Kutztown Scout Troop 101
Perkins with FDR and Cabinet
I was approached by someone from a local Scout Troop to present on a famous woman in history, they know this is one of the areas I explore in my blog. It was a very fun presentation, and the kids were great. I decided to talk about Francis Perkins, because we never really learned about her when I was a kid. She was a dedicated and tireless public servant . She was the first ever female cabinet member, she made dozens of strides for workers and labor conditions. In her time she accomplished a 40 hour work week, a federal minimum wage, unemployment compensation, injured workers compensation, abolition of child labor, social security and so much more. I can’t even fit in all of her accomplishments in this post, so I encourage you to research her even further. Also keep in mind that she accomplished all of these things within only 12 years of service as Secretary of Labor. Franklin Roosevelt broke gender stereotypes to push for her appointment, and she proved to be a wise choice for him and the country. I wanted to get the Scouts involved, so I had them do an activity where they wrote letters to State Representative Gary Day and State Senator Judy Schwank. In their letters the Scouts mentioned learning about Frances Perkins, and then they wrote about the things they’re passionate about and changes they would like to see, the kids really had a lot to say. They’re young but they know what change they want to see in the world the way Frances Perkins did, and they’re not afraid to speak out about it. It’s inspiring to see.
I’m finishing up In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, definitely my favorite book right now. I’m really drawn to the main character, because in many ways she’s flawed, yet she’s also an amazing person. I’m really excited to do another book review, and this book is similar to the last book, a book about social justice and staying true to yourself. Both books have the similar theme of finding your voice and standing up for the right thing. However, there are some main differences between The Hate U Give and In the Neighborhood of True. This new book is set in the 1950’s, rather than modern day, so it can be hard to put yourself into the mindset of another time period. This book also focuses on experiences of a young Jewish girl who moves into a very antisemitic Southern town, versus the experiences of a young African American girl in the Hate U Give dealing with issues of racism as she moves between the Black Community where she lives and her mostly white school. Both of these books address very real issues of hatred, in different ways, that have been and still are part of young people’s lives. I hope you are looking forward to my final review of In the Neighborhood of True as much as I have enjoyed reading this powerful book.
In my last post I did a review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I said that I was going to review her next book On the Come Up, and I still plan to. However, I have been moved by the recent antisemitic attacks that have been in the news to address this issue by doing a review of another book first. This book is called In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton, and it is loosely based on the 1958 bombing of a Temple in Atlanta, Georgia. The book is told in the perspective of a jewish teenage girl named Ruth, who moves from New York to Atlanta after her father dies. I want to review this book not only because I am Jewish and this issue is personal, but also to reflect on current and past anti-semitic events and how they affect everyone. Anti-semitism is a global and national crisis. In October of 2019 when I went to the Hannah Arendt Center Seminar on Antisemitism and Racism; people discussed the origin of antisemitism, the Palestine conflict, and zionism, and how to address them now. In The Neighborhood of True is a beautifully written book that depicts the dark history of antisemitism in America and is still unfortunately relevant today.
https://jwa.org/media/temple-bombing-atlanta-georgia – 1958 picture of the Temple bombed in Atlanta, Georgia
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/what-monsey-attack-says-about-jewish-community/604228/ – 2019 Picture of supporters of the Jewish community in Monsey, NY that suffered a brutal antisemitic attack.
Angie Thomas wrote The Hate U Give, a beautiful portrait of modern life in America. Thomas shows 16 year old Starr Carter, an African American girl and her torn life. From the rough Garden Heights neighborhood where she lives, to the completely different world of a mostly White private school she goes to in Williamson. Starr feels pulled between the two places, and feels forced to be two different people. However, when she witnesses her friend Kahlil get shot by a racist cop, Starr’s two world’s collide. She can’t help but be her full self and speak her true mind as she goes through grief. Starr becomes the key witness in the trial, and finds her voice with the experience of losing Kahlil. Thomas does an amazing job in showing the vulnerability of the character and pain Starr feels with the loss of Kahlil. This book grabs your attention and forces you to see the pain of the younger generation, the sadness mixed with frustration that can become rage. The support of her parents is a beautiful, very relatable and real picture of family. Yet, it shows that sometimes even having support kids still feel lost. This lost feeling is captured so well by the author in Starr’s disoriented and misguided actions. I could see it clearly, feel it with the character. Thomas has gotten the Michael L. Printz Award for this book, a well deserved award, and after reading the book myself I fell in love. I look forward to reading her next novel, On The Come Up , and sharing my thoughts on it.
The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt was written by Ken Krimstein in 2018. Krimstein creates a beautiful portrait of Arendt’s life, and you can tell the amount of research and work he put into the graphic novel. He doesn’t skip over the hard spots, including Arendt’s controversial piece Eichmann in Jerusalem. Krimstein eloquently communicates the disconnection and lost friends over this hugely disputed piece. Yet he also shows the amazing devotion and support from her loving husband Heinrich Blucher. You really get an insight as to what Arendt’s life was like, especially her childhood. One fun little part of the book is the story of Arendt getting kicked out of her school for protesting because the teachers were “too dumb”. Krimstein uses the three escapes as a way to tell her story from beginning to end. He describes the three escapes in her life, and through these events he tells her story flawlessly. Arendt did so much, and wrote so much work, it’s amazing how much Krimstein captures. Arendt wrote six impactful non-fiction books on deep philosophical issues, and numerous essays, that changed how people saw the world. Her life was incredible and her ideas revolutionary and still relevant. Krimstein captures the essence of Hannah in this unique and beautiful graphic novel.
