In 2012, at the age of twenty-seven, Amber Cantorna came out to her family as gay. As the daughter of a Focus on the Family executive, that transparency cost her everything.
Refocusing My Family is Amber's journey from the suffocating expectations of Focus on the Family to the liberating joy of claiming her own identity.
A powerful story of survival, Amber's struggle under the weight of perfectionism, reputation, and appearances is transformed into freedom when she boldly steps into her identity and discovers that the true love of God surpasses all.
When I saw the title of this book I laughed and immediately reserved it from the library.
If you grew up in the evangelical church like I did you couldn’t avoid Focus on the Family. They had programs on Christian radio for kids and adults. They had books in church libraries. Pastors used their materials in sermons.
Of course the family that they want you to focus on is a heterosexual and patriarchal one.
The author grew up with Focus on the Family as the family business. She was even the voice of some of the characters in their kids’ radio drama. She was trained to be the perfect Christian woman. It all fell apart when she realized that she was gay. Her family’s response was basically to tell her to knock it off because she was going to make them look bad.
She remains estranged from her family, who still maintain that they are “loving her” by refusing to have contact with her until she leaves her horrible lifestyle and returns to the religion she was raised in. They will be “there for her” whenever she comes to her senses. These are the people who drive gay kids to suicide. I’m reminded of when my uncle came out and my parents said that their pastor told them to keep loving him because eventually he may come back to “a godly lifestyle.” (They have, he hasn’t, and we’re all good!)
She discusses how she found a gay-affirming Christian church where she ultimately met her wife. I think this would be important for gay people who very strongly want to stay in the faith. Personally, I’d say run fast, run far after all that but other people feel differently.
An affecting memoir from the country’s youngest sommelier, tracing her path through the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world
At just twenty-one, the age when most people are starting to drink (well, legally at least), Victoria James became the country’s youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colors, and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status, and a trip to the hospital emergency room.
It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud “wine girl” of her own Michelin-starred restaurant.
Exhilarating and inspiring, Wine Girlis the memoir of a young woman breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood on her own terms; an ethnography of the glittering, high-octane, but notoriously corrosive restaurant industry; and above all, a love letter to the restorative and life-changing effects of good wine and good hospitality.
I’ve always wanted to learn about wine. I think the history of different vineyards and wines is fascinating. That’s why I was interested in listening to Wine Girl. What does it take to be an expert on wine, especially at a young age?
However, this book is more of a look at the sexism inherent in the restaurant and wine business than a primer on wines. There is a lot of trauma discussed here. There are descriptions of sexual harassment by patrons, forced sexual relationships by bosses and coworkers, and rapes by patrons. She accepted these things as the price you need to pay to work in the industry. By the end of the book, it was nice to see that she was using her new power as a restaurant owner to teach others that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Even the nonviolent events show severe sexism in the world of high end fine dining. There were restaurants where she was never allowed to set foot in the kitchen because the cooks were all male and didn’t want women in there. (Yet these same people would probably consider cooking at home to be women’s work.) There were restaurants where only men were hired as servers. She was dismissed at sommelier competitions because women don’t compete. They certainly don’t win.
There is a lot of information about her childhood here too. I hate the inclusion of childhood details in memoirs. I think authors tend to dwell too much on their formative years and it gets boring. This story has echoes of Educated in the presentation of a dysfunctional childhood. It should be noted that the author’s older sister, who doesn’t feature much in the book, has come out strongly against the book saying that her description of her childhood is not factual.
Michael Pollan, known for his best-selling nonfiction audio, including The Omnivores Dilemma and How to Change Your Mind, conceived and wrote Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World as an Audible Original. In this controversial and exciting listen, Pollan explores caffeine's power as the most-used drug in the world - and the only one we give to children (in soda pop) as a treat.
Pollan takes us on a journey through the history of the drug, which was first discovered in a small part of East Africa and within a century became an addiction affecting most of the human species. Caffeine, it turns out, has changed the course of human history - won and lost wars, changed politics, dominated economies. What's more, the author shows that the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without it. The science of how the drug has evolved to addict us is no less fascinating. And caffeine has done all these things while hiding in plain sight! Percolated with Michael Pollan's unique ability to entertain, inform, and perform, Caffeine is essential listening in a world where an estimated two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.
This is a fairly short Audible original audiobook written and read by Michael Pollan. Of course I had to listen to it!
It starts off with the author lamenting that to truly understand the affects of caffeine he had to go off of it for a while. He procrastinated for a long time and then quit his fairly mild caffeine habit cold turkey. This led him to believe that the whole idea of writing about caffeine was stupid and also that he would never write again. He spiraled a bit until his brain got used to this new reality.
I’ve never really been a person who absolutely needed caffeine to function. I’ve always felt like it didn’t have a lot of affect on me. Maybe I’m wrong about that. It turns out even small doses can make major impacts on sleep quality. I’m a good sleeper but who knows if I’m getting the best sleep I could be getting?
This audiobook covers a lot of ground in a short time. There is the history of coffee and tea, the science of caffeine’s affects on the brain, and the affects of caffeine on Western civilization. Did switching from beer to coffee drive the move out of the Middle Ages in Britain once everyone traded being mildly drunk all the time for being buzzed on caffeine?
If you’re a Michael Pollan fan, this is a good addition to your library.
Cat behaviorist and star of Animal Planet's hit television show My Cat from Hell, Jackson Galaxy, a.k.a. "Cat Daddy," isn't what you might expect for a cat expert. Yet Galaxy's ability to connect with even the most troubled felines -- not to mention the stressed-out humans living in their wake -- is awe-inspiring.
In this book, Galaxy tells the poignant story of his thirteen-year relationship with a petite gray-and-white short-haired cat named Benny, and gives singular advice for living with, caring for, and loving the feline in your home.
