Thursday, August 27, 2015

Having Our Say

Having Our Say

Adult biography
"The pecking order was like this: White men were the most
powerful, followed by white women. Colored people were absolutely
below them and if you think it was hard for colored men, honey,
colored women were on the bottom. Yes, Sir! Colored women took it
from angles."
Back in 1993 I heard about a book that sounded really
fascinating: Having Our Say by Sarah and Elizabeth Delaney with Amy
Hill Hearth. Then Sadie was 103 and Bessie 101. They had started out
in the horse and buggy era and gone on to witness space exploration.
As black women they had way exceeded expectations society held because
of their sex and race. Why didn't I read it? There was something
about having a very bright, active toddler and a new baby, running and
advertising a home business typing papers for UMaine students, and
running a house that had me putting all else on the back burner. I
knew someday I'd get around to it.
This year someday came. The book was as great as I'd hoped it
would be. The Delaney sisters proved to be bright, observant, and
even in posession of keen senses of humor. They discussed their lives
from their unusual childhood on the campus of the North Carolina
school where their father was vice principal and their mother was the
matron to their struggles to acquire higher education and professional
success (Sadie taught in the public school system and Bessie was a
dentist) in Harlem during its cultural renaissance.
Some things have changed from their younger years. Certainly
the parent-child relationship has. I'm sure you're familiar with
helicoptor parents and the extent to which many go to make sure their
children get into and through the best colleges. Some start this
process by killer competition to get sons and daughters into elite
nursery schools.
Well back in the day offspring were expected to take
responsibility for their lives a lot earlier. Sadie recalled,
"...Many students went on to four-year colleges from there....Now on
graduation day, Papa said to me, 'Daughter, you are college material.
You owe it to your nation, your race, and yourself to go. And if you
don't, then shame on you!" Can you imagine parents these days waiting
so long to make this announcement and then expecting a son or daughter
to earn the money and not accept a scholarship that would make him/her
"beholden" to the people who offered it?
Sadly some of the things that should have changed for the better
in all this time haven't. As Bessie described, "But Papa still
insisted that my brothers be home by dark and he taught then how to
keep out of trouble. You see, sometimes they'd lynch a colored man
who objected to being called, 'uncle,' things like that. And if a
white woman said that a colored man had looked at her in a certain
way, that was the end of him..." Well, how about the unarmed young
black people who are shot by the police who are supposed to be
protecting them? How about black school kids being much more often
singled out for remedial classes, suspended or expelled, and shunted
into the school to jail pipeline? Isn't racial violence more chilling
when committed by professionals than by ignorant mobs?
Anyway, Having Our Say, is a thought provoker and a really sweet
read. It's like chatting with two very wise women over a cup of tea.
I'd especially recommend this book for folks like me who have decided
feminist inclinations.
On a personal note, I have very fond memories of that typing
business. It was a way I could bring in money while being with my
children whom I adored. I'd make up my advertisements and post them
on campus bulletin boards. (I joke that my kids had that school
imprinted on them by going up with me so often as babies. All three
chose it.) I even had very nice pencils made up to get more
business. I did very well because I didn't just type. I helped with
spelling and grammar. I had international students who counted on me
to make their work not as stilted. (My children got many toys and
happy meals from students who wanted me to do their papers. That was
the way to get my attention). I did value added before I even heard
the expression.
A great big shout out goes out to our people who have lived long and
mindfully and have so much to share with those of us who have the good
sense to listen.
Julia Emily Hathaway



Sent from my iPod

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The House That Jane Built

The House That Jane Built

Picture book
I have a riddle for you. The FBI kept a file on her and
considered her "the most dangerous woman in America." She was the
first American woman to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. She
was one of the founding members of the ACLU and the NAACP and had the
attention of several presidents.
Now who am I talking about?
If you guessed Jane Addams, YOWZA! You are up on your
herstory. If you didn't, don't feel bad. I purposely left out the
funding of Hull House, her achievement that is best known today. Tanya
Lee Stone's The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Adams makes
this story beautifully accessible to young readers and listeners.
Through what was probably a combination of inborn spunk and
liberal parenting Jane Addams became a woman ahead of her time. She
went on adventures with her stepbrother and graduated college at the
head of her class at a time when most women didn't pursue higher
education.
As a young child, when Addams became aware of the destitute
conditions many people dwelt in she resolved to live "right in the
midst of the horrid little houses" in order to change things. This
was no idle promise. She started a settlement house in the poverty
ridden slums of Chicago. At a time when most white women of means
supported charities by giving money to missionary societies, she she
went right down there live among the desperately poor people she had
vowed to serve.
Jane Adams is a woman whose story needs to be heard now more
than ever. The financial gap between the haves and the have nots is
widening to an obscene degree. At the same time they are becoming
much less likely to live in the same neighborhoods or send their
children to the same public schools. The increasing invisibility of
the lived experience of the poor makes it all too easy for demogogues
like Governor LePage to demonize and deprive them.
On a personal note, I am not anywhere near as ambitious as Jane
Addams. But I have my little piece of turf I'm working towards
setting up. For years now I've been a member of the Community Center
Development Committee. I want to make sure one room becomes a food
pantry/clothing exchange. I plan for it to be decorated in murals
done by kids in the school.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who continue to go out to
work in the most dangerous and destitute places on the face of the
Earth today.
Julia Emily Hathaway




