Patriotic Picks: May 2019

Whether it’s via their tone, topic, or tenor, certain works just say “America.” Here are three such titles, suggested by David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American Foundation, in partnership with the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Patriotic Picks: May 2019

 

Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser. Class inequality, lost love, and personal sacrifice collide in this early-20th-century tale of a young lady’s struggle to make — and remake — her life in the face of tragedy.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The famed poet’s first memoir is as much an account of her own fraught childhood as it is a story of the country’s ongoing problems with racism and casual bigotry.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The glitzy excess of Jazz Age New York forms a lavish backdrop for a brash millionaire’s pursuit of both the woman he desires and the (often elusive) American dream.

See more Patriot Picks >>

Patriotic Picks: May 2019

Whether it’s via their tone, topic, or tenor, certain works just say “America.” Here are three such titles, suggested by David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American Foundation, in partnership with the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Patriotic Picks: May 2019

  • Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser. Class inequality, lost love, and personal sacrifice collide in this early-20th-century tale of a young lady’s struggle to make — and remake — her life in the face of tragedy.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The famed poet’s first memoir is as much an account of her own fraught childhood as it is a story of the country’s ongoing problems with racism and casual bigotry.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The glitzy excess of Jazz Age New York forms a lavish backdrop for a brash millionaire’s pursuit of both the woman he desires and the (often elusive) American dream.
     

    See more Patriot Picks >>

 

Patriotic Picks: May 2019

History MattersMay 20 to May 30, 2019

Two American aviators made history in 1927 and 1932, respectively. The History MattersMay 20 to May 30, 2019first was 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh, who made a solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic. He started his mission from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, NY in a custom-made, single-engine monoplane on the morning on May 20th and landed at Paris’s Le Bourget Airport 33 hours later.

Seven years later, Amelia Earhart emerged as the pioneering aviatrix who piloted a solo Atlantic crossing. She departed from Newfoundland, flew more than 2,000 miles, and landed after 13 hours in Ireland, near Londonderry.

These daring stories make history exciting. For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize suggests The Flight of the Lone Eagle: Charles Lindbergh Flies Nonstop from New York to Paris by John T. Foster, and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.

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History MattersMay 20 to May 30, 2019Clarissa Harlowe Barton, a self-taught nurse at a time when there was no History MattersMay 20 to May 30, 2019such thing as a nursing school, risked her life caring for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. When it was over, she devoted herself to seeking opportunities to be of service–wherever she could. In 1881, Clara Barton, as she was known, founded the American Red Cross at the age of 59. During the next 23 years, she was its president.

She died in 1912.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Joshua Hanft’s Clara Barton (Heroes of America).

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The Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation, which had been ratified in 1781. They were—in effect– the nation’s first constitution, but it was considered a flawed document. Instead, the Convention resulted in the creation of the Constitution of the United States–the foundation of America’s Federal Government.

The Constitution is a worthy read for adolescents, as is the story of the Convention. For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Constitutional Convention: A History Just for Kids by the KidsCap group, and—for the Constitution–The U.S. Constitution And Fascinating Facts About It by Terry L. Jordan.

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History MattersMay 20 to May 30, 2019No visit to the Nation’s Capital would be complete without pausing to think History MattersMay 20 to May 30, 2019about the American Dream as envisioned by the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, whose memorial overlooks the Reflecting Pool at the National Mall. The United States Congress officially authorized its construction in 1867, two years after his assassination. However, it was not completed and dedicated until May 30, 1922. It was designed by architect Henry Bacon, along with Daniel Chester French’s life-sized sculpture, “Seated Lincoln”.

As journalist Phil Edwards put it: “the story behind the Lincoln Memorial’s construction is a surprisingly complicated one, and it says something about the contortions that, even today, politicians have to undergo to become monument-making visionaries.”

For more reading: Brent Ashabranner’s Memorial of Mr. Lincoln–is an ideal book for young readers. It is as much about Mr. Lincoln’s life as it is about how and why it took five and a half decades to erect something suitable in his honor. As one reviewer put it when the book was published, the strength “is in the author’s examination of the way the monument has become a powerful symbol of freedom and civil rights in our country.”


May 20 to May 30, 2019 — History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

SUBMIT YOUR ENTRIES FOR THE 2019 GRATEFUL AMERICAN BOOK PRIZE

Historically accurate books of fiction and nonfiction for adolescent readers published between July 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019 are now being considered for the $13,000 2019 GRATEFUL AMERICAN BOOK PRIZE.

Submissions will be accepted until July 31.  There are no fees. The award—which includes a medallion created by renowned American artist, Clarice Smith, will be presented at an October 17th reception at the historic Corcoran School of the Arts & Design at George Washington University, in DC. Two authors will also receive “Honorable Mention” acknowledgments of $500 each.

Submission Form >>

 

Movie of the Month: The Grapes of Wrath

Looking for a better life, the Joad family packs up their possessions and leaves Oklahoma for California. Upon arrival, they are beleaguered by bad luck, and their hoped for dream existence turns into something quite different. Based on John Steinbeck’s book, the movie stars Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell.

