I wanted to love this but I just liked it. The idea was to put together an anecdotal history of National Public Radio with short essays and remembranc...moreI wanted to love this but I just liked it. The idea was to put together an anecdotal history of National Public Radio with short essays and remembrances from journalists and staff, but the book needed more shaping. The chapters are organized by decade and highlight major news events and NPR milestones. I was surprised that 9/11 got only a few pages, and the Challenger and some other major news events are not even mentioned. A large section is devoted to NPR's coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The book also could have been improved with some editing. The section about "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," refers to the "lightening round." Twice. Lots of misspellings and other typographical errors. The stories about the scrappy reporters were interesting but I would have preferred fewer self-references to scrappiness. I also am surprised at the mediocre writing considering this is a book about journalists.
The book only talks about NPR, so many shows that come from PRI and other organizations do not get a mention. The exception is "This American Life," which NPR refused to buy. Oops.
All that said, this is a fun book for NPR junkies; I would just skim it for the good stuff. The book came with a CD of a few historic broadcasts and I particularly appreciated the very first news report from All Things Considered, dated May 3, 1971, the day I was born.(less)
This is one of the best books I've ever read. I recommend it to anyone who reads English.
Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New...moreThis is one of the best books I've ever read. I recommend it to anyone who reads English.
Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times, set a sprawling goal for herself when she decided to document the migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South to the North and West. The shift spanned 60 years, beginning in 1915. The percentage of African-Americans living outside the South went from 10 percent to 47 percent.
Wilkerson spent more than 15 years interviewing sources and traveling the routes taken by African-Americans in an attempt to leave the horrors of southern racism. She talked to more than 1,200 people. From those, she chose Ida Mae Gladney, a sharecropper who left Mississippi in the 1930s and settled in Chicago; George Starling, who left Florida in the 1940s for New York to escape lynch mobs who wanted to punish him for trying to organize fruit pickers; and Robert Foster, a doctor who felt stifled in small-town Louisiana and sought a new life in Los Angeles in the 1950s.
I've studied the Reconstruction and the civil rights movement and none of the terror stories of the South surprised me. Still, it is like reading about the Holocaust. The shock of humans' cruelty to one another never really dissipates. The new homes that Gladney and Starling and Foster and their compatriots found in the North and West were not promised lands: they battled prejudice and crime and unemployment and often struggled to understand the rules in a society that was as racist as the South but more circumspect. Wilkerson's description of the way a black family was treated in Cicero, Illinois, is as horrific as anything that happened south of the Mason-Dixon line, and Dr. King himself said some of the worst racism he encountered was in Chicago.
One of the book's most moving passages is the section in which Dr. Foster drives from Louisiana to California and, not realizing no one in the Southwest will let him stay at a hotel for the night, undertakes a perilous and exhausting drive across the desert.
"The exhaustion, the rejection, the unwinding of his dream in a matter of minutes, it all caught up with him at once. He had driven more than fifteen hundred miles, and things were no different."
The book is nearly flawless. The research is thorough, the writing crisp and the narrative compelling. I did not want to put this book down. Wilkerson links the stories of the three migrants, who did not know each other, by telling the same portion of their stories at the same time. For example, she writes about each characters decision to leave, and those three segments are paired with a discussion of the reasons African-Americans left.
Wilkerson is a reporter first, and she shares the positive and negative aspects of the lives of her subjects with minimal judgment. She doesn't say that the escape from Jim Crow did not free women from their traditional roles. Her stories do that for her. And you can tell that she smiled when she revisited some notes about a community meeting she attended with Ida Mae Gladney, notes in which she jotted down her observations about a visiting state senator for whom Gladney had voted. Few people outside that district had heard of Barack Obama yet. By the time Wilkerson wrote her book, I imagine she was glad to have those now historically significant notes.
I kept thinking about the ways in which the northern and western cities were still so prejudiced and racist, and yet they still were an improvement over what southerners left behind. I thought about my own childhood in a racially mixed area of the south suburbs of Chicago. Wouldn't it have added so much to our lessons if the teachers had invited some of these people to talk to us? The children and grandchildren of the migrants were thick on the ground in Chicago and many of the originals were still alive, including Ida Mae. I don't recall studying the Great Migration and that is one of her points: we study the effect of immigration on our country but one of the largest migrations took place within the U.S. Some six million (yes, that number) African-Americans left the south by the mid-1970s, and the racial landscape of the nation changed dramatically.
