Thursday, June 29, 2017

Alfred and Agnes: The Story of My Immigrant Parents by Frieda Fritz Stiehl

ALFRED and AGNES: The Story of My Immigrant Parents  by Frieda Fritz Stiehl

What a wonderful book!  The author has written a history of her family, especially her father and mother, German immigrants to the United States in the last century. With a plethora of photographs and an unflinching eye on her family’s “characters,” she has written a chronicle for all German-Americans -- all immigrants. Her family comes alive in the pages as each of their lives is detailed. 

She makes these ordinary people, their work, their homes, their villages and, ultimately, their Americanization, come alive for the reader. This is an unforgettable archive of the recent past.

The research is impeccably done. The photographs help orient the reader and bring the narrative to life. Stretching back to the Thirty Years War, coming forward to German Unification, World War I and the devastation on the German psyche by reparations and the rise of Nazism, the Dust Bowl years in the Midwest and finally a dairy farm in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, all are presented in vivid relief.

Anyone who is interested in immigrants, rural life, family dynamics, friendships, farming, pre-industrial life and “how things are made” will find much of interest.  Book groups, especially those with an immigrant or farming interest, will be able to sustain a lengthy discussion.

5 of 5 stars

Saturday, June 24, 2017


THE COLOR OF OUR SKY  by Amita Trasi
A bit slow to start but the plot picks up around 100 pages and then moves quickly. 
In 1980’s India, a young rural girl with a devastating background is rescued by a Mumbai businessman. She becomes an unpaid servant in his family and best friend to his daughter who is about the same age. Mukta lives with the family until shortly after the mother in the family dies. Mukta is kidnapped and cannot be found. Years later the daughter begins a search for her long lost friend and servant.
The characters seem to change quite a bit with time; the daughter especially wavers in characterization. The very slow start makes this novel difficult to stick with, but the last half of the book presents an intriguing mystery.  Stick with it and you do get a rich reward.
Book groups will find themselves presented with unpaid servants, unknown relatives, mysterious happenings, uncaring and ineffective police, aid organizations stymied in their attempts to help and an unflattering look at life in India.

3 of 5 stars


A beautifully written and very disturbing story about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, the woman who ran it, and the children and families who were affected.  Rill, a 12 year old “river rat,” and her brothers and sisters are forcibly removed from their home when their parents are away.  They fall into the hands of Georgia Tann (a real person) and the TCHS(a real facility). 
The characters, real and imaginary, have clear personalities. The action is real and terrifying.  The time and place are vividly shown.
If you have children, or work with them, or just know a few, this tale of real events in the not distant past is horrifying.  Book groups will have a field day with discussions of family, love, poverty, discipline, adoption, heartache, sacrifice and hope.

5 of 5 stars