A Look at Books: From JFK’s assassination to homelessness in the US

Assassination and Commemoration
By Stephen Fagin

We will watch President John F. Kennedy’s fateful progress from the Dallas Love Field to Dealey Plaza until the end of time, I imagine. But not everyone shares our impulse to commemorate the events of that dreadful day.

Stephen Fagin, associate curator and oral historian at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (the very spot where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots) is to be thanked for continuing the tradition of preserving both the building and the difficult memories of that day that it records.

After Kennedy’s assassination there were many who called for the demolition of the Texas School Book Depository building, the better to sweep away the memory if not the legacy. But in his new book Fagin documents the struggle to maintain the building and the museum on its sixth floor, the better to understand the volatile political climate of the period and the madmen it inspired.

It’s hard for those who don’t live there to understand how a lingering shame affected the city for decades after the fatal shots rang out, but local unease over the circumstances doesn’t rule out the historical importance of the site or its place in wider American history.

Fagin’s scholarly and immensely readable new book indicates he’s an impassioned and brilliant champion of the museum and the sorrowful history it records.

Oklahoma Press, $29.95.

Almost Home: Helping Kids Move From Homelessness to Hope
By Kevin Ryan and Tina Kelly

Kevin Ryan is president of Covenant House International, which reaches over 56,000 at risk and homeless youth in more than 20 cities across the U.S. In his advocacy work he’s appeared on the Today show, Good Morning America and Anderson Cooper 360.

Tina Kelly was a staff writer for The New York Times and shared a Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of the 9/11 attacks. In this book the pair tell the remarkably compelling story of six young people that offers a life into the daily lived reality of the estimated 1.6 million runaways and teens kicked out of their homes each year in the U.S.

Family violence, exploitation, prostitution, teen parenthood, anti-gay rejection after they come out, or being aged out of foster care without finding an adoptive family – the reasons why kids end up on the streets are as plentiful as the kids themselves.

But the good news is with a little empathy and guidance you can see changes in their fortunes that can even appear miraculous.  There’s a lot of talk about the sanctity of life, but once you’re born and on the streets your life is often in your own hands.

That’s where Covenant House comes in. It can give teens back the dignity that their experiences have robbed them of, and in the process of saving them we should remember we’re saving our own society too.

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives, might I suggest one place to start is with this remarkable book and the inspiring tales it tells of young people finding their way out of personal hells with the help of some of the most quietly Christian people you will ever meet.

Wiley, $16.95.

Dick Carmody

In the Shadow of the School
By Dick Carmody

Growing up in rural north County Kerry in the 1950’s author Dick Carmody found himself enjoying the most elusive of all gifts, a happy childhood.

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