Memoirs

Collection by Cassandra Verhaegen (22 items)

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Includes the following tags:

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Call Me Captain
by Susan Scott
University of Hawaii Press, 2014
Writer and marine biologist Susan Scott had an enviable existence—a home in Hawai`i, a prized 37-foot sailboat and exciting international adventures, all shared with her physician husband Craig in a marriage so intimate they called it the “Twinship.” Yet, when her menopausal hormones raged and Craig grew preoccupied with Ironman triathlon training, this perfect life ended. Once blessed with well-being, love, humor, and sharing, the Twinship exploded with fights, silence, accusations, and failed counseling.

Shell-shocked, Susan sought solace in the one thing that always gave her joy: marine wildlife. She overhauled the couple’s neglected boat and, with a male friend nearly half her age, sailed away. Except it wasn’t that easy; Susan had always relied on Craig to make the sailing decisions and Alex, her young first mate, was a sailing novice. Call Me Captain follows Susan as she leaves everything behind—or tries to— and sails to spectacular but isolated Palmyra Atoll to work as a volunteer biologist. Susan helps rescue baby sea turtles, bands seabirds, and corrals ten-pound coconut crabs that look like Godzillas with knife-blade claws. She determinedly repairs her sailboat, skippers it through terrifying storms, and to her surprise, finds she and Craig are falling in love all over again. This time the two rediscover one another via satellite phone—Susan calling from her tiny floating speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Craig in his hospital emergency room on Oahu.

Susan writes with passion about swimming with manta rays, kayaking with sharks, and sailing with whales and dolphins. In those passages, she shows ways these magnificent animals guided her through the journey of a lifetime. Her memoir of self-discovery is a romance, a rousing sea tale, and a personal account of nature’s power to put life in perspective.
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Bleeder
by Shelby Smoak
Michigan State University Press, 2013
I am Caucasian, five foot eleven, have sandy brown hair, blue eyes, and am a tender slip of bone. And I am at the hospital.
A coming-of-age memoir for modern times, Bleeder is the incredibly compelling tale of author Shelby Smoak. A hemophiliac, Smoak discovered he had been infected with HIV during a blood transfusion at the start of his college career. This devastating and destabilizing news led Smoak to see his world from an entirely new perspective, one in which life-threatening illness was perpetually just around the corner. Set in the 1990s along the North Carolina coast, Bleeder traces Smoak’s quest for love in a world that feels increasingly dangerous, and despite a future that feels increasingly uncertain. From the bedroom to the operating room, and from one hospital to the next, Smoak seeks out hope and better health. Winner of a PEN American Center award for writers living with HIV, Smoak, whose work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, constructs this unforgettable story of life and love against insurmountable difficulties in breathtaking, tightly drawn prose.
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Blue Daughter of the Red Sea
by Meti Birabiro
University of Wisconsin Press, 2004

    Born into a life of constant financial, physical, and moral threat, Meti Birabiro takes refuge in literature and the fantastic. Blue Daughter of the Red Sea is Birabiro’s poetic account of the harsh reality of her young life spread across three continents. Her voice is a fresh mélange of child and adult perspectives, at once brutally honest and wise beyond her years. Through her journey from Ethiopia to Italy and finally to the United States, we encounter Birabiro’s relatives, friends, and enemies—relationships so intense that these people become her vampires, devils, angels, and saints. These characterizations always lead her back to the truth, helping her to decipher what is fair and good, to understand what she must cherish and what she must rage against.

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Fanning the Spark
by Mary Ward Brown
University of Alabama Press, 2009
In 1986, after years of publishing stories in literary magazines and periodicals, Mary Ward Brown published her first book, the story collection Tongues of Flame. It soon received regional and national attention, and the following year won the PEN/Hemingway Award for fiction. Mary Ward Brown was sixty-nine years old. Though she would go on to write and publish many more stories and a well-received second collection, It Wasn’t All Dancing, Mary Ward Brown’s late acclaim hardly hints at the rich and varied life that prepared the way for her success.
 
Fanning the Spark is the story of her life as a writer—her upbringing in rural Alabama; the joys of college, marriage, and motherhood; the sorrows of becoming a widow; and a lifelong devotion to writing, writers, and literature, and the company of those who shared those loves, nurturing and feeding her interior life in the face of many challenges, losses, and obstacles, both emotional and material.
 
