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Review of When Can We Go Back to America?

When Can We Go Back To America? By Susan H. Kamei (Image from Amazon.com)

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, over 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese citizens living legally in the United States were forced into interment camps.  Between prejudice and fears that the Japanese would infiltrate America, it was decided to intern residents for the long term.   

Susan H. Kamei’s book When Can We Go Back to America, digs deep into this terrible time and the lasting impact it had on Japanese Americans once released from the camps.

 For instance, some young adults who went to high school in the camps and graduated often found it difficult to get into a college or university because their diploma was not recognized as coming from an accredited school. In other instances, when families tried to regain their farms, homes, businesses and more, they could not because either the people they mistakenly trusted to care for them refused to let them go, or they had been sold to others.   

There were exceptions to this. Some young adults did get help from associations like the YMCA and the Quakers to complete college or university enrollment. And there were families who did get their farm, home or business back from the people they trusted in their care.

This is just some of what Japanese Americans faced. There is much more that Kamei writes about in her book.  She also quotes over a hundred Japanese Americans and later in the book writes half to two-page biographies on each of them. All together brings back to life an era many may not have heard about.   If you are interested in Civil Rights, like me, I would highly recommend you pick up this book and either listen to it or read it.  

Review of When Can We Go Back to America? by Susan H. Kamei
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Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur on Disney+

Image from Marvel.com

Recently I spotted Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur on Disney+.  Genuis 13-year-old Lunella Lafayette thinks the world of a missing female scientist. So much so, she gets her machine and other equipment and houses it below her family’s Lower East Side New York apartment building, where she slowly works on it and hopes to find out just what it does. 

When Lunella does activate the machine, a portal opens and a big red Tyrannosaurus Rex comes through and terrifies the teenager.  However, she soon finds the Rex is as gentle and he likes her.   The two bond and, before long, with the encouragement of a new friend. 

Casey Calderon, Lunella and Devil Dinosaur, become heroes and learn things about each other as they navigate the world around them.  Outside their superhero deeds, Lunella is an ernest student, a hard worker, and is tight with her family, who runs a roller-skating rink that is popular in her neighborhood.  

I love Lunella! Her intellect, skill, and savvy.  She makes a few foolish errors and, although it may hurt for a few seconds, she is willing to learn from her mistakes. I also love the animation, the music, the story telling, and that no character, including the bad guys, are not cookie cutter. They each get a foundation and backstory.  I sure hope this amazing series gets more than 2 seasons.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur on Disney+
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Review of the Audio Book: Be Useful – Seven Tools for Life

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger & Penguin Audio – Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

My friend Andrew keeps telling me how inspiring Arnold Schwarzenegger can be in his talks about life, his career and in business.   One day while on social media, I spotted the image of Schwarzenegger’s newest book, Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life.  I took a photo of the book on my I-phone and texted it to Andrew with no words.  A while later, he sends me a text back about how cool it is and that he hopes I read the book.  It took a while, but I did get to the book.  I spent a credit on Audible.com,

First, it is not a dull book.   Second, I like how Schwarzenegger connects his lessons with a page out of his own life.  Third, he shares who helped him learn in his, and who influenced him to, as the book title states, to be useful.   Schwarzenegger gives a great road map in a clear, concise and easy to understand way.   

One particular thing I have heard again and again, not just from Schwarzenegger in the book, is to visualize yourself doing something or using visualization to take an idea and grow it.   It is, I believe, an essential thing, and it applies to whatever one does in a career or otherwise.  Most often we hear it about athletes, but it can really be used by everyone.  

I enjoyed Schwarzenegger’s book and if you like me have not heard him give talks or read his other book, Total Recall, and only know him from the film world, Being Useful: Seven Tools for Life is a good introduction to another side of the actor, family man, business person and weight lifter.  

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger & Penguin Audio
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Waging a Good War by Thomas E. Ricks

Waging A Good War by Thomas E Ricks – Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Thomas E. Ricks writes in Waging a Good War, that the greatest victories by Black Americans were won by idealism, paying attention to recruiting, training, discipline, and organization, all of which are found in a military campaign. He also shares that Gandhian nonviolence was an active form of resistance against those the movement confronted.  Additionally, he gives a fresh take on the leaders of the movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer as well as the activists including Diane Nash, James Bevel, Bob Moses and more.

I think Ricks is correct that the Civil Rights Movement had aspects of a military campaign.  During the movement and after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, those in SNCC and SCLC suffered as did those who fought in war, including physical and mental trauma.  Ricks closes the book with a call to action by outlining the current political climate and how it is important for us as citizens to protect the rights we have and that were hard won.   

Thomas E. Ricks is a masterful storyteller. He backs up what he writes through thorough research and from personal experience he has had as a journalist writing about military and national security issues. I highly recommend reading this book.

Waging a Good War: A Military History of The Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968
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Julian Bond’s A Time to Teach

Julian Bond’s Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Recently I have read three or four books on the late John Lewis. I went back to the library to see if I could locate a book on another member of the Civil Rights movement. I read a book by the late Julian Bond titled Time to Teach.  It contains his lecture notes from several major universities he taught at, including Harvard, University of Virginia and then American University.  

