Very concise biography touching on the highlights of Wilson's life. I was expecting a little more insight or something more moving from the author basVery concise biography touching on the highlights of Wilson's life. I was expecting a little more insight or something more moving from the author based on his other books, but I was disappointed. I realize this "Penguin Lives" series is meant to give the reader simply a taste of the subject, possibly encouraging more reading and interest, but the book seemed like a stale rehash of the basic highlights of Pres. Wilson's life. ...more
Enjoyed reading this well-written biography of the 28th president of the United States, especially with the History Book Club moderators guiding the dEnjoyed reading this well-written biography of the 28th president of the United States, especially with the History Book Club moderators guiding the discussion. Wilson became a real human being to me, with nuances of personality and attitudes brought in, making me want to examine his actions and speeches in a more thoughtful light than the one-dimensional portrait most people get from today’s “sound bite” commentators. This book always comes to my mind now when I try to understand other presidents and leaders in history, and a biography that can do that deserves a recommendation. ...more
An accomplished ethnographer and historian gathered the oral histories, anecdotes and journals of her Greek immigrant parents, combined them with archAn accomplished ethnographer and historian gathered the oral histories, anecdotes and journals of her Greek immigrant parents, combined them with archival research and interviews, and wrote this evocative dual biography of a typical immigrant family journey from Greece to America during the late 1800s through the 1930s.
The author has written a vibrant picture of the poverty and social upheavals in Greece at the time that made immigration and family breakup the only choice for survival. Often, the industrial coal mining and railroad interests exploding in the United States, especially in the Intermountain West, orchestrated this immigration boom. A complicated "padrone" system of Greek labor agents recruiting their fellow Greeks (for a fee/commission) to work in mines and on railroads, often as strikebreakers, became the accepted way of entry into American life. But rarely did it offer a way towards good relations with non-Greek neighbors or assimilation of American culture.
While this book is written by one of the daughters of this Greek immigrant couple, she doesn't minimize or gloss over the poverty or conflicts she witnessed, nor does she seem to insert her own subjective analysis of the events in her parents' lives. She has made a coherent whole of a variety of facts and history, but also describing in rich detail the Orthodox Church and the immigrant folk culture that was dying out as she came of age.
The last few chapters of the book take a more personal turn as the author describes how she tries to care for her aging parents, their needs and wants often in conflict with the author's different season of life. She is very honest about the reality and frustrations of caregiving. Concluding the book in this way left me somewhat dissatisfied, but I don't think it could end in any other way.
Enjoyed this story of a woman who had to fight against the social norms and expectations of the day (early 17th century) to satisfy her need to researEnjoyed this story of a woman who had to fight against the social norms and expectations of the day (early 17th century) to satisfy her need to research and *know*. She was fascinated by the concept of metamorphosis at a time when many scientists and philosophers simply assumed the principle of spontaneous generation explained the appearance of flies on rotting meat, or roaches and mice from soiled clothes.
She used natural observation and meticulous scientific illustration to document the process of metamorphosis in insects, especially butterflies. Eventually, she traveled to Surinam to research and document the unknown South American insect and plant life because she had exhausted the subjects available to study in the region around Amsterdam. She struggled with being taken seriously by the scientific community and her reputation as an illustrator/naturalist went through a metamorphosis as her work was ridiculed, then plagiarized, then commended well after her death.
This book has a fascinating story line and narrative voice. It's reads like a novel and made me look at nature study and appreciation as a practice of life, not just a single act you *do*. The author shows how our current understanding of ecology and the study of a whole ecosystem began with Maria's work. ...more
I felt like I was seeing and experiencing the world through Jeanne Baret's eyes in this completely engaging narrative of the first woman to travel aroI felt like I was seeing and experiencing the world through Jeanne Baret's eyes in this completely engaging narrative of the first woman to travel around the world at a time when women were not even supposed to be *allowed* on ships. This peasant herb woman, Jeanne, passed herself off as the male assistant to a French botanist tasked with identifying and collecting flora & fauna on a planned voyage of discovery and exploration around the world. This deception was necessary because naval rules and social/class etiquette forbade women on ships--not only because they were deemed unable to survive sea voyages, but also because they were bad luck.
I was fascinated by this book and finished it with a greater appreciation and awareness of what the history of sea exploration involved and the history of women in science as well as their exclusion. For me, a book is especially noteworthy if it makes me want to read more on the subject and follow more trails of curiosity that spring up. This story has created that need for me and I would suggest it to anyone with even the slightest interest in reading "history that reads like a novel".