My Journey of Continual Education

My current reads and for the next few years, my main reading focus is nonfiction and studying diverse cultures-how they evolve in-depth- government entities, world history and economics.

I’ve studied and read quite a few books on American history (particular 19th Century) but lately I’ve discovered so much I’ve sorely missed out on. That said, one’s education should be a life long journey. I’m looking forward to reading and studying these books.

The Americans, Vol 1: The Colonial Experience

(The Americans #1) by Daniel J. Boorstin

Winner of the Bancroft Prize. “A superb panorama of life in America from the first settlements on through the white-hot days of the Revolution.” – Bruce Lancaster, Saturday Review

The Americans, Vol 2: The National Experience Paperback – by Daniel J. Boorstin

This second volume in “The Americans” trilogy deals with the crucial period of American history from the Revolution to the Civil War. Here we meet the people who shaped, and were shaped by, the American experience—the versatile New Englanders, the Transients and the Boosters.  Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize.

The Americans, Vol 3: The Democratic Experience Paperback by Daniel J. Boorstin

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A study of the last 100 years of American history.

A History of the American People by Paul Johnson

“The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures,” begins Paul Johnson. “No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind.”

In his prize-winning classic, Johnson presents an in-depth portrait of American history from the first colonial settlements to the Clinton administration. This is the story of the men and women who shaped and led the nation and the ordinary people who collectively created its unique character. Littered with letters, diaries, and recorded conversations, it details the origins of their struggles for independence and nationhood, their heroic efforts and sacrifices to deal with the ‘organic sin’ of slavery and the preservation of the Union to its explosive economic growth and emergence as a world power. Johnson discusses contemporary topics such as the politics of racism, education, the power of the press, political correctness, the growth of litigation, and the influence of women throughout history. He sees Americans as a problem-solving people and the story of their country as “essentially one of difficulties being overcome by intelligence and skill, by faith and strength of purpose, by courage and persistence… Looking back on its past, and forward to its future, the auguries are that it will not disappoint humanity.”

Sometimes controversial and always provocative, A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE is one author’s challenging and unique interpretation of American history. Johnson’s views of individuals, events, themes, and issues are original, critical, and in the end admiring, for he is, above all, a strong believer in the history and the destiny of the American people.

Other recent relevant posts:

Cultural Nonfiction Books

A Better Understanding of Political and Social Controversies of Our Times

I’m looking forward to sharing more books I’ve discovered and as I read them, I will be writing down my thoughts on them in future posts.

Stephanie Hopkins

Cultural Nonfiction Books

I recently read Educated by Tara Westover and I must say, I have quite a bit to say about the story. I was debating on how to break down my thoughts but after I talked it over with a friend, she encouraged me to focus what topic in the story that was important to me and what would, basically make an impact. Not her words but that was the gest of the conversation. The memoir did strike a chord with me to focus more of my attention to social and cultural issues of our time and throughout recent history.

In my last post, I shared-on a small scale-about what I’m currently reading, and about my experience with Thomas Sowell’s’ work thus far. This particular journey has me wanting to study further in-depth cultural societies, economics and government entities around the world. Perhaps, you may have titles to recommend me to read.

Stephanie Hopkins

Confucius Never Said by Helen Raleigh

This book is a four-generation family journey from repression and poverty in China to freedom and prosperity in the United States. Their lives overlap with many significant historical events taking place in China, such as the founding of Communist China in 1949, the Great Chinese Famine from 1958-1960, the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 and the Economic Reform starting from 1980.The author recounts the enormous suffering her family had to endure under Communist China’s radical social experiment. Her great-grandfather was denounced by the Chinese Communist Party and his neighbors simply because he owned land. He died in poverty, and his dying wish was never granted. Her grandfather loaned his fishing boat to the Communist Party, and ended up losing his independence and becoming a janitor. Her father escaped his village to get educated and thus survived the Great Famine. He became highly educated, but never joined the Communist Party . . . and was sent to a re-education labor camp because of it. The author herself grew up in China and immigrated to the United States as a young adult. She sought freedom and the American Dream, and found both. This book is about freedom-and about what happens when we let people take our freedom away. 

