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Articles by " Bev Scott"
14 Jan
2019
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, book review by Bev ScottI laughed out loud, cried with sadness and felt the rush of anger as I read the stories Noah Trevor shares of his childhood and youth in South Africa. His very existence was evidence of a criminal act as the child of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother. His mother kept him hidden until the end of apartheid. With humor, Noah tells of his struggles to find himself in a society in which he did not legally exist even after apartheid fell. He was not any of the legal racial categories, white, black or colored. His stories tell with painful honesty, wit and insight how he tried to fit in, cope and adapt to rejection from one group of kids to another.

His mother, an early partner in his adventures, taught him how to cope in a hostile environment. She is the star of his stories. Deeply religious, rebellious and fearless, she was determined to save her son from the poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately overtook her. Noah was mischievous and naughty, but never hateful or vicious, and frequently punished by her for his misadventures.

This book tells us about the vicious racial history in South Africa and offers a window into its cruel impact through Noah’s touching and relatable stories told with honesty, humor and insight. I highly recommend this book.

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7 Jan
2019
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Book Review: “On the Brink of Everything. Grace, Gravity and Getting Old” by Parker J. Palmer

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

On the Brink of EverythingAccording to the calendar, I am “old” and most people hearing my age would agree. But I have been unwilling to consider myself “old.” As Palmer says, “Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time of life to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good.” I am grateful to stand where I am, with the perspective, learning and experience my life has given me. Parker J. Palmer reveals his sense of humor as he points out that he is “not given to waxing romantic about aging and dying…simply know(ing) that the first is a privilege and the second is not up for negotiation.” I value the privilege.

Yet, On the Brink… is not age-bound. The insights call to anyone who is open to self-exploration, curious about the world and hungry to learn. Palmer also offers a way to find the benefits and joys in aging rather than suffering the bitterness of loss and failure. I find so much confirmation in this small book which offers us a manifesto for engaging life with awe, gratitude, curiosity and openness. Palmer invites us in to his own courageous exploration of both his brokenness and his achievement. With that invitation he calls us to confront our selves and to learn who we are in the present.

Reading On the Brink of Everything was for me like having an intimate conversation with a wise and humble friend willing to share his insights. I highly recommend this book.

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18 Dec
2018
Posted in: Diversity
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Mayor Wilmot Collins

 

Mayor Wilmot Collins, Helena MT

Mayor Wilmot Collins. (Photo: Christian Science Monitor, Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff)

This story inspired me and touched my heart especially since it describes the amazing accomplishments of the man who serves as mayor of the capital of Montana, my home state, and a state that holds the distinction of never before having a black mayor since it became a state. Read all about Mayor Collins here: https://bit.ly/2Bu0cjN

Wilmot Collins’s back story includes escaping the civil war in Liberia, only to end up homeless in Ghana without permission to join his new wife in the U.S. After a miracle connection, he began the arduous process of completing the bureaucratic hurdles to come to the United States.

Now almost 25 years later he is not only the mayor of Helena, Montana, his part-time job, but he also serves as a child protection specialist in his “day job”. In addition, he holds leadership positions in the community– coaching soccer, singing in his Methodist church choir, serving on the board of the United Way, joining the National Guard.

Wilmot Collins stands in stark contrast to the voices of hatred who shout their resistance to allowing immigrants into our country as we have for generations. I have written about diversity as a hope for the future and love as a public ethic. Collins’s visibility and accomplishments demonstrate hope in the potential of immigrants who give back to their communities in gratitude by “channeling their fortitude forged by tribulation into education, community work and public service.” As we hear the heated conversation, hateful slurs and unrealistic fears of immigration critics, we can remind ourselves of the love and enthusiasm of Wilmot Collins, “who has overcome a tumultuous past and is trying to make the most of his future in an adopted land.” I appreciate the residents in Montana who volunteer and offer a loving hand to welcome immigrants from African and Middle Eastern countries who have resettled there. Their actions out-shine their critics.

