Category Archives: History

The Martha Mitchell Effect Documentary Review

In every era, there are heroes that are recognized for their bravery. Then there are other heroes who are only acknowledged for their contributions long after that time has passed.

Martha Mitchell is one of those heroes who, unfortunately, is only starting to be seen and respected. The new Netflix documentary, The Martha Mitchell Effect, dropped recently on the streaming channel. In the early 1970s, she was married to John Mitchell, who was then the Attorney General for Richard Nixon. Not exactly known for being the meek and silent type, Martha was quick to blab to the press about her husband’s legally and morally dubious work. Silenced by both Nixon and her husband, she was made to believe that she was crazy.

I wish I had learned about her earlier. When we talk about second-wave feminism icons, Martha Mitchell is a name who rarely comes up. After watching this movie, I felt like she should be given a second look by modern feminists and historians. She dared to take on a corrupt administration and tell the truth when many stayed silent.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Martha Mitchell Effect is available for streaming on Netflix.

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If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings Book Review

School used to be a place in which we nurture the minds and futures of the next generation. It has in recent years, become a place of death and heartache.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings, by Loren Kleinman and Amye Archer, was published in 2019. Inspired by a text sent by one of the students who survived the Parkland shooting, the book follows the history of school shootings. Interviewing survivors and family members of the victims, the reader is taken into the emotional heart of the experience and the reverberations that last long into the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It hit me in the right place. I was both angry and sad. I was angry about the lives that were lost. I was sad for the families who would never see their children grow up. What struck me was that most, if not all of the shooters fit into a certain type. They are mostly angry white males who have a grudge and turn to violence to get back at those who they feel have wronged them.

The aspect of the book that has stayed with me was the responses from those who survived Columbine and the other shooting that occurred in the late 1990s. Many of us who were on the verge of adulthood back then are now parents. Though it has been decades since they were nearly killed, hearing the news immediately took them back to that day. It is a reminder that trauma of this kind never truly leaves us, regardless of how many years have passed.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings is available wherever books are sold.

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Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel Book Review

A bookstore is much more than it seems to be. It is a magical place in which dreams become reality and we can travel as far as our imagination takes us. It is also a place of business in which office politics and society’s rules play a role in the work environment.

Natalie Jenner‘s new book, Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel, was published last month. It takes place in 1950. Bloomsbury Books has been in London for a century, catering to the city’s book lovers. While times have changed, the store remains firmly stuck in the past. The staff (who are mostly male) are ruled by a list of 51 rules that are unbreakable. Despite this, the three female employees are doing what they can to break boundaries.

Vivian lost her titled fiance to World War II. He was killed in action, leaving her heartbroken. Five years after the war, she is focused on her career. Fashion-conscious and incredibly smart, she knows that she can do more than her current responsibilities.

Grace finds solace in her job. Married with two young sons, she is the sole source of income for her family. Though she loves being a mother and is trying to be a good wife (in spite of her husband’s faults), she would love to do her own thing.

Evelyn has raised herself up from being a farm girl and housemaid via a university degree. When she is turned down for an academic position due to her gender, she takes the job at the bookstore. Just because she is down does not mean that she is out. She has a plan for the future.

I love this book. Like its predecessor, it is well-written, charming, and completely entertaining. I was immediately drawn into this story of three women navigating a world and a job in which they are second class. Instead of shrinking and meekly accepting their roles, they stand up for themselves. It is a lesson that unfortunately, is just as relevant today as it was 72 years ago.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem Series One Review

Family is complicated. Marriage is complicated. We can only do our best and hope that it is good enough.

The new Netflix series, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, is based on the novel, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: A Novel, by Sarit Yishai-Levi. The first series is set in the 1920s and 1930s. It follows the women of the Ermoza family, a Sephardi Jewish family living in Jerusalem. Gabriel (Michael Aloni) is in love with another woman but is forced to marry Roza (Hila Saada), by his mother Merkada (Irit Kaplan). He tries to be a good husband and father but is not exactly dedicated to his family. Almost twenty years later, their eldest daughter, Luna (Swell Ariel Or) is growing up in a time of political tension and struggle.