So I know that in my last post I talked about going to the Conference on Racism and Antisemitism at the Hannah Arendt Center, but I didn’t really elaborate on it. I learned so much and heard a lot of interesting people speak, and I want to share with you in more detail. There were a lot of recurring themes, the presentation given by author and historian Ibram X. Kendi titled “How to be an Antiracist” was particularly interesting. One issue that Ibram Kendi raised and people talked about was the idea that in situations that involve racism instead of perpetrators and intent as the focus, we should focus on victims and outcomes. This way we can help the victims of the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again. This connects to another concept brought up by Ibram Kendi, which was that the police officers that say on the news that they feared for their life and that is why they shot a Black person, are faulty due to ignorance. Because the fear they refer to is based on racist stereotypes of someone who is Black as being automatically more dangerous because of their color. These were just some of the thought provoking ideas people raised and talked about. I learned about many powerful and new ways to approach situations.Ibram X. Kendi’s book is called “How to be an Antiracist” and he also has an article in the New York Times entitled “An Antiracist Reading List”. I would really recommend everyone go to this conference if you can, it’s held every Fall at Bard University, and it’s truly amazing.
It’s been a while since my last post, but I have been busy. I spent the last few months on a project taking all the research I did for the blog and writing a historical fiction piece based on the life of Sarah Grimke. The piece focuses on three different time periods during this amazing woman’s life. I will submit the piece for publication soon, so hopefully you’ll see it in Teen Inc. or one of the other places that print works by young writers. I also plan to take a new direction with the blog and post reviews of books focused on current social justice issues such as racism, sexism and antisemitism. As a way to start off this new phase of the Blog I went to the Conference on Anti-semitism and Racism at the Hannah Arendt Center located at Bard University. They have the conference every fall, and I would definitely encourage people to go. I had a great time, and I learned a lot! More details to come on some of the most interesting things I learned at the conference and the first book I plan to review.
Sorry about the delay, things got a little hectic with the end of the school year and all. When I went to OAH, I went to three great seminars. The first seminar was on incarcerated women, and the first women’s prison in Indiana. I went to this seminar because I didn’t know anything about the topic. I heard a lot of smart people speak, some people that were currently incarcerated and other women who had been incarcerated. At first women used to be in the same prisons as men, but obviously, that had major issues. In 1873, the first official women’s prison was created so that women could have a separate facility from men. This prison had serious problems, from women getting dunked and hosed down, to flat out whipping and beating the women. I had never even heard of any of this before I went to OAH, but it was a really interesting thing to learn about. The people who spoke genuinely knew what they were talking about, and had a passion for the subject that showed in their presentation. I attended a presentation on women in politics from the 1970’s to today. The presenters on this panel also had a deep understanding of their topic and it was really interesting to learn about many women in politics who pushed boundaries, more than just a few. Women like Patsy Mink who promoted the ground breaking Title IX legislation and was very intelligent and dedicated to equal rights for women. Finally I attended a panel about African American women and how they were depicted in print during the time of Slavery. What I learned about false and racist depiction of African American women during that time, as savages who for example killed their own children, was something I had never heard of. I gained a deeper understanding of the deep roots of racist stereotypes and in particular towards women of that time. My experience at OAH was interesting, thought provoking and inspiring.
I had the most amazing opportunity this week to attend the the Organization of American Historians annual conference in Philadelphia, PA. I went to the conference with the chair of the Kutztown University History Department, Andrew Arnold, and really learned a lot. I heard the names of important women in history some I knew like Sarah and Angelina Grimke. I also learned about amazing women such as the Lumpkin sisters. I learned about women who worked for their rights while they were incarcerated, the history of women in Politics like Patsy Mink and Nancy Pelosi. There were great historians that I met with and I will work on a second post to provide more detail about my experience. It was incredible and inspiring.
I have posted about my blogging process, and the creation of my blog with the help of some people that have experience using this medium. However, I never mentioned why I chose to use a blog and focus specifically on important women in history who were left out of the history books. I have always been interested in women’s history and I received a gift of the book Rejected Princesses By Jason Porath, the same year that I visited Judy Chicago’s piece The Dinner Party which I used as a starting point for my blog. My mom offered that I use the blog as a way to share information and do research about amazing women that I was learning about. The women who fought in war were of particular interest to me, like the Night Witches, an all female group of Russian fighter pilots in WWII. I read about Cathay Williams, otherwise known as William Cathay, a black female soldier in the the Civil War who dressed as a man and served in the all black regiment of the Buffalo Soldiers. Through her I learned more about the thousands of women who dressed up as men to fight in the Civil War. Then I researched more into women’s roles in the civil war. I went back to the Dinner Party and stumbled upon the Grimke sisters, who are on the base of this important piece of feminist art work, and from there I learned about women in history connected to them and women now, like RBG who are connected to them. The story of Sarah’s life is what I have decided on for now. I hope in future to be able to find and share more stories about other women who have been left out of the history books and find ways to share their stories.