life. What is the point of such complaining? After all the whining and complaining is over, you still live in a refugee camp. All the complaining in the world will not make your lief any better. Instead, you must choose to make the best of whatever the situation in which you find yourself, even in a place like Kakuma." pp.38-9
After his baptism in the camp: "I stood in the night air, staring at my candle, thinking about what I knew of Joseph in the Bible. There are two well-known Josephs. One is the father of Jesus, a hard-working man who made a living as a carpenter. The other is found in the book of Genesis. Like me, he was taken from his home when he was young. He was carried away to Egypt as a slave. Later, he was thrown into prison even though he had done nothing wrong. Yet, no matter what happened to him, God was always with him Joseph did not sit around feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he went to work. When he was a slave, he worked so hard and proved himself so trustworthy, that his owner put his entire household under Joseph's care. After he was thrown into prison, the chief jailer did the same thing. He knew Joseph was a hard worker who always kept his word. . . . I made up my mind to live up to my new name. Joseph was not just any name to me. It was the name God had picked out for me in eternity past. This is who I am. I am Joseph, a follower of Jesus, trustworthy and hard-working. I am no longer a lost boy. I am a brand-new man." p. 49
Upon hearing some boys would be selected to go to America based on an essay: "The moment the church service ended, I went back to my tent to pray. 'Father, I cannot write anything that stands out from all the other boys in this camp. But I trust You. If You want me in America, I know You will left up my essay and make it stand out. You will take me to America, not this essay." p.61
I had to stop reading and read some funny excerpts of the book to my boys: his first 2 XC races (p. 107-8) and some of the funny moments adjusting to life in America--
Trying to decide which college to attend: "The Norfolk coach called again the next day. Mom answered the phone. 'Joseph, he wants an answer.' 'Tell him to give my 5 minutes. I need to pray.' Five minutes didn't give God much time to give me an answer, but I knew He already had a plan for my life. He was the One who gave me my gifts and my dreams, and He was the one who brought me to America. 'Oh God, hear my prayers. Let my cry come to You,' I prayed. 'I need to know what You want me to do, and I need to know it fast.'" p. 138
On trying to help others in Sudan: "But this season, something had changed. On long runs, my mind raced back to Kimotong. I saw the faces of the children as they played in the dirt. Her I was, working on my college degree, and those children had no hope of any kind of education. I felt guilty being here, even though I shouldn't. God gave me this opportunity. I had to take full advantage of it. Yet the more I reminded myself of this fact, the more I saw those little kids, playing in the dirt, without any hope of a better future. I also saw the mothers who brought their children to me, desperate for help. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get that image out of my head. I have to do something for them. I knew God had not brought me this far for me alone. He did not give me the ability to run just for me to go out and win races or even to support my team. He had something much bigger planned. God, help me know what to do, I prayed as I ran." p. 168
On education: "Even after reading all this you may not understand how graduating from college is, for me, far greater than running in the Olympics or carrying the flag into the Opening Ceremonies. . . Beijing represented an accomplishment that culminated in a single moment. I will forever look back on it and smile. I still have a little trouble believing it happened to me. However, walking across the stage at NAU and receiving my degree represents both a past accomplishment and the future that now lays wide open to me. My life is forever changed, as will be the lives of the generations that follow me. More than that, this degree in my hand speaks to the plans I have for my future, and even greater plans God has for me. "Jeremiah 29:11 say, 'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'These words sound like God wrote them specifically for me. I lived through disaster. I lived through hardship and death. Yet God never left me. He changed me from Lopez to Joseph. And like Joseph in the Bible, He took what was once intended for evil and transformed it into good. Receiving my college degree along with the future that degree represents is the ultimate expression of God turning disaster into a future and a hope, at least so far." p. 221 ...more
This quick-read book tells the story of a woman who takes the change lying around the house and secretly saves it in a bank. When the manager encouragThis quick-read book tells the story of a woman who takes the change lying around the house and secretly saves it in a bank. When the manager encourages her to put her money to work for her, earning interest, he tells her "It's what you do with it that counts." That becomes her motto in life as she uses it to bring happiness to herself and others--showing that small change and small acts of kindness can make a big difference. ...more
This book, while fiction because it recounts conversations that simply couldn't be accurately remembered by a small boy in a war-torn country, tells tThis book, while fiction because it recounts conversations that simply couldn't be accurately remembered by a small boy in a war-torn country, tells the historically accurate story of one of the "lost boys" of Sudan--his experience in his war-torn country, of many years in refugee camps, and finally, the struggle as a refugee in America.
