"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Books

Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers -- I heard about this guy when I was reading Into Thin Air a few weeks ago.  His story was pretty interesting although he wasn't a good family man.  I'm glad he got another chance with his wife and children. 


Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs - a J Biography that won the Newberry Medal; a good way to learn more about Louisa Alcott. I kept thinking "wow, so much name-dropping" since her family knew many famous people!


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis -- another J Fic book from the black man I mentioned in last month's post. This was about a motherless child who had lived in a Home and a foster family. He decided to set out to find his father - or the person he thought was his father.


Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis -- a good way to learn more about this settlement in southern Canada - the land of the free! - where escaped slaves went to live.


 
 
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett -- A story I remember my fifth-grade teacher reading to us that I wanted to read again.  A good story about the power of fresh air, positive thinking, and gardens!  Especially nice to read in spring when everything is blooming so prettily.

 
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult -- the longer I read this book, the more I realized I read it many years ago, but still it was good to reread this story about an Amish teen who was accused of smothering her newborn. 

 
 
Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy, M.D. -- " a doctor's reflections on race and medicine" --  I've read a few accounts by doctors or paramedics in recent months, but I had never read a book by a black doctor.  This doctor studied at Duke University's Medical School which is not too far from where I live.  He tells stories of his classes - when he was mistaken by a professor as the guy there to fix the lights - and also many accounts of working in a rural clinic (where all the patients were black). He talks of racist patients who didn't want a "nigger doctor" and also tells of doctors who discriminate.  He speaks of his own homophobia growing up, and the color of HIV/AIDS.  Yes, he focus a lot on race and how race pertains to health particularly of black people.  His stories are good, and I'm glad to know more about him.


 
A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold -- the mother of Dylan of Columbine; advocate for brain health



The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis -- this is a companion to a book I read a couple of weeks ago about Elijah who lives in Buxton, Canada.  This book revisits Buxton and nearby Chatham and tells the story of Benji and Red, their lives and how they meet.  And it also talks about the madman who lives in the nearby forest!



The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick -- This story is partly true. It's about a mother and daughter who walked from Washington to New York with hopes of winning $10,000 in order to keep the family farm from foreclosure.  The fiction part fills in the blanks of what happened later.  A pretty interesting story about Helga and Clara Estby.


Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler -- The story of a fearful of most everything thirty-something lady in Mount Olive, NC, who was born in Japan - the place where she lost her mother to a house fire, and her father to her mother's death.   This was an easy read in that I could read it fast, but it seemed a bit plodding-along at times.  Reminded me of the laid-back lifestyle many claim we Southerners have.

One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling -- a good reminder for us to be organ donors; one family's heartache at losing a young family member gave hope and continued life to a twenty-year old needing a heart


Forbidden by Wilma Wall -- What happens when a Mennonite woman and a Japanese-American man fall in love after World War II?  This tells the story of Annie and Donald, and the tough time they faced as a "mixed-race" couple at a time when Japanese were not well-liked in the US.


The Healing Quilt by Lauraine Snelling -- a community comes together to update the hospital's mammogram machine; women come together to discuss grief and forgiveness as they create a quilt to auction off for funds


Extra Credit by Andrew Clements -- a J Fic book about a preteen in Illinois who earns extra credit by writing to a young girl in Afghanistan. Only it's the girl's brother doing most of the writing, and both learn about the other's world and come to appreciate their own homes better through their correspondence.

 
 
Sandwich With a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips -- 20 year old Maddie is trying to earn enough money to afford a house and get her brother out of foster care.  Unfortunately the first hair cut she gives goes badly and she ends up working at the sandwich shop in town.


House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson -- I seem to read quite a lot about women (moms) in families with mental illnesses.  This was no exception.  I could relate to Bailee's anger and bitterness towards God...how he can know someone is dangerous to others, and hurting others, yet not step in to stop it?  I truly do understand the feelings some express at how can God be loving and all-powerful, yet allow people to be tortured, abused, neglected, raped, murdered. 


