Sunday, January 22, 2023

Review of Resist by Margot McMahon


Resist! A Visual History of Protest
Margot McMahon
Memoir, 50 pp
December 13, 2022, Aquarius Press LLC
16.99 print

Buy on:
Barnesand Noble

About the Book:
Resist: A Visual History is the true story of the later years of Franklin McMahon, artist-reporter for many powerful moments in U.S. History, from the Emmett Till Trial to the Apollo missions. McMahon was a WWII Army Air Corps veteran and former prisoner of war in Germany who made it back home to Chicago to his sweetheart Irene. McMahon became an award-winning presidential artist, among numerous additional honors. This book is the final in a series by Franklin's daughter, Margot McMahon. This book is part of the RESIST! exhibitions in museums nationwide.

My Review:
“Stop examining your belly button…get out there and make a change!” was William Franklin “Mac” McMahon’s lasting advice to all of us. Mac’s daughter, sculpturer Margot McMahon, devotedly shares decades of his work to make a difference in social justice across our world.

Through these short pages, Margot portrays her father as a POW in WWII, a family man, a reporter and an artist who became dedicated to the cause of creating a better society. The book opens as Mac is taken prisoner in Germany during his Army Air Corps service in World War II, missing one boot. Margot shares the story of his resolve to say nothing during the frequent interrogations. With his imagination to keep him company, Mac spent time “mind drawing” his surroundings: “ Insights into gestures and expressions kept him observing intently. The drawing gave a purpose to this unearthly hell.” Later in Stalag III he was able to draw with donated YMCA art supplies and was even able to send ideas for cartoons back to a Chicago magazine. He also met Tuskegee Airmen survivors.

We move next to the 1950s where McMahon has press credentials from Life Magazine as a reporter and cartoonist/artist. He’s in Mississippi to cover the Emmett Till trial, with copy and art. Mac’s daughter recounts her father’s emotions and doodles during the brief atrocity dangerously called a trial. A brief sentence sums up the disposition of the community: At the coffee shop door they (reporters) were surrounded, closely, by a few white male citizens, “You Northerners go back home and leave us Sumner folks alone.”

That trial and article showed McMahon “that art could effectuate social change.” In the next decade, the author takes her place around the family table, as seventh of nine children, growing up the 1960s. Conversation was lively with her journalist father and Irene, her mother, who was also an author. The turbulence of social justice protests during this time—women’s rights, worker’s rights, racial justice, gay rights, all were freely discussed. The McMahons encouraged the family to learn about world news, raise questions about politics and culture, all spurring Margaret to use her talent and carry on speaking out for change of inward and small-thinking injustices around the world. Franklin McMahon continued to capture the times in his art, and with his wife Irene, created award-winning films.

In 1995, at the age of seventy-five, McMahon participated in the Million Man march at the National Mall in Washington D.C. to protest systemic racism and call for revitalization of communities of color. Franklin McMahon passed in 2012 at the age of 90, having left a legacy of encouragement toward social justice. In his eulogy, Margot said, “With his art, he illumed awareness to nudge the world in a fairer direction, watched the change erase justice with presidential strokes of a pen and captured the protests again as people took to the streets with handmade signs to express their rights and wrongs.”

This powerful short book is filled with the late McMahon’s art and advice, the story of what it’s like to fight for a change both on the world stage and in our own neighborhoods. The book a good read for discussion; it’s an actionable book for families, for book clubs, and anyone who wants to see conscionable shifts in action and learn where to take a stand themselves.
About the Author:
A lifelong environmentalist, internationally-awarded Margot McMahon sculpts, writes, and paints human, plant, and animal forms to say, through art, her hope that decisions be made to support life on earth. Margot earned an MFA from Yale University then taught sculpture and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University and Yale University’s Norfolk Summer School as well as Oak Park's District 97. Margot has created documentary movies to explain and share the insights she has gained from her background and explorations in art. Cinema Guild in New York City represents her videos.

**This review originally appeared at

Friday, December 23, 2022

Wisconsin Olympic Athlete Memoir Gwen Jorgensen


Gwen Jorgensen, USA’s First Gold Medal Triathlete

by Gwen Jorgensen, Elizabeth Jorgensen, Nancy Jorgensen

Young Reader Memoir, 175 pp
October, 2022, Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.
paperback, $16.95
Buy on Amazon

 This memoir of USA Olympic Triathlete from Wisconsin, Gwen Jorgensen, is a lovely book geared toward young readers, encouraging them to reach for their dreams. Gwen competed in triathlon in the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The book is an account of her years of training, and overcoming challenges to become a professional athlete on her way to the world stage and a gold medal.

