Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homeless at Harvard by John Christopher Frame

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Homeless at Harvard
by John Christopher Frame

ISBN-13: 9780310318675
Trade Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: August 6, 2013

Source: Review copy from the publisher through

Book Description, Modified from Booksneeze:
Harvard Square is at the center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the heart of Harvard University. In recent years, it’s become a gathering place for the city’s homeless. While taking his a summer course at Harvard, John Frame stepped outside the walls of academia and onto the streets, pursuing a different kind of education with his homeless friends. While Frame talks about his experiences, he also allows his homeless friends to share their stories and thoughts, providing insider perspectives of life as homeless people see it.

My Review:
Homeless at Harvard is a memoir about a young man who lived among the homeless community at Harvard Square to better understand homelessness. He was taking a summer course at Harvard and had access to campus facilities, but he spent his free time on the streets and he slept on the streets. Much of the book was about his experiences on the street and about his childhood, but he also shared the stories of some of his homeless friends and included some of their thoughts "in their own words."

The writing was somewhat disjointed, though usually it wasn't hard to follow. The author would start the chapter talking about an experience he had while on the street--like learning to beg for money--and then he'd jump to a story from his past or to some thoughts he had about how he wasn't really homeless even though he was sleeping on the streets. Then he'd continue the original story. He also sometimes contradicted himself or the homeless people would--like someone said the homeless aren't all addicts or mentally ill, yet a few chapters later someone said they were.

I don't feel like I gained insight into why people are homeless, but I did learn some things about homeless people. The homeless in Harvard Square only lacked for homes--not food, not medical care, not alcohol or drugs, not lottery tickets, not cell phones or grills or digital cameras. A few of those begging money even had homes! Many were addicts. Even those who didn't think they were mentally ill didn't have an accurate grasp of reality, though sometimes that appeared to be a product of their upbringing. They had a very works-oriented, confused view of God, and even the author didn't view God as sovereign (i.e. in control of everything).

The author's conclusion was that spending time with the homeless and treating them like people will do more good than giving them your pocket change. The book didn't really show that to be true, but it is clear that giving them money doesn't help. So spending time is worth a try.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 1854 Diary of Adeline Elizabeth Hoe by Helen Taylor & Richard Davidson

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Prelude, A Novel
The 1854 Diary of Adeline Elizabeth Hoe
Helen Taylor Davidson,
Richard Davidson

ISBN-13: 978-1931807807
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Peter E. Randall Publisher
Released: August 1, 2013

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Publisher's Website:
A book in two parts, Prelude, A Novel and The 1854 Diary of Adeline Elizabeth Hoe. In the spring of 1854, a seventeen-year-old girl began to keep a daily diary. Filled with six months of the details of a young girl’s life, the diary itself offers a wonderful window into the mind of an educated young woman from a well-to-do family living in Lower Manhattan in the turbulent decade before the Civil War. Her meticulous record of the elegant music, dances and literature she and her sister enjoyed is juxtaposed with her matter-of-fact relation of epidemics and sudden deaths, conveying a vivid picture of mid-nineteenth-century life.

Adeline was the daughter of a famous nineteenth-century inventor and industrialist Richard March Hoe. Family friends included William Sidney Mount, noted as the first American painter to accurately depict African-American life; William Batchelder Bradbury, the NYC choral director and founder of the Bradbury Piano Company; and Robert Nunns, also of piano-making fame. The Davidsons’ footnotes to the diary explain Adeline's enigmatic references to the events and culture of this time.

Prelude, A Novel, is a captivating thriller about the Underground Railroad inspired by the Davidsons’ research into Adeline’s life and times. Davidson recreates the social milieu of Adeline around the most dramatic movement in the America in which she lived.

My Review:
This book is actually two books: a historical fiction, Prelude, and historical nonfiction, The 1854 Diary of Adeline Elizabeth Hoe. The diary is set in New York and the surrounding areas from May 26 to December 27, 1854. The novel was based on the diary. The author used the entries in the diary as an outline for the story and then added details to fill out entries--like having the characters drying apple slices rather than using the less specific description of helping in the kitchen.

These historical details and the historical notes on the diary were clearly carefully researched and helped to bring the time period alive. Suspense was added in the novel by giving Adeline a romantic interest and providing a secret life of working on the Underground Railroad to her love interest. I liked the characters in the novel, and they reacted realistically to various situations. There were no sex scenes or bad language. Overall, I enjoyed the interesting novel, Prelude.

The diary recorded Adeline's daily activities, like her chores, which friends dropped by, going to a party, or going out for ice cream. She talked about to the illnesses of her family and relations, the books that they read while sewing, and traveling to visit relatives. It was interesting due to the variation in activities from day to day. When she got home from travelling and the days became less remarkable, her diary petered out.

Black and white pictures were included that showed people and places mentioned in the text. There were also notes related to the diary which explained who certain people were or how billiards was played back then, or the story behind a fire in a city that was only briefly mentioned in the diary. Though the diary wasn't written with the intent that descendants might read it one day, it was still an interesting look at the time, place, and her lifestyle.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Children of the Tipi by Michael Oren Fitzgerald

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Children of the Tipi:
Life in the Buffalo Days
by Michael Oren Fitzgerald

ISBN-13: 9781937786090
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Tales
Released: June 1, 2013

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Goodreads:
What was it like to grow up in the world of the pre-reservation Plains Indians before the coming of the white settlers? Prior to our modern era of television, video games, and computers how did American Indian children live, learn, and play? In this beautifully illustrated book, award-winning author, Michael Oren Fitzgerald, combines stunning photographs and simple quotations by Indian chiefs and elders to explain to today's youth what life would have been like growing up on the American plains.

Children of the Tipi includes sections on boys and girls at play, camp life, and the important role of parents and grandparents. It features historical sepia photographs of children at work and play, as well as detailed color photographs of their toys, tools, and everyday objects.

My Review:
Children of the Tipi is a children's nonfiction book about native American tribes who lived on the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains at "the time of the buffalo." The pages are full of sepia photographs taken of these tribes during that time period. There are also some full color photographs of clothing, everyday items, and weapons as well as a map showing the locations of the various plains and Rocky Mountain tribes. However, some of the people quoted in the book are from tribes not shown on the map.

The text consisted of short quotes from men and women from a wide variety of tribes who were born before 1904. About 10 of the 36 pages focused on how the children were raised and their daily life (their play, interactions with older people, how they were named, story time, etc.). The rest of the book was about daily life in general for adults and children (moving camp, women's work, men's work, spiritual beliefs and rituals, jewelry, weaving, etc.).

I found the quotes containing childhood memories very interesting. There were also quotes about the beliefs and customs of various tribes and some tribal proverbs.

Overall, I found this book interesting, especially the photographs. It's too bad that the photographs weren't captioned with information about which tribe was pictured or where they were. Also, the book didn't give a lot of information about daily life and didn't focus on specific tribes, so keep in mind that this is more of a "coffee table book" than a history book.

I'm not sure how interesting a young child who isn't Native American would find this book. Back when I was a tween, I liked to read history or "other culture" nonfiction, but I was more interested in the day-to-day activities than in quotes about how moral their people were. So I'm not precisely sure who I'd recommend this book to.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.