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30 Nov
2018
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Book Review: “Sold on a Monday” by Kristina McMorris

 

Book reviewed by Bev Scott

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorrisSold on a Monday is Inspired by a photograph of children with the sign “2 Children for Sale” from 1948 which the author Kristina McMorris stumbled upon. The story challenges journalistic integrity, tugs at your heartstrings and offers a sweet love story. Ellis, an aspiring newspaper reporter in the early 1930’s, desperate to advance his career takes a chance on a staged photo. Casually assisted by Lily, another employee of the newspaper, who is guarding her own secret, he gets his big chance.  But guilt pursues him, and he takes more chances with his career to assuage his worry about his contribution to what happened to the children. Lily with her own burden of shame, and a need to balance motherhood and a career, also pursues a dubious path in search of information about the children. Their individual and joint efforts both separate them and bring them together.

McMorris writes a touching yet gripping story. I turned the pages anxious to learn the compelling mystery of the children. The characters are realistically developed and the plot drew me in immediately. My only criticism of the book, is what seems to me to be unrealistic illegal risks taken by Ellis and Lily. Although the country was less suspicious and legalistic than it is today, I wonder if the actions they take to recover the children would have been realistically possible in the 1930’s? On the other hand, it is fiction and a good read.

I recommend this book which I purchased at a reading by the author.

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26 Nov
2018
Posted in: Diversity
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Diversity – Hope for the Future

Diversity, Hope for the Future, blog by Bev Scott

A Possible Future

I recently returned from Hawaii where I saw the possible future. The Hawaiian population has one of the widest cultural blend of race and ethnicities in the world. The old label of the US population as a “melting pot” is truly represented in Hawaii. The white population of Hawaii is drawn from the Protestant Missionaries who had a profound effect on the native Hawaiian culture. American businessmen who established the plantations to grow sugar, pineapple and coffee became the main drivers of immigration. Because disease decimated the native Hawaiian population, plantation owners sought labor from other sources. Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, Koreans, Puerto Rico and Portuguese joined native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in the diversity of the labor force. One can attribute cultural diversity and pluralism in Hawaii to its rich history of immigration.

Leadership in the island appears to be drawn from multiple segments of the population. Governors of the State of Hawaii have been drawn from Filipino, Japanese, white and Hawaiian backgrounds and include one woman. From all accounts the multi-ethnic population of Hawaii lives peaceably together without violence, hatred or bigotry. Although I am sure it is not perfect, it is a great role model!

Diversity and Decision Making

My colleague, Kim Barnes, pointed out the research by Erik Larsen which reinforces the importance of diversity in better decision-making.

Diversity, Decision-making

According to the research, teams outperform individual decision makers 66% of the time, and decision making improves as team diversity increases. Compared to individual decision makers, all-male teams make better business decisions 58% of the time, while gender diverse teams do so 73% of the time. Teams that also include a wide range of ages and different geographic locations make better business decisions 87% of the time.[1]

Bringing together men and women who have diverse ages and backgrounds makes for the best decision-making.

From the natural world, we learn about biodiversity. Biodiversity boosts productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.

The United States, not just the state of Hawaii, is a country formed by immigrants from many other countries in the world. It is, then, no accident then that the U.S. produces successful innovators and is an economic power house. Like the natural world where a mixture of species contributes to biological vigor, the cultural mixture of our population has contributed to vibrant creativity and innovation.

Diversity, biodiversity

Losing the Benefits of Diversity

Today, many of us worry about losing this vibrant creativity, openness and humanity. We have been horrified by mass shootings fueled by hatred and bigotry; most of us reject the use of racial and ethnic stereotypes. Yet no disease in the United States is more in need of curing than racism. It breeds irrational fears that in turn lead to political divisiveness, violence and economic inequality. We decry the dysfunction, division and inaction we see in the Congress and reject the words, actions and immorality of the President.

We voice our support for compassion, equality, democracy and the right to vote. Yet, it is not just the radical right, the Republicans or the white non-voters who have contributed to this state of affairs. It is also people like me, and perhaps you, the reader, that make it unlikely that we will cure racism, stop bigotry and hatred or heal the divisiveness that has torn our country apart. Instead, we may slide into increasing isolation, anger and racist outbursts.

