These are probably not your mother’s stilettos.
But they could be your grandma’s!
Just ask Tali and Octavia, whose grandmother not only wears red stilettos, but drives a red sportscar, dons flippy wigs and push-up bras, has very strong opinions, and tells them about her very surprising history.
*stilettos all over the world clicking together in celebration*
MARE’S WAR by Tanita S. Davis,
(Knopf, 2009), Young Adult Historical Fiction,
Ages 12+, 352 pp.
Tanita’s first book, A La Carte (2008), was so thoroughly delicious that I can’t wait to read Mare’s War. Mare is the grandmother in question; Tali and Octavia’s summer plans are ruined when their parents force them to accompany Mare on a l-o-n-g cross-country road trip.
So, they set out from California Interstate 5,
photo by Super G
(leaving places like the Windmill at Pea Soup Andersen’s behind),
photo by busbozo
see all kinds of strange and wonderful things on the way, (like the world’s largest rose bush in Tombstone, Arizona),
photo by jennylou72
until they finally get to Florida, where a certain Mouse, some gators, dinner at an Aladdin-themed restaurant, and skydiving are involved.
photo by knight_0323
But what’s really eye-opening about this trip is what Tali and Octavia learn about Mare — that when she was just 17, she ran away from her not-so-perfect life in rural Alabama, lied about her age, and joined the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. She in fact became a member of the 6888th African American Battalion, serving in the U.S., Scotland, and France.
First contingent of African American women, 6888th Battalion, inspected in England (1945).
Through chapters that alternate between Mare’s WWII experiences and the events of the road trip, readers will not only travel back in time for a rare glimpse of some of the first women (other than nurses) in the military, but will be privy to Octavia and Tali’s new understanding and appreciation for everything Mare overcame and endured. I am especially interested in learning more about the discrimination someone like Mare may have faced, not only because she was African American, but because she was a woman. It will be fascinating to see the strength, courage, determination and self-reliance she had to muster to serve her country.
Members of the 6888th march in parade honoring Joan D’Arc, France (1945).
Mare’s War is a Junior Library Guild Selection, and has been receiving glowing reviews. Colleen Mondor at Bookslut said, "It’s a cliché to say she brings history alive; the larger truth is that she makes it real. Set aside the textbooks and go driving with Mare and the girls; they’ll give you a ride into young adulthood you won’t soon forget."
Kirkus said, "the parallel travel narratives are masterfully managed, with postcards from Octavia and Tali to the folks back home in San Francisco signaling the shift between ‘then’ and ‘now.’ Absolutely essential reading."
Did you hear? Absolutely essential reading!! My mom also joined the Women’s Army Corps as a teenager in Hawai’i, so for me this is super triple absolutely essential reading. I will have to get her a copy for her birthday next month.
So now, help me congratulate Tanita on another fabulous book. Step into the alphabet soup mess hall, grab a big spoon, and slurp a rousing reveille! We stand at attention and salute you, Tanita!!
Today’s Special: Olive not-so-drab Soup (uniformly delicious)!
To go with your soup, enjoy this delicious bruschetta, made with some of the marvelous mozzarella Mare, Tali, and Octavia may have sampled in Roswell, New Mexico (largest producer of mozzarella in the U.S.).
photo by dinerjunkie
When you’re done chewing and swallowing, head on over to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy of Mare’s War. There’s nothing like a good road trip to make your summer complete!
Be sure to check out Tanita’s official website and blog. She’s got some interesting reference notes and links all related to the novel, including stuff about the WAC, road trip highlights, and interesting tidbits. She’s also celebrating the launch of Mare’s War with signed copies and bookplates for the first five people who see the book in a store and send her photos. Visit her blog for more details!
Read my 2008 Interview with Tanita here.
Cool online review at Reading Rants is here.
More Soup of the Day posts here.
*Photos of 6888th African American Battalion from the National Archives. WAC uniform from DOD files and U.S. Army Center of Military History. Stilettos from Flannels Fashion photostream.