This unusual novel features identical twin sisters, inseparable as children, living in a small town in rural Louisiana. The town’s founder, a light skinned Black man, insisted on maintaining a certain character for the town–only light skinned Black people should live there. At sixteen the sisters run away to New Orleans where they ultimately choose diametrically opposed lives, one passing as white, marrying a wealthy white man who knows nothing of her true past. In spite of the deception and lies, years later their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways. The novel not only addresses themes of race but also sexual identity and who we are as individuals and a country.
One Book a Week-7: “Memorial Drive, A Daughter’s Memoir” by Natasha Trethewey
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-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.
Is Your Toilet Paper Killing the Planet?
Much of the toilet paper used in the US comes from the boreal forest in Canada. It is the tree to toilet pipeline as one environmental organization calls it. The Canadian boreal forest is home to many indigenous people as well as numerous wildlife species. Additionally, it is the world’s most carbon-dense forest. Below are some photos from the Internet.
Major companies clear-cut a million acres of this forest yearly for disposable paper products, much of it toilet paper. The leading culprits include such brands as Angel Soft, Cottonelle, and Charmin. Some brands are better choices if you care about our planet. Below is a chart provided by the NRDC to help you choose your toilet paper wisely and contribute to saving the planet.
Will many record their experiences during this difficult time? I have no idea. However, a thought came to me yesterday that I should–not sure why, just that this is something I should do. Interesting because I am not really into “shoulds.”
Because Martina, the exchange student who lived with me this time last year, lives n Milano, I have realized the seriousness of this for weeks. She and her family have been quarantined for so long that I have lost track of just how long. A couple of days ago her mother had to go to the grocery. It took her four hours to get through the line. She has a grandfather over 90; they worry about him; he is scared.
Yet, here in the Panhandle of Texas, many fail to realize just how awful this can get. Until yesterday, when they had no choice due to the statewide mandate, they went out to eat, exercised at the gym, congregated in mass at bars, you name it. Now schools are closed until April 3 when the situation will be re-evaluated.
In the last ten days the only places I have gone are the grocery, the doctor’s office–for an awful allergy attack. Luckily, I live out in the country, have horses. They have to be fed twice a day, their runs cleaned. Today it is 70, the patio doors are open; I might even take a little hike later. Just me and Athena, my black, standard poodle.
Luckily, it has been spring break so I have had plenty of time to think about what to do with myself as I keep myself quarantined–I am not even going to my daughter and grandson’s house–I really miss seeing them. What do I do: have read two books, almost finished crocheting a poncho, worked one warm day in the garden, graded all the papers I brought home and posted them, cared for the horses, cooked, communicated with friends worldwide–Covid19 is everywhere, watched some TV, mostly news and documentaries. One thing I will do every day is act as if I am actually going somewhere, put on my makeup, get dressed, have a plan for the day.
This morning I went to the grocery. What did I do when I returned home? I left the bag outside to air–will disinfect it shortly, I took off my clothes in the laundry room and put them to wash. Then I took a hot shower. Why all this you ask? The virus can stay in your clothes for 24 hours. There were more people in the store in the morning than I expected. Are they healthy, virus free? No idea. In the county where I live, there have been two cases already. I do not want to risk it. Although I am healthy, I am in one of the higher risk categories due to my age. I do not mind dying, but who wants to die from this? I don’t.
It is a nice spring day outside, the wild flowers are starting to bloom, and I need to relearn how to use Google Classroom because that is how I will be teaching English and Spanish until who knows exactly when. I have used it before over a year ago. I need to refresh myself.
Here are a few pictures of the wild flowers around my house. After this, review Google Classroom and maybe play the piano for a bit.
Take care of yourselves. Be safe. Be wise.
Tan grass stretches miles and miles as far as eyes can see.
The water in the indigo bird bath evaporates in one day.
Playa lakes, full last summer, surrounded then in emerald grass, lay waterless.
Thirty-five miles an hour winds create fog-like clouds of dust across the horizon.
Grit, wind hurled, buffets cars and trucks driving down the long, straight highways.
Dust-fed sunrises and sunsets clad skies in orange, hot pink, vermillion, violet, mauve.
Day 127 with no measurable precipitation.
Note: I wrote this ten days ago. That evening it rained .01 inches. None since then. We are approaching four months with just that .01 inches, nothing more. Every time it warms and the winds come, the weather forecast mentions high fire danger. All counties and state parks near here have burn bans. March is a windy month.
His milk chocolate, heavy lidded eyes stare at me from the
front of the magazine.
His cheeks display charcoal tattoos, a criss cross
design, tiny Xs on top, stopping where his nostrils flare.
His straight hair barely touches his shoulders.
not the black I expected, but the color of mahogany.
His eyebrows grow thin and wide,
no visible eyelashes.
His skin, color of morning coffee with two teaspoons of milk,
looks clear, smooth.
His full lips only slightly darker than his skin
do not smile.
He, a Kayapo Indian, continues staring.
He lives in Kayapo Territory, Brazil, land the size of
Great Britain and Ireland.
He plans to save it from the rest of us.
He plans to save us from our own worst selves.
The Kayapo and other indigenous Amerindians have lived in the rainforest for millennia. They and most environmentalists view their rainforest as a priceless haven for biodiversity. Their Amazon remains a major defense in the fight against global warming and habitat destruction. Fifteen per cent of greenhouse emissions, more than all the trucks, cars, buses, and planes combined, come from deforestation. Although Brazil has slowed the deforestation rate by 70 per cent in the last nine years, last year saw a reversal with an sudden increase of 30 per cent. Brazil also began construction of a network of canals, dams, and a huge hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in the middle of Kayapo territory. The Kayapo and other Amerindians defeated a larger project in the 1990s. They intend to defeat this one.
The chief of the Kayapo, Megaron, knows what is at stake, not only for his tribe, but also for the rest of us, long term survival. One National Geographic article noted, “It is one of the richest ironies of the Amazon that the supposedly civilized outsiders who spent five centuries evangelizing, exploiting, and exterminating aboriginal people are now turning to them to save ecosystems recognized as critical to the health of the planet–to defend essential tracts of land from the outside world’s insatiable appetite.”
Kayapo success can be attributed to their ability to embrace some of the best of the modern world while retaining a strong sense of identity, culture, and traditions, all of which come from the forest. As Megaron notes, “Before the white man, we were always fighting other tribes. Not anymore. We stopped hitting each other over the head and united against a bigger threat.” For our own long term health and success, we can support them and hope they succeed.