Book Chat

This month’s book reviews:


Children of Los Alamos: An Oral History of the Town Where the Atomic Bomb Began, reviewed earlier

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Awwwwww …go ahead, you must be heartless if you can look at that face without a sigh. Maybe it’s because I have a daughter who is crazy about dogs, but I’ve been noticing a lot of dog books out there lately. Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family–and a Whole Town–About Hope and Happy Endings is another in that genre. The story is basically about a family whose only son begs for a dog to no avail. The mom gets cancer, fights cancer, beats cancer, and then finally agrees to get the boy a dog. The family has the dog for only a short time when he runs away. Can they get him back? You can guess the answer (particularly if you read the book’s subtitle), but the book explores the 3-day search for Huck.

It’s a good book, and is well-written. However, most of the story isn’t really about the dog himself. It’s more about the good people of the community where Huck is lost and their helpfulness in finding him. There are some annoyances I had with the story:  the writer seems very rich (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), mentioning their high-rise NYC apartment, name-dropping that her son is friends with Caroline Kennedy’s son, spending  untold thousands to find the dog (making hundreds of color copies of posters, placing 1/4 page newspaper ads looking for him, etc). She also seems so dumbfounded at the kindness of small town people that it seemed a bit odd – I think she needs to move out of NYC and see how we good ol’ Midwestern friendly people live.

Still, if you’re a sucker for happy endings and cute puppies, you’ll enjoy “Huck.”

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And now, for something totally different –Echoes from Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins: The story of Eva and Miriam Mozes” the story of Eva Mozes Kor and her sister, Miriam. Eva and Miriam were twins who ended up in Auschwitz, studied by the infamous Dr. Mengele. The story is written very simply and does help you see the horror the Mozes family must have experienced as they were first sent from their home to a Jewish ghetto, then loaded onto cattle cars and brought to Auschwitz. Eva recounts her wonder that the rest of the town just stood by as they, the sole Jewish family, were sent away. How could neighbors and friends allow this to happen? It’s a valid question even today.

Once at Auschwitz, Eva’s father and 2 other sisters were sent immediately to the gas chambers (although she didn’t realize this until later). Eva, her twin Miriam and their mom were allowed to live, although as soon as the twins were “claimed” for their experimental value, their mother was killed as well.

This isn’t a pleasant read, but I found it very interesting to hear a first-hand account from someone who experienced these horrors.

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cinderella ate my daughterI wanted to like Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. It looks like the kind of book I’d enjoy – a discussion about raising girls in our culture, yadda yadda yadda. Unfortunately, it falls flat.

Peggy Orenstein begins by bemoaning Disney Princesses. They aspire to nothing more than good looks and a handsome prince. For Pete’s sake, the little mermaid gives up her voice to get a man! (this is mentioned about 10 times, I think). Then the author ventures out to visit a preschool where gender differences are studied, and yikes – the girls are playing with dolls, the boys are playing aggresively. Who’da thunk?

We go visit a child beauty pageant, and Orenstein is appalled at one family’s efforts to promote their daughter in these, but at the same time, she can kind of understand it since they have an older son who has special needs. We then have a lengthy talk about Miley Cyrus and how surely we don’t want our daughters aspiring to the tawdry mess she’s become, but then again, girls seem drawn to her.

It’s just 200 pages of back and forth, this-is-bad-yet-what-can-we-do talk. Kind of like having a very long lunch with a friend who is angst-filled and goes back and forth on everything. I think the author summed up her book best when she said, “…my own response, characteristically, was mixed.”

I can understand her conflict, especially given her liberal leanings:  on the one hand, she’s horrified by the suggestive clothing worn by many tween and teenage girls, and even by the voluptuous avatars they choose for online games. On the other hand, she hopes her daughter experiments sexually “long, long, long before marriage!” She wonders, in the pages of this book, whether a ninth-grade girl sending nude photos of herself to male friends is “a form of progress, a sign that at least some of today’s girls were taking charge of their sexuality.” Seriously? Clearly, this is one conflicted lady.

Then, as if on cue, there was also the political moment:  Orenstein is horrified when her 5-year-old daughter spots a Hillary bumper sticker and asks her mom what it says (which is, “The wicked witch of the east is alive and living in NY”). Horrors! Won’t little Daisy be traumatized for life to hear that a strong woman like Hillary is criticized because she’s less than pretty?! Hmmm … I guess Orenstein missed all the derogatory stuff out there about George W. Bush – is that due to his appearance and gender, as well? And I’m sure the criticism of Hillary was totally due to her appearance – I can’t imagine that it would have anything to do with her political goals.

In the interest of equal time, I suppose, this is followed by a page totally ripping Sarah Palin apart (“she was unable to name a single periodical she read regularly to stay informed”/”she could not describe the job of the vice president”). I guess Orenstein is insinuating that it’s bad to tear down a woman in politics if she’s ugly, but okay if she’s pretty. Okay then.

Anyway, I give Orenstein credit – she’s a good marketer. She pulled me in with the book’s title and cover, and its promise. However, I won’t be reading anything more by her.

9 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. The dog is adorable! Sounds like a cute story. I’ve heard of Echoes from Auschwitz…not sure if I could make it through that one! And I’ll be sure to avoid Cinderalla Ate My Daughter, LOL.

  2. Echoes of Auschwitz sounds like a touching and interesting story. I am going to add it to my list. I haven’t read the Cinderella book, but I am sure I would have similar issues with it. I have no problem at all with my daughter dressing up (modestly) as a princess and being girly–I encourage it. I do have a problem with the tendency in our culture to push girls toward sexuality too early (which from what I understand is one of the authors complaints about the current culture), but it seems like I would completely disagree with her desire to encourage sexual freedom at older ages and with her issues about girls and boys playing in different ways. Thanks for your honest review. I have read reviews against and in favor of the book–it seems like one that that will elicit some kind of opinion no matter what.

  3. “Echoes from Auschwitz” sounds VERY intriguing. I just finished watching a documentary on Ashwitz and Eva was interviewed in the film. I’d love to get my hands on a copy of this book! Didn’t realize there was one. So glad you mentioned it!

  4. I think Eva Kor is still living in the Terre Haute Indiana area.

  5. Awwww… that puppy is really cute!

    “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” sounds… annoying. I’m surprised you stuck with it until the end!

    “Echoes of Auschwitz” sounds like a good read. I’ll see if my library carries it.

    Happy reading in March!

  6. Cinderella Ate My Daughter sounds like just the sort of book I would pick up, read through, and then post a long rant rather similar to yours–I’ll have to remember that you wrote this so that if I should happen to stumble across said book, I’ll either 1) avoid it, recognizing that it will annoy me or 2) at least not re-write a rant when you wrote a perfectly good one here!

    Echoes from Auschwitz sounds good, but hard. I might have to see if I can find somewhere.

  7. Wow- I’m on the completely opposite side of CAMD than you. Funny, though, that I didn’t read anything political into it, whatsoever…
    -Dawn, 5M4B

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