Category Archives: Historical Non-Fiction

The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in the Salvadoran Heartland by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The Little Breadwinner: War and Survival in the Salvadoran Heartland” is a harrowing tale about the many faces of war, written by Lucia Mann. The book folds and unfolds the narratives of several generations across different lands and times, but perhaps the biggest feat of the read is that it offers an account of the civil war of El Salvador. What is more, the author was on location at the time of the civil war so the subject has an added personal resonance.

If you are not familiar with the Salvadoran Civil War (1979-1992), this is a great opportunity to learn about it. At the beginning of the book, you can find a map and chronology of the events that serve as a general guideline for the pages that follow. The two sides that were in conflict for more than 12 years were the military-led junta government and a coalition of left-winged groups, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The US-funded government death-squads conducted a methodic terror campaign against civilians that added up to a long list of human rights violations (forceful recruiting of child soldiers, massacres, attacks, and rapes). A lot of people were killed and a lot of people simply disappeared. Their exact number remains unknown, but the UN reports a victim count of over 75,000, as far as those killed during the long civil war. It all finally ended with the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

“The Little Breadwinner” encompasses the civil war, but goes beyond it and captures some of the late after-effects of a tough decade. Lucia Mann starts with some apparently disjointed cold facts about the Salvadorian Civil War, but as the pages progress, her approach turns more personal as she tells us a multi-generational story. She frequently interjects with personal observations and comments that sometimes jolt the reader out of the immersive experience.

One of the main characters is Estrella Godwin Lozano, a person with a short stature that becomes “the little breadwinner” for her family living in poverty. She is the descendant of the Waorani tribe from the Amazonian rainforest. Her birth mother was a gifted tribe member and her gift passed down between generations being particularly strong in Estrella’s case. Yet, this special soul was not ordained for an easy life; she faced many hardships and challenges, the worst of which was brought on by the civil war.

The Little Breadwinner” reveals the personal narratives of the victims of the Salvadorian Civil War. The book is based on real events but presents these in a fictionalized form. Lucia Mann, a passionate and worldly activist, a prolific writer, tells yet another unique story about the oppressed and suffering trying to fight against the current of fate.

The Boy Refugee: A Memoir from a Long-Forgotten War by Khawaja Azimuddin, M.D.

Reviewed by Danita Dyess

In The Boy Refugee: A Memoir from a Long-Forgotten War by Dr. Khawaja Azimuddin, he chronicles the devastating effects of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Back then, Azimuddin, a Pakistani, was only eight years old. His detailed account of the civil unrest chronicles two years of emotional, economical, familial, and political upheaval. About 100,000 Prisoners of War were entangled in a never-ending battle between the Bangladeshis and their quest for independence and the Pakistanis who have assumed total control.

Azimuddin had two older siblings – his sister, Maliha Apa and brother, Khusro Bhaijan. His mother, Ammi, was the daughter of an influential civil servant. Their spacious home was surrounded by a pond and trees filled with bananas, apples, and coconuts.

His father, Pappa, had been educated in India. Now he was a bishari, upper class group of society. Pappa worked as a plant manager for Adamjee Jute Mills, the world’s largest manufacturer of jute and cotton products. He oversaw the Bengali workers, the poor class residing in shantis. The two classes are about to erupt in a war. Why?

The boy that liked to play cricket, ride his bike, and pet his pigeon, Kabooter, explains. He says the history of the two factions began when the East and West Pakistan were separated by geography. When the British left, two countries formed – Muslims represented Pakistan (Bengalis) and Hindus represented India. Now the Pakistani army killed mill workers. So the mukti bahini murdered Pakistani officers and civilians.

So the story unfolds with Abdul, a loyal servant of Azimuddin’s family suddenly leaves. He had heard about the slaughtering of five Bengali men. Also, Mujibar Rahman was a political leader who won the election but was denied the presidency. The Awami League supported him and protested the conditions. Bengali workers vacated their jobs at the mill.

Endless Incarnation Sorrows: A Spiritual Odyssey of Mortal Imprints on Earth by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Endless Incarnation Sorrows is a daring literary feat of an intergenerational tale that closely follows a soul across its rebirths. Triggered by true events, Lucia Mann shares her personal insights into what was and what might come to be. Following repeated resuscitations, she starts un-forgetting her previous selves. Thus many seemingly disconnected lives scattered across time and space are connected by an invisible string that pulsates throughout the pages of the book. Lucia Mann takes us on an inspirational inward journey, by unveiling the darkest corners of her past and present.

One of the features that makes the read stand out is how gripping all the characters are. Since, the main players shift between the scenes of this play of life, the reader has a narrow window of opportunity to become emotionally invested. Yet, Lucia Mann successfully outlines convincing and enticing personages that faithfully act out their destiny in front of our eyes. And through these harsh lives we can see and to a certain extent even feel some of the hardships that plagued humanity and continue to do so. The first incarnation, Lala bares the burden of her parents’ incest and her desert exile ends in enslavement; Lyveva surpasses her victim status branded upon her by Vikings to become a healer; Lucja experiences the lowest and highest of humanity within the Auschwitz fences.

The sands of time uncover various taboo subjects, ushered away by our consciousness, such sensible subjects that we would much rather turn a blind eye to. While these practices are presented in a contextual fashion, as an integral part of a certain period in history, some survived into our present under various forms, themselves being subjected to a string of reincarnations. Behind the front narrative of survival and redemption of a lost soul, there is a strong underlying outcry for the incarnation of social practices that embrace numerous souls.

All in all, Endless Incarnation Sorrows is hard to put down; there is always an immediate sense of peril or surprise on the next page. While, the subject and the writing style makes the read appealing to a wide audience, there are some details that steer the direction toward an adult or young adult group. Lucia Mann does not shy away from topics that are now deemed taboo and this piercing truthfulness might just be the secret ingredient that keeps the reader on this magically painful and eye-opening journey that the author initiates.

Pride of the Valley: Sifting through the History of the Mount Healthy Mill by Tracy Lawson and Steve Hagaman

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Pride of the ValleyA slightly different book for most readers but a very good read and especially if you have any interest in southern Ohio history. Pride of the Valley was actually the name of a brand of flour that was milled at the Mt Healthy mill. That mill was a historic fixture for many years.

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The Mt Healthy mill was built by Jediah Hill in the early 1800’s. Hill had moved to southern Ohio from New York and settled in the Mill Creek valley in what was to become Hamilton County. Hill’s mill was built for “harvesting” lumber originally and due to the tremendous growth in the area lumber was at the time a valued commodity.

Mail-Order Kid by Marilyn June Coffey

Mai- Order KidReviewed by Teri Davis

Naturally the hope was to be adopted by a loving family. The name for this movement was usually through by train. This became known as the orphan train.

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Like all children, some were fortunate and loved by their new families. However some of these children had horrific experiences, being beaten and even slaves to their adopted family. Probably most of these orphaned and unwanted children lived with families that were somewhere between these two extremes.