I love having my very first writing teacher--Peggy King Anderson--her voice in my head again. The journey of the Potawatomi's forced removal from their Indiana home to Kansas is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Simu-quah in Two-Moon Journey. What I loved best was how visceral this journey is, how I feel as if I were taking this journey myself (even my feet cramped from the endless walking), tending to the baby and the old and sick, many who die along the way (this is why it's called the Trail of Death), sleeping in strange places and hearing strange sounds, witnessing the violence the soldiers inflict upon her father and others, wondering and worrying about the future. But above all, Simu-quah has her family to guide her, hope, and is able to forgive, to begin her new life in Kansas.
I am sorry to say I never learned about this in any American history class. I hope teachers will include this on their reading lists. It is a thoroughly researched and beautifully told story.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough is an amazing debut (it is her 10th novel so take heart). Lyrical, it tells the story of the artist Artemesia Gentileschi as a young woman, how she painted, the horrific trial she endured, and the two women from the Bible, Susanna and Judith, whose stories gave her the strength to go on. This book is a masterpiece. Of course, I had to look up Artemesia's paintings and I'm not surprised that many of her works are about women mistreated by men.
Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser is the one book about Hamilton you can't afford not to have. It's concise and filled with many of Hamilton's maxims. Ex: "'Tis my maxim to let the plain naked truth speak for itself; and if men won't listen to it, 'tis their own fault." on self-improvement, career, romance, money, relationships and more. However, he had nothing to say about leisure except, "Employ all your leisure in reading." I was particularly fascinated by his facility at writing, how quickly and decisively he wrote. "All the genius I have lies in this...It is the fruit of labor and thought." It's a good guide to the writing life as well.
Acedia & Me: a Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris is a difficult book to describe. I'd never even heard of this word, but by reading this book I've learned not only its meaning but its history, and the role it has played in the author's life. In short, acedia is indifference, and today more people than ever are suffering from it. The front flap says, "left unchecked it has the power to destroy the capacity for joy and to undermine commitments to work, marriage, friendship, faith, and community." The monastic tradition gives an answer on conquering acedia. If you've ever felt depressed or spiritually dead, this book might just give you a lifeline. Kathleen Norris writes like a poet.
The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl is a lovely book full of memories of home and travelling. It is also a little bit sad because I realized partway that she is missing her husband, who passed away. She purposely recounts the visits she makes to places where people made leisure their goal. She begins with two Irish ladies who retire in Wales, followed by a visit to Mendel's monastery, and finally to Bordeaux where Michel Montaigne invented the personal essay. I've never read Montaigne but I found a copy of his essays in Max's pile of books. This book reminded me again of Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. What's stuck with me is how the highest leisure is really that of contemplation and the fruits that arise from it--like music, art, stories. It is such a gift!
I'm happy to say this summer has brought plenty of leisure time. It's what allowed me to learn about self-publishing. I hope you all will steal some time to do what you love if you haven't already done so. Today is our 24th wedding anniversary. So thankful and blessed to be married to a man after God's own heart. I love you, Michael, especially when you make okra and tomatoes from the garden. Yum!