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.

Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.

This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope—a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.

Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies by M. Stanton Evans

Accused of creating a bogus Red Scare and smearing countless innocent victims in a five-year reign of terror, Senator Joseph McCarthy is universally remembered as a demagogue, a bully, and a liar. History has judged him such a loathsome figure that even today, a half century after his death, his name remains synonymous with witch hunts.
But that conventional image is all wrong, as veteran journalist and author M. Stanton Evans reveals in this groundbreaking book. The long-awaited “Blacklisted by History,” based on six years of intensive research, dismantles the myths surrounding Joe McCarthy and his campaign to unmask Communists, Soviet agents, and flagrant loyalty risks working within the U.S. government. Evans’s revelations completely overturn our understanding of McCarthy, McCarthyism, and the Cold War.

Drawing on primary sources–including never-before-published government records and FBI files, as well as recent research gleaned from Soviet archives and intercepted transmissions between Moscow spymasters and their agents in the United States–Evans presents irrefutable evidence of a relentless Communist drive to penetrate our government, influence its policies, and steal its secrets. Most shocking of all, he shows that U.S. officials supposedly guarding against this danger not only let it happen but actively covered up the penetration. All of this was precisely as Joe McCarthy contended.

“Blacklisted by History” shows, for instance, that the FBI knew as early as 1942 that J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the atomic bomb project, had been identified by Communist leaders as a party member; that high-level U.S. officials were warned that Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy almost a decade before the Hiss case became a public scandal; that a cabal of White House, Justice Department, and State Department officials lied about and covered up the Amerasia spy case; and that the State Department had been heavily penetrated by Communists and Soviet agents before McCarthy came on the scene.
Evans also shows that practically everything we’ve been told about McCarthy is false, including conventional treatment of the famous 1950 speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, that launched the McCarthy era (“I have here in my hand . . .”), the Senate hearings that casually dismissed his charges, the matter of leading McCarthy suspect Owen Lattimore, the Annie Lee Moss case, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and much more.

In the end, Senator McCarthy was censured by his colleagues and condemned by the press and historians. But as Evans writes, “The real Joe McCarthy has vanished into the mists of fable and recycled error, so that it takes the equivalent of a dragnet search to find him.” “Blacklisted by History” provides the first accurate account of what McCarthy did and, more broadly, what happened to America during the Cold War. It is a revealing expose of the forces that distorted our national policy in that conflict and our understanding of its history since. 

Book Review: A New York Secret by Ella Carey

(Daughters of New York #1)

Expected publication: March 12th 2021 by Bookouture

War forces her to choose a side…

1942, New York. As war rages in Europe, Lily Rose is grateful for her perfect life: a wealthy family who love her and a dream job working uptown as a restaurant chef. Times are changing for women and Lily is determined to run her own kitchen one day. She hopes handsome Tom Morelli, son of Sicilian immigrants, will be at her side. Together they work late, dreaming up delicious meals for New Yorkers struggling with wartime rationing and the threat of sons and sweethearts being called up…

Then Tom receives a devastating telegram that changes everything: he is drafted to fight in Italy.

Suddenly alone, Lily turns to her parents for support. But when her mother finds out about Tom, she is furious. When the war ends, Lily’s duty is to marry the man picked for her, keep house and raise children. They give her a heartbreaking ultimatum: end her relationship with Tom or lose her family and inheritance forever.

In the middle of the war, Lily is left in an impossible position. Will she choose to stay with her family and live the safe life she has always known, or will she follow her heart and her dreams?

My thoughts:

Often times we only read stories about war in the midst of battles and evasions. Ella Carey gives us a story about the families back home and the affect war has on them and the sacrifices they have to make. Like any war, people on the home front are thrust into uncertainties and adjusting to a new way of life, even if temporary. Is it really temporary?

Women were called to do “mens’ work” and this fact alone opened many opportunities and gave women a sense of pride and validity. We have much to thank them for…

Rationing food, gas and clothing became part of the necessary means and people had to find creative and alternatives to these commodities. While these things were taking place, there was also fear that gripped the nation for their love ones off fighting on the front lines.

