A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport

The inspiring true story of an indomitable librarian’s journey from Nazi Germany to Seattle to Vietnam—all for the love of books.Growing up under Fascist censorship in Nazi Germany, Ruth Rappaport absorbed a forbidden community of ideas in banned books. After fleeing her home in Leipzig at fifteen and losing both parents to the Holocaust, Ruth drifted between vocations, re...

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Title:A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport
Author:Kate Stewart
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport Reviews

  • Sarah

    This book was a freebie through the Amazon First Reads program; I picked it from among the month's selections because although I had not previously heard of Ruth Rappaport, she sounded from the description like the type of woman I've come to admire, and I wasn't far off. Rappaport had a truly unusual life, escaping Nazi Germany as a young girl and spending time in places as varied as Israel; Vietnam; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Through her entire life ran a common theme: books.

    At first, I was

    This book was a freebie through the Amazon First Reads program; I picked it from among the month's selections because although I had not previously heard of Ruth Rappaport, she sounded from the description like the type of woman I've come to admire, and I wasn't far off. Rappaport had a truly unusual life, escaping Nazi Germany as a young girl and spending time in places as varied as Israel; Vietnam; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Through her entire life ran a common theme: books.

    At first, I was a little put off by the author's insertions of her own life and experiences throughout the book, but I soon realized that in doing so, she was doing what many readers do when they read a good story: It was her way of making connections with the narrative. In examining the things she had in common with Rappaport and her reactions to what she had learned about her subject, she was doing what many educators do to make reading strategies explicit to younger readers -- making connections to one's life and experiences and to other books and to think about how what we are reading has context in the bigger world around us.

    Some might argue that a woman like Ruth Rappaport didn't do anything extraordinary to merit a biography being written about her. Though she did some unusual things and in many ways was a woman ahead of her time, her main contributions to the world were in the field of librarianship/library science and are largely unknown to those outside it. Still, there is value about learning about everyday people, particularly women, and this is an interesting glimpse into a fascinating woman. Stewart does not sugar-coat Rappaport in the telling of her life; a reader of this biography learns just as much about Rappaport's personal and professional failings as about her successes. She was a fascinating if flawed woman, and I am glad to have learned about her.

  • Janette Fuller

    Ruth Rappaport was not famous but she lived an extremely courageous and distinguished life. Ms. Stewart used diary entries, letters, and archives to describe Ruth's "life, loves, and legacy." She visited many of the locations where Ruth lived to give the reader a clear understanding of the world as Ruth saw it.

    I was especially interested in the years that Ruth spent in Vietnam setting up libraries for the soldiers and sending out packets of books/magazines to the front lines. She traveled in hel

    Ruth Rappaport was not famous but she lived an extremely courageous and distinguished life. Ms. Stewart used diary entries, letters, and archives to describe Ruth's "life, loves, and legacy." She visited many of the locations where Ruth lived to give the reader a clear understanding of the world as Ruth saw it.

    I was especially interested in the years that Ruth spent in Vietnam setting up libraries for the soldiers and sending out packets of books/magazines to the front lines. She traveled in helicopters to oversee the branch libraries that were operating in remote areas. While in Vietnam, she was romantically involved with a U.S. serviceman for several years before learning that he had a wife and five children back in the States. Alas, Ruth was not lucky in love and never married.

    The only thing I disliked about this book was the rather long history of the Library of Congress that didn't really have much to do with Ruth's story. The author provided too much (in my opinion) information about the politics, hiring discrimination and other random facts about the Library of Congress during the years that Ruth worked there.

    I believe this book will find a wide audience with librarians and history buffs who are interested in World War II, Jewish history and the Holocaust.

