Category Archives: Non-Fiction

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

51+mE0mV0ML._AA300_Title:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown
Author:  Claire Ridgway
Author’s website:  The Anne Boleyn Files
Non-Fiction/History

In April of 2012, I read Ridgway’s other book on Anne Boleyn, The Anne Boleyn Collection, in order to grow my knowledge on the actual life and story of Anne Boleyn.  As a fan of Ridgway’s website, The Anne Boleyn Files, I had a feeling that I would enjoy her books, as well.  My inkling was spot-on.  So, naturally, I was ecstatic to learn that there were even more books coming out by her!

I decided to kick off 2013 with The Fall of Anne Boleyn because, really, it’s been far too long since my last Tudor read.  And while I have a few biographies sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be cracked open, I opted to revisit Ridgway’s personable and accessible writing style instead.  Similarly to The Anne Boleyn Collection, The Fall of Anne Boleyn, at times, reads like a conversation that the reader could be taking part in with the author.  I love that you don’t only get historical facts and excerpts from actual letters from the Tudor players, but you really get to share in Ridgway’s love of Anne Boleyn.

Another positive about Ridgway’s books is that she presents all sides.  She admits that it is difficult to decipher everything that really happened during this time, but instead of only presenting one view or one scenario, the reader has the opportunity to not only learn what Boleyn’s contemporaries thought and said (where primary resources still exist) but also what ideas historians have recorded, deduced, and proliferated since then.

My interest in Boleyn only grows the more that I learn about her.  She was a far cry from a witch or concubine as some believe(d) her to be.  Anne Boleyn was a woman who fought to gain her position.  She valued education, charity, and spiritual reform.  She believed in the validity of her ideas and, with her feisty nature, did not shy away from sharing them – even though she was a woman.

For anyone looking to learn more about Anne Boleyn, I highly recommend Claire Ridgway’s publications and website.  You will not be disappointed!

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Filed under 2013, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Favorites, Non-Fiction, Tudors

Quotable Monday: Women in History

 

 

There is no more effective camouflage in history than to have been born a woman.

The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc, Nancy Goldstone.

Full context of the quote:

“Six hundred years is a long time to wait for answers to so prominent a mystery.  For those who wonder after reading these pages how it is possible that the evidence of Yolande’s involvement in the story of Joan of Arc has never before been adequately explored, I can only respond that there is no more effective camouflage in history than to have been born a woman.”
Ain’t that the truth!

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Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Title:  Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Author: Shunryu Suzuki
Length: 176 pages

Shortly after moving into the “new” area, I began searching for local Buddhist Temples to resume my study and practice.  Surprisingly, I found a Zen Center in a nearby city and headed out to see if I felt comfortable there and to see if it seemed feasible for me to make the drive on a regular basis.  While there, one of the teachers recommended that I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind in order to familiarize myself better with a branch of Buddhism that I know little about.

The sections are broken up into short lessons or talks by Shunryu Suzuki, a respected Zen Master who moved to the United States from Japan.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it all made complete, crystal clear sense to me on my first read-through, but the parts that did felt like a breath of fresh air to read.

The most important teaching that I walked away with is presented at the very beginning and woven through each section and through to the end:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

It is vital to always approach life with a beginner’s mind – check out this book to allow Suzuki to show you why.  Whatever your faith may be, you will be able to take the lessons from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and apply them to your life.

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The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway

Title: The Anne Boleyn Collection
Author: Claire Ridgway
The Anne Boleyn Files:  http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/

Like Anne Boleyn?  Curious about the real Tudor history?  If so, then Claire Ridgway’s book, The Anne Boleyn Collection, and her site (The Anne Boleyn Files) should both be high on your list to check out.  As I’ve divulged in this blog, quite recently I became smitten with the tale of Anne Boleyn.  I will admit that my first draw was based on the fiction surrounding her life, but it really pushed me to seek out some sources for getting to the bottom of the reality — well, as much as we CAN get to the bottom of it.

One of the first websites that pulled up in my search was The Anne Boleyn Files –  a collection of thought-provoking and intriguing articles about various topics relevant to Anne Boleyn.  SO, when I discovered that the site’s maintainer, Claire Ridgway, came out with a book, I snapped it up immediately.

