Bookworm Sez: ‘If You Ask Me’ — Old advice made new again

Bookworm Sez: ‘If You Ask Me’ — Old advice made new again

What should you do?

When relationships break down, what then? Or you lose your job and your bank account is depleted, your home is in foreclosure, you’re a victim of discrimination, what do you do? You ask yourself “What next?” and then you reach for help, and with the new book “If You Ask Me” by Eleanor Roosevelt, edited by Mary Jo Binker,the advice you get might be decades old.

Arguments on immigration, world issues, patriotism, and messy politics. Minority issues, equal pay, family problems, and Constitutional matters. Though these things may seem to be problems strictly of the modern age, from 1921 until 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of our 32nd president, also tackled these same topics in her books and magazine articles. In those 41 years, she ultimately penned more than 600 pieces.

People from every walk of life consulted Mrs. Roosevelt for advice: politicians asked her and women sought her out. Men looked toward her wisdom and, says Binker, she had a particular affection for teenagers (and vice versa). Though she wrote the words in this book generations ago, her advice is still relevant, even when contemporary viewpoints are taken into consideration.

“She genuinely cared about people and their problems,” says Binker, consulting editor for the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project and editor of this book.

Mrs. Roosevelt’s words were comforting, but she did not suffer fools.

In 1944, she wrote that she believed women should receive equal pay for doing “men’s jobs.” She was a big proponent of organized labor, as she stated later that same year, and she was famously, vociferously pro-racial equality and against anti-Semitism. Politically, Roosevelt used her experiences as first lady to back up her beliefs on democracy, the office of President, eliminating the electoral college, and on dealing with political rifts within families. She hoped that national health care would become a reality. She called for calm in times of trouble. She firmly favored birth control, and believed that the future would turn out alright.

The surprise inside “If You Ask Me” is twofold: In reading the words that editor Mary Jo Binker collected, one is reminded by their shiny relevance that everything old is new again. Seventy-five years have passed and the same old issues have returned like sharks to chum, giving readers a dreadful, treading-water feeling. So what’s changed?

In a word, us: In the other half of the surprise is a quaint, sweetly amusing look at a time when good girls weren’t “necking,” businesswomen in “taverns” was worrisome, and the first lady believed that “rock ‘n’ roll” was a “fad [that] will probably pass,” and that parents “needn’t take it too seriously.” The amusement also comes from Roosevelt’s wit and her ladylike rebukes that could be delivered on razor blades.

Yes, she “cared about people”… but she could cut, too.

This book is obviously perfect for historians but anyone can enjoy what’s inside these mostly still-applicable words. It’s easy to browse and fun, too, so read “If You Ask Me.” That’s what you should do.


• By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER, Bookworm Sez


More in Life

Tom Kizzia, author of “The Wake of the Unseen Object,” in a photo taken Aug. 10, 2012, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Don Pitcher; courtesy of Tom Kizzia)
Local author’s ‘Wake of the Unseen Object’ back in print after 30 years

Literary travel book had roots in newspaper series about rural Alaska.

Victoria Petersen / Peninsula Clarion
Chicken noodle soup is a bowl of comfort during challenging times.
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Chicken soup for the stressed

Maybe you’ve been feeling stressed, and are just looking for something comfortable and nourishing.

A few days after surviving an Aug. 2, 1967, crash in this single-engine Maule Rocket, Dane Parks poses near the front end of the wreckage. (Photo courtesy
Dr. Gaede drops in, Part 3

This is Part Three of a three-part story of an airplane crash more than a half-century ago.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: So, now what 2021 ?

The new year has started out in an interesting way, mainly because many of us are still dealing with some hang-around issues from the previous 365 days.

My favorite breakfast bagel sandwich from my favorite neighborhood coffee shack, on Jan. 5, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Looking for a few good bagels

Simple ingredients to make your own breakfast sandwich

File
Minister’s Message: Have faith; we are in good hands

Whether or not this new year will continue the wild adventure of the year most recently ended or not, we are going to make it.

In the early 1890s, one of the few men willing to stand up against the bullying and brutality of Alex Ryan was the Russian Orthodox priest, Father Alexander Yaroshevich. (Photo from the Alaska Digital Archives)
Exerting control in Old Kenai — Part 1

This is a complex tale of a changing Kenai and of four men — not just the two dead ones — and their perhaps inevitable fatal collision.

The finished product should have a light, flaky crust and moist fillings, as seen here on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2020 in Crystal Falls, Michigan. Finished off with a Michigan made beer, it’s hard to find a better second lunch/early dinner on Christmas Day. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Pasties two ways

Peninsula Clarion columnist Victoria Petersen and Homer News reporter Megan Pacer team up to make the traditional hand pie.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: And the Winner Is …

I hope Joy is the one universal tradition we all maintained throughout this season, difficult though it may have been.

Two cookie boxes our household received from nearby friends, photographed on Dec. 21, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Spread Christmas cheer with cookies

I’ve always enjoyed holiday baking and sharing, but wanted to do it on another level this year.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Food for thought

I’ve found that the best way for me to cope with stress is a nice dose of nature therapy.

file
Minister’s Message: Just be in heavenly peace …

I don’t know what your to-do lists look like these days, but I hope and pray that you can find some quiet peace now, today, rather than waiting for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.