unintimidated: wisconsin sings truth to power

I’ve wanted to get my hands on Unintimidated: Wisconsin Sings Truth to Power for about a year now, ever since it came out as a response to Gov. Scott Walker’s book of the same title. When I was in Madison visiting my parents last month I saw they had a copy, which they let me borrow. From Goodreads:

UNINTIMIDATED: Wisconsin Sings Truth to Power is the compelling true story of the Solidarity Sing Along, the longest-running singing protest in history. Since March 11, 2011, opponents of Gov. Scott Walker and his extremist tea party agenda have been gathering in the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison from noon to 1 p.m. every weekday (over 700 straight to date call it Moral Monday through Friday). The singing protest came on the heels of huge rallies (one of at least 150,000 people) at the Capitol after Walker “dropped the bomb” (his words in secret to his Cabinet) that dealt a cowardly death blow to 50 years of collective bargaining for public workers. What followed, and still continues, were legislative assaults by the Republican majority on women, voters, teachers, renters, the poor and the working class in general.

Oh how I was dying to be at the protests! When Walker “dropped the bomb” I was so, so, so tempted to take a couple vacation days and get up to Madison as soon as I could. But I have been watching the politics in Wisconsin like a hawk for three or four years now, and I was able to participate in a Solidarity Sing Along once when I was home visiting. It was a moving, communal experience. They are still going strong today!

One thing I learned that I didn’t know about our Capitol was that the rotunda was specifically designed with the people’s voices in mind, acoustically tuned to help project from the first floor rotunda up throughout the building. It’s also so ironic that all of this was happening under a bust of “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, a Republican (!) remembered as a staunch proponent of progressivism.

Unintimidated was short, only about 60 pages, with lots of great photos embedded throughout the book, which is more like an extended essay. I was able to read it in less than an hour. It brought me right back to those impassioned feelings of community, strength, peace, and justice. If you’re interested in politics, labor, unions, and current events then this is a great read.

Read on June 15, 2014.

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?—a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I had an AMAZING weekend of reading! I finished Wool by Hugh Howey on Saturday, and then yesterday I ended up reading TWO books: Unintimidated: Wisconsin Sings Truth to Power by various authors/photographers about the Solidarity Sing Along in response to Governor Scott Walker’s damaging, devastating  agenda, and Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Unintimidated was short, more like an extended essay punctuated with lots of pictures, so I’m not surprised I was able to read it all in less than an hour. But OMG you guys. Bird Box. ~300 page book that I could NOT put down. I broke up my reading through the day (still had to get some housework etc. done!) but it was totally gripping and I just HAD to finish. So, with this weekend’s reading, after finally getting myself all caught up with review posts I find myself four behind again!

Late into the night last night after I finished Bird Box I decided to start We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I only read about 10 pages before falling asleep, and I have a confession that I did end up seeing the movie before reading (I didn’t know it was a book first when I saw the movie), but I’m still interested in finding out more on this story and I like Lionel Shriver’s writing after listening to her Big Brother on audio last year (my review). And of course, the book will be vastly different and I’ll probably end up liking it more than the movie anyway!

What are you reading this week?

when pride still mattered

In January I read When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss in my book group at the public library. From Goodreads:

More than any other sports figure, Vince Lombardi transformed football into a metaphor of the American experience. The son of an Italian immigrant butcher, Lombardi toiled for twenty frustrating years as a high school coach and then as an assistant at Fordham, West Point, and the New York Giants before his big break came at age forty-six with the chance to coach a struggling team in snowbound Wisconsin. His leadership of the Green Bay Packers to five world championships in nine seasons is the most storied period in NFL history. Lombardi became a living legend, a symbol to many of leadership, discipline, perseverance, and teamwork, and to others of an obsession with winning. In When Pride Still Mattered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the myth and the man, football, God, and country in a thrilling biography destined to become an American classic.

I was really excited and surprised that a book about Vince Lombardi was chosen for our book group—I would have never suggested it (well, not unless I was in a book group in Wisconsin 😉 ) since it’s 500+ dense pages—so I was also pretty curious to see how my bookish Kansas City cohorts would take to it. I knew off the bat that I would love it, and I did. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t quite up their alley. I can absolutely see why I had special interest in When Pride Still Mattered over the rest of the group, though—unless you are a fan of football (Packers or otherwise), or are interested in football (and Wisconsin) history, this book probably won’t do it for you.