These themes are woven throughout the story in an engrossing way that captivates the reader and gives one an appreciation for sacrifices that are made for the good of community.

I was completely enthralled with Lily’s strength and following her life during this period in history. All the characters, really, have a special role that gives this story depth and purpose.

What fun it was to read about the restaurant kitchen life and its culture.

A New York Secret is most definitely a thought-provoking, emotional story that portrays courage, hard choices, family, friendships in unlikely places and adversity.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Nineteenth Century Slang, Phrases and Meanings

19th Century Family Heirloom

We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at before the second sleep, that explores the quirky side of our universe.

We live in an extraordinary quirky world that often times we forget to pause in our busy lives to notice. During these times many cannot venture outside-another great reason to pick up a book-so we are bringing our explorations to you.

I’m obsessed with history and cultures from all walks of like. A particular favorite of mine-because I read and write stories in the time period-is nineteenth century history in America. Did you know that many of our expressions and slang come from what many considered forgotten or overlooked? Today we are taking a look at a few quirky slang words and phrases from the nineteenth century and perhaps, we will find a few similar to our modern-day slang. But before we do, and without going too much in-depth on this subject, lets’ look at its definition and a minuscule of the development.

Many slang words and phrases were brought to America from other countries and thus been adopted. Subcultures blending and becoming our main culture-if you will. Slang is ingrained in Americans’ and many don’t realize they are using it or where it comes from or how it evolves. Truth be told, it is difficult to say where exactly it all originated from.Often times, the meaning of the words change or the word can be used for different purposes.. For example: In the American Civil War Era, the word, “Dictator,” means: “The nickname of a 13-inch seacoast MORTAR mounted on a railroad flatcar and utilized during the siege of Petersburg. A.k.a the Petersburg Express.” In today’s society, “Dictator,” is commonly known as a country governed by a Dictator. Another example is, “Dresser,” The usage of this word during the American Civil War Era meant: “A volunteer or medical student assigned the task of dressing wounds. Today we associate the word as a piece of furniture that has drawers to hold clothing, house items and etc…

19th Century Family Heirloom

According to Britannica: “Slang, unconventional words or phrases that express either something new or something old in a new way. It is flippant, irreverent, indecorous; it may be indecent or obscene. Its colorful metaphors are generally directed at respectability, and it is this succinct, sometimes witty, frequently impertinent social criticism that gives slang its characteristic flavor. Slang, then, includes not just words but words used in a special way in a certain social context. The origin of the word slang itself is obscure; it first appeared in print around 1800, applied to the speech of disreputable and criminal classes in London. The term, however, was probably used much earlier. The term, however, was probably used much earlier.” Click on the Britannica site to read more about it their interpretation.  

19th Century Family Heirloom

19th Century Slang and phrases used in America

Here are a few quirky slang and phrases you probably have never heard of:

Hornswoggling, Honey-fuggling, Give me jesse, Bottom fact, Hang up one’s fiddle, To give up, See the elephant, gallnipper, Go the whole hog: to go all the way, Acknowledge the corn, and I’ll Hang up my fiddle.  

Here are a few that you might know:

Humbug, Dad-blame it, You can sass me, You cussed scalawag, How came you so, they’re “Fixin’ to” do it, Carryings-on, Crazy as a loon, Almighty, grit, Bad egg, balderdash, dude (a dandy), and Over yonder.

19th Century Family Heirloom

Meanings of a few:  

Grit: guts; courage; toughness.

Hang up one’s fiddle: to give up.

Go the whole hog: to go all the way.

Almighty: huge

Bad egg: a bad person; a good-for-nothing person.

My personal favorites (Southerners Use):

A-hootin’ and a-hollerin’, Bless your heart, Fixin’ to, I reckon, Hold your horses, Well, I declare, Heavens to Betsy, and Hush your mouth, Water under the bridge, Hogwash, Stuff and nonsense.

Mind your own beeswax – started as a retort in the 1700’s. I remember using that phrases often as a child. Ha!

