Category Archives: History

Thoughts On the 20th Anniversary of the Columbine School Shooting

20 years ago today, millions of high school students around the country (myself included) walked through the front doors of their high school as they did every school day. By the time the school day ended, 12 students and one teacher were dead in Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

It was America’s first school shooting in what was then recent memory. Sadly, as we all know, it would not be the last.

Looking back, I can’t help but feel anger. One mass school shooting should have been enough to galvanize the nation and our leadership to change our gun laws. If New Zealand can change their gun laws after the Mosque shooting last month, why can’t America do the same? If we had, we might have prevented the shootings at Sandy Hook and Parkland.

May the memories of the students and the teacher killed be a blessing and may we finally learn from the past.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under History, New York City, Thoughts On....

America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today Book Review

History is full of stories of women who have made the world a better place, but their contributions are unknown at worst or trivialized at best.

Pamela Nadell would like to change that narrative. Her new book, America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, is the story of Jewish women from the earliest days of the American colonies to our modern era. Over the course of the book, she examines the lives and experiences of notable women such as Abigail Franks, Emma Lazarus, Fania Cohn and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This book is one of the best history books I have read in a long time. It is dynamic, easy to read, exciting to read and educating the reader without hitting them over the head.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

Thoughts On the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

Iconic is a label that is often used lightly without considering the context of what or whom is considered to be iconic. The Notre Dame Cathedral is a building that is automatically labelled iconic, for good reason.

Construction on the cathedral initially began in 1163. It ended after nearly 200 years of work in 1345. An untold number of generations of parishioners and visitors have marveled at the beauty of the architecture of this building. It is one of the finest creations that mankind has ever built. Yesterday, it was nearly destroyed by fire. Thankfully, the fire was extinguished before the cathedral could be completely destroyed along with the priceless historical and religious objects that it houses.

I’ve never been there, but I can imagine how awe inspiring this marvel of human ingenuity is.

I feel for the people of Paris and the worshipers who consider Notre Dame to be their church. Regardless of faith, this church belongs not only to the people of Paris, but to the whole country. It is theirs to love, cherish and worship under, if that is their prerogative. Ask any religious person and they will likely tell you that their specific house of worship is akin to their second home. I feel the same way about the synagogue that my family attends. I don’t attend very often, but when I do, it’s like snuggling under a warm blanket with a hot drink on a cold winter night.

It will take time to rebuild, there is no question. But this ancient and beloved house of worship will return to her former glory, that I know is certain.

1 Comment

Filed under History, International News, Thoughts On...., World News

Women Warriors: An Unexpected History Book Review

When it comes to war and women, the general image that comes to mind is not the warrior on the battlefield. At best she the wife, the sweetheart or the mother doing her part on the home front while the men are fighting for their country. At worst, she is the victim of rape, enslavement or of a massacre.

Pamela D. Toler’s new book proves otherwise. Entitled Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, the book examines how women throughout history have taken up arms to protect their nation and their people. Jumping throughout time and different parts of the world, Dr. Toler examines the reasons why these women went to battle and the challenges they faced both as women and warriors.

I found this book to be fascinating. I loved that instead of focusing on one area of the world or one specific part of human history, the book spans the gamut from ancient times to the 20th century. My only warning is that some readers might consider the book to be a little too academic for their taste.

I recommend it.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

The Path to Genocide Starts With the Label of Inhumanity

The Holocaust did not start with gas chambers, death camps and mass killings. It started with words. It started with calling Jews inhuman, comparing them with rats.

It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that the American immigration policy is in need for an urgent re-write. You know who does not help when he compares deported immigrants to animals:

“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals and we’re taking them out of country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before, and because of the weak laws they come in fast… it’s crazy.”

99.9% of those who are seeking asylum are not criminals. They are escaping a life that is defined by poverty, hunger and violence. They should not be defined by a minority who are motivated by violence.

America, as we all as know, is the land of immigrants. Most Americans can say with some level of certainty that someone in their family was born someplace else and then made their way to America at some point in their lives. We should not be criminalizing these people who are escaping from countries where the basics are hard to come by.

From my perspective, this is just another reason as to why you know who should not be President.

P.S. Is anyone else disturbed that you know who lied about his father’s birthplace? I have to question that if he is lying about where his father was born, what else is he not telling the truth about?

7 Comments

Filed under History, National News, Politics

The Bronte Myth Book Review

Among the great writers of the 19th century, the Bronte sisters stand tall. Lionized as proto-feminists and adored in the literary community for their contribution to the world of literature, fans sometimes have to ask themselves where fact ends and fiction begins.

In 2001, Lucasta Miller published The Bronte Myth. The book starts with the brief lives of the Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte and follows their posthumous celebrity as their image is shaped to fit the needs of the biographer. In the book, Ms. Miller delves deeply into the facts and the myths of the Brontes and how both have been used to tell the story of the legendary sisters.

When I heard about The Bronte Myth, the concept sounded interesting. I am sorry to report that the concept I had in my head did not meet reality.

