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Living on Sisu: The 1913 Union Copper Strike Tragedy Review by Amanda HopkinsDeborah K. Frontiera
P.O. BOX 841654
Houston TX 77284
We love living history books in our homeschool. They bring the history to life, and we can step into the shoes of those who have been there and lived through it. We have read a lot of stories about the popular history that everyone knows about, but we recently found a great story about something we did not already know about, The 1913 Union Copper Strike.
Deborah K. Frontiera takes us into the life of twelve-year-old Emma Neimi. Emma is the daughter of one of the copper miners in a Calumet and Hecla Mine in Michigan. We are introduced to her right before the strike takes place. We get a feeling of her and her family. While she and her family and friends are fictional characters, this story is based on a real event that happened in the history of the United States.
It is not every day you can pick up a book and be one with the book. A book that pulls you in and gives you the feeling of the main character. That is what happened to me as I read this book. I was Emma; I felt all that Emma felt—the anger, the fear, the helplessness, and the happiness! Deborah takes us into the life of Emma, and when I say that, I mean really into the life of Emma!
Before reading this book, I had honestly never heard of the 1913 Union Copper Strike. After reading this book, I will never forget it! Before reading this book, I had no idea what the Finnish word sisu could mean; now, this is a part of my daily life and how I live. While there is no clear definition of what sisu means, one idea is the amount of courage, determination, and strength to make it through something challenging without stopping, or giving up.
Emma and her family are a great example of living on sisu, as the book is titled. They have so much going against them, from the strike itself, to the side effects of it. There is no longer the income of two members, and a third household member dies. When you count every penny to be able to survive and hopefully someday save up for something better, these incomes really make a difference.
While being a part of a union sounds like they will take care of you, it is not always enough to make ends meet. Add in the time of the year 1913, there really wasn’t much available to the women of the house to help in these matters, especially with kids at home. Because of this, young Emma steps up to help her family in any way she can, even if it means she had to take night classes so she can work during the day.
We live every moment with Emma during this strike. We feel her heartache, we rejoice when good news is given, and we cry when she cries. Deborah had written these words in this story to make us feel as her main character feels, and she has done a great job at it! Not only do we have the words, but there are actual photos from the time period and some from the actual places that this story takes place. With these photos, we are drawn even further into the story. We can now see for real what we had already see through the words.
This book is written in journal format. It is as though we are readying the journal of young Emma. While I could enjoy this fully, Moe Man, my 16-year-old son felt as though he was reading a younger sister’s diary. His interest was piqued on the idea of the strike, but he had a hard time with the actual reading of it. Had he been a 16-year-old girl who picked up this book, I have a strong feeling the results would have been much different!
While this did not work for Moe Man, I personally could not set this book down, and when I finished, I still wanted to carry it with me and know more about how Emma was doing. I plan to keep this book on the shelf for when my girls are a little older and will use this to help them understand major events in our history.
If you have a daughter who is in love with books, and you want to have her feel emotionally connected to the history of The United States, I would highly suggest this book be on your bookshelf for her to grab and read at her will. You will not be disappointed, I wasn’t!
-Product review by Amanda Hopkins, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2017