Bond details the planning and strategizing that went into the marches and protests of the era as well as the struggle with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations that wanted to take the fight for Civil Rights slowly whereas the movement pressed them to make it a priority.  

The brutality, the beatings, the rape, and murder that took place during those years are difficult to take in, but it must be in order to understand the magnitude of the struggle. I wish that the testimony of the people in the Civil Rights movement along with the brutal images broadcast on television of police on horses charging after peaceful marchers were necessary to have driven the government to act on Civil Rights. 

The writing is compelling, straight forward, and paints a picture of the Civil Rights years vividly. Adding to the power of Bond’s words is an afterward by Vann R. Newkirk II who connects the difficulties past to the present difficulties we experience now.

I will mention this again what we learn about the past can help shape what we do in the future. We need to take them to heart and act before our present difficulties become impossible to stop.

Julian Bond’s A Time to Teach A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement
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Trouble Maker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, The Man Behind the March on Washington

Trouble Maker for Justice (Book Cover Image from Amazon.com )
Trouble Maker for Justice (Book Cover Image from Amazon.com )

Over the years, many of us have learned about key people in the Civil Rights Movement. They include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, and Julian Bond among many others.  Lesser known are the people behind the scenes who helped these individuals in their work in the movement.  

One such individual is Bayard Rustin.  His Quaker upbringing and the influence of his grandparents who raised him naturally led him to become, as the book title states, a troublemaker for justice.  He did many things before becoming part of the Civil Rights Movement. He learned the ways of Gandhi and his nonviolent ways, which he put to use trying to integrate the schools he attended, buses, theaters, and pressing for peace in times of war.     

Rustin helped teach others, including King, what he learned.  He would advise King and others as well as help them organize peaceful protests, collaborate on speeches, and the biggest event he helped in the March on Washington. Although he was not the front and center of the Civil Rights Movement, its impact is just as great as the leaders at the forefront of it.

Trouble Maker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, The Man Behind the March on Washington
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The Iron Horse by Edward Marston

The Iron Horse by Edward Marston Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Robert Colbeck, dubbed the Railway Detective by the newspapers, is investigating another murder.   As a train was being unloaded, a hatbox falls from the hands of a porter and shocks all nearby when it pops open on impact to reveal a severed head.  Who would want to transport such a deadly message in a fancy hat box? And who was it meant to scare?  

Soon, Colbeck and Leeming find out the hat box was stolen and it just so happens the buyer has a horse that will run in the Debry.  They realize that the severed head has to be connected.  This is the fourth book I have read in the series I have read.  The story flows well and I became hooked. However, toward the end, I began to feel the story dragged a bit. Luckily, the story picked back up speed and ended with a thrilling conclusion.

The Iron Horse by Edward Marston
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Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

Waking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (Image from Amazon.com)

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis with Michael D’Orso is a great read.  I have seen footage from the Civil Rights movement, documentary films, and heard a lot of the speeches from that time. But to read about this period from someone who lived it takes it on another level and really grabs you.  I felt it when I read two previous books on Lewis. I am sure I will feel it when I read another book about him or another member of the Civil Rights movement.

I especially felt that the last chapter, Onward, is just as relevant in 1998 when it first appeared in publication, as it does now.   Lewis was right then and his words are right now. The struggle does not stop for any of us.  We all need to know about the past to break the cycle of repetition. This includes fighting poverty, discrimination, hate crimes, re-segregating this country, and a lot more. As Lewis writes, it does get tiring, but it is a fight that cannot be stopped. There is too much on the line to do so.  

Walking in the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
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John Lewis: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

John Lewis – The Last Interview and Other Conversations Image from Amazon.com

Since around March, I have been listening to audio-books because of a nasty concussion.   Recently, on and off, trying to read a magazine has become much easier.  My head does not spin, and my eyes are much more stable.  They do not go out of focus nearly as often as they used to.  I felt good about this and decided to go to the library and get a slender book to read.  I chose John Lewis: The Last Interview and other Conversations.

There are four interviews in all, starting with a trial transcript.  As I read it and thought about interviews later in Lewis’ life, I thought did the court clerk dumb down what Lewis said because of his race?  Or was it all the concussion he likely had at the time? Could it have been both?  

I know from a previous book I listened to about John Lewis. He went through all the grades in school and attended two universities. Lewis graduated from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, and was ordained as a Baptist minister.  Later he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University.  Lewis spoke eloquently, and it came through how bright he was in each interview.  

The reader gets a good sense of who he was as he discusses how he became connected to the Civil Rights Movement, the training he got for sit-ins and marches to survive the beatings, and on into his days as a Congressional representative, and how he never failed to believe he could help make society better, not just for himself but everyone else too.

John Lewis: The Last Interview and Other Conversations
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Review of South to America by Imani Perry

South to America – A journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of the South by Imani Perry . Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

I thought South to America by Imani Perry would be in the vein of one of Dr. Angela Davis’s books, taking a look at the historical, current, and cultural events among the races. In some ways, the book does that, especially when Perry talks about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as well as when she made a visit to Cuba. In other ways, the book is a memoir and replays her personal journey to the South below the Mason Dixie Line, where she has family and personal roots. While I do wish the book had a more critical edge, I still think Perry’s book is still worth reading for the deeply personal perspective she shares and the insights she has.

South to America – A journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of the South by Imani Perry
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