Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The American Workforce

The topic for our October meeting on Tuesday the 28th will be Halloween and the fall season.  Scary or cozy, the choice is yours!  Watch, read, or listen to whatever you'd like then come tell us about it!

September's topic, in celebration of Labor Day, was all things American Workforce.  Here's the list!


Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do by Gabriel Thompson
(Powells.com) What is it like to do the back-breaking work of immigrants? To find out, Gabriel Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona, and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. He dodged taxis — not always successfully — as a bicycle delivery boy for an upscale Manhattan restaurant, and was fired from a flower shop by a boss who, he quickly realized, was nuts.

As one coworker explained, "These jobs make you old quick." Back spasms occasionally keep Thompson in bed, where he suffers recurring nightmares involving iceberg lettuce and chicken carcasses. Combining personal narrative with investigative reporting, Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcement — while telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour.


Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
(Powells.com) Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job — any job — can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour?

To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity — a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything — from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal — in quite the same way again.


Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work by Jeanne Marie Laskas
(Powells.com) Five hundred feet underground, Jeanne Marie Laskas asked a coal miner named Smitty, “Do you think it’s weird that people know so little about you?” He replied, “I don’t think people know too much about the way the whole damn country works.”

Hidden America intends to fix that. Like John McPhee and Susan Orlean, Laskas dives deep into her subjects and emerges with character-driven narratives that are gripping, funny, and revelatory. In Hidden America, the stories are about the people who make our lives run every day—and yet we barely think of them.

Laskas spent weeks in an Ohio coal mine and on an Alaskan oil rig; in a Maine migrant labor camp, a Texas beef ranch, the air traffic control tower at New York’s La Guardia Airport, a California landfill, an Arizona gun shop, the cab of a long-haul truck in Iowa, and the stadium of the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleaders. Cheerleaders? Yes. They, too, are hidden America, and you will be amazed by what Laskas tells you about them: hidden no longer.


Ava's Man by Rick Bragg
(Powells.com) With the same emotional generosity and effortlessly compelling storytelling that made All Over But the Shoutin' a national bestseller, Rick Bragg continues his personal history of the Deep South. This time he's writing about his grandfather Charlie Bundrum, a man who died before Bragg was born but left an indelible imprint on the people who loved him. Drawing on their memories, Bragg reconstructs the life of an unlettered roofer who kept food on his family's table through the worst of the Great Depression; a moonshiner who drank exactly one pint for every gallon he sold; an unregenerate brawler, who could sit for hours with a baby in the crook of his arm.

In telling Charlie's story, Bragg conjures up the backwoods hamlets of Georgia and Alabama in the years when the roads were still dirt and real men never cussed in front of ladies. A masterly family chronicle and a human portrait so vivid you can smell the cornbread and whiskey, Ava's Man is unforgettable.


Triangle by Katharine Weber
(Powells.com) By the time she dies at age 106, Esther Gottesfeld, the last survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, has told the story of that day many times. But her own role remains mysterious: How did she survive? Are the gaps in her story just common mistakes, or has she concealed a secret over the years? As her granddaughter seeks the real story in the present day, a zealous feminist historian bears down on her with her own set of conclusions, and Esther's voice vies with theirs to reveal the full meaning of the tragedy.

 A brilliant chronicle of the event that stood for ninety years as New York's most violent disaster, Triangle forces us to consider how we tell our stories, how we hear them, and how history is forged from unverifiable truths.



The Molly Maguires (DVD, 1970)
(Rottentomatoes.com) This grim historical drama from director Martin Ritt was loosely based on real-life events. Richard Harris stars as James McParlan, an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1876. The Pinkertons have been hired by a major coal company to infiltrate and expose an underground terrorist organization, the "Molly Maguires," operating within the impoverished mining communities of Pennsylvania. As most of the miners are Irish, the recently emigrated McParlan is selected to pose as a new worker just arrived in the area. He quickly wins the trust and loyalty of the local terrorist leader, Jack Kehoe (Sean Connery), as well as the affection of his landlord's beautiful daughter, Mary Raines (Samantha Eggar). As it becomes clear that the group he's supposed to betray is protesting truly wretched working conditions, the lawman's loyalties become divided between the law and his fellow countrymen. The Molly Maguires (1970) was Oscar nominated for Best Art and Set Direction. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi


Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA by Ennis Carter
(Powells.com) This lavishly illustrated volume amasses nearly 500 of the best and most striking posters designed by artists working in the 1930s and early 1940s for the government-sponsored Works Progress Administration, or WPA. Posters for the People presents these works for what they truly are: highly accomplished and powerful examples of American art. All are iconic and eye-catching, some are humorous and educational, and many combine modern art trends with commercial techniques of advertising. More than 100 posters have never been published or cataloged in federal records; they are included here to ensure their place in the history of American art and graphic design.