The book is not for the casual or virgin Bronte fan. It borders on academic and is probably better suited for a reader who is well versed in the story of the Bronte sisters, their brother Branwell and father Patrick. But my main issue is that Ms. Miller spent most of the book talking about Charlotte. Granted, Charlotte lived the longest of her siblings, but the book is not entitled The Charlotte Bronte Myth. She spends about 60% of the book talking about Charlotte, 20% talking about Emily. The other 20% are given to Anne, Branwell and Patrick. I think I would have liked this book more if all of the Bronte siblings and their father were given equal attention.

Do I recommend it? Sort of.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Eyre, Writing, Wuthering Heights

Mrs. Wilson Review

When we marry, the expectation is that the person we are marrying is who they say they are.

In the miniseries, Mrs. Wilson, Alison Wilson (Ruth Wilson, playing her grandmother), receives a rude awakening after the death of her much older husband, Alexander (Iain Glen). Her husband was good at keeping secrets. His most potent secret was that she was not his only living wife. Coleman (Fiona Shaw), her husband’s handler from World War II is not too forthcoming with information. There is also the question of Dorothy Wick (Keeley Hawes), who keeps popping up as Alison tries to find out the truth of her husband’s life. As the series flips between the beginnings of Alison and Alexander’s (who was known as Alec) early relationship during the war to the 1960’s, where the widowed Alison is desperate for answers.

I have to admit that I am impressed with this series. I am impressed because this is a very personal story for Wilson. It takes a lot to share a personal story that is part of her family lore with the public. As a viewer, I can understand why Alison was not the last woman to fall for Alec. He was charming, intelligent and appeared to radiate qualities that would qualify him as a good man.

Both Wilson and Glen are familiar faces to Masterpiece viewers. Wilson made her Masterpiece debut in the 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre. In 2011, Glen had a brief role as Sir Richard Carlisle, Lady Mary’s fiance on Downton Abbey. As Alison and Alec, I was rooting for them as a couple. On the same note, my heart was aching for Alison as she grieved not only for her husband, but for the husband she knew.

I recommend it.

The first two episodes of Mrs. Wilson are online. The final episode airs this Sunday at 9PM on PBS. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Charlotte Bronte, History, Television, TV Review

Dumbo Movie Review

Over the past few years, Disney is intend on using our childhood memories to bring us once more to the movie theaters. This weekend, the reboot of Dumbo (1941) was released.

Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) has just returned home from fighting in World War I, sacrificing one of his arms in the process of fighting for his country. His wife died during the war, leaving his two children Milly (Nico Parker, Thandie Newton‘s daughter) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) motherless. Stuck in the past, Holt is unable to move forward until his boss and circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) puts Holt in charge of the elephants. One of the female elephants has just given birth, the newborn elephant has unusually large ears that allow him to fly. After the circus has a bit of success with the new elephant, named Dumbo, V.A. Vandervere (Michael Keaton) takes notice of the little elephant. He wants to add Dumbo to Colette Marchant’s (Eva Green) aerialist act. But Vandervere’s plans are not completely altruistic; he has some plans up his sleeve that are questionable.

First of all, I have to give kudos to the screenwriters. Not only did smartly remove the racist caricatures of the crows, but they used Dreamland as the background for the second half of the movie. Dreamland is not a well-known subject unless one is well versed in the history of New York City or early 20th century amusement parks.

I haven’t seen the original animated film in quite a few years, but I feel like this reboot is close enough in narrative to its predecessor. What is nice about this film is that not only is not the typical slightly out-there Tim Burton film, but it speaks of animal cruelty and gives Milly, as a budding scientist, her due.

I recommend it.

Dumbo is presently in theaters.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Movie Review, Movies, New York City

The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation Book

The mother-daughter relationship is a unique and complicated relationship.

In 2016, TV personality Melissa Rivers published The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation, a memoir about her relationship with her late comedian mother, Joan Rivers.

Joan Rivers was not an ordinary mother. She was mouthy, un-pc like at moments, uninhibited and walked over boundaries as if they were nothing. But she loved her daughter fiercely. In this non-linear memoir, Melissa tells the story of her mother’s life and their unconventional relationship as only she can.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It gives the reader an insight to Joan Rivers as only her daughter can.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Television

The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist Book Review

When we think of Marilyn Monroe, we do not think of feminism. We think of the blonde bombshell, the Hollywood icon, the sex symbol.

In her 2018 non-fiction book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, writer Michelle Morgan introduces another side of the icon: feminist.

In Marilyn’s time, sexism was accepted. Pigeonholed into the ditzy and attractive blonde by the studio, Monroe wanted to prove that as an actress, she was much more than the dumb blonde. After making The Seven Year Itch (1955), she was eager to spread her professional wings. The success of the film and her campaign for the role gave Monroe the confidence to fight for her career, to earn her place in Hollywood and become the performer that she wanted to be.

I was surprised about this book. I knew that for many, she represents old Hollywood. I had heard of the acting classes she took and I knew of the two tumultuous marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller that ended in divorce. But I didn’t know that she fought for her later roles and fought to be seen as a real actress, not just a 2D caricature. Though the book is a little slow, it is still a good read and reminder of the power of women when we fight for what we want.

I recommend it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Movies