Category Archives: History / Politics

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

The Radium Girls book(Harrowing Historical Nonfiction Bestseller About a Courageous Fight for Justice)

Wow! 5+++ stars! Highly recommend!

This is a harrowing true story about young women, many of them immigrants, who worked in plants in Newark/Orange, NJ and Ottawa, Canada painting watch and clock dials with radium so that the numbers would be luminous. The story takes place in the 1920s.

At the time, radium was said to be very safe. The young women were instructed to insert the paint brushes into their mouths so that the paint brush line would be very thin. “Lip, dip, and paint” was the process they were taught as they dipped their paint brushes into radium paint.

The health issues and excruciating deaths that occurred with many of the women are told in horrific detail. Unfortunately, the majority of dentists, doctors, and supervisors that they went to for advice and evaluation dismissed them.

The existing workers compensation laws during that time were narrowly constrained; radium poisoning claims did not meet the criteria and the statue of limitations was too short.

Yet many of these women continued to fight for their lives and for social and economic justice. Fortunately, there were some doctors, dentists, and attorneys who championed their cause.

This is a riveting story of young women with workplace injuries championing to have their employer provide medical and financial assistance and to prevent other employees from radium poisoning.

Highly recommend!


We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance

We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders book10+++ stars. A must read for those who believe in inclusion, hope and a better world.

Sarsour, one of the co-organizers of the Women’s March, is a warrior for justice. She believes our highest responsibility is to care for one another by showing up and speaking out for the voiceless among us.

The book starts with a powerful foreward by Harry Belafonte. Belafonte marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, JR and John Lewis during the civil rights movement. Belafonte was present and provided the inspiration for the social justice voltron, a powerful trifecta of Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez, when they created the MARCH2JUSTICE.

The march was a 250 mile, nine-day event, from New York to Washington, DC. On the seventh day of the march, Freddie Gray died. He was killed in Baltimore, so the marchers changed their route in order to march on the western side of Baltimore to join other protestors.

Sarsour describes her memoir as a social justice manifesto. She warns that silence immobilizes us. She believes in using our voices as megaphones and states that we must never negotiate away or compromise our principles and values. She advocates for us to join together to become this nation’s unshakable moral compass.

Her memoir is packed with poignant, heart wrenching stories, including the NYPD policing policies and practices against Muslims after 9/11. Through her efforts and the efforts of many others, NY Police Commissioner, William Bratton, in 2014 shuttered the Muslim surveillance program and indicated that the program had not generated any leads to terrorist enterprises. It was at this same point in time that Donald Trump was considering a presidential campaign run.

Part One of Sarsour’s book begins with this quote by Valerie Kaur, founder of the Revolutionary Love Project:

“The passion to change the world flickers in you like a flame, and if you let that light go out, you will be robbing the world of your greatest gift. Your task today is not to know what the future holds; your task is to vow to protect that flame.”

Highly, highly recommend! This is the best book I have read in 2023 and will most likely be the best book I read this entire year.


Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream

Spare Parts bookAn amazing book! Five stars!

A huge thank you to Goodreads friend, Michael Burnam-Fink, for recommending I read Spare Parts. He has also recommended several other books that are on my TBR list.

Joshua Davis has woven a historical and inspirational thriller about four undocumented Latino high school students in Phoenix who enter a NASA contest to build an underwater robot that is evaluated on accomplishing several incredibly challenging tasks. The team from MIT historically won the NASA contest or was in the top three finalists.

The book was made into a movie of the same name, but the movie ends after the winning team is named at the NASA contest.

Life and reality are much different than movies. Davis’ book follows the four students for many years and shows their career and education paths compared to the MIT students’ career paths after the NASA contest.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for being “America’s Toughest Sheriff” during his reign for 24 years in Phoenix between 1993 – 2017 as well as citizen’s support and approval of Proposition 300 impacts these students’ lives. Parts of the book made me very angry because we are allowing talent to be wasted when it can be used to improve our nation.

Highly recommend!


Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times

Read Dangerously book5+++stars. A MUST READ.

Azar Nafisi has written an incredible book that is composed of five chapters about critical authors. These chapters are written as letters to her deceased father who was jailed in Iran for standing up for his beliefs. Nafisi and her father shared a love of literature and freedom of expression and art.

The first chapter is about authors Rushdie, Plato and Bradbury. Last night on August 13, 2022 after I had completed the first chapter, the news was announced that Salman Rushdie was stabbed and attacked onstage during a panel interview. He is currently in the hospital and may lose one eye and an arm and his liver have been damaged.

In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Rushdie’s execution because he felt Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, was blasphemous.

In addition to the evening news about Rushdie, there was conflicting news about whether Donald Trump would have turned over highly classified information that he took to his Mar-Lago residence if he had “just been asked” or if he was asked and received a subpoena several days in advance.

The newscasters also indicated that there is concern/talk about whether the US is headed to a civil war in the future. There was discussion about the “election deniers” who are making progress in current election campaigns in several states. Election deniers are those who feel Trump won the election but it was stolen from him.

Yesterday, Ricky Walter Shiffer, an armed man, tried to enter the Cincinnati FBI office and was killed after a standoff with police.

Book banning at schools, libraries and bookstores has exploded across the country… reading Nafisi’s book was incredibly timely and thought provoking.

Read Dangerously shares parallels between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States. Nafisi has lived in both countries and transparently shares historical and current context of both countries, particularly on topics of exclusion (race, gender, religion, politics, etc).

The quotes at the beginning and the end of the book highlight the role and intersectionality that writers and readers play in changing the world.

“Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.” Edwidge Danticat

“Readers are born free and they ought to remain free.” Vladimir Nabokov

The authors that are highlighted and discussed in each letter (chapter) to her father are:

  1. Rushdie, Plato, Bradbury
  2. Hurston, Morrison
  3. Grossman, Ackerman, Khoury
  4. Atwood
  5. Baldwin, Coates

Nafisi shares that the world knows a lot about America but America doesn’t know much about the world. Americans wear our ignorance of the world casually and good naturedly. Author James Baldwin stated that indifference makes one blind.

America pays little attention to writers and we avoid reading dangerously. Reading fosters a mindset that questions and doubts. Fiction arouses our curiosity and our imaginations.

Reading dangerously teaches us how to deal with those viewed as enemies. Democracy depends on engagement with our adversaries.

Censorship is dangerous to the well-being of societies. When we stop reading, we pave the way for book banning. Different opinions and perspectives are critical for understanding and empathy.

I highly, highly recommend Reading Dangerously. It links writers and readers to the universality of the human experience.