Sent from my iPod

Gingerbread for Liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty

Picture book
One of the true joys of being a book addict is the chance to
discover the unsung heroes of history. Mara Rockliffe's Gingerbread
for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the Revolution gives new
meaning to the idea that an Army marches on its stomach.
Christopher Ludwick was a baker's son who immigrated from
Germany to Philadelphia and started his own shop. He had a great love
for his adopted nation. When the Revolution arrived he made haste to
join up. He became head baker for the Continental Army. When
mercenaries from other countries became a problem, realizing that many
of them spoke his language, he sneaked behind enemy lines to change
their loyalties.
The illustrations which look like frosted gingerbread cookies
are perfectly suited to the text. A recipe for gingerbread cookies is
included. A read aloud and bake is a perfect rainy day parent/child
activity.
On a personal note, last night was a perfect community garden night.
There was neither the rain nor the mugginess that have dogged us in
other months. We had lovely big bags of veggies to deliver. There
were enough extras for gardeners I could bring home potatoes,
tomatoes, brocolli, and summer squash. I made scrumptious grilled
cheese with tomatoes sandwiches for my supper.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow gardeners and the
wonderful people we deliver veggies to.
Julia Emily Hathaway



Sent from my iPod

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Witness

Witness

YA fiction
Every person blessed with the gift of functional literacy should
have at least a few books he or she can enjoy at least once a decade.
Some may carry the warm pleasure of familiarity. Others and the
changing ways we interpret them may give insight into our inner
evolution. Two of mine are The Little Engine That Could and To Kill A
Mockingbird. Karen Hesse's Witness (2001) is a recent addition to my
lineup. It reminds me of Thornton Wilder's Our Town which, of course,
has a very special place on my list. (I have not only read it across
decades, but acted in it as a teen and a parent).
When we think on the KKK, we tend to envision the South. Truth
be told, those white-sheeted cross burners made some inroads pretty
far North, even as far as Maine I've been told. Witness, told in free
form verse, has them showing up in a Vermont town, turning neighbor
against neighbor.
Eleven residents take turns describing events from their
perspectives. Sara, an unmarried farmer, becomes very protective of
the little Jewish girl, Esther, who has brought new joy into her
life. Johnny, a preacher feels that the clan holds a cure for the
promiscuous evils of a wanton generation. Harvey and Viola, a middle
aged couple who own a store are split on the issue. He thinks joining
up might be good for business; she has strong reservations...
Reading the book is like dropping in on a community in a very
different time, hearing the bits and pieces that add up to a rich
crazy quilt of humanity. A very discerning reader might be inspired
to look at an issue dividing his/her town, school, or social group
from multiple perspectives and gain more understanding.
On a personal note, Witness is one of the books that inspired me to go
for free verse rather than prose for telling my stories.
A great big shout out goes out to all authors who can create
believable communities of regular people.
Julia Emily Hathaway



Sent from my iPod

The Last Chance Texaco

The Last Chance Texaco

YA fiction
Brent Hartinger's The Last Chance Texaco is another of my
slightler older (2004) book sale finds. It's one of those gritty but
inspiring novels that has a teen reader walking in the sneakers of a
peer whom her/his parents would probably write off as not having
friendship potential or being potentially too dangerous to reputation,
if nothing else.
Lucy, Hartinger's protagonist, has been in foster care since she
was seven and her parents and brother died. (Her sister was adopted.)
After eight years of being shuttled around in the system she considers
herself to be a lost cause. Her placement in Kindle Home as her story
begins confirms in her mind that society, or at least the segment of
it that deals with foster kids, shares her opinion.
"Kindle Home became a group home in the 1960's. And, from the
start, it was the group home for the kids who'd screwed up again and
again, but who supposedly still had one last shot to turn things
around. It wasn't a big, barren dessert that came after our Last
Chance Texaco--it was a high-security facility for teenagers called
Eat-Their-Young Island (officially Rabbit Island), the place for the
foster care system's truly hopeless cases."
Lucy is sure that it's only a matter of time until she moves on
to the Island. She isn't even going to unpack her stuff. Why
bother? Her initial observations confirm her suspicions. She gets on
the bad side of a bully in the house. The in house therapist seems
skeptical about her chances of not messing up. A fight with a boy
from a well-off family brings her to the attention of the zero
tolerance public school principal.
Lucy is a gutsy protagonist who by age fifteen has had to deal
with more heartbreak than many adults. Her discovery that the
impossible dream of belonging may not yet be beyond her grasp makes
for gritty but joyous reading.
On a personal note, I am still battling fleas. At the vet's today,
buying another spray can of flea spray, I heard about animals being
brought in who were sick from more potent products bought at big box
stores. If you have a flea infestation and animal companions PLEASE
stick to vet approved products.
A great big shout out goes out to people who give kids like Lucy a
fighting chance.
Julia Emily Hathaway