Gwen had big dreams of being an Olympian as a child, working hard to become a competitive swimmer. She learned about swim meets through school, and her parents supported swim lessons at a local high school. There she met friends who encouraged each other at practices and in competitions.
Eventually she earned a walk-on collegiate swimming spot at UW-Madison, added running to her repertoire, and then finally when learning about the triathlon, bicycling. She met her husband while training for triathlon events and competing in Europe, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Australia. The book intertwines her preparations for Rio with elementary years, upper grades and college. Along the way she dealt with bone breaks and fractures and other lessons of difficult training situations, including heartbreaking setbacks and losses. Gwen shares what it was like to prepare for the triathlon in Rio, from packing for the journey with her husband, to what each moment of the journey, of being in Brazil, including recipes for healthy meals, such as her overnight oatmeal. 
A personal letter from Gwen which includes an invitation to engage with young readers who can post their goals on her social media pages sets the stage. Tips and lessons, such as how to learn swim strokes, self-advice about patience and dedication, personal essays, and excerpts from newsclips.
The book is nicely laid out and easy to read, embellished with art work, personal quotes, and numerous photos, giving it a scrapbook feel. The book also includes goal-setting advice and a worksheet. Gwen Jorgensen is a positive, encouraging read and would make a wonderful gift for the young reader in your life.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Debut novel for dystopian fans


Tiny Tin House
Futuristic Fantasy
Debut Novel

paper, $17.99
Hardcover, $34.99
ebook, $7.99

In the Christian States of America, a woman's place is with a man. No exceptions.

Although she's legally an adult, eighteen-year-old Meryn Flint must live at home until her stepfather, Ray, finds her a husband. That's the law.

But when Ray kills her mother and Meryn must flee for her own safety, she quickly discovers there's no safe place in the CSA for a woman on the run. Unless she's willing to marry her former boyfriend-a man who's already demonstrated his capacity for violence-she'll be forced to live on the street. And that's a dangerous option for a woman alone.

As time runs out, Meryn is offered a third path: build herself a tiny house, a safe place to call home. Even though it's a violation of her Family Duty as well as every moral law on the books, Meryn seizes the chance.

But even a tiny tin house might not be enough to save her . . .


Author, L Maristatter,has published poetry in Songbirds Southwest and fiction in The Saturday Evening Post.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Crossing the Pressure Line by Laura Anne Bird


Crossing the Pressure Line
Laura Anne Bird
Middle grade fiction, 243 pages
Orange Hat Publishing, March 1, 2022
$14.95 paper
$6.99 ebook
Buy on Amazon 

About the Book:

Twelve-year-old Clare Burch has just lost the person she loves most in the world. She wonders if her feelings of sorrow and self-blame over her grandfather’s death will ever go away.
Out of the blue, a special request sends Clare on a journey from her home in Chicago to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. She knows that she must honor Grandpa Anthony’s last wishes, even though they completely upend her summertime plans.  
Clare heads to rural Alwyn with her little blind dog and a duffel bag full of worries. What will she do without her best friends and swim team? Who will take her fishing and spoil her with candy now that her grandfather is gone? And most important, is she strong enough to let him go, forever?
During her summer up north, Clare stumbles upon the answers to her many questions. Even more, as she makes peace with why she couldn’t save Grandpa Anthony, she ends up rescuing someone else from danger.
Above all, Clare learns to listen to the courageous voice inside—and discovers just how tough she really is. 

My Review

Twelve, going on thirteen-year-old Clare is part of Grandpa Anthony’s last pet project—getting his girls to just get along better. Grandpa’s will has two surprising directives, neither of which sounds like any fun, especially not when both Mom and Grandma can’t even agree on what to pack for a summer exiled up north at Grandpa’s favorite place in the world.
“No friends, no swim team, no you, and a mom and grandmother who are experts at arguing.”
But a little voice inside of her says, “Just make it work, Clare Burch.”
It’s a summer of revelation as Clare makes goals, and works to achieve them. She keeps up with her friends at home, makes new friends who have surprising international backgrounds but aren’t really much different, keeps in shape by swimming in the lake, tries to reel in that elusive musky, and learns to drive. But when Grandma Lulu makes a devastating decision, it’s just one more hurdle to try to handle.
Revelations come in many forms; revelations of self-acceptance at any age or stage of life as Clare works to overcome survivor’s guilt and learn empathy, her mother works to accept her talents, and Grandma to accept her new life without her husband. The Burch family makes their mark in the late Grandpa Anthony’s hometown, but for how long? Anything can happen above the pressure line—where the air is more breathable and the stress of problems seem easier to resolve.
Middle grade, pre-teen girls will find much to enjoy about Clare’s eye-opening summer, where she learns to look past outside and recognize grief plays out in many forms. Just a note: keeping certain endangered or predatory bird feathers is illegal in Wisconsin, but if you want to know more about that, you’ll just have to read the book.

