Precious Silver Chopsticks ISBN: 9781544069968, copyright and written by Mae Adams.
Sub-titled “A true Story of a Korean Noble Family” this autobiography/memoire is written by an eighty-four-year-old Korean woman of considerable intelligence, fortitude and an amazing ability to survive and prosper. She was born in Seoul but raised in a rural mountain village under the old Korean class system by a grandfather of Noble birth now an herbal medicine practitioner and a step-grandmother who was a commoner. The new arrangement was the result of being rejected by her father and abandoned by her patrician, college educated mother because she was a later born female child who, as such, was rated worthless in the mores of the existing Korean system of the time. The grandparents nurtured her for considerable time until mother decided she could be helpful in maintaining her (the mother’s) support. Through the ensuing years, whether living together or apart, Mae became, and continued for the rest of her life, to be largely her mother’s major source. She suffered through several lean years while marrying ‘for convenience’, learning Japanese ways and language as well as the English language, suffering through the Japanese occupation, escape to South Korea and the ensuing Korean War. Finally she was able to meet and marry a U.S. Marine Colonel, gain a college degree in the United States and begin a new commercial endeavor building upon her earlier attained success. Still, she continued to be, one way or another, the basic person upon who everyone seemed to depend.
Discussion: The author has provided a story that memoire-autobiography readers will find poignant and discover themselves to be empathetically resentful at times. They probably will find it inspirational and certainly intriguing. The more practically thinking individual also will discover a wealth of information with respect to Korean historical facts – basic mores of society, eventual co-existence of Shamanism, Buddhism, Korean (a mixture of the two along with Astrology and nature worship), Confucianism, Christianism and some Shintoism from the Japanese influence. Also the topography and more about the Korean ‘Police Action’ which was somewhat of a ‘forgotten’ war for Americans who participated so as to be considered and treated rather similarly to those who served in the unpopular Viet Nam confrontation.
Conclusion: Certainly relieving catharsis for the author and a book of considerable interest for a diverse reading public.
5* Of considerable interest for a diverse reading public.
The Sword Swallower & A Chico Kid, an e-book copyright and written by Gary Robinson.
A Preface informs the reader that the story was inspired by the author’s friendship with a circus sideshow sword swallower named Captain Don Leslie. “It is a fictional account of events that took place in each of their lives with a few chapters loosely based on the literary work of Madame Chinchilla and her Tattoo & Museum located in Fort Bragg, California.” A Prologue next presents a grandfather playing with his grandson Calvin when interrupted by a mail delivery of a picture of his old friend who has passed away. He is overcome, begins to tear up just as his aging but still lovely wife enters to tell him that two of his books now are on the New York Times Best Sellers list. She stops mid-sentence when seeing his reaction, runs to him, sees and exclaims about Duke’s picture. Calvin quietly asks “Who is Duke, Grandpa?” He wipes his tears away, holds Calvin’s handles tightly and answers “He is the reason you are here, Calvin.” The following seventeen chapters describe the life of a 15-year-old who leaves an impossibly dysfunctional and abusive home to become addicted to methamphetamine and alcohol. He joins a circus, become something of a legend as Duke Reynolds, sword swallower, and stated in his own words follows his basic philosophy: “This life will not promise you anything. You are guaranteed nothing. All you have is today. This moment. Yesterday is just a memory and tomorrow is not guaranteed. All you have is this moment. Make sure you try to live as much as you can every day.” The next six chapters describe “The Destructive Path of a Chico Kid”, another young man from a pretty much similar background who slides through college deep in alcohol, drugs and sophomoric male activity often indulged in by members of some fraternities and similar groups. The last, Part 3 devotes 9 chapters to “An Eccentric Friendship and an Unconventional Mentoring” where Gary, the young man heading down this destructive course is befriended by Duke, mentored in a most unusual manner and after having a very close brush with death gains redemption.
Discussion: The author has set forth a story that probably will affect each individual reader in different ways. Fundamentally it is a tale of redemption. However it also is a remembrance of a another era when the world was more provincial; recall for some individual of activities that never change; recounting of controversial decisions made ‘for the good of humanity’; a number of truisms; and perhaps an introduction to a ‘different’ way of life, here modifying another of a type that all too frequently is being encountered today – the entire tale provided in raw, often disgusting but regrettably perhaps, most realistic prose. It is a tale about the earlier part of the last century when the larger towns were entertained by Barnum & Bailey and The Ringling Brothers circuses, and the smaller by the numerous small circuses and ‘carnies’ such as the one that served as a home for Duke. A re-editing would greatly enhance the story’s presentation.
Summary: For older readers, many fond memories will surface; younger readers will be introduced to what were occasions of great enjoyment to the ‘oldsters’. For some it is a sad tale but for all readers a caveat is necessary – this is a tale replete with drugs, alcohol and ridiculous decisions couched in raw, though pertinent language, even though it is a story of eventual redemption.
3* 4* Compelling story of redemption; caveat and suggestions as described.