Sirocco: A French Girl Comes of Age in War-Torn Algeria, by Danielle A. Dahl
On All Saints Day, 1954, the Algerian War of Independence from France begins, forever changing the lives of ten-year-old Nanna, her family, and a million-and-a-half French settlers.
As Arab rebels carry out terrorist acts against civilians, hatred and bloodshed permeate the fabric of European and Muslim lives. A safe bus ride to town means keeping an eye out for stray shopping baskets containing hidden bombs. A day trip to the beach requires the protection of a military convoy.
But life goes on, and Nanna’s loving mother, mischievous but good-natured siblings, and kind grandfathers provide plenty of adventure and humor. Nanna worships her Papa, who provides for his family and keeps them safe, but, growing up, she begins to understand that he is also a braggart with unyielding views of right and wrong, who believes that attending a supervised party with boys will compromise a girl’s virtue. Nanna defies him and falls in love, thus setting the stage for an ongoing clash of wills.
As Nanna watches her beloved country torn apart by terrorism, she grieves for the French targeted by the fellagha and for the Arabs they slaughter because they are seen as pro-French. Ultimately, Nanna watches in anguish as the French generals, betrayed by De Gaulle, make a last stand for a French Algeria before laying down their arms.
In the end Nanna’s family, like all the other French settlers, must choose between the suitcase and the grave.
The Last of the Blacksmiths, by Claire Gebben
Michael Harm is a farmer’s son in the Bavarian Rhineland who dreams of excitement and freedom—the sort of life enjoyed by Uncas, the hero in his favorite novel, The Last of the Mohicans. Every day Michael toils beside his brother in the vineyards wishing he could be a blacksmith, a singer, or an adventurer.
One day the Harm family receives a letter from America offering a blacksmithing apprenticeship in a relative’s Cleveland, Ohio wagon-making shop to the eldest son. Michael begs to take his brother’s place, and at age fifteen, leaves his family behind for America. On a storm-tossed Atlantic crossing, he meets Charles Rauch, the son of a Cleveland wagon-maker, his future rival in carriage-making and love.
Michael arrives in an America he can barely comprehend, confronting riots in New York, anti-immigrant bigotry in Cleveland, and his uncle, a cruel blacksmith master. Michael struggles through his indenture, inspired by rags-to-riches stories such as that of presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. He receives his freedom dues just as war threatens to destroy the country he now calls home.
It is not the Civil War, but Cleveland’s post-war Gilded Age, that forces Michael to face his greatest challenge—an accelerating machine age destined to wipe out his livelihood forever. Populated by characters both historical and invented, The Last of the Blacksmiths is a tale of the disruption and dispersal of an immigrant family, the twilight of the artisan crafts, and the efforts of each generation to shape its destiny.
How to Survive Being Alive, by Elton Welke and R. Donald L. Dudley
In 1977, the theory that stress, positive as well as negative, could lead to accidents or illnesses was far outside the mainstream. How could a pleasurable and exciting event such as a promotion, a marriage, a financial windfall, a vacation, or even Christmas be a bad thing? In their book, How to Survive Being Alive, authors Elton Welke and the late Dr. Donald L. Dudley put in plain language what many doctors had always suspected—that the body responds to life’s highs and lows by lowering its defenses. Dudley and Welke’s introduction of life-change scales to laymen clearly identified the possible consequences of experiencing too many changes all at once or making drastic revisions in life-style. They included the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, first created by psycho-physiologists Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe, which provided a practical means of measuring the stress-related consequences that certain events and milestones can precipitate.
How to Survive Being Alive dramatically and permanently changed the dialog between doctor and patient. As a direct result of its publication in 1977, many more doctors began to consider the physical and mental states of their patients, rather than simply treating symptoms.
This classic guide to identifying and learning to cope with stress as well as improving interpersonal relations with others is also surprisingly relevant in our even more hectic twenty-first century world.