Category: History

SISTERS & REBELS

Grounded in decades of research, Sisters and Rebels unfolds an epic narrative of American history through the lives and works of three Southern women.

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NOBODY'S GIRL FRIDAY by J.E. Smyth

Available now from Highbridge Audio. From the Publisher: “The first comprehensive history of Hollywood’s high-flying career women during the studio era, Nobody’s Girl Friday covers the impact of the executives, producers, editors, writers, agents, designers, directors, and actresses who shaped Hollywood film production and style, led their unions, climbed to the top during the war, and fought the blacklist. Based on a decade of archival research, author J.E. Smyth uncovers a formidable generation working within the American film industry and brings their voices back into the history of Hollywood. Their achievements, struggles, and perspectives fundamentally challenge popular ideas about director-based auteurism, male dominance, and female disempowerment in the years between First and Second Wave Feminism. Nobody’s Girl Friday is a revisionist history, but it’s also a deeply personal, collective account of hundreds of working women, the studios they worked for, and the films they helped to make. For many years, historians and critics have insisted that both American feminism and the power of women in Hollywood declined and virtually disappeared from the 1920s through the 1960s. But Smyth vindicates Bette Davis’s claim. The story of the women who called the shots in studio-era Hollywood has never fully been told—until now.” My recording experience: This book was provocative in terms of seeing what ground has been gained and lost for women over the years in Hollywood. A must for avid fans and students of cinema history, it seems that J.E. Smyth has unearthed facts ignored by previous (male) historians. Not only did I have a good time doing the research on this one (to find name pronunciations of many of the lesser-known actors, editors, designers, etc that are mentioned, I watched a LOT of YouTube videos including ancient Oscars telecasts and episodes of What’s My Line) I also learned some random facts, for one, that the Republican Party was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment.   Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Lee F. is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there!

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NOMADLAND by Jessica Bruder

Available now from Highbridge Audio. From the Publisher: “From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they’re hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or “workampers.” Building on her groundbreaking Harper’s cover story, “The End of Retirement,” which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or “vanily.” Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy’s dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans―many of them single women―who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.” From the Library Journal Starred Review: “Karen White’s clearly enunciated, steady-paced narration nicely relates this densely packed information that is essential for all public libraries, especially those in communities experiencing this phenomenon.” From the review at Every Day I Write the Book blog: “I listened to Nomadland on audio. It was narrated by my friend Karen White, who gave it just the gravity it needed. Her precise delivery, verging on alarmed, conveyed the substance and urgency of the topic, yet she handled the book’s wry and humorous moments just as well.” My recording experience: This is one of those books that will stick with you, despite the barrage of news that fills the airwaves and interwebs daily. At least it did for me. Bruder’s writing based on immersive reporting experience opened my eyes to a new reality for so many Americans. A reality that’s both inspiring and scarily dystopian. For an example of what I’m talking about, check out this video I found when I was trying to find out the correct pronunciation of “Kiva”: Or, if you want the other side of the coin, there are articles at Nature Sport Central and CheapRVLiving.com where you can find out how to make this lifestyle your own. Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Johanna is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering!  I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter. Oftentimes, you can also enter there!

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FIRST WOMEN by Kate Andersen Brower plus GIVEAWAY

Available now from Harper Audio: From the Publisher: “From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the groundbreaking backstairs look at the White House,The Residence, comes an intimate, news-making look at the true modern power brokers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: the First Ladies, from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama. One of the most underestimated—and challenging—positions in the world, the First Lady of the United States must be many things: an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own; a savvy politician, skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington; a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny; and an able CEO responsible for the smooth operation of countless services and special events at the White House. Now, as she did in her smash #1 bestseller The Residence, former White House correspondent Kate Andersen Brower draws on a wide array of untapped, candid sources—from residence staff and social secretaries to friends and political advisers—to tell the stories of the ten remarkable women who have defined that role since 1960. Brower offers new insights into this privileged group of remarkable women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. The stories she shares range from the heartwarming to the shocking and tragic, exploring everything from the first ladies’ political crusades to their rivalries with Washington figures; from their friendships with other first ladies to their public and private relationships with their husbands. She also offers a detailed and insightful new portrait of one of the most-watched first ladies of all time, Hillary Clinton, asking what her tumultuous years in the White House may tell us about her own historic presidential run . . . and what life could be like with the nation’s first First Husband. Candid and illuminating, this first group biography of the modern first ladies provides a revealing look at life upstairs and downstairs at the world’s most powerful address.” From the review at Book Journey: “If you do listen to this one on audio, know that Karen White (who also narrated The Residence) does an exceptional job of capturing each of these women’s essence through her words.  I listened to this audio from Minnesota to Chicago and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Highly recommended to those of us who enjoy great non fiction with interesting facts about people.  I hope that whatever Karen Andersen Brower offers up next includes Karen White’s narration again… enjoy this duo!”   My recording experience: As much as I enjoyed Brower’s first book, The Residence, I think FIRST WOMEN topped it.  Reading about the experience these women had while witnessing the circus of the current presidential . . .

