Fran's Reviews > Canal Zone Daughter: An American Childhood in Panama

Canal Zone Daughter by Judy Haisten
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's review
Apr 06, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: biographies, non-fiction, read-in-the-2010s, first-reads

Canal Zone Daughter dredged up many memories for me, some wonderful, others sad. I was delighted to receive this book as a Goodreads First Reads book, and I began reading it as soon as I opened the package. Well worth the read, it is a sweet, simple, touching memoir...except for the inevitable sudden end of everything "home" to the author.

In early 1978 I sat in the US Senate visitor’s gallery listening to the Panama Canal treaty debates with a group of a dozen students from my college, all of us history majors. I remember my sad shock that we few students outnumbered the Senators in the chamber at any given time. The few Senators there seemed more interested in the drinks young pages shuttled to them on a regular basis than the handing over of the Canal Zone to Panamanian dictator Omar Trujillo. At the same time author Judy Haisten was also in shock at finding the only home and life she knew taken from her. She was one of the thousands affected by the events I was witnessing over three decades ago, but her story, and those of thousands like her was never heard.

I read the memoir of her simple normal childhood in the Canal Zone with pleasure, yet with a sense of impending doom since I knew the inevitable outcome. Her life in the early 60s mirrored my own in many ways. I was a safety patrol just like she was. We listened to the same music, read the same comic books, and both learned Spanish. Like most kids of that era, we spent our summers outdoors, not venturing inside until dusk and supper called us.

Haisten’s simple clean style is reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Like Laura she was the second of four sisters, and she tells of everyday life in a way that makes the reader smile and nod with pleasant similar memories. I am glad I read Judy Haisten’s story. It puts a human face to events I was witness to years before. It tells the bright story of growing up in the Canal Zone…and it’s sudden, dismaying end.
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