Book Review: 10 Valiant Things about VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL by Svetlana Alexievich

Voices from Chernobyl

by Svetlana Alexievich

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: The haunting account of survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Svetlana Alexievich interviewed not just people who lived there but workers at the nuclear plant, scientists, doctors, soldiers, wives of firefighters, re-settlers, and those involved with the clean up including miners, helicopter pilots, and liquidators. Each story is tragic and harrowing as the aftermath of the disaster continues 10 years later and into the foreseeable future.

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10 Valiant Things about VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL by Svetlana Alexievich’s

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Survivors

The biggest reason why Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl is so powerful is because it is in the survivors’ own words. Alexievich didn’t edit their words, try to soften them, or change their stories to fit her own perceptions. Many of these stories are horrific but they are real. Someone lived that nightmare and their story is worth being heard.

2. Diversity

Alexievich didn’t stick to interviewing just people who lived in the Zone, she actively searched and interviewed people who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster through different means. Thousands of people got radiation not from living in the Zone but from being involved with the clean up and containment of the nuclear reactor. These include soldiers, miners, liquidators, pilots, and firefighters.

3. Cover-Up

Of course, one of the worst things that Russia did during the Chernobyl disaster is the government attempted to cover-up how bad the disaster really was. Whether to keep face internationally or to avoid panic within the country, the government consistently denied the dangers and they still continue to do so. As noted in Voices from Chernobyl, a physicist in 1999 came forward claiming that living and farming in Belarus was dangerous due to radiation levels and was therefore imprisoned until 2005, upon release he was exiled and remains so.

4. Ignorance

One of the most surprising things to me was the disbelief that many people did have about the effects of radiation even after being warned by those in authority. There were areas that the government did actually evacuate and deemed unsafe for people to stay in and yet many people chose to stay or returned after being evacuated. These people continued eating food grown in the area and used milk and meat from contaminated livestock. One individual described radiation as believable as fairy dust, it cannot be seen and so it must be magic, it is of no consequence to them.

5. Clean-Up

While at times incredibly hard to read, Voices from Chernobyl gives details about how clean-up was done after the disaster. The burying of not just the top layers of soil but of everything above ground in some areas. The systematic killing of livestock, pets, and any animals found within the Zone. And then of course the evacuations of people within the Zone.

6. Willful Negligence

Voices of Chernobyl clearly shows the willful negligence and disregard for life that the Russian government had at the time of the disaster. Not only did they not distribute adequate protective gear for those responding to the disaster, they also didn’t educate them on safety measures that they could have taken. For example, authorities didn’t explain to the clean up crews and soldiers that their clothes would retain radiation. One liquidator allowed his son to wear the cap he wore in the Zone often with no thought of it, his then healthy son developed a brain tumor 2 years later.

7. Aftermath

Many of the stories in Voices of Chernobyl are not about the disaster itself but rather the continuing aftermath. The severely ill children, the high mortality rates, babies being born with defects, women unable to get pregnant or suffering from multiple miscarriages. Each year in Belarus, the number of people with cancer, neurological disorders, mental retardation, and genetic mutations increases.

8. Denial

Going along with the need to cover-up the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, Russia continues to deny them and the devastation radiation can cause. Officially, Russia accepts the Chernobyl death toll of 54 individuals. Many organizations, including the UN, believe that the death toll number is in the thousands with others believing that it may in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Without the government taking responsibility, many families will continue being burdened with expensive medical bills from their loved ones illnesses that were actually caused by radiation due to Chernobyl.

9. The Motherland

So many stories included a sense of pride in the Motherland that I’ve come to associate with the Russian people. While Chernobyl was an epic disaster, many of these stories included love for their fellow man and pride for their country. So many times in tragedy, we show our capability for courage, selflessness, and dedication to the greater good. There were those who knew the dangers of the radiation, who knew they were risking their lives, and still reported to Chernobyl to do what they could for the world, the Motherland, and their loved ones.

