- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
Do you know the story about the Smith and Carlos Statue in San Jose State University Campus?
Tommie Smith and John Carlos were the 1968 Olympic gold and bronze medal winners in the 200 meter run and they were the SJSU student activists. Tommie Smith’s raised black-glove represented black power. The knotted black scarf around his neck represented pride and the box in his left hand contained an olive tree sapling, which stood as an emblem of peach. John Carlos’s raised left black-glove represented unity in black America, and the beads around his neck signified lynching suffered by blacks. Both men wore black socks but were shoeless during the ceremony to represent the black poverty in racist America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power as quoted on SJSU Self Guided Tour Handout.
Sohn is the man at the centre of one of the iconic photographs of Olympic history. It is more understated than the snap of Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the black power salute at Mexico '68, but just as powerful. It was taken on 9 August 1936, at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. It shows three athletes on the podium during the medal ceremony of the Olympic marathon. At the back is the British silver medallist Ernie Harper. He is standing tall, shoulders back and head held high, a proud smile on his face. In front of him are two Korean runners, Sohn, gold medallist, and Nam Sung-yong, bronze medallist. Their heads are bowed and both are staring at their feet in, what they later called, "silent shame and outrage". Sohn is clutching a young oak tree to his chest. Nam would later say how envious he was of his team-mate. Not because of colour of his medal, but because unlike Sohn he had no oak tree to cover up the Japanese flag that was emblazoned across his shirt.
Between 1910 and 1948 Korea was under the Japanese rule, who suppressed the indigenous culture and language due to the Japanese imperialism and colonialism during the World War II. The flags that were raised and the anthem that was played to salute Sohn and Nam were not Korean, but Japanese, and the press and the IOC did not award or record the victory as a Korean triumph, but a Japanese one. Sohn was not even allowed to compete under his own name, but went by the Japanese transliteration, Son Kitei.
During his stay in Berlin Sohn tried to tell the would that they should not think of him as Japanese. He would sign his name in Korean characters, and would often draw a small picture of his country alongside his autograph. After the race he tried to tell the newspapermen again and again that he was Korean, not Japanese, but his minders refused to translate his remarks. Montague's mistake was repeated right around the world, with one conspicuous exception. Back in Korea the newspapers blurred the Japanese flag out of the photographs of Sohn. The Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo, which still exists today, carried the photo – with the Japanese flag scratched out – on its front page on 25 August. Immediately afterwards the Japanese government shut the Dong-A Ilbo down for nine months and arrested, then tortured, eight of its journalists as quoted on TheGuardian.
I think the common threads of the two stories are not only bowing their heads during the olympic medal ceremony for the silent protest, but also giving us the lesson about "take a stand” in what we believe in; equality, human rights, respect and freedom of speech etc.
San Jose Public Library Collections
My interest in reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys was two-fold. First, I read about how Sepetys' book-talks were beseiged by Fifty Shades of Grey fans. The author, Ruta Sepetys, says that many Fifty Shades of Grey fans learn something new when they attend her book-talks. Many were not aware of Joseph Stalin's ethnic purges during World War II. Second, as I mentioned in my review for Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin, my husband's grandfather was a victim of one of Stalin's purges. He was taken away during the night and never heard from again. His family had to flee the Soviet Union and endure many hardships when they moved to Germany.
Between Shades of Gray is a unique look at a survivor of one of Stalin's purges. In this case, the main character, Lina, is a Lithuanian. Due to the fact that the Soviet Union was an ally during World War II, many Americans do not know about the extent of Stalin's atrocities towards the educated class from the Baltic states. Lina and her fellow purgees move from various work camps until she finally reaches Siberia. There, many perish due to the extreme cold. Labeled as criminals, Lina and her family labor day to day not knowing what will happen next. Can Lina survive? What about her brother and mother? Will her new love survive?
Sepetys is a descendent of one of those Lithuanian purgees. At the end, she explains about her connection and about what happened to Lina.
I lifted the rifle again and swung the tip of the barrel straight up into the air. I figured I could gradually lower the barrel at the screen, aim, and pick off one of the Japanese troops.
BLAM! The rifle fired off and violently kicked out of my grip.
"Jaaaack!" I heard my mother shriek and then the screen door slammed behind her.
"If I'm not already dead I soon will be," I said to myself.
She pounced on me. "There's blood! You've been shot! Where?" Then she gasped and pointed directly at my face. Her eyes bugged out and her scream was so high-pitched it was silent.
Fictional autobiography, Hell's Angels, history, mystery, comedy, death, horror...Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is all and more. Full of eccentric characters, this novel follows the life of author Jack Gantos during one action-packed summer in his hometown. Meet Miss Volker, who is trying to revitalize a dying town. Meet Mr. Spizz, who polices the town on his adult-sized tricycle. Meet Jack's mother, who believes in bartering jam rather than paying cash. Meet Jack's father, who worries about the "commies" in town and who wants to build a runway in the backyard.
In addition to having a town full of loveable characters, Jack also suffers from nosebleeds that can be triggered by any excitement or surprise. Is it hemochromatosis, like Hemingway? Ugh! This is problematical, of course, since he is helping Miss Volker to write all of the obituaries.
Finally, a whole-summer grounding dampens his summer plans when he mows down a cornfield. How does he get out of it? Who is killing all of the senior citizens? Will he have to move to Florida? Read this extraordinary novel to find out!
Join the West Valley Book Club on October 12 at 6:30pm at West Valley Branch Library as we discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. That's quite the mouthful, right? This month's book club selection is about another very special book club:
Starting in 1946, the letters that make up this cleverly constructed novel provide a vivid snapshot of England after World War II. The book's first entry comes from a young author named Juliet Ashton, who sends a note to her publisher saying that she's tired of writing about the war. But when Dawsey Adams, a farmer in Guernsey, comes across Juliet's name in a book and urges his neighbors to contact her with stories about the German occupation, her attachment to the conflict seems destined to continue. The letters written to Juliet from the warm-hearted, eccentric inhabitants of Guernsey recount various wartime events—some horrific, some humorous—that occurred while the Nazis occupied the English Channel island, including the birth of the unlikely book club known as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. (From Bookpage.com).
Check out this interview with co-author Annie Barrows (also the author of the popular Ivy & Bean children's series) for more information about this book:
Here's one of those rare books that is so enthralling you can't put it down, and you feel a better person for having read the book. For me, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books. Well, I've found another... The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
It takes place in WWII Germany, and while it involves weighty subject matter, it's also uplifting and heartwarming. I can't recommend it enough... for adults and for high school students. SJPL has copies in many formats, including CD and as an electronic download.
If you like The Book Thief, you might also want to read Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.
The 2009 debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford, is a sensitive look back at Seattle during WWII, the trauma of being considered different, and the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent. The sweet coming-of-age story of Henry and Keiko is told with great historic detail.
Something Missing by Matthew Dicks, is also a 2009 debut novel that is quirky, charming, humorous and suspenseful. In it an obsessive-compulsive Barista burgles the houses of people he calls his "clients," and begins trying to improve their lives.
The Little Stranger by veteran author Sarah Waters, is almost more of a suspenseful English country house/family story than a ghost story. Yet its creepy moments are so realistic they will continue to haunt the reader long after finishing the story. In fact, I was left with the nagging feeling that the story was not really over, that somehow the shattered lives of the characters would be re-visited.
In the beautifully-written 2010 debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, the characters of the Major and his late-in-life lady love appear full-blown, as if they could be our neighbors. The poignant cross-cultural family and community complications add heft to the emotional core of the Major's story.