Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
Laura Ingalls Wilder / edited by Pamela Smith Hill
Published 2014

This was the final book to read for the Little House RAL, hosted by Bex @ An Armchair By The Sea and Lynn @ Smoke and Mirrors.   It was my first time reading Pioneer Girl, and I had to borrow a copy from the library, which meant I could not write in it.  If you are a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan or a Little House fan, it makes sense to own a copy; one of these days I will get one, too.  
The book includes the story of how Laura intended her autobiography for an adult audience; how her daughter, Rose, played a major role in editing Pioneer Girl; and eventually how mother and daughter developed The Little House juvenile book series, using Laura's life stories from Pioneer Girl.  

Next is a section explaining the several edited versions of the manuscript that were never published. And, of course, the entire original Pioneer Girl is incorporated, complete with images and annotations cross-referencing people, places, events, and ideas.  Often times, the editor explained where other versions of Pioneer Girl were altered from the original.  The autobiography is separated by different places and time periods, similar to the juvenile series.  

If you had heard or read that the original stories in Pioneer Girl were not squeaky clean, WOW! that is not an exaggeration.  One gets a completely different sense of Laura's world in the adult version, and it is not totally peaceful, safe, or innocent.  I also sensed the Wilder family's deep financial burdens and dreadful poverty.  No wonder Laura was anxious about money.

While Pioneer Girl was not published after it was written in 1930, many of the stories were used for the Little House series.  Rose helped decide which stories to remove, keep, or alter.  Some people were morphed into one character, like "Nellie Olsen."  Apparently, Laura knew a few Nellie Olsens in her lifetime.  

Many of the earlier stories were very different from the series, but as Laura wrote about her later years, it was refreshing to see more stories remain the same, such as Manny driving out every weekend in winter to pick up Laura at the school she taught.  There were some discrepancies in dates, places, ages, or people, and the editor noted if she could not find proof or Laura did not recollect her memories exactly. 

While writing Pioneer Girl, and knowing that Rose was editing her work, Laura included personal notes in parentheses to her daughter.  It almost began to feel like a long, intimate letter from mother to daughter, as if Laura were only writing to Rose, and for Rose.  
In June the wild roses bloomed.  they were a low-growing bush and, when in bloom, the blossoms made masses of wonderful color, all shades of pink, all over the prairie.  And the sweetest roses that ever bloomed.
(You are their namesake, my dear.) 
As I have already said, Pioneer Girl is something every Little House fan will want to keep in her library. It is more like a resource guide that you would keep for specific reference.  I cannot wait to get my own copy.  Unfortunately, it has only been a week since I finished this, and I am already going through Little House withdrawals.  

A great big thank you to Bex and Lynn for giving me another excuse to reread the Little House series, and several other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that I had not read, yet.  This was my favorite reading "challenge" this year.  : )

Laura Ingalls Wilder & Rose Wilder Lane

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Well-Educated Mind Histories Reading Project 2017

Are you are a history fanatic and want an excuse to read more of it, or do you loathe it terribly and need encouragement to exercise that part of your brain?  Here is an excuse or opportunity, which ever describes you best:  

Starting January, 2017, I am beginning The Well-Educated Mind "Histories," by Susan Wise Bauer.  You may read along or join in when you see a book you want to read; check out the list of books (listed in chronological order). There is a Goodreads group available, too, if you would like to follow along or add to the conversation.  Or you can post reviews on your blog as you finish a book. Whatever you decide, this is a personal learning project.  I am all for the spreading of more knowledge of history.

There are thirty-one books on the list.  I know I am crazy because this project could take over three years to complete (for me). I should also mention that I am terrified of commitment.  

Nonetheless, let us have fun reading history together!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder

West From Home: 
Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder San Francisco, 1915
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1974

In 1915, Laura Ingalls Wilder took a journey by train, from Mansfield, Missouri, to San Francisco, California, to visit her daughter Rose.  She spent two months with Rose.  Laura wrote letters to her husband, Almanzo, who stayed back in Missouri to take care of the farm.  This is a collection of those letters.

Laura wrote almost daily to Almanzo, even before she left the state of Missouri.  She promised to be eyes for Manny as she traveled west to San Francisco, as well as while she explored the city with Rose and Rose's husband.  Rose was writing for a newspaper, but between assignments she spent the day with her mother, walking or taking the trolley around the city (though some days Laura went on her own because of Rose's commitments).

