Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Almost Start an International Incident

About a month ago A asked me if I could recommend an autobiography for her to read for school. I should have emailed one of my many librarian friends, but I felt like I needed to give her direction quickly because she was throwing out titles by popular celebrities. On a side note, I know this is also a common occurrence in the U.S. but it seems to be a requirement here. If you are on stage or screen you have a book deal. Every celebrity, no matter how minor, has published an autobiography. Even people who have been on reality television have books out! I haven’t looked into it but I suppose that none of them are written by the celebrity, so how they get classified as autobiographies I will never know. Anyway, to avoid her thinking that she could read one of those, I suggested Homer Hickam’s Rocket Boys. I haven’t read it myself but since he lives in Huntsville, I knew a lot about it. She was a bit annoyed with me because the book was longer than her friends’ selections.

So fast forward to my walking tour of East London where the tour guide spoke with contempt about Wernher von Braun and his V2 that destroyed a lot of East London. I was thinking to myself, having lived in Huntsville, Alabama where the von Braun Center is the biggest venue in town, obviously we have a different image of von Braun, who was instrumental in the U.S. rocket program.

A asked me to look over her notes. She had to deliver a speech on Rocket Boys. As I read her notes which described how Homer Hickam idolized von Braun I started getting nervous. If her teacher is clear on the facts of WWII, she may get angry at A’s speech. I told A that she needed to do some additional research and as I started to explain to her that von Braun had a controversial past, she started getting very nervous afraid she was going to get in trouble at school. We found some additional information, which actually was from a book my history professors at UAH had written, that explained von Braun’s past. At least now she was prepared. She hasn’t said anymore about it, so it must have gone well.

P.S. A had in her possession recently one of the books that a friend of hers selected as her autobiography.  It was Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.  I told A that it is rumoured that the book is not an actual diary but instead written as a message book about drug abuse.  I almost laughed since I remember reading that when I was about 13 and it scaring me.  It's still around scaring teenagers!


Beth said...

I remember someone in Huntsville telling me that the VBC was the biggest momument in the US named for a Nazi. It made me think. I loved Rocket Boys. I also loved (and was scared shitless by) Go Ask Alice. It was discredited as an actual diary, but it still is hitting the mark. I miss you!!!!

Alexandria said...

Rocket Boys has a long part in it where Sonny's dad challenges him on von Braun's Nazi past. This is resolved when Sonny asks a Jewish machinist about it and the man explains the tradition of redemption and that von Braun was in the process of redeeming himself with his good works. Wernher von Braun was not a Nazi when he did his good works for the USA. He was a man redeemed, one who embraced the history and values of the American culture to the credit of both. If a man cannot find redemption, then Christianity and all the great religions are in error.

J said...

In the end, no one in A's class seemed to know anything about the controversy, including the teacher. It might have been a different story if the assignment was for history class. The teacher commented that she might want to read the book but then found out that there was a film adaptation with Jake Gyllenhaal in it and I think she's opting for that instead.