Posts tagged ‘memoir’

POIGNANT AND POWERFUL

Ever the Patriot: Recollections of Vincent J. Riccio World War II Veteran and POW

Edited by Candace Riccio Salem

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This book is told in first person based on the experiences of Vincent J. Riccio and edited by his daughter. It begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and Riccio’s subsequent draft a few months later. Riccio began his service as an aviation mechanic in Mississippi. The first part of the book focuses on his hi jinks and pranks with his buddies as a young soldier. But Riccio wanted to fly; he eventually manages to get training as an aviator. After being sent to Horhem in England, Riccio flew combat missions over Germany. On the Luduigshafen mission, his plane was shot down. Riccio parachuted to safety, but eventually was taken prisoner by the Germans.

The second part of the story focuses on his imprisonment in POW camps and resourcefulness in surviving the Black Hunger March. As the war came closer to its end, Riccio uses his ingenuity to obtain weapons, food and German prisoners. Down to 84 pounds when he was freed from captivity, Riccio warms the reader’s heart when he relates his elation at seeing the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor upon his return to America. I think the gist of the book is best summarized in his own words, “You learn about people, you learn about human nature. You learn what the human body can take. The ones that couldn’t take it, didn’t make it.”

This story contains the gamut of human emotions; Riccio is at once the boy next door and a war hero. He does not judge, but simply tells it like it is. Recommended for teens and adults interested in history and human behavior.

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THE POWER OF LOVE

Lou and Jigger:True Love is Inseparable

Written by Geryn Childress
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This short story packs a powerful punch in a kindle book of approximately twenty-five pages. The characters are well developed, the plot carefully laid out, and the historical background deftly woven into the story. Childress skillfully portrays the beautiful love shared by Lou and Jigger as well as the ugly prejudice, family tensions, and hardship of living in a poor family down South in the 1900’s.

Luella’s parents move the family from Michigan to Shreveport because her mother believes her children will have a better life in the rural South, but Shreveport in the 80’s was still segregated and blacks found it difficult to make a living. Lou’s father made a living by “junkin”, finding garbage and fixing things to sell as useful items. He also built wells. Both parents worked long hours so the children spent most of their time with Mama Rosie on her small farm. Mama was a grandmother figure who had many interesting friends. Jimmy the wino came to buy her moonshine; Squala, a Native American squatter periodically came to sleep in the abandoned Chevelle on the property. Even though he could not speak English; Squala and Lou communicated by hand gestures and became best friends.

Lou falls in love with a boy named Jigger, but her grandfather Ebe hated him. Jigger and Lou eventually run off to Missouri. When they return, Lou’s father continues the feud and has Jigger framed for a crime. The story traces their lives into their nineties when members of the family succeed in placing Lou and Jigger in separate nursing homes. When descendants Ruby and Sonny decide to move to the area and take over Lou and Jigger’s now abandoned house, the story takes a most interesting turn.

Childress provides the reader with wonderful photographs of his characters which adds to the authentic flavor of the historical romance. This book is very different from modern romances. I would recommend it for ages twelve and up. Classroom teachers might find it a useful addition to teaching about the period. This well written short story will appeal to readers interested in history, romance, psychology and memoirs.

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COLLATERIAL DAMAGE

The Day Before 911

Written by Tucker Elliot

Day before 911,pic

Powerful, poignant and not soon forgotten! Elliot has done a masterful job of relating a true story of his sojourn as a sixth grade teacher in Department of Defense overseas military schools. At the beginning of the story, Elliot has just begun his position as teacher and head coach in a military school near Seoul, Korea. He is full of hope for his students, yet he is also strangely dour. The reader learns that his father fought in Viet Nam and his uncle died there. His teaching job is Elliot’s way of serving the military in his own way. Like every good teacher, Elliot is deeply concerned with his students; the story revolves around two students named Sami and Angel, and the families they share.

Tucker paints a picture of how the world changes as the terrorist attacks unfold, the school security becomes paramount, and the students whose parents serve live in constant terror of deployment and possible death. The author befriends a nine year old girl named Sami, who loves soccer and becomes the team “stud.” He suffers with her every time her father is called away. After Elliot leaves Korea and moves to teach in Germany, he meets Sami’s best friend from the states. Her name is Angel; she seeks the support of her new teacher and brings with her a multitude of new crises as her family becomes embroiled in emotional and physical terror.

