Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian
The saying goes “One thing leads to another,” and so it is with reading: “One story leads to another.” When reading a book, I find topics that intrigue me and instill a hunger for more information. This leads me to discover other books about the topic that has piqued my interest.
This particular journey began as I was thinking about the New Year. I discovered it was on New Year’s Day in 1892, that Ellis Island was first opened to immigrants. “All Standing: The True Story of Hunger, Rebellion, and Survival aboard the Jeanie Johnston” by Kathryn Miles, was the first leg of my excursion. Miles tells the story of emigrants who suffered greatly leaving Ireland because of the Irish Famine. The book’s main focus is on one ship, the “Jeanie Johnston.” I found it astonishing that the mortality rate of most ships leaving Ireland at that time was seventy percent, giving them the nickname, “coffin ships.” Not so with the “Jeanie Johnston”: she was the only ship known to have a zero percent mortality rate. Captain James Attridge and Dr. Richard Blennerhassett were attributed with the success of sixteen voyages over seven years, transporting twenty-five hundred emigrants in very cramped quarters, yet no life was ever lost. This story made me want to know more about emigrant travels across the sea and life after their arrivals.
Then I turned to, “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You” by Peter Troy. This historical fiction set in the mid 1800’s introduced me to Ethan McOwen, a ten-year-old boy who left Ireland because of “The Hunger,” as they called the devastating result of the Irish Famine. This book gave me more insight into the conditions on board ship and the situations the immigrants found themselves in after they docked. Ethan arrived in New York with his health intact only because of a shipman’s intervention. Peter Troy’s intriguing story was also about slavery, thus leading me to the topic of abolition.
While searching for books on abolition, I decided to read about William Wilberforce in “Amazing Grace” by Eric Metazas. Wilberforce was persistent in working to abolish the slave trade in the British Colonies. I also watched the movie by the same title, starring Ioan Gruffudd and Romola Garai. These led me further into the unfathomable subject through the book, “Woman, Child for Sale: The New Slave Trade in the 21st Century” by Gilbert King. Many women and children were promised a greater life only to find themselves forced into different forms of slavery. This book is a clear reminder of the horrific conditions and circumstances in which others find themselves.
Next, my thoughts turned to child trafficking which furthered my reading excursion to India in “A Walk Across the Sun” by Corban Addison. When an unexpected tsunami engulfs the city in India, two girls are left orphans. As they try to reach their school in another city, they are deceived and sold by the driver who had been paid to see that they arrive safely. This story had me traveling to many places around the world, yet the one place that caught my interest was the city of Mumbai, India. My journey continued with, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo, an ebook available through our Sunflower eLibrary resource. This book depicts squatters living on land surrounding the airport in Mumbai. The people there made their living by selling trash. My curiosity was aroused by the fact that people can make a living digging through garbage. This led me to the final book in this journey: “Trash” by Andy Mulligan. Two “dumpsite boys” found a treasure that the police were looking for. Thinking it was more valuable than what the policemen offered, they kept it. That decision led them to terrifying consequences, a mystery to solve, and a wrong to make right.
Although this excursion of one story leading to another has definitely led me outside my comfort zone, it has been fun and informative, too. My hope is that it will be helpful in getting you to think about your next good read in a different way this New Year.