This first collection runs through Anne’s life from the beginning to the end.  There are a few articles about the OTHER players of the time – the OTHER wives of Henry VIII and the ladies in waiting who tended to Anne during her years in the King’s favor.  In addition to learning heaps about one of my favorite women from history, I thoroughly enjoyed reading something written by another woman who is equally as enthusiastic about her and her story.  In fact, most of the book reads like a conversation, so at times you feel as though you’re sitting across from Ridgway and she’s sharing some of her vast breadth of knowledge, passion, and opinions with you.

In other words – I highly recommend this collection AND that you check out her site!  Also – keep your eyes open for her upcoming release, The Fall of Anne Boleyn.

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Kiyo’s Story by Kiyo Sato

Title:  Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream (A memoir)
Author:  Kiyo Sato
Length: 352 pages

In this memoir, originally published as Dandelion Through the Crack, first generation Japanese-American Sato chronicles the tribulations her family endured in America through the Great Depression and WWII. Emigrating from Japan in 1911, Sato’s parents built a home and cultivated a marginal plot of land into a modest but sustaining fruit farm. One of nine children, Sato recounts days on the farm playing with her siblings and lending a hand with child-care, house cleaning and grueling farm work. Her anecdotes regarding the family’s devotion to one another despite their meager lifestyle (her father mending a little brother’s shoe with rubber sliced from a discarded tire) gain cumulative weight, especially when hard times turn tragic: in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the Satos find themselves swept up by U.S. authorities and shuffled through multiple Japanese internment camps, ending up in a desert facility while the farm falls to ruin. Sato’s memoir is a poignant, eye-opening testament to the worst impulses of a nation in fear, and the power of family to heal the most painful wounds.

Kiyo’s Story is the OTHER book that I picked up on our vacation.   Purchased at the Manzanar National Historic Site, I expected the bulk of this book to recount the time that the Sato family spent in an internment camp (not Manzanar), but my initial expectations were totally incorrect.

The memoir starts with the narrator’s father, Tochan, as a young boy in Japan, he is sent over to America with the following instructions from his mother – don’t ever come back.  This isn’t because she doesn’t love him – no, on the contrary, she loves him very much and wants a better life for him.  Tochan arrives in America, finds work, and settles into life in California, eventually learning to speak english.  In the following years, his brother also comes to America, working in the fields with him.  The only time that he does return to Japan is to find a wife – which he does, though, he chooses for himself instead of following the custom of an arranged marriage.

Once back in America, the Sato family begins to grow… and grow and grow and grow.  Nine children are brought into the world, sharing in the duties on the farm and falling in love with Tochan’s many stories – each teaching a special lesson.  Like any parent, they want the best for their children and they want them to lead even happier lives than they have.

Unfortunately, no one is prepared for what happens in this country against Japanese Americans after the bombing at Pearl Harbor.  Out of fear and discrimination, all of the Japanese living on the west coast of the United States are forced to move to “relocation centers” under guard.  Kiyo’s Story only spends a small amount of time focusing on their time at Poston, but her retelling of the events perfectly conveys the confusion and fear that everyone felt.

This memoir is about family, love, religion, and personal strength.  Each member of the Sato family overcame so much and never wavered in their faith nor in their desire to be accepted as American citizens.  This book is a must-read – especially if you’re someone who doesn’t understand what happened in our country during WWII.  Prior to this year, I only had a vague understanding of the events.  I am grateful to now be a little more informed.

Check it out on Amazon.

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Soiled Doves by Anne Seagraves

Title:  Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West
Author:  Anne Seagraves
Length:  175 pages
Fascinating!

Discover the fascinating yet grey world of prostitution and the women who participated in the world’s oldest profession.  Illustrated throughout with rare historical photographs of women like Molly b’Dam, Lil’ Lovell, and Mattie Silks.  This strong book provides touching insight into the lives of the ladies of the night, from pampered courtesans of the wealthy to enslaved Chinese girls.

Soiled Doves was one of my souvenirs from Death Valley.  The moment that I discovered that this book existed, I knew that I had to have it.  Still, it took me a day or two to really get myself to the point where I paid the $13 for it.  After completing the book, however, I am very glad that I did!

