Jan Lynch's Reviews > A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

A Well-Read Woman by Kate   Stewart
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bookshelves: biography-memoir

A Jewish teen who engineered her own escape from Nazis as they rose to power, who navigated bureaucratic intricacies to emigrate to the United States and later become a citizen; a young woman who advocated for and sacrificed for causes she believed in--particularly Zionism; a woman unafraid to dodge bombs and bullets to establish an uncensored library system for soldiers in Vietnam; a woman who continued to live out her love of books through a long career with the Library of Congress; an older woman who fought to preserve historic monuments in Washington, DC, and who continued to advocate for causes she believed in until her death. This is a person whose life is more than worth reading. Rappaport had integrity, values, and spunk. Was she occasionally abrasive? Sure. That was part of her charm; I mistrust the constantly friendly and prefer a little salt with my sugar.

While Rappaport's life consistently held my attention, Stewart's writing did not. The narrative is clear, but the quality varies. Early chapters are smooth and interesting; the use of Rappaport's journals brings her to life. Later chapters limp along. Integrations of Stewart's personal experiences, library history, cataloging, or other library minutia feel choppy and don't always seem to fit.

Nevertheless, Rappaport's story is exceptional and would be of interest to a wide range of readers. If the book is too much of a commitment but you are still interested in Rappaport, I'd recommend reading Petula Dvorak's obituary, "Proof of Gifts That Come When Generations Mingle." As well, Rappaport's oral history interview can be found at the United States Holocaust Museum website while her work in Vietnam is detailed at the Army Heritage Website.
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Reading Progress

March 31, 2019 – Shelved
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 6, 2019 – Started Reading
April 7, 2019 –
April 15, 2019 –
12.0% "Am finding the character of Ruth Rappaport very attractive. Even as a teen, she knew her mind and didn't compromise. Her independence and ability to navigate difficult circumstances, including the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to flee Europe on her own as Nazis moved into Poland, is astounding."
May 5, 2019 –
May 5, 2019 –
May 7, 2019 –
22.0% "Enjoying Rappaport's outspokenness, her spunk. Truly independent-minded, Rappaport was driven by her values and lived them even as a young person."
May 16, 2019 –
37.0% "Continuing to enjoy reading about Ruth Rappaport. Her intelligence, spunk, and ambition make her appealing. That some contemporaries found her abrasive seems more a reaction to a strong woman "exceeding her boundaries" than to character flaws on Rappaport's part."
June 4, 2019 –
June 9, 2019 –
57.0% "The importance of uncensored reading opportunities for soldiers never occurred to me prior to this book. A librarian in Vietnam, Rappaport worked at the intersection of competing values: a controlled narrative of the war versus wide-ranging materials that covered the spectrum of positions. A staunch support of freedom, Rappaport never wavered. She gave the soldiers materials to stir thought."
June 15, 2019 –
June 21, 2019 – Shelved as: biography-memoir
June 21, 2019 – Finished Reading

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