This blog is about so much. My work. The work of other people and how it influenced me. Yes, cause it's all about me. But actually, it isn't all about me. It's just easier, when you have a blog titled Literally Laura, to distill it into something that relates to me. I only wish my time was freer to post more.
As part of my duties with Pioneer Press, I moderate the paper's on line book club Pioneer Page Turners. It's a neat little idea dreamt up by Jeff Wisser, our former editor-in-chief (before corporate fiscal conservatism got the better of him) who wanted to figure out a way to get people to the paper chain's website. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "I'm thinking about an on line book club. What do you think?"
It seemed like a great idea, I just wasn't aware (though a teeny part of me had a feeling) that I'd be tapped as the moderator. I thought I was there in an advisory capacity (since I also work at a library and can find out how book clubs operate).
That was last October. Several books later, I'm the moderator of what I still think is a neat idea that I don't think other newspapers are doing. It taps into the promise of the Internet by offering an interactive experience for people. Every month we do a live on line chat of the book chosen for that round. People log into the Pioneer Page Turner's blog and sign up to take part. And it's been a lot of fun, leading me to read books I might not normally read, or even know about. This has been a challenge at times since my time availability for reading is very slight and consequently my love of reading has suffered for it the past several years.
Once in a while, a book will catch me just right. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, for example. Or The Hunger Games (which, while I wasn't overly fond of the writing as a whole, I thought the themes were something that certainly worth exploring). Sometimes, as with The Hunger Games, I've been surprised at how drawn in I've been with the book.
The book for May/June has been The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson and it has touched me in so many ways. I remember hearing about this event (which, according to Wilkerson lasted from 1915-1970) while doing research for my book Chicago's Most Wanted because there were aspects of that migration that affected the great city. Certainly, we would not have Chicago Blues and Chicago Jazz were it not for Southern blacks bringing that music up with them when they came North seeking a better life away from the Jim Crow system. On the negative side for Chicago, this migration would lead to overcrowding which would inspire unfortunate attempts at urban planning such as Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor Homes.
What struck me in particular about this book was just how much I didn't know about the time after Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. There were vital nuances to the story that were never covered in history classes I had as a child that would help explain so much about American society at the time and later. As I listened (I decided to listen to the book on CD, expertly read by Robin Miles) to the book, I actually grew infuriated. Not only by what these people were forced to endure in America, a country I absolutely love, but at what was missing from my learning about this important part of history. I felt in many regards cheated and I think curriculums that don't appropriately cover this fascinating part of history cheat their students out of learning about a dark period of our great country's history that went on far too long and was in no way worthy of the promise of America.
We have in this country now people, perhaps too far removed from those times to fully understand, who cannot fathom why there is still a slight divide between the races. Young people especially do not understand why certain segments of society might be mired in the situation it's mired in, never fully appreciating that it wasn't until the 1960s that the issue of apartheid in this country was at last attended to.
So I heartily recommend The Warmth of Other Suns as must reading and I can't help but be a little angry at those in charge of my education for denying me the chance to truly understand this vital time in the country's history (and before anyone gets cocky about how "terrible the public schools system is" let me say that for 8 years I attended a Catholic school that my parents paid highly for. So poor was the education from this school that not only did I escape with a poor knowledge of grammar and math, but even the Catholicism was spotty).
And in regards to this, I think the blog post I posted on the Pioneer Page Turners fully explains the anger I feel at how poorly this important story was covered in both my grade school and my high school. I can only hope this error has been attended to. So I offer it for your perusal.