I am so disappointed in this book. I’m a fan of Jackson Galaxy’s way of interacting with cats and his ability to work through their issues. It always amazes me how clueless a lot of people are about what is going on in their cat’s mind. I picked this book up to find some more inspiration about working with cats. I did find that and I understood that a lot of this would also be about his life but I wasn’t expecting to also find that he seems to be a pretty awful human being.
Over half this memoir is dedicated to the story of his many addictions and how he dealt with them. He acknowledges that he didn’t treat people well during these times but since this book is written afterwards you would hope that he would have gained some clarity. Instead he is still quite a jerk when writing about people. Perhaps I am a bit sensitive to this because the group he singles out for most of his abuse (besides his sexual partners) is veterinarians. If he just hated us all that would be one thing. I can deal with the conspiracy-theorist type client who thinks we are out to get their money and poison their cat. He is a worse type of client. He’s the type who bonds and likes you until an animal inevitably gets sick. Then he turns on you viciously for either causing the problem or not fixing the problem or doing too much to fix the problem or usually all of these at once. This happened several times in this book. I also have a real problem with his using the names of the vets he did this too. In some cases he only uses Dr. First Name which is better than the whole name but is still a jerk move to lash out at people who didn’t seem to do anything wrong even according to his own narrative. He admits that he is a person who needs to place blame for everything. Guess what, the blame very rarely lands on him. He’s a victim in all these stories.
In one case he had a diabetic cat. He gets mad because no one talked to him about nutrition. What? Nutrition is the staple of treatment for diabetes in cats. The goal is to get cats off insulin. Even if the nutrition counseling wasn’t his preferred all natural diet, I can almost promise that nutrition was discussed at some point.
In another case he had a dying cat. He didn’t want to face that fact. Then he gets mad because his cat is on a lot of meds. Here’s what probably happened. He went to the vet and didn’t want to hear about his cat dying. He wanted to try everything. Then when everything was tried he got mad because the miracle he expected didn’t occur. Suddenly it is the vet’s fault for forcing all these meds on his cat. Because it ALWAYS IS SOMEONE ELSE’S FAULT!
He even got pissed off at a vet who he went into business with who had the audacity to get heart disease. She had to cut back on how much she was working. Is she ok? Is she dead? We don’t know because we only hear about how this was a hardship on him.
So read this book for the tips on cat behavior and skim/skip the rest in order not to lose all respect for him.
This is a memoir by two-time CrossFit Games champion, Katrin Davidsdottir.
Dottir is two-time consecutive CrossFit Games Champion Katrin Davidsdottir's inspiring and poignant memoir. As one of only two women in history to have won the title of “Fittest Woman on Earth” twice, Davidsdottir knows all about the importance of mental and physical strength. She won the title in 2015, backing it up with a second win in 2016, after starting CrossFit in just 2011.
A gymnast as a youth, Davidsdottir wanted to try new challenges and found a love of CrossFit. But it hasn't been a smooth rise to the top. In 2014, just one year before taking home the gold, she didn't qualify for the Games. She used that loss as motivation and fuel for training harder and smarter for the 2015 Games. She pushed herself and refocused her mental game. Her hard work and perseverance paid off with her return to the Games and subsequent victories in 2015 and 2016.
In Dottir, Davidsdottir shares her journey with readers. She details her focus on training, goal setting, nutrition, and mental toughness.
I’m a CrossFit Games junkie. When I started CrossFit I just happened to wander into a class that included a reigning Games senior (60 years old and over) champion. Every morning the first thing we did was a 1/4 mile run. I suck at running. I was always last. One time she was talking to the coach when we started out running. Part way through she ran up behind me, gave me a cheery “You are doing really well!”, and then kicked into some other gear that I just do not possess and then she was talking to the coach again when I got back inside. Another time I had dropped a barbell that I was using for squats. It was too heavy for me to pick up from the ground. I was going to have to take the weights off of it, put the bar up on the rack, and put all the weights back on before I could do more squats. I looked at it and sighed to myself. Suddenly a blur of a tiny old lady appeared, grabbed my too-heavy bar off the floor, put it on the rack for me, and said, “There you go” before fluttering off again. I’m aware of the super human abilities of Games participants and that was just the older people. The things that the younger Games athletes do are flat out crazy.
Even though I don’t do CrossFit anymore I am still glued to the Games live feeds every summer. That’s why I was interested in reading Katrin Davidsdottir’s memoir when I saw it on my library feed. Icelandic women are famous in elite CrossFit competition. Katrin is a two times Games winner. This memoir discusses her approach to training with emphasis on the mental and emotional aspects.
I wish that she tried to make this more accessible for people who aren’t familiar with CrossFit. I liked a suggestion I saw on another review to look up each event on YouTube when she talks about it to see what happened and then hear her recollection of it.
This would be a interesting book for people interested in sports psychology in addition to CrossFit games junkies like me.
In 1957, while most teenage girls were listening to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue," watching Elvis gyrate, and having slumber parties, fifteen-year-old Melba Pattillo was escaping the hanging rope of a lynch mob, dodging lighted sticks of dynamite, and washing away the burning acid sprayed into her eyes by segregationists determined to prevent her from integrating Little Rock's Central High School - caught up in the center of a civil rights firestorm that stunned this nation and altered the course of history. Her critically acclaimed and award-winning memoir Warriors Don't Cry chronicled her junior year in high school, the year President Eisenhower took unprecedented, historic action by sending federal troops to escort Melba and her eight black classmates into a previously all-white school. Now, in answer to the often repeated question "What happened next?" Melba has written White Is a State of Mind. Compelled to flee the violent rage percolating in her hometown, young Melba was brought by the NAACP to a safe haven in Santa Rosa, California. This is the story of how she survived - healed from the wounds inflicted on her by an angry country. It is the inspirational story of how she overcame that anger with the love and support of the white family who took her in and taught her she didn't have to yearn for the freedom she assumed she could never really have because of the color of her skin. They taught her that white is a state of mind - that she could alter her state of mind to claim fully her own freedom and equality.
