Friday, November 15, 2013

Snow In August: Wondeful Read

Snow in August
By Pete Hamill

This book is not written by a Jewish author, which makes this even more wonderful to read. I am not starting a debate what makes a book Jewish or not?  I am posting it because it is about a Catholic boy, and how he connects with a Rabbi.  
This is the third time reading. Because of our community read, The Golem and the Jinni; we decided to pick this one. Pete Hamill's story is wonderful. 

Michael, Irish Catholic 10 year old. Living in Brooklyn in the 1940's. Michael is a average kid, there isn't any TV. Instead,Michael likes to go to the local movie theatre where he's mom works-with his friends. He also enjoys reading comic books- Superman. 

Michael, and his Brooklyn friends are threatened by the gang, The Falcons. I should say the entire neighborhood is afraid of this thug. Michael just happens to be in Mr. G's store ( Mr. G is Jewish)at the wrong time. Mr. G sticks up for Michael. The thug( can't remember his name), beats up Mr. G pretty badly. Michael witnesses the crime. He is not a snitch; he is not going to tell. In the meantime, a local Rabbi see's Michael one day going down the street, He asked Michael a favor. Because it is Saturday, Shabbat for the Jews, a holy day. Would Michael be the Shabbos Goy? 

What turns out to just be a favor turns into a friendship that will forever change both Michael, and the Rabbi. Rabbi Hirsch wants to learn better English. Rabbi Hirsch asks Michael, if you teach me English, I will teach you Yiddish- Michael agrees. 

What happens is Michael and Rabbi Hirsch become close, and learn about each other. Rabbi Hirsch, we learn about his wife during the Holocaust. We also learn about the story of the " Golem of Prague". Michael we learn about his father's death during the war. But. also the hardship of living in the tenements with his single mother. 

Michael's troubles without his father;trying too grow up too fast. He is trying to be strong for his mother. Since there is trouble brewing on the streets of Brooklyn( Falcon gang). Michael is worried about the Falcons. They think he snitched. Because the cops keep showing up at unexpected places. He's friends have abandoned him as well. He's only friend is Rabbi Hirsch. 

Each of them become stronger and reach out to each other to help each other, as they friendship becomes stronger. Their connection is baseball, and Jackie Robinson. They talk about these two things every time they meet. Michael is excited one day, the Rabbi got tickets for the baseball game. This is all Michael can think about till the actual game. He is so excited. 

After the game, Michael admits to Rabbi Hirsch what happened to Mr. G. Rabbi Hirsch's advise to Michael. Sometimes not telling is worse than the crime itself. 

The rest of the story is very moving and Mystical. I only learned about the Golem from reading Snow in August. It is a very moving sweet story about a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940's. I will worn you that there is antisemitism, and discrimination in Snow in August. But that is the point of the story. 

If you are waiting to hear about the Golem. Yes, there is a golem that is created in the story. But, I am not going to relate that to you. That will just ruin it. The book brought tears to my eyes what happens at the end. I would love to tell you why. But, I just can't. If you do read the book. Check out other background info. about the golem. There is also on Netflix, a episode of X-Files called Kaddish. Then check out youtube, you will find the movie, Snow in August; the movie adaption.

My take of the story, is a growing up tale. There is nostalgia, 1940's, Brooklyn N.Y.  If you bought  or have the newest version of Snow in August. You are in for a treat. Because the back of the book explain's why the author wrote Snow in August.  I Just loved this book. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it. 

Culinary History of the Grand Strand: Book Review of Local Author

When you think of Myrtle Beach, what do you think of first?  Sun, Surf, and good times, right? There is more behind the scenes of Myrtle Beach.  There is a rich history, actually Culinary history that most of us are not aware of.

With all the restuarants on the Grand Strand over 1000. That is at least is what is stated, in the Culianary History of Myrtle Beach, and the Grand Strand. It is written by a local author, Becky Billingsley.

 Becky, Billingsley has lived in this area for over 15 years. She is a food critic, and also manages a website called  This is where I knew of Becky through the website.  When I learned she just wrote a book. I had to ask if she would allow me to review her book.  I don't usually review books that are non-fiction about food. But, because she is a local author I wanted to help spread the word about her terrific book.  It is full of old time remedies, recipes, and stories about growing up in the south, particularly the Grand Strand area.

