Published in 2020, and a must read for anyone who cares about abused women, their rights, and how law enforcement often fails them, this book by Trethewey, 2007 Pulitzer Poetry Price winner for “Native Guard”, voices her struggle to deal with her mother’s untimely death. When Trethewey was nineteen and in college, her mother was shot and killed by her step-father after the police officer assigned to protect her mother left his post early. Additionally, the memoir details the effects of the racism she experienced as the child of a white father and black mother (married when it was illegal where they lived) in Mississippi and later in Atlanta in the 1970s and 80s before her mother’s murder in 1985. The book gets its title from the street on which her mother lived when she was murdered. Through this memoir Trethewey discusses how her parent’s divorce, her mother’s remarriage to an angry, abusive man, and her mother’s murder has informed her life and affected the enduring love she holds for her mother.
One Book a Week-6: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Even though I try to keep up-to-date on Nobel Prize authors, I was unfamiliar with this one until I saw this book on a table at Barnes and Noble. First, the title intrigued me; then the blurb added more mystery. I bought it–so glad I did. Once I started, there was no stopping–fascinated.
Written in first person, it is contains the thoughts and experiences as related by an older woman. Once a bridge engineer, she now resides in the Polish countryside near the Czech border. Winters are harsh; most of the people who live there live there only in summer. She stays and cares for the houses of the summer people while they are gone all winter. She also teaches English part-time to children at the local school. Her passions are animals and astrology. Even though a science type, she is totally convinced that astrology contains life’s secrets even to the point of predicting the time and events of a person’s death. The book is also a murder mystery with an ending totally different from what I expected.
Now I am going to purchase the author’s book, Flights, which won the Mann Booker prize in 2018.
One Book a Week-5: The Importance of Paris by Cynthia F. Davidson
This memoir take place when the author decides to move to Paris in order to address certain “issues” related to her childhood and young adult years. She grew up in Saudi Arabia before the oil boom and went to high school and lived in Beirut when it was considered one of the best cities in the world. She had to leave when Lebanon became war torn, her dad was kidnapped, and her sister shot. Her return to the US proved traumatizing even though she is not genetically of Middle Eastern descent. Paris was filled with Lebanese refugees so she moves there in an attempt to understand what happened to her beloved Lebanon and why.
This is not an ordinary memoir. I could not stop reading it; I wanted to know what happens next and why. It includes a graphic honesty not found in most memoirs I’ve read. In addition, it contains political and historical explanations for the events that transpired during the time period of the book.
Want to learn more about the background to current events in the Middle East? Want to read about a remarkable life? Then read this memoir.
One Book a Week-3
While wandering around Barnes and Noble looking for something new to read, I read the blurb for An Imaginary Life by David Malouf, an Australian writer. I bought it. Of course, I had heard of Ovid, seen parts of Metamorphosis, his most famous work, but knew little about him. Emperor Augustus exiled him to the remote regions near the Black Sea for reasons not totally known but perhaps due to the nature of Ovid’s erotic poetry which was very popular. Written in the first person, this book relates Ovid’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings while in exile. The urbane and educated Ovid now has to learn to live with superstitious, illiterate, poverty stricken people whose language he does not know, who possess none of amenities to which he is accustomed, who live in a bare survival mode. They find a “wild child” and Ovid becomes determined to catch him and teach him. The Child has lived with the animals and speaks their language, seems immune to weather even though naked, knows nothing of humans. As Ovid lives with and teaches the Child, he begins to question what it means to be human, to be civilized, to be different. What is the true meaning of life?
Note: If you look up Ovid, you will find a birthdate but no date of death. No one knows exactly when or where he died or where he was buried.
One Book a Week-2
One book a week? To date this year it has been more like 3-4, depending on the book and week. I wrote reviews for four books today on Goodreads including The Sea of Tranquility, Little Fires Everywhere, An Imaginary Life, The Woman They Could Not Silence. I mentioned the first one in my last post.
I noticed that Little Fires Everywhere is now a series, streaming. I will not watch it because it is one of the few books that made me cry. I rarely cry. Is it worth reading? Yes. I view it as recommended reading for parents. How do you treat your child who is different, the child who is not how you want your child to be? Is conforming the best way to live? And at what cost? Is a poor minority child better off with wealthy parents from a different ethnicity who can provide everything?
Next I read a non-fiction book, The Woman They Could Not Silence, The Shocking Story Of A Woman Who Dared To Fight Back, by Kate Moore. Apparently I did not know as much about women’s history in the US as I had thought. This is the true story of the life of Elizabeth Packard. Here are some of the things I learned:
- In the mid 1800s if a woman was married, her husband could place her in a mental asylum as insane and she could do nothing about it even if she was sane. She could not get out even if relatives and friends tried to come to her rescue.
- Her husband could confiscate all her property and do with it whatever he pleased. She and everything she owned now belonged to him.
- People in mental asylums were terrorized and treated with methods now considered even illegal treatment for actual terrorists, e.g. water boarding.
