The road of lost innocence

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Mam, Somaly
The road of lost innocence
 This is the true story of a Cambodian woman who was sold into prostitution at the age of sixteen.  Somaly was abandoned by her birth parents when she was about five years old. A neighbor in her northeastern Cambodian village of Bou Sra took her in. She is Phnong., which is a tribe of mountain people. The poverty and primitivity she describes in her youth is almost beyond belief. She doesn’t know when she was born; she thinks it’s 1970 or 1971.  The Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-1979 was responsible for the deaths of about 20% of the population of Cambodia.  The Khmer seem to have also robbed the Cambodians of their culture and their spirit. Somaly describes with sickening detail her daily beatings and rapes.  The specifics are so shocking, I cannot describe them here. She doesn’t mention the word “torture”, but I believe she was tortured as well.  Her narrative doesn’t beg for us to pity her. She tells her story as an example of all the other girls sold into sexu  al slavery. She says that her experience was almost nothing (!) compared to the experience of those today. Virgins are especially prized ; girls of 5 or 6 years old are sold and raped repeatedly. The beatings today are even worse. She says that judges can’t be bribed in Cambodia; they’ve already been bought. The men who should be maintaining the law: the military, the police and the judges, are also customers of the brothels.  Even “humanitarian aid workers” use prostitutes! These sex traffickers make the mafia look like boy scouts.  She argues that the only way to stop it is for the international community to take notice and to bring the ringleaders to justice.   Today she runs an organization called AFESIP that rescues children from sexual slavery and provides housing, schooling and vocational training.  One would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by her account.

The merry recluse: a life in essays

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Knapp, Caroline
The merry recluse: a life in essays 
This was published posthumously in 2004. The compiler is Sandra Shea, her former editor. The author died of lung cancer in 2002 at the age of 42.  Ms. Knapp was a columnist for the Boston Phoenix, an alternative newspaper, and her essays also appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Siren magazine, and New Woman magazine. She wrote honestly about her struggles and her innermost thoughts and feelings.  She admits to feelings of jealousy, anxiety, grief, loneliness and rage that many of us deny. Her essays about her obsessions and addictions are truly brave. In “A letter to my father”, she states “I’ve come to see drinking as a relationship, as full and rich and sensual and complex as the kind you have with the key people in your life, as the kind I had with you.  I loved drinking, for a long time. I loved it so much I could have died for it, literally.  But you died first and in many ways, I guess that spared me.  On some key level, you see, I couldn’t give up drinking until I’d given up you.”
      “Life without anesthesia” is about how exposed one feels after giving up an addiction.  In her case, she hid behind anorexia and alcoholism.  In conquering a food disorder and alcoholism, she was sometimes flooded with too many emotions, but also experienced an authentic life.  Ms. Knapp was also a fine social critic.  The piece entitled “Teddy Bear II” is about a case where a woman abandoned her father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  She argues that we as a nation do a very poor job of caring for our elderly.  She could be funny, too.  How many of us can relate to spending inordinate sums of money to furnish our homes in “Notes on Nesting” I saw myself in “I hate money”: “I hate money.  I hate dealing with it, thinking about it, managing it, planning for it, and accounting for it. On the other hand, I don’t have too many problems spending it, which complicates matters considerably.” ” Bills? What bills? I don’t see any bills. Who’s Bill? Let’s talk about something else.” Some essays might appeal more to women.  In “Barbie does death”, Ms. Knapp states that “The big walk down the aisle  is allegedly something a girl starts dreaming about as soon as she’s old enough to dream”.  She did an informal poll of 15 of her friends, and only two had the wedding fantasy.  The majority fantasized about being rock stars or superheroes.  The title essay “The merry recluse” is about the joys of living alone, and how this flies in the face of societal expectations.  It would have been amazing to see what other issues she would have tackled, if she had lived.