Quotes from the book:
"I do not want to be a bother to him, to Deb, to anyone. I want to be independent and move through this world without having to ask questions. But for now I still have too many, and this is frustrating." p.255
"I gave the police officer this number and now I know that they did not try to call it even once. The phone is still in possession of the people who stole it, those who robbed me and beat me, and this phone is still working. The police did not bother to investigate the crime, and the criminals knew the police would do nothing. This is the moment, above any other, when I wonder if I actually exist. In one of the parties involved, the police or the criminals, believed that I had worth or a voice, then this phone would have been disposed of. But it seems clear that there had been no acknowledgement of my existence on either side of this crime." p.471
After someone tells him to "hang in there," he responds, " the truth is that I do not like hanging in there. I was born, I believe, to do more. Or perhaps it's that I survived to do more. . . .I have a low opinion of this expression, 'hang in there'." p.504
"I pretend that I know who I am now but I simply don't. I'm not an American and is seems difficult now to call myself Sudanese. I have spent only six or seven years there, and I was so small when I left." p.505...more
I wanted to give this 4 stars, because I really liked her ideas and what she is doing to help those in poverty, but her writing seemed redundant and cI wanted to give this 4 stars, because I really liked her ideas and what she is doing to help those in poverty, but her writing seemed redundant and circular at times. However, it is still worth the read--3 1/2 stars for the book, 5 stars for her work!
Jacqueline Novogratz realized how interconnected we are no matter where we live in the world when she donated a sweater to Goodwill only to see the exact same sweater on a boy in Rwanda years later. She shows how our actions can help eradicate poverty if we help people become self-sufficient and how traditional charity often does nothing.
She tells the story of a woman who survived the Rwandan genocide: "Fire strengthens iron. 'Before the war,' Honorata told me, 'I was comfortable. I worked without really knowing why. Living in the service of other people, I finally felt alive. I found the true force of Gd in being available to others and in accepting one's fate without complaining. I began to understand the God was sending me a message. You must radiated and shine despite the difficulties you have on earth. In spite of your own problems, comfort those women who have lost their husbands.' 'In the end, goodness triumphs over bad. It is our challenge to do good and serve others without waiting for the good to be returned. I'm convinced that those people who cultivate universal love will have good fortune on earth. In serving others, I found light in a place of darkness.'" p.156
"I have been touched so deeply by what happened in Rwanda not only because it revealed our potential for untold cruelty, but also because it will forever remind me that in any good society, nothing justifies the powerful excluding the powerless from basic opportunities. And if the genocide reminded me of our fragility as human beings, it also reinvigorated my belief that providing incentives for people to do the right thing matters a great deal. Institutions are key in reminding us who we are meant to be and how we are expected to behave as community members and citizens." p. 176
"After 20 years of working in Africa, India, and Pakistan, I've learned that the solutions to poverty must be driven by discipline, accountability, and market strength, not easy sentimentality. I've learned that many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity and that what is needed most of all is moral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them. "I've learned that people usually tell you the truth if you listen hard enough. If you don't, you'll hear what they think you want to hear. "I've learned that there is no currency like trust and no catalyst like hope. . .And the most important quality we must all strengthen in ourselves is that of deep human empathy, for that will provide the most hope of all--and the foundation for our collective survival." pp.243-4.
from Tennyson's "Ulysses": "I am a part of all that I have met." p.244
Go to the people: live with them, learn from them love them start with what they know build with what they have.
