Harry Pleads: Spare Me and My Family

What if you were born a prince in one of the most notable royal families in the world? But you are superfluous prince, called the spare. You can only be the heir if your father, brother, and your brother’s kids die.

What if you were born so famous that the media can’t get enough of you, but you are told to never overshadow your grandmother (the queen), father, or brother? The limelight follows you, but you must seek shadows. Act cute, but never juvenile. Never show disgust at the photographers who hunt you.

What if you were born privileged, but as you grow older, the privilege feels like a burden? You are told to appreciate your privilege. Never complain. You feel like you are serving a life sentence rather than a life of opportunity.

What if you were born the object of a relentless media that focuses on controversy and tells stories about you that you know are not true? But you are not allowed to defend yourself or your family.

What if you were instructed to date only non-controversial women whose families are above reproach?

Prince Harry, born of Charles (now the king) and Diana in 1984, tells his story in Spare, which is creating waves that reach around the world. In the book, he opens up about parts of his life that have not been so golden. And he is angry.

His mother’s death in 1997 left him, at age 13, wondering when she would come back. Today, he blames the paparazzi for chasing Diana and her boyfriend, leading to the fatal car crash in Paris. He says that the independent photographers tormented his girlfriend and now-wife to the point that he and Meghan had no choice but to seek refuge in Canada and, eventually Santa Barbara County in California, where they have stayed. He blames the media for its “racism, misogyny, criminal stupidity” in its reporting about his wife, an American actress.

I found Spare to be believable and sincere. Harry tells some stories like a victim, but credits many good times as a member of the royal family. He loves and misses his family in Britain, although he says they are “dysfunctional.” He believes that life with Meghan and their two children in Montecito offers more freedom and safety than it would have offered in Britain. Also, he moved for his own sanity. Harry has sought counseling to help him deal with anxiety and depression, very unroyal struggles.

He apologizes for his screwups, like when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party. He feels that he has a right to explain his mistakes, but his family has pressured him to stay silent. He tells about clashes with his brother and father. There are specifics about spats between his wife and William’s wife Kate. A few of the stories about his family and himself may be too personal to be made public, but they are making headlines, likely boosting book sales.

Harry describes his school life and military training that led to two tours of duty in Afghanistan, including one as a helicopter pilot. He service was interrupted each time when the enemy proclaimed him a prime target, leading his superiors to pull him from the front to protect him and his fellow soldiers.

The book, ghost written by Pulitzer-winner J.R. Moehringer, is well-written, but the content is repetitive. I don’t doubt the stories are Harry’s, but I found myself wondering how the book would have turned out if he wrote every word himself.

Rocket Boys: A Great American Comeback

Sputnik’s launch in 1957 thrust the Soviet Union into first place in the space race, causing fear about where its domination would lead.

But for some Americans, like Homer “Sonny” Hickam, the launch was just what they needed to transform imagination, ingenuity and hard work into a great American success story. From 1957 through 1960, Sonny and his West Virginia high school classmates, as the Big Creek Missile Agency, fired off 35 rockets, some wildly successful, some wildly disastrous.

Nearly four decades later, Hickam published Rocket Boys, a memoir that has flown off the shelves since, leading to the acclaimed film October Sky.

The boys dreamed that they would go to the moon, that their rockets would reach space, that they would escape a life working in the coal mine in Coalwood, West Virginia. But, in their wildest dreams, they could not have foreseen where their experiments would take them, their families, their community, their nation. As badly as Homer and his fellow scientists wanted out of Coalwood, their hometown came through for them when everything they had worked for was on the line.

Rocket Boys is an inspiring story for those who value education, community, family, and the dreams of kids growing up in West Virginia–or anywhere.