I don’t recall if I read the book, but the first series is fantastic. Set against the backdrop of British-controlled Palestine (i.e. pre-1948 Israel), the emotional conflicts within the Ermoza family collide with the heady and complicated world events of the era. It is fantastic, immediately grabs the viewer, and does not let go until the final credits roll. If nothing else, it reveals a side of history in this region that is not often talked about in the mainstream press.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The first season of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The second season is scheduled to be released sometime in July. I eagerly await its arrival.

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Can Mike Pence and Liz Cheney be Redeemed?

In politics, reputation is everything. That reputation, whatever it may be, can make or break your career.

The reputations of two specific politicians, Mike Pence and Liz Cheney are going to be made or broken by the time the January 6th commission hearings are over. Will they be redeemed or go down in history for their misdeeds?

In any job, the ability to work with anyone within the organization is important. But there is a difference between knowing when to respectfully disagree and kissing ass. The former Vice President is the latter. For the entirety of the Presidency of you know who, Pence was a lapdog who did his boss’s bidding without (at least in public view) questioning his actions and motives. The only time he developed a backbone was when he did not go along with the lie that the election results were fraudulent. Now that he is back on the election circuit, Pence now claims that President Biden is one who is lying constantly.

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I have a feeling that Pence’s place in American history will not be a good one.

Liz Cheney is the American political royalty. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, she has been a stalwart Republican for decades. Between 2016 and 2020, she consistently voted along party lines. Then January 6th happened. Cheney is one of two members of the GOP on the committee (the other being Adam Kinziger). Though I disagree with her on many things, the fact that she has put country and the saving of our democracy over party speaks volumes.

What will future historians say about Cheney? I think the jury is still out.

We cannot predict what posterity will say about this era. But I hope that we will remember those who stood up for our nation and those who didnt.

P.S. Who else wanted to reach out through the screen and hug Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and  Ruby Freeman? The treatment they recieved is digusting, immoral, and in my opinion, unAmerican.

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Eternal Book Review

Growing up is never simple. We are often faced with challenges that force us to make difficult choices or face a reality that we would prefer not to.

Eternal, by Lisa Scottoline, was published earlier this year. Growing up in Rome, Marco, Sandro, and Elisabetta have been best friends since they were young. Marco is the son of a former cyclist and ardent follower of Benito Mussolini. Elisabetta was raised in an artistically inclined family, Her dream is to become a novelist. Sandro is Jewish and a promising mathematics genius.

Two major events upend the world as they know it: World War II and their teenage years. Marco loves Elisabetta. But Elisabetta loves Sandro. As their love triangle intensifies, so does the fascist government and the increasing influence of Nazi Germany.

Soon, they will all be tested. As a Jew, Sandro’s world becomes ever restricted by the antisemitic Nazi race laws. Marco gets involved in local government and Elisabetta must fend for herself. Everything and everyone they know will become unrecognizable, forcing all of them into adulthood and the complications that arise from this transition.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a reminder that the Holocaust extended to the whole of Europe. The Jews of Southern Europe were a target as much as their Central and Eastern Europe co-religionists. What was different was that Rome’s non-Jewish community did not wholeheartedly accept the ideology of the German invaders. There were many who maintained friendships with their Jewish friends and neighbors while helping them in whatever way they could.

Though it is not a quick read, it is well worth the time it takes to complete the novel. I was quickly engrossed in the tale and the changing relationship between the main characters.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Eternal is available wherever books are sold.

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The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story Book Review

To be the descendent of a Holocaust survivor is to grow up with a trauma that stretches well beyond the first generation. They have a unique responsibility to tell the stories of their loved ones that sometimes feel more pressing than those of us whose direct families were out of harm’s way during the war.

The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story, by Nechama Birnbaum, was published at the end of last year. The book tells the story of her late grandmother, Rosie Greenstein. Though Rosie was often told that her red hair was undesirable, she believed that it was an asset. Though her family was poor, Rosie’s childhood was idyllic. Raised by her widowed mother, she dreamed of her wedding day and future husband.

