Category Archives: Biography

Brinkley, Douglas: The Wilderness Warrior – Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (2010)

Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library; Theodore Roosevelt in Arizona in 1913.

Once you remove the protective cover of the book, you’ll see that the whole thing is made to look old. The pages are layered, the font is old-fashioned and the pictures are (of course) black and white. Some biographies collect all of their photographs/pictures on a few pages, but I prefer the way Brinkley and his publishers have done it. This way they fit with the text and illustrate the author’s point. “The Wilderness Warrior” is more than an interesting looking book, it is also the story of Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt’s great interest in the preservation of nature.

Teddy “teddy-bear” Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the 26th president of the United States. Being 42 years old at the time of his swearing in, made him the youngest president ever. Nature played an important role to him from early on. As a sickly child, Teddy was home-schooled. To combat his asthma, Teddy chose physical activities as a way to combat the disease. His hyperactiveness probably played a large part in that choice. Later on he became an active hunter. He loved hunting and as a hunter he saw the need for preservation of hunting grounds. Through the power of the various offices he held, Teddy was able to promote this interest in nature and as president establish National parks.

Brinkley writes about Roosevelt in an engaging and interesting manner. He brings the man alive through pictures and personal anecdotes about Teddy. This is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in US History.

Gilbert, Martin: The Boys – Triumph Over Adversity (1996)

ForsideWhen I read “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” I was once again reminded of the story of 732 Jewish boys and girls whose story Martin Gilbert tells in his “The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity“. One book is from the viewpoint of someone standing outside the suffering while the other one is about the kids who went through hell. I’m not a believer in the many after-life versions of hell, but I am certainly a believer in the human ability to create hell for their fellow humans. In fact, we’re really creative in the many ways we cause others pain, and that worries me.

The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity tells such a story. This is the story of children who (along with their siblings and parents) were uprooted from their homes and dragged into the horrors of the Holocaust. These children were originally from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Their lives were the lives of ordinary children with loving parents. As they just below and above ten years old for the most part, these children had no understanding of all of the abrupt changes in their lives. From living in regular homes, they were stuffed into ghettos and then dragged to even worse circumstances.

And then it all ended. No more parents or siblings, all alone in the world after having endured what only few people in the world have had to endure.

After their liberation from the camps, they had to begin rebuilding their lives in Britain. Despite being physically and emotionally drained by their nightmare past, they drew strength from their group. After leaving their hostels, they remained a close-knit and devoted band of siblings. Their families having been destroyed, they created a family among themselves.

So many people ask themselves how something as terrible as the Holocaust could have happened. I doubt there is any one answer to that question. After all, we let history repeat itself all over the world. What I do believe is that we are all capable of becoming something we had never thought was possible. Ervin Staub in his “Roots of Evil” and Max Weber in his “On Bureaucracy” – Iron Cage both try to look at why people are dehumanized and warn us of the consequences.

UN: Women A World Report Part II

UN Women logo
UN Women’s logo

Sometimes a gem just drops into your lap. Our library had a book sale and I bought a bag of books for 50NOK. Inside I found this collection of essays from 1986. In connection with the end of UN’s 1975-1985 this status report was created. In it we find women who meet other cultures and report on what they see. This book was sponsored and compiled by New Internationalist, a cooperative specializing in social justice and world development issues. In addition to publishing its own magazine, it collaborates with the UN and other organizations to produce a wide range of press, television, and educational materials.

The essayists are:

Toril Brekke of Norway meets Kenyan women whose husbands have travelled to the cities to find work.

Angela Davis of the US travels to Egypt where virginity is of prime importance.

Anita Desai travels from India to Norway to investigate gender roles.

Buchi Emecheta of Nigeria travels to the United States to investigate the impact of the education boom on sex roles

Marilyn French of the US investigates the difference between middle-class and poor Indian women.

Germaine Greer of Australia meets the women of Cuba, women who are considered both active comrades and sex-objects.

Elena Poniatowska of Mexico investigates the effects of the sexual revolution on the women of Adelaide, Australia.

Nawal El Saadawi of Egypt meets women involved in political activities seeking to change the definition of family and society.

Manny Shirazi of Iran investigates the impact Soviet socialism has had on the female relatives she meets.

Jill Tweedy of England meets the first generation of literate women in Indonesia