Category Archives: History

Who Needs Friends Like the Kurds, Who Needs Enemies Like You Know Who?

Outside of family, friends are the most important people in our lives.

On the world stage, friends come in handy, especially when fighting an enemy whose sole aim is one’s destruction.

In Syria, the Kurds have been America’s ally in the war against ISIS. A politician who is well versed in this relationship and respects it would not abandon the Syrian Kurdish community to the mercy (or lack thereof) of Turkey. But you know who has decided that in his infinite wisdom, that we don’t need their support.

This community didn’t have to help us. But they did and this is how we thank them? My concern is that if we let you know who continue on this path, America will be isolated from the rest of the world. Our only friends will be countries who leadership has a questionable friendship with the United States.

In justifying his decision, he claimed that the decision was made because of the Kurds were not part of the Allies and did not participate in the Invasion of Normandy. That is the most ridiculous, nonsensical reason that I have ever heard from this man. Any voter with an ounce of sense would see this man as completely unfit for office and make dam sure that he is a one term President.

But there are fools in this country who continue to support him and will vote for him next fall. G-d help us all if he wins a second term, for we will need all of the help that we can get.

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Filed under History, International News, Politics, World News

The Song of the Jade Lily Book Review

Jane Austen once wrote the following about friendship:

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”

The new book, The Song of the Jade Lily, by Kirsty Manning is about the power of friendship during difficult times. The book is set in two different eras. In 1939 Shanghai, native born Li and Jewish refugee Romy are best friends. Like millions of others across the world, the girls are unaware that the coming war will forever change their lives and their friendship.

In 2016, Romy’s granddaughter Alexandra leaves London with a broken heart and takes refuge in her grandparent’s home in Australia. Her grandfather is dying and the secrets of her grandparent’s past are slowly being revealed.

After her grandfather passes away, Alexandra moves to Shanghai for work. But she is also curious to see if the city can reveal the secrets of her family’s past. What she discovers will finally reveal what has been kept locked away for decades.

This book is amazing. Ms. Manning tells the story of friendship that remains strong, even when war threatens to tear the friendship apart. She also tells the story of Shanghai, the only port that would take Jewish refugees who could not obtain visas. It is a narrative that in the overall Holocaust narrative, that does get the spotlight that it should.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Jane Austen

The Jane Austen Society Book Review

Today, Jane Austen is everywhere. 200 years after her passing, she is one of those authors who is as popular as an author whose book is on the New York Times Best Seller list.

But it was not always this way. It is thanks to the original members of the Jane Austen Society that Jane Austen is alive and well in our culture.

Coming out next Spring, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner tells the story of the founding of the Jane Austen Society. Just after World War II, Chawton, the village where Austen wrote and/or revised her six novels is a sleepy little English town. There is a trickle of visitors to Chawton House, the ancestral home of Jane’s older brother, Edward Austen Knight, but not enough to call it a tourist attraction.

Through their love of their local celebrity, the original members of the Jane Austen Society are able to preserve the memory of Austen’s name and work for generations to come.

I really liked this book. Though the characters are fiction, they embody why Jane Austen is still one of the most popular authors today. The characters in this book are all different, but what brings them together is the love of Austen and the beloved fictional worlds that she created.

I absolutely recommend it.

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America’s First Daughter Book Review

They say that history is written by the victors. They may also say that history is written by those who have access to the pen. For thousands of years, men have told their stories. It is only recently that women have been given the pen and the spotlight.

America’s First Daughter was published in 2016. In the book, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the story of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph, the eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson. The book starts when Martha, known to her family as Patsy, is a young girl. After her mother’s death, Patsy becomes her father’s companion and confidant.

When her father named as the American minister to France, Patsy travels with her father. Compared to her Virginia home, Paris is another world entirely. Growing up within the world the of pre-revolution French aristocracy, Patsy becomes suspicious of Thomas’s relationship with Sally Hemmings. She also falls in love, but this love will not turn into marriage.

After Patsy returns home, she follows the prescribed path of marriage and motherhood. But her life will not be that of the average American woman of her day. It will not only shape the lives of her family, it will shape the lives of millions of Americans.

Based in on real life letters, this book tells the story of the early days of America from the female perspective. It is a perspective that in either fiction or non fiction, is not given the attention that it should receive. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well written, well researched and worth the time it takes to read.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

Downton Abbey Movie Review

On the surface, transforming a popular television program into a film seems easy. The beloved characters and well known narrative are already in place, it is just a matter choosing how to expand the world beyond what already existed on the small screen.

But like many things, it is often easier said than done.

The Downton Abbey film premiered last night. Set a year and a half after the television show ended, everything is tranquil. But tranquility, as it always does on Downton Abbey, does not last.

King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be visiting the Crawleys while on a tour through Yorkshire. The news forces the Crawleys and their servants to be on their A-Game. But being on their A-Game is a challenge to say the least.

Upstairs, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and the rest of the family are preparing to be the perfect hosts for their majesties. Downstairs is a flurry of activity, which requires the steady hand of Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to keep everything running smooth. That steady hand is not helped by the royal servants, who take over the running of the ship while the King and Queen are in residence at Downton.