That dream came crashing down in 1944. The Jews of Hungary were forced out of their homes and sent directly to Auschwitz. The only thing that is keeping her alive is her fierce spirit and the will to survive in the face of all-encompassing death.

This biography is written in such a way that every gruesome and horrific detail is hard to ignore or forget. The narrative flashes between two different time periods until the story converges: Rosie’s life before the war and her time in the death camp. What I got from the book was more than a granddaughter’s love for her grandmother. It was pride in the strength that was passed down through the generations and families that come into the world since the end of the war.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. P.S. I also recommend following the corresponding Instagram account.

The Redhead of Auschwitz: A True Story is available wherever books are sold.

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This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II Book Review

From afar, it may seem that America was the superhero who swooped in to save the day during World War II. The reality is that our country has its own sins to grapple with from the era, i.e. the internment of Japanese-Americans.

This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II, by Andrew Fukuda, was published last year. In 1935, two ten-year-olds become penpals. Alex Maki, from Bainbridge Island, is the son of Japanese immigrants. He believes that the person on the other end of the letter, Charlie Levy from Paris is a boy. When Charlie reveals that she is a girl, he does not initially react well. But she persists and they eventually become good friends.

Their lives are both upended by World War II. After Pearl Harbor, Alex, his family and hundreds of thousands of other Japanese-Americans are forced out of their homes and into interment camps. For the next few years, his home is the Manzanar War Relocation Center. Because she is Jewish, Charlie must grapple with tightning noose that is coming over close to her neck and every neck of of Jewish person in Europe.

This book is really good. What kept me reading was the relationship that changed as the protaganists grew up and faced challenges that would destroy many adults. The details make the narrative jump off the page and hook the reader until very end. It is a marvelous read that hilights a dark time in our history that is not even a century old.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II is avaliable wherever books are sold.

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Becoming Elizabeth Review

I find the origin stories of famous historical figures to be fascinating. Knowing who they were before allows us to understand them as fully formed human beings, not just names in a textbook.

The new Starz series, Becoming Elizabeth, is the origin story of Elizabeth I of England. Then known as Elizabeth Tudor (Alicia von Rittberg), her world turns upside when her father, Henry VIII dies. Though it is her younger brother, Edward VI (Oliver Zetterström) ascends to the throne, neither she nor her elder sister Mary I (Romola Garai) are free from court intrigue. She must both deal with being a teenager and the very tricky politics of sex, religion, and power.

I am hooked so far. The young lady we are watching on screen is both ordinary and extraordinary. Her ordinariness comes from experiencing the same growing pains that we all went through at that age. The extraordinariness comes from being seen as nothing but chattel while using every tool at her disposal to survive. It is brilliant, it is entertaining, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Becoming Elizabeth airs on Sunday night on Starz at 8PM.

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Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power Book Review

To be a woman in politics is to have a backbone made of steel. It requires courage, strength, an incredibly brilliant mind, and the ability to navigate through the bullshit.

Nancy Pelosi has done this and so much more. She has broken barriers, become a controversial figure, and stood toe to toe with some of the most notorious political figures of our era. Her biography, Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power, by Susan Page, was published earlier this year. Pelosi was born in Baltimore, the youngest child, and only daughter in a prominent Italian-American family. Though she was raised in an era in which girls were boxed in, her mother encouraged her to color outside of the lines.

Moving to California after marrying, Pelosi only got into politics after her children were grown. Starting at the local level, she climbed up the ladder with a shrewd mind and an understanding of the game. Page spends most of the book examining her career and the challenges (especially when going against you know who) that she has come against. Diving into the details of the last few decades, the woman we meet is one who does not shrink when coming against a man who thinks that he knows better than her.

I enjoyed this book. The reader is introduced to Pelosi as the whole woman, not just the image on the evening news. She is thoroughly human in a way that I found relatable and inspirational. Pelosi may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot deny that what she has accomplished is exceptional and admirable. We need more women in this world like Nancy Pelosi.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power is available wherever books are sold.

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