Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

Cane River is a very interesting read which was one of the Oprah's Book Club selections. In this historical novel, the author, Lalita Tademy, deals with 137 years of her family's history of dealing with slavery and the aftermath. She begins with her 4th great-grandmother who was a slave in Virginia and then sold into French Cajun/Creole Louisiana. Elizabeth's daughter with fellow slave Gerasime, Suzette, is the first in a line of women who become impregnated by a white man. The next three generations are born into slavery because the owners refuse to free their colored children. The novel portrays the life situation of the colored children who can not overcome the Negro part of their heritage within the Southern society even after the Civil War is long over and the children are generally fair skinned.

Another interesting piece of the novel is the introduction of the freed Negroes who become slave owners, themselves. Tademy reveals the social hierarchy of wealthy plantation owners, poor white farmers, free Negroes, and slaves.

Beautifully written and very engaging story.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

This was a lovely book and another book of value for those who dare to look at some of the dark history of our country. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is set in Seattle, WA during WWII. The story gives a picture of what Japanese-Americans experienced during this time...the prejudice, the interment camps, the denial of civil rights simply based upon ancestry. It is a complicated issue, as we have experienced more recently since 9/11. How does a country have the faith that American citizens of specific ancestry or culture will not return in their loyalty to their "roots." It made me think, quite a bit, actually, about my own personal fears following 9/11 when I was on a plane or in other places with someone of Arabic background. "Is this person one of my enemies?"

I was also interested in the tie in the story of the Chinese history with the Japanese in this novel. I was made more aware of the ill feelings that Chinese people generally feel towards Japanese while I was in China. That is based on a long history of attack by Japan upon China. So, the age-old ill will is part of the conflict in this novel, as well.

The novel is engaging and interesting, although the plot was fairly predictable. Nonetheless, a book I would highly recommend to others to read.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

We tend to be ethnocentric, especially as Americans. I consider this book a must-read book for any who want to come to a better understanding of what people of other cultures, religions, and languages experience as they try to become "American." At the center of this book is the problem the medical community faces in dealing with large numbers of immigrants...especially from countries we have less experience with culturally and linguistically. Doctors are basically reduced to practicing veterinary medicine with these people because of the inability to communicate. Another idea developed in the book is that of the medical community treating the whole person and not being so clinical. Thought-provoking work in ethics...what is right and wrong and how do we decide what is best?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution by Lou Dematteis and Chris Vail

I think that reading all of these books from and about other countries has become a very dangerous thing for me. I have gained more and more insight about what is going on in other countries and how the U.S. has impacted other countries...and it is often not a good thing. I have lost that innocent, wide-eyed attitude that the U.S. is the hero and defender of freedom around the world. This book gives a lot on insight into the revolution of the 1980's-1990's in Nicaragua. I understand, now, so much more about the role of the Sandanistas and of the Contras. I have learned how the U.S. disrespected the right of the people of Nicaragua to choose their own form of government and their leaders through direct election. The U.S. often seems to be more concerned with its own best interest and not those of other countries. It is so discouraging. I become more and more concerned as I hear indoctrination against any form of socialism now. Socialism has become the new ugly word to replace communism. Somehow, Americans have to be taught that socialism does not necessarily equal Stalinism.

Little Boys Come From the Stars by Emmanuel Dongala

Emmanuel Dongala created such an interesting read. His storytelling is endearing and clever. He uses humor as he presents some very serious insight into the political struggles of the Congo (Brazaville) as it moves from a Communist dictatorship to a more democratic nation. Again, for most Americans, this is a situation most of us are totally unaware. Also interesting is the exposure that Dongala gives to the tribal religious and cultural traditions.