Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

The Family Romanov--Candace Fleming
January 2014 by Schwartz & Wade
304 pages--Goodreads

From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a heartrending narrative nonfiction page-turner. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew into the Russian Revolution.

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants and urban workers—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life.

This was a really interesting read.  I was surprised by some of the things I learned, like that the Romanovs were not all killed the very night of the revolution as Bolsheviks stormed the imperial palace.  Granted, all of my previous knowledge about the Romanovs came from the movie Anastasia, so it's not like I was any sort of expert on the family or that time period or anything at all about Russia.  But it still surprised me.  We (I) internalize probably far too much of the faux history presented in fictional tales.  

The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (great title by the way, I love long titles) is more than just a biography of Nicholas Romanov.  It is more even than a biography of him and his family.  This book covers the the legacy of the Romanovs, Nicholas and his family, his poor decisions as a ruler, the Russian aristocracy, the Russian peasantry, the development of the Bolsheviks, Lenin, civil unrest, the revolution, the early attempts at democracy, the transition to communism, the reality of communist Russia not living up to Lenin's ideals, the rise of Stalin, the execution of the royal family, conspiracy theories about the potential escape of some of the royal children, and the discovery of the Romanovs' bodies years later.  Not bad for a children's nonfiction. 

Fleming takes this ambitious scope and presents a narrative that is both interesting and easy to follow.  We really get to know Nicholas and the other Romanovs and we sympathize with them as people.  But we also see how their awful decisions and their oppression of the people led to civil unrest and eventually revolution.

I listened to this on audiobook (which was great for the pronunciations I never would have gotten on my own), so I missed out on all the great photographs in the physical copy.  I've heard they're amazing, so I'll have to drop in at the library and flip through a copy so I can see them.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bree Newsome--Real Life Super Hero

Photo Credit:  Adam Anderson
If you have not yet read about Bree Newsome's beautiful act of civil disobedience, you need to read this story.  We often think of nonviolent protest as a thing of the past, something that Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi did, but not something that happens anymore.  But of course it does.  Racism is not a relic of the past, and neither is protest against it.

I was inspired by Newsome's courage, as well as by the many pieces of art that have sprung up around her action, to write this poem.  

Now is the Time for True Courage
Art Credit: Rebecca Cohen

Do you see her
standing atop that flagpole?
Bree Newsome
scaled 400 years of oppression
to strike down a symbol of hate.

Do you see her?
Avenging angel of Justice
armed not the sword but with
the word of God.
Her cape flutters in the wind
where a flag once flew.
Art Credit:  Eric Orr
She, beacon of hope
standing atop that flagpole,
denounces a heritage of violence.
Justice was on her side
the day Bree Newsome
scaled 400 years of oppression
to strike down a symbol of hate.

Do you see her?
Beautiful Black woman,
warrior of power and truth,
no mask hides her face.
Standing atop that flagpole
Art Credit:  @Niall_JayDubb
she can see the
mothers who went before her
to sit on that bus,
to cross that bridge,
to walk into that school,
to register for that vote,
to worship in that church.
And they were with her the day Bree Newsome
scaled 400 years of oppression
to strike down a symbol of hate.

And I know no one woman can
fly faster than all the bullets speeding into black bodies
Art Credit:  Legends Press Comics
in churches,
on playgrounds,
on streets,
in homes.
But when I see Bree Newsome
scale 400 years of oppression
to strike down a symbol of hate,
I believe in courage.
I believe in hope.
I believe that we can change.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What I'm Reading

I've never been one for TBR posts/videos.  I know a lot of bloggers do them, but they just don't work for me.  I don't plan out my reading schedule month-by-month.  Since I don't accept review copies, I don't need to get to a particular book within a particular timeline; I just finish my current book and then decide to read next based on what I feel like reading.  And I figured that since everything I read would show up in a review, a TBR post would be redundant.  

But now that I'm not doing as many review posts, the redundancy is gone and I feel like talking about what I'm reading, so let's get down to it.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Everyone knows Mango Street, or if they don't they should (but really?  you never read "My Name"?  ever in any of your English classes?  really?  go read it now.)  So I won't bother with a description.  Cisneros' style is really interesting.  She just gives us little snapshots of her life and she has this talent for starting a vignette with a happy optimistic tone and then gut punching  you in the last line. And yet it's not a depressing book.  And the way she crafts her words!  I'm about halfway in and am really enjoying it.

The Family Romanov by Candace Flemming

This biography is ostensibly about the Romanov family, and it is.  But it is as much, if not more, a history of Russia itself in the years leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution as well as the formation of the Soviet Union.  It's really interesting get to know the ruling family better, and I know almost nothing about the formation of the Soviet Union, so this is all new information for me.  Teach me MOAR!  I'm listening to this one on audiobook, so I'm missing out on all the cool pictures, but even the narration is good.  

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (historical fiction), Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (contemporary fiction), How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (contemporary fiction), The Wand in the Word by Leonard S. Marcus (nonfiction, interviews with fantasy writers)

I'm reading this set for a children's literature symposium I'll be attending in a few weeks.  Three days of just listening to these awesome children's authors (plus Gene Luen Yang and Jon Klassen and Marilyn Singer) and buying lots of their books.  I could just go and listen, but the experience is richer (and you can earn credit) if you've read some of their work.  And it's good work; I started The Wand in the Word last night and am really enjoying getting to know some of my favorite authors better.  

Aaaand then there are the many, many stacks and boxes of books from my classroom library that I, ever diligent teacher, thought I might get to over the summer.  

I haven't read a single one so far.



Hey, I actually did read the purple Nathan Hale book down there in the box in the bottom picture.  It's his latest one about Harriet Tubman.  But I bought it after summer started in preparation for a presentation by Nathan Hale so I could have him sign it, so I'm not sure that it counts.  Good book, though.

I would say I was ambitious when I picked out almost 30 books to bring home, but the truth is I was just indecisive.

So that's what I'm reading, or at least what I'm supposed to be reading.  What's in your reading stack these days?  Let me know or leave a link in the comments below.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...