In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies is one of many novels written by Julia Alvarez. Although it’s not as well known, the book serves as an impactful demonstration of woman empowerment and fighting for justice in an unjust government. All of the characters have their own unique personalities, a connection between fiction and history.

The novel is a work of historical fiction, therefore most of the characters are actually real people. Taking place in the 1960s, three sisters have been reported dead at the bottom of a cliff. The fourth sister, Dedé Mirabal, lives to tell the tale of the three heroic activists. Based on Dedé’s story, the sisters who passed were the primary opponents of General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a dictator of the Dominican Republic at the time. Throughout the novel, the perspectives of all four Mirabal sisters are portrayed as they grow older. From secret crushes to stashing guns in their own homes, the sisters depict the horrors of living under Trujillo’s oppressive regime, but also their interpersonal conflicts with the people they love.

There are multiple themes within this novel, such as racial, gender, and economic injustices, political conflicts, and finding courage in the face of adversity. As a woman myself, it’s always fascinating to see literature with underlying tones of a fight for gender equity and equality. Considering that the books I’ve read throughout my entire life were primarily written by male authors, this was definitely a breath of fresh air. It’s even more inspiring when readers realize that this novel is a work of historical fiction, that these characters have actually faced similar abhorrent situations in their lives. I applaud Julia Alvarez for being able to turn a book filled with many heavy themes and subjects, into a novel that’s light and heartfelt for young adult readers.

There’s a perfect balance between the plot and various themes of the novel, therefore the content is not too heavy for readers to understand. The only thing the book truly lacks would be plot twists and events that would drag the reader into the novel itself. Nonetheless, I highly recommend others to read this book, especially if they’re interested in historical political conflicts or female activism.

-Natasha P.

In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

“Ohio” by Neil Young: The Greatest Protest Song

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming

We’re finally on our own

This Summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio

This is the introduction and hook of Ohio by legendary musician Neil Young. It was released a month after the Kent State massacre, an event in which the Ohio National Gaurd opened fire on a group of anti-war protestors. It tragically killed 4 of the protestors, paralyzed one, and wounded 8 others (History Channel, 2021). The event cause mass outrage and there were many responses, the greatest was from Neil Young. 

Young starts the song by referencing Tin soldiers and Nixon, the men who carried out and allow the attack. But there’s more to the ‘Tin soldiers”, firstly Young is calling them out for being pawns to their masters, following orders without any empathy. But he’s also calling out the fact that many in the national guard were young, inexperienced, fake soldiers parading as real ones. Next Neil explains the feeling of his generation, on their own, the older generation and the government have abandoned them. They spend their summers hearing the drumming of marches, and the drumming of guns. Which eventually culminated in four dead in Ohio. This leads into the verse,

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

This of course describes the event more, but it also pleads for empathy. Neil wants the soldiers and those in charge of the war in Vietnam to imagine if they knew one of the victims. He accuses them of cowardice, running away from something that should have never occurred. He also informers them of the protestors’ message, that the war in Vietnam should have been done long ago. 

The bridge of the song is a repetitive chant of “na na na na na na na”, which allowed the song to easily sang at protests. The recording of the song itself uses multiple voices for this portion of the song. The ending is also repetitive, with Young sounding more and more desperate as he echos out

Four dead in Ohio

-Parker K.

Bibliography:

History Channel Article https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/national-guard-kills-four-at-kent-state

Everything You Need to Ace World History in One Big Fat Notebook

This book covers the social studies units from 6th to 8th grade. It starts off with 6th grade, covering prehistory and the Paleolithic era. It overviews hunter-gathers, early society, and the beginning of the domestication of plants and animals. Then we move onto the Neolithic era, where hunter-gatherers slowly become unnomadic. They begin to live in villages and alter land to their needs. This becomes the Iron Age when people started to smelt iron, copper, gold, and other ores. The Iron Age is also when early civilizations spring up like Mesopotamia (Sumerians, Akkadia, and Babylon), Ancient Egypt, Bantu, Kush, Phoenicia, Israel, Jerusalem, The Indus River Valley, Maurya Empire, Ancient China, Ancient Greece (Athens, Sparta), and Ancient Rome. The book intricately explains how each civilization had its own impact on everyday culture. Next, the book covers the Middle Ages (including the Byzantine Empire, Islam, Aztecs, Mayans, Medieval India, China, Medieval Japan, Middle Age Europe, and the European Crusades). The Middle Ages goes from 400 CE to 1500 CE. Next comes the Renaissance and Reformation (1350-1650) and the Age of Exploration (1400-1800). 

