The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center and the Royal Oak Bookshop co-sponsor book donations to Samuels Public Library that are by or about women. The following are reviews of books recently donated:
Note: Our reviewer does not work in July and August.
BOOK REVIEW FOR NOVEMBER 2013
FIGHTING FOR COMMON GROUND: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress
AUTHOR: OLYMPIA SNOWE, Former United States Senator
“When a broad table is to be made, and the edges of planks do not fit, the artist takes a little from both, and makes a good joint. In like manner, both sides must part with some of their demands.” —The words of Benjamin Franklin, as he addressed the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It is incredibly disturbing to note that the very concepts of compromise, consensus and bipartisanship, the cornerstones which enabled this fledgling nation to succeed initially, are the processes we are demanding to be revisited in American government today. Where have civility and good-faith based communications gone? Why do most of us feel that our government is broken and, if not repaired quickly, will suffer horrific moments that will defame our history? Olympia Snowe, the former Congresswoman from Maine, furnishes direct, frank explanations to these questions that are revelations for all who are willing to listen. She does not pamper the reader with her declarations, but rather allows information, perhaps heretofore not known, to be realized. Ms. Snowe’s tenure in the federal government ( first in the House of Representatives then the Senate), emboldens her spirit to inform the people of what used to be and what can be, once again. The statements in this book may not surprise you but they will force you to stop looking through rose-colored glasses. Fighting for Common Ground is replete with chronology that beckons the reader to recall significant instances in our recent history. Ms. Snowe discusses how communication, courteous behavior and working toward compliant solutions became the formula for great decision-making efforts during her term in office. In the process, she paved the way for other women in government and was consistently instrumental in making policy that was beneficial to the American public, and especially to women. Her discussions of dealing with all members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, makes one’s mouth water in anticipation of a return to that process. Webster defines the word common as: belonging to or shared by each or all. In trying to find common ground, Ms. Snowe makes it very clear that compromise is not a dirty word. She also boldly suggests that we, the people, must take a stand. We, the people, must let Congress know that we have reached our saturation point and that somehow the cooperative intensions of our forefathers must be resurrected. We, the people, demand to see our government work again.
BOOK REVIEW FOR DECEMBER 2013
HARLEM NOCTURNE: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II
BY FARAH JASMINE GRIFFIN
When one considers the depth of the word nocturne, visions of meditative, pensive musical patterns are envisioned. This brilliant author creates such a mystical atmosphere as she uncovers the amazing lives of three extraordinary women: dancer and choreographer, Pearl Primus; gifted pianist and composer, Mary Lou Williams; and renowned novelist and journalist, Ann Petry. Why did Ms. Griffin select these women? What were their accomplishments? Simply stated, they made definitive, powerful attempts to bring attention to the need for equality and freedom for all Americans at a time when it was very dangerous for people of color to stand tall. In a splendid, clever fashion, they illuminated these issues through their gifts of creative artistry. This book is an amazing exposé, indeed!
Harlem has been perceived as an intriguing, beguiling and, yes, dangerous city that never sleeps. That is true today as it was in the 1940’s. During that period, the political atmosphere was imbued with war efforts abroad and the concept of Double V (Double Victory) here at home. The latter became the courageous hue and cry of many African Americans who fueled the movement to fight for freedom overseas and equality in their homeland. In the midst of this appeared three powerful women. Pearl Primus was an extremely intelligent, determined woman who interpreted her causes through dance. She studied, researched and probed the nuances of body movements and positions so that when she transmitted the torment of the conditions surrounding the plight of black Americans, her audience could immediately absorb and internalize the message. Ann Petry became an outspoken proponent by utilizing her literary skills. She wrote articles about the paradox of American democracy and became the first black woman to author a book on the subject which sold more than a million copies. The Street, a novel that conveyed the struggles of working-class black women, eventually became required reading for many college students. Mary Lou Williams made her mark as a gifted pianist, stressing the concept of characterizing music not black or white, male or female, classical or jazz, but rather a truly democratic ensemble that would resound in the hearts of all people. Her compositions, such as The Zodiac Suite, and other collaborations with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell are acclaimed today.
The truly incredible part of this chronicle is that the fight for social change, the movement to grow as one, was performed with incomparable intellectual, artistic beauty beyond description. Challenge your spirit, look inward, and allow these women to penetrate your soul with their gifts of purpose. Prepare to be amazed!
