Wednesday, November 19, 2008

George Washington

George Washington
The American Presidents Series
by James MacGregor Burns & Susan Dunn

A premier leadership scholar and an eighteenth-century expert define the special contributions and qualifications of our first president Revolutionary hero, founding president, and first citizen of the young republic, George Washington was the most illustrious public man of his time, a man whose image today is the result of the careful grooming of his public persona to include the themes of character, self-sacrifice, and destiny. As Washington sought to interpret the Constitution’s assignment of powers to the executive branch and to establish precedent for future leaders, he relied on his key advisers and looked to form consensus as the guiding principle of government. His is a legacy of a successful experiment in collective leadership, great initiatives in establishing a strong executive branch, and the formulation of innovative and lasting economic and foreign policies. James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn also trace the arc of Washington’s increasing dissatisfaction with public life and the seeds of dissent and political parties that, ironically, grew from his insistence on consensus. In this compelling and balanced biography, Burns and Dunn give us a rich portrait of the man behind the carefully crafted mythology.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Promises Kept

Promises Kept: The Life of an Issei Man
by Akemi Kikumura

In Promises Kept, Akemi Kikumura continues the story about her family that she began in her book Through Harsh Winters to reveal aspects of her father's life as recalled by her mother and siblings. Kikumura explores how various historical events, including World War II and incarceration in a concentration camp, deeply affected her father, and probes the inner turmoil that beset him much of his life, feeding his gambling habit. She also movingly examines the traditional Japanese teachings and beliefs he attempted to pass on to his family.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Malcolm X

Malcolm X: Militant Black Leader
by Jack Rummel

In the "Black Americans of Achievement" series, a biography of a noted black militant of the 60's. Flashing back from Malcolm X's 1964 return from his seminal five-week visit to Africa and the Middle East, Rummel traces his subject's life from a painful, troubled youth and his early adulthood, spent in prison, He discusses Malcolm X's conversion to the Nation of Islam while in prison, including some information on the religion itself and its role in African-American life in the 50's and 60's, and the growing role of Malcolm X as a spokesman for the movement and his eventual alienation from its leader. Final chapters describe his evolving beliefs in traditional Islamic tenets, his founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, his commitment to economic and social freedom for blacks (he called for revolt against whites), and his tragic assassination in 1965.

Woman Warrior

Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
by Maxine Hong Kingston

A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.

Maxine Hong Kingston is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a gambling house in the 1940s, when Maxine was born, and then a laundry where Kingston and her brothers and sisters toiled long hours. Kingston graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1962 from the University of California at Berkeley, and, in the same year, married actor Earll Kingston, whom she had met in an English course. The couple has one son, Joseph, who was born in 1963. They were active in antiwar activities in Berkeley, but in 1967 the Kingstons headed for Japan to escape the increasing violence and drugs of the antiwar movement. They settled instead in Hawai‘i, where Kingston took various teaching posts. They returned to California seventeen years later, and Kingston resumed teaching writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic -- a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annex" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth: Antislavery Activist
by Peter Krass

Traces the life of the former slave who could neither read nor write, yet earned a reputation as one of the most articulate and outspoken antislavery and women's rights activists in the United States.