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Month 9: Previous Decades
Read a book that takes place in a decade before you were born.
American Heiress by
On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre Tania. The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing the Hearst family trying to secure Patty s release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing Tania wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty s year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circuslike trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term Stockholm syndrome entered the lexicon. The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secretdocuments, "American Heiress" thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. "American Heiress "examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors crusade. Or did she?"
Call the Midwife by
In the 1950s, twenty-two-year-old Jenny Lee leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in London's East End slums. While delivering babies all over the city, Jenny encounters a colorful cast of women--from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives, to the woman with twenty-four children who can't speak English, to the prostitutes of the city's seedier side. An unfortgettable story of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the strength of remarkable and inspiring women.
Extraordinary, Ordinary People by
This is the story of Condoleezza Rice-- her early years growing up in the hostile environment of Birmingham, Alabama; her rise in the ranks at Stanford University to become the university's second-in-command and an expert in Soviet and Eastern European Affairs; and finally, in 2000, her appointment as the first Black woman to serve as Secretary of State.
The Girls of Atomic City by
In this book the author traces the story of the unsung World War II workers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. This is the story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project's secret cities, it did not appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships, and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men. But against this wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work, even the most innocuous details, was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb. Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there, work they did not fully understand at the time, are still being felt today.
Growing Up by
When Baker was only five, his father died. His mother, strong-willed and matriarchal, never looked back. After all, she had three children to raise.
These were depression years, and Mrs. Baker moved her fledgling family to Baltimore. Baker's mother was determined her children would succeed, and we know her regimen worked for Russell. He did everything from delivering papers to hustling subscriptions for the Saturday Evening Post. As is often the case, early hardships made the man.
The Help by
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-- mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
The Joy Luck Club by
A stunning literary achievement, THE JOY LUCK CLUB explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by
Publication Date: 2006-10-17
Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century--1951--in the middle of the United States--Des Moines, Iowa--in the middle of the largest generation in American history--the baby boomers. As one of the funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his all-American childhood for memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood wearing a jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck, vanquishing evildoers--in his head--as "The Thunderbolt Kid." Using his fantasy-life persona as a springboard, Bryson re-creates the life of his family in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality--a life at once familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy.
Lost in Place by
From the author of Iron & Silk comes a charming and frequently uproarious account of an American adolescence in the age of Bruce Lee, Ozzy Osborne, and Kung Fu. As Salzman recalls coming of age with one foot in Connecticut and the other in China (he wanted to become a wandering Zen monk), he tells the story of a teenager trying to attain enlightenment before he's learned to drive.
A Mighty Long Way by
Publication Date: 9780345511003
When 14-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up to Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. But the journey of the "Little Rock Nine" would lead the nation on an even longer and much more turbulent path, one that would challenge prevailing attitudes, break down barriers, and forever change America. Descended from a line of proud black landowners and businessmen, Carlotta was raised to believe that education was the key to success. After Brown v. Board of Education, the teenager volunteered to be among the first black students--she was the youngest--to integrate nearby Central High School. But getting through the door was only the first of many trials. This inspiring memoir is not only a testament to the power of one to make a difference but also of the sacrifices made by families and communities that found themselves a part of history.
Miss American Pie by
A spellbinding and authentic document of American adolescence. Set against the backdrop of the deep South in the 1970s, Miss American Pie is the unforgettable account of Margaret Sartor's life from age twelve to eighteen. A raw document crafted from diaries, notebooks, and letters, this deeply personal yet universally appealing story astonishes with its candor. Young Margaret moves with ease between the seemingly trivial concerns of hairstyles and boys to more profound questions of faith and meaning. By turns funny and poignant, heartbreaking and profound, she tackles all of the decade's issues--desegregation, drugs, the sexual revolution, the rise of feminism, and the spread of charismatic evangelical Christianity--with humor, frankness, and unexpected insight. Miss American Pie reminds us what it feels like to grow up, offering a true and honest look at a teenager grappling with the timeless questions of sex, friendship, God, love, loss, and the meaning of family. The introduction and epilogue, written by Sartor from an older perspective, reflect on those turbulent and life-shaping years, revealing how the girl in the diary turned out after all, and demonstrating that childhood--both its joys and traumas--reverberate deeply in our adult lives.
One Summer by
In One Summer Bill Bryson, one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers, transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American life. The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days--a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true "talking picture," Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression. All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.
On the Road by
Story of two restless young men in the late 1940s who cross and recross America, encountering parties, girls, drugs, loneliness and their own dreams along the way.
The Outsiders by
The struggle of three brothers to stay together after their parent's death and their quest for identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society.
The Worst Hard Time by
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist brings together an oral history of the American Dust Bowl that devastated the Great Plains during the Great Depression, following several families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region and their desperate struggle to persevere despite the devastation.