Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg


Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Celebrated NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg delivers an extraordinary memoir of her personal successes, struggles, and life-affirming relationships, including her beautiful friendship of nearly fifty years with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Four years before Nina Totenberg was hired at NPR, where she cemented her legacy as a prizewinning reporter, and nearly twenty-two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, Nina called Ruth. A reporter for The National Observer, Nina was curious about Ruth’s legal brief, asking the Supreme Court to do something revolutionary: declare a law that discriminated “on the basis of sex” to be unconstitutional. In a time when women were fired for becoming pregnant, often could not apply for credit cards or get a mortgage in their own names, Ruth patiently explained her argument. That call launched a remarkable, nearly fifty-year friendship.

Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story’s heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. During the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina’s first husband, Ruth drew her out of grief; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth’s beloved husband died. They shared not only a love of opera, but also of shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth’s last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were “reserved for Ruth” in Nina’s house.

Dinners with Ruth also weaves together compelling, personal portraits of other fascinating women and men from Nina’s life, including her cherished NPR colleagues Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer; her beloved husbands; her friendships with multiple Supreme Court Justices, including Lewis Powell, William Brennan, and Antonin Scalia, and Nina’s own family—her father, the legendary violinist Roman Totenberg, and her “best friends,” her sisters. Inspiring and revelatory, Dinners with Ruth is a moving story of the joy and true meaning of friendship.

Two people and a remarkable friendship. Everyone should be so lucky.

When seeing the title of this book, one might think it’s political, but it’s not. Truly. This is the story of two friends and their times together. There’s quite a bit about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but also a lot about the author, too. Through the author’s writing, the luck of having a good friend shines right through.

This isn’t just about dinners, as the title might suggest. It shows the strength of women and how we can be together–strong and supportive. I liked how Ginsburg was shown, not only as a judge, but as a person. The reader gets to know her on a more personal level–her love of opera, her need for the collars and her stubbornness to stand up for what she saw was right. It also showed her struggle with cancer and the inevitability of old age.

The author shows the same struggle–not with old age per se, but with seeing her friends and loved ones go ahead of her. The author writes about her first husband dying and his many mishaps, then about Ginsburg’s passing and it did bring a tear to the eye. I felt like I was there with them.

If you’re looking for a biography that’s not just another bland story, give this one a try.

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle


Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, YA, 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Armed with a one-way ticket to New York City, small-town theater geek Nate is off to start rehearsals for E.T.: The Broadway Musical. It’s everything he ever practiced his autograph for! But as thrilling as Broadway is, rehearsals are nothing like Nate expects: full of intimidating child stars, cut-throat understudies, and a director who can’t even remember Nate’s name.

Now, as the countdown to opening night is starting to feel more like a time bomb, Nate is going to need more than his lucky rabbit’s foot if he ever wants to see his name in lights. He may even need a showbiz miracle.

Cute, sweet and a little unbelievable but fun!

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! follows the book Better Nate Than Ever is a cute, sweet read about a young man, Nate, who wants to become a star on the stage. He’s got big dreams and even bigger pressure to produce.

I liked this book because it showed a young man, Nate, who is trying to come to terms with what he wants–fame–and who he is. He’s coming out and finding he rather likes being true to himself. It’s a sweet thing to read about.

There are also a lot of nearly impossible things happening in this book. He’s a small town kid about to make it big, he’s already on the stage, he’s in an improbable situation…but it’s fun. It’s cute and quirky.

If you’re looking for a story that’s a little about coming out, a lot about the stage and a lot about life, then give it a try. It’s funny and worth the read.

Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton


Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton
Publisher: A Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

From a rediscovered collection of autobiographical accounts written by hundreds of Kansas pioneer women in the early twentieth century, Joanna Stratton has created a collection hailed by Newsweek as “uncommonly interesting” and “a remarkable distillation of primary sources.”

Never before has there been such a detailed record of women’s courage, such a living portrait of the women who civilized the American frontier. Here are their stories: wilderness mothers, schoolmarms, Indian squaws, immigrants, homesteaders, and circuit riders. Their personal recollections of prairie fires, locust plagues, cowboy shootouts, Indian raids, and blizzards on the plains vividly reveal the drama, danger and excitement of the pioneer experience.

These were women of relentless determination, whose tenacity helped them to conquer loneliness and privation. Their work was the work of survival, it demanded as much from them as from their men—and at last that partnership has been recognized.

Joanna L. Stratton has taken first-hand accounts of the experiences of hundreds of women of courage making their way to and living in rough territory. The lives of these women were dangerous and exciting. One never knew what would happen.

This book is filled with adventure and unknowns. The people these women encounter were sometimes friendly and sometimes wild and meaning to do harm. Younger and older women lent their voices here.

How could one survive in such risky circumstances? This book brings to life a time when women lacked all modern conveniences. Becoming complacent wasn’t an option.

Reading from the point-of-view of those who were in Kansas at such a wild time is enlightening. This book is worth a look at for those who are interested in Western history or women’s history—an interesting inside view.