World Events that Matter

The Last Shade Tree’s characters participate in both fictional and true historical events, starting with the Cherokee Trail of Tears of 1838-39 and ending in the midst of the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia. In between those years, they live through some dreadful WW II experiences. And overshadowing the later 20th-century history is the looming threat of nuclear war. As the articles on this page attest, some of the same scenarios remain with us today, either unresolved or waiting to repeat themselves. 


The Doomsday Clock

In my novel, the unimaginable comes true, and my clan of characters is compelled to take part in a ruthless repopulation scheme after WW III destroys humankind. This article explains the deadly seriousness of the facts that are offered in the book’s fictionalized presentation.

2017 Doomsday Clock Statement • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists


The End of the World may be closer in fact and not just in my novel. It is two and a half minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. For the last two years, the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock stayed set at three minutes before the hour, the closest it had been to midnight since the early 1980s. In its two most recent annual announcements on the Clock, the Science and Security Board warned: “The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.” In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent. It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.  See the full statement from the Science and Security Board on the 2017 time of the Doomsday Clock.


75th Anniversary of the Japanese Internment Camps

The fourth and fifth chapters of The Last Shade Tree contain a poignant story about a Japanese-American couple living in California before and after Pearl Harbor. Their deportation to an internment camp gravely affects the people left behind. This article by the celebrity and activist George Takai powerfully humanizes this terrible event in our own American history.

George Takai / Sunday, February 19, 2017 (CNN)

Takai 3-17.png

“On February 19, 75 years ago yesterday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order, No. 9066, which set the internment into motion. On its face, the order was “neutral,” authorizing the military to designate whole swaths of land as military zones, and evacuate any persons from it as they saw fit. But behind that facade lay a much darker purpose: to tear 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans from their homes along the West Coast and relocate them to 10 prison camps scattered throughout the United States.

“Every year, on February 19, we Japanese-Americans honor this day as Remembrance Day, and we renew our pledge to make sure what happened to us never happens again in America. I am always amazed, and saddened, that despite our decades-long efforts, so many young people today are not even aware that such a tragedy and miscarriage of justice took place here. And I grow increasingly concerned that we are careening toward a future where such a thing would again be possible.”

Read the full article by George Takai. 


New Insights into the Trauma of the Drancy Concentration Camp

In one of the chapters, the heroine of The Last Shade Tree finds herself and her twin toddlers confined at Drancy in 1943. Although the humiliation and abuse they experience is fictional, their story may be many readers’ first introduction to this relatively unknown, but totally grotesque concentration camp. This article gives a new and heartrending angle to official acts sanctioned by the Nazis.

Inside the Paris Department Store where Nazis Shopped for Stolen Jewish Belongings


“When Paris was liberated from the Nazi occupation in 1944, an album of 85 photographs was found in a shop that had been used by German soldiers assigned to the “Furniture Operation” (Möbel Aktion), the official name for pillaging apartments that had been inhabited by Jews. The snapshots reveal a surreal display of furniture and everyday household goods as if it were an Ikea supermarket, merchandised to catch the shopper’s eye. Except in this case, the “shopper” was the Nazi, the “sales assistants” were Jewish prisoners and the “product” on sale had been looted from their Parisian homes....

“While the first three floors were used for the stock, the fourth was used as a rudimentary dormitory for the 795 Jewish prisoners who were “employed” there between 1940-1944, selected from the Drancy internment camp in the northern suburbs (the last stop before being sent to an extermination camp).... Mostly women, but also a specialised workforce of craftsmen, clockmakers seamstresses, potters, restorers and such, were forced to sort, repair, classify, stack and pack the furniture that had been mercilessly plucked from the very homes of their friends, families, neighbours and community who had been sent to their deaths.

“So much was pillaged from Jewish homes that it wouldn’t have been unlikely that the internees at Lévitan could have come across items from their own home.”

Read the full article here. 


Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools

Long after the main character of The Last Shade Tree graduates from a residential school, he struggles with tongue-tied shyness, the effects of a poor education, and depression brought on by the loss of his Cherokee heritage. In this article, real-life testimony exposes the human damage, summed up by native scholars as “soul wounds.”

By Andrea Smith •  AmnestyINTERNATIONALMAGAZINE (March 26, 2007)

Boys pray before bedtime with Father Keyes, St. Mary's Mission School, Omak. © Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane, WA

Boys pray before bedtime with Father Keyes, St. Mary's Mission School, Omak. © Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Spokane, WA

“‘A little while ago, I was supposed to attend a Halloween party. I decided to dress as a nun because nuns were the scariest things I ever saw,’ says Willetta Dolphus, 54, a Cheyenne River Lakota. The source of her fear, still vivid decades later, was her childhood experience at American Indian boarding schools in South Dakota.

“Dolphus is one of more than 100,000 Native Americans forced by the U.S. government to attend Christian schools. The system, which began with President Ulysses Grant’s 1869 “Peace Policy,” continued well into the 20th century. Church officials, missionaries, and local authorities took children as young as five from their parents and shipped them off to Christian boarding schools; they forced others to enroll in Christian day schools on reservations. Those sent to boarding school were separated from their families for most of the year, sometimes without a single family visit. Parents caught trying to hide their children lost food rations.

“Virtually imprisoned in the schools, children experienced a devastating litany of abuses, from forced assimilation and grueling labor to widespread sexual and physical abuse.”

Read the full article here. 


Hate Crimes in US Rising, Particularly in Big Cities

The main characters of The Last Shade Tree endure or witness fearful acts of inhumanity punctuated by the debilitating effects of racial prejudice. This article reminds us powerfully that the same acts can occur at any time, today as much as in the past.

Masood Farivar • March 09, 2017 0:41 AM

Voice of America •

“WASHINGTON — Hate crimes, including attacks against American Jews and Muslims, spiked in several key U.S. cities in 2016, underscoring an upsurge that started during the presidential campaign and has continued unabated, according to data collected by researchers at California State University, San Bernardino.

“Previously unpublished data by the university’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism show that hate crimes in at least six major urban centers, including New York City, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, registered double-digit increases last year. Among them:

Tom Garing cleans up racist graffiti painted on the side of a mosque in what officials are calling an apparent hate crime, Feb. 1, 2017, in Roseville, Calif. The Tarbiya Institute was spray-painted with a dozen obscene and racist slurs. 

Tom Garing cleans up racist graffiti painted on the side of a mosque in what officials are calling an apparent hate crime, Feb. 1, 2017, in Roseville, Calif. The Tarbiya Institute was spray-painted with a dozen obscene and racist slurs. 

 ·    New York City notched an uptick of 24 percent in hate crimes, the highest in over   a decade.

 ·   New York state had an increase of 20 percent.

 ·    Chicago saw a rise of 24 percent, the highest since at least 2010.

 ·    Cincinnati, Ohio, saw hate crimes jump by 38 percent.

 ·    Columbus, Ohio, reported an increase of nearly 10 percent.

 ·    Montgomery County in Maryland, adjacent to the nation’s capital, had an increase of more than 42 percent.

 ·    Seattle, Washington, registered an increase of 6 percent in malicious harassment.

“While this is preliminary data, based on information provided by state and local law enforcement and government agencies, the findings represent an initial glimpse into trends in hate crimes in 2016.”

Read the full article here.