~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~
I finally got around to reading Hillbilly Elegy. This is an interesting and eye-opening memoir. I’ve heard people compare Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance and White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History by Nancy Isenberg, liking one over the other, but I found each one of these books unique in its own right. Studying our culture has always been a special fascination to me, so these types of books are right up my alley.
Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir about an a Kentucky boy with few advantages who grew up and made it good. He managed to go to an elite college, graduate, and become financially successful. This book is an exposition of his roots and a narrative of his journey. It’s also an examination of what has happened to the American dream and why so many have failed to achieve it from the perspective of an insider. It’s very thought-provoking.
I found myself growing attached to the characters in this story. Moving, at times humorous, colorful, interesting.
I think it is a much-needed read for anyone who wants to understand class in America. I would pair this with the other book, White Trash. If you’re not a voracious reader like I am, I think either one is excellent. If you prefer memoir then Hillbilly Elegy may suit your taste, if you lean more towards a broader examination of the class structure and love history, you may prefer White Trash. In all honesty, I feel they both deserve a place on your shelf.
I became a Gilmore girls fan late. During the years we were homeschooling, I rarely watched television of any sort. Who had time? I started watching the show when it was on Netflix one day when I wasn’t feeling well. I felt an immediate connection with the characters and was delighted by the quick banter. I shared the show with my daughter, who, at the time, was a very reluctant teenager. You know that there is a certain age when anything mom likes is certain to elicit a negative response.
A few moments into the show, she turned to me and said, “It’s us!”
Obviously, we are not the only duo to feel this connection to Gilmore Girls.
I loved Lauren Graham’s memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. If you are a Gilmore girls fan I think you would enjoy this book. The Lorelai Gilmore fast-paced dialogue we are all familiar with is infused throughout this small volume. Lauren is so personable. Reading this book was like reading letters from a dear friend, one who is generous with advice and laughter. I don’t usually read celebrity memoirs, but I enjoyed every minute of this book, even when I was crying. Yes, I did cry.
I was encouraged by her advice on everything from writing, making choices, dieting, and technology. She did this all with a splash of humor.
“Eventually I learned that, in the beginning at least, it was better for me to be finished then to try to be perfect. I had to get out of my own way.”
“Often, waiting reveals the truth about something, and not responding to your every impulse can save you the heart ache of waking up in the morning with a sense of regret.”
“Talking about getting a tattoo was, I realized, a perfect case of life thing about the journey not the destination.”
To me, this memoir feels like a gift. Thank you, Lauren Graham! I will definitely be checking out Lauren Graham’s novel, Maybe, Maybe, Someday.
God’s Story, Your Story by Max Lucado is a short book, written in a down to earth style.
Lucado has a way of cutting through the rhetoric and allowing me to see the familiar through a different lens, like looking through a suddenly clear lens.
“As God’s story becomes yours, closed doors take on a new meaning. You no longer see them as interruptions of your plan but as indications of God’s plan.”
Sometimes I get used to how things look through my dirty eyeglass lenses without being aware of it until something draws attention to the fact. I clean my glasses and, suddenly, see things clearly. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see before. The daily dirt and grime had simply build up a bit by bit and I hadn’t noticed how it dulled my vision. Reading this book was like that for me.
“Your blocked door doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. Quite the opposite. It’s proof that He does.”
Lucado’s anecdotes give fresh meaning to phrases often used. Real life examples helped me understand Biblical truths in a new way. For example, he relates a story of a man who found himself in a situation where he had to actually fly blind. He had suffered a stroke and lost his vision while flying a plane. Unable to see, struck blind, he had to depend on the voice of another.
“Learn to wait, to be silent, to listen for his voice.”
Lucado is a gifted writer and paints vivid pictures to explain Biblical concepts in an easy to understand and personable style.
“Arm yourself with God’s word. Load your pistol with scriptures and keep a finger on the trigger.”
Every chapter gave me something to think about. I read one chapter a day, taking time to write a response in my journal.
There’s much wisdom in God’s Story, Your Story. I am encouraged and blessed.
White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America
by Nancy Isenberg
All of our lives, as Americans, we have been told we live in the land of opportunity. If you work hard, magically the kingdom of the land of endless opportunities will open to you.