10. Love

Overall reading Voices from Chernobyl was difficult as the stories are all heartbreaking to various degrees. But regardless of the sorrow, pain, and suffering, the stories also included love and hope. Love for their land, their home, their family, their friends, their animals. That regardless of this tragedy in their lives, they will go forward and live the best life that they can.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

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Book Review: 6 Utmost Things about UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by Jon Krakauer

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

by Jon Krakauer

Nikki’s Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary: In July 1984, a woman and her child were brutally murdered by two brothers who believed they were doing God’s work. Looking into the murders and what led these men to do it, Jon Krakauer discovers the violent history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With intensive research, Krakauer takes readers through this history and shows the dangers of fundamentalism of America’s fastest growing religion.

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6 Utmost Things about UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by Jon Krakauer

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Bias

Writing about religion is generally controversial as critics will either claim that the author is villainizing the faith or on the other extreme, prothetizing and only showing the positives. In his “Author’s Remarks”, Jon Krakauer not only shares his personal positive experiences with Mormons, he also includes his own theological frame of reference. While of course this does not absolve him of any biases, it does help readers to know where the author is coming from and to keep that in mind. In this readers opinion, in Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer did his job of giving the facts without having a personal agenda.

2. Educational

Under the Banner of Heaven was very educational. Krakauer doesn’t just focus on the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty but actually looks at the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I had a basic understanding of Mormonism, Krakauer’s book gave so much more information about their beliefs, rituals, and church hierarchy. And of course, Under the Banner of Heaven includes the darker history of the violence within the Mormon church which I was completely ignorant of.

3. Bibliography

It is apparent that Krakauer did thorough and meticulous research for this novel as the bibliography included in Under the Banner of Heaven is extensive. This provides credence and support to his claims throughout the book.

4. Religion

Throughout Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer reminds readers that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not alone with its history of violence but practically every religion is guilty of having followers who use their beliefs to justify harming others. Under the Banner of Heaven was not written specifically to villainize Mormonism but to show the dangers that may occur when individuals turn to fundamentalism and become zealots, Krakauer just uses Mormonism as the example as that is what he was working on at the time. Krakauer brings up solid concerns and questions about the abuse and violence that can be justified in the name of God.

5. Criticism

At the back of the 2004 and onward editions of Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer includes an “Appendix” in the Anchor Edition. This includes a “response” to the book by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, authored by the high-ranking church official Richard Turley, as well as Krakauer’s response to this letter. In Krakauer’s response, he gracefully acknowledges mistakes that Turley points out that Krakauer made in the text about the Church but he also rebuttals many things that Turley criticized about Under the Banner of Heaven with sources to support his arguments.

6. Overall

Overall Under the Banner of Heaven was a thoroughly educational novel with an interesting premise. It was well researched and Krakauer included substantial evidence to the facts he presented. In the “Author’s Remarks”, Krakauer includes how he came to write Under the Banner of Heaven. Originally he was working on the interesting phenomenon of a critical, scientific mind coinciding with religious doctrine but his research led him down the road to looking at the Lafferty murders and other violent acts in Mormonism. Again, this was not a personal attack on the Church of Latter-day Saints but rather an intimate look at the dangers of fundamentalism in any religion.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

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Book Review: THE GIFT OF FEAR by Gavin de Becker

An older book review and therefore different format but deserves a blog post:

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence

by Gavin de Becker

Nikki’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 Stars

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This book was recommended by a coworker who knew I was struggling with fear and anxiety, particularly around a stalking situation. I found this book to be quite helpful in easing my stress and anxiety. I really appreciated that Gavin de Becker really stresses that intuitively we know when we are in danger and that is when we feel fear and that we just need to pay attention and act when we feel fear. Gavin de Becker argues that anxiety and worry are useless because we are usually worrying about something that isn’t likely to happen. Worry isn’t based in reality, it is not authentic, it is a choice and we can choose not to feed it. We can choose to direct our energies elsewhere and trust in ourselves that we will know when we are actually in danger and can act accordingly. Gavin de Becker includes many real stories of people listening to their instincts and being able to survive a situation where their lives were in danger. These stories are terrifying and yet provide evidence of how good our intuition can be when we listen to it. Overall this book is a great choice if you are struggling with fear, especially the fear of other people and what they may do.