About the Author:
A Milwaukee native, Laura Anne Bird graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in English. She lives in Madison with her husband, three teenagers, and little dog. When she’s not reading, writing, or reviewing books, she loves to exercise and explore the outdoors. Crossing the Pressure Line is her first novel. You can find her on Instagram @laura_at_the_library.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Short quirky tales from Wendy Wimmer


Entry Level
Wendy Wimmer
Short story collection
Autumn House Press, August 24, 2022
190 pp
$12.49 ebook
$17.95 paper

Buy on Amazon 
Barnes and Noble 

About the Book
Tales of characters trying to find their way through the struggles of underemployment.

Wendy Wimmer’s debut short story collection, Entry Level, contains a range of characters who are trying to find, assert, or salvage their identities. These fifteen stories center around the experience of being underemployed—whether by circumstance, class, gender, race, or other prevailing factors—and the toll this takes on an individual. Wimmer pushes the boundaries of reality, creating stories that are funny, fantastic, and at times terrifying. Her characters undergo feats of endurance, heartbreak, and loneliness, all while trying to succeed in a world that so often undervalues them. From a young marine biologist suffering from imposter syndrome and a haunting to a bingo caller facing another brutal snowstorm and a creature that may or not be an angel, Wimmer’s characters are all confronting an oppressive universe that seemingly operates against them or is, at best, indifferent to them. These stories reflect on the difficulties of modern-day survival and remind us that piecing together a life demands both hope and resilience.

Entry Level was selected by Deesha Philyaw as the winner of the 2021 Autumn House Fiction Prize.

My Review
Many of these quirky and poignant tales were published in other venues before being collected into one powerful volume. How do we push ourselves out of a rut, out of our circumstances, out of our dreams and into reality…for that matter, what is reality? Wimmer works magic with language and character, posing thought-provoking what-ifs: what if we could get a do-over by going back in time? What if there was a magic pill that took control of the consequences of our choices? My favorite explores the origination of dreams in “Where She Went.”

The stories are told from different personas with different needs and wishes, different perspectives, but all wanting something elusive, and maybe unattainable. Wimmer easily into different genres, ages, life circumstances, telling ghost stories from a scientist’s point of view, life as a conjoined twin, a little girl, a bereaved widower. Each of the fifteen stories will speak to someone.

About the Author 
Wendy Wimmer is a writer living in Wisconsin. Her work has been published in Barrelhouse, Waxwing, Paper Darts, Believer, ANMLY, Per Contra, Blackbird, and others. She holds a PhD in English Literature with a Creative Dissertation from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and a Master of Arts in English Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

Friday, October 21, 2022

new story of Black culture in history


Enslaved, Indentured, Free: Five Black Women on the Upper Mississippi, 1800-1850

Mary Elise Antoine

US History
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
October 5, 2022, 240 pp,
Ebook $11.99; paper $24.95

About the Book
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 made slavery illegal in the territory that would later become Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. However, many Black individuals’ rights were denied by white enslavers who continued to hold them captive in the territory well into the nineteenth century. Enslaved, Indentured, Free shines a light on five extraordinary Black women—Marianne, Mariah, Patsey, Rachel, and Courtney—whose lives intersected in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, during these seminal years.

Focusing on these five women, Mary Elise Antoine explores the history of slavery in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, relying on legal documents, military records, court transcripts, and personal correspondence. Whether through perseverance, self-purchase, or freedom suits—including one suit that was used as precedent in Dred and Harriet Scott’s freedom suits years later—each of these women ultimately secured her freedom, thanks in part to the bonds they forged with one another.

