The Girls Of Atomic City Book Review

World War II was a game changer in the United States, especially for the Women’s Movement.  While the men were away fighting, women stepped into the professional roles that had previously held by the soldiers fighting overseas.

Denise Kiernan’s new book, The Girls Of Atomic City: The Untold Story Of The Women Who Helped Win World War II, is about a small group of women who worked in the then secret community that would build the atom bomb.  These women were all very different. Some were refugees from Europe who held advanced degrees and had worked in science labs before the war. Others had their bachelors degrees and were eager to put their experience to work, a third were young women from local communities who saw the opportunities that this project could provide to them.

The book can be a little slow at points. It did not completely wow me, but it was a very interesting read. What these women did not realize is that they, even in a very small way, were laying the groundwork for modern feminism.

Do I recommend it? Possibly.


From The Dance Hall To Facebook Book Review

There is an old saying: the more things change, the more things stay the same.

On the surface, teenage girls seem like a very cohesive and predictable sub group within our society. Slightly innocent, obsessed with boys, clothes and everything that is proclaimed to be the latest and greatest, they seem so easy to label.

Shayla Thiel Stern’s new book, From The Dance Hall To Facebook: Teen Girls, Mass Media and Moral Panic in the United States 1905-2010 examines the lives of teenage girls over the last 100 years and the picture of teenage girls that the media has painted over the years.  She starts with the supposed dangers and unseemliness of young women who spent their free time in the dance halls in the years leading up to WWI. The book ends with our modern era, how the dangers of technology are luring young women into dangerous territory.

She made three points that made perfect sense. The first point is that many of the concerns were only for young Caucasian women who came from middle and upper class families, not for young women of color or  young Caucasian women who come from lower socioeconomic families. The second point was that being the parent of a teenage girl has not changed that much, it does not matter if you live in 1910 or 2010. The third point was that while parents, schools and the media go out of their way to put teenage girls in a tower similar to Rapunzel, they don’t do the same for teenage boys.

I liked this book. It was a bit dry at points, but overall, it was a great read. It reminded me that while women have won numerous small battles in the war for complete equality, the fight for equality is not over.

I recommend this book.

The Red Tent Book Review

There are three types of women in the Bible: the ones that are named and given as much attention (well, as much attention as women get in the Bible) as the men (i.e. The Matriarchs, Esther, etc), women whose names and stories are flashed by so fast that we hardly notice them (Dinah) and women whom we only know as the daughter of ______ or the wife of _______. These women have no name, no identity, no life other than being someone’s wife or daughter.

A few months ago, I wrote a post that Anita Diament’s best selling novel, The Red Tent, was going to be made into a movie by the people at lifetime.

Dinah is the youngest child and only daughter of the Biblical patriarch Jacob and his first wife, Leah. Inside the Red Tent, women are in control. The cycle of a woman’s life and the knowledge she gains is only known to the women who have access to the Red Tent. Outside, the world belongs to men.  Women are mere chattel.  As a young women, Dinah falls in love with Shalem, a prince of a city near which her family is staying.  The response of her father and brothers to their sister’s new husband is not positive.  Having no one to support her from her own family, Dinah relies on her mother in law, who takes Dinah back to her homeland.

I haven’t read this book in a long time. I forgot how good this book is. Ms. Diament’s story of a forgotten Biblical heroine whose story is overshadowed by her father’s and brothers is vivid and full of life.  All of the women are full human beings with the same joys and folly’s as the rest of us.

I recommend this book.

The Daring Ladies Of Lowell Book Review

The industrial revolution was a worldwide game changer.  The opportunities for social and financial advancement lured many away from the rural lives and jobs that their families had lived for centuries.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell: A Novel by Kate Alcott explores the lives of young women who left the rural life for the factories and the new lives they would lead due to the industrial revolution.

Alice Barrow is one of these young women. In 1832, she takes a job at a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. The hours are long, the pay is poor and the safety standards are non-existent, but to Alice, this is an opportunity to earn her own income and escape a rural life. Her best friend at the mill is Lovey Cornell, a vivacious, outgoing young woman who is labelled a trouble maker by the foreman and owners. Alice is attracted to the owners son, Samuel Fiske and he is attracted to her. But when  Lovey is murdered, Alice’s budding romance with Samuel appears to be on thin ice.

I liked this book.  There are traces of Jane Eyre in this book, though not obvious at first.  Like Jane, Alice is intelligent and determined to succeed, despite the barriers that are in her way. Samuel, as the first born son and heir to the factory owner, is sympathetic to the workers needs and much more liberal than his father would like him to be.  The details about Alice’s life and work is authentic, I felt for her as a reader. This book has romantic elements, but thankfully, Samuel and Alice’s romance does not dominate the story.

I recommend this book.

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