Favorite Quotes:

“When you feel fear, listen. When you don’t feel fear, don’t manufacture it.”

“Few of us predict that unexpected, undesired events will lead to great things, but very often we’d be more accurate if we did.”

“The fact that most Americans live without being violent is a sign of something wonderful in us. In resisting both the darker sides of our species and the darker sides of our heritage, it is everyday Americans, not the icons of big-screen vengeance, who are the real heroes.


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

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Book Review: 10 Crucial Things about COLUMBINE by Dave Cullen

Columbine

by Dave Cullen

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: Journalist David Cullen looks intensely at the events that occurred April 20, 1999 at Columbine high school when two boys showed up to school with bombs and guns. Based on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, and the boys’ own diaries and video recordings, Cullen pieces together how the tragedy unfolded and how Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold came to be cold-blooded killers.

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10 Crucial Things about COLUMBINE by Dave Cullen

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Correcting Mistakes

One of the biggest tragedies that occurred after the violence of Columbine ended was the neverending misinformation that spread like wildfire through the media. Sadly, many people do not realize that what was publicized during the months after Columbine was far from the truth as the media does not wait for thorough investigations and research. Dave Cullen’s Columbine attempts to correct these mistakes and reveal the astonishing truth of what happened that day, events that led up to it and the aftermath.

2. Research

Dave Cullen is considered the nation’s foremost authority on the Columbine killers and it is because of the meticulous research he has done and it shows in Columbine. Not only has he studied the thousands of pages from police reports and files, he conducted interviews with other people in the community, including friends and family members of Eric and Dylan. Cullen includes an extensive “Bibliography” at the end of Columbine and has links to many of them on his website to further solidify his claims and verify the facts he presents in his book.

3. The Boys

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were portrayed in the media as outcasts who were part of the “Trench Coat Mafia” and were bullied since they didn’t fit in. The shooting on April 20th, 1999 was viewed as revenge for the boys and that they were specifically targeting jocks and popular kids. The boys actually had a sizable group of friends, were not being bullied but rather there is evidence that they may have been bullies themselves, and they always had multiple social engagements each week. Eric and Dylan were not part of the social group clique known as the Trench Coat Mafia, they simply wore trench coats on the day of the shooting to help conceal their firearms. And lastly, the boys were never targeting specific people, Columbine was not a mass shooting but a failed bombing. Their purpose was to take out as many people as they could before they died, the goal was not revenge but rather a “fuck you” to the world and the system. To put it in perspective, they were meant to carry out their bombing on April 19th, the anniversary of the Waco raid and the Oklahoma bombing. Thankfully, Eric was not competent at making bombs.

4. Psychology

Consulting and interviewing renowned psychologists who have also viewed and studied the boys’ diaries and video tapes, Cullen presents their consensus that Eric Harris was a psychopath. In Columbine, Cullen includes studies and facts about psychology and psychopaths and does an amazing job of showing evidence that Eric Harris fits the profile of a psychopath.

5. Respect

Throughout Columbine, Dave Cullen shows the utmost respect to everyone he mentions. Whether parents’ of the killers or the victims, Cullen is respectful, never placing blame or that their reactions are unwarranted or over the top. Cullen also omitted names when necessary either by his own discretion or being asked to do so by the person. Cullen also reminds readers that only top officials were involved and complacent in the police cover-up surrounding Columbine, maintaining the integrity of the force as a whole.

6. Facts Only

Insinuations and unsupported theories are not seen in Dave Cullen’s Columbine. Even surrounding the interviews done under oath with the Harrises, which will not be made public until 2027, Cullen does not hint at anything he thinks may be revealed. He gives facts and keeps his own biases and judgments out of the book.