The fiddler in the subway : the true story of what happened when a world-class violinist played for handouts– and other virtuoso performances by America’s foremost feature writer

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Weingarten, Gene
The fiddler in the subway : the true story of what happened when a world-class violinist played for handouts– and other virtuoso performances by America’s foremost feature writer 
Mr. Weingarten is the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for Feature Writing. This is a compilation of 20 essays (some funny, some sad, some thoughtful, all powerful) that have appeared in The Washington Post over the years.  “The Great Zucchini” is an essay, and the stage name for the Washington area’s most successful children’s entertainer.  Washington’s wealthy parents take their children’s birthday parties very seriously. The author succeeds in eliciting how the entertainer is so gifted with preschoolers.  “The armpit of America” could describe many towns, but Battle Mountain, Nevada was chosen for this article.  In Battle Mountain, there’s nothing to do but gamble and drink.  Even the representatives from the Chamber of commerce and the local newspaper can’t find anything good to say about the town.  The more somber essays are “Fear itself”, where the author rides a bus in Jerusalem to try to understand “the psychology of the terrorized”; “The first father” about President Clinton’s biological father; and “Fatal distraction”, about parents who accidentally leave their babies in a hot car.  “The fiddler in the subway” is the account of the day they arranged to have world-class violinist, Joshua Bell, play a Stradivarius violin in the Metro station for spare change. Would anyone notice the virtuoso in their midst?

The cruelest miles : the heroic story of dogs and men in a race against an epidemic

From Andrea Kalinowski
author: Salisbury, Gay
The cruelest miles : the heroic story of dogs and men in a race against an epidemic
author: Laskin, David
The children’s blizzard

In “The cruelest miles : the heroic story of dogs and men in a race against an epidemic” by Gay Salisbury and in “The children’s blizzard” by David Laskin, the focus of both nonfiction works is children in peril.  The race against time and the choices made are heartbreaking and heartwarming simultaneously.  In “The Cruelest miles”, man and dog are pitted against a merciless clock and an unforgiving landscape.  They both sacrifice a great deal to move the vaccine across the frozen tundra.  In “The children’s blizzard”, the Weather service is in its infancy and a system appears out of nowhere to turn a fine spring day into a trap of snow and ice.  The schoolteachers needed to decide if the children should face the hazards outdoors or try to tough it out in the one room schoolhouses.  In “The cruelest miles”, the vaccine arrives in time to make a significant impact on the survival rate while the children caught by the blizzard are not so fortunate.  Both works were moving and fostered an appreciation of modern day advantages.

House Rules

From Margo Blatt
author: Picoult, Jodi
House Rules
I was glad that this book was not as much of a tearjerker as her others.  Or maybe my hormones were out of whack. I am very sensitive to children waith special needs as I work with them during the school year. Aspergers is a subject I am so interested in. My son was diagnosed with it however I feel this is not a correct one after reading so books and biographies about the condition.  Anyone in the education field should read this.  Or anyone with a heart.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

From Kaitlyn, Teen Book Reviewer
author: Han, Jenny
The Summer I Turned Pretty
For about-to-turn-sweet-16-years-old, Belly (short for Isabel), summers at the beach is where her real life happens. The rest of the year is just a period of time that she has to endure until the months when she gets to go back to the large beach house, populated by two best-friend mothers and their two children (each) for the three months of summer. Belly is the youngest, and the only girl, and that’s the way she likes it. This summer, however, everything changes. Belly lost her glasses, gained a few curves, and is suddenly not the just the little sister figure everyone can just ignore. Since she’s older, that means the boys she has known all her life are changing too. Her brother Steven is off to college in the fall, Jeremiah and Conrad (the lifelong family friends), are different this summer too. She hears tension and even arguments between her mother and her best friend Susannah. Plus, Susannah’s husband, who normally shows up on the weekends, never makes a single appearance. Most importantly, Belly finally finds that she sees the world a little differently through the eyes of a changing teenage girl: Belly’s forever-crush on
Conrad just might finally be fading away, especially when she meets Cam…

The Summer I Turned Pretty is Korean American, Jenny Han’s second novel. This book is very relatable, very well written and extremely captivating. Jenny Han captures Belly’s teenage emotions and attitude perfectly. She gives this novel both a
lightness and an aching depth that almost makes it feel as if you were watching a drama on TV. I really enjoyed reading this book and almost finished it all in one sitting! I would recommend this book to teenage girls and young adults or all ages.