Clawing for the Stars


An aging former Catholic seminarian, ex-Marine and businessman, debut author Villareal recounts solo climbing the high Andes.
The author has navigated Andean superpeaks again and again to discover anew the extreme challenges of high-altitude climbing alone in the deserted mountain vastness of the Andes. Possessed of an indefatigable positivity, Villareal details many of his middle-age journeys in this book written for his young grandson, Alex, so that the young boy will come to understand his grandfather’s unique life and his decision to leave the pleasures of home behind and engage in the rigors of high-altitude mountaineering. He carefully plans and executes these risky mountain assaults knowing that one misstep may lead to his death. Villareal repeatedly reflects on his reasons for choosing this path not taken by most others. “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains,” Villareal writes, “Yet they pass their daily lives without wondering in the least about themselves.” He hungers to fulfill his individual destiny, but he has a hard time explaining the motives that push him to continue these terrifying ascents well into his 60s. His fascination for mountains remains an enigma, the author says repeatedly. “It reminds me of Moby Dick,” he says, “And I pray it doesn’t drag me under as the whale did Ahab.” Told in straightforward first-person prose, the book sometimes delivers exceptional descriptive passages that capture mountain moments, such as the alpine glow as it fades from the Andean summits: “A crooked shaft of flaming fire breaks the black of the distant horizon and illuminates the sky with glittering flame.” Some small grammar issues can detract from the relentless forward press to portray the privations and challenges of solo climbing at high altitudes. Linked to the author’s website, which features many of his pictures from his various journeys, the book stands on its own as a tribute to the author’s life of solitary adventure and individual courage.
An often riveting account that details the interior life of the solo mountaineer as well as his adventures scaling some of the highest and most treacherous peaks in the world.

Pub Date: March 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1458213228

Page Count: 308

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2014

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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