Here, in prose every bit as eloquent, evocative, and incisive as her stories, are her remembrances of loved ones; her letters fraught with worry to her son in Vietnam; periods of emotional isolation and unbidden silence; her invaluable friendships with renowned writers, editors, and agents; her love of community and place; and immeasurable delight with every award, speech, and public reading, the many recognitions she has garnered late in life. Above all, it is the story of the competing demands of art and of life, the constant struggle between her need to write and the practicalities of family, duty, and day to day living.

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Gathering Noise from My Life
by Donald Anderson
University of Iowa Press, 2012

The noise gathered from a lifetime of engaging with war, race, religion, memory, illness, and family echoes through the vignettes, quotations, graffiti, and poetry that Donald Anderson musters here, fragments of the humor and horror of life, the absurdities that mock reason and the despair that yields laughter. Gathering Noise from My Life offers sonic shards of a tune at once jaunty and pessimistic, hopeful and hopeless, and a model for how we can make sense of the scraps of our lives. “We are where we’ve been and what we’ve read,” the author says, and gives us his youth in Montana, the family tradition of boxing, careers in writing and fighting, the words of Mike Tyson, Frederick the Great, Fran Lebowitz, and Shakespeare. In his camouflaged memoir, the award-winning short-story writer cobbles together the sources of the vision of life he has accrued as a consequence of his six decades of living and reading. 

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In My Father’s House
by Dorothy Allred Solomon
foreword by Andy Wilkinson
Texas Tech University Press, 2009
Before Big Love, before Eldorado, a groundbreaking memoir explored polygamy, not with outrage but with honesty and grace. In 1984, when polygamous groups knew little but the fear and pain of secrecy and hiding, Dorothy Allred Solomon, the twenty-eighth of forty-eight children, went public with her family’s story. Descended from five generations of Mormon polygamy, Solomon evokes the fervor and dedication that bound the Allreds to “living the Principle.” She vividly renders the persecution and poverty she knew as a child, the joyous awe of a father’s too-rare presence, and an abiding hunger for autonomy. Confronting the paradox of a faith that seals loved ones as families for eternity but casts them as outlaws in the here and now, she traces the events that culminated in her father’s 1977 assassination, a tragedy that rocked all Utah. Now, more than a quarter century later, Solomon revisits her story in a new preface and epilogue and in light of recent events that continue to rivet attention and spotlight our national struggle for understanding and fairness.
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Face Boss
by Michael D. Guillerman
University of Tennessee Press, 2009
Face Boss tells a story that few people have heard: what it is really like to labor inside the dark and dangerous world of a vast underground coal mine. With unflinching honesty, as well as considerable humor and insight, Michael Guillerman recalls his nearly eighteen years of working as both a union miner and a salaried section foreman-or “face boss”-at the Peabody Coal Company's Camp No. 2 mine in Union County, Kentucky.

Guillerman undertook this memoir because of the many misconceptions about coal mining that were evidenced most recently in the media coverage of the 2006 Sago Mine disaster. Shedding some much-needed light on this little-understood topic, Face Boss is riveting, authentic, and often raw. Guillerman describes in stark detail the risks, dangers, and uncertainties of coal mining: the wildcat and contract strikes, layoffs, shutdowns, mine fires, methane ignitions, squeezes, and injuries. But he also discusses the good times that emerged despite perilous working conditions: the camaraderie and immense sense of accomplishment that came with mining hundreds of tons of coal every day. Along the way, Guillerman spices his narrative with numerous anecdotes from his many years on the job and discusses race relations within mining culture and the expanding role of women in the industry.

While the book contributes significantly to the general knowledge of contemporary mining, Face Boss is also a tribute to those men and women who toil anonymously beneath the rolling hills of western Kentucky and the other coal-rich regions of the United States. More than just the story of one man's life and career, it is a stirring testament to the ingenuity, courage, and perseverance of the American coal miner.

Michael D. Guillerman worked for the Peabody Coal Company from 1974 to 1991. Over his long career, his jobs included belt shoveler, timberman, shooter, drill and shuttle car operator, rock duster, and finally section foreman. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Marie, in Union County, Kentucky.