The story of these posters is a fascinating journey, capturing the complex objectives of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal reform program. Through their distinct imagery and clear and simple messages, the WPA posters provide a snapshot of an important era when the U.S. government employed hundreds of artists to create millions of posters promoting positive social ideals and programs and a uniquely American way of life. The resulting artworks now form a significant historical record. More than a mere conveyor of government information, they stand as timeless images of beauty and artistic accomplishment.


The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food by Mark Kulansky
(Powells.com) From the New York Times bestselling author who "powerfully demonstrates the defining role food plays in history and culture" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

In the throes of the Great Depression, a make-work initiative for authors — called "America Eats" — was created by the WPA to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local Americans. Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt and Cod, unearths this forgotten literary treasure, chronicling a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food or grocery superstores. Kurlansky brings together the WPA contributions — featuring New York automats and Georgia Coca-Cola parties, Maine lobsters and Montana beaver tails — and brilliantly showcases them with authentic recipes, anecdotes, and photographs.


The Wobblies (DVD, 1979)
(Rottentomatoes.com) This informative documentary covers the activities of the Industrial Workers of the World, the I.W.W., during the first part of the 20th century. The I.W.W. was the rival of the American Federation of Labor, but the former found fewer adherents because it was not mainstream. Its membership included several minority groups who were also busy fighting the prejudice of the times, they were often left of center simply because of advocating unpopular social issues, and their leaders included socialists like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The nickname for the members of the I.W.W. was the "Wobblies," originating with a Chinese man who said he belonged to the "I. Wobble. Wobble." Information on the union's activities, including a textile strike in Massachusetts in 1912 and another strike in Paterson, New Jersey in 1913 is provided by interviews with elderly former union members and a look at their memorabilia. Images are culled from still photographs, cartoons, posters, and archival footage. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi


Poop Collectors, Armpit Sniffers, and More: The Yucky Jobs Book by Alvin Silverstein
(Powells.com) Would you work in a sewer? How about a hospital emergency room? There are many jobs people enjoy doing that you might think are yucky. Find out about jobs that get you dirty, like hot tar roofing, and jobs that arent for the faint of heart, like embalming. An accurate and engaging title that is sure to get even the most reluctant reader turning the pages.


The Child Labor Reform Movement: An Interactive History Adventure by Steve Otfinoski
(Capstonepub.com) It’s the 1800s, and you are a child from a poor family. You have to go to work to keep from starving. Will you: Work as a pauper apprentice in an English factory? Emigrate from Ireland in order to work in the New England cloth mills? Make your living on the streets of New York City selling newspapers? Everything in this book happened to real people. And YOU CHOOSE what you do next. The choices you make could lead you to opportunity, to wealth, to poverty, or even to death.


The One Week Job Project: One Man, One Year, 52 Jobs by Sean Aiken
(Powells.com) A year and a half after he graduated from college, Sean Aiken found himself struggling to answer the question “What should I do with my life?” His mother suggested teaching. His older sister told him to apply for an entry-level corporate position. His father said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure it’s something you’re passionate about.” Taking his father’s advice to heart, Sean created the One-Week Job Project and launched himself on an epic journey to find his passion. His goal: to work fifty-two jobs in fifty-two weeks.

After the launch of his website, oneweekjob.com, the offers began pouring in. Sean’s first gig was—literally—jumping off a bridge, as a bungee operator in British Columbia. From there he traveled across Canada and the United States, reinventing himself as a firefighter, an aquarium host, a radio DJ, a martial arts instructor, an NHL mascot, and a snowshoe guide. During the course of his seven-day stints, from a Florida stock-trading floor to a cattle ranch in the wilds of Wyoming to a real estate office in Beverly Hills, Sean found time to make new friends and even fall in love. Whether choosing a spring fashion line, brewing beer, or milking a cow, Sean continued to ask himself and others about what success really means and how we find happiness—all while having the adventure of his life.
Inventive and empowering, witty and wise, The One-Week Job Project is a book that will give you the courage to follow your passion. Or, as Mark Twain said, “Explore. Dream. Discover.”