7. Healing

Probably one of the most powerful elements that Dave Cullen shares in Columbine is the many ways that the community came together to heal from the tragedy of Columbine. Cullen shares a look of the multiple public dedications and memorials that happened in response but also includes the small things that individual victims were doing for themselves to heal.

8. Afterwards

As healing can take time, Cullen also shares how the victims and/or their families are doing ten years later. It is amazing that the principal that was there during Columbine, stayed in his job and actually reaches out to other principals who have a shooting at their school. Or that some of the victims and their families were able to forgive Eric and Dylan and their families as well, regardless of the pain and suffering they caused. It is really a testament to how strong the human spirit can be, no matter what we go through.

9. Policies

The tragedy of Columbine did cause some changes to policies and laws, although this reader will say that gun laws are still ridiculously lax no matter how many mass shootings our country experiences. Regardless, Cullen brings up some of the changes Columbine caused such as the Zero Tolerance many schools now follow, which seem to not be helpful as it usually involves kids just blowing off steam, which led both the FBI and the Secret Service to publish reports to help faculty identify serious threats. In 2003, “The Active Shooter Protocol” that was released in response to Columbine that now mandates the objective is to take out the shooters at any cost instead of creating a perimeter and waiting for SWAT.

10. Blame

Columbine was written very well especially in regards to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. While he mentions other killers who were inspired by Harris and Klebold, Dave Cullen did not write the book in a way that glorified the killers. But just as important, Cullen does not crucify Eric and Dylan. He presents facts and shows ways that systems failed to prevent the tragedy, such as the police not investigating complaints and concerns about Eric Harris making pipe bombs and how easy it was for the boys to attain guns, but Cullen doesn’t put the blame on all one person or system. Cullen does a great job of humanizing both Eric and Dylan, reminding readers that while they made their decisions and are therefore responsible for their actions, there are elements that society is responsible for to help prevent these tragedies. 


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

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Book Review: 8 Idolized Things about I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: Beloved poet and author Maya Angelou takes us back to her childhood. Raised by her religious grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya endures abandonment, racism, and rape. But most importantly, this memoir is about how she overcame these and found hope, love, and herself through so many trials and tribulations.

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8 Idolized Things about I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Writing

First and foremost, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is written beautifully, as is all Maya Angelou’s work. While I prefer her poetry, Angelou is a phenomenal author and writes eloquently with great description and a knack for using words effectively to capture emotions.

2. Pacing

Memoirs and/or biographies can be very dry and unengaging, just a statement of facts and dates without any real purpose or emotional connections. Thankfully, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings does not have this problem. Pacing throughout this memoir was good and each story was filled with emotional engagement that will draw readers in.

3. Racism

Obviously a great amount of Maya Angelou’s upbringing was overshadowed by racism being an African American woman. Angelou describes the experiences she had with racism and readers are able to feel the wrongness of such attitudes even when they were not meant to be malicious. Such as Angelou not being able to get emergency dental work done simply because she was “colored” or her boss calling Angelou by the wrong name simply because she didn’t want to take the time to say her real name. Racism is not about hurting others because of their color, it is about treating them differently because of their color.

4. Rape

Any woman who comes forward and tells her story of being raped is courageous beyond measure. While incredibly hard to read, Angelou’s experience of rape is shared by countless women and it is vital that she shared it. Obviously this trauma shaped who she was but more importantly, it may help other women to share their story or help them understand they are not alone and their feelings of shame, confusion, self-hatred, anger, despair, and/or fear are valid.

5. Humanity

While humanity is not exclusively all bad, the human race has done and continues to do some terrible shit. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou paints the picture of both the good and bad aspects of humanity that she has seen in her life but one line that really resonated with me was:

“As a species, we were an abomination. All of Us.”