After reading Melba Patillo’s memoir of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School, I wanted to know more details about what happened next. Instead of letting the black teenagers have a second year in Central High, the governor closed the high schools. This lead to increasing anger towards the families that were involved in the integration from both white and black families. Melba finally had to flee the state when a bounty was placed on her by Klan members.
Let’s talk about how she found out about this. Her mother had a cousin who was passing as white. That wasn’t that unusual at the time. In fact, she had several relatives passing. But this man was not only married to an unsuspecting white woman and had kids who thought they were all white, he was the sheriff of a small southern town and the head of the local KKK. You read that right. A black man was head of the local KKK. He found out about the bounty on his little cousin and called the family to alert them (presumably before putting the word out to his members). I want to know more about this. I want a whole book about him and then I want that book turned into a miniseries. Somebody make that happen.
She is taken to a safe house in California. The NAACP there was mostly made up of white liberals. It gets cringey. They want so badly to be helpful but they can’t understand why she was terrified. She came from an environment where she was only safe with (some) black people and now she is surrounded by white people. It was complete culture shock for her.
She came from a world where survival consumed everyone’s thoughts. She had never had the experience of planning to go do something just because it might be fun. She couldn’t relate to teenagers with seemingly trivial concerns. On the other hand, once she saw that a better life was possible, she couldn’t fit in with the survival mentality in Little Rock. She also had to face discrimination from black people in California who looked down on her for being southern.
She didn’t have an easy life but learned gradually to stand up for herself.
An electrifying look inside the wild world of extreme distance running.
Once the reserve of only the most hardcore enthusiasts, ultra running is now a thriving global industry, with hundreds of thousands of competitors each year. But is the rise of this most brutal and challenging sport―with races that extend into hundreds of miles, often in extreme environments―an antidote to modern life, or a symptom of a modern illness?
In The Rise of the Ultra Runners, award-winning author Adharanand Finn travels to the heart of the sport to investigate the reasons behind its rise and discover what it takes to join the ranks of these ultra athletes. Through encounters with the extreme and colorful characters of the ultramarathon world, and his own experiences of running ultras everywhere from the deserts of Oman to the Rocky Mountains, Finn offers a fascinating account of people testing the boundaries of human endeavor.
I’ve talked on this blog a lot about how I hate running with a passion that is only equal to how much I love reading about running. This book was perfect for me.
The author decides to learn about ultrarunning by getting a press pass to run the UTMB, a ultramarathon in the mountains in France. In order to use his pass, he has to qualify by getting enough points in other ultramarathons around the world. His journey to learn to love (and survive) ultrarunning and his interviews with the people he meets along the way are the heart of this book.
He covers the different types of ultrarunning – running 50-100 + miles at once, running a marathon every day for several days in a row, and running a short stretch of trail or on a track for 24 hours. Each has its own challenges.
He meets up with some of the best competitors and realizes that their lifestyles help them with their training. One person lives in a cabin 5 miles up Pike’s Peak. There is no road. You have to run in to get there and to leave. Others travel the world racing the hardest trails and mountains they can find.
He tries to talk top Kenyan marathoners into trying longer distances without a lot of success.
He talks to coaches and health care providers about how to stay fit for this and whether all of this is ultimately healthy or not.
I loved this story. I loved seeing what goes into pushing beyond marathon distance. I would never do it but I liked reading other people’s adventures.
The incredible life story of Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and her amazing journey from isolation to the world stage.
Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn't see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents' harrowing experiences during Eritrea's thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.
Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.
HABEN takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman's determination to find the keys to connection.
The thing that impressed me about this book was her sense that her disabilities, especially her blindness, really aren’t that big of a deal. She repeatedly says that blindness is “just a lack of sight” like it is mostly inconsequential. I think this is because there is more adaptive infrastructure for blind people than for Deafblind people. She is able to use braille computers and books, cane skills, and her guide dog to get around the world. Adaptation for deafness like sign language aren’t as accessible to her because of her blindness.
It amused me that she could never understand why her parents were so “overprotective.” She couldn’t understand why they didn’t want her to go off and build a school in Africa. Most parents wouldn’t say their teenager could go on a several month trip to Africa during the school year without thinking about it a bit. That’s without adding in the additional issues raised when that teenager is Deafblind.
It was frustrating to read about people who wouldn’t inconvenience themselves a little bit to make adjustments that had huge impacts for her. I would like to think that people would want to help others but I guess I’m being naive.
This memoir is written as a series of essays on different points of her life so dwells for a while in one time period and then jumps ahead sometimes by several years. I liked this format because a lot of memoirs get bogged down in minutia during the less interesting times of the subject’s life.
I’d recommend this memoir to anyone who wonders what it is like to be Deafblind in a seeing and hearing world.
The landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, brought the promise of integration to Little Rock, Arkansas, but it was hard-won for the nine black teenagers chosen to integrate Central High School in 1957. They ran the gauntlet between a rampaging mob and the heavily armed Arkansas National Guard, dispatched by Governor Orval Faubus to subvert federal law and bar them from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending in soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, the elite "Screaming Eagles" - and transformed Melba Pattillo and her eight friends into reluctant warriors on the battlefield of civil rights. May 17, 1994, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which was argued and won by Thurgood Marshall, whose passion and presence emboldened the Little Rock struggle. Melba Pattillo Beals commemorates the milestone decision in this first-person account of her ordeal at the center of the violent confrontation that helped shape the civil rights movement. Beals takes us from the lynch mob that greeted the terrified fifteen-year-old to a celebrity homecoming with her eight compatriots thirty years later, on October 23, 1987, hosted by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in the mansion that Faubus built. As they returned to tour the halls of the school, gathering from myriad professions and all corners of the country, they were greeted by the legacy of their courage - a bespectacled black teenager, the president of the student body at Central High. Beals chronicles her harrowing junior year at Central High, when she began each school day by polishing her saddle shoes and bracing herself for battle.