The Age of Exploration was when Columbus discovered America, and this lead to the Revolution and Enlightenment in Europe (1500-1865). This is included revolutions in science, math, monarchies rising and falling, the U.S revolution, the French revolution, the U.S civil war, the industrial revolution, and the Women’s Rights Movement. Next comes the Era of Imperialism (1800-1914). This was when Africa became a popular colonization spot, when Japan modernized, and the Spanish-American War. That leads to world conflict including WWI, The Great Depression, Political Shifts, and WWII. Finally, we have Post WWII – Today. This final unit covers the changes in Europe, The Cold War, Independence Movements, and Global events. 

This book has helped me a lot during essays and narratives we have to make in class. It is a great read, despite essentially being a glorified notebook. This book also has definitions, diagrams, drawings, and vocab words you might need to know. To sum it up, the book Everything You Need to Ace World History in One Big Fat Notebook (by the people who made Brain Quest) is an amazing history study guide from grades 6th-8th. Whether it is for fun, or if this book sounds like it would be helpful, I recommend reading this book.

-Izzy W.

Hiroshima By John Hersey

As a lover of fantasy, mystery, and thriller novels, reading a nonfiction book comprised of a newspaper report doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. However, Hiroshima was surprisingly different compared to other historical novels. Obviously, it’s based on a journal excerpt, but John Hersey managed to create a book from real-life situations of different survivors–all from a story-telling and personalized perspective. To say that the book was eye-opening or underrated would still be an understatement.

Published by The New Yorker, Hiroshima takes place in 1945 during World War II, with intricate descriptions of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and multiple remarks from traumatized survivors. Hersey focuses on six people specifically, recording what happened and how they felt both before and after the explosion. His writing was very smooth for a journal report; he wrote about completely different lifestyles diminished into pure survival to make each more comparable, almost like fictional characters.

As a forewarning, this book can get gruesomely detailed and saddening. Death lurks everywhere as the main character and it can become suffocating to read at times because it’s so overwhelming, especially when you know that this information isn’t fiction. Nonetheless, this novel holds such a big impact on its readers to this today, even when it seems so depressing.

I will admit that there are some parts where the book can drag in change in regards to the plot, albeit this book is genuine, not sugar-coated to make America look like the heroes compared to Japan. It wasn’t made to entertain, it was made to inform. John Hersey, an American journalist, managed to expose America’s wrongdoings and use his own experience of witnessing the aftermath as a lesson for future generations of our society.

Initially, the United States kept the Hiroshima bombing as a secret from the public, so it essentially revealed the horror and consequences of violence as a whole. The idea of innocent people wrongfully suffering from the hands of political views and ideology proves that the truth is much more terrible than fiction, but also much more valuable. This was a mistake in our history that Hersey wrote about to prevent such a thing from happening again–to look towards basic human decency instead of who’s right and who’s wrong.

No matter what genre one may interest in, this book is definitely worth reading. It stems from much more than a plot or pages of information, helping readers understand the heavy reality of our world.

– Natisha P.

Hiroshima by John Hersey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher CollierJames Lincoln Collier |  Scholastic
This is the cover of the book My Brother Sam is Dead

My Brother Sam is Dead is a historical fiction novel that takes place from 1775 to 1779. This book is all about the Revolutionary War and how it impacted the daily lives of those living in the Colonies. The story revolves around a young boy named Tim Meeker, and his brother Sam. Sam believes in the Patriots and longs for freedom from England, while Tim, being the ripe age of 12, is not quite so sure.

As the story progresses, It becomes painstakingly clear how difficult war makes life for the innocent. With the growing gap between Tim’s father and brother and Tim’s growing curiosity, this gorgeous tale evolves into something deeper than just a book. As the economy falls and hardship after hardship is forced upon the Meeker family, Collier and Collier make it apparent as to how they feel about war.

This story touched me deeply. After I finished, my whole perspective on the war changed, which is what I think the authors wanted. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short but deep read. It is truly astonishing how much a book can impact us.

– Apoorvi S:)

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible is a novel based around fear. Every action that occurs is due to the fear of punishment and fear of others. It appears completely outrageous yet parallel’s the red scare in the United States and even some of the fear-based racism occurring in today’s society over the coronavirus. There is much to be learned from this novel and the chaos that fear-based decisions create.