Nancy Isenberg challenges that belief by examining the roots of the American class system to discover why the American dream has been unattainable for many citizens.
Far from being a classless society, America is plagued by class divisions. Why is that? Isenberg answers at least some of those questions. White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America attempts to address the issues spawned by a class system set in place at the beginning of our nation with the American British colonies. This is a daunting task but Isenberg does a fair job of bringing the topic of America’s marginalized underclass to our attention.
Tracing how our American societal hierarchy influences a myriad of attitudes and beliefs, Eisenberg examines the consequences on racism, class structure, poverty, politics, and entertainment. Viewing these topics through the lens of the largely ignored class structure firmly entrenched in American society may challenge what you think you know.
This is not a dry textbook approach, and packs a lot of history into a small package. It is far from boring. When I finished reading this book I wanted to talk about it. I would like to read more books on these issues to get more perspectives and interpretations of American class structure and the struggle to achieve equality.
I would recommend this book for everyone.
If you are interested in American history, class structure, politics, social history, or race relations. You may want to read this book.
White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America
is a book about class divisions, containing terminology and references to incidents in our history many would rather forget, including but not limited to, racial tensions, mistreatment of the poor, political scandals, social injustice, and the like.
I’ve been fairly good at keeping my goal of writing every day. This has been a challenge. Adjustments were necessary.
The physical act of writing became too much. I have always been a person who thinks through my fingers, so to speak, which made writing fiction using speech to text challenging. It made me want to pull my hair out. To solve this problem I decided to switch gears for a bit.
There are times when you have to take a step back. To leave projects undone goes against my nature. It was hard for me to abandon my fiction long enough to figure out the best way to get words on paper, but it had to be done.
Over the summer I “wrote” the rough draft for a non-fiction book using my iPhone. There are oh-so-many bits of hard won knowledge I would like to impart to my children, or my children’s children, so I decided to make a record of my thoughts on education and homeschooling. This helped get me into the groove of transcribing thoughts without a keyboard or pen. It felt unnatural to write fiction using this method. Using verbal skills to give motherly advice was not an issue. I’m sure the kids will come to appreciate all those nuggets of wisdom someday.
Once the nonfiction project was drafted, I returned to novel writing and found speech to text a little more cooperative. It is still awkward and tedious, but I’m getting better at it. Practice makes perfect, or if not perfect, at least manageable. If only it would transcribe purposeful dictation as well as it records my frustrated, unladylike utterances.
And y’all, I have met new writing buddies! In any difficult journey, finding people who support you, believe in you, and cheer you on helps keep you focused on your calling. Go visit Linda and Rachel on their blogs and tell them “hey” from me.
I’ve found a couple of other writers who I hope to spend time with soon, sharing stories and sugar laden, caffeinated treats. I need my crit partners! Producing a marketable work takes support and help from many fronts, at least it does for this girl.
My writing coach, Sarah Hamer, has been wonderfully patient with me. I appreciate her guidance and support dearly. If you need a little help with writing projects, check out her site here.
It’s time to start considering the editing process, and with that in mind I am trying to outfit my writing space. I purchased an anti-fatigue mat to use with my standing computer desk. My standing desk is an IKEA computer desk we found on craigslist and adapted. I went by Office Depot and tried out the line of Serta computer chairs and was happy to find a comfortable chair. They even have a couple made for shorter people like me!
My eldest found a cool adjustable desk. Smartdesk moves from sitting to standing with the push of a button. It is on the wish list.
Now all I have to do is finish the last twelve chapters of the rough draft for the current rewrite of Nina’s story and I will be ready to begin edits. Right after I get some new glasses.
What is Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption about?
Unbroken: A World War II Story is Louis Zamperini’s story, written by Laura Hillenbrand. Most of the narrative takes place during WWII, complemented by the story of Louis’ somewhat troubled youth and subsequent athletic accomplishments as an Olympic runner and completed by finding peace in 1949 after hearing Billy Graham share the gospel message.