You’ve seen the pictures of the Little Rock Nine being escorted into the school by soldiers and the famous picture above of the angry mob around Elizabeth Eckford. What I never heard about or considered was what happened after they got into the school. I guess I thought that everything was fine once they got inside. It absolutely wasn’t. This is that story.
I listened to the audiobook of this story. It is brutal. Every day after listening I was completely disgusted with white people. I’d tell the white people I work with all about what I had learned that day so they could be mad at our fellow white people with us. I proposed a road trip to Arkansas to beat up some elderly white people but no one has taken me up on it so far. That’s only because they haven’t read the book. If they had, they’d get over their reservations and join me in giving some old people some well deserved whuppings.
All day long the white kids in the school tormented the black students. It was completely ignored by the adults. That’s what amazes me the most. The adults seemed to give up control of the school. I understand that most of them wanted the black students gone too but you’d think that they would at least try to keep some order during classes. They didn’t. It seems like the whole school was ruled by packs of students.
On the first day the teenagers were in school a mob was threatening the school. There was actually talk by the adults in charge of giving one of the students to the mob to be lynched in order to settle them down. They discussed this in front of the kids.
Beatings happened daily. They were kicked all the time. White kids tried to set Melba on fire several times and she had acid thrown in her face. Lit dynamite was thrown at them in the hallways. I don’t know how many textbooks they went through because white students destroyed them routinely. This went on EVERY DAY FOR A WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine living through it and I can’t imagine hating anyone or anything so much that I could keep that level of abuse up for a whole school year.
Melba credits her family with the strength to get through. This is where I differ with her interpretation a bit. Her grandmother was a very religious woman who kept saying that god was in control of everything. As a non-Christian, this grated on me. I think it would have been better for the adults in her life to help stand up for her in any way they could (which admittedly was very little) instead of spouting platitudes. Melba did embrace these and gained strength from them so I’m glad it helped her. As a reader though they made me grind my teeth in frustration.
At the end of the book she talks a little about her perspective on the experience in retrospect. She says that she would have never put her own kids into that kind of abusive situation. That was something I wondered about. The cause was good and just but what they went through was child abuse. They sacrificed their mental and physical health for integration. There is a second book that discusses what happened in her life after this hell year. I’m going to read that. She was definitely damaged by the experience.
I would also like to read about this from the perspective of some of the white people. I kept trying to get into their minds and figure out how they were possibly justifying any of this. I can’t make that mental leap. I’d love to just be able to ask, “What the hell were you even thinking?”
This is a book I want to put into the hands of everyone. These teenagers were amazing. They took unimaginable abuse from both the white and black community. This is history that we can’t forget.
When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.
I had heard the story of a small town in Canada where many airplanes had to land on 9/11 but I didn’t know the details.
The reason all the planes went there was because Gander used to be a major airport. When planes had to refuel before crossing the Atlantic, they went to Gander. Private planes still do. The U.S. military had a lot of planes here. Because of the history of military use, the runways are long. This allows it to be listed as a secondary landing area for the space shuttle in case of trouble on takeoff.
This book details the lengths that people went to when they needed to suddenly accommodate an influx of people on an island. They weren’t allowed to get their luggage off the planes so medications had to be found. Clothes and toiletries were in short supply. Bedding was collected from houses all around the island. People opened their homes to let travelers take showers.
All kinds of people were stranded. There were government and military officials who needed to help coordinate emergency response so they needed to get out of Gander. An executive for the clothing company Hugo Boss was horrified to have to buy new underwear at WalMart. Refugees settling in the U.S. were confused to find themselves in a whole different country.
I was particularly interested in the stories of the animals on the planes. There were two bonobo apes moving to a new zoo. They weren’t allowed out of their transport cages but they helped out by cleaning their own cages for the handlers and entertaining themselves by watching the dogs and cats near them.
I’d recommend reading this book to take a glance at a little known slice of history.
Next week I’m going to see the musical Come From Away which is based on this story. I wanted to make sure I finished this book ahead of time so I could be properly obnoxious with stories of, “Well, actually, what had happened was…” I’ll report back with how close the musical is to the real story.
A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching memoir.
The numbers are staggering: nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This is the true story of one of those girls.
In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice.
This memoir is more than an account of a horrific event. It takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators. Chessy’s story offers real, powerful solutions to upend rape culture as we know it today. Prepare to be inspired by this remarkable young woman and her story of survival, advocacy, and hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.
I heard of this story last week in a news article about her rapist seeking a new trial. In the article it mentioned her by name which is not usual for a sexual assault case and especially one where the person was a minor. Later in the article it said that she had gone public to bring awareness to her case so I was interested in reading the book.
Don’t pick this one up unless you are in the head space to get good and angry. At this boarding school it was pretty much considered normal for the girls to be assaulted. They were taught during orientation that if they needed to discuss anything with an adult that they should always say it was a hypothetical situation. This was specifically to get the faculty around the mandatory reporting that would be required if they knew that a crime had taken place. Sexual conquests were tracked publicly. This was done so openly that a guide to the terminology used was published in the school newspaper.
Chessy’s assault took place right before graduation weekend when she was a freshman. She knew she was basically being hunted but he offered to take her to a forbidden location and she wanted to get a good Instagram picture there. She didn’t think he would do anything to her. She was 15 and stupid. She admits this.
Even after the rape she kept trying to keep up a good front even to the point of not trying to upset her rapist. It took her a long time to realize that this wasn’t her fault. The story of how she and her family were ostracized from the community once she went to the police is maddening.