  • Kirk

    Perhaps a 3.5 star rating would be about where I land after reading. Stewart's book gave me much to chew on, and I am fascinated by Ruth Rappaport, a sociologist and librarian whose life intersected directly with Nazi Germany, the creation of the new state of Israel, the Red Scare, and the Vietnam War. Her Jewish, feminist, and Communist ties certainly added spice to an already intriguing narrative. I came away thinking it would have been fascinating to have a conversation with Miss Rappaport, k

    Perhaps a 3.5 star rating would be about where I land after reading. Stewart's book gave me much to chew on, and I am fascinated by Ruth Rappaport, a sociologist and librarian whose life intersected directly with Nazi Germany, the creation of the new state of Israel, the Red Scare, and the Vietnam War. Her Jewish, feminist, and Communist ties certainly added spice to an already intriguing narrative. I came away thinking it would have been fascinating to have a conversation with Miss Rappaport, knowing full well we would have disagreed on a wide range of topics.

    As for the author, she should receive praise for a well researched and meticulously cited book. Thank goodness a librarian tackled the life of Ruth Rappaport rather than a journalist. At times, Stewart's personal quest to follow Rappaport's life was emotionally touching, and I also appreciated her critiques and analysis of Rappaport's later memories. However, Stewart's habit of finishing chapters with her own stories of her journey through Ruth Rappaport's life was sometimes disruptive to the narrative, even if it was greatly touching at times. Rappaport's life was sometimes lost in a sea of context, particularly in the latter half of the book, and it seemed that the analysis was less thorough when covering Rappaport's Communist ties and connections to a CIA money laundering racket while in Vietnam. I wondered if maybe this was due to Stewart's clear emotional attachment to and admiration for this fascinating woman.

    When it was said and done, I'm thankful for Amazon Prime's first reads program that made this book available, otherwise, I may have completely overlooked it.

  • Mystica

    A fascinating biography of a woman with a colorful history and one with ambition.

    Ruth Rappaport was a child in Nazi Germany. With Romanian origin parents and a passport which helped since it was not a German one, she was a Jew and faced great danger in Nazi Germany. She was fearless and even as a young child was daring and bold. Faced with an uncertain future, she like thousands of others was shipped to Seattle to join a family and to try to live a life without the luxury of parents or family

    A fascinating biography of a woman with a colorful history and one with ambition.

    Ruth Rappaport was a child in Nazi Germany. With Romanian origin parents and a passport which helped since it was not a German one, she was a Jew and faced great danger in Nazi Germany. She was fearless and even as a young child was daring and bold. Faced with an uncertain future, she like thousands of others was shipped to Seattle to join a family and to try to live a life without the luxury of parents or family or money.

    How Ruth survived the treacherous journeys through Switzerland then to America to Vietnam and back to America all sustained by her love of libraries and books and how she used this to her advantage to seek a life of some sorts despite being without roots, without a home, without a family is an emotional read. For anyone to be not really welcomed, to be just tolerated by family more as an obligation or duty to extended family is a hardship that cannot be endured for long. Ruth had to bear this for a long time because with no money, no education she was dependant on others.

    How she carved a life for herself out of her libraries, the work she did in Vietnam setting up a fine system for all the forces stationed there was immense. Even on her return her work with libraries continued and even in retirement she was an active force within the community itself. It makes one life seem very dull and mediocre in comparison!

  • Daria

    The title of this book began with "A Well-Read Woman..." yet there was very little discussion/description regarding any of the books Ruth read. This was a chronicled telling of her life, which I found confusing at times because the author would add tidbits about her own life, and it would take me a bit to realize we'd left Ruth's story.

    I also felt that the book would have benefited with more "showing" and less "telling." As a reader I was never allowed to be drawn in by any pa

    The title of this book began with "A Well-Read Woman..." yet there was very little discussion/description regarding any of the books Ruth read. This was a chronicled telling of her life, which I found confusing at times because the author would add tidbits about her own life, and it would take me a bit to realize we'd left Ruth's story.

    I also felt that the book would have benefited with more "showing" and less "telling." As a reader I was never allowed to be drawn in by any part of Ruth's life, I was merely told about it.

    I really thought that Ruth's life and story would be quite interesting, but this account of it didn't capture that feeling. I was really interested in her opinion regarding books that impacted her life, as she spent so much of her life dedicated to books, certainly she had interesting thoughts and insights. Yet this accounting of Ruth's life focused more on the slights and backbiting she experienced.