The World's Fair was a big event at the time, and Laura spent numerous days exploring the exhibits from around the world.  She later wrote about her experiences at the Fair in a local Missouri publication.  Laura had so many adventures during her visit, on land and at sea, that I was exhausted for her.  She told Manny that sometimes she needed an entire day to rest.

Laura did mention the Great War (WWI) in her letters, ongoing in Europe since the year before.  She described ships leaving the Bay, perhaps only to be sunk by a German submarine.

Rose was extremely fond of her mother and attempted to convince her to consider relocating to San Francisco where she and Manny could still farm.  Laura believed the city spectacular; but the more she pondered the thought, the more she knew Missouri was the right place to be.
Believe me, there is no place like the country to live and I have not heard of anything so far that would lead me to give up Rocky Ridge for any other place.
I truly believe that when I come home and talk it over with you (Manny) we will decide to be satisfied where we are and figure out some way to cut down our work and retire right there (in Mansfield).
Of all the correspondence Laura did, she did not tell Manny that she fell off of a trolley car and hit her head.  She spent a few days in the hospital.  Rose had to tell her father in a letter.  Thankfully, Laura did recover.

Probably the most laugh-out-loud moment of this collection came from Rose in a note she wrote to her father and included in her mother's correspondence to him.  Rose wanted him to know that Laura was getting fat; and she blamed the scones and fish at the exhibition.
. . . I am in mortal terror every minute that she will not be able to restrain herself any longer, but will break the glass and eat some of them (fish) right there.  Even with two scones and a package of Pan-pak and fifteen cents worth of salted nuts and rosecake and a bag of Saratoga chips in her hand, she still looks at the fish with the same longing expression.
I fear by the time you get this she will be still fatter.  Anyway, I've done my duty and told you. 
Well, this is almost the end of my Little House RAL journey.   I am eager to start the last book on the list, Pioneer Girl, by Pamela Smith Hill.  See you next month.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Films From Books

(All of) My Favorite Films From Books

Warning: I am not a movie person, and my exposure to film is very limited; but I assure you that what I listed here, I love - sometimes even more than the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Doctor Zhivago


Last of the Mohicans

Howards End

North and South

Pride and Prejudice

Gone With the Wind

The Great Gatsby

Out of Africa

Far From the Madding Crowd

A Tale of Two Cities

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Crucible

I'm adding this late . . . 
War & Peace

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Added To My To-Be-Read List Recently

Via The Broke and the Bookish
Ten Books I've Added To My To-Be-Read List Recently

If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

A Women's Education: 
The Road From Coorain Leads to Smith College 
by Jill Ker Conway

This Life I Live: 
One Man's Extraordinary, Ordinary Life 
and the Woman Who Changed It Forever 
by Rory Feek

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Success by Danny Surgerman
(I read this in my 20s and loved it.  Such a wild ride.  I have to reread it.)

From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics 
by Louis Markos

Reflections on the Revolutions in France by Edmund Burke

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Memoirs: All Rivers Run to the Sea by Elie Wiesel

Memoirs: All Rivers Run to the Sea
Elie Wiesel
Published 1995
The Well-Educated Mind (Biographies)

Elie Wiesel was fifteen when he and his family were deported to a concentration camp in 1945.  By the time of his liberation, he had become an orphan.  All Rivers Run to the Sea recollects much of his life after liberation, including his travels all over the world, particularly as a young man without a country to call his home.

This was a long read, and at times I was frustrated because Wiesel was jumping around and rambling on; but that is because I had a specific expectation that this book would be about his best work, Night, the short memoir of his time in Buchenwald and Auschwitz.  Instead, he wrote about people and his later life experiences that inspired and influenced him and ultimately shaped his life path.  As soon as I removed my preconceived notions, I was able to appreciate this work.

Immediately after liberation he lived with other Jewish orphans in France, and continued his education and the study and practice of his Jewish religion.  As an adult, though, it was time to move out into the world, on his own.  Eventually, ten years after liberation, Wiesel was stirred to write about the brutal injustices of the Holocaust.  According to him, no one was talking or writing about it. How soon the world had conveniently forgotten the Holocaust.  So he wrote and published Night.

If you consider what he suffered - his parents, a sibling, other relatives, his birth home in Romania, his personal belongings, and his youth stolen from him - it is remarkable how quickly he rose up and continued on.  He became a journalist, traveled the world, and met world leaders, philosophers, Jewish teachers, authors, journalists, and social activists.  He became a writer and preserved the history of the Jewish people, especially the memory of the Holocaust.   He witnessed captivating events from history, including the rebirth of Israel, in 1948.  Eventually he became a citizen of the United States, and he was no longer a man without a home.

