other holiday reads

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Nation is a surprise. From a fantasy writer come fantasy masquerading as historical fiction. Despite the many clues that this is a made-up world, there's still something real seeming about the set up, so much so that Pratchett added a disclaimer in the back.

The premises are multiple, as is to be expected from any Pratchett romp. But this is a more serious romp than most. The question Pratchett poses is: what if, on the cusp of your initiation into manhood, your entire nation of people, your tribe, were obliterated by a tidal wave? A secondary character is a girl from England who is nearly the only one from a shipwreck to survive. In fact, the ship was washed onto the boy's island, helping to decimate his people's land.

As if that weren't enough spoilers... the boy does eventually reconstitute something of his people's rituals, as refugees from other, smaller islands make their way to his island. The girl helps, and poisons some rogue pirates along the way. Although they are attracted to each other, they do not wind up together, not even for a stolen kiss, which was interesting, refreshing, and disappointing all at once.

Fireweed: A Political Autobiography by Gerda Lerner
Thanks to D.C. for loaning this one to me. This is a powerful book by the woman who, in some ways, founded the study of women's history. I was most taken by the chapters on her childhood, as she struggled to survive in WWII Vienna as a wealthy Jewish child who was often mistaken for an "Aryan" child. Her early attempts to be political are both moving and heartbreaking.