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In Sorcery's Shadow
by Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes
University of Chicago Press, 1987
The tale of Paul Stoller's sojourn among sorcerors in the Republic of Niger is a story of growth and change, of mutual respect and understanding that will challenge all who read it to plunge deeply into an alien world.
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Nola
by Robin Hemley
University of Iowa Press, 1998
The evidence at hand: an autobiography—complete with their mother’s edits—written by his brilliant and disturbingly religious sister; a story featuring actual childhood events, but published by his mother as fiction; the transcript of a hypnotherapy session from his adolescence; and perjured court documents hidden in a drawer for decades. These are the clues Robin Hemley gathers when he sets out to reconstruct the life of his older sister Nola, who died at the age of twenty-five after several years of treatment for schizophrenia. Armed with these types of clues, Hemley quickly discovers that finding the truth in any life—even one’s own—is a fragmented and complex task.

Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness is much more than a remembrance of a young woman who was consumed her entire life by a passion for finding and understanding God; it is also a quest to understand what people choose to reveal and conceal, and an examination of the enormous toll mental illness takes on a family. Finally, it is a revelation of the alchemy that creates a writer: confidence in the unknowable, distrust of the proven, tortuous devotion to the fine print in life, and sacrifice to writing itself as it plays the roles of confessor, scourge, and creator.

Upon its first release in 1998, Nola won ForeWord’s Book of the Year Award for biography/memoir, the Washington State Book Award for biography/memoir, and the Independent Press Book Award for autobiography/memoir. 
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The Only Woman in the Room
by Beate Sirota Gordon
foreword by John W. Dower
afterword by Nicole A. Gordon
contributions by Geoffrey Paul Gordon
University of Chicago Press, 2014
In 1946, at age twenty-two, Beate Sirota Gordon helped to draft the new postwar Japanese Constitution. The Only Woman in the Room chronicles how a daughter of Russian Jews became the youngest woman to aid in the rushed, secret drafting of a constitution; how she almost single-handedly ensured that it would establish the rights of Japanese women; and how, as a fluent speaker of Japanese and the only woman in the room, she assisted the American negotiators as they worked to persuade the Japanese to accept the new charter.

Sirota was born in Vienna, but in 1929 her family moved to Japan so that her father, a noted pianist, could teach, and she grew up speaking German, English, and Japanese. Russian, French, Italian, Latin, and Hebrew followed, and at fifteen Sirota was sent to complete her education at Mills College in California. The formal declaration of World War II cut Gordon off from her parents, and she supported herself by working for a CBS listening post in San Francisco that would eventually become part of the FCC. Translating was one of Sirota’s many talents, and when the war ended, she was sent to Japan as a language expert to help the American occupation forces. When General MacArthur suddenly created a team that included Sirota to draft the new Japanese Constitution, he gave them just eight days to accomplish the task. Colonel Roest said to Beate Sirota, “You’re a woman, why don’t you write the women’s rights section?”; and she seized the opportunity to write into law guarantees of equality unparalleled in the US Constitution to this day.

But this was only one episode in an extraordinary life, and when Gordon died in December 2012, words of grief and praise poured from artists, humanitarians, and thinkers the world over. Illustrated with forty-seven photographs, The Only Woman in the Room captures two cultures at a critical moment in history and recounts, after a fifty-year silence, a life lived with purpose and courage. This edition contains a new afterword by Nicole A. Gordon and an elegy by Geoffrey Paul Gordon.
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Red Earth
by Tran Bu Binh and Binh Tu Tran
contributions by John Spragens
edited by David G. Marr
Ohio University Press, 1985

Phu Rieng was one of many French rubber plantations in colonial Vietnam; Tran Tu Binh was one of 17,606 laborers brought to work there in 1927, and his memoir is a straightforward, emotionally searing account of how one Vietnamese youth became involved in revolutionary politics. The connection between this early experience and later activities of the author becomes clear as we learn that Tran Tu Binh survived imprisonment on Con Son island to help engineer the general uprising in Hanoi in 1945.