But of the best leaders, when the job is done, the task accomplished, the people will say: "We have done it ourselves." ---Lao Tzu (quoted on p. 209)
This is a historical fictional account of a young girl who is taken from her African village and sold as a slave. It is well-researched and I think acThis is a historical fictional account of a young girl who is taken from her African village and sold as a slave. It is well-researched and I think accurately portrayed history; I especially enjoyed learning about Sierra Leone (my parents have lived there) and Nova Scotia (this was a part of history I didn't know much about). I would warn a potential reader that there are quite a few sexual references, most of them depicting rape; they are not overly graphic and unfortunately, probably an accurate portrayal.
Quotes from the book:
"I lived in terror that the captors would beat us, boil us and eat us, but they began with humiliation: they tore the clothes off our backs. We had no head scarves or wraps for our body, or anything to cover our private parts. We had not even sandals for our feet. We had no more clothing than goats, and nakedness marked us as captives wherever we went. But our captors were also marked by what they lacked: light in their eyes. Never have I met a person doing terrible things who would meet my own eyes peacefully. To gaze into another person's face is to do two things: to recognize their humanity, and to assert your own." p.29
"He repeated my name over and over, and then added, 'I must hear you say it. Please. Say it. Say my name.' 'Chekura,' I said. 'Someone knows my name. Seeing you makes me want to live'." p.66
Simply written in his own voice, "Life is Good" is the life story of a 103-year-old black man who endured segregation and prejudice, yet throughout itSimply written in his own voice, "Life is Good" is the life story of a 103-year-old black man who endured segregation and prejudice, yet throughout it all, recognized the good in life. The co-author, Richard Glaubman, who helped him write his story said, "I was looking to give you a chance to voice your anger. . ." and George Dawson responded "Except that I don't have any anger." Glaubman responded, "I had come to record a life of hardship and was not prepared to hear of gratitude." p.252
His simple life and simple rules for life were inspiring: "All my life, I been good to people In all those years, every person I met I have treated with respect. . . Be happy for what you have. Help somebody else instead of worrying. It doesn't take much to make a difference. Even the poorest man can just take the time to say hello; that can be a help. Give what you can. And if you have nothing, at least pray for somebody. Have good thoughts." p.259
His advice on money: "wanting more than you have makes a person worry. A person only needs to manage with what they have. Be a good manager and there is no need to worry. . .I pay my bills first and all the money I have left is for groceries. . .I try to keep a little leftover if I can. That way. . .if somebody has an emergency, I can help them out with bus money and such." p. 246-7
On parenting: Mostly I told [my children] something and they listened. I only said something one time. See, I respected my own father and did what he told me. With my own children it was the same. We was the parents. It was our job to have the children ready to be in this world. A child doesn't learn so much by words as he does by watching. The children were always watching their mother and me. That's how they learn right from wrong, by watching what we do." p.202
Of raising children in the days of legal separation: "They understood. It wasn't right, but that's how life was. Breaking the rules could be dangerous. In one way or another, every colored man had the same talk with his children: how to get along, how to survive in this world. " And his son commented, "Daddy made it clear that there was no excuses; we would just have to work harder; that's all." p.202
George Dawson worked hard his whole life with whatever job was offered at whatever pay was offered. After a forced retirement at age 65, he did yard work. "I did that for more than twenty years. I was close to ninety when I stopped. I had to work all those years, but I was glad to work. A man is supposed to work and take pride in what he does no matter what the work is." p. 220
Two good people make one decision, not with malice, but with unforeseen consequences which affect the life of many. “As time passes the harder the de Two good people make one decision, not with malice, but with unforeseen consequences which affect the life of many. “As time passes the harder the decision becomes to undo and the more towering is its impact. This is the story of its terrible consequences. But it is also a description of the extraordinary, sustaining power of a marriage to bind two people together in love, through the most emotionally harrowing circumstances.” Victoria Moore, The Daily Mail
Quote from the book:
"How different so many lives would have been if. . .No point in thinking that. Once you start down that road, there's no end to it. He's lived the life he's lived. He's loved the woman he's loved. No one ever has or ever will travel quite the same path on this earth. . .There are still more days to travel in life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way." (p. 342-3)
One character in the book is asking her husband Frank how he is able to forgive people…. “But how? How can you just get over these things, darling? she had asked him. “You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it? “I choose to,” he said. “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, of I can forgive and forget.” “But it’s not that easy.” He smiled that Frank smile. “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”
"I've learned the hard way that to have any kind of future you've got to give up hope of ever changing the past. History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent. Sometimes life turns out hard Isabelle. Sometimes it just bites right through you. And sometimes just when you think it's done its worst, it comes back and takes another chunk. We always have a choice. All of us."