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6. Reading

Being an avid reader and loving to devour books, it is so meaningful when an author shares this enjoyment as well. And Angelou describes the magic and enchantment of reading so well:

“To be allowed, no, invited, into the private lives of strangers, and to share their joys and fears, was a chance to exchange the Southern bitter wormwood for a cup of mead with Beowulf or a hot cup of tea and milk with Oliver Twist.”

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7. Kindness

The balance to all the bigotry, hate, and trauma Angelou endured is the kindness she experienced from others. None more so than Mrs. Bertha Flowers who threw Angelou “a life line” and was able to draw Angelou out to talking again by giving Angelou special attention, inviting her inside her home, telling her about the power of words, and lending Angelou books to read aloud. This story was a perfect example of how a simple kindness can have a tremendous effect on others and ultimately the world. Like throwing a stone in a pond, one never knows how far out their ripple of kindness will flow.

8. Overcoming

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings does not progress too far into Angelou’s life but where it ends off is shortly after becoming the first African American employed on the San Francisco streetcars and this is no small achievement. In regards to overcoming so many obstacles and becoming a woman to be reckoned with, Angelou explains:

“The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power. The fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.”

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Book Review: 8 Benevolent Things about BENEATH THE SURFACE by John Hargrove

Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish

by John Hargrove

Nikki’s Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary: Wanting nothing more than to work with orcas, John Hargrove realized his childhood dream and became a killer whale trainer at SeaWorld. But after 14 years of working at SeaWorld of California, SeaWorld of Texas, and MarineLand in the south of France, Hargrove walked away and gave up his dream. In this heartbreaking and honest memoir, Hargrove spills the secrets of SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium and the atrocities the corporation allows for the sake of profit.

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8 Benevolent Things about BENEATH THE SURFACE by John Hargrove

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Educational

Beneath the Surface was full of fun facts that were interesting, such as orcas are matriarchal and pods are centered around a dominant female. And while Hargrove pulled from his own experience and observations from working with orcas, he also offers insights from researchers and experts who study the lives of orcas living free in the wild.

2. Prisoners

One of the strongest points that Hargrove makes clear is that the orcas of SeaWorld are prisoners. No matter what improvements and changes the corporation makes to their living conditions or treatments, these animals are captives. And this imprisonment is not done for their protection or for their health, they are captive solely for profit.

3. Captivity

The most heartbreaking thing about Beneath the Surface is reading how the orcas behave in captivity. Pulling the paint off their pool from sheer boredom, crying and wailing after being separated from their calves, repeatedly raking each other, which is not normal behavior in adult wild orcas. To animal deserves to live in captivity.

4. Trainers

While Hargrove makes it known that he does not agree or condone with the policies and practices of SeaWorld, he remains extremely respectful towards the employees who work for SeaWorld. As someone who lived through the struggle of wanting to help the whales and yet knowing that SeaWorld was exploiting the animals, Hargrove understands the compartmentalizing employees must do and he respects that these other trainers and employees have a different journey than he does. He does not villainize them or imply that they are making the wrong choice.

5. Exposure

SeaWorld was exposed in the documentary Blackfish but Hargrove is able to shed more light. As a former employee, Hargrove is able to give examples of events that occurred at SeaWorld that the higher ups ignored or spun in ways that made humans look at fault. Never has SeaWorld come forward admitting that the orcas are dangerous, as they are prisoners held in tight quarters. Rather, they point the finger at the trainers, “She allowed her hair to touch the water and the killer whale thought it was a new toy.” “He panicked and drowned.” “The trainer missed his mark, didn’t give the right signal” etc. Hargrove is able to give testimony that SeaWorld is concerned about one thing: money. No amount of concerns from trainers, experts, or advocates have made them change having the killer whales for entertainment.

6. Beauty

Although Beneath the Surface focuses on the horrors done to captive orcas, Hargrove does an amazing job of conveying the beauty and majesty of killer whales. The communal bonds they share, the attachment and dedication orca mothers have to their offspring, no matter how old they are, and the relationships they can create with humans. Hargrove truly shows how complex, emotional, and intelligent killer whales are and that these beings deserve our respect, love and awe.

