I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was introduced to the magic world of books through Dick and Jane. In my reading journey, I found myself most often searching for books about real women--women who really existed and from whom I could learn about life. As a young girl, I can remember reading about Russian ballerinas and envisioning myself dancing in Swan Lake!
The first specific book I remember reading was Karen by Marie Killilea. This is a classic written in 1952. The story is about Karen, who was born in 1940 with cerebral palsy, and her family. Her mother, Marie Killilea wrote about all the trials, tribulations, and stigma that went along with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy at that time. As a young girl reading about Karen, I was drawn into a family for which humor and kindness of were center pieces of their lives. Marie’s sharing of her family story provided me with a feeling of hope and determination. I felt as that if Karen and her family could survive and thrive despite the challenges provided by Karen’s cerebral palsy, I could meet the challenges that would come to me in my life. This reading experience at the age of about ten, led me to begin to search for other books about women who led inspiring and/or interesting lives. I have been on the hunt for those books ever since.
Through the years, as I found those books, I have made lists and lists of them. I have always wanted to share this resource with others who wanted to know more about real live women. Hopefully, I will be able to do so through my blog, NOW READ THIS! Each blog entry will feature a book I have found interesting about a real woman.
The first book I have chosen to share is a new release, King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, by Peggyliene Bartels. (DoubleDay Publishing, 2012, 352 pages, ISBN# 978-0-385-5342-1) Peggy was a Ghanian-American woman working as a secretary in the Ghanian embassy in Washington D.C. when she got a middle-of the-night call telling her she had been elected the king of her ancestral village in Ghana. Talk about a middle of the night wake-up call!
Peggy struggled with whether to accept this kingship and when she finally does she experiences all of the challenges of leadership you might expect and then some. She becomes king to a town of 7,000 souls on Ghana's central coast, half a world away. Upon arriving for her crowning ceremony in beautiful Otuam, she discovers the dire reality: there's no running water, no doctor, and no high school, and many of the village elders are stealing the town's funds. To make matters worse, her uncle (the late king) sits in a morgue awaiting a proper funeral in the royal palace, which is in ruins. The longer she waits to bury him, the more she risks incurring the wrath of her ancestors. Peggy's first two years as king of Otuam unfold in a way that is stranger than fiction. In the end, a deeply traditional African town has been uplifted by the ambitions of its headstrong, decidedly modern female king. And in changing Otuam, Peggy is herself transformed, from an ordinary secretary to the heart and hope of her community.
This book is a wonderfully warm, humorous, and informative true story. Peggy’s observational and narrative skills bring the story to life in vivid terms. It reads like a novel and captivates the reader with its story. Reading about how Peggy, as an average citizen, rose to the occasion and provided guidance and service to her people is inspiring. She certainly can be a role model for all of us.
If you are searching for other books about women to fill your summer reading list, you can check out my web site, www.booksaboutrealwomen.com. There you will find over 100 titles to choose from. I have read them all and can vouch for the women who fill the pages!
Diane Burke recently retired from a 30 year career in education and moved to Hampton Roads from upstate New York. One of her life long passions has been reading books about real women. A retirement goal was to find a way to share this passion with others. She created a website www.booksaboutrealwomen.com in which she has organized and reviewed over 100 books about women. She lives in Chesapeake with her husband and is the mother of three and the grandmother of eight.