William Kent Krueger is one of my favorite authors who writes stuff often based in Minnesota. It always helps when a reader has been there and seen that. Krueger writes basically detective stories. There is set often in Minnesota's forested Lake country or the nearby towns of the Iron Range. Cork O'Connor his detective and former Sheriff has a new wife named Rainy who is a Native American while Cork is partly Indian and mostly Irish. Her son calls from Arizona and tells his mom he has murdered someone, mentions one name and the phone goes dead. Cork now retired from the detective business and Rainy and Cork rush off to that desert State to help. There they encounter in environment far different from the lakes and woods of northern Minnesota. In this alien environment they find out that her missing son is part of a group that rescues refugees fleeing from Guatemala and other places which drive them away from wars, extreme poverty to seek refuge in America. Her missing son turns out to be involved with a small group who helps those refugees find safety in America. There they are often abandoned in the desert by scammers who take their money and abandon them. This is the famous border where a wall of Barb wire, border patrol, and vigilantes along with drug traffickers all have their own reasons for building higher wall or in the case of the vigilantes and the drug traffickers killing people. In plain English these people are crossing through a war zone. On a lighter note, Cork O'Connor, the hero of many of Krueger's books has as a favorite beer. I hate to say it's brewed in Wisconsin but it's mine as well. It's brewed in Chippewa Falls. So years and years ago I bought a Lienies hat at the brewery and wore it for more than a decade till it recently fell all a part. I won't try to trump or change anything about this not a review but plainly references to refugees and walls might seem out of today's headlines. But what I'm concerned about today is getting a new hat and I've located several and I could drive over to Wisconsin and get a new or perhaps the following might serve just as well and so here is perhaps even better alternative. Whatcha think?
A Mrs. T. often reminded me on April mornings...
"Oh there you are Merry Sunshine,
What makes you rise so soon?
You scared away the little stars
And shined away the moon.
The grass is green.
The flowers are riz!
Oh! There you are,
you blooming idiot
Okay. So I'd just gotten up and was only slightly cranky. The fact that the weather report for today the 10 of April indicates up to 8 inches of snow this after hasn't helped my mood either...:(
So this morning I just finished Becoming by Michelle Obama. This much discussed book is likely or has already been identified as the most read or listened to autobiography/memoir of all time. Some of my former students, of this long retired history teacher would no doubt find it hard to believe, when I say, for this review I’m at a loss for words. What is there to say that won’t sound like a bunch of hackneyed clichés or overdrawn superlatives?' I'll try to choose my words carefully and with restraint.
Becoming is a book exactly about that. How a child and then a young girl grew up first in a racially diverse mostly blue-collar working-class neighborhood on the south side Chicago. Her rock-solid family was anchored by a father who despite serious physical handicaps worked a full-time job for the city, never complained and brought laughter and fun to all those around him. Then there was her mother, who fostered in her children that with no excuses they should always strive to be the best that they could be. Incidentally, this should always include using proper grammar Finally, there was an older brother who steadfastly protected his little sister and often paved the way for her on their mutual road to success. As we know, it is often the case that our early childhood sets the template for who we become.
Each following candid chapter reveals more and more of the becoming theme. Michelle’s high school years were marked by the effects of the white migration to the new suburbs. The south side of Chicago began to suffer the effects and trauma of poverty, crime and drugs. The self-actualization of the word "ghetto" only worsened the problems. In the mostly black high school, which Michelle attended, she was asked "why are you so white?Grammatically correct English was no doubt a factor there.
In succeeding chapters we meet a striving young woman who regularly asked herself she was “good enough?” Needless to say she was both while attending an elite Ivy League university and beginning work at a Chicago law firm where she hoped someday to become “a partner.” Obviously both of these institutions were largely white and mostly male-dominated.
The next chapters becoming for Michelle involves an unlikely romance and marriage involving two people so different in their upbringing and lifestyle one can hardly imagine how in the end it all works so well. Of course, the last becoming involves politics and the White House. Here the details are rich and compelling and include an evolving marriage and raising two girls as normally as possible in the White House. There is some disdain for politics at the beginning of the stages but overall little rancor, Michelle’s tagline "when they go low, we go high” pretty well sums it all up what is left out in these final chapters. We saw all the lows on national television. The highs in those White House years when a special woman and her family did us all proud.
So now as I promised, without all the superlatives and clichés I could think of, I will simply say this is the best autobiography/memoir I have ever read. And to those who for whatever reason have yet to read it I believe anyone who approaches this story with an open mind and a little empathy will find it touches the heart.