What Work Is: Poems by Philip Levine
(Powells.com) Winner of the National Book Award in 1991
“This collection amounts to a hymn of praise for all the workers of America. These proletarian heroes, with names like Lonnie, Loo, Sweet Pea, and Packy, work the furnaces, forges, slag heaps, assembly lines, and loading docks at places with unglamorous names like Brass Craft or Feinberg and Breslin’s First-Rate Plumbing and Plating. Only Studs Terkel’s Working approaches the pathos and beauty of this book. But Levine’s characters are also significant for their inner lives, not merely their jobs. They are unusually artistic, living ‘at the borders of dreams.’ One reads The Tempest ‘slowly to himself’; another ponders a diagonal chalk line drawn by his teacher to suggest a triangle, the roof of a barn, or the mysterious separation of ‘the dark from the dark.’ What Work Is ranks as a major work by a major poet . . . very accessible and utterly American in tone and language.”  —Daniel L. Guillory, Library Journal



Neither Lady nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South ed. by Susana Delfino and Michele Gillespie
(Powells.com) Although historians over the past two decades have written extensively on the plantation mistress and the slave woman, they have largely neglected the world of the working woman. Neither Lady nor Slave pushes southern history beyond the plantation to examine the lives and labors of ordinary southern women--white, free black, and Indian.

Contributors to this volume illuminate women's involvement in the southern market economy in all its diversity. Thirteen essays explore the working lives of a wide range of women--nuns and prostitutes, iron workers and basket weavers, teachers and domestic servants--in urban and rural settings across the South. By highlighting contrasts between paid and unpaid, officially acknowledged and "invisible" work within the context of cultural attitudes regarding women's proper place in society, the book sheds new light on the ambiguities that marked relations between race, class, and gender in the modernizing South.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: The very excellent local Black Jacket Symphony hosts a radio program on Birmingham’s 106.9 The Eagle every Sunday from 8-10, Black Jacket Radio.  You can also listen online at birminghamseagle.com, as they play the greatest music of our generation and give you all the insight and history behind it all.  This program is usually broadcast on Birmingham Mountain Radio as well at 107.3 on your FM dial.  Over the holiday weekend early last month, they offered a Labor Day playlist.  While I could not find a digital archive of recent shows anywhere, in September of 2011 BJS posted a Labor Day playlist on their blog.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

World War II


American Experience: Fly Girls (documentary film)
(Amazon.com) During WWII, more than a thousand women signed up to fly with the U.S. military. Wives, mothers, actresses and debutantes who joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) test-piloted aircraft, ferried planes and logged 60 million miles in the air. Thirty-eight women died in service. But the opportunity to play a critical role in the war effort was abruptly canceled by politics and resentment, and it would be 30 years before women would again break the sex barrier in the skies.


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
(Powells.com) Oct. 11th, 1943 — A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.


City of Thieves by David Benioff
(Powells.com)  As wise and funny as it is thrilling and original — the story of two young men on an impossible adventure.

A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won't talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds.
Lev Beniov considers himself "built for deprivation." He's small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building. 

When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible.

A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman. Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.


GENERAL DISCUSSION:  Benioff is one of the screenwriters for HBO's adaptation of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones.


The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
(Powells.com)  The one and only Fannie Flagg, beloved author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Can’tWait to Get to Heaven, and I Still Dream About You, is at her hilarious and superb best in this new comic mystery novel about two women who are forced to reimagine who they are.

Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama, has just married off the last of her daughters and is looking forward to relaxing and perhaps traveling with her husband, Earle. The only thing left to contend with is her mother, the formidable Lenore Simmons Krackenberry. Lenore may be a lot of fun for other people, but is, for the most part, an overbearing presence for her daughter. Then one day, quite by accident, Sookie discovers a secret about her mother’s past that knocks her for a loop and suddenly calls into question everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family, and her future.

Sookie begins a search for answers that takes her to California, the Midwest, and back in time, to the 1940s, when an irrepressible woman named Fritzi takes on the job of running her family’s filling station. Soon truck drivers are changing their routes to fill up at the All-Girl Filling Station. Then, Fritzi sees an opportunity for an even more groundbreaking adventure. As Sookie learns about the adventures of the girls at the All-Girl Filling Station, she finds herself with new inspiration for her own life.

