I read the Harper’s Bazaar article that served as the basis for this book and it really hit home for me. Booklist’s review captures very well the essence of her work: “In September 2017, Hartley wrote an article for Harper’s Bazaar about the invisible maintenance and managerial tasks women are expected to perform in and out of the home. The piece went viral, and here Hartley expands it to consider how instead of remaining a woman’s burden, emotional labor may offer a path to gender equality. Hartley’s prose soars when she shares stories from her own life balancing the responsibilities of a freelance writer, a wife, and Christian mother of three. She acknowledges her husband’s contributions he cooks and does the dishes but observes a profound imbalance in the cultural tendency to give men extra credit for doing such work while women get no credit at all. Children grow up watching their mothers manage the home, and so the gendered cycle continues. Female readers will undoubtedly relate to the many first-person anecdotes of women obliviously or resentfully doing the draining work of emotional labor. But this is a book for men, too. To break the cycle, men need to step up to the plate. And then put it in the dishwasher.” In the unlikely event my wife ever reads this blog, I just want to state for the record that I’m trying to do better!
Once again, our guest reviewer today is the library’s very own ex-Marine, Gene Grave. Here’s what he had to say about On Desperate Ground:
Hampton Sides is an author who hails from Tennessee and currently resides in New Mexico with his family. Sides received a BA in history from Yale University which helps explain his interest in writing historical books such as On Desperate Ground. Other books written by Sides include In the Kingdom of Ice, Hellhound On His Trail, Blood and Thunder, and Ghost Soldiers.
For you history buffs, On Desperate Ground deals with the battles of the Chosin Reservoir area and events leading up to the battle. As many note, the Chosin Reservoir battle was the largest, most written about battle of the ‘forgotten war’ – the Korean conflict/war. Unlike several books written on the battle that deal solely with the different units and movements, which are interesting, Sides gives some political background to the conflict and personal stories of some of the combatants. I’ve read other books dealing with WWII and the Korean war that cover General MacArthur but Sides goes into further depth which highlights both General MacArthur’s brilliance and idiosyncrasies that lead to the US and UN forces being ‘surprised’ by the Chinese involvement at Chosin Reservoir.
On the political side, Sides went into some of the events that distracted the US politicians during this time (like the assassination attempt on President Truman) and the President’s reliance on General MacArthur and his entourage’s thoughts on what was happening.
On Desperate Ground was a well written book, though as in several other books and articles on the subject that I’ve read, the Army’s story was on the light side as to what happened and the reasons for it.
As history has shown of the battle, General Smith and the Marine 1st Division carried the day and kept the battle from being a disaster through their training and determination-but as those who know me will agree, I am biased on the matter.
What a story and what an amazing human being. I cannot believe anybody could read this book without being reduced to tears. Booklist gave it a starred review, writing “[t]his is the poignant and compelling memoir of Yip-Williams’ battle with and eventual surrender to cancer. Entries written in real time during the five years between the author’s diagnosis and death document her deteriorating physical condition, her emotional angst, and her family’s anguish. Throughout, she reflects on her life and reveals what an amazing miracle it has been. Born blind in Vietnam, she survived a perilous boat trip as a refugee, came to the U.S., excelled in school, traveled, earned a law degree from Harvard, enjoyed a successful career, got married, and had two daughters all by age 37, when this story begins. Her writing is honest and, by turns, angry, humorous, and heart-breaking, especially when she talks about her two little girls, who are just starting elementary school. Even though readers know the ending the prologue indicates that if they’re reading this, she’s already gone every bit of new bad news hits like a blow to the gut. Readers’ will smile when Yip-Williams facetiously describes the slutty second wife she envisions for her husband and share in her grief as she makes plans for her funeral. Never mawkish, The Unwinding of the Miracle will resonate with readers.”