There are quite a few movies that have been made based on television programs. A good number try, but don’t live up to the reputation of it’s television predecessor. Downton Abbey not only lives up to that reputation, it builds the reputation of the series and the world within the series.

Though some reviewers have stated that this movie is strictly for the Downton Abbey fan base, I disagree. It helps to have at least some knowledge of the television series, but it does not hinder the overall enjoyment of the film if one goes in as Downton newbie.

I absolutely recommend it.

Downton Abbey is currently in theaters.

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Filed under Downton Abbey, History, Movie Review, Movies, Television

After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 2001 and the Years that Followed Book Review

History can be told in one of two ways. The first way is cold, hard facts written down in a neat and orderly timeline. The second way is to tell the stories of those who lived through history.

After the Fall New Yorkers Remember September 2011 and the Years That Followed was published days before the tenth anniversary of the attack. Edited by Mary Marshall Black, Peter Bearman, Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith, the book contains a series of interviews with a group of diverse New Yorkers who worked or lived near the Twin Towers in the fall of 2001.

I loved this book. Those of us above a certain age all have stories to tell about 9/11. But these stories are personal, hard hitting and may draw a few tears. I especially appreciated the interviews with the survivors who are Muslim-American or originally from South Asia. After the towers fell, it was all too easy to point the fingers at anyone who even remotely looked like those who were responsible for 9/11. It is much harder to separate those responsible from the average person of color who was just as affected by the attack as any American.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Thoughts On Elizabeth Warren’s Mention of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

In 1911, 146 garment workers perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Most of them were recent immigrants to America, young women of Italian and Jewish descent who worked in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. As a result of the fire and the unnecessary loss of life, working conditions improved for factory workers.

This week, Presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) held a rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park. During the rally, she referenced the former sweatshop, which is mere blocks from the park.

I feel like America in the 2010s is not so different than America in the 1910’s. The unofficial class and wealth divide grows ever larger. We have new immigrants coming into this country every day. While we celebrate their achievements, we simultaneously accuse them of destroying this country. Hate, racism and prejudice still infect our country.

However, there is something to be said for the progress we have made in a century. Women and citizens of color have made tremendous strides to real equality. We live in a technological age that our ancestors might have only dreamed of a century ago.

We need a President who honors the past while striding into the future. I have a feeling that Senator Warren, if she is elected, will do just that.

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

Park Avenue Summer Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that men underestimate women. But that is often our secret to success.

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen was released earlier this year. Alice Weiss is 21 in 1965, a transplant from Ohio and dreams of becoming a photographer. But like many young people who come to New York City with a dream and not much else, Alice has to get a job.

She gets a job as the secretary for the late Helen Gurley Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl and the new editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. At that time, the magazine was on it’s death bed. It was up to Helen to turn the magazine around, but it seemed to be a Herculean task. The magazine was shedding employees like a snake sheds it’s skin and the men who run the parent organization are more than ready to shut the magazine down.

When a fellow employee tries to pull Alice in into a plan to spy on her boss, Alice goes the other way. She will do everything in her power to help Helen succeed. Along the way, Alice learns a few things about life, men and success.

Described as a literary love child of The Devil Wears Prada and Mad Men, this book is more than the story of a young woman discovering herself. It is the story of an unconventional woman who succeeds in a man’s world on her own terms.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

The Winemaker’s Wife Book Review

Both love and war have a way of forever changing our worlds. When they come together, that change can span generations.

The new novel, The Winemaker’s Wife, by Kristin Harmel is set in two different time periods: World War II and 2019. In 1940, Ines and Michel are newlyweds. Michel is the owner of a prestigious champagne house Maison Chauveau. Soon after the wedding, the Germans invade. Michel starts to treat his wife as if she was his child.

Feeling angry, alone and desperate for affection, Ines makes a foolish connection with a collaborator. She is unaware of her husband’s work with the resistance and that his chef de cave‘s half Jewish wife, Celine is taking a chance by falling in love with a man who is not her husband.

In 2019, Liv’s marriage is over. When her imperious and wealthy French grandmother announces an out of the blue trip to France, Liv has no choice but to go. The trip will be nothing short of life changing.

I loved this book. The characters felt alive and real, as if I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. I loved that this book reminded me that there were good people during World War II who did not stand idly by during the Nazi occupation. They fought back with whatever means they had.

About halfway through the book, I thought I knew how it would end. But Ms. Harmel surprised me with a twist that thoroughly shocked, surprised and delighted me.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Maxwell and Finnegan: A Reminder of Love on 9/11

Eighteen years ago today, nearly three thousand people lost their lives due to hate.

As I was listening to live stream of the memorial ceremony this morning, one thing struck me. Those who died that day and those who died in the aftermath were of different races, nationalities, religions, etc. But the one thing that they all have in common is that they are victims of September 11th.

But love still prevails. On the streets of New York City, two young boys, Maxwell and Finnegan, are best friends. Maxwell’s father filmed the boys, one black and one white as they randomly met on the street. The video, which has gone viral, is nothing short of beautiful.

Today we remember and mourn those who lost their lives. But this video and this friendship gives me hope that there is still love in this world. Hate may have it’s day in the sun, but in the end, love will always prevail.

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Filed under History, New York City