A Book Report

As I sit here writing and looking out of my deck door, I see a beautiful day coming along. This morning the sun is out and the blue sky is showing itself with no clouds. They say it is supposed to be almost 60 degrees here in Minnesota today. That is rare for this early in March, but I’ll take it. I think I’m ready to be outside again, without a heavy coat and boots on.

I’m still reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is a longer book, but it is also taking me longer to read. I think I’m just in a busy life period lately. Or maybe I have a lot on my mind. After blogging last month about black American people who made some great things happen in the history of our country, I think I got a little heavy hearted about how they were treated. Even as I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I feel sympathy for the characters and how they didn’t have many choices. They were split up from their families with no regard for their feelings. They were killed if they were caught escaping with no consideration of why they had to leave. Many did escape and become free, but it wasn’t an easy journey. It was pretty stressful not only for them, but also for the people who were helping them get away from slavery.

Thinking about the title A Book Report, I remember the book reports that we did in school. It made me go back into my archive files to look through some papers that my Mom had saved for me from grade school and high school. I saw some poetry that I had written in fourth grade. I saw the awards I got for reading books in the Bookmate Program in fifth grade. I have memories of walking into our library at my elementary school, which I think was actually called a media center, and going to the posted list of Bookmate books. I wish I had a list of the books I read, it would be fun to see what kind of books were of interest to me then. I know at home I was reading Nancy Drew and Little House on the Prairie. My Godmother also gave me some books from Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series. This books were similar to Little House on the Prairie in setting, but was more of a Christian romance story.

So, after looking through those papers I wondered how would I write a book report about Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Well, first off, I should probably finish the book to have the full story to work with. Back in the school days, I wonder how many students did write their book reports without finishing the story. I know that some kids were watching the movie and writing their reports based on that version, which the teacher would always catch them at. Nowadays, kids can go right onto the internet and find reviews and even videos about the book to write the report from. How about Cliff Notes? I know that I received some help from copies of those to write my English papers. Are they even still available? I just googled it and they are still out there.

With another google search, I found out how to write a book report on wikihow.com

http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Book-Report

I think the first paragraph is great advice to how to get started. This information could have been helpful to me when I was assigned this task back in the day.

Most students will have to write a book report. But writing a book report isn’t always easy. It is best to enjoy the book and not think about the report until you have finished reading. Now, absorb and think about what it was you read. Get up from your chair, walk around, then sit down at the table and start to write.

wikihow.com talks about the process to write the book report

Method #1 – Before you write the report

  1. know the requirements of the assignment
  2. read the book an annotate
  3. Outline main ideas and sub ideas of your book

Method #2 – Form of your report

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

Method #3 – Final Copy

  1. Reread your report
  2. Edit your report

The process sounds familiar, but I don’t think I had it spelled out like this for me before. As I look through the steps, I would say that I probably did them all, but maybe not as in depth as I could have. I am not sure if I did any annotating or outlining while I was reading the book then, but it may have helped in writing the report. The form of the report is how all reports and research papers are set up. I remember the teachers talking about that format a lot, not just for a book report but other research papers too. Then there is the reread and edit phase. I think I was so happy to get the thing done, I may not have did such a great job at the proofreading part. Now, as a writer of blogs and manuscripts, I do this step a lot before I post or publish. Oh, how my writing process has changed since then!

A book report is a paper about what the book is about that is usually written for a class assignment. How about a book review?  I have seen them as articles in the newspaper that are like a mini book report. On the other hand, the ones that I see posted on Goodreads and Amazon.com, tend to be little blurbs about what the reader thought of the book. They are usually accompanied by star review, one star being dislike and five stars being liked a lot.

Authors like to receive reviews from their readers and reviewers, either good and bad. One of the things that I have learned over my years of writing is that not everyone is going to like what you write. It is just like with people, some are going to like you and some aren’t. That shouldn’t be your motivation to write. Your motivation to write is that you enjoy writing and to get your voice out there. Any feedback that we can get from the readers is a gift. They took their time to let us know how they felt about what we wrote, good or bad.

Black History Month 2016 – Frederick Douglass

I was interested in Abraham Lincoln when I was growing up. He seemed to be someone that was in touch with the people, and some one who they could talk to. Along with who he was and his fight to abolish slavery both showed me his compassion for the rights of other people.