He provoked the consciences of the world with his questions why the free world and free Jews (especially in America) remained quiet assuming they knew what the fate of European Jews would be.  Why did they not expose Hitler?  And yet, he later learned that his father had purchased tickets for his entire family to escape to America, but then gave a portion of his tickets to another family member who survived by fleeing before the deportations.  Why did Elie's father wait?  Why did so many Jews wait until it was too late?  The warnings were given, but this is what Elie did not want to hear people ask or say. Instead he continued asking why free nations did not do more to expose the deportations, the camps, the murders, and Hitler's ultimate plans.  Elie focused mostly on preserving the memory of the Holocaust, so that it would never be forgotten, and never repeated.

All Rivers Run to the Sea was not published until the 1980s, but these memoirs end in the late tumultuous 1960s.  He included his thoughts about the sixties in The Fifth Son:
America, Europe, and Asia underwent deep, gripping convulsions on a global scale, shaking the youth of my generation . . .
Ideas and ideals, slogans and principles, rigid old systems and theories, anything linked to yesterday and yesteryear's supposed earthly paradise was rejected with rage and scorn.  Suddenly children struck fear in their parents, students in their teachers.  In the movies it was the criminal and not the police who won our sympathy, the malefactor and not the lawman who had the starring role.  In philosophy there was a flight to simplicity, in literature a negation of style.  In ethics humanism stirred laughter . . . Universities no longer taught literature or sociology but revolution and counterrevolution, or even counter-counterrevolution of the right, the left, or somewhere in between.  Students could no longer write a sentence or formulate a coherent thought, and they were proud of it.  If a professor happened to voice his displeasure, he was boycotted, called a reactionary, and told to go back to his university titles, scholarly works, and archaic concepts.  Next time let him be born into another society, another era.
WOW!!  Nothing has changed, right?

One last point: Wiesel took the title of his memoirs from Ecclesiastes 1:7.  It reads:
All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
 Elie Wiesel passed away July 2015, in New York.

Elie Wiesel 1928-2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Brona's Salon: Elie Wiesel's Memoirs

Brona's Salon is a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'

[Brona] provides a few prompts to inspire our conversation.  However please feel free to discuss your current read or join in the conversation in any way that you see fit. Amusement, refinement and knowledge will surely follow!

What are you currently reading?
I am reading Elie Wiesel's All Rivers Run to the Sea, which is one of his memoirs.  Wiesel and his family were forced into concentration camps during WWII.  His parents and a younger sister died in the camps. He was fifteen when he was liberated.

How did you find out about this book?
It is the last book on my Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge biography list.

Why are you reading it now?
I am reading it for my Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge.

Elie Wiesel in the death camp

First impressions?
In college I read Night by Wiesel, the short memoir about the author's survival in the concentration camp, in Poland.  It is raw and brutal and angry, and I do not fault his tone.  

All Rivers Run to the Sea is a completely different experience, written after Night.  It is composed and long and sometimes rambling.  He tells of his youth and the time leading up to deportation. Then he writes briefly about incidents with his father, inside the camp, and then quickly jumps to liberation and being cared for as an orphan.  

He does not write in detail about his suffering like he does in Night, and that puzzles me, though I know there is a reason why he avoids talking about the horror.  (Maybe because he already had written about it in Night.)  And I was also curious why he instantly clung to his religion, when in Night I felt his anger and rage toward God. I am only half way through this particular book, so things may change, and I may find the answers to my questions.

Which character do you relate to so far?
Wiesel is my main character, and I obviously do not personally relate to him, but I do draw from his experiences.  I try to look to others in order to learn or be encouraged about how to survive adversity. And when I complain excessively about small things, I think about Wiesel and people like him who endured war, poverty, hatred, and hell.  Then I feel pathetic for whining.

Elie Wiesel, 15, right before deportations 

Are you happy to continue?
Yes, I am happy to continue.  I wish it were a little less rambling, but I appreciate that he has to tell his story.  I am willing to listen and believe it is an important story to understand.

Where do you think the story will go?
Good question.  Right now he is still pulling himself from the ashes of sorrow and pain, he is no longer a minor, and he is finding his place in the world - as a writer.  Ten years after liberation, he has decided to write about his experience in the concentration camp.  It is a painful journey, but he felt it was necessary to tell the truth.  

I think the story will continue to move upward, and Wiesel is going to benefit from exposing the personal side and truth of the Holocaust - which up to that point had been avoided or quiet - and it will gain a lot of international attention.  Sometimes the most difficult choices we make are the most beneficial and life-changing.