However, it is an interesting story with intriguing insights into human nature. The entire story is based on a lie given by a girl, Abigail Williams, who does not want to get in trouble. She and her friends were caught dancing in the woods, something banned in the Puritan society in which The Crucible was set in. Instead of accepting blame for her actions, she blames Tituba of witchcraft as a scapegoat. From this, society degrades blaming everybody of witchcraft for one reason or another. Though truly, not a single person was a witch. People were blaming each other for witchcraft as either a scapegoat for themselves or to get vengeance on a neighbor.

The courts, the people, and the church all believe the web of lies that have been created. Falling into complete hysteria. Nothing matters other than catching witches. They leave their children, their crops, their animals, and their society in ruins just to accuse one another of actions that did not occur.

This plot is intriguing because it mimics many aspects of current life and, though it is a play it is still easy to read. It attempts to teach society the lesson of not allowing hysteria to control life which, is something that today’s society needs especially with the fear of the coronavirus. It allows readers to really reflect on their own lives and see the faults in their own society.

This is a must-read for everybody. The message it gives is something that every human in today’s society must understand to help society reign in their senses and not let the world collapse with fear of the virus.

-Ava G.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel is a terrifying story of the Holocaust during World War 2. Elie was born in Sighet, Transylvania. He lived a normal age until the day that he and his family were taken to a concentration camp formerly called Auschwitz. There he is separated from his mother and sisters. He is told to lie about his age and job in order to survive.

After he tells a guard about his age, he is led away with his father. Some days after, they are taken to Buna, a work camp. They work long hours and are very malnourished. Due to the harsh conditions, the Jews must look after one another. This behavior doesn’t last long, and soon all the Jews care about is that they survive. This pushes many of them to commit horrific crimes for extra rations of bread. They quickly lose faith in God and no longer pray. This brings on a worse despair. After some months of labor, the prisoners are soon to be liberated by the Russians. Because of this, the Germans decide to move the prisoners. They are forced to march through a snowstorm to another concentration camp called Gleiwitz. Once at Gleiwitz, they are crammed into cattle cars. All 100 prisoners that hadn’t died were tightly packed against one another. Most cannot take anymore pain and die on the train. Once the train stops at Buchenwald, only 12 prisoners get off of the train. Soon after arriving, Elie’s father dies of dysentery on April 11, 1945. After experiencing so much, this breaks Elie and he is transformed into only a skeleton of a man.

-E. Vargas

Night by Elie Wiesel is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Gee, Caesar, What Should We Do About the Barbarians?

The love-hate relationship (one-sided) between Rome and the Germanic “barbarians” is very complicated yet very interesting. There are so many stories about Rome’s ransack of Germanic homelands and the heroic uprisings from the barbarians who almost took over the hub of the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, while the Germanic people wreak havoc in the city, surviving Romans gathered at the hill and was able to protect themselves with cunning deceits and its disciplined military, thus originated the meme — “when you bribe a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe…(you know that this is going to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r….or…maybe not)”. And this is how the Romans annexed the barbarian lands into their own provinces.

Over the time period 753 BCE to 476 CE, Rome’s relationships with foreign peoples reversed chronologically from a dominant power an unstable and declining empire. Rome’s change in power is directly relevant to its political shifts, which closely resembles that of a roller coaster — first it went upward. The escalation towards the peaks precedes the rapid downward gradient until it crashes to the ground. The early conquering of Germanic states was gory and violent, it laid foundation of enmity in the hearts of the barbarians. It raises up from the rules of the seven kings to a republic, around 500 BCE as Rome’s early expansion.

Then in 27 BCE, the establishment of the Roman Empire made way for a golden era of peace and prosperity, and that is when the roller coaster reached its peak. Rome’s superior power has become insuppressible, and the Roman Empire has had enough of bloodshed as well as warfare. As a turning point, Rome changed their approach to its conquered peoples, granting them Roman citizenships instead of treating them as war slave. In return, the subordinate provinces were willing to fight for Rome and acknowledged the Empire’s dominance and superiority (whether forcibly or voluntarily). Nevertheless, they fear Rome.

However, Rome entered its downfall in 5th century CE. The riders and citizens of Rome alike are screaming with shock and agitation against this quick turn of events. Along the downward slope, emperors came and died and was replaced by another, whether they were barbarians or natives, they could not survive the curse of the Third Century Crisis.