Tea for Two by Trish Perry -- I'd read book one of this series awhile back, and remembered it was rather silly. But I saw this at the library while looking for some easy reads so I picked it up. I liked it better than the first book.  It's about the produce man Zack, a single father trying to raise teenagers, and the therapist, Tina, who gets to know the family.  Nothing unpredictable, really, but OK for a quick read.




Saturday, April 2, 2016

March Books

Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year by Doris Haddock -- the story of an old woman who wanted to continue fighting for causes so she decided to walk across the US - from California to Washington, D.C., - spreading a message about national campaign finance reform.  In the book she talks about sights and weather along the way, people she met, speeches she gave, but also reflections on her years as a child and young adult, her husband, her children, her friends, her causes.  A remarkable lady.  I looked her up online, and saw she died a few weeks after her 100th birthday.


The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War by Asne Seierstad -- This journalist from Norway - actually a lady who speaks Russian who becomes a journalist because it's easier to teach journalism to someone who already speaks Russian than to teach a journalist, Russian - goes to parts of Russia and Chechnya to report on people she meets.  Such a sad tale.


Meeting Islam: A Guide for Christians by George Dardess -- Last year a FB friend mentioned this book to me, and I saw that my library had it. I kept forgetting to check it out, but finally did. I kept thinking it seemed really similar to another book I'd read, but later I checked and, oh!, I read this very book back in 2008 or 9.  Since I'd already committed myself to reading over half the book, I decided maybe a refresher was needed so I finished it. 




The Double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck -- When I saw this book on the New Books shelf at the library, I admit the author's name is what took my attention. Not because I recognized it, but because I did. At least the Tuck part, right?  Hey, that's my (married) last name!  I always like when I see a family name - or even my own first name in an author - so I checked out the book. It's described as Lily Tuck's "most autobiographical novel to date" and an "autofiction" because they claim life is "part fact part fiction."  Also, as you may recall Susanne means "lily" so there's that.  This lady is way more worldly and interesting than I.  Also her family so different than mine. I don't understand parents who leave their children alone so they can pursue affairs and such, but maybe that's just me.   This was a fairly easy read, and I enjoyed the lovely higher-than-normal spring temps while reading it outside.




Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson -- I saw Bridget mention this in her recent book post so I decided to find it at my local library, and I read it this week. I am not sure if I ever read it as a child. If I did, I've forgotten. The story is familiar, but maybe that's because similar themes are present in several stories I've read including the one mentioned in the title.  This is the story of Sara Louise called Wheeze and the favored, blonde, much-loved, shining twin Caroline.  With a nickname like Wheeze you can't be pretty or talented, right?  It makes you feel as if you have a constant lung problem.  Good read especially as I sat outside during these lovely spring days while Zach played Mario with friends at the park.



Walking the Nile by Levison Wood -- The story of an English explorer and adventurer on a mission to walk along the Nile - all four thousand two hundred plus miles of it.  He starts his journey in an area that is the disputed beginning - this adds an extra few hundred miles to his journey.  He travels north with a guide named Boston who later becomes a friend.  The author tells about people he meets, villages he goes through, food offered to him, and wildlife he sees.  When he finally reaches Egypt, he is stuck in Aswan for three weeks while an expensive fixer tries to get proper permission and guides for his trek through this final country.  He observes the lack of tourism in an area where tour guides speak ten languages, and boats wait to take people out on cruises, and cooks survey the empty tables with sadness.  He credits the Arab Spring and the military coup with the lack of tourists.    

He says, "Just four years ago, there had been hundreds of boats serving tourists out on the Nile, but now they were all mothballed, moored up, four or five abreast, on the banks of the river with only skeleton crews to keep them afloat. Shops were boarded up or left empty; now nobody sold trinkets and you'd struggle to find a plastic pyramid even if you wanted one. Tour guides fluent in ten languages were sweeping the streets or driving taxis, or otherwise sat idle in the coffee shops lamenting the good old days. As far as I could tell, all of them seemed to regret the revolution - the first one, at least - and blamed it on the ignorance of youth."  (pg. 287)



A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos -- since I was in the J Fiction books the other day, I checked out another.  This was a pretty good story of Catherine's observations on life just before she left her New Hampshire home to help a family. 