The author attempts to exert the full force of his will to sincerely help these two families, but always seems to fall short when he is needed most. Circumstances seem to conspire to prevent him from fulfilling what he believes to be his obligations. This book is a must read for teens and adults who want to experience how the world indeed changed after 911. As one who lived a few miles from the World Trade Center, I can never adequately relay the feelings of helplessness and loss while waiting to hear the news of survivors. I watched the faces of children who waited to hear if their parents made it home from Manhattan that day; and myself grieved with others who lost friends and family. I would recommend this book to all military families, teachers, and parents who are looking for a way to understand in some small part the sacrifices of all those who serve our country and protect our communities.

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FLASHBACKS

Horse and Dog Adventures in Early California: Short Stories and Poems by Ransom A. Wilcox

Edited by Karl Beckstrand

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This kindle book was promoted as a free e book. For some reason, I was drawn to it, and I am very glad that I picked it up. The book is largely autobiographical. It tells the story of Ransom A. Wilcox who was born a Canadian, the sixth of seventh children. Because he was a sickly child, the family relocated to northern California where they farmed, fished, hunted and struggled to make a living.

Wilcox is a gifted writer. He has the ability to draw you into his story with a combination of simple language and homespun charm. The stories have a bit of everything, adventure, melancholy, joy and a sense of pride. The book consists of short stories and poems. They cover such scenes as Ransom’s hard work being rewarded with his very own horse, and his dramatic escape from a wild boar by climbing a pole that he cleverly stuck in the ground. There is a touching scene with the family dog named Old Blue.

Many of his poems are included. The subjects range from those dealing with family like “To A Granddaughter” and “My Little Girl”, a group that talks about nature like “To The Redwoods!” and “Quiet Waters,” and some that talk about personal issues like “Character,” “Friendship,” and “Immortality.” These are not complicated verses; they are written with both common sense and pathos.

The editor says that the work is for all ages. I think that children age ten and up would be able to handle independent reading. Local dialect make it an authentic read. The few black and white photographs included of family and surroundings fit perfectly with the mood of the story. It is classified as a multicultural book by the publisher, Premio Books. Teachers might want to consider using the book as part of a study unit on American life in the early twentieth century. The kindle as well as a paperback version is available on Amazon. I find it difficult to explain why I like this book so much, but I recommend that you give it a try.

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IDENTITY CRISIS

I am Lubo

Written by Lou Pechi

I Am Lubo, picamazon

This story is not simply another holocaust survival tale, but rather a journey of one child’s struggle to discover his true identity. The story begins in June, 1938 in Zagreb with a young boy named Lubo who sketches a happy, carefree life including imitating a traffic policeman and going to the barber shop with his father, Kolega. His mother Mutika adores him; the only thorn in his side is his mean governess, “Fraulein.” Lubo’s carefree life of playing with tin soldiers, trains and cars is shattered on April 6, 1941, when he is trapped in the air raid on Belgrade while visiting his grandmother. His mother takes him on a desperate journey by rail, boat and foot in an attempt to return home, only to find Nazi soldiers in their living room upon their arrival. With a child’s simplicity, Lubo is delighted to see real soldiers carrying real guns visiting his home. Soon Lubo’s parents are required to wear badges indicating that they are Jews, and Kolega joins the army. Conditions rapidly deteriorate; Lubo’s parents decide to convert to Catholicism and flee to Italy.

Lubo embarks on a lifelong quest to find his identity. His journey will include living with aunts, uncles and cousins,staying with his mother in Italy, narrowly avoiding being sent to a concentration camp in Germany, and getting back to Yugoslavia with his father for a short time. Lubo just wants to be back living a normal child’s life with his parents, but their lives keep taking separate turns. Lubo will even find himself on a kibbutz in Israel living with other children of foreigners who also see themselves as outcasts. When Lubo is finally nearing his eighteenth birthday, he decides to join the Israeli Air Force so he can use the technical knowledge he enjoys. Again he is frustrated because he does not have a high school diploma; so he pleads with his mother, who is now living in America to send for him. Lubo finds another roadblock when he arrives in America. He will encounter new forms of discrimination and frustration in America as well. Despite all obstacles, Lubo eventually succeeds in discovering his path to success and happiness.

I am truly impressed with the honestly and sincerity of this memoir which took the author much of his life to write. He writes from the perspective of a frightened child who through no fault of his own has been placed in the path of overwhelming roadblocks to his success. The events of the holocaust are cast in historical perspective seen through the eyes of a young child who had to constantly rearrange his life to suit them. Adding to the uniqueness of the story are the personal photographs of people, places, and events that the author has managed to acquire. It is a powerful read that I think tweens and teens as well as adults will find compelling. Pechi includes an epilogue revealing what happened to each of the major characters. Another bonus feature is a list of questions that the reader should be able to answer after reading the book that will guide classroom or seminar discussion groups on the holocaust. A highly recommended read!

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