But who knew that a even greater danger was coming towards Rome amidst of this chaotic era?

The entrance of Attila the HUN, famous for his nosebleed, changed the relationship between the century-old nemeses. When previously, the two groups fought each other with contempt for their ill-treatments to each other “vanished” under Attila’s banners. The once glorious Roman Empire “bowed down” to the Germanic people and “humbly” asked for alliances to defeat the horrifying monster-from-the-east.  The Visigoths consented to Emperor Valentinian’s wish. The consent signified the decline of Rome’s military power, as it was insufficient to defend itself from the Huns.

Funny thing is, Emperor Valentinian’s sister Honoria once wrote a letter to Attila for help, as she expressed her love for Attila and her desire to escape from Rome. In return, she would give half of western Europe as her dowry. This scheme was uncovered by Emperor Valentinian, but it showed that Rome was not a unified state any longer, its internal instability helped the to ensure its faltering authority.

Eventually, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths few years after their “alliance”. The once omnipotent empire collapsed at the hand of its Germanic enemies.

-Kate L.

Film Review: Gladiator — When Rome Comes Back to Light

“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.” ― Marcus Aurelius

What was Rome like? Based on all the historical texts and books we read, and the movies and videos that we watched — extravagant and grandiose couldn’t be more pertinent here. In the magnificent villas surrounded by luxurious furnishings, rich men and women in crimson, indigo, and saffron yellow silk tunics were served with cornucopia and exotic dishes. Servants and singers chanted carmens and played tibias along with Roman poetry written by Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. A Roman bath at the end of the day and away from partying lives would be more than one could ask for…

Maximus Decimus Meridus made Rome’s march to victory against the barbarians possible.  He brought prosperity and glory to Rome and the Empire. Yet, the greatest General of the Roman Empire had not even set foot in this Xanadu once in his life. He was out on the battlefields when Commodus, the son of the Emperor, hid in the carriage. It was not because of Maximus’ bravery and excellence in war that earned him the trust of the man in purple, but it was his heart for the people that ‘persuaded” the emperor to give him Rome.

He declined. All he ever wanted was to return to his family. He turned his back from this beautiful city, the fruit of his accomplishment.

But…it was too late…

Fate seemed to detest a hero who did not follow the conventional path. No one would have thought Maximus would eventually enter the gates of Rome invited by vengeance. Sold as a slave who is “a father to a murdered son and a husband to a murdered wife, Maximus became a gladiator. Driven by intense grief and the desire for revenge, he fought his way to most grandeur fighting pit in all of history only to discover the truth about himself and Rome.

The reality was antithetical. Under the facade and the rule of a tyrant, daily lives of the people were casted over with a shadow of suffering and fear.  It is till then that Maximus understood why Marcus Aurelius trusted him instead of his very own son. The emperor’s words of responsibility, “To give power back to the people of Rome and end the corruption that has crippled it. ”

The story of Maximus’ return of power to Rome is intertwined with trust and betrayal, hope and despair, as well as love and camaraderie. Rome is the light of the world, but it can be dimmed if misruled. Is Maximus truly the one to bring back and turn on this light?

The ending is very sentimental (not going to spoil anything, just my personal feeling). But Maximus Decimus Meridus will be forever known by time as the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, and the gladiator who defied an emperor.

There was a dream that was Rome. It was light.

-Kate L.

The film Gladiator is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Captain’s Dog by Roland Smith

Image result for the captain's dog cover imageIf you’re looking for a heartfelt tail of bravery and affection, The Captain’s Dog is the book for you. The many chapters are told from the perspective of Captain Meriwether Lewis’ dog, Seaman. Because of this, you’ll hear about antics that will make you smile, adventures that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and tales that will bring you back in time.

The plot almost exactly follows the events of the expedition, giving you historical content as well. The author describes events and adventures in depth, making you feel like you’re there with the expedition crew. From deserting members to a deadly mountain crossing, no detail is left out.

As you read through the book, you learn of Seaman’s abused puppyhood and the savior he found in Captain Lewis. Seaman proves to be a valuable asset to the team, warning of bears and cheering up saddened trekkers.

All in all, I loved the whole book, down to the last word of the epilogue. I hope I’ve interested you in this work of art. Even cat people will fall in love with the charming and lovable Seaman. I hope you will find time to read this great book.

-Joshua M. 6th Grade

The Captain’s Dog by Roland Smith is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.