These authors tell the stories of women around the world dealing with oppression and poverty, and the many struggles with trying to overcome cultural These authors tell the stories of women around the world dealing with oppression and poverty, and the many struggles with trying to overcome cultural norms, yet describes how those same women can be the catalyst for change in their villages and countries. For example, they tell of a young Cambodian girl sold into sex slavery, who with a little help from a foreign aid group, escapes and builds a retail business that supports her family, protecting the girls in her family from the same fate.
It tells of people and organizations struggling to repair childbirth and rape injuries that are almost unknown in America. "One of the top surgeons is Mamitu Gash, who never went to elementary school, let alone medical school. Mmitu grew up illiterate in a remote village in Ethiopia and suffered a fistula as a young wife in her first pregnancy. She made her way to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital for surgery,and afterward began helping out by making beds and assisting Reg Hamlin during surgeries. She would stand beside him and hand him the scalpel,and she watched closely. After a couple of years, he let her do simple work, like suturing, and over time he entrusted her with more and more of the surgery." "Mamitu had nimble fingers and first-rate technical skills, and even if her biological knowledge was limited, she steadily accumulated experience repairing internal injuries. Eventually, she was doing fistula surgeries by herself [in a hospital that does more fistula repairs than any institution in the world.] She began taking charge of the training program, so when doctors went to Addis Ababa to learn fistula surgery, their teacher was an illiterate woman who had never been to a day of school. Eventually Mamitu tired of being a master surgeon who couldn't read, so she went to night school. Last time we visited her, she had reached the third grade." p. 120
The final chapter is "4 things you can do in the next 20 minutes" and encourages that even a little of your time or resources can and does make a difference in another's life. The appendix has a list of humanitarian organization and a one-sentence synopsis of how they working to improve conditions for women and children. ...more
"As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: Choice overload can...set you"As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: Choice overload can...set you up for unrealistically high expectation and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis." (inside cover flap)
One thing I gained from the book was a better awareness of how much time I spend making decisions that don't matter much. "A chooser relfects on what's important to him or her in life, what's important about this particular decision, and what the short- and long-range consequences of the decision may be. . . .Decisions don't always come at us with signs indicating their relative importance prominently attached. . . .We must decide...when a choice really matters and focus our energies there, even if it means letting many other opportunities pass us by." (p.75.104)
He cited studies about mice and 'learned helplessness' to show that "our most fundamental sense of well-being crucially depends on our having the ability to exert control over our environment and recognizing that we do." (p102-3) He cited a study done on 3 month old infants who could activate lights and dancing in a mobile above them and above the infant in the crib next to them when they turned their heads on the pillows. All the infants enjoyed the mobile, but the infants that controlled the action had much longer lasting entertainment from it. The ones given the "free ride" lost interest quickly. (p. 204)
He talked about 'adaptation.' We will quickly adapt to something that made us happy until it no longer brings us the same satisfaction. We can counter this by 1) eing grateful for what we have,(p.178) and not buying everything we can afford--ie: if you have steak every night, or a new blouse every week, it no longer is that exciting. (p.187)
"Curtail social comparisons . . .focus on what makes YOU happy, and what gives meaning to YOUR life" rather than what others have or do." (p234-5)
"Learn to love constraints. . .Society provides rules, standards, and norms for making choices, and individual experiences creates habits. By deciding to follow a rule (for example, always wear a seat belt), we avoid having to make a deliberate decision again and again. This kind of rule-following frees up time and attention. . .eliminates daily hassles. . .Choice within constraints, freedom within limits, is what enables [us] to imagine a host of marvelous possibilities." (p.235-236)