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-8:”The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida”, Shehan Karunatilaka
The Booker (previously Mann-Booker) Prize winner in 2022, this book is filled with gruesome events and dark, graveyard humor. Since if takes place in Sri Lanka, if you know little about Sri Lanka history in the last 50 years, you might want to do a quick review so you know about the civil unrest and the various Sri Lankan ethnicities, e.g. Tamil, Sinhalese, Burgher. Written from the viewpoint of the title character, a war photographer, after being murdered, he resides in a sort of celestial purgatory while he tries to save his two best friends and male lover who are still alive and discover the identity of his murderer. He is given seven moons in which to accomplish this task. Not a book for the faint of heart, it contains gruesome war and torture details but frequently is also quite funny and filled with “truths”. In an interview the author explained, “Sri Lankans specialize in gallows humor; it is our coping mechanism.” As I read, I underlined passages I found especially meaningful, profound, or fascinating. Here are some of them:
“-There are only two gods worth worshipping. Chance and electricity.
-Hell is all around us and it is in session as we speak.
-Evil is not what we should fear. Creatures with power acting in their own best interests; that is what should make us shudder.
-There has never been an era of peace in all recorded history.
-Interest in fair play and democracy are not always the same thing.
-I have a superb name for God. Whoever.
-Laws are needed because made-up religions are not enough.
-The universe is nothing but mathematics and probabilities…we are nothing more than accidents of our births.
-They say the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
-Your race, your school, your family will dictate how the dice of life will fall for you.
-All religions keep the poor docile and the rich in their castles.
-People are ok if bad things happen to people who are not them.
-Do not be afraid of demons; it is the living we should fear.
-I have thought long and there are no answers. There is only this. There is only now.
-We must all find a pointless cause to fight for, or why bother with breath?
-The kindest thing you can say about life. It’s not for nothing.
-I cannot understand why humans destroy when they can create. Such a waste.”
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.
An Afternoon at the Cheech Museum – 2
The second floor of the Cheech contains even more astonishing art including more multidimensional pieces except smaller than the giant one you see when you enter the building.
Depending where you stand in front, to either side, what you see is quite different. I kept thinking some old Flemish art or Hieronymus Bosch meets modern technology.
Much of the art makes a social or political statement especially about colonization, culture, poverty.
Some of the art is reminiscent of Mayan and Aztec calendars.
Hearts appear in many of the paintings.
And of course Frida.
This is a space ship with changing eyes. If you walk around the back there is a creature inside watching everything with monitors.
An Afternoon at the Cheech–1
Some of you may remember the comedy duo Cheech and Chong way back in the day. Cheech has spent his life collecting Chicano and Chicana art. This year he gave a lot of his art collection to open a new museum in Riverside, California. Earlier this week my grandson, his girlfriend and I went to visit the museum. Photos and videos are allowed without flash. The following is the first set of photos I took. Please note that you need to see this art for yourself. Photos do not do it justice. Much of it is multidimensional and looks very different depending on where the viewer stands.
This is what you see when you enter the door; it is two stories high and multidimensional. Look how different the next photo of it looks from this one.
Walk farther to the side and it looks totally different again.
This speaks for itself. Right now where I live the air is clean enough that unless it is foggy, I can see all the way to downtown LA 30 plus miles away.
All the art at this museum has a message; much of it illustrates the ills of society.
The influence of indigenous art, e.g. Aztec, Mayan, can be seem in much of the art and the statements the art makes.
The woman above and the woman below hang next to each other.
The Riverside Art Museum
On January 2, my grandson, D’mitri, his girlfriend, Landri, and I went to The Riverside Art Museum and the Cheech in Riverside, California. This post includes what we saw at this museum. Later I will share photos of the art at the Cheech.
All the art seen in these first photos is by this Turkish-Mexican American artist. Here she explains how and why she interweaves the various parts of her heritage.
The next gallery room contained hundreds of photos from the 1970s in LA and surrounding areas. Although LA certainly is not the perfect place, improvements since that time are evident in the photographs. Here is a photo about that exhibit.
The next gallery contained art of the Joshua trees. The paper used was made of Joshua trees.
The following photos were taken in a hallway above the patio garden and in a smaller adjoining gallery.
The title of this one is The Future.
The galleries are all arranged around this patio.
The Murals at Mendez High School
Every Wednesday I visit Mendez High School in Boyle Heights near downtown LA. I volunteer as a college counselor for College Match LA. The school is named after the couple who, in 1946, sued for equal education for Mexican children and won.
View of downtown from in front of the College Center area where students go to get help with college applications, learn from presentations by admissions officers from different colleges, and work on college and financial aid applications.
Thanks to the two guys sitting here chatting for giving me permission to take this photo.
Reception for the New Exhibit at The Getty
Monday evening I attended a private reception at The Getty for photographs taken by teens to reflect their reactions to the pandemic and the shut downs. This first photo explains the exhibit.
Posters have been made from the teen photographs and will be available for purchase.
The Getty is astonishing. I was able to see only a tiny portion of it. Definitely a place to see if you come to Los Angeles.
Reflections–Old Year, New Year
Most 2020 goodbyes ring with epithets on the horrors of 2020. I object. 2020 brought bad, yes, mainly due to Covid 19’s effects on the lives of masses. It also enlightened us:
-staying home makes cleaner air.
-staying home increases home gardening and thus healthier eating.
-staying home leads to a slower, more thoughtful life, to extra time with family.
-staying home reconnects us with ourselves.
2020 lead to positives that have nothing to do with Covid 19:
-increased awareness and concern for the lives of others different from ourselves.
-increased awareness that discrimination and brutality among our police exists and we need to fix it.
-increased awareness of the ever growing income gaps in our society.
Covid 19 did bring:
-an increased awareness of the impacts of any pandemic and that we must prepare ourselves because there will be more.
-an increased appreciation of essential workers and their roles in our everyday lives.
-an increased appreciation for nurses and doctors and other health care workers.
Spring will come,
flowers will bloom,
birds will sing.
Yesterday, I heard Bishop Michael Curry speak on national news. I will close with one sentence which remains with me:
“Love is a commitment to the Common Good.”