Prostitution is a part of our history.  It’s not called “the world’s oldest profession” for kicks and giggles.  Regardless, prostitution is something that we, as a society, shun and look down upon.  For the most part, it’s easier to pass judgment upon the occupation and not pause to give thought to the women who have lived it.  Seagraves ventures to shed some light on the history and experiences of these women, specifically in the Western United States, during the westward expansion.

This book is fascinating in that Seagraves provides general historical information about the red light districts, the varying levels of brothels, as well as more in-depth portraits about individual women – some of which are backed up with newspaper article excerpts and photographs.

Seagraves is obviously dedicated to the history of women (specifically in the West) and has written numerous books on the topic.  I know that I will most definitely be checking those titles out – though, I don’t know if I can wait until our next vacation out west!

View her titles on Amazon.

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Books as Souvenirs

As you may or may not know/remember, I recently went on vacation.  One of the many exciting things to do on vacation is acquire some stuff that you probably don’t need, but that you swear will always remind you of your trip.  Well, I would like to say, that people ALWAYS need books and what better way to remember and commemorate your time somewhere than with a geographically appropriate book?

Luckily, there were many options for me to sift through in the Death Valley and Eastern Sierra gift shops that we wound up in.  I didn’t wind up with anything too scientific (there were plenty on the night sky or rocks of Death Valley), but I wound up with two of the best titles for me…

Title:  Soiled Doves
Author:  Anne Seagraves
Published by WESANNE PUBLICATIONS

Soiled Doves – Prostitution in the Early West is about… well… prostitution and the women who were prostitutes in the early West.  I haven’t read anything past the introduction yet, but the first page sucked me in with its very brief, very surface-only glimpse at the history of prostitution.  The first time that I saw this book, we were in a very family oriented gift shop and I was just kind of shocked, amazed, and delighted by its existence.  I didn’t jump the gun and fork over the $12.95 that night, however.  No, no… I had to let the idea of it stew.  For days.  In the desert heat.

On our final day there, however, I knew that I had to have it.  En route to Las Vegas, we stopped back into the gift shop and I picked it up.  Fortunately for me, they hadn’t sold out of it yet.  With that said, this will probably be one of my next reads, so keep a lookout for my review and thoughts on here in the next few weeks.

SOILED DOVES tells of the grey world of prostitution and the women who participated in the oldest profession.  Colorful, if not socially acceptable, these ladies of easy virtue were a definite part of the early West – wearing ruffled petticoats with fancy bows, they were glamorous and plain, good and bad and many were as wild as the land they came to tame.

Women like “Molly b’Dam,” Mattie Silks, and “Chicago Joe” blended into the fabric of the American Frontier with an easy familiarity.  Others, such as “Sorrel Mike,” escaped through suicide, Lottie Johl chose marriage and the Chinese slave girls lived a life without hope.

Title: Kiyo’s Story
Author: Kiyo Sato
Published by Soho Press, Inc.

The other book that I picked up was purchased at the gift shop located in the Manzanar National Historic Site, which is a historic site of a Japanese Interment Camp from the WWII era.  We found out towards the end of our trip that this Site was nearby (about an hour drive from where we were staying) and I knew, immediately, that I had to get there.  Over the past year, I’ve read a few titles about the Japanese Internment Camps (something that I wasn’t 100% aware of previously) and it was incredibly important for me to get there.

The stories and information available at Manzanar is moving, maddening, inspiring, and eye-opening.  Their gift shop contains many titles for further reading (including plenty for children and teenagers), but I really wanted a memoir.  Kiyo’s Story popped out of me, first and foremost, because I liked the design of the book.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that this is really the best book for me to read.  Again, I’ll be reading this one sometime over the next few weeks, so keep a lookout for my review.

Kiyo’s father arrived in California determined to plant his roots in the land of opportunity after leaving Japan.  He, his wife, and their nine American-born children labored in the fields together, building a successful farm.  But at the outbreak of the World War II, Kiyo’s family was ordered to Poston Internment Camp.

Throughout their trials, the family pulled together to survive.  Kiyo managed to work her way through college; her brothers served in the army.  After the war they returned to a ruined farm and a despoiled house.  They began again.