The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis -- I decided to read more J Fiction books, and saw this one about a black girl - Deza (that's Deh zuh, not Dee za) - growing up in Gary, Indiana, and later Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression. What a charming girl, and what a hard life, and what an interesting way to learn more about it.  I really liked this book, and am going to look for more books by this man.  (In general, I don't read a lot of fiction by men and more particularly by black men. This may be my first - and it was good.  But I won't dare say what some white folks said to Deza that he's a credit to his race. *eyeroll*)



Mrs. Jeffries & the Yuletide Weddings by Emily Brightwell -- this book must be part of a series and I picked this one up at a book exchange in Southport.  A group of servants and a friend or two outside the household come together to help solve mysteries that their employer and friend, the Inspector, is hired to solve.  A pretty cute story though I still don't get all the English talk and slang, but this was easy enough to follow.


Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson -- the story of Jess and his new friend Leslie and their special friendship; another J Fic book


Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko -- imagine being the child of a prison guard. On Alcatraz while Al Capone is in residence.  Also imagine having an older sister with autism, and having to look after her while your mom teaches piano on the mainland.  A rather cute story. Again from the J Fic section of the library.



Rodzina by Karen Cushman -- a cute J Fic book about a twelve-year-old Polish girl on an orphan train to the West.  This was truly a thing at one time in US history, and this story shows Rodzina's journey to various stops as she heads towards a new family. 


The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman -- I could relate to Francine quite a bit. The girl who followed the rules and often chose not to speak up so she wouldn't rock the boat. I wish often I could be like her friend Sophie who was outspoken about social justice issues of the day, the girl who dared to question authority and God's existence.  This tale took place during the end of 1949. Communism and finding Communists among us were themes, and the story was about thirteen year old girls. Yeah, another J Fic book.



The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman -- a J Fic book that won a Newberry Award; cute tale of an abandoned girl who evolved from Brat to Beetle to Alyce.



Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz  -- Years ago I read a book from this author about his travels around Arabia. It was so good. I had seen this Confederate one at that time, but I was a bit burned out on Civil War stuff and more interested in books about the Middle East so I put this one on my mental "read later" list.  Well, last month we were looking around a Barnes & Noble in Myrtle Beach, I saw this book, and remembered to check it out of the library. So I did.  I really enjoyed the author's trips with hard-core historical interpreters (this one group didn't like the term "reenactors").  The one guy from Ohio - Southern parents, but he grew up in Medina - was especially hard-core. In fact I realized just last night that the photo on the cover was him (Robert Lee Hodge).  The author mentioned in the book that Mr. Hodge posed for a number of Civil War photos so I should have caught on sooner.   When the author - Tony - was invited to travel with these hard-core guys for a marching weekend, most of his stuff was thrown out as not authentic enough.  Even his Granny Smith apples were too shiny and had to be tossed.   They gave him a new pair of glasses  (weaker prescription) to wear because his own glasses frames were not right for the times (1860s).   I marveled at these guys smearing bacon grease in their beards and on their clothes, carrying live chickens since the Rebels often did, spooning instead of carrying heavy blankets.  Quite the tales at times and some of it rather amusing!
Other bits from the book:

In Salisbury, NC, he attended a Jackson-Lee birthday party complete with trivia and refreshments in honor of those Confederate generals.  (pg. 25)
I liked his term of "latter day rebels."  (pg. 26)
Also the discussion about Jews in Charleston was interesting.  The author is a Jew so he brought up his own family history a few times. It was always neat when he was recognized as a M.O.T.   (pg. 62)
He interviewed Shelby Foote, and I learned from him a bit more about the KKK's history and the mentality of people during its formation (pg. 153).
I loved the chapter when Tony visited the battlefield in Shiloh, TN,  and the ranger who gave Tony a personal tour explaining the story that the landscape there tells. (pg. 178)
In Atlanta, Tony met a guy from Connecticut selling Confederate t-shirts, mugs, trinkets, and other stuff.  He also met Melly Meadows - a Scarlett O'Hara lookalike - who regularly appeared at events. Who knew the Japanese were particularly fond of Scarlett (at least when this book was being researched - the mid-1990s)?
Did you know people asked about Scarlett's grave - where they could find it?  Also, at a place in Charleston one tour guide said people sometimes wondered why all the battles were fought at national parks! 
I learned about Rebel soldiers writing Yankee women (pg. 315), and Fitzgerald, Georgia, as a Yankee settlement with a goal of reconciliation - pretty cool story (pg. 332).
In Selma, AL, the author sat in on a few classrooms. In one classroom, the white students sat on one side, the black students on another, with Tony in the middle.  He asked why this was, and the students seemed to not even realize they self-segregated.  He met with students once in an alternative school for black students and discussed the Civil War.  The greatest conflict Tony reported from his whole trip (and this book has just over 400 pages with the index) was a talk with a black leader in Selma, Alabama. While Tony appreciated her work and initially admired her, they had words over Ms. Sanders' admiration of Farrakhan.

"A few things?" I snapped back. "He says Hitler is a great man. As a Jew, I've got a problem with that."
"Oh, here we go again.  Jewish suffering.  What about our suffering?  Our holocaust? What about the holocaust of Indians?"  (pg. 369)




The Lopsided Christmas Cake by Wanda & Jean Brunstetter -- an easy read for my time at Southport; not the most exciting or interesting tale, but I read it.  The story of how a couple of Amish twins met some eligible bachelors because of a baking fundraiser.


Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman -- I've read a few of her books lately. I found them in the J FIC of the library. This one is about a boy who ran away from the inn after he was caught stealing. He ends up helping a "troupe of 'oddities and prodigies' traveling from fair to fair."  This book takes place in England in 1599.




A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard -- I heard him interviewed on an NPR program, and then I saw his book in the library.  This is "a paramedic's wild ride to the edge and back." 




A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz  -- Since I found his Confederates book again, I decided I should see what else my library has by this author. This book begins with Tony in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where many Americans celebrate the founding of our country.  Plymouth Rock. Pilgrims.  The Mayflower.  All that stuff.  In this book Tony looks before that time to Vinland, the Dominican Republic, Columbus, de Soto, the Conquistadors, the French Calvinists near today's Jacksonville, Florida, and how that brought about the settlement at St. Augustine as the Spanish Catholics cleared "their" territory of these heretics (that was an especially interesting chapter to me.)  He speaks of those who came to the banks of (now) North Carolina and Virginia.  Lots of interesting stuff!



Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada -- I saw this mentioned online somewhere last year, and someone bought it for me off my Amazon Wishlist.  It has a short talk for each day of the month. Some good reminders and challenges in those few pages, too.







Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Fun Day with Sophie

On Thursday, March 17, I spent a few hours with Sophie.


First we were walking up a sidewalk, and she decided this looked like a great place to have a seat.




Later we went to Alamance Crossing's play area where she ran and climbed a bit.  Oh, and went through tunnels. 




She wanted to check out these things.



And we also saw the water.  I think she wanted to get in. It was unseasonably warm for mid-March!



I took her by the children's museum. She started playing with a wheelbarrow in the building room, and suddenly asked about her babies.  I think she remembered them from our last visit.   I told her to find them so she did.




After some time, we went outside where she enjoyed playing in the sand - and throwing both sand and mulch.



She had it all in her hair.




She had a great time with an almost-three-year old named Eddie.




In fact she followed Eddie into the water.  They aren't really supposed to get in there, but sometimes we are rebels.






Sophie made herself this much at home in the water just before I plucked her out so we could leave.  I had to change her clothes and take her home for a bath.  (Remember that hair?)



Usually the water is cleaner, but it's been "turned off" for the winter and thus got a little ... green.

