If you’ll remember, I posted a bit ago about the place that I think biography should have in education. You get a full-out experience when you read the words of someone who experienced the time or events included. It is not a simplified or watered-down version of what went on. Sometimes, biographies are hard to read. Other times, they are simply the most enjoyable thing I have experienced for a while. These biographies I am going to share with you include both the autobiography and biography, including one written by a compiler. Both have their place and both are interesting, challenging and expanding the reader’s understanding.
My Survival: A Girl On Schindler’s List by Rena Finder with Joshua Greene
This is the true story of Rena, a Jew during WWII. Her family was forced into a ghetto by the Nazi’s. She and her mother were sent as slave labor to a factory owned by Oskar Schindler. Schindler used his wealth and position to keep Jewish workers fed and safe and healthy. One day, despite his position, his workers were deported to Auschwitz. With great personal risk, Schindler managed to liberate his workers, including Rena, and bring them back. A story of hope amidst chaos and despair, this is a wonderful story for anyone to read. It is well-written and is accessible by about grades 4 and up. It would make a beautiful family read aloud.
Playing With The Enemy by Gary W. Moore
This is the biography of Gene Moore, the author’s father. Gene was a baseball prodigy who was a teenager at the beginning of WWII. He was the hero of all the people and towns around his small town in rural America. He was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers but WWII cut that short. In order to hopefully keep them safe, Major League Baseball set up games throughout the war theaters for the ball players to help lift the spirits of the soldiers. After a time, the baseball team was sent to act as guards for a top secret POW camp. They spent their time there making friends with the Germans, understanding that none of them really hated the other; they were all just doing their jobs. So they played baseball. The aftermath of all of this caused real pain but real healing. The unexpected of this story is what makes it such a joy to read. You will see WWII from a completely different perspective than ever before with this story of the belief and hope of human kindness.
White House Ladies: Fascinating Tales and Colorful Curiosities by Webb Garrison
This was a fun collection of short anecdotes on the First Ladies. Filled with stories of hospitality to daring, and fearlessness to sorrow, this was an interesting book to read as it brought to life some of the most important people in the history of the US. Most Presidents had a lady – a wife, daughter, or relative to act as hostess – beside them during their time at the helm of the US and these ladies dealt with a lot. These stories help us see their humanity. With the short anecdotes, it is a book that can be read in bits and spurts without missing any of the story or purpose.
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
Li Cunxin was growing up in extreme poverty in northeastern China during the reign of Mao. Madame Mao had decided to create an abundance of fine art in the dynasty and searched the land for those most fit to be trained. Li Cunxin was torn away from his family at the age of 11 as part of Madame Mao’s cultural program and sent to a ballet school. The mix of emotion with this was difficult – no longer was Cunxin starving but he was not able to see his family, either. Life at the Beijing school was difficult but Cunxin grew to become one of China’s most talented and known ballet dancers. In his position, he was able to first visit the United States in 1979. Two years later, he defected, the dramatic event making news around the world. This is the story of beauty and art coming from a life behind the Communist curtain. It is a look at what is behind that facade of government care that you won’t see from the news. It is something that everyone should see. Beauty rises from ashes sometimes and this is a beautiful example of that. (**A note that a movie was made from this book and at the time of this writing, it is available on Amazon Prime.)
Velvet Meets The Iron Curtain: The Autobiography of a Czech Dancer by Jiri Sebastian Voborsky
(This purchase link is through Ballet Magnificat! This is the dance company that Jiri has worked with for the majority of his time in America that uses dance to take the love and salvation of Jesus around the world. https://www.balletmagnificat.com/gift-shop/velvet-meets-the-iron-curtain )
This Autobiography of Jiri Voborsky is a stunning look at an athiestic culture and what can come from one who loves God so much that he quietly but firmly shares that love in the realm around. Jiri grew up in a family that believed that anyone who relied on faith, of any kind, was a sign of personal weakness. There was no need for God in their lives. Jiri was born under the realm of Communist Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. He went to school and lived under this governmental iron fist. When he was entering high school, he wanted to study dance. He was able to pass the entrance exam for both the dance school he wanted to attend and the other high school he had to attend in order to be allowed to also study dance. He worked hard but had a mind of his own. He participated in the revolution that brought down the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia. He was able to graduate both high schools but in the process was introduced by one of his teachers to Jesus. This slowly but certainly changed the course of his life. The story of Jiri’s life shows how the one true God can orchestrate life to bless and allow the blessing of others in turn. Jiri was able to visit America, with many of place where God’s hand can be seen. He eventually settled here, working with Ballet Magnificat! taking the love of God around the world through the media of dance. It is a beautiful story.
These are just a few of the options out there for biographies to bring to life what someone’s world was like, what they encountered, and allow us to see the truth of what is beyond our own vision. If you have a favorite biography, please leave me a comment so I can add it to my reading list.
Lori, At Home.