She pointed out a lot of ways that the system is stacked against survivors. One that I hadn’t thought of was regarding news coverage. Her rapist was 18. He was always described as something like, “Prep school athlete so and so….” with a nice picture while she was “a 15 year old accuser”. The stories were always about him because she was a minor and a rape victim so they wouldn’t publish her name. That’s good most of the time but it lead to sympathetic coverage for him. That’s one of the reasons that she came out publicly. She was able to put a face to her story.
Another aspect of this story is the reaction of the school. All of these activities were protected by the school under the guise of “tradition.” Alumni paid for her rapist’s lawyer to defend the reputation of the school. How do you make a school a safe place if no one cares?
Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves--Indian cooking and sustainable living--to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You'll find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps," "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney," "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub," "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree," and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens," to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.
This book is more than merely a collection of recipes. It is a beautiful reference book for anyone interested in Indian cuisine.
Types of commonly used spices are discussed. Learn about the types of vegetables and beans that are valued in Indian cooking. Find out the differences and similarities between regional cuisines. Chapters are devoted to appetizers, soups, pastas/rice, vegetables, and meats. Usually in a book that isn’t strictly vegetarian I feel lucky to find one or two recipes that I would be interested in making. This book has many that I plan to make. That almost never happens.
The book is wonderfully illustrated with full color pictures of each dish. I appreciate that in a cookbook. It would be particularly useful if you aren’t familiar enough with Indian cuisine to know what each dish is supposed to look like.
I was inspired by this book to add some spices especially for Indian cooking to my garden this year. I have a pot full of mint and am waiting for my cilantro to sprout. The author uses these herbs most in her cooking. I look forward to making many of the recipes in here with fresh vegetables from my garden.
Growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation, David Crow and his siblings idolized their dad. Tall, strong, smart, and brave, the self-taught Cherokee regaled his family with stories of his World War II feats. But as time passed, David discovered the other side of Thurston Crow, the ex-con with his own code of ethics that justified cruelty, violence, lies—even murder.
A shrewd con artist with a genius IQ, Thurston intimidated David with beatings to coerce him into doing his criminal bidding. David's mom, too mentally ill to care for her children, couldn't protect him. One day, Thurston packed up the house and took the kids, leaving her nothing. Soon he remarried, and David learned that his stepmother was just as vicious and abusive as his father.
Through sheer determination, and with the help of a few angels along the way, David managed to get into college and achieve professional success. When he finally found the courage to stop helping his father with his criminal activities, he unwittingly triggered a plot of revenge that would force him into a showdown with Thurston Crow.
With lives at stake, including his own, David would have only twenty-four hours to outsmart his father—the brilliant, psychotic man who bragged that the three years he spent in the notorious San Quentin State Prison had been the easiest time of his life.
The Pale-Faced Lie is a searing, raw, palpable memoir that reminds us what an important role our parents play in our lives. Most of all, it's an inspirational story about the power of forgiveness and the ability of the human spirit to rise above adversity, no matter the cost.
David Crow survived a chaotic childhood led by parents who definitely did not have their children’s best interests at heart. His father was an ex-con who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. On the side he stole items from the Bureau to sell. He was also involved in many other illegal activities including murder. His mother was mentally ill and tormented by his father. His father went to extremes of gaslighting her and getting the children to terrorize her. They went along with it because they were so scared of him.
Besides the cruelty at home, David was brutalized at school and in his neighborhood on the Navajo reservation. The book recounts the horrific poverty and the effects of alcoholism on the community. It isn’t a sympathetic recounting. He was a child who considered the Navajo men as people to be humiliated and scorned and hurt if possible. He was lashing out at people who were in a worse position than he was.
His father was very threatened by the success of his children. Some people might read that as strange but I know people like that. They are very resentful of their children being more successful than them. These families have generations of abuse in common. The parents go on and on about how they could have been as successful as their children if they had the idyllic childhood they gave their kids instead of the poor and abusive childhood they had – even when they were also highly abusive to their children. I don’t understand why the children of these families stay in contact as adults. That played out here. He tried to make normal relations with both his mother and father.
The showdown that was discussed in the blurb was a bit of a let down. I was anticipating a thriller-ready battle of wits that ended with one person left standing. It really wasn’t that at all.
I was intrigued by the beginning of the book but felt like the description of his childhood went on too long. He didn’t give his transformation to a successful adult enough coverage. How did he go from a dyslexic kid with poor eyesight who didn’t really pass his classes to being successful in college? Was the dyslexia ever treated? How did he manage to have the basic knowledge needed for his classes? It isn’t ever fully discussed. He just did fine in college.
This is an uncomfortable book because everyone does horrible things in it. If it was fiction, it would be considered too unbelievable. I wish it would have focused more on how he worked to break the cycle of abuse and self-centeredness endemic in his family and how that led him to do the charitable works listed in his author bio. This isn’t discussed in the book at all.
David Crow spent his early years on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Through grit, resilience, and a thirst for learning, he managed to escape his abusive childhood, graduate from college, and build a successful lobbyist business in Washington. Today, David is a sought-after speaker, giving talks to various businesses and trade organizations around the world.
Throughout the years, he has mentored over 200 college interns, performed pro bono service for the charitable organization Save the Children, and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. An advocate for women, he will donate 10 percent of his book royalties to Barrett House, a homeless shelter for women in Albuquerque. David and his wife, Patty, live in the suburbs of DC.
Mike Leinbach was the launch director of the space shuttle program when Columbia disintegrated on reentry before a nation’s eyes on February 1, 2003. And it would be Mike Leinbach who would be a key leader in the search and recovery effort as NASA, FEMA, the FBI, the US Forest Service, and dozens more federal, state, and local agencies combed an area of rural east Texas the size of Rhode Island for every piece of the shuttle and her crew they could find. Assisted by hundreds of volunteers, it would become the largest ground search operation in US history.
