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-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.
The First Time I Saw the Nile
Riding hours through emerald mountains
to Bahir Dar.
We drove up a steep road,
monkeys begging near the roadside.
Car parked, we climbed a steep hill.
There she was
a silver ribbon far below
two white robed people
walked, hippos barely visible.
a life’s longing fulfilled.
Flowing from Lake Tana,
she lay below me,
the legendary river,
ancient people, ancient stories,
builder of civilizations,
Road Trip to Palm Springs
Life brought me to the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California late last summer. A few months later, my childhood friend from elementary school in the farmlands of Northwestern Missouri moved back to Palm Springs. Today I drove out to the desert to see him, Craig Prater. I arrived a little early so drove around, took a walk downtown, and took some photos. We were so intent on catching up and visiting, I forgot to take a photo of Craig and me together. Here are photos I took as I walked and drove around.
Desert mountains surround Palm Springs. It is hot compared to where I live. When I returned to my car after lunch, the thermometer said 121. It really was not quite that hot, only 103. 1.25 hours later when I arrived back home, it was 87 at my house.
I took this to include parts of the palo verde tree and the mountains. Palm trees are everywhere as you can see from the photos.
Palm Springs is Mid-Century Modern architecture country. This photo and the following photos are some examples of the types of houses I saw as I drove around.
My First Published Poem
April is National Poetry Month. While emptying one of the boxes still stacked in the garage after the move, I found the book in which Missouri high school student’s poems were published. The following includes a photo of the book and my first published poem included in it.
Mom loved Shetland ponies.
not so much the stocky, chubby ones,
the fancy show ponies.
We had so many, I’ve lost count–
black, pinto, dappled grey with silver
mane and tail–the fanciest one.
Midget, a pinto, was the first one.
They bought her so I could learn to ride.
I was six.
At the country fair, I rode her.
She zigged; I zagged, fell off.
On rainy days my sister and I would
put a few in the barn, dress them up,
play games with them,
We even rode them when in high school
along the cornfields, across the terraces.
My last memory–riding, ambling along, not paying attention,
suddenly lots of noise in the cornfield,
an animal running through the cornstalks.
Pony bolted; I jumped, landed wrong,
limped for days at school, climbing
up and down the steps.
Did I ride again?
I don’t think so, not for years and
then I rode horses.
Easy Vegetarian Chili Dinner
I had some Soyrizo in the refrigerator–chorizo made from soybeans–and decided to try making chili with it. I sautéed one finely chopped onion in olive oil and added the Soyrizo after removing it from the casing and breaking it up into small pieces. After the onion was translucent, I added one deseeded and chopped red bell pepper and a deseeded and chopped poblano pepper. To this mixture I added one can undrained black beans and 1 small can chopped tomatoes. I let this mixture cook on low for several hours before serving. The Soyrizo makes it a little bit spicy, but if you want more spice add berbere, chili powder, etc. to your taste. I like thick chili but if you want it more like the consistency of soup, just add some broth or water.
The salad was made with a mixture of greens, chopped red bell peppers, dried bing cherries, and sliced leeks broken up so you can see the circles. These bowls have been in my family for decades. They were the everyday dishes my mom used when I was growing up.
Note: For those out there who question, and rightfully, some of the ingredients in meat substitutes, I do get it. However, once in a while I like to jazz up the food a bit.
An Old Bowl and the Silver Spoon
My Aunt Julia, Mom’s sister, lived to 94. She loved fine antique china, linens, and French furniture. The ordinary bowl in this photo defies those inclinations, its origins a mystery. How did she acquire such a plain bowl and why? I will never know. In spite of its age, cracks, dull finish, I have used it every morning for decades. It is my breakfast bowl, filled with yogurt or cottage cheese with dried blueberries and a handful of walnuts, or, occasionally, oatmeal.
The spoon, on the other hand, is not ordinary, but rather good silver from the set Dad gave Mom on their first wedding anniversary. Unlike Mom, who saved her good silver for holidays and special occasions, I use these spoons daily and think of her unconditional love, strong will, determination, and love for beauty.
An “exercise” to write a poem about ones origins with the words I am from… inspired me to write this poem.
I am from the dark side of the moon, blood born, secretly shining.
I am from puma, stalking your memories, invading your minds,.
I am from Gottlieb, who left Swiss mountains 150 years ago at 18 to avoid
becoming a mercenary, moved to Missouri, created a farm. His cultivator
sets in my front garden.
I am from persons Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, who sailed seas, met strangers, loved.
I am from Esan, a Nigerian tribe about which I knew nothing until a DNA test revealed,
ancient, black, beautiful.
I am from Latin America, Colombian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican–wanderers, explorers.
I am from Slavic peoples. Byzantine, Macedonian, Alexander the Great.
I am from brave wandering ancestors–Asian, Latin, Toscani Italian, French, German, Swiss, Slavic, Iberian.
I am from J haploid group, people who left the northern Middle East 7000 years ago,
wandered, explored, populated Western Europe.
I am from farmers, Doyle and Barbara, who grew corn, wheat, soybeans, Hereford and Charolaise cattle
to whom I carried salt blocks as a child.
I am from Sacred Corn, the nourisher, singing on hot summers, growing.
I am from the sweet smell of Jasmine, Roses, Honeysuckle, winding up walls, overgrowing gardens,
giving people hope.
I am from lemons, figs, dates, pomegranates, golden, dark, red, tropical, lingering.
I am from Stars, universal child, born on sacred ground, singing infinite songs.
In Memory of Mother’s Roses
Mother’s rose garden
flowers for the family table
all my childhood summers.
Red, pinks, snowy.
No roses for decades
except those given, bouquets,
Now, I look out every window, roses
Pinks, reds, orange, lavender, yellow, snowy.
I love them, cut them,
And remember my mother.