 

We can continue to live in comfort in an economically homogenous neighborhood, socialize with those who are educated and think like us, attend worship services with those who hold common beliefs and work with colleagues in similar professions. I am happy for the success of Democratic candidates and, the diversity of those candidates. I don’t hate those who have different beliefs or political affiliations. I do hope that a “bluer” political environment might mean some change in the direction of my values. But will a “blue” political result in much change?

Diversity, Hope for the Future

We tend to see “the other” as a stranger, even an opponent and we label them criminal, illegal, immoral or savage. Because we lack exposure or experience, we feel threatened by those we don’t know. Fear unexpressed can lead to rage, attack and violence. We don’t have encouragement to seek out strangers, to find ways to overcome our fear, to include those who threaten us.

We lack diversity in our lives and most of us don’t seek it out. It is easier, more comfortable and less threatening to be with people who are mostly like us, who speak a similar language, who represent similar values. In our homogeneous bubbles, we let our fears influence where we live, where we go and who we meet limiting our experience and exposure to those who are different than we are. That limited exposure and experience feeds fear, ignorance and racism.

Valuing Diversity and Difference

Above, I presented the real-world examples of the benefits diversity supported by the research data on advantages of diverse teams. I believe we need to expand the diversity in our lives before we will be willing to change and address racism and the horrors of violence. We must include those who are different from ourselves, seek out perspectives to help us solve the issues that overwhelm us, explore radical options to break down structural barriers and listen with openness to voices demanding change.Diversity, Hope, Love

I don’t have a list of steps to begin this process. But I think we must begin by talking, listening and as Valerie Kaur, founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, advocates, loving. She promotes love as a public ethic and the wellspring for social change. We must love ourselves, love others and love our opponents. If we are open to exchange ideas, explore options, value and love each other, we can create alternatives that will honor and respect the diversity of life, and move us toward a possible future of opportunity, creativity, innovation, peace, compassion and equality.


[1] Erik Larsen, “New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision-making at Work.” Forbes Magazine, September 21, 2017

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21 Nov
2018
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Book Review: “Reliance, Illinois” by Mary Volmer

Reliance Illinois, by Mary Volmer

Reviewed by Bev Scott

I purchased this book at a reading by the author, Mary Volmer.

A fascinating story, set in 1874 on the Mississippi River. The protagonist is a teenage girl of thirteen, Madelyn Branch who pretends to be the younger sister of her beautiful mother, Rebecca, when they arrive in Reliance for her mother’s marriage to a never-met “business man” found in the “Matrimonial Times.” Mr. Dryfus is unhappily surprised because he did not expect his new wife to come with a spirited teenager. Maddy has some unique challenges to confront as well as the usual teenage longing to be pretty and loved. Unwanted in her mother’s new relationship, Maddy takes advantage of an opportunity in the household of the eccentric, wealthy Miss Rose becoming both servant and student. As she searches for her own path, she gets involved in social justice issues, radical early “feminist” schemes and faces the realities of romantic love.

The character of Maddy is finely developed. Both she and the secondary characters are drawn with complexity. As the plot unfolds the author reveals yet another secret, keeping the reader fully engaged until the surprising end of the story. With beautiful writing, vivid description and complexity of character and plot, I highly recommend this book.

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13 Nov
2018
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Book Review: “Sweden” by Matthew Turner

Sweden, Book Review

Reviewed by Bev Scott

This book, written as historical fiction, offers a mostly unknown story of deserters from the Vietnam War and their Japanese peace activist guides committed to help them get out of Japan and escape to Sweden. I found the story of their perilous efforts to escape both the Japanese police and the US military fascinating. I was a young adult at the time of the Vietnam War but the true experiences described in this book were unique and totally new to me. The characters were realistic and the descriptions of events in both Japan and the US seemed historically accurate.

My criticism of the book is that it moved too slowly with more description than necessary of the deserters’ experiences in the Japanese culture and environment. I found myself often bored and skipping paragraphs to move the story along. In addition, the introduction of characters at the beginning of the book was confusing to me. Some serious editing to address these issues would make this a compelling and vivid story.