For the first time, here is the definitive inside story of the Columbia disaster and recovery and the inspiring message it ultimately holds. In the aftermath of tragedy, people and communities came together to help bring home the remains of the crew and nearly 40 percent of shuttle, an effort that was instrumental in piecing together what happened so the shuttle program could return to flight and complete the International Space Station. Bringing Columbia Home shares the deeply personal stories that emerged as NASA employees looked for lost colleagues and searchers overcame immense physical, logistical, and emotional challenges and worked together to accomplish the impossible.
Featuring a foreword and epilogue by astronauts Robert Crippen and Eileen Collins, this is an incredible narrative about best of humanity in the darkest of times and about how a failure at the pinnacle of human achievement became a story of cooperation and hope.
I clearly remember aimlessly watching the news that included in passing a brief mention of the landing of Columbia. There was a pause and then the notification that they had lost contact with the shuttle. I remember my then husband coming out of the bedroom and telling him about it. What I don’t remember is any stories about the aftermath. The Iraq War started and drowned out the findings.
I found this book for sale on BookBub and decided to give it a try. It was wonderfully done. It was informative while being extremely respectful of the astronauts who died that day. It communicates the deep grief everyone at NASA felt for the loss of the crew and also for the loss of the shuttle. Columbia was over 20 years old. Many of the people who maintained her had been with her for their entire careers.
The author was in charge of the launch. The book covers that and the immediate concern that something was seen falling and hitting the shuttle. It doesn’t shy away from talking about how safety concerns were dismissed during the mission. He was on hand when Columbia was supposed to land. He describes what it was like to wait for the shuttle to appear in the sky and the gradual realization that it wasn’t coming.
“Our emergency plans assumed that a landing problem would happen within sight of the runway, where a failed landing attempt would be immediately obvious to everyone. Today, there was nothing to see, nothing to hear. We had no idea what to do.”
Columbia broke up over rural east Texas. They were in no way prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. No one was. It took a while for people there to figure out what was happening when debris started falling from the sky. The communities rallied though to host and feed the hoards of recovery workers who came in, to walk through brush and briars looking for the crew and debris, and to mislead the press about where the astronauts were being found. Even two carpenters who were in the town jail got put to work building cubicles for the recovery team. I hope they got time off their sentences for community service.
The book tells the story of the many people who came to help in Texas and then switches to sections on laying out the debris to determine the cause of the accident and what that meant for the space program as a whole.
There was a lot of discussion about what the crew knew. There was video of them happy in the cabin that stops about a minute and half before the accident. I personally wouldn’t want my loved one to know that they were about to die. A lot of NASA people felt that it was better if they did know there was a problem and they were attempting to fix it because that would mean that they weren’t helpless passengers. I don’t see how that would be comforting for anyone to think about.
Even if you aren’t into the space program, this is an interesting book about accident recovery and investigation and the toll it takes on people involved. It brings up a lot of issues I never considered like what do you do with a destroyed space shuttle. I didn’t know that Challenger was sealed in a silo. Columbia is available for researchers. NASA personnel are instructed to visit her to remember the responsibility they have to the crews that fly.
It is sobering and sad but also funny in parts and ultimately uplifting.
A compelling look at animal welfare and factory farming in the United States from Mercy For Animals, the leading international force in preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.
Nathan Runkle would have been a fifth-generation farmer in his small midwestern town. Instead, he founded our nation's leading nonprofit organization for protecting factory farmed animals. In Mercy For Animals, Nathan brings us into the trenches of his organization's work; from MFA's early days in grassroots activism, to dangerous and dramatic experiences doing undercover investigations, to the organization's current large-scale efforts at making sweeping legislative change to protect factory farmed animals and encourage compassionate food choices.
But this isn't just Nathan's story. Mercy For Animals examines how our country moved from a network of small, local farms with more than 50 percent of Americans involved in agriculture to a massive coast-to-coast industrial complex controlled by a mere 1 percent of our population--and the consequences of this drastic change on animals as well as our global and local environments. We also learn how MFA strives to protect farmed animals in behind-the-scenes negotiations with companies like Nestle and other brand names--conglomerates whose policy changes can save countless lives and strengthen our planet. Alongside this unflinching snapshot of our current food system, readers are also offered hope and solutions--big and small--for ending mistreatment of factory farmed animals. From simple diet modifications to a clear explanation of how to contact corporations and legislators efficiently, Mercy For Animals proves that you don't have to be a hardcore vegan or an animal-rights activist to make a powerful difference in the lives of animals.
I’ve had this book on my Audible wishlist for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m glad I finally started to listen to it. I was surprised when it opened with a story of a stealth rescue of chickens from Buckeye Egg Farm in Croton Ohio. At the time of the story I was living in the area and driving past there a lot. The place was hugely hated because of its affects on the people living around it. There would be hoards of flies every summer. The smell was awful and all the groundwater was contaminated from the feces.
Mercy for Animals was started by Nathan Runkle as a teenager and has grown into a huge voice in the animal welfare community. They have sponsored a lot of undercover investigations into abuses at factory farms. The undercover investigators are tough. I couldn’t work in slaughterhouses or factory farms for months on end to document abuses. Sadly, it is getting harder to do this kind of work because of agriculture protection laws that punish investigators more than the people perpetrating the abuse.
This was a tough book to listen to because of the abuse that it details. I took a few breaks from it to listen to other books for a day or two.
The last section of the book discusses how technology might help solve the problems. Companies that make plant-based meat substitutes like Beyond Beef are profiled in addition to companies making meat out of animal stem cells. This will allow people to eat meat with any animals being slaughtered. It was nice that this book ended on an uplifting note after all the horrors that came before.
Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching.
How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd's charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.
This winter I finally got birds to come to my bird feeders after years of trying. I was excited to see this book on a book tour. I’m not good at identifying any species other than the ones children would know.
I was surprised to see that this book isn’t a field guide like I assumed it would be. Instead, this book teaches you through a series of essays how to be a birder.