Abolitionist was kind of a weird word for me to understand when we were learning about slavery in school. I couldn’t tell which side they were on. I think it was confusion about the fact that they were fighting against slavery and angry with white people. Over the years I’ve been learning how much of our country’s history I don’t know, due to a definite slant on how it was told in history books. The idea of slavery was so unclear, because people didn’t want us to know what was being done to the slaves. I think this was one of the reasons I was drawn to blog on the subject of Black History Month, to try and get a better understanding.

In celebration of his birthday this week, I decided to focus my blog on Frederick Douglass, a human rights leader in the anti-slavery movement. He was also an intellectual adviser to United States presidents on causes including slavery, women’s rights and Irish Home Rule. Like I wrote about in the blog about Carter G. Woodson a couple of weeks ago, Douglass was also one of the key figures that Black History Month was started in honor of.

According to biography.com, he was born into slavery on a plantation in Eastern Maryland. Even though he was born in February, the actual day wasn’t always documented for slaves. He adopted February 14th as his birthday because his mother Harriet, who died when he was eight, called him her little valentine. He initially lived with his maternal Grandmother, Betty Bailey after his mother’s death, but at a young age, he was taken from his family to live in the homes of other plantation owners in the area, one of whom may have even been his father.

When he was sent to the Baltimore home of Hugh Auld, Douglass was taught the alphabet by Auld’s wife Sophia. When he found out that his wife was teaching the slaves to read, he forbade her to continue. This opened up the door for Douglass to want to learn more, which he did from the white children and others in the neighborhood. The start of his education at this point in his life would lead him to the successes that he would have later on.

It was through education and reading that Douglass’s ideological opposition to slavery began to take shape. He found more and more journals and newspapers to expand his knowledge. While he was hired out to William Freeland, he also started to share this information with other slaves and taught them how to read at weekly church services. Freeland didn’t mind, but other slave owners in the area did. Armed with clubs and stones, they dispersed the congregation permanently.

After that, he was sent to work for Edward Covey, who was known as a “slave breaker”. He worked his slaves really hard and with constant abuse. He almost broke the spirit of a then sixteen year old Douglass. One day, he did fight back against Covey and won. It was a definite turning point in his life. He relived that event in his first autobiography and said that Covey left him alone after that fight.

There were many stories of slave escapes. Some slaves even died trying to do it. Douglass had tried to escape slavery twice and failed twice. When he finally succeeded, he made it to a safe house in New York, married Anna Murray in 1838, and he began to attend abolitionist meetings where he met William Lloyd Garrison, a radical abolitionist. Garrison wrote a weekly journal called The Liberator that Douglass subscribed to. He began to share his experiences at the meetings and became a regular speaker. Garrison mentored Douglass and urged him to write his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845.

After the book was published, Douglass traveled overseas to Liverpool to evade recapture. He stayed there for two years during the potato famine in Ireland and spoke at different events about the evils of slavery. During this time, Douglass’s British supporters gathered funds to purchase his legal freedom. In 1847 he returned to the United States a free man.

While I was researching Douglass’ background, a connection between Douglass, Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe came to light. In an article on PBS.org, Garrison and Douglass were not getting along due to a difference of opinion, so Stowe thought she could try and help them to reconcile. Stowe wrote a letter to Garrison about her impressions of Douglass on December 19, 1853.  She believed that his convictions were based on “growth from the soil and his own mind.” Garrison believed that Douglass was disagreeing with him and just going along with the less radical abolitionists. Her hope to reconcile these two former friends would not be realized.

The fact that her family was so involved in the anti-slavery movement was also very interesting to me. Like Douglass, she also lost her mother as a young child. Her father was involved and his abolitionist attitude was reinforced in his children.

One more interesting thing about Stowe, according to HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org, is why she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin,

I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice that I saw, as a Christian I felt dishonor to Christianity. As a lover of my country, I trembled at the coming day of wrath.

Stowe’s family was involved in the Underground Railroad and were helping slaves secure their freedom by hiding them in their own home on their way to Canada. Interesting how all of these people were connected by the anti-slavery movement. Stowe and Garrison were white and working towards abolishing slavery with Douglass.

After I came across this connection, I decided to add Uncle Tom’s Cabin to my reading list. Through all of the reading that I have done, I found that haven’t read it yet. I would like to see how Stowe tells the story. It is on hold at the library for me right now.

Writing is a journey. This year’s blogs have all taken on a mind and direction of their own. It has been fun to write them and see where they end up. For Black History Month, this entry brought a couple of white abolitionists to play roles in developing the main subject, Frederick Douglass. It was good to see that white people that were also fighting against slavery right along with the blacks. The way that discrimination has developed in our country has made it a strong black versus white issue. Looks like even some white Americans were trying to make things right.