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10 Oct
2018
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Book Review: “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate

 

Book reviewed by Bev Scott, Author

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa WingateBefore We Were Yours, in the words of the author, was “formed from the dust of imagination and the muddy waters of the Mississippi.” It also recounts experiences similar to those of real children taken from their families during the 1920’s through the 1950’s and who were victims of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

Families Torn Apart

Countless children taken from loving families without cause or permission were never seen again by their biological families. Yes, some children were unwanted or rescued from dire situations. Many children, adopted out to families all over the country, were taken off the porch, kidnapped in broad daylight or removed from families using lies and deception. They were not given enough food or proper medical care. They were beaten, tied to beds and chairs and locked in dark closets. Undesirable or problem often children disappeared. Adoptive families were sometimes blackmailed for more money. Paperwork vanished leaving no record of the children’s prior lives. Georgia Tann brutalized these children with the support of the family court system, police and other corrupt officials.

Two Stories

In alternate chapters, Lisa Wingate tells two stories which ultimately come together at the end of the book. Avery Stafford is one of the daughters of Senator Stafford from Aiken, South Carolina. She is a lawyer practicing in Washington, D.C., engaged to her childhood sweetheart and being groomed to take over her father’s Senate seat. At one of her father’s events staged at a nursing home, Avery is confronted by a new resident, May, who has glimmers of recognition in seeing Avery who looks like her grandmother. May claims the dragonfly bracelet from Avery’s arm and appears to know Avery’s grandmother. Avery is intrigued by the mystery of May and begins to investigate the potential relationship with her grandmother fearing there is some scandal involved that would cause damage to the reputation of the Stafford family.

Alternately, we learn of the five children Rill, Camellia, Lark, Fern and Gabion who live on a shanty boat on the river with loving but unconventional parents, Briny and Queenie. The children are left alone when Briny takes Queenie to the hospital for medical care for a difficult delivery of twins. They are “kidnapped” from the boat by the police and taken to the house of horrors managed by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. After weeks of uncertainty and fear yet hoping that Briny will come for them, they discover the brutal truth of their situation. Camellia disappears, perhaps dying from injuries suffered from a beating. Rill, the oldest at twelve, is told that Camellia never existed, that there were “only four of you.” Lark and Gabion are the first to be adopted out followed by Fern and Rill.

Summary

Wingate provides gripping descriptions of horrors the children suffer. Avery’s search for clues to solve the mysterious connection between her grandmother and the enigmatic May is compelling.  Alternating chapters to develop the characters and the plot of the two stories is well done. The character of Avery seems a bit shallow in contrast to the depth of the shanty boat children. Perhaps it is her rationale for her search that is shallow, the reputation of the Stafford family. I couldn’t help believing that Avery had some additional personal motivations.

I recommend this impactful book. For several days, I shuddered thinking about the horrors these fictional, as well as the real children, suffered at the hands of a greedy, manipulative, and unscrupulous woman. Fortunately, for some children, there were “happy endings.”

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2 Oct
2018

A Book Tour in Nebraska

Sunrise in Thedford, Nebraska

Sunrise in Thedford, Nebraska (2018)

We are standing at the intersection of US 83 and Nebraska Highway 2 reading the highway sign about the Sand Hills outside Thedford, Nebraska when I see the Dollar General Store across the Highway. Then I remember what the volunteer at the Historical Museum said about the land my great grandparents homesteaded. We found the homestead on an old plat map with Irvin Russell’s name. She said it was at this intersection where the Dollar General Store was built!

This was just one of the highlights of my fabulous 10 days on a book tour in Nebraska…yes Nebraska!  Readers will know that a section of Sarah’s Secret takes place in Nebraska. And others will know that I was born in Nebraska and have many family roots there. I traveled with my spouse who served as my driver and my very able assistant. This trip was a great opportunity to tell my genealogy story Searching for Family Secrets and read from Sarah’s Secret.

The Back Story

In 2011 when I was searching for information about my mysterious paternal grandfather, we visited the Thomas County Historical Museum in Thedford. My great grandparents, Irvin and Lydia Dodd Russell homesteaded there. My grandmother, Ellen Russell married Harvey Depew Scott in Thedford in 1892. One of the museum volunteers, Helen White, was very helpful in my search. When my book came out, I sent her a copy to thank her. She encouraged me to come to Nebraska. This spring she connected me to Terry Licking, President of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, who seems to know everyone across the state of Nebraska. Through Terry’s connections I was booked across the state into Historical Museums and Libraries to tell the genealogy story of Searching for Family Secrets and to read from Sarah’s Secret.

Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

The Experience of Nebraska

I learned even more about Nebraska. The historic Oregon, California and Mormon Trails dug into the Nebraska sod across the state and are memorialized at the Scotts Bluff monument just outside the town of Scottsbluff where I was born. I learned at the Legacy of the Plains in Gering and the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance about the challenges of the early pioneers trying to survive by farming and discovering the Sandhill grasslands were better suited to raising livestock.

We learned about the valuable water from the Ogallala Aquifer a vast underground reservoir which lies under almost all of Nebraska and parts of six other states. The survival of this valuable source of water is threatened, but Nebraska has put protections in place. We heard a story about Ted Turner and Jane Fonda blowing a multi-million dollar ranch sale because Jane preferred bottled water over the fresh water from the Ogallala Aquifer.

We had some great meals, often steak and chops. We found a gourmet restaurant in Scottsbluff that even carried California wines. The Emporium was so wonderful we had dinner there twice. In Broken Bow the restaurant at our hotel, the Arrowhead was excellent and my favorite meal was the walleye pike. We enjoyed fascinating discussions and a good meal at a gathering of neighbors when we visited friends in Lincoln.

Mullen Nebraska sign

Did you know that there is one of the 100 Best Golf Courses in the little town of Mullen? It is one of the most natural golf courses, ranked ninth in the best of the world.

In many of the places we visited, it was clear that those pioneers who settled Nebraska were mostly of white European descent. And because it is very white, we were conscious that it was much easier for us to travel across the state than if we were of color. But we were interested to learn about DeWitty, the largest and longest-lasting African American settlement in rural Nebraska. The settlers many from Canada were lured by the opportunity for free land after the Kincaid Act was passed in 1904 offering homesteaders 640 acres instead of the 160 acres of the first Homestead Act in 1864. The town was settled in 1907 and grew to 82 residents in 1910. The last resident left the area in 1936. The history of DeWitty reports that white and black settlers in the area treated each other as neighbors, helping out in times of need.

Custer County Museum, Nebraska

Custer County Museum exhibit

Genealogy and Book Readings

I met wonderful people some whom have moved into town, others who still ranch and raise cattle. The audiences in my sessions included people interested in genealogy who have intriguing and mysterious stories in their families, too. They asked many questions about the facts I uncovered about my grandfather and the missing information I was not able to find. They were interested in how I turned my family story into fiction. Others liked to read historical fiction and were intrigued by the story I had created. And they left the sessions with a book under their arm!

I took advantage of my visits and conducted more genealogy research, looking for additional information about family members who settled in the Thedford area. I not only found the plat map to identify the family homestead but I also found a copy of my great grandfather’s will from the County Court House. My maternal great grandparents also homesteaded in Nebraska near Broken Bow. Although I had visited before, I spent time looking for more information at the Custer County Historical Museum, too. I followed up on suspected related families and found the will of my great, great grandmother in the Custer County Court House.

Sunflowers, Nebraska

Back Home

I returned to San Francisco appreciating our natural air conditioning; In Nebraska, it was 85 to 95 degrees most days of our trip. Driving west to east and back, I appreciate the rolling hills, the green prairies and the flashy yellow sunflowers. Nebraska isn’t dramatic but it is a very pretty state. I am proud to claim it as my birthplace. I plan to go back to visit again.

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6 Sep
2018

National Read a Book Day

National Read A Book Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is “National Read a Book Day.”

Most of us are busy working, looking at our phones, exercising, watching our usual TV programs.  We put off reading until vacation or “when I have time.” Many of us have a stack of books beside our bed but we fall asleep before we read more than a paragraph.

Today, take a book off your stack of “books to read.” Or if you need a good book, go to your local library, visit your neighborhood independent bookstore or go on line at Hometown Reads to choose a book by a local author.

Today is a day to skip exercise, put off watching TV and ignore your phone. Instead, find a comfortable chair, your favorite beverage and open a book in your favorite genre. Take a deep breath and enjoy reading!

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