It starts with a description of a day hike the author and his son take to watch birds. He explains how birding has changed over the years. While it may annoy traditionalists, today’s bird watcher generally considers uploading photos and song recording to social media and apps like EBird to be essential parts of the experience. I think that this is a logical extension of the practice of journaling what birds you see that has been practiced forever. (I put the book down to download the apps he discussed to help identify birds and to log where and when they were seen. Technology helps. There are apps that let you upload pictures and help you identify what you are seeing.)
The next part of the book teaches you what to look for when you are seeing birds. It starts with birds that are likely familiar to anyone in the U.S. – robins, cardinals, etc. There is a one-page essay on each that illustrates a concept in birding such as variations in plumage due to season, age, or sex. As you move through each of the essays you learn about the science and ecology around bird life. You see how birders think and how they approach the hobby.
This is a book that should be savored over time more than read straight through like a novel. It is formatted to take place over a year. The simpler lessons are in the beginning of the book/year and get more complex as they go on and the reader has more practice identifying birds. This book would be best for a beginner birder but experienced birders may enjoy the stories that go along with the descriptions of the birds.
From the author of the bestseller Eat and Run, a thrilling new memoir about his grueling, exhilarating, and immensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.
Scott Jurek is one of the world's best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he's finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning's elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.
When he set out in the spring of 2015, Jurek anticipated punishing terrain, forbidding weather, and inevitable injuries. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, everyday, for almost seven weeks. He knew he would be pushing himself to the limit, that comfort and rest would be in short supply -- but he couldn't have imagined the physical and emotional toll the trip would exact, nor the rewards it would offer.
With his wife, Jenny, friends, and the kindness of strangers supporting him, Jurek ran, hiked, and stumbled his way north, one white blaze at a time. A stunning narrative of perseverance and personal transformation, North is a portrait of a man stripped bare on the most demanding and transcendent effort of his life. It will inspire runners and non-runners alike to keep striving for their personal best.
I’ve been interested in Scott Jurek’s career because he is known for doing ultraendurance events as a vegan. A lot of people were of the opinion that it couldn’t be done when he started. I’ve read his other book and enjoyed it so when I saw this one I was excited to read it.
The story is told in alternating viewpoints – Scott’s experience on the trail and Jenny’s experience heading up the support crew. They were at a crossroads in their lives and envisioned the run as a personal adventure. They underestimated the amount of help that they would require for it to happen.
People show up to run sections with Scott. Friends come from all over to coach Scott through hard sections. Some of them have held the record previously. Others are planning their own attempts to break the record.
The run is brutal. I don’t know why anyone would want to run 30-50 miles a day or more for 46 days in a row. I really don’t know why they’d want to keep doing it when they are injured or when it won’t stop raining or when they are too far behind pace to be able to stop and sleep. Ultrarunning is definitely not for me but I do enjoy reading about it.
The epilogue talks about the next year when Scott goes back to the trail to be on the support crew for one of his friends who crewed for him. There is a documentary on U.S. Netflix now called Broken. It is about that attempt to break Scott’s speed record. The film isn’t that great on its own but a lot of the same people crew (expect for Jenny Jurek) so you get to see the people you read about in the Jureks’ book. You can also see sections of the trail to understand exactly how challenging it is.
I am linking this review up with the Year of the Asian reading challenge.
An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an impressive array of the famous and powerful, including every American president since John F. Kennedy. But as a child born into poverty in the 1930s, Robert was raised by his grandmother to think differently about success. For example, "The best way to influence others is to be helpful," she told him. And, "You can't go wrong by doing right."
Fueled by these lessons on humble, principled service, Brown went on to play a pivotal, mostly unseen role alongside the great and the powerful of our time: trailing the mob in 1950s Harlem with a young Robert F. Kennedy; helping the white corporate leadership at Woolworth integrate their lunch counters; channeling money from American businesses to the Civil Rights movement; accompanying Coretta Scott King, at her request, to Memphis the day after her husband had been shot; advising Richard Nixon on how to support black entrepreneurship; becoming the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town.
Full of unbelievable moments and reminders that the path to influence runs through a life of generosity, YOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT blends a heartwarming, historically fascinating account with memorable lessons that will speak to the dreamer in all of us.
My first thought reading this book was, “Why have I never heard of this man?” My second was, “This is like real-life Forrest Gump.” The man popped up at many of the major events of the 20th century in two countries.
When I finished I had to take a minute to review how this had happened.
He was born in poverty in the south but was able to get an education over time.
He took the police test for research but ended up scoring really high. He became one of the first black officers in his area.
He started doing undercover drug work which led to him getting hired by the FBI to do that kind of work in New York City.
That got dicey so he quit to go back to North Carolina to start a public relations firm. That was rough going.
When students were protesting in Woolworth’s because of segregation at the lunch counters, he went to Woolworth’s and told them that he could negotiate a settlement.
He became a fixer for companies that had racial issues.
This led to him meeting and getting to know all the big civil rights leaders in the 1960s and helping them with corporate funding from the clients he had.
He decided getting stuff done from the inside was more effective so he went to work for the Republicans in the Nixon White House to increase business funding to black people.
Along the way he hired Stedman Graham who introduced him to his girlfriend Oprah Winfrey who was getting into television.
He paid for the Mandela children to come to the U.S. for college.
He ended up talking to the President of South Africa about whether or not to release Nelson Mandela.
I probably forgot some stuff in the middle. It was a wild ride.
It was interesting perspective to read about. At many points he was considered to be working for “the wrong side” by the black community. He worked for companies being protested against. He worked for Republicans. But he was able to work behind the scenes to potentially make more actual progress that he might have been able to in more traditional civil right roles.
This is a long video but you can listen for a bit to hear him tell his story.
An unforgettable year in the life of a visionary high school science teacher and his award-winning students, as they try to get into college, land a date for the prom . . . and possibly change the world.