Click icon for more
book review blogs
It had been most recent Valentines day and I had been
invited to lunch and a party with music, with my special Valentine. When I
got there Barb had a new friend to go along with Nancy who held hands, on a
regular basis, with Barb who reassured her when Nancy cries that everything was
going to be all right. She also promised to be the matron of honor for another
somewhat confused lady who believed she was going to be married at the end of
the week. Naturally, Barb volunteered to be her matron of honor. All of us
sat together for Valentines lunch at a big table after I cleared with the authorities
that this was okay and seemed no danger to anyone. I also consulted with the
pianist who was providing the music and asked if she could play some slow music
after lunch, preferably waltzes, so Barb and I could dance. All I could think of was the Tennessee waltz. In the meantime, the pianist was playing golden oldies from the 50s. My lunch group along
with others at other tables seemed to be having a good time and I encouraged my
group to guess the songs which were golden oldies and we played guess the name
of the song and the singer. All the people with dementia beat me soundly in that game. Some bad jokes on my part, more fun and then I told them Barb and I
were going to dance. And so we did. Alone at first and then several other "mixed"married couples(caretaker and resident)
joined us. Finally, some of the aides began rounding up people from other areas in wheelchairs and brought them to join the dance party. Here they held hands h with those in
wheelchairs and they danced also. Towards the end as some of the smiling laughing people began to sit down from exhaustion, one of the big shots showed up with
the camera and took pictures of the crowd. Later, I asked for copies and
told them with their permission I might advertise their wonderful institution
by putting those pictures on my blog. Unfortunately, because this facility is part of a giant corporation they have lawyers, there are some "privacy"issues involved in that . So eventually, I expect to get an edited picture of me and my beloved dancing through the night at our best Valentines day ever, and they will be posted on this very same blog :-) Ray
Finally, I had to deal with one difficult problem. Saying
goodbye to Barb. The problem is easy to explain. When I arrive I get hugs and
kisses. When I leave I have two choices. The first is to bring Barb home with
me. The second is to shack up with her and move in to memory care. The solution
requires teamwork on the part of the staff and me heading home without being
seen. Today it all worked well and when I called back Barb was still happy,
contented in her new apartment and doing just fine. A really good day in
dementia land for Barb and me as well.
I was reminded last Sunday by our Methodist pastor who
spoke in his sermon of a word rarely used today. That word was vocation. It is
somewhat similar to the word calling, which clergymen and women are often said to to
have experienced. The minister told the story of a young friend of his,
who at age 11, told his parents he intended to become a medical missionary. He
accomplished that goal by attending medical school, became a pastor, doctored in
a small town in Minnesota. There he married and helped raise a family. However,
he spent much of his adult life in the small African country of Sierra Leone.
There he treated thousands of people where no medical care was available. In
semi – retirement he returned to Minnesota and later returned, at age 84, to
Sierra Leone to help fight the spread of the dreaded Ebola. The moral of the pastors message
was surely that there are some people in life who spurn the goal of riches and
fame, that in the cause of doing good in this world. Something more than a job,
something with a mission. I do believe there are people in jobs and professions, who
do that. Not everyone, but there are some who see their job as a vocation. Nurses, teachers, firemen, social workers, EMTs and so on and on. Let us all remember to give them the respect and honor for what they do, often without much reward, but certainly deserving of our support. Troutbirder (ray)
I did it again. You'd think with only two blogs I could keep it all straight. Wrong!!! My latest post intended for this blog is on the other one. Sorry but you'll have to click on Mark Twain above, sitting next to the idiot to jump over to my other blog
Hunting Trips of the Rancherman and The Wilderness Hunter by Theodore
This 1996 modern Library edition of two of Pres. Roosevelt’s
many books is readily available. In reviewing it I must reveal a big bias. It
seems my father born in 1909 had a middle name named after Pres. Theodore. I
followed with the same middle name and then Mrs. T and I named our eldest son
Theodore. Theodore Roosevelt was the most remarkable of men. He ushered his
country into the 20th century. He stands also in the first rank,
according to author Stephen Ambrose, of the 20th century presidents.
He was among famous world leaders second on the great writers list just behind
Winston Churchill and Julius Caesar. You can add scholar, cowboy, outdoorsman,
rancher, conservationist, war hero, police Commissioner, Nobel Prize winner for peace, and progressive
Republican who became president. He also reflected some of the currently
politically incorrect beliefs and biases of his times. He was a man for all seasons.
The memoir I just finished reading was an early one of his
many books. It does reflect the new man in the making, who lived in the West and
learned from it. As a young New Yorker, Harvard graduate,inheriting wealth from his father he presaged
his younger cousin Franklin and was the uncle of Franklins bride Eleanor. I
will say this about this book. If you’d like to meet this great president
firsthand instead of biographies or see his face on Mount Rushmore. Read about
him in his own words. It's real history in the making.
It seems after weeks of inability to enter my own blog and do new posts my computer guru finally got Google to admit me. The war between Yahoo and Google was conquered. I did miss my book review for Barr Sumie do yesterday the first Wednesday of the month yesterday but today its up and running. So they'll be a new one coming up a few days late and a few dollars short. :-)
A Bald Eagle flew over our house this morning and then a rare pileated
woodpecker showed up at our suet feeder. A good sign I thought. Then sure enough
a call from Cottagewood memory care saying Barb was having another good day.
Since her new medicine was put in place that makes almost 3 weeks in a row
without drastic or aggressive agitation. Sharon G. sent Barb a card saying
that she had moved into an apartment just like Barb had. Perfect! Barb said she
hoped Sharon would have as nice an apartment as she did. According to
the staff Barb is working miracles. She helps big time in the kitchen and holds
hands with other ladies who are seriously confused and consoles and reassures
them that things will be all right and she will be their friend. That the Barb I
know and love...
I am a not so recently retired social studies teacher and basketball coach. Still hunting birds though now with a camera instead of a gun.
Nature devotee, dog lover, birder, gardener and semi-retired all around outdoor adventure seeker.
Troutbirder II is my alter ego. He loves books and history and is an opponent of unnecessary, unplanned and unending "preemptive wars". A former moderate Republican, he spent the Bush II years gradually converting to "yellow dog" Democrat. He is now somewhat unhappy with the Democrats abandonment of unions and cozying up to Wall Street. This is promoting a gradual drift towards Democratic Socialism though he remains "flexible...