Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

One day in 1993, high up in the world's most inhospitable mountains, Greg Mortenson wandered lost and alone, broken in body and spirit, after a failed attempt to climb K2, the world's deadliest peak. When the people of an impoverished village in Pakistan's Karakoram Himalaya took him in and nursed him back to health, Mortenson made an impulsive promise: He would return one day and build them a school. Although he was a homeless "climbing bum" living out of his aging Buick in Berkeley, California, Mortenson sold what few possessions he had to launch one of the most remarkable humanitarian campaigns of our time." "Three Cups of Tea traces Mortenson's decade-long odyssey to build schools, especially for girls, throughout the region that gave birth to the Taliban and sanctuary to Al Qaeda. While he wages war with the root causes of terrorism - poverty and ignorance - by providing both girls and boys with a balanced, nonextremist education. Mortenson must survive a kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, death threats from Americans who consider him a traitor, and wrenching separations from his family." Today, as the director of the Central Asia Institute, Mortenson has built fifty-five schools serving Pakistan and Afghanistan's poorest communities. And as this real-life Indiana Jones from Montana crisscrosses the Himalaya and the Hindu Kush fighting to keep these schools functioning, he provides not only hope to tens of thousands of children, but living proof that one passionately dedicated person truly can change the world.

Visit Greg Mortenson's Pennies for Peace Foundation.

Visit Mortenson's Central Asia Institute.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Civil War and Reconstruction

The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection
Edited by William E. Gienapp

An ample, wide-ranging collection of primary sources, The Civil War and
Reconstruction: A Documentary Collection
, opens a window onto the
political, social, cultural, economic, and military history from 1830
to 1877. Particular attention is paid to social history; coverage of
the experience of African Americans, women, and non-elites provides a
well-rounded picture of the period. Substantial selections, careful
editing, and helpful annotations make this collection an ideal
supplement for your course on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

This text contains selected reproductions of primary-source documents on the Civil War and Reconstruction period edited for student use. The documents, drawn from the period 1830-1877, discuss social and economic developments as well as political, military, and diplomatic events. Letters and diary entries provide information on people's private lives. A sampling of topics includes causes of the conflict, the military struggle, Union and Confederate politics, diplomacy, African Americans, common soldiers, Johnson's clash with Congress, and the end of Reconstruction. The US and Confederate constitutions are included in the appendix.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mothers of Invention

Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
by Drew Gilpin Faust

Exploring privileged Confederate women's wartime experiences, this book chronicles the clash of the old and the new within a group that was at once the beneficiary and the victim of the social order of the Old South.

Faust makes a major contribution to both Civil War historiography and women's studies in this outstanding analysis of the impact of secession, invasion and conquest on Southern white women. Antebellum images based on helplessness and dependence were challenged as women assumed an increasing range of social and economic responsibilities. Their successes were, however, at best mixed, involving high levels of improvisation. The failure of Southern men to sustain their patriarchal pretensions on the battlefield also broke the prewar gender contract of dependence in return for protection. Women of the South after 1865 confronted both their doubt about what they could accomplish by themselves and their desire to avoid reliance on men. The women's rights movement in the South thus grew from necessity and disappointment-a sharp contrast to the ebullient optimism of its Northern counterpart. Faust's provocative analysis of a complex subject merits a place in all collections of U.S. history.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Slave No More

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Own Narratives of Emancipation
by David W. Blight

Slave narratives, some of the most powerful records of our past, are extremely rare, with only fifty-five post–Civil War narratives surviving. A mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two newly uncovered narratives, and the biographies of the men who wrote them, join that exclusive group with the publication of A Slave No More, a major new addition to the canon of American history. Handed down through family and friends, these narratives tell gripping stories of escape: Through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, the men reached the protection of the occupying Union troops. David W. Blight magnifies the drama and significance by prefacing the narratives with each man’s life history. Using a wealth of genealogical information, Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the north, where they reunited their families.

In the stories of Turnage and Washington, we find history at its most intimate, portals that offer a rich new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom. In A Slave No More, the untold stories of two ordinary men take their place at the heart of the American experience.

