The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As is usual, I received this book as part of a GoodReads drawing. Despite the kind consideration of receiving a free book I give my candid assessment below.
The main topical thrust of this book is to set the story of Parks’ life in its proper light from her initial involvement in the Civil Rights movement well before the famous Bus Incident until she finally received the Medal of Honor in 1999. Mythology paints Parks as a frail matronly figure who just happens to do the right thing at the right time. The reality that Theoharis paints is much more intriguing as it finds Parks involved in the movement for years before her epic stand and as a key figure in the leadership of the movement.
The reader is also introduced to the darker side of the story including Parks’ great personal , financial and psychological sacrifices. Highlighted too is the sexism rife within the organization that led her to be a silent participant in the early years. The Parks story is no fairy tale but instead a complex and interwoven narrative of a woman and a people who had finally just had enough of the injustice that surrounded them.
Beyond the content, the book is lavishly and intricately researched. Much of the text is provided through direct quotes from the participants. This is an exceptionally scholarly work but also one that draws the reader in and builds a deep sympathetic aura. The book concludes with 57 pages of index and appendices so it is a great research resource but unlike most books of that genre it is innately readable as well.
In summary, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks is a elaborately painted picture of the battle against the injustice that sat sullenly over the Jim Crow South during the civil rights era from the viewpoint of one very courageous woman. Despite the common idea that racism has been expunged from American culture, this book is a great and timely reminder of those dark and tempestuous times that were not all that long ago and that still cast a shadow over us even today.
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Little Known Facts: A Novel by Christine Sneed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As is usual, I received this book because my fiancee won the title in a drawing and was kind enough to pass it along to me after her own perusal. Despite the book’s low-low price of nothing, I will provide my candid opinion below.
I tend to try to start out the review of any book with a bit of a teaser or summary of the beginning seed of the plot. That goal becomes difficult in this case simply because there isn’t really a plot to speak of. Sneed’s novel has plenty to say but it doesn’t rely on any silly conventions like evolving story lines to draw the reader along. Instead, Little Known Facts provides us with an insightful snapshot of four very unhappy people who by the standards of society should abundantly grateful for their positions of wealth and fame.
When my fiancee passed this along to me she did it with a bit of reticence suspecting that I would dislike it. I’m not a typical “guy” reader who needs lots of drama and action but I do like to feel at the end of the novel that I’ve learned something and Sneed’s latest doesn’t fail at that. She paints a lucid picture of the darker aspects of life as one of Hollywood’s monied elite. Her narrative revolves in viewpoint from one character to the next as we hear not only how it feels to be the famous and renowned actor but also how it feels to be his son, his daughter, his wife, his ex-wife and everyone in between. Seldom is a single aspect of human existence put on display for us with such completeness and rendered with such skill.
In summary, Little Known Facts does have an important message to share and it is written in a wonderfully readable style. It falls short for me only because the topic in question is a bit outside my immediate realm of interest. I can name about 5 movie stars and I have no clue what they’re doing when they’re not on the screen. Those who desire more insight into their personal lives will be well served to peruse this novel. If nothing else, it will quench any vestiges of green-eyed envy one might have about life as a movie star.
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