Book Review: Dear America: A Coal Miner’s Bride, The Diary of Anetka Kaminska (Lattimer, Pennsylvania 1896) by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

coalminerThis was an unforgettable book in the series. Anetka and her brother, with the assistance of a soldier friend, must travel from Poland to the mining town of Lattimer, PA, U.S., where she will meet her new husband to whom her father ‘traded’ her for the tickets to bring her there. However, Anetka finds that her betrothed is a bit older, and already has several children by his former wife, who passed away. This is possibly the only DA book where the narrator has sexual relations, which are subtly mentioned, since she indeed marries the coal miner. The narrator also has quite a blunt, angry, and harsh personality, which is the Italian author’s way of depicting the Polish, and sometimes rubbed me the wrong way (I’m a ‘-ski’, after all). At the same time, the author meant it as a compliment, as she states in the author’s note how she believes Polish women to be tough and strong.

I learned a lot about the coal mines and what those poor men and their families went through, and it helped me gain tremendous understanding and sympathy for the history of workers’ unions. Memorable in this book are the lovable soldier with whom Anetka travels and his crush on her, as well as Anetka’s kindly grandmother back in Poland. This is one of the books in the series that I recommend to adult readers as well.