7. Necessary Evil

Sadly, there are still quite a few orcas in captivity and Hargrove explains that SeaWorld may be a necessary evil at this time. Hargrove is realistic and realizes that these captive orcas behave so unnaturally, with some of them being unnatural hybrids, that they would have no chance of survival free in the wild. Hargrove’s proposed solution is for the orca breeding program to be ended and that capturing any dolphins or whales be illegal world wide. And then finally, providing the already captive orcas with a more humane cage where they can live the remainder of their lives not performing or in isolation.

8. Advocate

Now that he has left the life as a killer whale trainer, John Hargrove is now an advocate for them. He maintains his deep love and respect for these animals and now serves them in a different manner. As with this book, Hargrove is attempting to put an end to whale captivity and educate the public and lawmakers through speeches and interviews. He had a choice to step away from SeaWorld, keep his mouth shut, and move on to a new chapter in his life. Instead he chose to stick up for the whales and take on SeaWorld. 


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

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Book Review: 10 Kingly Things about KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: Living a life of luxury during the 1920s, the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were the envy of many and this envy took a deadly turn. Members of the Osage tribe began dying under suspicious circumstances and anyone who investigated were murdered as well. With the rising death toll, the newly put together FBI gets involved and exposes a large conspiracy that will haunt the Osage for generations to come.

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10 Kingly Things about KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON by David Grann

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Educational

Killers of the Flower Moon was an absolute eye-opener, I’ve never even heard about the Osage Nation and definitely not about their murders. This novel was a wealth of knowledge about the Osage Indians, the Osage murders, and also the beginnings of the FBI. It is a testament of the atrocities we can do to fellow human beings due to prejudices and believing they are less-than.

2. Osage Indians

David Grann showed the utmost respect when talking about the Osage Tribe and their people throughout Killers of the Flower Moon. Grann gave background and described some practices of the Osage people but he did not attempt to be an expert and he did not make stereotypes. He did not portray them as ignorant savages who need pity nor did he portray them as nature protecting shaman who should be revered.

3. White Power

Ultimately, the Killers of the Flower Moon is a story of how whites took advantage and even killed many members of the Osage Tribe during the 1920s for their money. And they got away with it because of prejudices and discrimination against Native Americans. Many of the whites in the county including judges, policemen, and doctors were complacent, no one cared about the rich Indians and there was an overall attitude that these crimes were okay because they were benefiting white people.

4. Good Whites

On the flip side, David Grann makes sure to show that not all whites in Osage County were involved with the conspiracy. There were some white men who honestly tried to solve the Osage murders and found themselves killed as well. And then there was Comstock, an affluent white citizen of Osage County who openly and willing assisted investigators.

5. New Information

One of the most important things that came out with David Grann’s investigation into the Osage Murders was that there were more killings than just what the FBI investigated and pressed charges for. Through Grann’s research he found that hundreds of Osage Indians had died at a much higher rate than normal and that all of them had money being overseen by whites. Grann uncovered a conspiracy that went farther than what was once believed and the victims will never have justice.

6. Writing

While incredibly heavy with dates, facts, and overall information, Killers of the Flower Moon does not read like a history textbook. Instead Grann does an exceptional job of uncovering the facts, people, and places in a story-telling way and he keeps his readers engaged with great pacing, beautiful descriptives, and a layer by layer reveal of the conspiracy and its key players.

7. Context

Another exceptional writing skill that Grann displays is that of contexts. Grann makes sure to explain customs or norms that were different during that time period. He also includes background on numerous characters allowing readers to better understand their motives, values, and choices. And Grann also includes reminders of who people are in relation to events. This was incredibly helpful and allowed for easy understanding without having to flip back in the book or to look something up.

8. Now

Even though the events of the Osage murders occurred during the 1920s, Grann visited Osage County and interviewed relatives of those who were directly involved. This is so powerful because of generational trauma and the fact that so many of the murders did not get investigated. Grann looks at the repercussions on a people who have been abused and neglected by the government and justice system that was meant to protect them. 