Elie Wiesel, 1928 - 2016
Be sure to visit Brona's Books to join the Salon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane

On the Way Home
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published 1962
Little House RAL

This book is 120 pages short.  It is the diary of the 650-mile journey that Manny, Laura and Rose (7-years old) made from DeSmet, South Dakota, beginning on July 17, 1894, to their arrival at Mansfield, Missouri, on August 30, 1894.  Laura wrote her entries in a little notebook, and Rose -later, as an adult - added the setting before they left DeSmet and filled in the details of what happened after they arrived at Mansfield.  

Farms were devastated by seven years of drought back in DeSmet, and Manny and Laura lost everything.  They decided to move their little family to the land of the Big Red Apple, which I thought was New York City, but that is the Big Apple; Missouri is the Big Red Apple.  They worked at odd jobs and saved all their money until they had $100.  Then they packed up what they had and left with another family, in covered wagons.  

Laura wrote every day but one, keeping record of what she saw and who they met along the way. They passed through Nebraska and Kansas, of which Laura had not much good to say about the land.  It suffered from the drought, and it was rocky and dusty.  However, the people leaving Missouri that they met and talked to did not always have positive things to say about that state either.  

Nonetheless, when they arrived in Missouri, Laura seemed very pleased with Mansfield.  That is where her record ended and Rose continued.  The family remained in a camp until Manny and Laura could find land to purchase with their $100 bill.  When they found the perfect place, they were overjoyed, until something awful happened (again, I won't say), as Rose relives the nightmare.   But it only curtailed their plans a short time, and eventually they bought the farm.  Yay!

This was Rocky Ridge, the place they made their home.

Rocky Ridge Farm today
What I liked at all about this book is Rose's voice.  I thought she seemed a little bratty and sarcastic describing her childhood experience, but I get the feeling she was a lot like her mother: independent, feisty, and mature beyond her years.  I also love how she illustrated Laura - in her beauty, in her joyful moments, and in her disappointments, as well.  It is a lovely perspective.  Maybe I would like to read more from Rose Wilder Lane, someday.  : )

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf
Published 1929

A Room of One's Own is like reading a sliver of one of the world's complex literary minds.  I say a sliver because the book is quite thin, and complex because it is not without deep contemplation (common for Woolf), on the subject of women writing fiction, or writing in general.

This essay was given as a series of lectures at women's colleges, and was later published in book form.  Woolf was concerned with the art of writing, and why women may not have been able to be serious contributors (at her time - post WWI) to literature.

Woolf presented several problems for women that may have prevented them from writing.  Women were poor, mainly because they had children instead of outside work.  They were also married young and, with so many children, never had any privacy.  (I can attest to that.) Women were also more likely than men to miss out on educational opportunities.  Money and a room of her own would have provided women with occasions to be contemplative and creative.  The female voice, the reality of women's thoughts, was absent from the literary world.  She hoped to encourage and witness that change one day.

She wrote,
Therefore I would ask you to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast.  By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.  For I am by no means confining you to fiction.  If you would please - and there are thousands like me - you would write books of travel and adventure, and research and scholarship, and history and biography, and criticism and philosophy and science.  By so doing you will certainly profit the art of fiction.  For books have a way of influencing each other.
While much has changed for women since Woolf gave her lectures,  A Room of One's Own should still be read.  A woman may have her own financial means and even a private room in her home, but she may need to be encouraged to write and find her voice.

A Room of One's Own resonated well with me.  If you opened my copy, you would observe plenty of underlinings, stars, and words of affirmation.  I thought it was wonderful.  Furthermore, I think I enjoyed it more so because I listened to an audio version (read by a woman with a British accent), while I followed along in my book.  It added emotion to the context, and I felt like Woolf was reading it privately to me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall TBR List

Via The Broke and the Bookish
Books On My Fall TBR List

Let's try this again.  I totally messed up my projected summer reads and only finished maybe a third.  I had to remove several books from my reading challenges, too.  There was no way I was going to start them, let alone finish them.  But now I hope to be more realistic with a list of my fall reads.  Here are the top ten I BETTER start and finish before winter comes:

The Belly of Paris - Emile Zola

A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
(Actually just finished this one yesterday.)

On the Way Home - Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Kite Runner - Hosseini

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God - Jonathan Edwards

West From Home - Laura Ingalls Wilder

All Rivers Run to the Sea - Elie Wiesel

Pioneer Girl - Pamela Smith

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather

A Room With a View - E. M. Forster