The Book of the Week is “Confessions of A Prairie Bitch” by Alison Arngrim, published in 2010. This is the autobiography of the actress who played Nellie Oleson on the hit American TV show, “Little House on the Prairie” which aired from 1974 to 1983.
On the show which was set in a small town in the late 1800’s, Arngrim played the role of the spoiled, rich teenage daughter of the owners of a general store. She frequently got into fights with a goody-goody girl from another family in the neighborhood. Arngrim was twelve years old when she started the show. Prior to that, her show-business parents had afforded her the chance to play some small parts in TV commercials and movies. Starting when she was six, she was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of her much older brother.
Read the book to learn how Arngrim was able to deal with the trauma from her early childhood in positive ways later in life through her acting career and social and political activism.
The Book of the Week is “Big in China” by Alan Paul, published in 2011. This wordy ebook describes the experiences of an American expatriate family in Beijing, China, as told through the eyes of the husband/father. His wife, a journalist, got a three-year job transfer there.
Paul remarks, “Our fake rich lifestyle included daily household help, the gated community, regularly hiring drivers, and a general sense that access to anything was just a phone call away.” He was grateful for the extra freedom that allowed him to spend more quality time with his two-year old daughter and two older sons, play blues music in a band, blog about his new life, and write a music column for a well-known publication.
Paul relates details on cuisine, poor sanitation, social isolation, extremely bad pollution in the city, and the way his children were the center of attention on the street for their blue eyes, fair skin and light-colored hair. Nevertheless, because they were culturally curious, he and his wife made a conscious effort to break out of the expat community, taking their kids to see the “real” China.
Read the book to learn of their adventures.
The Book of the Week is “Venus Envy” by L. Jon Wertheim, published in 2002. This book describes the colorful characters that graced women’s professional tennis in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Those included the Williams sisters, Hingis, Davenport, Pierce, Capriati, Kournikova, Sanchez-Vicario and others.
Most tennis players who become professionals are pressured by a parent to make playing a career. Venus and Serena Williams’ father Richard filled that role. He had the promotional instincts of Don King. In the mid-1990’s, when his older daughter had just turned pro at the young age of fourteen, he predicted that both his daughters would play each other in Grand Slam finals. Most people thought, “This wasn’t a tennis father from hell. This was a tennis father from outer space.” He knew what he was talking about. Not only did he guide them to success, but did so without making them crazy, unlike so many other tennis parents who cause their kids psychological harm.
Tennis is a typical professional sport in that making money is the major goal. Tennis’ authoritative bodies that hold global tournaments, have a history of awarding less prize money to the women than to the men. The purported reason is that the women are less entertaining. This led to an interesting course of events in the early 1970’s.
The women also get treated differently at post-tournament press conferences, at which they are asked personal questions that men would never be asked. Another cause for complaints from the women is that the quirky ranking system awards more money to some players who have more entertainment value than playing ability. The system “unfairly punishes older, less attractive players.”
Read the book to learn more about why women’s tennis is the “world’s most popular and financially successful women’s sport.”
The Book of the Week is “High Priest” by Timothy Leary, published in 1995. This is a personal account of a man who, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, developed a reputation for experimenting with brain-altering chemicals such as LSD. He used students as guinea pigs at his Harvard University laboratory.
Some of Leary’s impressionable charges unwisely updated their parents on their religious and philosophical enlightenment; others “quit school and pilgrimaged eastward to study yoga on the banks of the Ganges.” Unsurprisingly, the parents and school administrators felt that Leary was a bad influence, and he was fired. He attempted to relocate his spiritual profiteering to Mexico, but was busted in 1963 for failing to obtain authorization to run a business there. He then took his allegedly raunchy, psychoactive, disease-spreading endeavors in the dark arts to Antigua in the West Indies.
Read the book to learn the details of this ideological character’s psychedelic research results.