The Road Back by David & Lisa Frisbie

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Every adult person is probably knowledgeable to some degree  of the  existance of slavery in our world.  Most are not aware of its extent. Here are some facts: There are 27 million persons in the world who are in slavery.  The majority of them are enslaved for the sex trade.  Among those who are enslaved for sexual trafficking, 80% are women and half of those are underage females.  Each facilitator, or pimp, averages 4.5 people in their group. A significant and growing number of these facilitators are women. Many teens in the U.S are trafficked while they are in middle school or high school  The first contacts are usually made through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter This is not a big city problem; four Tennessee counties each reported more than 100 cases within their borders in a 24 month period.

The above are a few of the facts the reader will learn from this book. The first part of the book, before the actual chapters begin introduce the reader to the purpose of the book, the authors of the book and their credentials, a prologue which explains how the authors came to be involved in rescuing trafficked people, and a dedication to those who helped in this cause. In each chapter are personal stories of those who have been saved from sexual slavery.

Chapter one is devoted to the problems in the Asia and Pacific area, in particular to the Philippines where most of the trafficking is done online.  Surprisingly, I discovered that the parents, themselves, are often the purveyors of this type of pornography.  The economic conditions they face force them into the business as a way of survival. Those who want to help must approach the problem from several different avenues. Helping the economic situation is often part of the solution. The Church of the Nazarene has established one children’s home which can handle up to 20 residential children at a time. The church partners with several other groups to provide the physical, psychological, and social care needed. Maria’s story is told in this chapter.  She and her two sisters were rescued in 2016. Maria was ten.

Chapter two discusses a program that the church has founded in South Africa named S-Cape.  This program was developed by a woman named Madison Barefield from the U.S who interned  in Hawaii then continued her studies in South Africa. There her heart was moved for the plight of those people taken into the sex trafficking business. She began to actively search for ways to help them.  Partnering with Business Tech, she learned that 250,000 persons are being victimized in the RSA. Business Tech estimates that of those exploited people only one percent will be able to leave it in their lifetime. That is only 2,500 that may one day be rescued. Madison engaged the help of another woman, Miryam Cherpillod.  Together they campaigned and helped the RSA to pass the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013. S-Cape is centered in Capetown, RSA.  Kathryn’s story tells of how she was enticed by another woman to go with her to get a “good job” and how that job led to her enslavement.

Chapter three discusses efforts in Europe to deal with the issue.  It was in Europe that the authors first began their work with a Romanian pastor’s wife named Monica Boseff. The three of them worked to begin a Center that would provide a safe refuge for exploited women.  Monica traveled all over Europe and North America to spread her message of hope and to raise money for the Center.  Her efforts drew the attention of the BBC .  The piece they broadcast further helped in her mission.  During a visit to Romania, then vice president, Joe Biden gave an award to the Center and to its director for their efforts in stopping the exploitation of women. The story in this chapter is about how a concerned neighbor worked with the Center in Romania to help a young mother and her child escape a husband who was trafficking her.

Chapter four provides many facts about the sex business in San Diego county of California. In that one area there are more than 8,000 victims a year.  As many as 110 separate gangs are involved in it.  Human trafficking revenue is second only to drug trafficking there because it is highly profitable for the gangs. Jamie Gates, a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College and of the Nazarene Theological Seminary combined his interest in cultural anthropology and his heart for compassionate ministries to found and fund the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Working with Ami Carpenter of the University of San Diego, he produced a report about the  extent and nature of sex trafficking in San Diego and the Tijuana, Mexico region in order to bring awareness of the problem to people who can help make changes. The story of Jessica Kim, a survivor of sex trafficking is told here. She benefitted from a program the CJR provides called Beauty for Ashes,  That program helped her earn a college degree.  She, in turn, is helping others.

Chapter five takes the reader to middle America and the state of Tennessee. Heather Edwards a young girl who benefitted from the social services of Rutherford county and their residential center for domestic abuse began to look for ways to help more women as she enrolled in a graduate program at Trevecca Nazarene University.  She began to work as a resident manger for Rest Stop, a program that attempts to reach the sexually exploited and to provide them a safe haven while they transition to a normal life. Rest Stop is part of the Compassionate Ministries of Hermitage Church of the Nazarene in Nashville. This chapter is loaded with facts about what Rest Stop and the State of Tennessee are doing to stop this horror in our society.

The book ends with suggestions for how the reader can get involved into helping those enslaved and in helping end the trafficking of other humans. The authors suggest organizations the reader could become involved with and provides several web sites.  It ends with the telephone number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888.  I recommend this book to all who want to be an instrument of change.