Most of are not originally from here. We are transplants from up north, what we are customarily called a "yankee". The people that live here all year round are not aware of the culinary history of the Grand Strand.  It started with the uniqueness of the people living here 300 years ago. It was at first the native Wacammaw Indians.  Then came the Europens. They were looking for religious freedom. Then came the African slaves.  It is the mix of all these cultures that blended together to make the Grand Strand, what it is today.  There is such a uniqueness, and food that makes this part of the country so different than any other.

Those of us, that are called Yankees never heard of these foods that make Myrtle Beach, and the rest what is called the Grand Strand.   Or heard of these foods but did not realize they originated here.  For you that don't understand the difference of Myrtle Beach, and Grand Strand. I am going to give you a geography lesson.  The Grand Strand is composed of the coastal towns starting at N. Carolina called, Calabash all the way down the strip to Georgetown.

Here is my book review of Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand. I enjoyed reading about the culinary history and the foods available in this area from the time of slavery till now.  It was interesting to learn why they ate, what they ate. Some people were limited because of money. Others because of the location. How they adapted the food. The slave owners ate what the slaves made in their plantation. I found it interesting foods also were prepared by what was available to them at certain time of the season. I never thought about this.

My eating habits were not dictated by this. I am from up north and we had a abundant of food. It did not depend on seasons, and what was available.   I recommend you buy the book if you are interested about the culinary history of Myrtle Beach.

 I enjoyed reading about the development of the Grand Strand area. How the restaurants came about, some stayed, some left, etc.

My only gripe was that the author seemed to want to speed it up too fast. One minute she is talking about 19th Century, then fast forward to early 20th century, and the hotel restaurant boom. What happened!!! How did we get there so fast.  Anyway, I still liked traveling and learning about the culinary history of our area. Thank you Becky, for the book.

You will also find some recipes that may not be possible to make. Since these are old recipes.

Book Review: Richest Woman in America

"After your business is over you may take your colleague to dinner and the theater, or allow him to take you, but wait until the transaction has been closed and the money paid."

These are the words of Hetty Green, the Richest woman in the world.

I bought this book on recommendation of a literary event I went to last year. I am a history buff, and thought this would be a interesting read. I never heard about Hetty Green.

  I was disappointed. I expected to learn about her personal side.  I got a feeling that the author could not get into her head, and she did not understand Hetty. 

This book is non-fiction about the life of Hetty Green. The richest woman in America. She lived during the Gilded Age. Hetty Green was born in New Bedford, Mass, in a whaling town. Her family were from the Quaker faith, and very wealthy. Her father was a financier,dabbled in everything to make money. 

She did not have a good upbringing as a child.  Her father ruled the roost, and kept a upper hand with her mother. Her father did not pay much attention to Hetty. Hetty tried to please her father, and even until his death he was very critical and did not trust her business sense. 

 Later on when Hetty was old enough to appreciate finance, they connected. When she talked business and money with her father. He  would pay attention to her.  Hetty felt love only with the connection of money. 

When her Father,Edward Mott Robinson, and Aunt Sylvie  passed away she expected millions would be left to her. But, instead there was simulations to the will. She challenged her Aunt's will and to this day it is remembered in the courts. 

Hetty was a very head strong, and independent woman. She did not care about high society, and frivolous things. Such as clothes, makeup, and jewelry.

Hetty had a good head on her shoulders. She learned not to panic. Where she made her money was the financial panics. She made her money with her husband, Edward Henry Green with the rail roads, and bonds, and real estate.  She had a better business sense than her husband. 

I was hoping to read about the human side of Hetty. But, there was not much written about it. It seemed superficial.  There were glimpses and speculation. But nothing definitive. One minute she spends wisely, the next she spends frivolously. The book seems to contradict itself constantly. 

What I found interesting is she held on to her children, especially her daughter, Slyvie for dear life. She controlled both her children. When her daughter married at 38 she had a hard time letting go. She did not believe in Women's Suffrage. 

The other thing I found interesting. Mistakes financially are forever made over and over again. Reading the book, and the mistakes made in the Gilded Age were again make a couple of years ago, in 2012! Overspending, it never changes!! You compare overextending of the railroads, to what happened a few years ago. It is the same mistakes. 

I am not interested in finance, and the money end of things. That may be why I did not love this book. There were parts that captivated me and others that were dull. I liked the personal side of Hetty. But when the discussion of business, and money was in the book I was not interested. I just make my money and spend it. Not one of my favorite reads, I did not care about Hetty or her life.

 It reminded me of Christmas Carol, but instead of a man, substitute a woman.  She did not sound like a happy woman. But, she had her children that cared about her.

You can also read a article from USA Today here


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