Fitting for St. Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

February Books

Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn R. Gardner -- although she was born in the US to American parents, the author was on a ship to Pakistan before she was able to walk.  Most of her growing-up years were spent in that country, and this book explores her thoughts on being back in her "passport country" as an adult and how she longs for another place.  This book began as blog posts.  I think someone shared an article on Facebook and I noticed she had a book so I put it on my Amazon Wishlist, and got this for Christmas last year.   My grandfather was born in China, and only came to the US on furloughs every few years.  He went to college in the US, but later left for western Africa as a missionary. My mom was born in Paris, but left for the Niger region of Africa before she could walk. She didn't see the US until she was five.  So in some ways I tried to understand some of their thoughts - perhaps.  Also I couldn't help thinking  of my Syrian friend who went to Germany with a plan, but didn't realize when he left that soon his country would erupt in a civil war that threatens to keep him out for good - or at least that's how it appears now.  

About Third-Culture Kids she writes: "Every good story has a conflict.  Never being fully part of any world is ours.  This is what makes our stories and memories rich and worth hearing.  We live between worlds, sometimes comfortable in one, sometimes in the other, but only truly comfortable in the space between.  This is our conflict and the heart of our story."  (pg. 29)




Billy Graham: A Life Well Lived by Sam Wellman -- I think my brother gave me this book awhile back, and since it's small, I decided to pack it for the beach since sometimes I will take a book in my backpack and read at a nice spot.  I didn't read this at the beach, but I did read it on our drive home.  It's just 144 pages, and has many full page pictures (some in color).  In Unbroken which I finished on January 31 so it's in last month's book post, the author discusses how Louie's life changed after attending a Billy Graham meeting in California.  Louie suffered with tremendously awful nightmares after his ordeal as a POW in Japan.  He tried to bury his pain in drinking alcohol, and had pretty much ruined his marriage because of it.  It's that story some have, of how finding religion changes them. And it seems for Louie, it really really did.  So it was kind of cool to read this book about Billy Graham - and learning more about this man - after reading about how one of his meetings impacted someone so greatly.  Interesting tidbit to me since I like names. His mom's name was Morrow.



Lost on the Appalachian Trail by Kyle Rohrig -- I think Amazon suggested this book to me after I browsed another book on this subject. Since Andrew and I both like reading about people's journeys along the AT, I put it on my wishlist, received it for Christmas, then Andrew finished it in January, and I finished it today (Feb 6).  This is the account of the Mayor's journey from Georgia to Maine.  Unlike previous books I've read on this subject, he had his little fox-like dog Katana with him for much of the hike.  He even snuck her to the finish despite breaking the rules to do that. This book is a lot less concise, and the copy I read is a bit weird. It's like fully 377 pages with no cover title page, no publisher info, no acknowledgments. Just starts on page 1 goes to 377 and nothing else except the cover.  Kyle's story is full of lots of details, and for the most part they are informative and entertaining. 




The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot -- The front cover reads:  "Doctors took her cells without asking.  Those cells never died.  They launched a medical revolution and a multi-million-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out.  Their lives would never be the same."    Someone sent this to me for Christmas. I'm glad she did.  Such an interesting story!

 
 
I Sleep in Hitler's Room by Tuvia Tenebom -- I read a book about this Jew's visit to Israel/Palestine last year. I saw this book about his visit to Germany, and put it on my wishlist. I liked the other book better, but this was OK.  He gets a little too hung up on German anti-Semitism, in my opinion, but putting myself in his shoes, I guess it's understandable.  I thought his comment about Germany welcoming in people who also hate Jews (he regularly mixes hatred of Israel with hatred of Jews, but I don't think that's totally untrue as I hear many Muslims/Arabs/Persians, etc. do the same) doesn't bode well for Germany.  And this book was written before the massive influx of hundreds of thousands more Muslims/Arabs who grow up with that hatred. So ...  I do wonder what Tuvia would say about Germany now.



Biking Across America: My Coast-to-Coast Adventure and the People I Met Along the Way by Paul Stutzman -- We read his book about hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, and Andrew saw he had this book so I ordered it.  The author begins his journey way up in Washington and rides through 13 states in just under 80 days. He ends his journey in Key West, Florida, traveling a bit under five thousand miles.