If I have one gripe, it is that I wish Wilkerson had included some photos. This may have been a cost issue with the production of the book. She sometimes repeats things but I suppose in a history book you have to find a balance between not repeating too much and not confusing people.
I don't often say this, but I think everyone should read this book. Not only is it very well-written, but it tells an important story about what is perhaps our nation's most continually challenging issue: race.
This is an incredibly well-researched and well-written book about the Warsaw zookeepers who used their ruined zoo to rescue Jews from the Ghetto and o...moreThis is an incredibly well-researched and well-written book about the Warsaw zookeepers who used their ruined zoo to rescue Jews from the Ghetto and others who sought to escape Nazi-occupied Poland. The author writes the story like a novel but her sources include interviews with the family and diaries kept by the zookeeper's wife, Antonina. Ackerman intersperses the story with historical segues about everything from zoology to military history, and these tangents reflect directly on the tale she tells. The courage faced by people who knew their actions would result in merciless death for all involved is nearly impossible to describe. But I could only read about 150 pages--the true stories of savagery depressed me enough to affect my sleep and daily routine. (less)
This could be closer to a four, depending on why you are reading the book. The cover sells it as the story of immigrant food in New York through the e...moreThis could be closer to a four, depending on why you are reading the book. The cover sells it as the story of immigrant food in New York through the eyes of five families who lived at 97 Orchard on the Lower East Side, now home to the Tenement Museum. Ziegelman does use a real family to frame each of the five chapters, which concentrate on five large immigrant groups from the late 19th and early 20th century: Germans, Irish, German Jews, Eastern European Jews and Italians. But she doesn't really have a lot of information on these specific families, so if you are looking for stories about immigrants, this is not necessarily the book for you.
Ziegelman's research unearthed fascinating tidbits and stories about cooking and food in that era, particularly the types of meals eaten by poor immigrants and the reasons why some cultures adapted easily to the American table while others went to great lengths to recreate the dishes from their homelands.
Her writing impressed me in some places, especially when she talks about the origin of foods that are now familiar to most Americans. She gets a little repetitive and melodramatic in places. Recommended to readers who are curious about the history of American food and how immigrants contributed to the national menu.
ETA: I own this book if anyone local wants it.(less)
Collins charts the rapid cultural shifts that brought women into the public realm: from elected offices to the military and professional schools to ca...moreCollins charts the rapid cultural shifts that brought women into the public realm: from elected offices to the military and professional schools to careers in law, medicine and business. She keeps the narrative moving by mixing historical facts with personal stories of women, famous and unknown, who pushed for equal pay, equal rights and equal opportunities. You read about Bella Abzug and Sandra Day O'Connor, but also Lorena Weeks, whose case against Southern Bell forced the company to open its higher-paying jobs to women, and Lori Piestewa, the first woman killed in the second Iraq war.
A chapter on the civil rights movement explains how the woman's movement connected, and didn't, with the struggle for racial equality. Interwoven throughout the book is the message that many of the rights and choices belonged to the middle class; poor women always worked outside the home and struggled with childcare. Collins analyzes some of the major legislation and social milestones and concludes that while the general acceptance of women as intellectual equals was undoubtedly a force for positive change in the United States, the results were not exactly what the feminists of the 1960s anticipated. And though society's views and mores changed quickly, it wasn't quite fast enough for many of the women who started it all.
"But for the most part, the generation that took the risks, filed the suits, held the press conferences, and made the demands were not the ones who benefited."
Recommended for everyone. Even if you know the women's history of this era, Collins' writing is sharp, brisk and occasionally funny, and you won't forget the stories she tells. I think it would be fascinating to discuss this book with women of multiple generations and it would be a marvelous book club pick.
I am a longtime fan of Collins and so I am willing to overlook that she put the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis and not St. Paul. (less)
I am returning this book to the library because I've had it over a month and cannot renew again. I read about a third and it is a fascinating book abo...moreI am returning this book to the library because I've had it over a month and cannot renew again. I read about a third and it is a fascinating book about the presidencies from FDR to GWB and how each president coped with the health care issue. The authors include any personal or family health issues that might have shaped that president's view of health care. The book is well-written and dense with useful information and some wonkish details about legislation and almost-legislation. The turmoil surrounding the passage of Medicare makes me hopeful that we will one day have national health care.
I hope to finish this someday but it is not a quick read and I have other books calling my name. (less)