9. Pictures

Throughout Killers of the Flower Moon are pictures. Pictures of people, sometimes places but pictures to help remind you that these are not fictional characters. The tragedies that happened in Osage County during the 1920s were real. Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t a fictional mystery novel and the pictures help provide context but also to drive that fact home.

10. References

There was extensive research done for the Killers of the Flower Moon and Grann has both an “Archival and Unpublished Sources” and “Selected Bibliography” included at the end. It is proof that Grann did his work and provides credibility to all information presented in Killers of the Flower Moon. It is hard to realize that this tragic tale is not fiction but rather a true tale of horror that many people lived through. 


As always, thank you for reading. I would love to hear from you so feel free to contact me or comment below. If you would like to support this blog and/or my paintings please become my patron.

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Book Review: 10 Brilliant Things about BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah

Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10

Summary: Literally born a crime, Trevor Noah explores his upbringing living in South Africa during apartheid. Being colored he never seems to fit in, Trevor is too black to be white and too white to be black. His coming of age story is touching, full of hardships and yet, unbelievably hilarious as Trevor Noah uses humor to remain resilient and portray the absurdity that humans can partake in.

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10 Brilliant Things about BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Hilarious

Born a Crime was hilarious, like laugh-out-loud funny! Even though the book deals with some very heavy topics, Trevor Noah uses his humor effectively and allows the reader to really grasp the absurdity that can be life.

2. Honesty

One of the most effective things about Born a Crime is the brutal honesty Noah has. He doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat things or only portray his loved ones in a positive light. He is real, genuine, and straightforward no matter if it is good or bad.

3. South Africa

Learning about a different culture and place in the world is always worthwhile. Obviously with Trevor Noah being born and raised in South Africa, this is where Born a Crime takes place and while Noah is just a single person from this country, he does a great job of showing some of the country’s diversity and difference amongst its people.

4. Racism

Probably the most important subject in Born a Crime is that of racism. While one might assume that racism wouldn’t exist in a country that is majority black, colonialism has influenced all of Africa and has created huge discrepancies between races. These negative influences continue to have an impact today as Noah shows throughout his book.

5. Not Fitting In

While not many of us could claim they understand what it is like to be a colored kid growing up in apartheid South Africa, I think most people can relate to feeling like they don’t fit in. Noah paints such a powerful and heartbreaking portrayal of the hurt, confusion, and desire of wanting to belong.

6. Love

Throughout Born a Crime the reader can truly sense and feel the deep love and respect Trevor has for his mother and the unconditional love that his mother has for him. It is absolutely beautiful and resonates throughout the novel.

7. Shit

Intellectual and profound in many ways, Trevor is constantly reminding the reader that we are all just human, no better, no less, and the most memorable and hilarious way he reminds us of this is through his comments on shitting:

“It’s a powerful experience, shitting. There’s something magical about it, profound even. I think God made humans shit in the way we do because it brings us back down to earth and gives us humility. I don’t care who you are, we all shit the same. Beyoncé shits. The pope shits. The Queen of England shits. When we shit we forget our airs and our graces, we forget how famous or how rick we are. All of that goes away.”

8. Perseverance

Overcoming poverty, racism, and a bad childhood is never an easy endeavor. Coming back from being shot in the head seems nearly impossible and yet, these are the stories that Trevor Noah shares. The perseverance that him and his family have shown and continue to show is inspirational and leaves an overall sense of hope that is much needed in a world that is rampant with poverty, racism, abuse, violence, addiction, hatred, and ignorance.

9. Writing

Overall, Born a Crime was written well and a relatively quick read. Without sounding like a boring history book, Noah gave pertinent facts needed for readers to understand context and continued using humor and wit to bring light into some very dark situations.

10. Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a fantastic comedian and while I am unsure if he will ever write another book in the future at least we can enjoy him on “The Daily Show.”


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Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.