The Red Earth is the first of dozens of such works by veterans of the 1924–45 struggle in Vietnam to be published in English translation. It is important reading for all those interested in the many-faceted history of modern Vietnam and of communism in the non-Western world.

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Riding on Comets
by Cat Pleska
West Virginia University Press, 2015

Riding on Comets is the true story of an only child growing up in a working-class family during the 1950s and ‘60s. 

As the family storyteller, Cat Pleska whispers and shouts about her life growing up around savvy, strong women and hard-working, hard-drinking men. Unlike many family stories set within Appalachia, this story provides an uncommon glimpse into this region: not coal, but an aluminum plant; not hollers, but small-town America; not hillbillies, but a hard-working family with traditional values. 

From the dinner table, to the back porch, to the sprawling countryside, Cat Pleska reveals the sometimes tender, sometimes frightening education of a child who listens at the knees of these giants. She mimics and learns every nuance, every rhythm—how they laugh, smoke, cuss, fight, love, and tell stories—as she unwittingly prepares to carry their tales forward, their words and actions forever etched in her mind. And finally, she discovers a life story of her own. 

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Shadow Girl
by Deb Abramson
University of Iowa Press, 2002
As the good little girl in an unhappy family who hid her darker troubles, Deb Abramson felt like she was living with another girl, a shadowy being who would neither leave nor make herself known. Crushed beneath the burden of her parents‘ rigid expectations yet driven to satisfy their needs, Abramson becomes bulimic, then severely depressed and suicidal, retreating more and more from the troubling outside world to the seeming haven of home, to a cycle of comfort from and competition with her depressed mother, to the frightening but alluring intimacy of her father's affections. Her struggle to extricate herself from the “impermeable, immutable knot” of her family forms the heart of her dazzling book.

In this psychological portrait of a family bound together by the uneasy permutations of love, Abramson relies not on sensationalist narrative but on a collection of the many small moments that glitter along the bumpy path of her life. Now and then she provides a broader, connecting perspective by stepping out of her story to reflect on the meaning of it all from the standpoint of the insightful, healed person she has managed—against all odds—to become.

Rich in metaphor and intimate detail, this is a lyrical story about moving from isolation toward connection, about seeing childhood not as a crippling refuge but as a point of departure, about discovering that it is possible to “have your shadows as well as your light.”
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Shaping My Feminist Life
by Kathleen C. Ridder
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1999
In this sometimes startlingly candid account, Kathleen Ridder explores the passions that have motivated her in constructing and pursuing a life of community service and personal accomplishment. A native New Yorker, the twenty-year-old Ridder arrived in Duluth in 1943 as a new member of a socially prominent family of newspaper publishers. In consciously seeking to be her own person, Ridder found over the following decades numerous outlets for her considerable energies and interests: Minnesota Independent-Republican politics, the Urban League and the emerging civil rights movement, alternative education, Twin Cities regional government, feminist organizations, and the women's athletic program at the University of Minnesota. She interweaves these public details with the more private ones of her marriage of fifty-plus years, her enjoyment in raising four children, and her ongoing nurturance of her spiritual life.


Unifying Ridder's narrative are her natural feminism, her innate sense of fair-mindedness, and her conviction that privilege and position bring with them the obligation to work toward the social good of the community.





"Kathleen Ridder is story is told in a characteristically strong voice. From the first page we hear a woman speak who has no hesitation in addressing her readers and who doesn't engage in the self-denigration so often instilled in women who haven't had a full-time professional career. . . . Her story tells us why she grew up with such healthy self-esteem in the conservative 1940s and 50s when women were supposed to marry young, have lots of children, and submerge themselves in a husband's career. . . . She had the sense of being one of the managers of the world, and acted like it." -- Jill Ker Conway
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Short Leash
by Janice Gary
Michigan State University Press, 2013

Janice Gary never walked alone without a dog - a big dog. Once, she was an adventurer, a girl who ran off to California with big dreams and hopes of leaving her past behind. But after a brutal rape, her youthful bravado vanished, replaced by a crippling need for safety. When she rescues a gangly Lab-Rottweiler pup,Gary is sure she’s found her biggest protector yet. But after Barney is attacked by a vicious dog, he becomes a clone of his attacker, trying to kill any dog that comes near him. Walking with Barney is impossible. Yet walking without him is unthinkable.
    After years of being exiled by her terror and Barney’s defensiveness, Janice risks taking her dog to a park near the Chesapeake Bay. There, she begins the messy, lurching process of walking into her greatest fears. As the leash of the past unravels, Barney sheds the defensive behaviors that once shackled him and Gary steps out of the self-imposed isolation that held her captive for three decades. Beautifully written, Short Leash is much more than a “dog story” or a book about recovering from trauma. It is a moving tale of love and loss, the journey of a broken soul finding itsway toward wholeness.

