Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nevermore: Un-American, POWs, Hidden Figures, Trigger, Sotomayor, Girl Before, Roanoke Girls, Grandma Gatewood

Reported by Kristin

Nevermore met in one of the rooms of the Jones Creativity Center this week.  The verdict: a very nice space with much more light than the usual Frances Kegley conference room, and the Blackbird doughnuts and coffee were tasty as always.

Moving beyond Blackbird and onto books, our first reader introduced Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II: Images by Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Other Government Photographers by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams.  In 1942, the United States government hired these noted photographers to photograph the internment camps which were becoming home to over 120,000 Japanese Americans.  While this was supposed to be positive publicity, showing what nice places the camps were, the photographers did not always comply.  Some of their images were suppressed by the Army and only recently released.

The same reader continued with The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell.  Describing one particular family in the book, he discussed how a German family from Cleveland was sent to the Crystal City camp in Texas.  First, the father was held as an enemy alien and separated from his family.  Eventually, they were given the chance to reunite if all of them went to Texas, with the condition that they might even be involved in a prisoner exchange during the war.  Even though the children were born in the United States, the entire family ended up in Germany where they were despised as “Americans.”  Our reader was fascinated as this was part of history with which he was not familiar.

Several readers have been enjoying Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margo Lee Shetterly, the book that inspired the newly released movie.  This is a compelling story of the African American female mathematicians who calculated trajectories and timing to put spacecraft into orbit, and more importantly, bring them and their human cargo home again.  Most Nevermore readers have enjoyed the volume, but the current reader was just a bit disappointed that pictures of the historic women were not included.

Next up was Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher.  Focusing on Gavrilo Princip, who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and sparked the first World War, Trigger also discusses that there were several plots to assassinate the Austro-Hungarian heir that day.  Our reader noted that the first plaque posted on the spot condemned Princip, then was later changed to call him a hero.  Now, a brief sign low to the ground simply states the facts: “From this place on June 28 1914 Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia.”

Continuing in non-fiction, three readers have recently read My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomeyer.  As only the third woman and the first Hispanic appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sotomeyer writes of her childhood in the Bronx and the struggles she faced as she became a college graduate, a lawyer, a judge—all on the way to sitting on the highest bench in the land.  Our readers loved it, were so impressed by what she overcame, and were struck by the fact that Sotomeyer’s mother had found it important to buy the Encyclopedia Britannica so that her children could learn.

Turning now to fiction, our next reader enjoyed The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel.  Set in rural Kansas, the novel is based on multiple generations of teenage girls growing up in the family’s sprawling farmhouse.  Reviewers have compared this to a modern day Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.  Our reader said that it was suspenseful, read quickly, and definitely kept you guessing till the end.

“Girl” titles have been very popular in the publishing business lately, additionally evidenced by the next book, The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.  Jane (the girl in the present) and Emma (the girl before) alternate storytelling in this murder mystery.  Recommended for fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, this well written book was much enjoyed by our reader.  She said that there were “no wasted words,” always a sign of a good book.

Finally, our last reader had high praise for Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery.  In 1955, sixty-seven year old Emma Gatewood walked the trail alone with a homemade gunnysack thrown over her shoulder and no more than a shower curtain for a tent.  As Gatewood became well known, her advocacy may have saved the trail from fading into history.  Gatewood walked the trail not once, but two additional times.  Our reader very enthusiastically said, “If you have not read this book, you need to read it!”


  1. Grandma Gatewood's story is truly inspiring and Mr. Montgomery's book tells this remarkable story so well! If you want more information about her, you can visit Eden Valley and FilmAffects have been documenting her life with several programs include a documentary. A DVD of the documentary, TRAIL MAGIC: THE GRANDMA GATEWOOD STORY, is available.

    1. Thank you for your comment. The Bristol Public Library does indeed own a copy of Trail Magic and it is available for check out. It's a very well done documentary with interviews from relatives as well as historians and some re-enactments.