I’ve only scratched the surface of this fascinating and quirky topic and what a subject to explore! One can go down a rabbit hole with this. What are a few quirky slang words and phrases from the nineteenth century that you know? -Stephanie Hopkins

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Social Stratification in the Arts

by Mitchell James Kaplan

We want to believe in the tired cliché, La Boheme, the noble artist-as-rebel rejecting the vanity of status and the pecking order. This is of course a romantic notion – the artist as conscience, free of society’s hangups, liberated through self-expression. Its roots extend deeper than the romantic period, back to the medieval monastery – the ultimate opt-out for aristocrats who yearned for a more authentic life.

In reality, the society of artists is not different than any other society. Speaking only of literary society, which I know better than the others: there is an upper class of Nobel, Pulitzer, and Man Booker Prize winners. There’s an upper-middle class of best-selling authors. There’s a middle class that, like the middle class in the rest of society, has been dramatically shrinking through the last decades. In the publishing industry, this stratum is called the “mid-list.” And there’s the lower class of self-published authors – “lower-class,” that is, in the eyes of some conventionally published authors.

Authors can occasionally climb up this totem pole, but it isn’t easy. A parvenu has a hard time gaining acceptance in old-money circles. And then there are the nobles déchus, those whose Nobel prizes are growing dusty. They’re no longer earning, but they retain their pedigree. Perhaps the bottle speaks to them more, these days, than the Muse. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter what they write, anyway. No matter what they scribble, the critics will line up in praise. Their place on the totem pole is fixed.

Clearly, there are two status symbols that determine where an author fits in this social system, prizes and money. These markers serve two primary purposes: they determine the pecking order within the society of artists (who gets to express contempt for whom, and who gets to envy whom) and they help steer readers toward “books of quality.”

But what, exactly, is a book of quality? I’ll give you a hint. Study Literature at the college of your choosing. Get a PhD, even. You’ll get to read of lot of great books. But no one will be able to tell you why they’re great. On the day when you receive your degree, you still won’t be able to answer that most basic of questions any better than people who never finished college – or never even started – people like Maya Angelou, Truman Capote, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, and William Shakespeare.

Don’t get me wrong. Within the context of any culture, at a given moment, there may well be something like a consensus. Books that reflect the world-view of the educated class are going to win the prizes. Everyone likes a mirror, after all. At least, everyone who considers herself or himself to be beautiful. And books that express the yearnings and fears of the merchant and professional classes will earn their authors substantial material rewards. But none of this has anything to do with quality. Some of my favorite living authors have been the recipients of major prizes. Some are best-sellers. Some are unknown.

Quality is not measured in dollars or prizes. Quality is measured in the taste buds. You know it when you bite into it. And the good news is, there are still authors who care about quality more than status. But, as in every age, they are few and far between. And you may not find them where you would expect to find them. Sometimes, browsing in a used book store, I’ll pull out a tome that no one has seen in decades, start reading, and think, Wow, I never heard of this author. This is great. Maybe no one else ever heard of that author, either. Maybe no one ever will.

I think of Felix Mendelsohn, and how he revived the reputation of Johann Sebastian Bach. What would have happened to Bach, had Mendelsohn not come along? But then, Bach wrote for God, not for man. Maybe, just maybe, wherever he is – in the ground, in heaven – Bach doesn’t really care.

About Author:

Mitchell Kaplan Streawberry fields

Mitchell James Kaplan, a graduate of Yale University, is the author of the prize-winning novel, “By Fire, By Water.” He is currently putting the final touches on his second novel, “Same Stars, Different Constellations,” which is set in Brittania, Rome, and Judea in the first century.

By Fire, By WaterAbout By Fire, By Water:

Paperback: 284 pages

Published May 18, 2010

Recipient of the Independent Publishers Award for Historical Fiction (Gold Medal), the Foreword Book of the Year Award for Historical Fiction (Bronze Medal), and an honorable mention in the category of General Fiction for the Eric Hoffer Award.

Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands.  But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.

Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.

Available on Amazon HERE