Reactions and Thoughts
If you only read one book this year, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand may be one to consider. I am not a huge war story fan, but this tale was so incredible and the book well written that I was highly engaged the entire time. It is entertaining and inspirational, while at the same time providing a look back to history through a first hand account.
There were some places in the latter portion of the book when I had to put it aside. It was too disturbing, but for the most part the story was detailed enough to keep me turning pages without being overwhelming. It brought the experiences of our service men to life and sparked an interest that had me researching for more of the history. It made me question how man can participate in acts such as those described in Unbroken.
This example of the tenacious quality of the human spirit amazed me. The redemption of Louis Zamperini was moving. Even after overcoming impossible circumstances, he found there was still a need for God’s grace. Following Louis to the point where he was able to forgive those who committed such crimes against him was inspiring. He found a completed freedom in his submission to God, enabling Louis to experience a healed soul.
I was totally engrossed in this story. I would recommend this book for anyone, but would preview before handing to my teen. There is another version directed toward YA I have yet to read, but plan to.
Remembering the Unbroken Spirit of Louis Zamperini
Issues of Concern
War, torture, death, deprivation, alcoholism, PTSD, abuse, domestic violence, Louie’s behavioral struggles in his youth
Study Guides and Reading Guides for Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Quotes from Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”
“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.”
“His conviction that everything happened for a reason, and would come to good, gave him a laughing equanimity even in hard times.”
“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer.”
“Louie dug out the Bible that had been issued to him by the air corps and mailed home to his mother when he was believed dead. He walked to Barnsdall Park, where he and Cynthia had gone in better days, and where Cynthia had gone, alone, when he’d been on his benders. He found a spot under a tree, sat down, and began reading. Resting in the shade and the stillness, Louie felt profound peace. When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation. Softly, he wept.”
“Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors.”
German forces occupied Denmark in 1940 with no government opposition due to lack of military force. A patriotic group of school boys, mostly 9th graders, decided to take things into their own hands. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is their story, compiled from personal interviews and correspondence.
It took some time for the resistance in Denmark to become organized. In the meantime, the RAF Club and later The Church Hill Club, as the boys called themselves, took matters into their own hands. Recounting numerous acts of sabotage and resistance taken to undermine the Germans, Knud Peterson tells of the club’s function and operation. These activities against the Gestapo became widely known and helped inspire other Danes to join together to resist the Nazis.
The narration of events was absorbing. The risks and actions that the boys undertook demonstrate that even small subversion can make a large impact. These young men did what they felt they needed to do for their country.
I stumbled across this book on a list of recommended reading for young people but it is suitable for adult readers as well. This is a look at the sacrifice of these young men who lived through harsh times and risked their freedom to fight against the Nazi regime.
For those interested in WWII history, this book would be a great addition to any library of World War II accounts. There are extensive resources compiled in the back of this book. This high interest text could be used as part of a study of World War II.
There are many mature themes throughout the book. War, injury, acts of sabotage, illegal acts, imprisonment, deprivation, deception
Knud Peterson passed away shortly after working with author Phillip Hoose on this manuscript. First hand accounts of history are very important. If you are interested in preserving history, The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has a website of interest, with guidelines for the oral history project here.
The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans
by John Bailey
In 1843, on a New Orleans Street, Madam Carl sees a woman that she is positive she recognizes from her past. The woman, held as a slave of a carabet owner, is believed by Mme Carl to be a long-lost German immigrant who disappeared as a small child some twenty five years earlier. The Lost German Slave Girl examines the case of Sally Miller, also known as Salome Mueller, and her bid for freedom and recognition as a German immigrant illegally held captive.
The case follows many twists and turns to keep us guessing right up until the end of the book. Bailey has pieced together a history from thorough examination of legal documents and other sources. This is not a dry history textbook recitation. A rich description of 1840 New Orleans and the people keeps the reader’s attention as the story unfolds. The author has created an engaging read drawing on documents and records. He fills in the gaps with conversations and story but at the same time strives to remain as accurate as possible.
This book is extremely readable and informative. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the time. If you enjoy a true courtroom drama or mystery you may like this book.
Slavery, mentions of death of a parents, sickness, drowning,difficult voyage resulting in starvation and death, child abuse, abuse