But since I am a football fan, Packers fan, Wisconsinite, and interested in popular American history, When Pride Still Mattered was endlessly gripping for me. Best known as head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s who brought the team to an unprecedented five championships wins in nine seasons, Vince Lombardi has transcended mere historical figure to storied legend, surrounded by a particular mythology that began to develop even before his death in 1970. I absolutely LOVED the chapters about his time in Green Bay; Maraniss’s descriptions of the small industrial city are spot-on. I felt like I was living through every game recounted, and it was fun to read about Lombardi’s players—Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer, and more. I found myself becoming nostalgic for an era that happened 20 years before I was born!

Maraniss’s When Pride Still Mattered is the definitive Lombardi biography, covering his family growing up in New York to his Jesuit education (Fordham University), and career as an assistant coach (West Point, New York Giants) long before ever having a chance at a head coach position. Along the way Maraniss ties in historical events and changes in the United States and how they related to Lombardi’s career, like the rise of television (and how that changed professional football), the Kennedy family’s political reign and JFK’s assassination, and the cultural revolutions of the 1960s.

Beyond this broader scope, Maraniss objectively presents Lombardi the man as well, as a son, brother, husband, and father. Despite having a seemingly larger-than-life persona and air of success in the public eye, Lombardi was actually quite shy, lonely, and awkward, as well as a disappointing, frustrating husband and father. I felt like I knew the family intimately after reading When Pride Still Mattered. One part of Lombardi I found especially striking were his progressive, liberal social leanings, particularly with sexual orientation and race on his football teams.

When Pride Still Mattered hit home on a personal level for me, too, beyond just being a Packers fan. Lombardi lived just under a mile away from my grandparents’ house, where my mother and her siblings were raised, and where I spent a lot of time myself before my gramma moved out in 2010. Lombardi frequented Resurrection Catholic Parish in Allouez, where my mom’s family attended, where my parents were married, and where my grandparents’ funerals were held. I just felt extra connected having been to a lot of these places mentioned in the book and having times in my family’s history click with Packers/Lombardi history (my grampa taking my uncle to the Ice Bowl, for instance). I rarely cry over books and movies, but I cried at the end of When Pride Still Mattered, when Lombardi was dying of cancer in the hospital:

By August 31, Lombardi was slipping in and out of consciousness, but he remembered that this was a special day, their thirtieth wedding anniversary. “Happy anniversary, Rie,” he said to Marie. “Remember, I love you.” (page 497)

The day after my gramma died in October 2013, a few of us went on the Lambeau Field tour and saw the Packers Hall of Fame (because duh! That’s how we do in Wisconsin):

I can’t recommend When Pride Still Mattered highly enough! It’s a chunkster, but totally worth it if football history, the Packers, Lombardi, and/or American biographies are your jam.

Read from January 3 to 29, 2014.

bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts

I have been enjoying Rory at Fourth Street Review‘s bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts lists for a while now (credit to Christine at Bookishly Boisterous for originating it). Since I’m coming up on several days with nothing to post and even less time for blogging, I thought I’d jump in with a bookish/not-so-bookish post of my own. Basically, it’s just a list of what’s on your mind lately, what you’ve encountered this week, random plans, or whatever you want to mention!

1. OF COURSE when I have a big concert weekend and my parents are coming in and I need new tires on the car, naturally Kansas City gets a winter storm and I have to drive through it a bunch. Of course! I love winter weather but for real, errgh.

2. Okay this is SO college-studenty of me, but one of the reasons I love it when my folks come to visit is so we can try new (to us) restaurants, like this weekend we might check out the Farmhouse in City Market. Or whatever we want!

3. Speaking of my folks’ visit, they are taking the train and when I went to check the status on its departure (because of the weather here), I discovered Chicago Union Station’s magic piano—it “responds” musically to what’s happening around it. So awesome!