The Romani Gypsies by Yaron Matras -- I saw this on Amazon several months ago, put it on my wishlist and received it for Christmas.  It was interesting to read more about these people, about their origins (central India), their language and how it's been influenced by the dominant languages in areas where they've lived. I really enjoyed the part about what they think is clean or unclean, and how the upper body was fine to show off, but the lower body was not.  Related to this somewhat, they won't usually wash clothes worn on the upper body (clean) with clothes worn on the lower body (unclean.) 



UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin -- My sister had this book and I decided to read it.  It's the story of the lady who played Stephanie Tanner on the old sitcom Full House which has now come back as a Netflix offer of Fuller House.  What a disaster her life has been with all the drugs and drinking!  I saw the book was published in 2009, and so I looked her up to see how life has changed since then.  Another marriage and divorce under her belt, another daughter, another stint in rehab. Ugh.  I despise drugs and alcohol!



Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis - Deuteronomy by David Bokovoy -- I think I saw Andrew Heiss rate this one on Facebook, and I put it on my Amazon wishlist. I sometimes find it interesting to hear what other faiths think about the Bible, and this book was from an LDS perspective.  I really enjoyed the chapter on Mesopotamian influences on the Bible (the creation story, the flood, etc.), and I liked the chapters on Higher Criticism of the books on Moses and Abraham better than I expected.  (We don't have those books in my faith so I thought they would be somewhat boring.  The Moses chapter was especially intriguing.)    The author mentioned about love/hate being different in the biblical world. It was more of "a covenantal devotion to one's superior" vs. "the status of an individual outside of this affiliation."  Thus "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated" makes more sense.  (pg. 119)  I also liked the part about why Cain's vegetable offering was rejected because the ground was cursed. I'd often heard it said that people would have to get food from the ground through hard work...that was the curse.  But I'd never paid attention to the ground actually being cursed.  (Gen. 3:17)   And soon after that...Cain is offering God something from the ground!  (We don't have the LDS scripture about Cain loving Satan more than God and pretty much planning to give God a cursed offering, but that was an interesting tidbit even if I don't accept that scripture for myself.)  Oh, God removed the curse from the ground after the flood. (Gen. 8:20,21), and accepted offerings from the ground later.  Many things in the book's conclusion made me a bit leery as someone who grew up believing the Bible was true, and God preserved it, and all that stuff.  Many of the LDS arguments there sound so much like Islamic arguments about the Bible which I've thoroughly rejected in past years (about future revelations (e.g., the Quran, the Book of Mormon) correcting the Bible. I still reject those even if I do understand the point about humans being fallible.) 




Over the Hills by David Lamb -- this is the account of a journalist's ride across the US in the mid-1990s. He began his trip near his home in northern Virginia, and traveled to Los Angeles.  I enjoyed his account of people he met, and also of the history of roads and bicycling, and famous cyclists. 




Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin -- I found this at a book exchange in Southport a few months ago.  It used to be part of the Islip Public Library in Islip, New York, and also part of the Rourk Branch Library in Shallotte, NC. It's made its rounds, I guess.  This story dealt a lot with baseball, and growing up with three New York teams.  This author was an avid fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and she told stories of her life growing up in New York City, and how family life was back in the 1950s.  While baseball isn't my favorite sport by any means, I enjoyed learning about her life and how national and international events shaped her life and her community.   I may see about reading some of her other books. This one was a memoir, but she is a historian.



Return to Sullivans Island by Dorothea Benton Frank -- another book I got in Southport.  This one is about a college grad, Beth Hayes (I have a cousin with this name), who is house sitting for her family as her mom is away in Paris for a year, and her aunt is in California.  Mostly I thought the book was only OK... maybe one or two parts were interesting, but not that much.



Cairo to Damascus by John Roy Carlson -- I found this at a local book exchange. It looked old, and the title interested me!  The author is an Armenian American who was born in what is now Greece, and came to the US with his family when he was twelve.  In this book he travels to London, Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, and Beirut sometimes posing as a Nazi-loving, pro-Arab journalist, and at other times living amongst the Jews.  It's really sad to see how much the Germans and Arabs hated the Jews.  Ugh...makes me wonder about those Arabs coming now to live among their old allies.  By the way,  Wikipedia gives this as the author's real name:  Avedis Boghos Derounian.  He was born over one hundred years ago.



