Posts tagged ‘Mexico’

POIGNANT AND POWERFUL

The Thackery Journal

Written by John Holt

TheThackeryJournal,pic

This well-written book of historical fiction is divided into three parts: the first part sets the stage for the personal tragedy the looming civil war will impose on friends and family; the second part begins in 1864 when the South is on the brink of defeat and engages in plot to buy weapons from the French government, and the third part delineates the intricate plot of Northern generals to carry out the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln using John Wilkes-Booth as their instrument. Holt informs the reader that only three of his characters are genuine, Grant, Lincoln and Booth. The reader will be hard pressed to believe that statement because Holt does such a good job of making all his characters realistic and seamlessly weaves them together with both the historical and the fictional.

At the outset the reader meets Aaron Thackery, an old man who sits before the fire in the remains of his Southern home reading the journal of his deceased son who has been implicated in some sort of plot. Thackery thinks back upon his own arrest and his wife’s death. After the flashbacks, the author shifts to the town of Larkspur in Virginia introducing us to Jacob Thackery and his friend, Miles Drew. When war is declared, Miles, who does not believe in slavery nor the fact that the South can win, flees to join the Union forces. He quarrels with his best friend Jacob, who will join the Confederacy. Their paths will cross again during the war.

In the second part of the book, the scene shifts to 1864. Jacob realizes that the South will lose, but he becomes involved with the plot of the Confederacy to buy weapons from the French government. When a Mexican agent finds out about the plot, he hatches a new plan to steal the gold needed from the Mexican government, which Thackery will be responsible for delivering to the French in Canada. After the weapons destined for the Confederacy are blown up, he must decided what to do with the gold.

The third part of the book is the crux of the plot. Holt creates a character named Jarvis who will enlist Lincoln’s most trusted generals in a plot to wrest power from him and replace him with Grant. The plan goes awry, so Booth is enlisted to carry out the plan. How will Miles and Jacob be involved and how will it affect the rest of their lives and the future of the new restored Union government?

Holt does a magnificent job of transporting the characters into the minds of the reader. His research is carefully done and the descriptions of battle, angst, and raw emotion are outstanding. I had to finish the entire book in one setting, and by the end of the read was totally convinced that the story was plausible.

As a historian, I liked the fact that Holt gave citations to his research to permit further exploration of the topics. The cover is a painting from the Battle of Antietam and the period photographs add another dimension of personality to the work. There is no graphic violence or sexuality so the book is suitable for young adults. This book sheds light on the psychological, historical and moral aspects of the American Civil War much better than any historical text and is highly recommended.

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POIGNANT AND POWERFUL

A Journey of Dreams

by Marge Pellegrino

Journey of Dreamspic

Journey of Dreams is a work of historical fiction which takes place in 1984-85. During that time the Guatemalan government destroyed 440 villages using a slash and burn campaign. More than one million families were displaced and 200,000 people fled Guatemala. Human rights volunteers and religious leaders found safe havens for some of the exiled. It became known as the Sanctuary Movement. These volunteers funneled them to safety and helped them to gain political asylum. In this book Tomasa is a thirteen year old Mayan girl born in the highlands. She embodies the experiences of many of these refugees. Her story reflects the courage of many like herself and reveals the rich tapestry of her culture.

At the beginning of the story Tomasa and her family live in a small village. They farm on their land; the women sell native clothing and crafts at the local market. But lately, the rebel soldiers have been forcing young boys to join the army. They mercilessly wipe out the opposition. One day Tomasa’s mother tells her son Carlos that government planes are spraying harmful chemicals. They are overheard and must flee the village to survive. Conditions continue to deteriorate. Many local villagers have been placed in model villages, which are nothing more than concentration camps. Papa is determined to escape with the family. Soldiers suspect them; they are forced to return. Soon after soldiers come to burn their village. Their grandmother dies trying to escape. They hide and make their way slowly on foot to the capital city. From there they will try to cross into Mexico. Every night as they cower in the fields, Papa tells them a native story, while every night Tomasa has haunting nightmares. Papa must find work while Tomasa, her brother Manuel and baby sister, Maria hide. They are afraid of everyone. It takes three tries to cross the border to Mexico.They almost lose their lives on the river and are endangered by the soldiers shooting at them and the “coyotes” who take their money to protect them.

Finally, as they arrive in Mexico, their friends in the Sanctuary Movement attempt to protect them. Manuel despairs of ever finding his mother and adopts Juana, another refugee as his protector. Their goal is to reach Phoenix, Arizona in the United States and to locate their mother and brother, Every move is fraught with danger. They fear moving around in the daytime. Will they ever find a measure of safety and become a family again?

This book is carefully researched and well written. I finished the book in less than two hours. Age recommendation is eleven and up. The book provides a glimpse into the horror of warfare and human enslavement. The interweaving of native culture in dreams and storytelling is vivid and engaging, The author provides a glossary of Spanish and native terms as well as a map to mark the journey. Teachers will find much to discuss with their students and adults will learn more about a tragedy that resulted in making a native people stronger and more resilient.

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