Book Review of "Long Walk to Freedom"

Nelson Mandela began writing his autobiography while imprisoned in 1974. It was confiscated by authorities but he resumed writing after being released in 1990, with help of friends who aided him in remembering the details.

“Long Walk to Freedom” is a very thick book. I admit that I skimmed through the political pages because it would take a long time to read. I mostly wanted to read about his childhood, marriages and family life.

His life has indeed been a long walk. He went from being born in a typical African village, to getting a degree, getting involved in a cause, being imprisoned and eventually becoming a leader.

As a child after his father’s death, he was sent to be raised by a family who could send his to school. That must have been hard for his mother but she wanted him to have a future.

He told of being circumcised, running away from home with his friend to escape an arranged marriage, his marriages and children. The destiny for him was a difficult one. His family did not get his presence because he had to save a nation.

It is painful as a Christian to know that at one time, well-meaning missionaries treated other races as inferior in their attempts to help. We’ve seen it with Native Americans, Australians and Africans. Still, the Methodist schools that he attended gave him the education that many children are not afforded. The man who raised him was returning a favor that Nelson’s father had done for him when he was alive. This man was able to send him to there.

Nelson Mandela was not his birth name. It was the English-Christian name given to him on his first day of school. His father died when he was nine years old.

As a young man, an arranged marriage was announced by his friend’s father. He had already chosen the brides for the two young men and paid the dowries. They ran away from home and got into several scrapes. When the other young man received news of his father’s death, Nelson told him he should return home. By this time, Nelson already felt a calling for his own life that he couldn’t ignore.

His first marriage ended when his wife became a Jehovah’s Witness and they just believed in two different concepts. His second marriage ended after his release for the good of the country because her route had become too controversial.

I watched a documentary about his second wife, Winnie. Although her path later took a rough turn, I believe in the beginning, she was wanting to help her husband by being involved. She herself was imprisoned for a period of time. The separation was very hard on her.

I read in other sources that he later married his third wife who had been married to a prior leader before becoming a widow.

Although Nelson’s family paid a difficult price, his sacrifice changed a nation and the world.

Book Review for "Three Cups of Tea"

Did you ever set out on a journey and the outcome was a direction you hadn’t planned on? In the book “Three Cups of Tea” written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, the story of a mountain climbing trip turned into humanitarian mission unfolds after Greg took a wrong turn into unfamiliar territory. The results were life changing for him and the people he met.

Greg Mortenson had begun a mountain climbing trip in a foreign country. He took a wrong turn and was separated from his guide. After surviving the elements, he made his way to a small village that he didn’t recall seeing on any map. It was in Islamic territory. The people there took him in and nursed him back to health. As they got to know him they stated that they were in desperate need of schools for their children. They did not have buildings, teachers or supplies.

As Greg grew to love the people, he committed himself to finding a way to help them. When he returned home, he set out to try to raise money. He sent out hundreds of letters with what seemed like no response at all. The first ones to respond with financial support were other mountain climbers. Perhaps they are determined people who believe that anything is possible.

Much of the story has intense moments but there was one humorous incident that broke the ice and allows us to laugh at ourselves. Greg had received a message from an elderly widow who stated that she wished to make a sizable donation but that he would have to come to her to receive it. He thought with her age it would be harmless so he went. When he arrived, she had three days of activities planned for the two of them. It started to look suspicious when one of the activities was a massage for both of them. He woke the next morning with the woman standing in front of the couch wearing a transparent night gown. It turned out that she was just a lonely old lady wanting companionship. There was no donation. He learned his lesson and used better judgement after that.

The intensity heightened on September 11, 2001 with the bombing in New York. That morning he was to have a dedication ceremony for his newly constructed school. The people woke him up stating what happened in his country. They expressed their sympathy and asked him not to judge them by the acts of horror done by others. When he went to the hotel, chaos had broken out and reporters wanted their story. Greg was thrust into political issues that he was not there for. Because he was helping the village people, he was questioned by authorities as to why he was there.

When Greg was seeking help, no one gave him the time of day. Now, he was talking with politicians and the military. He decided to keeping all funding in the private sector.

The schools were built and the people are a permanent part of his life. We can learn from his experiences not to judge others and that good things happen even through times of struggle.

Book Review – Mixed – My Life in Black and White

“I hate covert racism. I always hated guessing whether someone is being mean/rude/nervous because they hate my race or because they are having a bad day. As I got older, I noticed that covert racism is like depression: You know it when you feel it, but it’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. It’s like a sixth sense that God has given people of color that white people don’t believe in. We just know.”

In her memoir “Mixed: My Life in Black and White” (2006), Angela Nissel writes of the struggles she faces while growing up biracial. Nissel’s name may be familiar to fans of the NBC comedy series “Scrubs.” She has been a staff writer for the show for four years and is now consulting producer. As a starving artist (a.k.a. freelance writer), Nissel sold some goods on eBay for extra cash. The winning bidder for one of those items was a television executive who had read her first book “The Broke Diaries” (2001), which was about her days as a broke college student. The eBay winner introduced Nissel to a television literary agent who sent copies of “The Broke Diaries” to shows hiring comedy writers. Nissel had numerous job offers, but chose “Scrubs.”

Her knack for sarcastic, quick-witted humor that is a driving force in “Scrubs” is what makes “Mixed” a must read. When Nissel is in the fourth grade, two of her classmates, Jimmy and Michael, call her a zebra. (That isn’t the humorous part.) Nissel’s father finds out and goes to the boys’ houses with Angela. Jimmy’s parents scold their son. However, Michael’s father slams the door in Angela’s father’s face. That father’s dog has been using the Nissels’ yard as a bathroom, so Angela’s father concocts a hilarious scheme involving an Ex-Lax pill. Angela asks her father whether the Ex-Lax will hurt the dog. “‘No, just Michael’s father’s carpets,'” her dad replies.

Later, though, Angela discovers that her father has been cheating on her mother, but even this situation is steeped in humor. “I already knew my parents were having problems and she suspected my father of cheating. (Note to parents: Trying to have cryptic conversations by spelling words out no longer works once your child is reading.) Then later, “Ever since the first argument about my father c-h-e-a-t-i-n-g with w-h-o-r-e-s, my mother had started working a lot….”

The thing about this book is that the comedic moments are also sad ones. And this is Nissel’s strength: She makes you laugh, but she also makes you think. Comments from people about her looks teach her that there is “good” hair and an “ugly” nose. The features people consider pretty are from her white father.

She went to all-black schools, all-white schools, public, private, schools associated with different religions-yet she never fit in. She was never white enough or black enough, so she was the target of merciless teasing. “Being a mixed child, you get used to people staring at you,” she writes. She immediately follows with humor: “I learned that rolling my eyes or sticking out my tongue was the quickest way to get people to avert their gazes.” She learns that being biracial is no easier in the dating world. She notices that of six black male coworkers at a production company, “five had white wives and one was dating an Asian girl.”

The book is filled with Nissel’s struggles, but she doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her; she is explaining how her experiences (good or bad) made her who she is. She makes you care about the people in her life, particularly her mother, who let her daughter change schools and religions-almost as often as she changed her clothes-in an attempt to find herself. Nissel doesn’t censor herself-or anyone else-which makes for brilliant dialogue and unapologetic honesty.