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, the same scenarios remain with us today, either unresolved or waiting to repeat themselves.
In this article, scientists posit that “The biosphere will handle pretty much anything we throw at it. Where that leaves humans is a different question.” The Last Shade Tree plays with this concept: WW III destroys humankind and the current environment, and during the next million years the environment regenerates. But will humans have a second chance in a changed world?
From The New York Times, June 12, 2018 • “Earth Will Survive. We May Not” • By Adam Frank
“Our planet does not need our saving. The biosphere has endured cataclysms far worse than us — and after millions of years thrived again. Even the Earth’s five fearsome mass extinctions became opportunities for the biosphere’s creativity, driving new rounds of evolutionary experiments.... As the great biologist Lynn Margulis once put it, ‘Gaia is a tough bitch.’ In the long term, the biosphere will handle pretty much anything we throw at it, including climate change.... The problem is not saving the Earth or life writ large, but saving our cherished civilization. From that perspective the nature of our choices changes significantly.”
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 today as much as in the past.
Southern Poverty Law Center • August 2017 • The Year in Hate and Extremism
“A surge in right-wing populism, stemming from the long-unfolding effects of globalization and the movements of capital and labor that it spawned, brought a man many considered to be a racist, misogynist and xenophobe into the most powerful political office in the world. Donald Trump’s election as president mirrored similar currents in Europe….” Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.
We can take action! Check out this valuable statement, Ten Ways to Fight Hate.
The Doomsday Clock
In my novel, the unimaginable comes true in 2050, and WW III destroys humankind and the environment, a disaster that compels my characters to take part in a ruthless repopulation scheme. In 2019 experts at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist did not advance the clock hands although they stress that the combined nuclear and environmental threat continues to push the world closer to humanity’s final moments.
2019 Doomsday Clock Statement • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
“Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.”
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. And, as the article from SPLC makes painfully clear, this June, even as the present Supreme Court overruled the notorious 1944 decision (Korematsu v. United States) justifying the internment, at the same time it upheld President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim travel ban.
George Takai / Sunday, February 19, 2017 (CNN)
“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.”
Southern Poverty Law Center, June 29, 2018
“The Supreme Court just replaced one injustice with another.... “‘When thousands of Japanese Americans were being removed from their classrooms, from their jobs, and their neighborhoods, there was no outcry. No one instituted any kind of protest. … My hope is that people will know how important it is to stand up for the injustice that’s happening right now.’” Satsuki Ina, psychotherapist born in an internment camp. Read the full article here.
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
BY MESSYNESSY OCTOBER 8, 2015
“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….”
Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools
Long after the main character of The Last Shade Tree graduates from a boarding 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)
“‘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.”