If you are interested in obtaining this book, you may contact any Church of the Nazarene.  They may have it available for loan. Or, you can go directly to the publisher: The Foundry Publishing Company at https://www.thefoundrypublishing.com   Here it is sold as a set with two other missionary books.

I highly recommend asking a church for it. If they don’t have it, most will be willing to purchase the set for others to read.

 

The Glare by Margot Harrison

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After being kept away from technology for 10 years, Hedda finds herself suddenly having to confront the devices of the modern world when her mother must travel to Australia. The only choice Hedda has is to go live with her father, his new wife and her half-brother. Almost immediately she encounters a bizarre situation in which a young girl supposedly commits suicide.  Something seems off about the death. and Hedda tries to figure out what really happened.  Other inexplicable violent deaths occur, and they seem to have some connection to an online- game. If the player dies thirteen times on level thirteen, they die in real life.  Oddly enough the game is tied to Hedda. Her discovery of the truth ultimately tears her life apart.  This is a thought-provoking novel.  Can computer programs actually infiltrate the mind of the users and cause actions that they would not otherwise take?  That is one of the questions the reader must confront.  I found the story interesting, but I did have a big question about one scene.  The story line moves through Hedda’s eyes – for the most part.  There are some scenes which show action from another person’s viewpoint.  These situations are indicated by a different font in the book.  One situation which involved Hedda and her viewpoint I found implausible.  Hedda goes to her father’s office and meets Kai, the receptionist.  In this scene and only in this scene, Hedda refers to Kai as “they” not “she” or “he.”  This is a very new transgender usage of pronouns.  If Hedda had been socially isolated for ten years, she would NOT have had any knowledge of that particular pronoun usage.  It appears to be a gratuituous reference to transgendered people.  It does not fit into the story in any way.  I found that disturbing.  Also, when Hedda goes to live with her father she and her mother leave their farm.  I could not find any reference to a caretaker or another farmer who helped them.  When Hedda and her mother return to the farm, the animals and chickens are there, but the question remains: Who took care of them? If you can overlook these little problems, you might want to add it to your collection of modern fiction.

Teen Lives Around the World, Karen Wells,ed.

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This set takes a very in-depth look at the lives of teens in many countries around the world. I was initially impressed by the clear introduction to the set. There is not an emphasis of one continent over another. The set is in alphabetical order by country starting with Australia (Some countries I thought might have been included were Afghanistan and Argentina.)

The lives of the teens living in each country is the main focus, but each section starts with a Country Overview. The discussion then moves to Schooling and Education, Extracurricular Activities: Art, Music and Sport, Family and Social Life, Religious and Cultural Rites of Passage, Rights and Legal Status, and finally, Inequalities. In each section the statistics contain in-text bibliographic referencing. A thorough bibliographical list concludes each section. It is definitely an encyclopedia designed for grades 12 and up since the readability of the text is grade 12 on the Fry chart.

The biographic information at the end of vol.2 tells the reader that the editor and the contributors are all very well-educated; and, thus, one would tend to believe that the factual material being presented would be true and accurate. However, that is not the case in this instance. As I began to read the text, I ran across this sentence: “Egypt also shares borders with Turkey and Jordan.” (The co-contributor is the editor.) That statement I knew to be totally false. Next, I ran across what I believed to be either a poorly formed sentence or an outright lack of knowledge of geography on the part of the contributor – which, by the way was the editor, herself. I submitted that particular sentence for scrutiny to a group of English teachers on a Facebook page, who – much to my surprise – pointed out, not only needed changes in the syntax, but also a flagrant error in geography. This is that sentence: “France is a Western European country bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea to the West and the South and the Alps and the Pyrenees to the East.” My teacher friends quickly pointed out that the Pyrenees were to the west of France, not to the east.

In the face of not one, but two, glaring errors in the text, I began to question whether or not to recommend the purchase of the set. At $204.00 it represents a big chunk of a school’s library budget. My main problem lies in the fact that if there are any factual errors in any non-fiction work, the entire piece becomes suspect.

I cannot, in good conscience recommend the purchase of this set. Although there most likely are many things that are true, it is not possible to trust all of them to the editor’s veracity. The reader should be receiving positive truth – not possible truth. Do not spend your limited resources on this set.