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Swooning Beauty
by Joanna Frueh
University of Nevada Press, 2006

When her parents died and her marriage disintegrated within the span of a few months, art historian and performance artist Joanna Frueh entered a painful period of grief and mourning. This book is about how she healed herself and in the process explored the range of her potential as a woman.Swooning Beauty is an intimate memoir of discovery and healing. Frueh’s path to recovery lay through a profound examination of her intuitions, desires, fantasies, dreams, and emotions, her capacity for pleasure—visual, sensual, intellectual, gastronomic, and erotic—and her sense of her own heroic female identity. Hers is the passionate voice of a creative, intelligent woman scrutinizing the nature of love in all its forms and the ways of being that make us free, flexible, more fully real and more fully human. The result is an engaging view into the rich and colorful inner life of a woman at the threshold of middle age, of the blossoming of mind and spirit that comes after suffering and self-realization. Pleasure, she concludes, “is the absence of lack. Self-love is a necessary plenitude. Vigilance in love brings us freedom. Freedom is not an absolute whose attainment is humanly impossible. Yogis say that the self that is not ego is free. That self is the spacious heart, the spacious mind.” Frueh offers us wisdom and comfort for the journey into middle age, and the deep pleasure of encountering a generous, lively spirit and a remarkably spacious mind.

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The Tailors of Tomaszow
by Rena Margulies Chernoff and Allan Chernoff
Texas Tech University Press, 2014
Preserving the collective memory of a community that is no more
 
Seven decades after the Nazis annihilated the Jewish community of Tomaszow-Mazowiecki, Poland, comes a gripping eyewitness narrative told by one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, as well as through first-hand accounts of other Tomaszow survivors. This unique communal memoir presents a rare view of Eastern European Jewry, before, during, and after World War II. It is both the memoir of a child and of a lost Jewish community, an unvarnished story in which disputes, controversy, and scandal all play a role in capturing the true flavor of life in this time and place.
            Nearly 14,000 Jews, one-third of the town’s population, resided in Tomaszow-Mazowiecki before World War II, many making their living as tailors and seamstresses. Only 250 of them survived the Holocaust, in part because of their skill with a needle and thread.
            Engaging and highly accessible, The Tailors of Tomaszow is a powerful resource for educators and a compelling read for anyone wishing to gain a deeper, more personal understanding of Eastern European Jewry and the Holocaust.
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Things No Longer There
by Susan Krieger
University of Wisconsin Press, 2005
    Things No Longer There is a lovingly crafted collection of personal stories about the author's struggle toward enlightenment while losing her eyesight. It is also, more broadly, about invisible landscapes—places of the heart that linger long after they have disappeared from the world outside. In these ten brief tales and one novella-length intimate drama, Susan Krieger takes us on a series of adventures in vision, a journey both inward and to various parts of the country. We travel with her as she goes birdwatching before sunrise in the New Mexico desert, learns to walk with a white cane, revisits an old love, returns to a summer camp of her youth, and reflects on the nature of blindness and sight.
    Krieger's touching memoir explores the ways that outer landscapes may change and sight may be lost, but inner visions persist, giving meaning, jarring the senses with a very different picture than what appears before the eyes. This book will reward both the general reader and those interested in disability studies, feminist ethnography, and lesbian studies.
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Those Who Remain
by Gene J. Crediford
University of Alabama Press, 2009
When DeSoto (in 1540) and later Juan Pardo (in 1567) marched through what was known as the province of Cofitachequi (which covered the southern part of today’s North Carolina and most of South Carolina), the native population was estimated at well over 18,000. Most shared a common Catawba language, enabling this confederation of tribes to practice advanced political and social methods, cooperate and support each other, and meet their common enemy. The footprint of the Cofitachequi is the footprint of this book. 
  The contemporary Catawba, Midland, Santee, Natchez-Kusso, Varnertown, Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Lumbee Indians of North and South Carolina, have roots in pre-contact Cofitachequi. Names have changed through the years; tribes split and blended as the forces of nature, the influx of Europeans, and the imposition of federal government authority altered their lives. For a few of these tribes, the system has worked well—or is working well now. For others, the challenge continues to try to work with and within the federal government’s system for tribal recognition—a system governing Indians but not created by them. Through interviews and a generous photograph montage stretching over two decades, Gene Crediford reveals the commonality and diversity among these people of Indian identity; their heritage, culture, frustrations with the system, joys in success of the younger generation, and hope for the future of those who come after them. This book is the story of those who remain.
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Not from Here
by Allan Johnson
Temple University Press, 2015
When Allan Johnson asked his dying father where he wanted his ashes to be placed, his father replied—without hesitation—that it made no difference to him at all. In his poignant, powerful memoir, Not from Here, Johnson embarks on an extraordinary, 2,000-mile journey across the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains to find the place where his father’s ashes belonged.
 
