"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Nonfiction review and quotes: THE RADIUM GIRLS (Young Readers' Edition)


Title:
The Radium Girls (Young Readers' Edition): The Scary But True Story of the Poison that Made People GLOW in the Dark by Kate Moore

Book Beginnings quote: [First Day. Newark, New Jersey. 1917.] 

Katherine Schaub had a jaunty spring in her step as she walked the brief four blocks to work...Today, she was starting a brand-new job at the watch-dial factory of the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation.

Friday56 quote: 

Blum was a balding man with a neatly trimmed mustache, spectacles, and a high forehead. As he introduced himself to Hazel and began his examination, he quickly realized that he had never seen a condition quite like this before. Her face was swollen with "pus bags" but it was the condition of the jawbone that was most perplexing. It seemed almost moth-eaten. It literally had holes in it.

Summary: Radium was the new cure-all at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was added to the American Medical Association's list of acceptable treatments for just about everything: cancer, nervous conditions, anemia, tuberculosis, toothaches, etc. It could also be added to paint which made it glow in the dark. Watch and clock-makers started using radium paint onto their dials and clock faces. Soon it became so popular to do this that radium companies had to hire hundreds of girls as dial-painters. In their orientation the girls were shown how to make a nice tip of the brush by lipping it. They would lip the brush, dip it into the radium paint, and paint over the number hundreds of times a day. "Lip-Dip-Paint" over and over. Before they started work many girls asked if the procedure was safe and they were assured it was perfectly safe, in fact they were told it would make them healthier, if anything. In addition to ingesting the tiny amounts of radium each time the girls lip the brush, no effort was made to protect the painters from airborne radium. Their skin, clothes, hair, and shoes would be covered by radium at the end of each workday and the girls actually glowed like otherworldly angels.

Not long after the girls started work at the radium company many noticed strange symptoms not common among people so young: horrible toothaches, achy joints to the point they could barely walk. The quick four block walk (Book Beginnings quote) soon became a torturous walk for Katherine. When Hazel another dial-painter went to her dentist, Dr. Blum could believe what he was seeing: holes in the jaw bone (Friday56 quote). Several girls died. Yet when the employees went to their bosses they were assured the paint was safe and there was no connection between their mysterious illnesses and their work. What these two girls, and all the others involved ,would find out is even more alarming---there is no cure for radium poisoning and no treatment for the symptoms.

The Radium Girls tells the unbelievable and true story of these women and their determination to fight back, ultimately winning in court after years and years of trying. Their win ultimately saved the lives of other people working with hazardous chemicals throughout the country. "The studies of the radium-dial workers form the basis of much of the world's present knowledge of the health risks of radioactivity. The suffering and deaths of these workers greatly increased [scientific] knowledge, ultimately saving countless lives of future generations" (341).

Because radium is radioactive for 1600 years, the bones of the radium girls in their graves will still set off a Geiger counter to this day.

Review: It has been a long time since I picked up a book that I didn't want to put down. The Radium Girls was one such book. I was mortified by the details of the medical horrors the radium girls lived through and yet I was encouraged by their resolve to do what was right not only for themselves but for others who weren't affected yet. There were hundreds and hundreds of these girls and the callousness with which the companies dealt with them was criminal. I became more and more grateful for workplace safety rules we have today because I am sure if it weren't for people like the radium girls who had to die due to negligence at work, we would be in the same boat today---the almighty dollar being more sacred than a life.

I've known a long time about the dial-painters and their radium poisoning but I had the facts all mixed up. I heard that they, out of innocence, got contaminated with radium because they painted on themselves thinking it was harmless. I supposed they thought it was fun to show up at a party and glitter and glow wearing the paint on their nails and their eyelids. I'm sure some of the girls did do that. But now I recognize I never heard the part of their story that involved ingesting radium paint through the lip-dip-paint method. I am so grateful for the impeccable research Kate Moore did to bring us the facts and then to write about them in a very readable narrative nonfiction format.

After I completed the book, my husband noticed that a movie called 'Radium Girls' was playing on Netflix. We watched it a few nights ago. It took a small portion of the book. It changed names, and consolidated information which make it not historically accurate, but it still told a part of the story of the radium girls and what they had to go through for some justice. The movie included information about the times like speakeasies, civil rights struggles for blacks, freedom to assemble, etc not mentioned in this version of the book. Since I did not read the adult book, Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women, which was published in 2017, I don't know if some of that story was included in the book or if it was just added for interest by Hollywood.