4. I recently (finally) got some new CDs: John Legend‘s Love in the Future, Daughter‘s If You Leave, and Mandolin Orange‘s This Side of Jordan. They’re very different and I love them all! I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a new CD.

5. I cannot wait until our trip up to Wisconsin for Christmas. Counting down the nights (8 more). We’re going to see my mom’s family and go to a Packer game, hang out in Madison, and it’s going to be amazing and much needed time off. (Did I mention I can’t wait?)

6. I’m on a brownie kick lately. Made smitten kitchen’s favorite brownies twice, and I think I might make them again for a party on Sunday and for my coworkers next week before the holiday, too.

7. I almost bought a book today… saw one I’ve had on my radar for a while now on sale at the school bookstore for $7. Very tempted, but proud of myself for resisting. I have way too many on my TBR right now! One day…

8. I haven’t really gone out to do any holiday gift shopping yet, but I’ve been thinking a lot (and looking online) for ideas for the new kids in my life—20-month-old nephew and friends’ new babies. It’s so much fun buying for the little kids! Grown-ups are tough, including me 😉

9. Not sure I’ll accomplish my reading goal this month now… I feel like time is going so fast and I know I won’t get much reading done this weekend or while we’re up in Wisconsin. Oh well, I am probably (likely) being too hard on myself.

10. I’m looking forward to seeing jazz pianist/author/fellow Madisonian Ben Sidran speak on Sunday in Kansas City at the JCCKC’s White Theatre. (Confession: I’ve had his 2003 memoir for years and still haven’t read it!)

packers: green, gold and glory

The second book I read during my mini-readathon over Thanksgiving was Packers: Green, Gold and Glory by Sports Illustrated. From Goodreads:

Green Bay has a history like no other city in the National Football League. Here the passion runs deep and true through generations of fans, and the success has been unparalleled: 13 championships, 22 Hall of Fame players, a past festooned with grand names such as Lambeau and Lombardi and Nitschke. Not surprisingly, the Packers have won the admiration of fans the world over, and Sports Illustrated celebrates the franchise with this collection of new and classic stories and photographs.

I was thrilled to win a copy of Packers: Green Gold and Glory from totalpackers.com last month! It was wonderful to read about our great players and memorable games… especially during this lackluster season. 😩 I needed a little positive Packers pick-me-up lately! I loved coming home from work to read a few pages of this every day, my “coffee-table” book of November.

Green, Gold and Glory pretty much encompasses the best of the Packers—high-quality photographs and facsimiles, history of the team, brief essays on favorite players past and present, recaps of the championship games, selected articles from previous issues of Sports Illustrated, and even an extensive section right at the beginning about the fans. Gotta say it—Packers fans are the best. I love the tradition of the players riding kids bikes to training camp! When I was up in Green Bay in October I went on the Lambeau Field stadium tour and was pleasantly surprised to see my tour guide featured in the book as an ardent memorabilia collector and life-long fan.

Of course, as a Wisconsinite with roots in Green Bay, the fan section touched me the most. I definitely identify with the stories of the fans—loving the Packers is a time-honored tradition across generations in Wisconsin. My grandparents lived in Green Bay, and more than half my mom’s family still does. My grampa took my gramma on dates to see the Packers of the 1940s at (Old) City Stadium near East High School (where my mom is an alumna). Grampa bought season tickets in 1957 when the new City Stadium opened, later renamed Lambeau Field. The tickets passed around my mom’s siblings for a while before landing with my mom, and it is a wonderful feeling to go to a game and sit in the same spot my grampa did for decades, even during the Ice Bowl of ’67. I get teared up just thinking about this stuff sometimes! (Seriously, I really do. This is me crying [and my friends laughing at me!] when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.)

The game recaps were another favorite part, especially the Ice Bowl, Super Bowl XXXI (my dad and uncle went to New Orleans to see it), and Super Bowl XLV. And I loved how it emphasized what a big part the community plays in the Packers, from activism (buying shares and rallying to sell tickets, for example) to small-town, down-to-earth attitude. Anyway, Green, Gold and Glory is a must-read for any die-hard Packers fan, and a wonderful book to have in your collection.

Read from November 7 to 30, 2013.