Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: Bessie's Pillow



What a surprise for me to open my mailbox and find a treat in it--Bessie's Pillow, published by Strong Learning, Inc.

I'm a fan of treats. :)

I decide to keep this one for myself--at least for a little while.

Upon reading the introduction, I'm glad.  Pogroms and their accompanying violence are mentioned.  There are no graphic descriptions, nothing offensive at all, but I am relieved not to have to explain the word "rape" to my 5- and 7-year olds just now.  

I'll savor this treat, and then I'll put it on my teens' book lists for individual reading and journaling.

Within a matter of minutes I am emotionally drawn into the story.  It is written in the first person, and the tone is both matter-of-fact and authentic.  I feel that I am reading Bessie's thoughts.  The author seems to have captured the voice of one for whom English is a second language--direct yet rich.

Photos found at Bessie's America

When she speaks of leaving home alone, I remember going away to college--only a phone call away from home--yet I was so homesick that I can remember it still more than 2 decades later.  The loneliness swells in my throat as I read of Bessie's far deeper loneliness.

When she recalls the horror of a pogrom, helplessly watching a neighbor woman being beaten, I am reminded of the same violence happening to my precious friend just 3 years ago.  I feel as sick reading of Bessie's terror as I did when I first saw my friend's hurts and hugged her until we both cried.

I wonder if my teens, who have far less experience to draw on for understanding, will relate to Bessie's story, and then I realize that they will relate in their own way.  They will be touched by her emotions in what capacity they can, and it will be powerful because Bessie's feelings are universal, and they are described so simply and straightforwardly that the teens will relate.

And the story is ultimately a love story.

My teen daughters will certainly appreciate that.

So will they appreciate Bessie's determination to find her own way and to define herself in strength and joy in spite of societal pressures to conform.

They are having to do that themselves, even today.

I read the whole book in a single sitting, compelled to turn page after page even as the night grows older and older.  My heart breaks for Bessie as she faces challenges as hard as any woman can face, and my heart rejoices as she heals and triumphs over them.


Though I am descended of English, Scotch, and Swedish stock that arrived in America a century or two before Bessie does, her story stirs in my heart a deep appreciation for my heritage--for the heritage of all Americans.  This country was made by people of great strength, and we of today have inherited that. 

We can stand strong and true to that heritage!

If only we will.

I am grateful for the opportunity to read and think about Bessie's Pillow.  I feel it is well-written, well-told, and a worthy study.



As the chapters are brief and rich with early 20th century history, Charlotte Mason educators will rejoice to add this to their list of living books for this era.

And for those who wish to turn their study of the book into a unit study there are free resources to help them do so.

At the end of the book there are 20 full pages of photos and additional information.

Online, there's a  teacher's guide.

There's a wealth of other resources at Bessie's America, too.

It is also entirely reasonable to simply open and enjoy the book as a stand alone experience. 

But I found that after reading Bessie's Pillow, I could not help but explore the resources because my interest in Bessie and other immigrants was so intense.

How grateful I am for the surprise I found in my mailbox!

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1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your family immigrated to America over two centuries ago. Your story must be very interesting. So glad you enjoyed reading my grandmother's story.

    Dr. Linda

    Dr. Linda

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