The Storm On Our Shores – by Mark Obmascik (2019)

Storm On Our Shores

Do you think that the battles of World War II never touched United States soil? That’s what I thought until I read this book. In May of 1943, a brutal struggle took place on the Aleutian island of Attu, which is part of the state of Alaska. It was a remote location that was almost uninhabited. For nearly a year, Japanese soldiers battled American soldiers for control of the island. It was a cold, windy, foggy place with spongy ground, which made it almost impossible to transport vehicles across. Most of the fighting was guerrilla-style.

When the Americans finally won control of the island, a hand-written journal was found on the dead body of a Japanese doctor. It was translated into English with the hope of finding some military secrets. But it contained only the daily happenings of the surgeon, and his desire to return home to his wife and daughters, one of whom he had never met. Copies of the translation began circulating among the servicemen. It was a side to the enemy that most had not considered – that some of the Japanese soldiers who were drafted were much like themselves. They loved their families, were homesick, and wanted the war to end.

The Japanese surgeon -Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi – had actually spent ten years in the United States studying to become a doctor. He had returned back to Japan to marry his childhood sweetheart, but hoped to become a U.S. citizen someday. But the start of World War II killed that dream. The Japanese were the enemy, and the United States didn’t want more coming into the country, let alone becoming citizens. Paul’s dream died, but he did the best he could to be a good doctor in Japan. He and his wife were 7th-Day Adventist Christians, which was not a good faith to have in Japan. Then came the order that he was being drafted. There was no choice; he had to serve. So Paul Tatsuguchi tended  to the medical needs of his fellow soldiers, while trying to follow his religious beliefs of non-violence. It was an impossible situation.

The book goes back and forth between the story of Paul’s life, and the life of American soldier Laird, who shot and killed Paul. By the end of the book, I felt sorry for both of the men.

The battle of Attu was mostly unknown to Americans, and the government and the military suppressed the story. This battle claimed thousands of lives, both American and Japanese, and was totally unnecessary. When will mankind ever learn that in war-times, everyone loses? Everyone.

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The Pack-Horse Library

pack-horse librarian
(photo courtesy of smithsonianmag.com)

The Great Depression of the 1930s was exceeding difficult for almost everyone in the United States. Jobs were few, and every penny was needed just to provide basic food for families. As the depression stretched on, people needed a distraction from the stress of daily living. They needed books.

In urban areas, people could visit their local library, and go home with something to read. But if you lived in a more remote area, like the mountains of Kentucky, you were out of luck. The solution: pack-horse libraries.

Portable libraries were actually in existence before the Great Depression. The Kentucky Federation Of Women’s Clubs ran traveling libraries from 1896 until the early 1930’s, when they ran out of money. In 1935, the federal government continued the idea. The Works Program Administration (WPA) hired healthy young women to go to mountain communities on horseback with packs of books, serving as portable libraries. It was a tough job, and paid only $28 a month. While the government paid the salaries of the librarians, the state of Kentucky had to come up with the books, and the workers had to provide their own transportation – either using their own horse or renting a horse. Books were donated by more affluent Kentuckians, and as word spread, by people in other states.

It wasn’t easy being a pack-horse librarian. You had to make your circuit at least twice a month, covering 100-120 miles. The mountain roads were difficult to navigate. They had to care for their horse, and their two large saddle-bags of books. What sort of reading material made it into those saddlebags? A lot of classic fiction (Mark Twain was a favorite), the Bible, magazines, recipe books, how-to books, and Sunday school booklets.

As books and magazines became worn out, they were not thrown away. Instead, the librarians would salvage good sections and pages, and glue them into scrapbooks, which went right back into the pack-bags. Even old donated Christmas cards were put to use as bookmarks.

The pack-horse librarians brought books to about 50,000 Kentucky families in 1936, and to 155 schools the next year. These tiny libraries provided much-needed reading material through the rest of the Great Depression. The project was discontinued in 1943, as the economy recovered and people went back to work. But the idea of tiny libraries lives on with bookmobiles in areas that do not have a traditional library.