Fabulous, fun-filled, spanning decades and generations, and centered on a little-known aspect of America’s twentieth-century story, The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is another irresistible novel by the remarkable Fannie Flagg.


The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
(Powells.com)  Those who carry the truth sometimes bear a terrible burden... Filled with stunning parallels to today's world, The Postmistress is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of two extraordinary women — and of two countries torn apart by war.

On the eve of the United States's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter.

In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape.

The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen.

The Postmistress is an unforgettable tale of the secrets we must bear, or bury. It is about what happens to love during war­time, when those we cherish leave. And how every story — of love or war — is about looking left when we should have been looking right.


Hitler's Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race to Recoverthe Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire by Sidney Kirkpatrick
(Powells.com) Had Hitler succeeded in conquering Europe, he would have crowned himself Holy Roman Emperor. The Nazis had in their possession priceless artifacts that would give Hitler legitimacy in his subjects' eyes: the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire including the Spear of Destiny, alleged to have pierced Christ's side at the Crucifixion.

Looted from the royal treasury in Vienna, Austria, the Crown Jewels were hidden in a secret bunker deep beneath N├╝rnberg castle, known to few but Heinrich Himmler, his staff--and a captured German soldier whose family lived above it. As luck would have it, the officer in charge of interrogating the soldier was First Lieutenant Walter Horn, art history professor. Following his report to General Patton, Horn would be assigned to recover this ancient treasure. Would he find it before covert Nazi agents could use it to revive the defeated regime?

Based on recently discovered and previously unpublished documents and interviews with all remaining living participants, this is a tale that surpasses fiction: part thriller, part detective story, all true.


The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest TreasureHunt in History by Robert Edsel
(Powells.com) At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.

In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.

Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.

(Powells.com) In search of "the best America there ever was," bestselling author and award-winning journalist Bob Greene finds it in a small Nebraska town few people pass through today; a town where Greene discovers the echoes of the most touching love story imaginable: a love story between a country and its sons.

During World War II, American soldiers from every city and walk of life rolled through North Platte, Nebraska, on troop trains en route to their ultimate destinations in Europe and the Pacific. The tiny town, wanting to offer the servicemen warmth and support, transformed its modest railroad depot into the North Platte Canteen.

Every day of the year, every day of the war, the Canteen, staffed and funded entirely by local volunteers, was open from five a.m. until the last troop train of the day pulled away after midnight. Astonishingly, this remote plains community of only 12,000 people provided welcoming words, friendship, and baskets of food and treats to more than six million GIs by the time the war ended.
In this poignant and heartwarming eyewitness history, based on interviews with North Platte residents and the soldiers who once passed through, Bob Greene tells a classic, lost-in-the-mists-of-time American story of a grateful country honoring its brave and dedicated sons.


Pure Grit: How American WWII Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in thePacific by Mary Cronk Farrell
(Powells.com) In the early 1940s, young women enlisted for peacetime duty as U.S. Army nurses. But when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 blasted the United States into World War II, 101 American Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines were suddenly treating wounded and dying soldiers while bombs exploded all around them. The women served in jerry-rigged jungle hospitals on the Bataan Peninsula and in underground tunnels on Corregidor Island. Later, when most of them were captured by the Japanese as prisoners of war, they suffered disease and near-starvation for three years.

Pure Grit is a story of sisterhood and suffering, of tragedy and betrayal, of death and life. The women cared for one another, maintained discipline, and honored their vocation to nurse anyone in need—all 101 coming home alive. The book is illustrated with archival photographs and includes an index, glossary, and timeline.


A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War CrimesSuspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from WWII by Eric Jaffe
(Barnesandnoble.com) In the wake of World War II, the Allied forces charged twenty-eight Japanese men with crimes against humanity. Correspondents at the Tokyo trial thought the evidence fell most heavily on ten of the accused. In December 1948, five of these defendants were hanged, while four received sentences of life in prison. The tenth was a brilliant philosopher-patriot named Okawa Shumei. His story proved strangest of all.