- A common, accepted treatment for “difficult” and “emotional” women was clitoridectomies, female genital mutilation. Prominent psychiatrists viewed female genitalia as the cause of female insanity. Dr. Isaac Brown, a prominent London surgeon, stated that it was easy to cure female insanity, just cut off her clitoris. This was practiced in both the US and England.
Elizabeth Packard’s husband placed her in an asylum because she disagreed with his religious views and her outgoing nature. This book details her life in the decades she struggled to be released from the asylum and her struggles to make life better for those who were placed in asylums. It is a must read for anyone interested in the history of women in the 1800s and the treatment of those deemed insane.
Prophetic Passages from Octavia Butler
In my last blog post about reading, I promised to address the prophecies of Octavia Butler in my next post. The best way is to quote some passages from Parable of the Talents which was published in 1998. This book is the sequel to Parable of the Sowers. In that book the main character creates a new religion with CHANGE as a major focus. In fact, one of the main tenants of that religion forms the words on Octavia Butler’s tombstone which I quoted in an earlier post. Here are some passages from Parable of the Talents:
I couldn’t help wondering, though, whether these people with their crosses, had some connection with my current least favorite presidential candidate, Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarrett. It sounds like the sort of thing his people might do—a revival of some nasty out of the past….So now we have another group that uses crosses and slaughters people. Jarrett’s people could be behind it. He insists on being a throwback to some earlier ‘simpler’ time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. He wants to take us back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped Him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who is different.
Jarrett’s supporters have been known to burn people at the stake for being witches….a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or even a Catholic. A witch may also be an atheist or an eccentric…anyone who does not fit into Jarrett’s version of Christianity. He condemns the burnings but in very mild language.
He has a simple answer: ‘Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race.! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us make American great again.”
Note: If you are interested in Octavia Butler books, the stack at the right bottom of the photo are mostly her books. Some are series and need to be read in a certain order.
One Book a Week-1
After finishing Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch, who sets out to read a book each day for a year in order to alleviate her grief over her sister’s death, I decided to commit to reading a minimum of one book a week for a year. As of today, I have already read three, the first of which was The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. Previously I had read my last Octavia Butler novel, Parable of the Talents in which the main character creates a religion with the ultimate goal of establishing human colonies in “the stars”. Then I discover that the title of The Sea of Tranquility refers to a specific area of the Moon where in this book there are two human colonies. Additionally, there are other colonies, the Far Colonies. Their specific location is never cited.
What is the likelihood that I would pick up a book at the library where the goal of the main character in the last book I read is fulfilled in the second book? Coincidence? Serendipity?
And, by the way, a pandemic occurs in both novels. Butler’s book, written in the 1990s, contains a number of prophetic statements and events which sound like today’s news. More about that in the next post.
Reading Octavia Butler-1
In a recent post I mentioned walking in her footsteps. This is the rainy season so we have not been able to go on that walk yet.. However, this morning I finished reading the last novel of hers that I had not read–Parable of the Talents. It is the sequel to Parable of the Sower. Now I have read all of them. She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, CA, Eagles View Lot 4517. The inscription on her gravestone is the theme of both the books above:
All that you touch You Change.
All that you Change Changes you.
The only lasting truth is Change.
Octavia Butler’s Pasadena–Part One
As part of a bookclub I co-host, we read Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred, a science fiction story which takes places in California and in the Old South. Since many of the bookclub members live in or near Pasadena, we decided we would do “Experience Butler’s Pasadena on Foot”, a walking loop of about 2.5 miles. We had planned to take the walk earlier in December but were rained out. We will reschedule early next year. I decided to do a dry run in November and took these photos along one of the streets where she often walked.
Butler lived most of her life in Pasadena but never owned a car. She either walked or took public transportation.
For those unfamiliar with her, she became famous as the first African American to win multiple Hugo and other science fiction awards. Born in 1947, she died in 2006, and is buried in a cemetery in Altadena, CA, just north of Pasadena. Many of her manuscripts are on display at The Huntington Library.
The last Octavia Butler book I read is the one illustrated in this photo taken at The Huntington Library. I am currently reading the sequel, Parable of the Talents. When I finish that one, I will have read all of her novels. She is one of my favorite authors.
An Afternoon at The Getty Center
Yesterday my daughter and I drove to The Getty Center to wander around, look at the art, eat at the restaurant, enjoy the views which are quite spectacular.
Two views of the Pacific Ocean from different vantage points. The Getty Center is on top of a hill with spectacular views in almost every direction.
Looking in the opposite direction is a view of a lot of Los Angeles.
In the distance loom the snow capped mountains close to where I live in the San Gabriel Valley.
Across the 405 freeway are large houses and vineyards.
Currently, one entire section of The Getty Center features a Mayan codex, a few pages of one of the oldest ever found.
The view from where I took several photos back through an open area. The Getty Center is huge, made mostly out of limestone.
Much of the art currently on view is about the Virgin of Guadalupe and religious paintings related to the birth of Jesus.