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Celebrating books, history and the joy of reading

October 15, 2017

We have ample time to read now that we are retired. But joining a book club pulls us out of our comfort zone. Our neighborhood book club selected to read and discuss the book, "The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home," by Sally Mott Freeman.

Reviewer Chug Haga in the Star Tribune (June 23, 2017) wrote, "'The Jersey Brothers' is nearly 600 pages of intense, thoroughly researched family and world history, as engaging and readable as a fine novel. It took author Sally Mott Freeman - the daughter of Bill Mott, niece to Benny and Barton - 10 years to piece together the story of Barton's capture, imprisonment and torture, and his brothers' relentless drive to find him."

Last weekend, the First Town in the First State hosted the first History Book Festival, the only one of its kind in the nation. More than 20 authors of both fiction and nonfiction were presenters, including Meryl Gordon, Randy Holland, Christopher J. Lebron, Elizabeth Brown Pryor and Kermit Roosevelt III.

Organizer Joan Russo said, "The festival was able to gather all these authors with their different ideas, stories and passions, and bring them to our community, making Lewes a beacon. So appropriate for an historic town with two lighthouses!"

One of the participating authors at this event quoted Kipling: "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

Sally Mott Freeman, author of "The Jersey Brothers," was one of the speakers along with keynote speaker James Swanson, who wrote the acclaimed book "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer."

Because of Mott's commitment to her craft, I learned far more than I ever thought possible about a war my father enlisted to fight in at the age of 17. What struck me was how politics and ego played a critical role in how major naval battles were won or lost. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had ordered the evacuation of the Army wounded on the last vessel to depart Manila before the city fell to the Japanese, but the 30-some Navy wounded were left behind. They were transported over the next three years along with thousands of other captured American servicemen from one wretched Japanese POW camp to another.

Literary agent Deborah Grosvenor, who represented Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October," noted, "When people read history, they want to be entertained and educated."

Christopher Lebron, who authored, "The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea," spoke at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Lebron is currently assistant professor of African-American Studies and Philosophy at Yale. He says the book "provides a point of entry for those curious about the ethical meaning and origin of those three words, 'black lives matter.' I invite readers to meet, engage, and re-engage a select number of black theorists and writers who each, in his or her own way, anticipated the current movement for black lives."

Would you like to recommend a book title which helped you to better understand the world? Tell me what you learned that you didn't already know.

The well-received event will be held next year, Sept. 28-29.

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