 

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

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Many people know about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Few know about Nannerl Mozart, his older sister. She performed with Wolfgang, and possibly even had written some of the music attributed to him. The two of them traveled together and performed all over Europe until Nannerl was no longer looked upon by the audiences they performed for as a child prodigy. Nannerl lived at a time when any child prodigy – either male or female was praised and noticed; but when she became a woman, she had to begin the role of a woman – subservient to the men in her life. Nannerl’s performing ceased, and she had to take a back seat to Wolfgang.

This story takes on 18th century social norms, but it does not remain an historical novel. There are elements of fantasy rolled into the tale. Nannerl once said that she had but one wish – to be remembered forever. That wish almost became true due to a influence of a mythical being from the Kingdom of Back – a kingdom of fairy princelings and queens of the night. But when Nannerl learned the true cost of having her wish come true, she was faced with the most important decision of her life. It was a decision that no one could make for her – not mother, father, or a famous brother.

I wondered whether or not the author could pull off a merger of history and fantasy, but Lu did a superb job of doing just that. By the time I was well into the story I was immersed into the concept of a fairy being responsible fo I recommend this historical/fantasy for middle school and high school readers.

Politics Today

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Also includes discussions Progressives,Populists, Libertarians, and Conservatives

In an election year, such as this is, a series of this type would most likely have a prominent place in any school library. Each begins with a definition of the political ideology being discussed. Next is a discussion of the position of its proponents in regard to politics and government. This is followed by the position of the adherents in regard to the economy and finally in regard to our culture and/or society. Each book has a chronology which the author feels best suits the discussion at hand. This is followed by a short glossary of important words, a section for further exploration of the topic and a bibliography of sources used by the author. There is a brief index and a short biographical sketch of the author of each text. Within the text are starred pages which give further information about some aspect of the topic at hand. I found those pages disrupted my reading of the text since they were not clearly tied into the flow of the material being presented. Pictures, maps and charts are included in each book. Those items are well-placed, well-labeled, and they give added information to the reader. While these books may be timely, I urge you to consider carefully whether or not to purchase them.

In evaluating any non-fiction book, the reader must first look at the credentials of the author. Who is this person? What authority are they using to give out this information? And, are they presenting factual material without bias? To that end I began to read the biographical sketches in the books. They did not give me any pertinent information about the qualifications of the writers. I found that most were professional writers of some sort. Some were also involved in their communities. In no case could I clearly discern the political position of the writer. I found that vaguely disturbing; by that I mean, if a person writes about one side of a political position, and yet the writer is really an adherent of the opposite side, the writing that person produces will be biased toward his/her own position.

The book on Libertarians has no discussion at all about their position on drugs, alcohol or sex. The author only points out that they do not believe in ANY limitations of the freedoms of man. I think the omission of the discussion of their position on those items is a deliberate omission for younger readers, but it is clearly deceptive because it does not give the entire picture of the party.

I was also struck by the political ideologies that were omitted in the series. One often sees the term “Capitalism” paired with “Liberalism.” Yet, the publisher totally omitted a book entitled, Who Are Liberals and What Do They Believe? Two other political ideologies not discussed in detail are Socialism and Communism. All three of these ideologies are prominent in our society; yet, they seem to be lumped together into the discussion of “Progressives.” Words have denotations and connotations. “Progressive” has a kinder, less threatening connotation than does “liberalism, socialism, or communism.” One wonders if that is why those ideologies were left out of the series.

It is also interesting that, if the reader were to take the position of the writers of these books, one would label Donald Trump as a Populist, because he believes that government is hurting the U.S., as a Nationalist because he actually said he was a nationalist, and as a Conservative because he wants to hold onto the traditional values of America. The respective authors said that: Populism may be more successful now since Trump’s election than at any other time (Anderson); Nationalism has undertones of racism (Potter) No proof of this was given, however; and that Conservatives want America to be all Christian again.(Small) This is just blatantly untrue. Conservatives hold the First Amendment as extremely important. Finally, the author of the book on progressives actually says that they “position themselves in opposition to a system that they see as heartless, cruel, and alienating.” Personally, I find those word offensive, but I’m probably not allowed to be offended. It appears that the series wants the reader to believe that only the Progressives are the “good guys.” Biased writing?

THINK before you spend your money on this series.

Series: Politics Today by Cavendish Square Press. New York, 2020

Who Are Populists: and What do They Believe In? by Zachary Anderson. 9781502645197 (lib. bdg.), $34.21.

Who Are Libertarians and What Do They Believe In? by Tempra Board. 9781502645258 (lib. bdg.) $34.21.

Who Are Nationalists and What Do They Believe In? by Josh Potter.. 978150265166 (lib. bdg.). $34.21.