Both Washington and Turnage, near contemporaries, wrote vivid accounts of their lives as slaves and the bold bids for freedom that took them across Confederate lines and into the waiting arms of Union soldiers. Recently discovered, both texts have been reproduced by Mr. Blight as written, with misspellings and grammatical errors intact. Mr. Blight…has also provided an extended preface that provides historical context, fills in biographical gaps and extends the life stories of both men past the Civil War, when their manuscripts break off abruptly, to their deaths in the early 20th century. Two remarkable lives, previously lost, emerge with startling clarity, largely through the words of the principal actors themselves.

WALLACE TURNAGE (1846–1916) was born in Snow Hill, North Carolina, and spent his adult life in New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey.

JOHN WASHINGTON (1838–1918), born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, worked as a house and sign painter in Washington, D.C., after his escape. He retired to Cohasset, Massachusetts.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Farmer Boy

Farmer Boy
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

While Laura Ingalls grows up in a little house on the western prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Almanzo and his brother and sisters work at their chores from dawn to supper most days-no matter what the weather. There is still time for fun, though, especially with the horses, which Almanzo loves more than anything.

Farmer Boy is the third book in the Laura Years series.

From shearing sheep and milking cows to training young calves, Almanzo Wilder worked very hard on his family's farm in New York. But when his chores were all done, Almanzo could go to his favorite place in the whole world -- the Horse-Barn. Although his father wouldn't let him handle the frisky colts, Almanzo could still look at them and dream of one day having a horse all his own!

Hospital Sketches

Hospital Sketches
by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott briefly served as a nurse during the Civil War. These three brief "sketches" recount her experiences, though she gives herself a pseudonym and presumably embellishes her tale. The first sketch recounts her decision to become a nurse and her journey from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. Despite her support of female equality, she finds her tasks go more smoothly when gentlemen help her.

The second sketch describes her job at the hospital. When the wounded are brought in, it is her duty to help wash and feed them, assist the doctors, and cheer the men up. She calls the men her "boys" and treats them maternally. In the third sketch, she falls ill herself and is brought home by her father.

In a postscript, she talks a bit more about the hospital. She criticizes its disorganized management and mocks the doctors, many of whom treat the patients as interesting problems to be solved rather than as people. Caring is left to the nurses. She mentions that she expected to be treated poorly by the doctors herself, but finds that they treat her well (though she also says they receive much better food and sleeping quarters). This section also contains lengthy reflections on the "Negroes" who help at the hospital.

Alcott was part of a much-debated experiment on the part of the Army’s medical department. The department had not changed since the War of 1812 and many men died early in the Civil War due to inadequate facilities and skill. Guided by the experiences of Florence Nightingale and pressed by Dorothea Dix, the Army decided female nurses would help improve conditions. Many critics found such activity indecent for women or claimed they would spend their time fainting and flirting with the men. Alcott’s writing implicitly takes such views to task. This edition of the book has a lengthy introduction that describes the start of Army nursing in some detail.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Republic of Suffering

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
by Drew Gilpin Faust

More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War's most fundamental and widely shared reality.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Beautiful Tree

The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves
by James Tooley

Everyone from Bono to the United Nations is looking for a miracle to bring schooling within reach of the poorest children on Earth. James Tooley found one hiding in plain sight. While researching private schools in India for the World Bank, and worried he was doing little to help the poor, Tooley wandered into the slums of Hyderabad's Old City. Shocked to find it overflowing with tiny, parentfunded schools filled with energized students, he set out to discover if schools like these could help achieve universal education. Named after Mahatma Gandhi's phrase for the schools of pre-colonial India, The Beautiful Tree recounts Tooley's journey from the largest shanty town in Africa to the hinterlands of Gansu, China. It introduces readers to the families and teachers who taught him that the poor are not waiting for educational handouts. They are building their own schools and educating themselves.

Tooley (Reclaiming Education) documents his surprising finding that private schools are providing quality education to millions of poor children in the developing world. Whereas development experts insist that the path out of poverty lies in investment in public schools, the author draws on his fieldwork in India, China and Africa to argue that small entrepreneurs are educating the poor. In one region of India, 80% of urban children and 30% of rural children attend private schools; in China's Gansu province 586 private schools are located in small villages, even though the state prides itself on its public system. Contrary to accepted wisdom, the modest fees of private schools are within reach of most, and parents find them superior to public schools that are often riddled with corruption and incompetence. Tooley argues that development funds be invested to support these institutions, through vouchers to parents and microfinance loans to the schools. The author's engaging style transforms what could have been a dry if startling research report into a moving account of how poor parents struggle against great odds to provide a rich educational experience to their children.