441: Readers Tell Us About … news of Rebecca Rubin (the doll & the fugitive), Boats & Bears—and correcting history

Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …

(… but wonder about the … uhhh, the fugitive …)

OOPS! Perhaps American Girl never checked out the name of its eagerly awaited new doll representing Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century—or perhaps the staff doesn’t care. But it sure seems like a mistake to send millions of doll fanciers Googling up the new doll—and finding an “FBI Most Wanted” fugitive, last spotted in Canada just a few months ago.
    I don’t know what to say, except that one of our readers, Jilly from Portland, Emailed in to say: “Did you Google images? There’s this FBI terrorist they’re looking for. Try it.”
    I did and, well, click the FBI link above.
    Beyond that—readers loved the Doll-and-Bible-Study story we published on Tuesday.
    “Loved seeing the shout-out to the Forward!” emailed Andy T from Indianapolis.
    I lost count of the women I ran into this past week via email, telephone and in person who told me they enjoy the idea of this new doll by American Girl.
    AND—readers also are eagerly awaiting the Jewish Publication Society two-volume collection of books that never made it into the Bible.
    If you missed the story on Tuesday, check it out. And just to clarify matters: The new American Girl doll (top) is not the Rebecca Rubin wanted by the Feds (right).

ON “BEARS & BOATS” (pssst, don’t miss the “boats”)

    ON THURSDAY, we published reviews of an upcoming Hallmark Channel movie, “Safe Harbor,” and two new Berenstain Bears books from Zonderkidz. (If you missed it, check it out. The TV movie is great family viewing.)
    But, a bit like the weird fugitive question raised about the American Girl story, a tangential discussion arose from the Boats & Bears story, as well. I pointed out that the Berenstain books have racked up sales of more than 260 million copies. To put that in perspective, I mentioned that the total isn’t as high as sales of Harry Potter or the Bible—and that’s where the question arose.
    Molly Hansin, a Baptist choir director, said she “got to thinking about that claim you hear people making that the Bible is the biggest best seller of all time. … I wanted to know if it was true, not that I doubted you understand.” Molly began to search for data online—and bumped into a Knight-Ridder newspaper article I wrote back in 2000, explaining Bible sales to newspaper readers. It seems that what we write online lives forever. “So I had to laugh,” Molly wrote. “I looked for more—and ended up finding more of Mr. Crumm answering my question from reading Mr. Crumm.”
    I had to smile, too. After more than 30 years in journalism, there are thousands of David Crumm articles floating around the Web. I sometimes meet myself online as well. Thanks, Molly!
    I replicated Molly’s Web search and found that same 2000 Knight-Ridder story still bouncing around the Internet in several places. But, I have to admit, a more up-to-date resource is Wikipedia’s page on “best sellers” (or, actually “claims” of best-selling status). (Word of Warning: If you love books and click on the Wiki link, you’re likely to be lost for the next 15 or 20 mintues enjoying these lists.)


MARY LIEPOLD and her friends at Peace X Peace have co-sponsored a number of ReadTheSpirit efforts over the past year or so. Mary dropped us a note following the Conversation With NRP’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty on the nature of prayer.
    Mary wrote: Some days I just can’t resist that open invitation to “Tell us what you think.” The Does Prayer Work conversation reminds me of a line I ran across recently and entered into my golden quotes file:
    “The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”
    (Willa Cather / 1873-1947 / Death Comes for the Archbishop / 1927)
    Asking open eyes and ears for us all,
    Mary Liepold
    Peace X Peace

    Now, I simply had to include this beautiful note in our reader roundup today, because I’m among the many readers who still love Willa Cather’s moving prose about the American experience. Thirty years ago, I first read “Death Comes for the Archbishop” while on a long odyssey around North America, heading toward Santa Fe, New Mexico. At that time, I was writing a travel column for the Flint Journal. So, another strong recommendation to readers: Next time you visit your library, take a fresh look at Willa Cather! And: If you missed the Conversation With Barbara on Wednesday, take a look at that as well!


DR. RONALD STOCKTON is a professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and an all-around wise teacher about the many ways that history shapes our modern world. Ron wrote a response to our stories correcting the popular history of Memorial Day. (A good entry point in our coverage is our Spiritual Season column for this week.)

    Ron sent us a very thoughtful note and here it is:

    I read two of your stories, on Abdul Kader and Decoration Day. Both
struck a chord. I just finished a unit on Algeria in my class on
Politics of Revolution. We talked about Abdul Kader. I knew he was well
respected, governed western Algeria for a time, and was ultimately
captured. I did not know the details, especially the American support
for him. I am going to pass your article around to the students.
    On Decoration Day, my small home town in the hills of Southern Illinois
likes to claim some of the credit and glory because General John A.
Logan lived there and organized Decoration Days at the local cemetery.
Logan was the best and best known of the “political” generals, was
pushed aside by the West Point elite, and formed the GAR as a way of
doing an end run around them. He shifted from Douglas Democrat to
Lincoln Republican, played a role in keeping the Scots-Irish regions in
the Union, and played a role in Lincoln’s reelection in 1864. (Somehow
he got permission to leave Sherman’s march south so he could campaign
throughout the southern part of our state). He once ran as Vice

    Of course, the question of exactly who gets credit for this holiday
cannot be determined with any historic finality. It is like determining
if Jefferson’s words in the Declaration were uniquely his or was he
inspired by the wisdom of others. Of course they were, and of course he
    David Blight is a super historian whose book “Race and Reunion” points
out the significance of “ownership” of such things. He feels that
Blacks got marginalized (literally and symbolically, they go together)
in how these issues evolved, and he is fighting guerrilla warfare to
redefine the “myth.” His newly discovered newspaper story is a real
find. Alas, it does not prove that white people were inspired by Black
people to create Decoration Day, but that Black people, even former
slaves, were a part of the national mourning that became a part of our
shared culture.
    Meanwhile, until something becomes official, my home town, filled with
marginalized white people, will continue to claim its contribution to
our national heritage. Of course, we are willing to share.
    Ron Stockton


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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