Archive

Posts Tagged ‘commune’

Women and the Vietnam War – 5 Nonfiction Reads

Women and the Vietnam War - 5 Nonfiction ReadsTo celebrate Women’s History Month, I thought it’d be fun to assemble a reading list looking specifically at the women’s history aspect of a particular historical event. When I thought about it, I couldn’t easily think off the top of my head of any books about women and the Vietnam War, so I decided to build my list on that. It taught me something while I was assembling the list for you.

I tried to cover both women part of the War, as well as women protesting the War or part of the counterculture. All book blurbs come from either GoodReads or Amazon.

Women and the Vietnam War - 5 Nonfiction ReadsDaughters of Aquarius: Women of the Sixties Counterculture
by: Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo
Publication Date: 1997
Blurb:
“Hippie women” have alternately been seen as earth mothers or love goddesses, virgins or vamps-images that have obscured the real complexity of their lives. Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo now takes readers back to Haight Ashbury and country communes to reveal how they experienced and shaped the counterculture. She draws on the personal recollections of women who were there–including such pivotal figures as Lenore Kendall, Diane DiPrima, and Carolyn Adams–to gain insight into what made counterculture women tick, how they lived their days, and how they envisioned their lives.

This is the first book to focus specifically on women of the counterculture. It describes how gender was perceived within the movement, with women taking on much of the responsibility for sustaining communes. It also examines the lives of younger runaways and daughters who shared the lifestyle. And while it explores the search for self enlightenment at the core of the counterculture experience, it also recounts the problems faced by those who resisted the expectations of “free love” and discusses the sexism experienced by women in the arts.

Women and the Vietnam War - 5 Nonfiction ReadsHands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC
by: Faith S. Holsaert, et al
Publication Date: 2010
Blurb:
Fifty-two women–northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina–share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement.

The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and freedom rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism.

Women and the Vietnam War - 5 Nonfiction ReadsHome Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam
By: Lynda Van Devanter
Publication Date: 1983
Blurb:
On June 8, 1969, a patriotic, happy-go-lucky young nurse fresh out of basic training arrived in Vietnam to serve a year’s tour of duty as a second lieutenant in the Army. It was a year that was to rob Lynda Van Devanter of her youth, her patriotism, her innocence – and her future.

Women and the Vietnam War - 5 Nonfiction ReadsUnfriendly Fire: A Mother’s Memoir
By: Peg Mullen
Publication Date: 1995
Blurb:
Outspoken, fearless, and wickedly humorous, Peg Mullen tells the story of her transformation from an ordinary farm woman into a nationally recognized peace activist following the death of her oldest son, who was killed by artillery misfire in the Vietnam War.

Women and the Vietnam War - 5 Nonfiction ReadsThe Valiant Women of the Vietnam War
By: Karen Zeinert
Publication Date: 2000
Blurb:
From journalists and nurses to those who mobilized to protest or support the war effort on the home front, women of all ages took advantage of the changing social climate of the 1960s to break free of their traditional roles. A discussion of Vietnamese women’s roles in the conflict is included.

Book Review: I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby

July 26, 2011 3 comments

Woman in traditional Hutterite garb in a field.Summary:
Mary Ann Kirkby recounts her unique childhood in her memoir.  She was born into a Hutterite family.  The Hutterites are a religious sect similar to the Amish only they believe that living communally is a mandate for Christians.  Mary Ann recounts her childhood both in the religious sect (her particular group was located in western Canada), as well as the journey and culture shock she went through when her parents left the Hutterites when she was nine years old.

Review:
I actually read this memoir because of the situation in which I first ran into Hutterites and have been fascinated with them ever since.  For a couple of years, my father and brother lived in Montana.  I went to visit them and was shopping in Victoria’s Secret at the mall and rounded the corner to discover traditionally-garbed Hutterite women buying thongs.  I had no idea what a Hutterite was, but instantly hunted down my brother elsewhere in the mall to find out who these people were.  All that the “English” seemed to know about them was that they lived in a commune, dressed kind of like the Amish but different, traveled all together to town in a few big vans, and the Hutterite women were always buying thongs at Victoria’s Secret.  Hutterites are rather quiet about their lifestyle though, so when I stumbled across this on a new releases list, I knew I needed to read it to find out more about the community.

This is a completely fascinating memoir that I devoured in one day.  Mary Ann is able to see both the faults and the beauty of various experiences in her childhood with the clear eye of an adult.  Yet simultaneously she harbors no ill-well toward either the Hutterites or her parents or any of those who made her transition from a Hutterite girl to an “English” woman more difficult.  Kirkby writes with a sympathetic ear to all those she encountered in her life, which is a refreshing change in the memoir genre.

Additionally Kirkby’s writing offers an immersion into the fascinating world of communal living with a religious belief system to hold it all in place.  Kirkby recounts a childhood where no homes were kept locked, everyone was always welcome in everyone else’s home, and most meals of the day were eaten communally with your age-mates.  In fact, one of the biggest changes for Kirkby when her family left the Hutterites was suddenly needing to interact with her siblings on a regular basis instead of her same-age female friends.  She also had trouble understanding the English need for privacy in the home or the relative silence with which meals were eaten.

Another point of interest is that Kirkby’s father was from a Russian family that was persecuted in Europe and had to run to Canada to escape the Nazis.  His father sought refuge and a sense of safety in the community of the Hutterites.  Conversely, her father who grew up in this safety found himself craving more freedom than the strict rules and constructs of the commune would allow for.  The book thus not only recounts a unique girlhood and insight into the Hutterite way of life, but also addresses the age-old question of freedom versus security.

Anyone interested in the Hutterite communities or unique childhoods will absolutely enjoy this memoir.  It is well-written, intriguing, and contains not a trace of bitterness.  I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

Book Review: S by John Updike

November 29, 2010 2 comments

Giant red letter S on a green background.Summary:
Letters, both hand-written and recorded onto tapes, tell the story of Sarah, a North Shore housewife of a wealthy Massachusetts General Hospital doctor who one day in 1986 decides to go and join a commune in the Arizona desert.  Gradually through the letters both her past and her experiences in the commune are revealed.

Review:
I was intrigued by this book for multiple reasons.  I’ve always enjoyed epistolary novels.  I found Updike’s more famous novel, The Three Witches of Eastwick, endlessly entertaining.  Also, I’ve always been fascinated by communes and cults.  This book certainly contains all three elements.  Sarah’s letters compel the reader to get through them as quickly as possible.  Whether she’s discussing the commune or her past life on the North Shore, the letters are truly fascinating.  Perhaps this is partly because there’s a Stepford-wife like quality to Sarah’s past life, and her current life is so over the top from anything most modern Americans experience.  It provides a fascinating contrast.

The book therefore starts out strong, but falters more and more the further toward the end it gets.  The more about Sarah is revealed, the less sympathetic she becomes.  Additionally, due to the nature of the epistolary novel, some of her actions are not entirely revealed, thus leaving the ending a bit confusing.  Frankly, the ending simultaneously surprised and disappointed me.  I was left wondering what on earth Updike’s point had been.  Was it a feminist stance?  Was it misogynistic?  Was it just a portrait of a person?  The great variety between all these possibilities should demonstrate how confusing the ending is.

It’s interesting to note that Sarah is depicted as a descendant of Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter.  I’m sure this plays into the interpretation of the book a great deal, although personally, I am not sure how.

Overall, this epistolary novel starts out strong and engaging, but the ending leaves the reader a bit confused and let down.  If you’re a big Updike or epistolary novel fan, you will still enjoy the book enough to make it worth your while to read, but all others should probably give it a pass.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Swap.com

Buy It