American Historic Sites / Cultural Diversity / Home Environment / Minimum Wage Wealth / Table of Contents / Home
Ellen Dore Watson received her BA in 1974, her MFA in creative writing from UMass in 1979. She is the translator of eleven books from the Brazilian Portuguese, an editor at The Massachusetts Review, and a volunteer emergency medical technician. This spring, two books of her poetry have been published: a chapbook, Broken Railings, and We Live in Bodies, from which this poem is taken.
How the Other Half Lived, A People's Guide to American Historic Sites by Philip Burnham, Faber and Faber, 1996.
In this book, Philip Burnham, who received his MFA in creative writing in 1979, investigates the fictions that historic sites present to their visitors. Some fictions are the fruits of distortion, others of omission. For example, Burnham points out, "there are whole groups of people--of all colors--missing in action from the landscape of public history." Those who do appear may be deified or demonized .
In chapters entitled "The Indian Battle," "The Plantation," "The Mission," and "Hearth and Home," Burnham examines such ambitious recreations as Plimoth Plantation and such national shrines as the Alamo and Mount Vernon, as well as railroad museums, statues of pioneer warriors and Puritan mothers, even roadside markers. By revealing what is seldom recounted--the role of slaves in building and maintaining southern plantations (and, to a lesser degree, colonial Deerfield); the fates of Native Americans in battles against white colonists; the status of women in utopian settlements--Burnham attempts to set the record straight.
Burnham's commentary is fascinating, often funny, and well-written, if occasionally marred by snobbery. (It's easy to sneer at gift shops selling"glow-in-the-dark rosaries," but how about the ones specializing in expensive reproductions? If you've ever tried to get a four-year-old out of one of those pricey shops without buying or breaking $50 worth of tasteful merchandise, you know what I'm getting at.) Beyond that, the tone can be rather dyspeptic; sometimes the author seems too ready to see what may be ignorant as sinister. Still, his book is a welcome antidote to the oft-sanitized versions of history on bronze tablets. Ultimately, the book shows up not only the failures of historic sites, but the failure of all of us to demand more from the preservationists and conservators of our heritage.
Cultural Diversity Fieldbook edited by George F. Simons, Bob Abramms, L. Ann Hopkins, with Diane J. Johnson, Peterson's, Princeton, NJ, 1996.
The term "cultural diversity" is well on its way to the status of cliche, yet there's nothing stale about the thinking behind this book. The editors have made a point of including divergent points of view on such subjects as class distinctions, sexual harassment, and racism. (Two of the editors have UMass affiliations. Abramms has three degrees from UMass, an MSBA awarded in 1977; and an M.Ed., and an Ed.D., both from 1980. L. Ann Hopkins is on the staff of the Center for Counseling and Academic Development at UMass.) The result is a fresh, stimulating, and thoughtful presentation of what America's workplaces looks like today and how they may look tomorrow. Its diverse essays, exercises, dialogues, and other writings should encourage readers to examine their own assumptions about the meaning of diversity. The Fieldbook, along with two companion volumes, "The Cultural Diversity Sourcebook" and "The Cultural Diversity Supplement," are available through ODT Inc., Amherst, MA, 1-800-736-1293.
The Home Environmental Sourcebook by Andrew N. Davis '87G and Paul E. Schaffman, An Owl Book, Henry Holt and Company, 1996.
Let the prospective home-buyer beware; danger may lurk in even the most curbside-appealing cottage. This book's subtitle, "50 Environmental Hazards To Avoid When Buying, Selling, or Maintaining a Home," pretty much sums up its topic. This sourcebook covers a wide range of hazards, including radon, termites, lead, electromagnetic fields, and potential environmental threats posed by gas stations, golf courses, dry cleaners, and farms. In clear, straightforward prose, it explains what the hazards are, how to determine their presence, and the financial and health risks they represent.
The book is well-organized, and although the information can be hair-raising, the tone remains sensible. Davis, who earned both an MS and a PHD from UMass Amherst, is an environmental attorney and professor of environmental studies at Connecticut College. Schaffman is a engineer with thirteen years of experience in environmental compliance and management.
Wealth on Minimal Wage by James Steamer , Dearborn Financial Publishing, Chicago, 1996.
If you have ever complained of being broke on an income several times over the poverty line, this book might make you feel a little sheepish. James Steamer, his wife Kathleen, (both class of '83), and their son Bruce manage to live well and save money on an annual gross income of $30,000. They own their home in Austin, Texas, have two cars, and take vacations.
Steamer's book tells how they do it, and includes, as well, lots of information on such areas of domestic finance as health insurance, mutual funds, mortgages, and retirement planning.
Many of Steamer's ideas are not surprising; we all know you can cook a meal at home for far less than it costs to buy one at most restaurants. While the tips and suggestions are generally good ones, the larger message is that it takes some effort and discipline to live well on less. In fact, Steamer's prescriptions belong to an American tradition that dates back to Benjamin Franklin, one that recommends a spiritual adjustment as well as practical measures of thrift. As we barrel toward the new millenium in our turbocharged vehicles, jabbering into our cel phones, this corrective wisdom seems especially appropriate.