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Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression


Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression Cover

ISBN13: 9780553384246
ISBN10: 0553384244
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Little Heathens recounts an adult womans memories of a childhood long past. What is the difference between a child's perspective and an adults? How did Kalishs understanding of the world change as she grew older? Are there some ways in which her approach to life is still the same now as when she was a child?

2. How did Kalishs memoir enhance your understanding of the Great Depression? What differences existed between farmers and city dwellers who lived through it? What legacies of this time period exist in your family?

3. Which of Kalishs relatives was most memorable to you? Was there an Aunt Belle in your childhood? Who plays that role for the next generation?

4. How would you characterize the dynamics within Kalishs large family? How was peace kept? What accounted for the contrasts between her relatives who were indulgent and those who were frugal?

5. What comparisons can you make between mens and womens roles during this period in American history? What did Kalishs mother teach her about what a woman could expect of life?

6. Discuss the economic realities that defined this era. What determined who would manage to get by and who, like the families she describes, would lose their farms altogether? What attitudes toward money was Kalish taught to develop?

7. Kalish describes the longevity of many of her ancestors, who relied on home remedies rather than emergency rooms for treatment. She also describes the presence of cream in most of her familys meals, and the availability of glorious fresh-baked desserts that would be strictly forbidden on a contemporary weight-loss plan. What keys to health and wellness does her memoir provide?

8. What did it take to fit in within this Iowa community? Which children and adults were accepted, and which ones might be subject to pranks or gossip? How did Kalishs experience at school compare to that of a student at one of the large public schools that now replace her classroom?

9. How did you react to the discussions of food preparation featured in the book-from regulating the stove temperature to slaughtering-and cleaning-the main course? What were the benefits and shortcomings of such a labor-intensive use of fresh ingredients, and of life without supermarkets? Did any aspects of Kalishs Depression-era cuisine surprise you?

10. In the end, Kalish tells us how she was able to journey far from the farm and build a life in urban areas. What distinguishes those who remained on the farm from those who left it?

11. Had you realized that the rural electrification bill was not passed until Roosevelts presidency? How did it shape a community to live at the mercy of the seasons, without electricity or indoor plumbing? What was Kalishs relationship with the natural world like?

12. Discuss the role of religion in this community. What did the hierarchy of religions described by Kalish indicate about the populations who lived in her area? What were the foundations of faith within her family?

13. Early on, Kalish tells us that her mother was a single parent, and that the story of her absent father was rarely mentioned. How did her family compensate for her absent parent? How did her mothers experience of single motherhood compare to that of parents in similar situations today?

14. Could your family endure the way of life described in the book?

15. What is gained and lost in a world that favors technology over manual labor?

16. Discuss the title of Kalishs memoir. Which of her extended familys antics made you laugh the most? How have the standards for naughty “little heathens” changed since she was a child?

17. What stories would you include in your memoir? What aspects of history does your life capture?

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

tmpting, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by tmpting)
I loved this no-nonsense memoir, and I have multiple pages dog-earred so I can easily find the recipes the author was so kind to include. Reading this book felt like having tea with a friend of my grandmother.
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McGuffy Ann, September 18, 2011 (view all comments by McGuffy Ann)

This book honours a time, place and way of life that unfortunately is lost to most of us today. This book is a joy to read, allowing one to live vicariously the happy childhood that Ms. Kalish so joyously shares.

Family is the central focal point. It is, in fact the importance of family ties that drive the entire book. Each story stresses the bonds that hold family together through the thick and inevitable thin of farm life and the Great Depression.

It was the love and commitment of family that made each experience, each memory so ingrained and important to Mildred, as a child and sustained her throughout her life.

It is both a pleasure and a privilege to read this book. While not an easy life given the hardship of the times, it was a beautiful life. That Ms. Kalish immortalizes this time and life makes it all the more special. The way of life, the innocence and true simple pleasures may be gone. But thanks to Mildred Armstrong Kalish they will remain in hearts and minds. The spirit remains in this beautiful memoir.

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Grandma L, January 3, 2011 (view all comments by Grandma L)
I enjoyed reading this delightful recounting of life as a child on an Iowan farm during the 1930's, as it probably reflected the life of my parents in Montana. The author's well described events made me see how life then shaped my inherited values received from my parents. All the respect for hard work and independent ways of being self sufficient is surely being lost over time, as we now tend to be so over-protective and pre-occupied with guideing childhood and giving what we think our kids need, rather then letting them be children who learn about hard work and the effect of consequences. This would be a great read for families to read to kids. A new respect for great and grandparents might be a result, as they realize what things were common knowledge for their ancesters. They really did know some remarkable things and had skllls surpassing the ability to text and tweet!
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Product Details

Kalish, Mildred Arms
Kalish, Mildred
Kalish, Mildred Armstrong
Childhood Memoir
United States - 20th Century/Depression
United States - State & Local - Midwest
Kalish, Mildred Armstrong -
Kalish, Mildred Armstrong - Family
General Biography
Biography-Childhood Memoir
US History - 20th Century
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.26x5.58x.56 in. .73 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Americana » Midwest
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » General
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » Profiles and Biographies

Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Bantam - English 9780553384246 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Those of us who feel like we're "just getting by" will be both humbled and inspired by Kalish's tales of life on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression. Her humorous and heart-warming depiction of a childhood spent working the land and, in doing so, unearthing life's simple pleasures during one of the bleakest periods in our nation's history, serves as a reminder that the best things in life are often free.

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