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UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Available now from Penguin Random House Audio. From the Publisher: “NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND NPR • “An eye-opening call to action from someone who rethought the whole notion of ‘having it all,’ Unfinished Business could change how many of us approach our most important business: living.”—People When Anne-Marie Slaughter accepted her dream job as the first female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department in 2009, she was confident she could juggle the demands of her position in Washington, D.C., with the responsibilities of her family life in suburban New Jersey. Her husband and two young sons encouraged her to pursue the job; she had a tremendously supportive boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and she had been moving up on a high-profile career track since law school. But then life intervened. Parenting needs caused her to make a decision to leave the State Department and return to an academic career that gave her more time for her family. The reactions to her choice to leave Washington because of her kids led her to question the feminist narrative she grew up with. Her subsequent article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” created a firestorm, sparked intense national debate, and became one of the most-read pieces in the magazine’s history. Since that time, Anne-Marie Slaughter has pushed forward, breaking free of her long-standing assumptions about work, life, and family. Though many solutions have been proposed for how women can continue to break the glass ceiling or rise above the “motherhood penalty,” women at the top and the bottom of the income scale are further and further apart. Now, in her refreshing and forthright voice, Anne-Marie Slaughter returns with her vision for what true equality between men and women really means, and how we can get there. She uncovers the missing piece of the puzzle, presenting a new focus that can reunite the women’s movement and provide a common banner under which both men and women can advance and thrive. With moving personal stories, individual action plans, and a broad outline for change, Anne-Marie Slaughter reveals a future in which all of us can finally finish the business of equality for women and men, work and family.” From the review in AudioFile Magazine: “Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor at Princeton University and former director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, looks at work, family, and the myth of having it all. The introduction and the coda are both read by the author and provide an authentic voice for the discussion that follows, a combination of Slaughter’s own experiences and her expertise in looking at policy issues to . . .

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THE RESIDENCE by Kate Anderson Brower

Available now from Harper Audio. From the Publisher: “A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas. America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family. These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love. Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.” From the review at Book Journey: “I absolutely devoured this book.  I listened to it on audio and so enjoyed the narration by Karen White.  Beautifully spoken, each story was so interesting.”   My recording experience: This book has some hilarious accounts in it – my favorite story comes from the beleaguered plumber who can’t get the shower pressure high enough or the water temperature hot enough for President Johnson – but what I truly loved was that Brower was able to get to know her interviewees well enough that she, and then I, really cared about them.  I found myself tearing up at the passing of one of these elderly gentlemen, who served the White House with incredible wisdom, grace and loyalty.  A unique book and I hope an engaging listen! Listen to a sample here:

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WE SELL DRUGS by Suzanna Reiss

Available from Audible.com. From the Publisher: “We Sell Drugs is a study grounded in the transnational geography and political economy of the coca-leaf and coca-derived commodities market stretching from Peru and Bolivia into the United States. More than a narrow biography of one famous plant and its equally famous derivative products – Coca-Cola and cocaine – this audiobook situates these commodities within the larger landscape of drug production and consumption. Examining efforts to control the circuits through which coca traveled, Suzanna Reiss provides a geographic and legal basis for considering the historical construction of designations of legality and illegality. The book also argues that the legal status of any given drug is largely premised on who grew, manufactured, distributed, and consumed it and not on the qualities of the drug itself. Drug control is a powerful tool for ordering international trade, national economies, and society’s habits and daily lives. In a historical landscape animated by struggles over political economy, national autonomy, hegemony, and racial equality, We Sell Drugs insists on the socio-historical underpinnings of designations of legality to explore how drug control became a major weapon in asserting control of domestic and international affairs.” My recording experience: This is one of those books where I didn’t even know what I didn’t know about the subject.  Who knew there were connections between poor farmers in Bolivia, Germany’s loss of WWII and Coca-Cola? And that connection is the pharmaceutical industry, of course.  Fascinating stuff if you’re into world history. Listen to a sample here:

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THE BURMA SPRING by Rena Pederson plus GIVEAWAY