Who Are Conservatives and What Do They Believe In? by Cathleen Small. 9781502645135 (lib. bdg.).

Who Are Progressives and What do They Believe In? by Matt Bougie, 9781502645227) (lib. bdg.).

Grade level 7-12

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott

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Zetta Elliott has given the reader a challenging, provocative, and beautiful collection of poems.  While male readers could certainly enjoy and learn from them, the collection is aimed at the female reader. The poems are partially Elliott’s work and partially the collected work of various artists, both known and unknown. Two poems, “We Are Wise” and “We Can’t Breathe” were inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “We Real Cool.” 

It was from these two poems written by a group of high school writers that this collection sprang. Interspersed into the collection of poems are two very short essays, which, in themselves, are very nearly poetry.  The reader will also want to be sure to read the introduction because it gives insight into how the collection came to be. Elliott has also provided a bibliographic credit page, but the notes she has provided are a treasure trove in themselves. These notes provide insight into why and how the poems were written. 

I recommend this book for the high school reader.  Probably young students could read it, but it does contain some raw feelings which might be too intense for younger readers.

The Big Book of Bling by Rose Davidson

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If it grabs your eye, if it sparkles, twinkles or shines anywhere in the universe, you might find it discussed in this book.  This is a trivia book, full of color and glitz; but it does not provide much depth in any one subject.  Rather, it is designed to intrigue and possibly to lead young minds down other paths of discovery. 

In an age when the eye is pulled quickly from one subject to another through electronic means, a print version must be eye-catching and appealing.  I think that is what the authors intended for this work. 

The reader will find a great many fascinating subjects from rocks, history, science, splurges, to lights and beyond. Young readers will enjoy looking at the pictures, and more advanced readers will find fascinating tidbits to share with their friends.  I recommend it for elementary and middle school libraries. /:c

Dark Agenda by David Horowitz

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Once in a while I am given a book that demands my full attention. This is such a one. A friend of mine had suggested that I read this and tell him what I thought about it. To be honest, I thought that it would be a bunch of one-sided political ideas. It is that to some extent, but it is much more than that. Horowitz takes the reader on a stroll through history since the French Revolution to the present day. From the day that those revolutionaries changed the name of the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the “Temple of Reason” Christianity began to be under serious attack on the political front.

Horowitz then proceeds to inform the reader of step-by-step very calculated moves to bring the world in line with the position of Karl Marx that religion is “the opiate of the people and “the sigh of the oppressed.” We are very clearly seeing that happening in America. I have recently seen posts online of the “hatred” spewed by “evangelicals” in America. Speaking out against sin itself is now considered “hate speech.” These comments are the outgrowth of the movement to dismantle our religious freedoms and thus to take down our very country.

I celebrate the idea of free will. Horowitz says, “Free will is what makes us equal.” only as truly being individuals and expressing our thoughts, as such, are we really free men. Our society has begun to try to force us to think of ourselves ONLY as a part of a group (black, white, male, female, gay, straight, etc.) “In identity politics only collective rights matter.” This is truly “politics of hate.” He says, “The left has no conscience or restraint when it comes to destroying people that stand in its way.” We have definitely seen this played out in the riots after the election, the attack on the Supreme Court nominee, and now the blatant attacks on churches and evangelicals.

One term which the reader will have to come to grips with is “social justice.” Many churches are using that term to describe their philanthropic efforts. Horowitz says that the use of that term is just a synonym for “communism,” but since its use is more socially acceptable in America the leftists have latched onto it as a useful tool. There are many social issues that Horowitz explores in this book. Each one is carefully documented and fully explained.

One such issue is that of abortion. Horowitz discusses how that issue is playing out in America. He points out that Margaret Sanger was mostly interested in building a master race, and that in order to do that, all substandard people must go. Her movement for contraption and abortion was not to benefit the lives of the poor but to limit the growth of African Americans. Delores Grier, an American black woman pointed this out. She said, “Abortion is racism.” Yet, America has bought into this without even knowing what it was really doing. It is no accident that most abortion clinics are in predominately black neighborhoods. In 2013 more African-American babies (29,002)were aborted in New York City alone than were born there (24,788).

Another social issue is that of LGBTQ rights. Andrew Sullivan, a gay liberal activist, began to realize how the left was beginning to use gay rights as a tool to destroy America, In 2018 he warned “The whole concept of an individual is slipping from the bedrock of American experiment. Free speech, due process, and individual rights are now being understood as masks for “white male power.”…Any differences of opinion are seen as “hate.”” I found it interesting that a gay man would see the problem so clearly and to see it before some so-called “intellectuals” see it.