As a white man with Norwegian and English lineage, Johnson explores both America and the question of belonging to a place whose history holds the continuing legacy of the displacement, dispossession, and genocide of Native peoples.
 
More than a personal narrative, Not from Here illuminates the national silence around unresolved questions of accountability, race, and identity politics, and the dilemma of how to take responsibility for “a past we did not create.” Johnson’s story—about the past living in the present; of redemption, fate, family, tribe, and nation; of love and grief—raises profound questions about belonging, identity, and place.
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Politics, Pollution, and Pandas
by Russell E. Train
Island Press, 2003
"This is an adventure story-not among the wild animals he knows so well but among the politicians as he pioneered the efforts to conserve our wildlife, our natural resources, and the very atmosphere that supports us all. It is a history invaluable to those interested in the preservation of our environment; a matter in which we all should be concerned and involved." -WALTER CRONKITE
"Train has produced a thoughtful and insightful account of a remarkable public career, an account which reflects very fairly the effort during my presidency to strike a balance among the nation's economic, energy, and environmental needs." -PRESIDENT GERALD R. FORD
Russell E. Train, now chairman emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund, has led a remarkable life in conservation and environmental politics. Though many of his contributions have been unsung, Train was the catalyst for many of the nation's most important positive environmental policies that remain with us today. In the current political climate, where party divisions are so sharp and environmental concerns are so often shunted aside, Train's journey as a life-long Republican and an ardent conservationist is an inspiring story.
Much of the important environmental policy Train helped to devise and implement occurred during two Republican administrations, those of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Train served as undersecretary of Interior early in Nixon's administration before becoming chair of the president's Council on Environmental Quality (1970-1973). He then moved on to many accomplishments as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1973 until 1978. At the end of the Ford administration, Train left government to become president of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the U.S. where he played a key role in developing that institution into the major conservation organization it is today.
Politics, Pollution, and Pandas is a fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of the politics of the environment over much of the last half century, as told by one of its master architects.
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Attu Boy
by Nick Golodoff
edited by Rachel Mason
preface by Brenda Maly
University of Alaska Press, 2015
In the quiet of morning, exactly six months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese touched down on American soil. Landing on the remote Alaska island of Attu, they assailed an entire village, holding the Alaskan villagers for two months and eventually corralling all survivors into a freighter bound for Japan.
One of those survivors, Nick Golodoff, became a prisoner of war at just six years old. He was among the dozens of Unangan Attu residents swept away to Hokkaido, and one of only twenty-five to survive. Attu Boy tells Golodoff’s story of these harrowing years as he found both friendship and cruelty at the hands of the Japanese. It offers a rare look at the lives of civilian prisoners and their captors in WWII-era Japan. It also tells of Golodoff’s bittersweet return to a homeland torn apart by occupation and forced internments. Interwoven with other voices from Attu, this richly illustrated memoir is a testament to the struggles, triumphs, and heartbreak of lives disrupted by war.
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