Available now from Blackstone Audio. From the Publisher: “Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s “woman of destiny” and one of the most admired voices for freedom in the world today, comes alive through this brilliant rendering of Burma’s tumultuous history. Award-winning journalist and former State Department speechwriter Rena Pederson brings to light fresh details about the charismatic Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi: the inspiration for Burma’s (now Myanmar) first steps towards democracy. Suu Kyi’s party will be a major contender in the 2015 elections, a revolutionary breakthrough after years of military dictatorship. Using exclusive interviews with Suu Kyi since her release from fifteen years of house arrest, as well as recently disclosed diplomatic cables, Pederson uncovers new facets to Suu Kyi’s extraordinary story. The Burma Spring also reveals the extraordinary steps taken by First Lady Laura Bush to help Suu Kyi, as well as how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton injected new momentum into Burma’s democratic rebirth. Pederson provides a never-before-seen view of the harrowing hardships the people of Burma have endured and the fiery political atmosphere in which Suu Kyi has fought a life-and-death struggle for liberty in this fascinating part of the world.” My recording experience: This was a very challenging book to record.  Not simply because of it’s length or because it is filled with words and names from all over Asia (including Aung San Suu Kyi, a name notoriously difficult to get right, and I’m sure I got it wrong, too).  But mostly because of how sad it made me.  I am embarrassed to say that my knowledge of the grievous situation in Myanmar/Burma before reading this book was nonexistent.  Pederson has done exhaustive research for this book and I don’t think she missed detailing much of the suffering endured, not just by Suu Kyi, but by the millions of people she has valiantly tried to represent.  I’d highly recommend the book to anyone curious about this inspirational woman or the country of Myanmar, still on a shaky road toward democracy as the book was published. Listen to a sample here: THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  The randomly selected winner has been contacted and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address.  Thanks to all for entering! I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, or on Twitter.

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THE KILLING OF KAREN SILKWOOD by Richard Rashke

Available now from Audible.com From the Publisher: “Karen Silkwood, an employee of the Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant, was killed in a car crash on her way to deliver important documents to a newspaper reporter in 1974. Silkwood was a union activist concerned about health and safety issues at the plant, and her death at age 28 was considered by many to be highly suspicious. Was it Kerr-McGee’s revenge on a troublesome whistle-blower? Or was it part of a much larger conspiracy reaching from the Atomic Energy Commission to the FBI and the CIA? Richard Rashke leads us through the myriad of charges and countercharges, theories and facts, and reaches conclusions based solely on the evidence in hand. Originally published in 1981, his audiobook offers a vivid, edgy picture of the tensions that racked this country in the 1970s. However, the volume is not only an important historical document. Complex, fascinating characters populate this compelling insider’s view of the nuclear industry. The issues it explores – whistle-blowers, worker safety, the environment, and nuclear vulnerability – have not lost relevance today, 26 years after Silkwood’s white Honda Civic was found trapped in a concrete culvert near Oklahoma City. For this second edition, Rashke has added a preface and three short chapters that explore what has been learned about Silkwood since the book’s original publication, explain what happened to the various actors in the drama, and discuss the long-term effects of the events around Silkwood’s death.” My recording experience: Although I remember vaguely hearing about Karen Silkwood, and I think I saw the movie, I didn’t know 90% of the history of both Silkwood’s life (and death) and the nuclear power industry in general that are covered in this book.  It was frightening to learn how much the industry got away with in terms of pollution and worker exposure to radiation.  Not to mention the CIA and FBI’s involvement.  The passion from those who defended Silkwood after her death, lawyers and activists who never knew her personally, was inspiring. Listen to a sample here:

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LIAR, TEMPTRESS, SOLDIER, SPY by Karen Abbott

Available now from Harper Audio. From the Publisher: “In Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, bestselling author Karen Abbott tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything—their homes, their families, and their very lives—during the Civil War. Seventeen-year-old Belle Boyd, an avowed rebel with a dangerous temper, shot a Union soldier in her home and became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her considerable charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to enlist as a Union private named Frank Thompson, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the war and infiltrating enemy lines, all the while fearing that her past would catch up with her. The beautiful widow Rose O’Neal Greenhow engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians, used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals, and sailed abroad to lobby for the Confederacy, a journey that cost her more than she ever imagined. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring—even placing a former slave inside the Confederate White House—right under the noses of increasingly suspicious rebel detectives. Abbott’s pulse-quickening narrative weaves the adventures of these four forgotten daredevils into the tumultuous landscape of a broken America, evoking a secret world that will surprise even the most avid enthusiasts of Civil War–era history. With a cast of real-life characters, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, Detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoléon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy shines a dramatic new light on these daring—and, until now, unsung—heroines.” From the review at Literate Housewife: “I’ve read many books, mainly novels, set during this time period. This book was altogether something new, showing the impact women had on the outcome of battles and the future of what is again our nation. I’m thankful for the fact that I’m partial to certain narrators. Without that, I might still be missing out on this book. I wanted some Karen White, and I got Karen White at her very best. She did a masterful job bringing these bold, patriotic women to life. This was my first experience with her narrating non-fiction and I found her technique equally engaging. The spark in her reading let me know that she found this book just as intriguing as I did. Fiction is my passion, but listening to Karen makes me realize just how perfect the audiobook medium is for me to enjoy non-fiction as well.” From the review at Chronicles: “I highly recommend the audiobook version of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. I traveled back in time with Karen White, who inflects great feeling into her charming accents. There is . . .

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