Horowitz ends with the conundrum of how religious institutions can support such a morally flawed individual as Donald Trump. It is probably best summed up by Tony Perkins. ” My support for Trump has never been based on shared values; it is based on shared concerns.” Trump’s message is clearly that of, “Our country has gone off-course, and we need to bring it back.”

Dark Agenda: Read it if you dare. You may or may not agree with his conclusions, but you will not look at what is happening in America the same way as you once did if you take time to read this book. Unfortunately, many people will blindly continue to ignore his warnings, and discussion of the content may become impossible. Many will see his writings as “hate speech.” The fact that they do see it that way only proves his position, but they will not see it.

Her Own Two Feet by Meredith Davis and Rebekah Uwitonze

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The subtitle of this book really tells most of the story of the book.  It is an inspiring story of a brave little girl who at nine, with the help of her sponsors, came half way around the world by herself in order to have the chance to walk on her own two feet.  Rebekah had been born with twisted arms and legs and her parents were urged by others in her home in Rwanda to abandon her by the side of the road and let her die.  But her parents refused to do that.  Instead, they encouraged her to do everything that she possibly could do and then go beyond that.

  Doctors in Rwanda tried to straighten her legs once when she was about four, but it didn’t work.  Rebekah could not walk to school, so her younger sister taught her everything she was learning each evening when she came home.  Rebekah taught herself to walk, instead of crawling around on the ground.  However, she had to walk on the tops of her feet since her feet were twisted all the way to the back.  Nevertheless, she persisted, and although she never could get her arms to work correctly, she learned how to eat and brush her teeth.  One day she found out that a person from America had sponsored her, providing her family with a guarantee of food and a chance for her to go to school.  This is itself encouraged her to keep up working toward her goal of walking and going to school. 

She did not know that her sponsor was a doctor in America.  One day another family who had sponsored children from her village came to visit them.  Mr. Clay Davis saw her need and realized that he knew her sponsor and that her sponsor, Dr. Rice, might be able to find another doctor who could help Rebekah walk.  Thus began the saga of Rebekah’s struggle to be able to walk.  Her father and mother knew that she had lived for a reason, and so they were able to let their little girl go to a strange land with people they did not know to find the help they could not give. 

The author of the book is Mrs. Clay Davis. Meredith and Clay Davis not only helped Rebekah come to the U.S. They provided a home for her and treated her as their own daughter through the years that she had to undergo treatments and surgeries. She tells Rebekah’s story from her firsthand knowledge and uses Rebekah’s words to explain all of Rebekah’s emotional turmoil.

I think this book deserves a place in every library.  It is a testimony to the power of faith and perseverance.  While the people involved in the story are obviously Christian, the story is not overtly about their faith.  It shines through, though, because faith is like that.  When it exists, people notice, even if editors may have pruned out overt religious references. Buy this for your upper elementary and middle school children – even if it is only for the cultural references which abound in the book.

Strange Birds: a Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez

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Lane Disanti is from London and she wants to make friends, but not just with anyone. She wants to meet girls who have the same interests as she does. In order to do this she plans a secret rendezvous in the tree house that her brothers built on her grandmother’s property in Florida.

She makes up special invitations and leaves them where only a certain kind of girl would find them. She had already seen one of the girls, Ofelia Castillo because she often came to work with her mother who was the cook for Lane’s grandmother. She slipped an invitation into Ofelia’s backpack. Since she had to read fifteen books before school started in the fall, Lane thought that the library would be another good place for an invitation. There, she slipped two invitations into summer reading club book bags.

One of those was picked up by Cat Garcia, whose mother was determined that Cat become a member of the Floras, an elite club for the girls of Sabel Palms, Florida. The last invitation was discovered by Aster Douglas, a budding chef. And from these invitations came the Inaugural Meeting of the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders.

Each of the girls knew that they certainly fit the “Outsiders Category.” The girls spend a wild summer together sometimes doing good and sometimes getting into serious trouble. This is an entertaining story of preteen girls who all feel that they aren’t a part of society, but who learn that friendship is the most important part of life, and they learn that other girls often feel the same way that they do.

This is a nice little adventure book for girls.  It is about growing up and about dealing with family issues.  The characters are well-defined and engaging.  Although the girls do things that they shouldn’t, they learn from their mistakes and grow from them. I recommend this for all upper elementary readers.
Recommended.

Patricia S Brown, Educational Reviewer, Auburndale Florida