BOOK REVIEW FOR JANUARY 2014
THE GREAT WORK OF YOUR LIFE, A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling
AUTHOR: STEPHEN COPE
Is it possible that one’s chosen life has a false bottom…
An empty space not yet fulfilled?
What a revelation to engulf the soul,
With darkness, fear, the unrealized.
Unveil suppressed gifts.
Unleash the web of doubt.
Tread the path unknown with fearless feet.
Bask in extravagant courage scouring for dharma.
Worship selflessness, sacrifice, surrender, then–
Behold the’shining in your eyes’!
The seemingly simplistic title of this book evokes a mystical concept that is vibrantly apparent from the moment the first page is turned. The reader is challenged with this passage from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you. For many, that may be enough to flee and seek sanctuary! However, if you prevail, Stephen Cope will take you on a journey that is unlike any known heretofore. Throw caution to the wind as this is not a message for those who will not dare to stand on life’s precipice and look inward to discern whom you really are at the core of your being. Gird yourself…great expectations are on the horizon.
The premise for this chronicle is based upon the Bhagavad Gita, a two-thousand-year-old spiritual classic that leads one to dharma…the sacred duty in life. The author exposes you to Arjuna, a warrior, and his mentor, Krishna, and the dialogue that ensues which exposes the secret to unlocking the manifestations of the soul. One is blatantly confronted with symbolic representations that create an awareness of self that is life-altering. In essence, Cope methodically takes you through the process of discovering the inner being and reveals that we are duty-bound to uncover our own idiosyncratic dharma, also known as truth! A critical part of this is the concept of absorbing, knowing and internalizing difficult situations, as it is clear that in this life pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. He recalls the lives of revered figures (Goodall, Whitman, Thoreau, Frost, Beethoven, Tubman) and demonstrates that in discovering their truths, each was able to bring light into the world. He does the same when he introduces people he has known personally and how they found the pathway to their sacred duty.
The Great Work of Your Life is skillfully crafted to enable us to uncover our dharma and, in so doing, to ‘gift’ the world. Are you living your ‘truth’? It is never too late to begin and just envision the extraordinary joy from within that will glorify your existence when you finally see the ‘shining in your eyes’.
BOOK REVIEW FOR FEBRUARY 2014
VOICES OF CHEROKEE WOMEN
EDITED BY CAROLYN ROSS JOHNSTON
We your prisoners wish to speak to you—We wish to speak humbly for we cannot help ourselves. We have been made prisoners by your men but we did not fight against you. We have never done you any harm. For we ask you to hear us. We have been told we are to be sent off by boat immediately. Sir (,) will you listen to your prisoners. We are Indians. Our wives and children are Indians and some people do not pity Indians. But if we are Indians we have hearts that feel. We do not want to see our wives and children die. We do not want to die ourselves and leave them widows and orphans. We are in trouble and our hearts are very heavy. The darkness of night is before us. We have no hope unless you will help us. We do not ask you to let us go free from being your prisoners unless it should please yourself. But we ask that you will not send us down the river at this time of the year. If you do we shall die, and our wives will die and our children will die. We want you to keep us in this country till the sickly time is over so that when we get to the West that we may be able to work to make boards to cover our families…. (Excerpt from a humble petition from the Cherokee prisoners at and near Ross’s Landing, June11, 1838.) This document represented the voices of a depressed, terrified, bewildered group of people, pleading to the American captors for their very existence. They were soon to realize the magnitude of the journey ahead of them that would eventually be described as the Trail of Tears!
This historical documentation depicts the plight of the Cherokee people as they struggled to retain their dignity and quality of life from the sixteenth century to the present. Women are highlighted in these persuasive declarations which appear in the form of letters, diary passages, newspaper articles and oral histories, to name a few. When the Europeans and Americans observed the Cherokee women, they claimed that they were abused, living a life of drudgery. That was far from the truth. Cherokee women were farmers, allowed to own property and were a powerful force both politically and economically within their culture. Labeling them as uncivilized afforded the onlookers an opportunity to destabilize this society, taking their lands for personal gain. Thus began decades of oppression and degradation.
“Be of good mind,” is an expression that Cherokee elders have maintained for a long time. Essentially it means that one is to think positively regardless of the situation. It is this attitude that enabled these Native Americans to be sustained. They learned that education was the key to their preservation and many took advantage of the seminaries that were erected for this purpose. Isabel Cobb became the first female physician in 1893 and paved the way to success for others like Joyce Dugan, who became Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in 1995. The voices of these women, and many like them, made it known that the path of tears, along with a strong mystical heritage, became the stepping stones to a greater life.