An Invisible Thread – by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski (2011)

An Invisible Thread

When we think of life-long friends, what comes to mind are: kids we went to school with, neighbors we hung out with, and college roommates we kept kept in touch with after graduation. Our friends tend to be about the same age as us, and have shared interests.

That is what makes the story of Laurie and Maurice so different. They weren’t the same age, race, or socio-economic status. They met by chance – or was it chance? Maurice was an 11-year-old black kid panhandling to feed himself, since his mother was a drug addict incapable of providing for him. Laurie was an advertising executive walking down a busy city street in Manhattan when Maurice asked her for money. She shook her head no, kept going, then stopped and went back. Instead of giving him money, Laurie took him to the nearest McDonalds and fed him. And that was the beginning of their life-long friendship.

Maurice and Laurie met every Monday to talk and eat together. The other days of the week, Laurie would pack her young friend a huge brown-bag lunch, and leave it with the doorman of her apartment building for Maurice to pick up while she was at work. An invisible thread drew them together, and became stronger as time went by.

This true story is incredible. Even though it seemed that Laurie and Maurice had absolutely nothing in common, they did. Both had fathers that had failed them, one being a violent alcoholic and the other being an absent drug addict. What I took away from this book was: 1, God brings people into our lives at just the right moment, even if it seems random, and 2, keep your eyes open because you might be the “Laurie” or the “Maurice” in someone’s life.

The Search – by William Badke (1995)

The Search.jpg

“The Search” is the first book in the Ben Sylvester mystery trilogy, which I read many years ago. The main character, Ben, works as a political consultant for an international company that helps third-world countries develop democratic governments. However, things don’t always go smoothly. The book opens with him running for his life in some part of Africa. He makes it safely back to the United States, but his troubles aren’t over. His house is empty, and his wife Karen and their two kids gone.

The rest of the book is just as the title suggests, a search. The search leads him to an isolated area of Canada to find his missing family. About halfway into the book we also meet Karen, his wife. Karen has had her own kind of search, a spiritual one. She has become a Christian, and is now a much stronger woman. Instead of being a timid person and being afraid of many things, including her domineering father, she has a calmness and confidence that God has things under control. Karen wants Ben to have a relationship with Jesus too, but he is used to taking care of himself and doesn’t think he needs any help. But of course, all of us need help.

If you like action-packed mystery with a spiritual element, this is a good book to check out. Being an older book, you may have a bit of a search for it, but that’s what this book is all about – searching and finding the effort worth it!

Un-Facebooking

FACEBOOK-QUIT
(photo credit: The Washington Post)

I love a good challenge! Like five years ago, when I started this book site to share information about great books that are available to read. Might I run out of good books to write about? Maybe, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Then there was the challenge several years ago to significantly reduce our family’s grocery bill. That took some time and grocery-store analysis, but we were able to pick the two best stores for our budget and save a fair amount of money.

Last year I challenged myself to close out my Google e-mail account, and switch to a smaller company that is less intrusive in its data-collecting. It was a royal pain in the neck, but the detangling from the tentacles of g-mail was finally complete.

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/8643/

Last year was also the year that our family decided to see if we could do without home internet service for awhile. This was one of our toughest challenges, and I wrote a few posts about our experience.

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/home-internet-can-we-do-without-it/

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/the-family-experiment-conclusion/

That brings me to this year, and my latest challenge: to pull the plug on Facebook. Many years ago, when I first signed up, it was a lot of fun. It kept me up with the lives of my relatives and friends. Who had a baby? Who had died? Who graduated? Who was sending out an urgent prayer request? Coffee and Facebook became my first stops in the morning. But as the years went by, the amount of actual news from friends decreased, replaced by endless videos that people wanted me to watch, angry tirades about politicians, memes, and ads for things I should buy.

