Way back in junior high school, in the late 1970s, we read an essay written by Jimmy Carter (President James Earl Carter) in which he described picking and selling peanuts when he was a kid, and later using his earnings to buy, in his words, “nigger shacks,” to fix up and resell, apparently.
This essay, written in the first person by Carter, appeared in a publication like The Weekly Reader (I’m not sure if it was that or a different title, I don’t recall exactly — it was about 40 years ago, so the N-Word is what stands out most in my meory). Though in that time we occasionally heard the n-word in a joke, it was still a shock to read it in the words of our president.
Does anyone recall reading that article? I haven’t yet found reference to it online.
The Wall by John Hersey is one of the best and most important novels I’ve read.
The story follows the lives (if you can call it life) of a dozen of the half million Jews trapped in the Warsaw ghetto during the war, their struggles to cope, to live life, to survive, as the wall is built, conditions steadily worsen in the face of hunger, disease, and Nazi “manhunts,” and fellow citizens are “deported.” Some try to persevere, some try to escape, some try to fight back, some just give up.
Though this is a fictional novel, it is based on true events, and I learned more about ghetto life, concentration camps, and underground resistance than I could in any history class. I suggest printing a map to refer to while reading (I found a good one of the ghetto in 1942-1943 online). It may take 20 or 40 pages to get used to the format (a journal with dashes in place of quotation marks), but it’s well worth it and gets more and more fascinating, poignant, profound, and enthralling. I’ll never forget some of the heroic characters, especially Rachel and Berson.
Here are a few quotations, not the best of the book, just what I had a chance to copy: “To me, it makes no difference whether I am to die at the hands of Nazis or of microbes.” – Goldflamm in The Wall by John Hersey, page 369.
“The fact that a man is a man is more important than the fact that he believes what he believes.” -The Wall by John Hersey, page 426.
“I now see that the greatest mistake we can make is to try to judge a whole man from the few things we hear him say and see him do.” Levinson in The Wall by John Hersey, page. 582.
“A romantic is usually both self-centered and boastful.” – Levinson in The Wall by John Hersey, page 621.
“There is nothing like an expensive mistake to show a man to himself.” – Berson in The Wall by John Hersey, page 625.