Among all the political and military leaders on trial, Okawa was the lone civilian. In the years leading up to World War II, he had outlined a divine mission for Japan to lead Asia against the West, prophesized a great clash with the United States, planned coups d'etat with military rebels, and financed the assassination of Japan's prime minister. Beyond "all vestiges of doubt," concluded a classified American intelligence report, "Okawa moved in the best circles of nationalist intrigue."
Okawa's guilt as a conspirator appeared straightforward. But on the first day of the Tokyo trial, he made headlines around the world by slapping star defendant and wartime prime minister Tojo Hideki on the head. Had Okawa lost his sanity? Or was he faking madness to avoid a grim punishment? A U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan, Major Daniel Jaffe—the author's grandfather—was assigned to determine Okawa's ability to stand trial, and thus his fate.

Jaffe was no stranger to madness. He had seen it his whole life: in his mother, as a boy in Brooklyn; in soldiers, on the battlefields of Europe. Now his seasoned eye faced the ultimate test. If Jaffe deemed Okawa sane, the war crimes suspect might be hanged. But if Jaffe found Okawa insane, the philosopher patriot might escape justice for his role in promoting Japan's wartime aggression.
Meticulously researched, A Curious Madness is both expansive in scope and vivid in detail. As the story pushes both Jaffe and Okawa toward their postwar confrontation, it explores such diverse topics as the roots of belligerent Japanese nationalism, the development of combat psychiatry during World War II, and the complex nature of postwar justice. Eric Jaffe is at his best in this suspenseful and engrossing historical narrative of the fateful intertwining of two men on different sides of the war and the world and the question of insanity.


The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and theFour-Legged Hero Who Flew at His Side by Damien Lewis
(Powells.com) An instant hit in the UK, this is the true account of a German shepherd who was adopted by the Royal Air Force during World War II, joined in flight missions, and survived everything from crash-landings to parachute bailouts, ultimately saving the life of his owner and dearest friend.

In the winter of 1939 in the cold snow of no-man's-land, two loners met and began an extraordinary journey that would turn them into lifelong friends. One was an orphaned puppy, abandoned by his owners as they fled Nazi forces. The other was a different kind of lost soul, a Czech airman bound for the Royal Air Force and the country that he would come to call home. Airman Robert Bozdech stumbled across the tiny German shepherd, whom he named Ant, after being shot down on a daring mission over enemy lines. Unable to desert his charge, Robert hid Ant inside his jacket as he escaped.
In the months that followed the pair would save each other's lives countless times as they flew together with Bomber Command. And though Ant was eventually grounded due to injury, he refused to abandon his duty, waiting patiently beside the runway for his master's return from every sortie, and refusing food and sleep until they were reunited. 

By the end of the war Robert and Ant had become British war heroes, and Ant was justly awarded the Dickin Medal, which honours the work of animals in war. With beautiful vintage black-and-white photos of Robert and Ant, The Dog Who Could Fly is a deeply moving story of loyalty in the face of adversity and the unshakable bond between a man and his best friend.


Up Front by Bill Mauldin
(Powells.com) "The real war," said Walt Whitman, "will never get in the books." During World War II, the truest glimpse most Americans got of the "real war" came through the flashing black lines of twenty-two-year-old infantry sergeant Bill Mauldin. Week after week, Mauldin defied army censors, German artillery, and Patton's pledge to "throw his ass in jail" to deliver his wildly popular cartoon, "Up Front," to the pages of Stars and Stripes. "Up Front" featured the wise-cracking Willie and Joe, whose stooped shoulders, mud-soaked uniforms, and pidgin of army slang and slum dialect bore eloquent witness to the world of combat and the men who lived'"and died'"in it.

This taut, lushly illustrated biography'"the first of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Mauldin'"is illustrated with more than ninety classic Mauldin cartoons and rare photographs. It traces the improbable career and tumultuous private life of a charismatic genius who rose to fame on his motto: "If it's big, hit it."


Sage by Colonel Jerry Sage, "Dagger" of the O.S.S. (NOT AVAIL IN THE PLJC SYSTEM)
(books.google.com) A former agent for the O.S.S. during World War II details his capture by the Nazis, his experiences in a POW camp in Germany, his role in the "Great Escape," and his continual escape attempts and harassment of the Nazis. (1993 Obituary in Variety)



GENERAL DISCUSSION: Steve McQueen's charater in the 1963 film "TheGreat Escape" was based on Colonel Sage's experiences.  The DVD special features contain a documentary about the making of the movie, including Colonel Sage's adventures.


Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan's Sex Slaves by Peipei Qiu
(Powells.com) During the Asia-Pacific War, the Japanese military forced hundreds of thousands of women across Asia into "comfort stations" where they were repeatedly raped and tortured. Japanese imperial forces claimed they recruited women to join these stations in order to prevent the mass rape of local women and the spread of venereal disease among soldiers. In reality, these women were kidnapped and coerced into sexual slavery. Comfort stations institutionalized rape, and these "comfort women" were subjected to atrocities that have only recently become the subject of international debate.

Chinese Comfort Women features the personal narratives of twelve women forced into sexual slavery when the Japanese military occupied their hometowns. Beginning with their prewar lives and continuing through their enslavement to their postwar struggles for justice, these interviews reveal that the prolonged suffering of the comfort station survivors was not contained to wartime atrocities but was rather a lifelong condition resulting from various social, political, and cultural factors.

In addition, their stories bring to light several previously hidden aspects of the comfort women system: the ransoms the occupation army forced the victims' families to pay, the various types of improvised comfort stations set up by small military units throughout the battle zones and occupied regions, and the sheer scope of the military sexual slavery-much larger than previously assumed. The personal narratives of these survivors combined with the testimonies of witnesses, investigative reports, and local histories also reveal a correlation between the proliferation of the comfort stations and the progression of Japan's military offensive. The first English-language account of its kind, Chinese Comfort Women exposes the full extent of the injustices suffered by and the conditions that caused them.



Youtube Links:

COMFORT WOMEN WANTED: Art Student Project.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=limEiSjBCGw&list=WL&index=71

Yumiko Yamamoto: Appeals to the UN, "Comfort Women were Not Sex Slaves"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8rd1kXMUM8&list=WL&index=74

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Last week, during a visit to South Korea, Pope Francis met with seven "comfort" women prior to a mass calling for peace and reconciliation between North and South Korea. 


Evil Men by James Dawes
(Powells.com) Presented with accounts of genocide and torture, we ask how people could bring themselves to commit such horrendous acts. A searching meditation on our all-too-human capacity for inhumanity, Evil Men confronts atrocity head-on--how it looks and feels, what motivates it, how it can be stopped.

Drawing on firsthand interviews with convicted war criminals from the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), James Dawes leads us into the frightening territory where soldiers perpetrated some of the worst crimes imaginable: murder, torture, rape, medical experimentation on living subjects. Transcending conventional reporting and commentary, Dawes's narrative weaves together unforgettable segments from the interviews with consideration of the troubling issues they raise. Telling the personal story of his journey to Japan, Dawes also lays bare the cultural misunderstandings and ethical compromises that at times called the legitimacy of his entire project into question. For this book is not just about the things war criminals do. It is about what it is like, and what it means, to befriend them.

Do our stories of evil deeds make a difference? Can we depict atrocity without sensational curiosity? Anguished and unflinchingly honest, as eloquent as it is raw and painful, Evil Men asks hard questions about the most disturbing capabilities human beings possess, and acknowledges that these questions may have no comforting answers.


YouTube Links, specifically focusing on Unit 731:

Unit 731 - Nightmare in Manchuria (History Channel)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgtIyNRv3g8&list=WL&index=70



The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win WWII by Denise Kiernan
(Amazon.com) During the height of WWII, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of theworld, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians--many of them young women from small towns across the South--were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war--when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed.

Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it--women who are now in their eighties and nineties-- The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country's history.


YouTube Link:
Denise Kiernan Discusses The Girls of Atomic City (San Francisco, CA)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITZZTUeSmDQ&list=WL&index=73


Hiroshima, Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and TheirAftermath by Paul Ham
(Amazon.com) In this harrowing history of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Paul Ham argues against the use of nuclear weapons, drawing on extensive research and hundreds of interviews to prove that the bombings had little impact on the eventual outcome of the Pacific War.


YouTube Link remembering the 69th anniversary of the Hiroshima / Nagasaki bombings:
"War Makes Everyone Crazy": Hiroshima Survivor Reflects on 69th Anniversary of U.S. Atomic Bombing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEd2xgmKlGU&list=UUzuqE7-t13O4NIDYJfakrhw


Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII (documentary film)
(Amazon.com) In 1942, a secret U.S. military program was launched to recruit women to the war effort. But unlike the efforts to recruit Rosie the Riveter to the factory, this clandestine search targeted female mathematicians who would become human 'computers' for the U.S. Army. From the bombing of Axis Europe to the assaults on Japanese strongholds, women worked around-the-clock six days a week, creating ballistics tables that proved crucial to Allied success. Rosie made the weapons, but the female computers made them accurate. When the first electronic computer (ENIAC) was developed to aid the Army's calculation efforts, six of these women were tapped to become its first programmers.