 

Have you ever picked up a book as a souvenir?

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Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen


Title:  Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom
Author:  Yangzom Brauen (http://www.yangzombrauen.com/)
Length: 320 pages
Loved it!

When choosing my first read of 2012, I thought that I was potentially choosing my last read of 2011.  I began this book during the last week of December, but then I turned into the laziest sloth of a woman and spent most of my time watching The Tudors on Netflix, so I didn’t finish this before New Year’s.  I’m happy for this, though, because reading this memoir is the perfect type of read to kick off a new year.

I was drawn to this book mainly because I adore Tibetan culture and religion.  I cannot eloquently explain why, but I first became enamored with learning as much as possible about the Dalai Lama, Buddhism, and Tibet’s history/culture around my freshman year in high school.  I was potentially influenced by all of the Free Tibet rallies and concerts that were televised on MTV at the time, which leaves me thankful that I grew up during a time where MTV had some semi-educational stuff on-air.

I fell in love with this book for the three women’s lives that are the focus – Kunsang, Sonam, and Yangzom.  Three generations of Tibetan women, each with very different childhood experiences, and all struggling with the cultural diaspora that resulted from the Chinese occupation of their country since the 1950s.  We are given an honest look at Tibetan culture, both pre and post Chinese occupation, as well as a small glimpse into what it was (and probably still is) like for those who fled to India.

The stories shared with readers in this book are both incredibly sad and inspirational.  It makes me feel like I need to go and do something more with my life.  I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Tibetan culture, strong and creative women, or to anyone who just really needs a wonderful and inspirational read.
Check out Across Many Mountains on Amazon.

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Filed under Favorites, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Women Writers, Yangzom Brauen

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

Title:  Some Girls – My Life in a Harem
Author:  Jillian Lauren
Length: 352 pages
Loved It!
This book was one that I’ve been eying for the past few months, but was never “ready” to buy it.  When the local Borders was closing, however, I came across it again – the last copy, misplaced in the remaining Biography books – and snatched it up.  I’m not entirely sure how to describe why I was interested in the book so much, but I suppose that the easiest response could be that the subject matter seemed intriguing.

At the start of the book, I didn’t know if I was going to care too much for the narrator.  I was worried.  It sounded like she had a little bit of an attitude and spoke harshly about her parents with very little context as to where that was coming from.  All I had to do was sit tight and keep reading, though, and the context revealed itself.  The deeper you get into the book, the deeper you get into Lauren’s emotions, fears, and, ultimately, the full force of her strength is revealed.

Reading a book about a woman who chose to work in the sex industry and to live in the harem of Prince Jeffri from Brunei, being treated to very high-end shopping sprees, and an almost limitless access to any “thing” that she wanted, one would think that most girls would have no way to relate.  That, at most, this would be a sensational glimpse into a world that most of us would never know or be in.

Underneath all of these details, however, is where you’re going to find the aspects of Lauren and her life that almost any woman can relate to – insecurity, loneliness, destructive relationships, catty girls, desire, attempting to attain one’s dreams.  I love this book not for the sexy parts, not for the parts that reveal a reality entirely different from anything that I’ll ever know – though, those parts are interesting to read.  I love this book because it forces home the point that you can never judge a book, or especially a person, by the cover.

Check out this book on Amazon.

Check out JillianLauren.com

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Night by Elie Wiesel


Title:  Night
Author:  Elie Wiesel
Length:  120 pages
Copyright:  1960

Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

I’ve read a fair amount on the Holocaust over the years, but somehow I never picked up Night by Elie Wiesel.  That changed a week ago and it is a book that will stay with me forever.  Elie Wiesel and his family were taken to the Auschwitz when he was only a teenager, a young boy, and he witnesses humanity and its worst.  Night is raw.  It is difficult to believe that everything written on these pages actually happened, but it is vital to understand that they did and to never forget.

Out of all of the Holocaust accounts that I have read so far, this one is by far the most chilling. I highly recommend this autobiography to… everyone.  I am not going to rate this like I have with the other books in my blog, because, frankly, no one can rate the telling of one’s personal experience  of suffering evil.

Buy a copy of Night on Amazon.

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