Category Archives: Autobiography

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Giant of the SenateSenator Al Franken of Minnesota has quickly become one of the most well-known U.S. Senators of the United States of America.

Giant of the Senate is an autobiography of Al Franken beginning his journey as a child growing up in Minnesota, to becoming a writer of Saturday Night Live and finally becoming a respected Democratic U.S. Senator.
“Here in America, of course, we’re all immigrants. Except, of course, for Native Americans against whom we committed genocide.” With the present political leadership in Washington, this quote is gutsy. Remember, he is a democrat.

Who could imagine a comedy writer being the unlikely Democratic candidate for a congressional seat?

Being a child of typical middle-class America from the liberal state of Minnesota gives a young Al Franken a strong, independent foundation for his future life choices. When his older brother became the first in the family eventually graduating from MIT with a degree in physics, Al made his own way by attending Harvard. Surprising, his brother became a photographer and Al, a comedian. How would your parents feel about those outcomes from a college education?

Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice by Emily Winslow

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Jane Doe JanuaryTo say that Jane Doe January is a haunting read is a vast understatement, but it is the best term I can come up with to describe this book. While this book is at times both brutal and thought provoking, it is also frustrating and emotionally draining. This is a story of two women raped by the same man twenty years apart. The victims are known to the press only as Jane Doe January and Jane Doe November. Winslow was Jane Doe January, hence the title of the book.

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Eleven Two: One WWII Airman’s Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom by Frank A. Kravetz (Review #2)

Eleven TwoReviewed by Cy Hilterman

A fantastic biography of an airman during World War II as he fought for our nation, was shot down over Germany, rescued and captured by the German military, and his life during all of that as well as his active life after his official military service. Frank Kravetz was born and raised in small towns in and around East Pittsburgh, Pa. He had several brothers and sisters all living in tight quarters. Frank’s father worked at the Westinghouse plant in East Pittsburgh when Pittsburgh was still the dirty and busy industrial city. Frank tells of his early life, his siblings, and his parents and how they all got along and existed during the tough depression years. The family was religious and that helped get them through some tough times. In 1940, with the war raging in Europe, the draft took affect where all males had to register for the military draft at age 18, Frank and his brothers included. Frank was accepted in an apprentice program at Westinghouse.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in a horrific sneak attack killing thousands of our military and civilians in that area of the world. Frank’s brother Mickey had enlisted in the army before the war started so he was entrenched in the military already and knew he would be one of the first to go to an active area. Frank’s brothers enlisted when their medical examinations were of a passing grade. Many area men were now in the military so Frank thought he better enlist in the Air Force to give him his choice of the branch of service he wanted. While awaiting his approval, Frank did spend time with his girlfriend, Anne Cerjanic who had graduated and was working at The National Biscuit Company plant in East Liberty, Pa. His first attempt to join the Air Force was rejected because he was five-pounds overweight. Frank lost that weight fast so he could enlist and after a short time that’s what he did. He always wanted to be a pilot but he was assigned as a crewmember of a B-17 Flying Fortress. During his training he, and all crewmembers, learned how to perform many jobs in the B-17 s in the event that someone was injured. Frank was finally assigned as a tail gunner where he had to fit into a tiny space in the tail. With all his equipment on he had to really squeeze into that tail!

After all his training, his group flew eventually to Valley Wales, United Kingdom, where they would be sent by train and bus to Glatton, England where they would be assigned their own B-17. His airplane had made several bombing missions, being shot at on most of them but being fortunate to survive while many others on a mission did not come back, either from being shot down or blown out of the air. November 2, 1944 his group was given the target of Merseberg, Germany where the German’s had many defense fortifications on land and in the air. It was a very dangerous mission. It turned out to be Frank’s last mission of the war as they were shot down and eventually taken prisoner. Frank was wounded mainly in his leg from flak, so badly that his crewmen had to extricate him from the tail section, wrap him in as many layers of clothes topped by a parachute that had come open by mistake. They then threw him out of the falling B-17 praying that the chute would open and get him safely to the ground.

Eleven Two: One WWII Airman’s Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom by Frank A. Kravetz

Eleven TwoReviewed by Nancy Eaton

Frank Kravetz had an amazing story to tell and I am so honored to have had a chance to read Eleven Two. What does Eleven Two mean? It refers to the date of November 2. You will have to read the book to see what events happened on this date. When you do, you will be astonished.