YouTube Link:
"Top Secret Rosies" Q & A @ WITI's 2011 Women Powering Technology Summit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u33_oRpAyEU&index=69&list=WL




A League of Their Own (feature film)
(
All Movie Guide) Too sentimental by half, and at the same time completely disarming entertainment, Penny Marshall's film scores points for drawing attention to a chapter of sports history many people didn't even know existed. The baseball scenes are remarkably authentic-looking, and the production design is just right, without drawing too much unnecessary attention. Marshall has assembled a top-flight cast as well, with Geena Davis and Tom Hanks adding unlimited charisma to their wonderfully comic performances. The first hour is genuinely superb, briskly paced and filled with humorous vignettes. The second hour succumbs to syrupy bonding and overstates its emotions, but the film retains its good nature -- difficult to pass up as a worthy Hollywood confection. The film was a huge summer hit, and paid off with its casting of Davis, who stepped in after Debra Winger reportedly turned down the role (rumor has it she was turned off by the casting of Madonna in a supporting role). A failed TV series followed shortly after, but didn't create nearly as much buzz.






Life is Beautiful (feature film)
(All Movie Guide) Life is Beautiful caused more than a little controversy when it was released: any attempt to make comedy out of the Holocaust is going to inspire strong reactions from critics and audience members. Love it or loathe it, Life is Beautiful inarguably made an international star out of Italian comedian Roberto Benigni, who wrote, directed, and starred in it. One of his country's most celebrated comedians, Benigni was previously known for his work in numerous Italian comedies, as well as Johnny Stecchino and Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law and Night onEarthLife is Beautiful's Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by Benigni's Best Actor Oscar and acceptance speech (in exuberant, skillfully broken English), made Benigni possibly Italy's most famous export since the Fiat.

Although some viewers found the film's second half, set almost entirely in a concentration camp, to be well-meaning but misguided, the film's first half is indisputably enjoyable. Revolving around the courtship of an aristocratic lady nicknamed the Principessa by Benigni's Guido, it makes a refreshing, elegantly hilarious love story. Somewhat ironically, the film's wittiest and most accurate commentary on fascism and religious oppression is contained here, rather than in the concentration camp setting. Benigni's comedy here becomes a tool for side-splitting yet razor-sharp criticism, and this first section powerfully establishes the reality of everyday life disrupted by the war.


Saving Private Ryan (feature film)
(All Movie Guide) Saving Private Ryan marked another foray into World War II for Steven Spielberg, this time examining the soldiers' struggles to maintain their sense of mission even in situations that seemed to defy reason and hope. To show the carnage of the D-Day Omaha Beach landing, Spielberg used a barrage of sound and the unpolished immediacy of a hand-held camera to thrust the viewer into the conflict for a 24-minute sequence of relentless, random violence more intense than in any previous Hollywood war movie. The desaturated color further recalled WWII newsreel footage while rendering the blood a matter-of-fact part of the landscape.

Adapted from an incident recorded by historian Stephen E.Ambrose, the mission to save one man after the Normandy invasion becomes a means for Capt. Miller and his troop of WWII film archetypes to debate the sacrifices of war, even a "good" war. Critically hailed for its stunningly realistic battle sequences and heartfelt performances, the film became a summertime hit despite its realistic violence and serious subject. After winning several critics' prizes, Saving Private Ryan garnered 11 Academy Award nominations and won five, including Spielberg's second Oscar for Best Director and Janusz Kaminski for Best Cinematography.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
(Powells.com) Berlin, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris cafe. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.

Berlin, 1952. Falk is a jazz legend. Hot Time Swingers band members Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, both African Americans from Baltimore, have appeared in a documentary about Falk. When they are invited to attend the film's premier, Sid's role in Falk's fate will be questioned and the two old musicians set off on a surprising and strange journey.

From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world of jazz musicians during WWII as he describes the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that led to Falk's incarceration in Sachsenhausen. Half-Blood Blues is a story about music and race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.

What are YOU reading/watching/listening to?
Holley