Andy Bramante left his successful career as a corporate scientist to teach public high school--and now helms one of the most remarkable classrooms in America. Bramante's unconventional class at Connecticut's prestigious yet diverse Greenwich High School has no curriculum, tests, textbooks, or lectures, and is equal parts elite research lab, student counseling office, and teenage hangout spot. United by a passion to learn, Mr. B.'s band of whiz kids set out every year to conquer the brutally competitive science fair circuit. They have won the top prize at the Google Science Fair, made discoveries that eluded scientists three times their age, and been invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.
A former Emmy-winning producer for CBS News, Heather Won Tesoriero embeds in this dynamic class to bring Andy and his gifted, all-too-human kids to life--including William, a prodigy so driven that he's trying to invent diagnostics for artery blockage and Alzheimer's (but can't quite figure out how to order a bagel); Ethan, who essentially outgrows high school in his junior year and founds his own company to commercialize a discovery he made in the class; Sophia, a Lyme disease patient whose ambitious work is dedicated to curing her own debilitating ailment; Romano, a football player who hangs up his helmet to pursue his secret science expertise and develop a "smart" liquid bandage; and Olivia, whose invention of a fast test for Ebola brought her science fair fame and an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
We experience the thrill of discovery, the heartbreak of failed endeavors, and perhaps the ultimate high: a yes from Harvard. Moving, funny, and utterly engrossing, The Class is a superb account of hard work and high spirits, a stirring tribute to how essential science is in our schools and our lives, and a heartfelt testament to the power of a great teacher to help kids realize their unlimited potential.
Descriptions of this class made me a bit twitchy. Basically, anything goes. The kids do self-directed projects, maybe. If they don’t get started working on anything, ok. If they start working on something and then wander off and ignore their project for months on end, ok. If they ignore their project and then have to work nights and weekends to get it done on time, then the teacher has the lab open for them to do that. I would not be a very understanding teacher if these kids were wanting me to give up my personal time because they couldn’t be bothered to do their work in a timely manner in class. Your lack of preparation is not my emergency, etc.
I didn’t realize that science fairs were this big of a business. There are huge amounts of prize money on the line. Add this into pressure over getting into the “right” colleges and these kids are getting pushed hard sometimes by their parents. You know that parents are the biggest source of trouble in a class like this.
Greenwich is known as a super rich area even though there are students at all economic levels. This has added some tension around the program. Other schools think “Of course the rich school can produce fancy projects”. The book goes into a lot of detail about how the class is run on a shoe string budget but they do have a lot of contacts. Kids can go to professional labs and use a scanning electron microscope for free. The teacher gets a lot of used fancy lab equipment that other schools wouldn’t have access to. Some parents can pay for projects that others can’t.
The book follows several students through the year to see how they do with their projects and what life is like for them outside of class. Who goes to prom? Who gets into what college? (Those college acceptances seem incredibly random.) How do they decide what school to go to? Should you even worry about finishing high school if you have a company producing what you invented in Science Research class and you’re in the running for a 7 million dollar prize?
Lola was a buckshot-riddled stray, lost on a Memphis highway. Cody was rejected from seven different homes. Ace had been sprayed with mace and left for dead on a train track. They were deemed unadoptable. Untrainable. Unsalvageable. These would become the same dogs America relied on when its worst disasters hit.
In 1995, Wilma Melville volunteered as a canine search-and-rescue (SAR) handler with her Black Labrador Murphy in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, there were only fifteen FEMA certified SAR dogs in the United States. Believing in the value of these remarkable animals to help save lives, Wilma knew many more were needed in the event of future major disasters. She made a vow to help 168 dogs receive search-and-rescue training in her lifetime—one for every Oklahoma City victim.
Wilma singlehandedly established the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to meet this challenge. The first canine candidates—Ana, Dusty, and Harley—were a trio of golden retrievers with behavioral problems so severe the dogs were considered irredeemable and unadoptable. But with patience, discipline, and love applied during training, they proved to have the ability, agility, and stamina to graduate as SARs. Paired with a trio of firefighters, they were among the first responders searching the ruins of the World Trade Center following 9/11—setting the standard for the more than 168 of the SDF’s search-and-rescue dogs that followed. Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Hero Dogs is the story of one woman’s dream brought to fruition by dedicated volunteers and firefighters—and the bonds they forged with the incredible rescued-turned-rescuer dogs to create one of America’s most vital resources in disaster response.
Once upon a time, I was a puppy raiser for a service dog organization so I have had a glimpse of what it takes to make a working dog. So many of the trials and tribulations of the search dog scene in the 1990s sound familiar.
It is hard to believe now but at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, there were only 15 FEMA certified search dogs in the United States. Search dog training at the time was a volunteer effort. People trained their personal dogs in their spare time so it took years to get a dog with enough skills to pass the national tests. Wilma Melville had a FEMA certified dog and was deployed to Oklahoma City. She decided afterwards that there needed to be a way to get more dog teams ready. She started a foundation to train stray dogs (because they were cheap/free) full time to try to turn them into search dogs in less than a year. She decided to pair them with firefighters because they were already trained in disaster response.
The dogs needed to have high prey drive to want to find people. They had to be athletic to climb over rubble. They had to be smart. She found it all in her first rescue dog, Ana, who was failing out of service dog school for being too active. When Wilma pulled in the driveway to meet her, Ana the Golden Retriever was standing up in the tree she had climbed.
Reading about deployments is frustrating. They don’t find a lot of people buried because they often don’t reach the scene for a day or more. More teams in more areas could decrease mobilization times.
This book is both sad and funny. Stories of fruitless searches and the abuse some of the dogs endured before coming to the school are heartbreaking. On the other hand, they are still dogs despite all their training and sometimes escape or just refuse to behave at exhibitions. I loved the story of the dog searching at Ground Zero in New York who found an intact wall of Beanie Babies (his absolutely favorite toy) in a ruined store and had to be taken off the deployment for the day because he was too awe-struck to move on.