Sent from my iPod

Monday, August 24, 2015

There Are Monsters Everywhere

There Are Monsters Everywhere

Picture Book
When my children were young we read Mercer Mayer's There's A
Nightmare in My Closet quite a few times. It wasn't til last week,
though, til I discovered the 2005 sequel, There Are Monsters
Everywhere. I really was in the mood to read a book like that
because...you'll see.
Mayer's Everychild protagonist lives in a home overrun by
monsters. He doesn't have to deal with the ones who dwell in the
basement. The ones near the trash cans and in the bathroom and his
bedroom (he sleeps in a fortified top bunk) are another story. Of
course they always hide when Mon and Dad are around. One day our hero
gets fed up with being scared and signs up for karate class. After
learning lots of scary moves he's ready to show those old monsters
who's boss...even to venture into the basement and sleep in the bottom
bunk.
A read aloud of this book or its prequel along with stories of
parents' own monster moments might help a child find a way to deal
with his or her fears. I was terrified by Smoky the Bear. When he
reminded my peers and my that only we could prevent forest fires and
other flare ups I took him a little too seriously. I had plenty of
nights lying awake plotting how to rescue my parents, Harriet, and our
many companion animals in case I woke up to find out home engulfed in
flames.
On a personal note, I feel like there are monsters everywhere. I have
a cat who is highly sensitive to fleas. No matter how dilligently, I
clean, vacuum, and spray they keep coming back. The vets say recent
years have been really bad flea ones. I keep thinking this has
something to do with global climate change. Practically all my other
projects are on hold and I see fleas in my nightmares.
A great big shout out goes out to all the vets who are helping us
protect our companion cats and dogs and the scientists who are
HOPEFULLY working on safe and effective flea pesticides.
Julia Emily Hathaway


Sent from my iPod

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home

Picture book
It's that time of year when weekend newspapers are jam packed
with back to school flyers featuring the latest in clothes and
supplies. I remember Eugene and me heading for the shops, our three
kids in tow. This is the first August in two decades we have no
offspring going back into the public school system. You may very well
be getting your kids ready. As you do, though, I'd like to remind you
many of our nation's children will start their educational experience
without even that most basic entity, a home, like Andrew, the narrator
of Eve Bumting's classic (only one year younger than my grad school
daughter) Fly Away Home.
Andrew and his janitor father long for a place of their own.
But they must live in an airport. There is always the danger of being
noticed and caught. They've seen others busted. They have to be
especially alert in the dead hours between two and four in the morning
when most of us have the luxury of sleeping. Dad studies the ads in
newspapers thrown away by travelers and makes phone calls. Rents are
always beyond their reach.
Young children are more capable of empathy than a lot of people
give them credit for. If you teach or parent any Fly Away Home is a
perfect read aloud (Bunting's status may have it in your library or
available by inter library loan) which can be followed by a discussion
of familiar daily routines and how much more difficult they would be
without a consistent set of sheltering walls. These days this kind of
exercise is more important than ever when politicians like Maine's
governor, Paul LePage, are demonizing the poor, robbing them of
dignity as well as resources.
Beyond empathy, are there things your family can do in
connection with your faith community, an organization, or even a group
of friends? In addition to kids who are homeless there may be
children who are food insecure, lacking in supplies and resources, or
needing help in keeping up with classwork or a safe place when a
single parent works unpredictable hours. Remember it takes a
community. I can't think of an endeavor with a better ROI (return on
investment) than children's lives.
On a personal note, my son is in the middle of his two week intensive
firefighter academy. Saturday they learned how to rescue accident
victims from vehicles. He described with great relish how they took
apart junker vehicles getting familiar with tools like the jaws of life.
A great big shout out goes out to those fine young people and their
dedicated instructors.
Julia Emily Hathaway


Sent from my iPod