Books I Read in June

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

Rating: 5 out of 5.

248 p. Narrative Non-Fiction

I enjoyed this non-fiction book about Lawrence Anthony, an animal conservationist who accepts a herd of rogue elephants to keep on his reserve in Africa. Lawrence accepts the animals knowing otherwise they would be killed. If you are an animal lover, you will be sure to enjoy the book. It is a heartwarming and interesting story and I learned much about elephants.

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

196 p. Narrative Non-Fiction

An unlikely truce develops between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man during the war in 1967. The Palestinian family had been removed from their home in al-Ramla when Israel was created as a state in the War of Independence in 1948. This book follows the friendship between the two during times of war and peace and seems to endure even as Bashir becomes a freedom fighter and Dalia becomes even more resolute in her defense of Israel.

understanding can only come from a recognition of each other’s history.

The Lemon Tree

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

Rating: 5 out of 5.

383 p. with index Non-Fiction

This is a very thoughtful book written by author Anton Treuer, who is a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University in Minnesota. His inspiration for writing the book stemmed from encounters he has had and a way for navigating and correcting the misconceptions about Native peoples that occur. That, and the fact that Native Americans are the First people on this land but are so under represented and even educated people are very ignorant of their culture.

Treuer covers topics such as “traditional” Indian fry bread taco, wearing Indian costumes for holidays, mascots, and Dakota pipeline. I appreciated that Treuer states that all humans and nations have dark chapters and things to be ashamed of, but these things must be examined and learned from. The book also has an index which makes looking up topics easier.

The Light of Days by Judy Batalion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

265 p. Non-Fiction

This book relates the stories of women and the role they played in resisting the Nazis during World War II. The author is the child of Holocaust survivors and brings to life the stories of resistors who had would otherwise be forgotten. The women showed such incredible courage and many were not yet 20! They went undercover, stole documents, built bombs, and even killed Nazi soldiers. But often, their stories were not told; here, the author pulls their stories out of her careful research and brings them to the light of day in this book.

Dawn Raid by Pauline Vaeluaga Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

217 p. Historical Fiction

Told through diary entries, Sofia Christina Savea shares what life is like during times of political unrest in 1970s Wellington, New Zealand. Sofia has just turned 13, is biracial, and is just becoming aware of the changing world around her. There are protests in her community against dawn raids, which are raids by the police hunting for people who have overstayed visas–mainly people who are Pacific Islanders. She begins learning about civil rights and the Polynesian Panthers which are modeled after the Black Panthers in the United States. She also describes joyful experiences such as purchasing a pair of fashion boots (this is the 1970’s!) and tasting McDonalds for the first time. She is also learning more about her culture such as Maori songs and dances. The book is very readable for middle schoolers and can introduce them to a new culture and viewpoints. I highly recommend!

The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham

Rating: 5 out of 5.

297 p. Non-Fiction

Markham tells the story of identical twin brothers, Ernesto and Raúl Flores, who grew up in rural El Salvador in the aftermath of its civil war. In Markham’s look at contemporary immigration and the migrant experience, she provides a nuanced portrait of Central America’s child exodus, and critiques American immigration policy.

Danger had driven the twin brothers from El Salvador which was full of gangs to California where their older brother Wilbur lived. They were so desperate to leave that they made the harrowing journey on their own (93% of unaccompanied minors come from El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala.) In a California high school they meet the author who was the program coordinator at the school. It was also eye-opening to see the emotional toll this situation was for family members. Dealing with poverty, family back home, school, jobs, language, filling out forms, etc. seemed as a whole nearly insurmountable. The book ends on a precarious note with Donald Trump just elected with promises to build a wall.

Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran

Rating: 4 out of 5.

306 p. Non-fiction memoir

This story is written in a kind-of disjointed style which also represents the chaotic life he was forced into with his family escaping Vietnam and coming to the US as refugees in the 1970’s after the war. Tran and his family spent time in a refugee camp before being relocated to the town of Carlisle, PA. Adjusting to their new life was difficult with his father who was a lawyer in Vietnam now working at a tire store. And with Tran’s first name you can imagine the teasing he would have received in school. Tran identifies with the music he is surrounded with and in school he falls in love with literature, after discovering a copy of The Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman. He attends college on a scholarship and becomes a Latin teacher and a tattoo artist.