Eleven Two is Frank Kravetz’s personal story of his life. We follow Frank from the time he was a very young man, through his time in the Army Air Corps, his time as a prisoner of war and how he has continued to help veterans after his discharge from the service.

Eleven Two is a wonderful book for anyone to read but it is so important for the younger generation of today to read this book. It gives a detailed description of what it was like to be involved in a war. Frank gives the reader detailed descriptions of what it was like to be held captive in a prisoner of war camp and how one tries to deal with it in order to survive. I will pass my copy along to my cousin’s young son who is very interested in history. I told him about this book and he is looking forward to reading it.

Frank also shows the reader the important role his faith and family played in his life. There are several of Frank’s personal photos included in the book.

Eleven Two is a story that is very moving and written with a great deal of detail. There is a very interesting chapter at the end called “Reflections”. Also included is a chapter by Anne, Frank’s wife. There is also a tribute to Frank written by his daughter Cheryl.

I could go on and on about why you should read this book but I don’t want to spoil it by saying too much. Thank you Frank for writing this book especially so the younger generation could read about history from a person who has lived through such an ordeal. Thank you for your service to our country and for all the time you have spent helping other veterans.

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Just a Few Seconds: A Story from the Hidden World of Music and Beyond by Nemo James

Just a Few SecondsReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

The autobiographies of famous rock & roll icons like Nikki Sixx, Sammy Hagar, Ozzie Osbourne and Patti Smith make for some very fascinating reading. But, what about the lives of the other members of various bands, which may/may not hit the Big Time in such an explosive way? Just A Few Seconds by Nemo James is an autobiography that is captivating, written with an ironic and witty sense of humor, and though the author never became as well-known as someone like Eric Clapton or Jim Morrison, his life story is a very interesting and engaging one, indeed. This book is proof that the lives of the members of bands who never quite hit the Big Time for whatever combination of reasons, or who are largely itinerant musicians, going from one band to another, are often also well worth reading about.

Most guys and many teen girls have had dreams growing up in the 1960’s and even now of becoming someone famous, like an athlete with tons of endorsement deals, and actor, or a rock musician. Few have the talent and perseverance, not to mention the luck, that it takes to forge onwards to see their goals realized. Sometimes, though, it all works out for the best, and one can at least have a taste of the glory, a slice of the pie, a glimpse of what it’s like to be one of the elite in one’s field, and can enjoy a quite pleasant retirement with many memories and anecdotes. That’s what Nemo James’ life as he writes about it in Just A Few Seconds is about. His autobiography has already been sold out at Amazon once; perhaps ultimately, the author will become more famous for his writing skills than as a musician. As Nemo writes:

Yes, it’s been quite a journey. I failed in nearly everything I did and yet always loved life and ended up enjoying the kind of success that the rich and famous only dream about. All that effort and hard work and yet it was nothing more than blind luck that brought about my success. No amount of talent or hard work can replace luck.

The book starts with a chapter called “The End.” Why, you might ask? Just A Few Seconds is written in the first person, and the chapter is the author talking to us literally from beyond the grave (though he’s of course today quite alive & well), and he’s wondering such things as if he’s getting a big turn out for his funeral, and how many times the church bell is tolling for him. He tries to think of it as not really an ending, but a “new beginning.” This is how he approached every setback in his life, as we’ll learn as we read, so why not act the same way about one’s afterlife? The rest of the autobiography is fairly linear, though the final chapter is titled “The Middle.”

All the Sundays Yet to Come by Kathryn Bertine

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

All the Sundays Yet to Come
This is the autobiography of professional skater, Kathryn Bertine. The book goes through her earlier days up to the time that she became a professional skater.

Kathryn Bertine was a professional skater with Holiday on Ice where she performed in Europe. She also skated in Hollywood on Ice where conditions were not the best. She gives details of what skaters referred to as the “trailer”. She describes the trailer as a “beast of mobile metal that rolled all around South America”.

The author goes into details about the Sunday weigh-ins of the skaters. They were encouraged to be “skinny”. As a result, she developed an eating disorder and almost starved herself to death.

What other behind the scenes secrets did Kathryn reveal in this book?