30 November 2021

Books Completed Since November 1

book icon  This Land is Their Land, David J. Silverman
For hundreds of years, different Algonquin tribes lived in the area we now call "New England": the Narragansett, the Wampanoag, the Massachusett, the Abenaki, the Mohegan, and the Pequot among others hunted, farmed, and fished, traveling to water areas in the summer and winter quarters as the weather grew colder. They had no great cities or even towns, but were self-governing (with not just male but female leaders) with lawful inhabitants. In the 16th century they began being visited by ships from across the ocean inhabited by men who wanted to trade but who also wanted to steal or capture Natives for slaves. In the early 17th century, these interlopers decided to settle on land that was part of these Native tribes' fishing or hunting grounds. Early dealings were mainly peaceful, and the Natives helped these new settlers, but as they began overrunning the land and taking it by trickery, relationships soured, leading to "King Philip's War" (Philip being the name for the Wampanoag sachem Metacom) and the eventual subjugation of the New England tribes.

It's not a pretty story, but it's pretty much the history of the world, with one civilization overrunning another without regard to feelings or mercy. The Wampanoag took the English at their word, as did the Narragansett and the Mohegans, and allied themselves with the English to defeat their traditional enemies, not knowing the people they were trusting would eventually take their land by trickery or by their new laws, and having no way to fight off a burgeoning English population.

The book corrects many misconceptions, such as the Indians having had little contact with the English before the landing at Plymouth except for a couple of trade ships (they had much more contact and were therefore wary of the new settlers), and that Indians "vanished" from New England after King Philip's War (in fact they did not and were further badly treated when they began to intermarry with former slaves and thus considered no longer "Indians" but "Negroes" with even less status).

The subtitle of this is "The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving," but it does acknowledge that the traditional "Thanksgiving story" several generations of children learned in school was invented by Victorian-era Americans endeavoring to teach American history to the new flood of immigrants coming into the country in the late 19th and early 20th century. An unflinching look at a Victorian-made myth that has stained the history of Thanksgiving with blood.

book icon  Weetamoo: Heart of the Pocassets, Patricia Clark Smith
This is part of Scholastic's "Royal Diaries" series, which like the "Dear America" books, involve a 10- to 14-year-old girl in historic settings. (The Royal Diaries are not, however, reserved to the United States: there is a book about Queen Victoria, another about Marie Antoinette, etc.) However, this book features a rare American character, Weetamoo, daughter of the sachem of the Wamponaug people who lived on the land that is now part of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Smith, a descendant of the Micmac people of New England, has used her own heritage as a basis for this story of the Native American people and how they lived just as the "Coat-men" (English) are arriving on American shores. As with all these stories, Weetamoo faces the usual growing pains while learning her responsibilities as a member of the tribe.

This is a sobering book to read after the Silverman volume, since one of the men Weetamoo married was the ill-fated Wamsutta, brother of Metacom, who was later known as "King Philip" and savagely defeated in the English/Native conflict known as "King Philip's War." She met a sad end by drowning fleeing her now English enemy, but was spared the fate of her sister, who married Metacom and was sold into slavery at a sugar plantation along with her son.

The fact that Smith has done her homework as well as incorporating her own heritage makes this a better than usual entry in the series.

book icon  Doctor Who's Greatest Hits (Remastered), R. Alan Siler
Here's my original review:
Okay, I admit I'm a little prejudiced about this book since I know the author. On the other hand, I love books of lists, and since this is a book of lists about Doctor Who episodes, it's now a triple threat of goodness.

The one novelty about this book is that the author includes episodes of the series that aren't usually included in lists of this kind; "The Gunfighters," for instance, never makes a list of 10 (or 25, or whatever) "best episodes." But then these aren't always the "best," but episodes Alan finds notable for reasons he explains ("The Gunfighters" for its setting and for William Hartnell's delight in his role and also because it's one of the historical episodes that were later dropped from the show).

My favorite part of this book is that I can hear Alan's voice in it; it's a nice informal countdown of his favorite bits, characters, etc. and he doesn't mind telling you straight out about things that bother him as well. Doctor Who fans should certainly enjoy.

And now for the reboot:
Can I squee? Thirty brand-new chapters, including a new chapter on the show's origin. New Illustrations! Each story "placed in its Cultural Context"! Recommended viewing of other episodes similar to or related to the one reviewed! Up to date through the 2019 episode "Resolution"! Best of all, lots more of Alan, and it's been edited so well you can't tell which is the old and which is the new. Doctor Who fans will still enjoy!

book icon  Murder at St. Winifred's Academy, J.D. Griffo
The title makes this sound as if it's about a death at a school, but actually takes place at the theater at St. Winifred's, where the local repertory company is about to do a production of Arsenic and Old Lace. The theater company director, Nola Kirkpatrick, who the "Ferrara women" (65-year-old Alberta Scaglione, our protagonist; her sister the ex-nun Helen; her former sister-in-law Joyce; and her granddaughter Gina, known as "Jinx") cleared of murder recently, has scored a coup: former child actress Missy Michaels will play one of the leads in the play. The Ferrara gang, Alberta's boyfriend Sloan, and Helen's nemesis Father Sal were all big Missy Michaels fans, so they wait to welcome her with open arms, only to find her dead in her dressing room, presumably of suicide—until Alberta takes a close look at the corpse and knows it's murder!

These cozies with the Ferrara ladies are written as serio-comic, but this one seems more madcap than usual, with Father Sal turning out to be a complete fanboy, Helen jockeying for the lead opposite Missy, and even dependable Vinny D'Angelo, the local sheriff (and the kid Alberta used to babysit), involved in some secret project of his own. The Missy Michaels movies cited seem to be based on Shirley Temple, but read as really out of place for a series of films that began in 1957. The titles sound more like Whitman kids' books (like Trixie Belden or Donna Parker) than 1950s-1960s movie titles, and the films sound more like something that would have been hits in the 1930s or 1940s. Add Nola's frenetic director boyfriend Johnny, a directionally-challenged actor named Kip, a secret room, and a main character who's not introduced until the final third of the book, and you have a story that's rather scattershot, although the mystery is fairly complicated.

Luckily I love all the Italian characters, although I don't know how they stay healthy with the monumental meals they keep eating!

book icon  Once Upon a Wardrobe, Patti Callahan

Once again I haven't been reading a lot because I've been writing.