“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it..”
Book and Author of the Week
In the Garden of the Beasts
By Ron Larson
Over the years, I have grown fond of Ron Larson’s narration as a writer of history as he has an uncanny knack of capturing the human spirit of the event that he is writing about and in this book there is no exception as he writes about William E. Dodd, an academic chosen by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the United States ambassador to Germany in 1933. Mired in a deep economic depression along with the shame thrust on them by the Versailles Treaty, Germany had just chosen a little known man to lead their nation. As the head of the Fascist Party in Germany, Adolph Hitler had already surrounded himself with his henchmen, Goering, Goebels, and Himmler as he continued to his meteoric rise to power.
In this very personal account of a man thrust on the world stage without any warning or experience, Dodd becomes almost a sympathetic character in this struggle for power in this shattered country. With Hindenburg in poor health, Germany is waiting for a leader to take them forward. Without hesitation, Hitler steps in to fill the void. In the meantime, Dodd acting as the leading diplomat, throws parties in which this cast of unlikely heroes attend and debate protocol and politics in a very dangerous setting. While his daughter Martha falls in love with a Russian protege who is married causing scandal after scandal, Dodd who was raised on a farm in Illinois continues to be swept up in the intrigue.
And then Larson steps up to the plate and delivers a homerun. He talks about the pogrom of 1934 from William Dodd’s perspective, noting that many of his former party guests have been executed in this bloody put down of a suspected coup of Hitler until people walking the street remarked to each other, “Lebst du noch?” or are you still living? This broke the will of Dodd as he found he could not look Hitler or any of his henchmen in the eyes any longer. Due to is ineptness as ambassitor, Dodd was called home in 1937 where he warned FDR about the future genocide, on a scale never before seen that was about to take place in Germany after his departure from Berlin, but his warnings fell on deaf ears in Congress.
What is so haunting about this book to me is that the warning is still sounding and are we going to choose to ignore it like they did in Berlin in 1934 or are we going to say, “Never again?” This book is one of his best and he has written a few very noteworthy ones in my estimation.
Author of the Week
Passing of an American Icon
Nobel Prize Winner of Literature
The world has lost one of its most powerful voices with the passing of Toni Morrison on August 5, 2019. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and is considered one of the most influential writers of her time, Toni Morrison will live on in the books she has left behind. In case you were not aware, her literary legacy is a true American Treasure from her most famous book Beloved about a mother who murders her own child rather than have that child live in slavery. Later the ghost of her child comes back as the ghost of slavery will never be erased. Some of her other books add to that powerful conscience of African American Literature that included; The Bluest Eyes, Song of Solomon, Jazz, Sula, and Tar Baby. She also wrote children’s books. Her main contribution was a social awareness of all people in our diverse country.
I wish I could have spent just a few minutes to talk to her while she was still here with us and since that won’t happen, I encourage you to take a look at the impressive work she left behind. In reading her words, we can hear the voice that helped change our perspective on race in America. Harking back to the Harlem Renaissance, I can hear the voices of a people longing to share in the dream that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. talked about over fifty years ago. God bless you Toni Morrison and thank you so much.