What I liked about the book:

  • It is very readable, almost unputdownable.
  • It is a treasure trove for future researchers with a timeline, glossary, bibliography, notes, photo credits, and an index. There is also a list of key characters, which is vital since so many girls, doctors, lawyers, and corporate employees named it would impossible to keep track of everyone with it.

What I didn't like about the book:

  • Nothing. I liked the book very much and I think that teens will be willing to give the book a try if they have a little bit of boost to get them started. Since it is over 400 pages long, they might need help deciding to give it a try. Librarians time to think up a clever book talk for this one.
  • Since there is a movie about the radium girls teachers need to beware so that students assigned to read the book don't just watch the movie instead.

Publishing Information: Sourcebooks, 2020. 404 pages. Suggested target audience: Young Adults.

Source: Print version checked out from the public library.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   
  

-Anne

33 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to read this book. I keep seeing it pop up on many blogs and I keep encountering it on the book section at my local store. I think it's a sign that I need to get it.

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    1. The Young Reader's Edition is very good and I'm assuming the adult version is, too.

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  2. The adult version of this book is one that I have meant to read and now I can read the "faster" version! What a fascinating topic.

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  3. I picked up an advanced copy of this book (the adult version) at ALA because of the recommendation of a Sourcebooks rep. It was shocking. I'd never heard this story. I'm glad there is a version for young people.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder at the necessity of making adult nonfiction books into young adult versions. But this one was 400+ pages and paired down. If the adult version was, what?, 600 pages no kid would read it ever.

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  4. I've never heard of this book, but gosh it sounds excellent! Will definitely try to get my hands on it. I need to read more non-fiction or just based on true events books. Broaden those horizons.

    Have a good weekend!

    Elza Reads

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    1. I have come to really appreciate the narrative nonfiction style of informative writing. This was better than most novels.

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  5. Oooh, I've been really curious about this book! I'm so glad to see you enjoyed it so much. You've convinced me that I need to pick this up, and I just put a hold in on my library! That 56 snippet is absolutely horrifying, but it sounds like a really important story regardless. Thanks for sharing!

    Here's my Friday post.

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    1. Right. That was horrifying. And there was so much more. When I was at the dentist yesterday I thought about her jaw bone being so riddled with holes. Ugh.

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  6. Wow! I had been noticing this book around, but now I simply must read it! I also want to see the movie.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Read the book first. The movie is good but leaves out so much.

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  7. I've heard great things about this book. Glad to see it didn't disappoint you. I had no idea it was a series on Netflix already, WOW! Happy weekend!

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    1. It is a movie on Netflix, not a series, though it would make an excellent series.

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  8. Such an important book--everyone should read it.

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  9. I saw this movie recently and really liked it. I'll have to add the book to my TBR because it sounds even better.

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  10. I have the adult version on my TBR and am looking forward to reading it. I hadn't realized it was a series on Netflix. I guess I had better move it up on my TBR pile! I hope you have a great weekend!

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    1. It is a movie, not a series on Netflix. Sorry if I confused you.

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  11. The adult version was fascinating, too... I did a read/listen combo a couple of years ago. We recently watched the movie on Netflix. As usual, I preferred the book.

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    1. Did the adult book include social issues of the day? Like prohibition, blacks rights, and labor rights?

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    2. Anne - There was a lot about labor rights, but I don't remember specifically about other issues. It seems like it must have, but I'm just not sure...

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  12. I'm glad something positive came out of it because it is such a horrific story otherwise. (The snow day on Sunday looked like fun, btw.)

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  13. I've been seeing this book lots of places and have been really curious about it. Your review has me wanting to read it ASAP. I'm definitely gonna be checking to see if my library has a copy.

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  14. I recently bought the adult version, which has 485 pages,but haven't started it yet. At the moment it is 99p on Amazon UK. I must look out for the Netflix movie now as well.

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  15. This is one I really want to read! :)

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  16. Scary to associate the jaunty step with what's coming. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my TBR. Here is my Book Beginnings: https://francebooktours.com/2021/02/26/lorigine-book-beginnings/

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