  • Nina

    Ruth Rappaport was not famous, but in Forest-Gumpish fashion she was around historical events. A Jew born in Germany, she was able to get to the US as a teenager, while her parents died in concentration camps. She lived in what became Israel during its formation. She didn't become a Librarian until her mid-thirties, but was a major force in expanding the military library system in Viet Nam during the war. Having spent eight years in 'Nam, she was there longer than most soldiers. Afterwards, she

    Ruth Rappaport was not famous, but in Forest-Gumpish fashion she was around historical events. A Jew born in Germany, she was able to get to the US as a teenager, while her parents died in concentration camps. She lived in what became Israel during its formation. She didn't become a Librarian until her mid-thirties, but was a major force in expanding the military library system in Viet Nam during the war. Having spent eight years in 'Nam, she was there longer than most soldiers. Afterwards, she got a job at the Library of Congress. Interesting as her personal story was, I didn't particularly like her. Seems people either loved her or disliked her. Her early years were only moderately interesting, perhaps because the book was a bit dry for that part of her life, but I really enjoyed the chapters where she was in Viet Nam. I had no idea the military employed so many librarians and administered such an extensive network. I was also interested in her experiences at the Library of Congress because it was incredibly discriminatory against minorities and women, which you just wouldn't expect from an institution that houses so many books on civil rights! The LC still has problems in that regard, according to the author, who works there. The writing was mediocre, but parts of it were quite illuminating.

  • Donna Hines

    There is much to be said about a Well Read Woman and Ruth certainly fulfilled that mode of thinking.

    Librarians are the backbone to the heart of any community. They provide services you simply couldn't duplicate anywhere else. They are the lifeline to many who without their services wouldn't be able to fulfill their dreams of a better life, a more educated, well rounded world.

    This is the story of Ruth Rappaport during some extremely difficult times in trying to keep the love of reading and books

    There is much to be said about a Well Read Woman and Ruth certainly fulfilled that mode of thinking.

    Librarians are the backbone to the heart of any community. They provide services you simply couldn't duplicate anywhere else. They are the lifeline to many who without their services wouldn't be able to fulfill their dreams of a better life, a more educated, well rounded world.

    This is the story of Ruth Rappaport during some extremely difficult times in trying to keep the love of reading and books alive.

    During her time in Nazi controlled Germany books were forbidden and only certain forms of propaganda were allowed to the citizens.

    Upon graduating from college she fulfilled her dream of working as a librarian becoming an activist for the Zionist movement.

    I've often noted having served others in my community over the past 20 yrs that 'work' is not just what brings home a paycheck (if you're lucky to get paid) work is a passion, a calling, a right to serve others in providing a lasting legacy well beyond her years.

    A nice read albeit a bit fluffy but with some trimming would be must smoother transitioning between the life of Ruth, the history of the times, the parallel universe of book lovers everywhere.

    Thank you to Kate, the publisher, NetGalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  • Jennifer Burla

    I loved the parts of this book that were actually about Ruth Rappaport. She was such an authentic person, who was honest about her weaknesses and mistakes, all the things that make us human. She wasn’t portrayed as a super-woman, so it was easy to relate to her amazing story. I had a really hard time getting through the material that seemed to have more to do with the history of libraries than the story of Ruth. Sometimes I just couldn’t make the conne

    I loved the parts of this book that were actually about Ruth Rappaport. She was such an authentic person, who was honest about her weaknesses and mistakes, all the things that make us human. She wasn’t portrayed as a super-woman, so it was easy to relate to her amazing story. I had a really hard time getting through the material that seemed to have more to do with the history of libraries than the story of Ruth. Sometimes I just couldn’t make the connections. I ended up doing a lot of skimming through that material and tried to focus on the parts that were more biographical.

  • Erika

    Interesting but did bog down when discussing the intricacies of library work.

  • Kathy Selvaggio

    oo many facts lined up, no heart.

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