My Review
Using public records available, Mary Elise Antoine weaves together a story of early settlement on the upper Mississippi, focused on Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Beginning with Marianne, a freeborn black woman who remained free, the author researched and shares about the lives of four other women whose lives touched.
Marianne was born in the country along the southern Mississippi in the mid eighteenth century, and married three times to French traders. Her second husband relocated to Prairie du Chien. She was a unique figure who owned land, farmed, bore thirteen children and practiced healing ways. The author notes that Prairie du Chien was already diverse with mixed cultures. “In the early nineteenth century, race did not automatically exclude people of color from various institutions on the prairie. However, when white American men brought people of African heritage with them to the prairie, they also brought racial inequality,” she writes.
The second subject, Mariah, was brought to Prairie du Chien in 1816, one of 200 enslaved, indentured, or hired working people brought to the area between 1816 and 1845, almost all by members of the US Army. Because slavery was illegal in Illinois Territory, Mariah’s owner changed the sixteen-year-old’s legal status to indentured. Mariah later married a young soldier, though was “rented” by her owner to others. When her owner left the area before her servitude was concluded, he forced her to pay the rest of her contract in order to claim her freedom. She and her husband divorced in 1839; she subsequently remarried and moved to a home on land owned by Marianne.
A third woman, Patsey, was brought to the area by the Indian agent in 1829. Again, the agent forced Patsey into indentured servitude to get around the law; the indentured work-around was apparently a common ruse, legally recorded wherever the family moved, as well as moving their slaves in an out of territory where slavery was illegal, or calling them variably servant or slave. Patsey had children who were also indentured.
Courtney was brought to Prairie du Chien as a servant for an army captain who was allowed to claim her as an expense to his account, asking a few dollars a month compensation, her clothing and one ration of food per day. He also provided a description: five foot-four, black skin, eyes and hair. This girl was eventually sold several times and moved to different locations in the area, even leaving her son in slavery to one family. She finally was moved to St. Louis.
Rachel had been purchased in St. Louis for a soldier with a young family stationed in Prairie du Chien. When no longer needed, she was returned to St. Louis and sold again, but this time Rachel took advantage of a Missouri law that allowed enslaved persons to sue for their freedom based on prior residence in a free territory. she filed suit in 1834 which was rejected for a word choice, being called a servant by the soldier. With the help of her attorney, she appealed. During the time, the attorney also filed a petition for Courtney, both of which were successful in 1836. Courtney and her son returned to Prairie du Chien where she married and went to live on land owned by Marianne.
The text is somewhat dry and filled with much speculation as well as factual information derived from public records as there are little or no personal records from these women. The diligent research was excellent. Events of the time were overlaid to provide some color. Laid out in seven chapters, five for the women portrayed and two others describing circumstances and life at the time, the book is a lively portrayal of life on the new frontier. Images of noted individuals, places, and records and notes accompanying the text provide a nice variation.

About the Author
Mary Elise Antoine is president of the Prairie du Chien Historical Society and former curator at Villa Louis. She is the author of the War of 1812 in Wisconsin and coeditor, with Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, of Frenchtown Chronicles of Prairie du Chien.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

New tween fiction from Tim Fox


A Place to Grow, book 2 in the Place series
Tim Fox
Journeys Publications
Oct 5, 2022
Children’s fiction

$2.99 ebook
Buy on Amazon

About the Book 
Big Mama has a family of active cubs to raise, even as a new threat emerges. Twelve-year-old Tracy has places to explore, things to discover, and her first 5K race to run. Aunt Lynette, Mallory, and Jamie provide guidance, love, and support, helping Tracy to thrive. And Tracy's wonderful friend, Kitty, is there watching over them all. A Place to Grow picks up where A Place For You left off and will leave readers cheering for this uniquely blended family of humans and cats! A Place to Grow is joyful, appealing to cat lovers, and empowering for girls.

My Review
The second book in this series can be read as a standalone. This sweet story explores how a young girl is adapting to her new life in her great-aunt’s home. Aunt Lynette has a wonderful neighbor, artist Mallory, whose boyfriend, Jamie, is a game warden who also runs amateur races. Together, these four learn and grow with each other, along with a pet rescue kitten, and a local mountain lion mama raising her cubs. As the author says, this series blends a wonderful group of people and critters into a unique blended family. Set in lovely Wisconsin, Tracy is determined to learn more about her environment with Jamie’s help and encouragement, training and running in race events with the support of everyone, developing observational, gardening, and artistic skills with Mallory, and a love of cooking and sense of kindness and responsibility from Aunt Lynette.

There’s a bear involved, too, but you’ll want to read about that for yourself.

Recommended for the tween set girl, though any reader would enjoy this series.

About the Author
Tim Fox is a Wisconsin writer who loves hiking in Wisconsin's state parks and natural areas. He has been a teacher and coach and now does personal fitness training.

His author website is