In addition, I was becoming painfully aware of just how much personal information was being mined by facebook and shared with all of their affiliates. More than 150 companies, news outlets reported, although no one actually seemed to be able to produce a complete list. So I began the tedious process of removing personal pictures, posts and messages from my account. When I mentioned my goal of un-Facebooking to friends, most expressed doubt.
“How will you know what’s going on?”
“You’ll be back.”
“It won’t do any good to close your account, they’ll get your data some other way.”

But how will anything ever change if people aren’t willing to unplug from monster data collectors like Facebook and Google/G-mail? Maybe un-Facing won’t stop the powers that be from continuing to mine information about me. But why should I make it easy for them?

 

Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time – by Michael Perry (2003)

Population 485

This isn’t your usual non-fiction read. It’s not quite a biography, not quite an orderly book on a particular topic. It’s the words of a man reminiscing about a small town and its volunteer fire department. The author admits that his natural tendency is to be rather hermit-like. But working with the local fire department has bonded him to the the little community that he grew up in and returned to.  Mr. Perry describes his job as an emergency responder:

“In New Auburn, we are on call twenty-four hours a day. We are not scheduled, we are simply assumed to be available. We carry our pagers everywhere we go, we sleep with them beside the bed. You get so you jump at anything that beeps or jingles. I stayed with a friend over the holidays, and she had this Christmas clock with a little Dickens scene, and every hour on the hour, it played a wheezy electronic carol, the first note of which matched the tone of the fire page. Every hour on the hour, that clock would fire up, and I’d jerk as if I’d been goosed.

“I was paged one hundred and six times last year. Fires, drunks, babies, grandmothers. Injured farmers, frightened salesmen, old fishermen. The pager is on my hip right now, even as I type. It will go off, perhaps in the next five minutes, perhaps next Tuesday when I am in the bathroom. My heart will jump. If I’m getting something from under the sink, I may crack my head on the grease trap. I’ll listen for the details, find out where, begin forming a half-baked picture in my head. I’ll run across the backyard, headed for the hall. Whoever’s out there needing help, they’re getting me, for better or worse. Me, and a handful of my neighbors…” (from pages 159-160)

After reading this book, I thought about how difficult it must be to do emergency work in such a small community. You would probably know most of the people you were called on to help. You would need to emotionally detach yourself at the emergency scene so that you wouldn’t become too panicked or upset to help them. I, for one, am very grateful for people who have the gift of being able to handle emergencies calmly and efficiently, whether in a large city or in a small hometown like New Auburn. God bless those firemen and ambulance EMTs!

Unplanned – by Abby Johnson (2011)

unplanned

When most people decide to resign from a job, it’s not national news. But when Abby Johnson walked away from a good-paying director’s position at a Planned Parenthood clinic for moral reasons, it hit the news. This book covers how Abby began as a volunteer,  became the director, and spent eight years there before resigning.

As she describes becoming drawn in during her college years, that part made sense. Abby truly did care about women in crisis. She wanted women to have access to annual check-ups and birth control so that they wouldn’t ended up with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies. But then she went on to accept full-time work there. Her family wasn’t happy about it, and her husband didn’t like it either.

I did greatly admire her resolve to never call the police on the pro-life group that gathered every day on the other side of the fence surrounding the clinic. She developed a good relationship with them but refused to be persuaded by them. Then came the day she was asked to assist the clinic doctor by holding the ultrasound probe as he performed the abortion. The ugliness of abortion became real to her, and she vowed to never again participate in an abortion. She joined the Coalition For Life that had been praying over the fence for eight years, and resigned her job, only to find herself being dragged into court by Planned Parenthood.

It was a fascinating story. I could see both Abby’s desire to help people, and the way she managed to rationalize what she was doing as good. It’s human nature to convince ourselves that what we have chosen to do is alright. I was just amazed that it took her a whopping eight years to admit that she was going against her conscience. Now I’m ready to go see the movie, which is currently running in the theaters.