- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
Bethia Mayfield, a minister’s daughter on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, seizes opportunities to learn new things. She listens as her father instructs her brother in Latin and Greek, accompanies local herbalists and midwives, and furtively trades knowledge with her Wampanong Indian friend Caleb. Life is hard in 17th century colonial Massachussett. Teenage Bethia loses her parents and is indentured as a servant, accompanying her brother and Caleb to Boston where they prepare to study at Harvard College. An independent spirit who chafes against the religious and domestic roles assigned to her, Bethia observes and supports the struggle of Caleb and other Native American students who are between two cultures.
I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian while on a visit to Boston and I found that I could not take a break from it! Junior, a disabled Native American boy, finds the courage within himself to break away from tradition. His tale is truly inspiring for teens who find themselves in a horrible situation.
Despite enduring tremendous personal tragedies, Junior never gives up on himself. His saving grace is his art, which is on display throughout the book.
If you like uplifting stories, make sure that you read this book!
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. Every November Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday of feasting and school children are taught the story of the Pilgrims who arrived on the ship Mayflower in 1620 and settled New England. In this well-researched historical narrative Nathaniel Philbrick fleshes out the background of this American story and its underlying issues of race, violence and religion which began long before the landing of the Mayflower and continued for decades after the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims (not all religious separatists) at first kept a tenuous but peaceful relationship with Native Americans. Both groups were decimated by disease, and soon were at war with one another. This is the book to read if you want to know the adult version of the widely publicized, but probably not the first, Thanksgiving.
Sherman Alexie is a well established Native American writer from Washington. He is well known both for his books of short stories as well as novels. In "Ten Little Indians" Alexie writes various short vignettes about daily life. In one short story, he talks about the angst of being in a party, and looking at the women. The funniest image is of him choosing to talk with the 10th prettiest girl in the room, reasoning that she would be interested in him because he is the tenth most attractive man in the room. His stories are poignant and thought-provoking, and the images stay with you.
Making Haste from Babylon
by Nick Bunker
Who would have thought that an Englishman could be the writer of an outstanding new book on the Pilgrims? However, it's not so surprising after all, when you consider that living in England gave Mr. Bunker access to arcane historical data which is part of what makes this book so fascinating. The author delves into the background of many of the men who eventually sailed on the Mayflower. The England of the early 1600's was suffering economically, and thus it was not just for religious reasons that this courageous band set sail for New England. Of course, it was a gamble, their hope that a brighter future awaited them on another continent. Most of the men knew nothing about farming, but they did know that once having left England, there was probably no going back.
What then were the chief factors that caused the first permanent colony to become successful? The fur trade, (at times) cordial relations with the Indians, and the leadership provided by men like William Bradford all played a part in their democratic experience on distant shores. The Mayflower Compact, which all the men on the Mayflower signed, was to become an important document. Though based on English tenets, the Pilgrims adapted the Compact to suit the circumstances of what would become a new nation. Subsequent efforts at colonization found success, based partially on the models established by the men and women of the Mayflower.
Reviewed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library staff member Diane White