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-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.
After reading nature poems by Denise Levertov and Wendell Berry, the students wrote their own nature poems. Ten wanted me to post their poems on my blog, As as consequence, I will post two student poems each day. Here is the first set.
In late fall evening
There are leaves falling
and they are crunching
under your feet
as the birds fight
for the tree with the
most leaves My family
watches football in
the warm cozy house
Nature is beautiful
and helps you see,
the wild is suitable
for you and me.
Nature helps you grow
in strength and mindset,
and helps you realize
your true assets.
Look around and see
the beautiful world God made for me.
What’s in a Name?
Internet tells me I am Jove’s child.
I’m a goddess??!!
Where I grew up, no one had
The Queen of Holland had my name.
I wondered why? A Spanish name.
Holland once ruled Spain.
It did not go well.
Internet tells me I am
Is this true?
Does a name create who
If I had a different name
would I be someone else?
Note: This poem came out of an assignment in a class I am taking with the Story Circle Network, an organization that promotes women writing and telling their stories. The instructor, Yesim Cimcoz, lives in Turkey.
Pond and Wheelbarrow–Student Poems
This past week in my sophomore English class, the students read poems by Amy Lowell and William Carlos Williams. I gave them the assignment to write about either a pond or a wheelbarrow. At first, they thought I had lost my mind. However, several decided they would like their poems published on this blog. The following are three poems the students asked me to publish:
The frogs croak
quietly in the night
waiting for food
to come by.
The water shimmers
in the moonlight
like a lighthouse
to the ocean.
When you think of
think of the beautiful
creatures that live
Author: Ali Matthews
Sittin in a pond,
watching the frogs jump by,
the fish sing
bloop! bloop!! bloop!!
Author: Skylee Isham
Behind my fence
sits a green wheel barrow.
It has been used many times,
but still looks brand new.
The wheelbarrow has sat through
all sorts of weather, and it
still works like a charm.
Author: Taylor Shugart
September 1, on the Rim of Wonder
Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears. I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do. I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them. These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.
Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child. One, for dumplings, remains readable. The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile. It is for Strawberry Shortcake. If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it. Mother did–chicken and dumplings. I wonder if she used this recipe. I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries. I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.
Checked my Facebook today and this quote showed up–posted by a fellow friend and author. It is from Ann Lamont:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Note: In spite of a few men having referred to me as a scandalous woman after reading my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”, I still have not been sued for slander. It has been a few years. I think I am safe. Always tell your truth. Be open to adventure. Live your life. Be the best you that you can be.
Storytellers Telling Stories podcast
For those of you who enjoy different types of stories and their authors, here is a weekly Podcast to explore.
I am profoundly excited to announce that I’ll be joining a new podcast series, hosted by author Jude Brewer, called Storytellers Telling Stories. The series will consist of writers sharing their work and their craft in a new version of the oldest tradition: oral storytelling.
You can check out the teaser trailer online now.
I’d be excited to join this series anyway, especially since I’m a fan of Jude’s work in general and am honored he invited me to come aboard. But the lineup he has in place for season one includes some of my favorite writers and dearest friends: Jason Arias, David Ciminello, Sean Davis, Daniel Elder, Zach Ellis, Jenny Forrester, DeAngelo Gillispie, Kate Gray, Rios de la Luz, Gina Ochsner, Kate Ristau, Domi J Shoemaker, Davis Slater, and Reema Zaman.
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The story that follows keeps running through my mind, disturbing my inner peace. It occurred several weeks ago while I worked. As a teacher I take plagiarism seriously. Repeatedly, I explain that it is cheating and ultimately a form of stealing. Yes, stealing. When students cheat, copy another’s work whether from some famous author or from the student by them, they are stealing from that person, and in reality cheating themselves, cheating themselves from learning what may have proven to be valuable information or a needed skill later in life.
Several weeks ago, a former, talented student asked to observe my classes as part of his assignment from a college class. He sat in on a couple of classes, many of the students already knew him, and I explained his purpose in being there. At the end of the day, while we chatted about the past and his excellent grades when he attended my English class, he informed me that he frequently writes not only his own papers but also the papers for another student, who was also a former student and perfectly able to write decent papers himself. He told me that the student for whom he writes these papers pays him either with money or beer. Too astonished to adequately respond, I kept silent. However, this continues to haunt me, not only because my opinion of the student plummeted but also because he plans to be a coach and teacher himself. Will he later realize the unacceptability of his behavior, how unethical and immoral? Will he change when he becomes a teacher himself?
I also remain unhappy with myself for not saying something to him immediately. My shock really is not an excuse. I now promise myself that if I do see him again soon, I will definitely explain my dismay and sadness with his story. I also wonder why he told me? Regardless, I worry for the future if this is the type of person who will replace current teachers. I also wonder how many current teachers find this sort of behavior normal, acceptable.