June 2019 Book Recommendations

Jane Smiley’s A THOUSAND ACRES; a re-telling of Othello by the Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Anita Brookner’s HOTEL DU LAC; a woman goes to an elegant lakeside hotel in Switzerland to recover from a disastrous love affair.

Sarah Booth Conroy’s REFINEMENTS OF LOVE; a historical novel about the unhappy life–and mysterious death–of Clover Adams, wife of author Henry Adams.

Claire Cooperstein’s JOHANNA: A NOVEL OF THE VAN GOGH FAMILY; a historic novel about Vincent Van Gogh’s sister-in-law, and how she introduced him to the world.

 

June 2019 Book Recommendations

Why You Should Start Binge-Reading Right Now

Ditch Netflix for a novel. And not just because a novelist is telling you to.

By Ben Dolnick for The New York Times
Mr. Dolnick is a novelist.
May 4, 2019

One night a couple of summers ago, the power went out and, unable to watch Netflix or engage in my customary internet fugue, I lit a candle and picked up a thriller by Ruth Rendell. For the first time in as long as I could remember, my sole source of entertainment for an evening was going to be a book.

And yes, yes, just as you’d expect, it was wonderful, it was cozy, the internet is terrible. But what struck me more than the night’s general delightfulness, was how much my experience of reading the book was influenced by the speed with which I was suddenly moving through it. To that point, I’d been reading the book the way I usually read books, which is to say in five- or 10-minute snatches before bed. And I’d been more or less enjoying it — watching Rendell’s criminal protagonist get out of prison, following along as he searched for his victim — but I’d been enjoying it the way a person enjoys hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. Those cheese puffs are delicious; I just wish I could sit down with a plate of them. Now, by reading for an hour or two straight, I’d found my way into the caterer’s tent. I could savor the particular tart flavor of the author’s voice. I could admire the elegance of the trap she was setting for her doomed criminal.

Before my storm-induced Rendell marathon, I’d been reading the wrong way. John Gardner, the literary critic, wrote that the job of the novelist is to create a “vivid and continuous dream” for the reader, but I’d somehow developed a case of readerly sleep apnea. I’d gotten into the habit of consuming novels so fitfully that I was all but sealed off from their pleasures. It was as if I’d been watching movies in a special buffering-only mode, or listening to music through the world’s balkiest Bluetooth headphones.

This style of reading had, I realized, shunted me into a vicious circle. I was reading less because I was enjoying it less, which made reading even less enjoyable, which inclined me to read even less. In this way, a bookmark lodged at page 128 of “Wolf Hall” began to seem as immovable as a Stonehenge tablet.

I had accidentally discovered one of the great disadvantages of books (a medium that is not exactly short on disadvantages at the moment). There is no team of brilliant and vaguely sinister engineers, cooking up ways to get you binge reading. There is no auto-play technology frictionlessly delivering you from one chapter of the novel you’re reading to the next. There is only you, alone in the silence of your room with a chapter break before you and your phone cooing at you from the dresser. No one could blame you for putting “The Count of Monte Cristo” back on the bedside table where it spends its days. Maybe, like a long-forgotten glass of water, it will evaporate of its own accord.

But in book after book, if you do push on through one chapter break, and then on through the chapter break after that, something amazing happens. Subplots that would once have been murky to the point of incomprehensibility (what was the deal with that dead sea captain again?) step into the light. Little jokes and echoes, separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages, come rustling out of the text forest. A writer’s voice — Grace Paley at her slangy best, Nicholson Baker at his hypomanic craziest — starts to seep into and color the voice of your innermost thoughts.

You will, in other words, find yourself propelled through a book that would once have been a multiseason dead weight in your tote bag. And this will not be the creepy propulsion of the countdown that draws you guiltily into a “White Collar” marathon, but the intimate, happy propulsion that keeps you talking well into the night with a visiting friend.

Now this may all seem a bit rich, coming from a fiction writer. You aren’t enjoying reading? Then read longer! Read faster! The problem is you! But the corollary to this way of reading — of taking books down in gulps rather than sips — is that you will discover much more quickly when a book isn’t for you, and you can then set it aside without the nagging suspicion that you might have sabotaged it by your method of ingestion.

Fine, you say. If I were Thoreau, with nothing more on my agenda than a pond walk at noon and an apple at 3, it might be nice to read like this. But who has the time?

To which I say: Let’s talk again about all those hours of “White Collar.”

Because the mind — for all its endless rationalizations and solemn prohibitions — is in fact a ceaseless pleasure hound. Once I’m actually enjoying a book, it really does feel as if the pages are turning themselves; I find myself reading in all the little pockets of time that were once reserved for the serious business of checking to see if my dishwasher pods have shipped.

And pleasure is, after all — once I scrape away the layers of self-image and pretentiousness — the reason that I read. When I’ve found the right book, and I’m reading it the right way, reading is fun — head-tingling, goosebump-raising fun. It’s a vivid and continuous dream that is somehow both directed from without and cast from within, and I get to be awake for it. Netflix can wait.