Re-reading Job:Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem by Michael Austin -- this is another book recommended by Andrew Heiss on Facebook which I got for Christmas.  I really enjoyed this book from the get-go!  ; see previous posts (three of them)




Second Chance Family by Margaret Daley -- a small book I found at Southport's book exchange recently; a widowed father and his autistic son meet a lady who is a teacher assistant at the local school




Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux -- see previous post

Monday, February 29, 2016

Bits from "Deep South"

Happy Leap Day!  Last time we had a February 29th, Andrew and I visited Bamberg, Germany, with a friend.  This year, I'm home.  How about you?


Recently Andrew and I were at a Barnes & Noble in Myrtle Beach, SC, and we were looking at travel books. I text him the names of a few authors and books that looked good.  Before buying books, I like to see if my local library has them. Sure enough the Graham library had Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux on the New Books shelf!  What an interesting read!  First a couple posts I wrote on Facebook about it:


I'm reading "Deep South" by a man from Massachusetts. In it the author, Paul Theroux, talks about food he encounters along the way. I chuckled at his description of okra "as viscous as frog spawn, next to a kettle of sodden collard greens looking like stewed dollar bills."   :-D
This was early on in the book, but I noted many pages later - this book has over 400 of them - that he ordered a side of fried okra to go with his chicken salad so ...

Also, I'm not a fan of collard greens, but I've read that partly why they are eaten on New Year's Day (or is it Eve? -- clearly it's not a southern tradition I've been part of) is that they resemble money and are supposed to be lucky.   How's that workin' out for folks, I wonder.

I included a link to the book with this recommendation on Facebook: 


If you enjoy travel books, and hearing stories about the people who live in certain areas of the world, and experiences of authors traveling there, I recommend this one. The author focuses more on the Lowcountry, the Black Belt, the Delta although not exclusively. It's an interesting collection of stories of blacks, whites, even a Lumbee or two. What I like, too, is that the author didn't just write about a one-time journey through these cities and states. He went back in the different seasons, and checked in on people he met during previous trips, and sometimes he met new people. He visited churches, and gun shows, pawn shops, diners, and more.



-----------------------

Here are just other tidbits from the book that I noted:


In this book I met such interesting characters such as the lawyer/pastor Virgin Johnson ("My grandfather picked the name, it seemed special - Virgin Mary, virgin soil, virgin anything. My son is Virgin the Third." pg. 60) of South Carolina; the Greensboro, Alabama, historian "Our Randall Curb"; the author Mr. Curb introduced us to, Mary Ward Brown (called Mary T - short for Mary Thomas) age 95, and many, many more!   The author speaks of southern literature, the use of the N-word including the usage by black rappers and how black folks greet each other in some circles with forms of this word "nigga" or "niggaz" (some claim that by using it, they take the power out of it.); he takes us to Bill Clinton's birthplace as well as the area in which he grew up.   I really enjoyed learning more about Strom Thurmond's secret, biracial daughter.   And what should one think of the claim about white southern politicians supporting racial groups because it was politically good for them?  (The author mentioned Bill Clinton's eulogy of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.) 



The author has traveled to many places in the world, and often hearing someone's story is easy.  But he notes: "Poor Americans, who have very little, still have their privacy - in many ways it is their last possession, and they resist losing it. That is a challenge for a traveler who is curious to know: What do people do when they don't appear to do anything?"  (pg. 24)





"...people attended church to find hope, dignity, love, consolation, fellowship, and advice. The church was central to life here in a way I had never seen elsewhere in the United States - certainly not where I was born. A church in the South resembled the life around a mosque or a temple in India or Africa."  (pg. 149)



The author mentions "Dot Indians" who have come to the South and own a bunch of the hotels.  Overwhelmingly (70% of all Indian owned hotels) these people have the last name Patel and come from the same region of India.  (pg. 161)  Also he noted once or twice that the reason Indians owned the hotels were that white people didn't want to sell them to black people.



The author goes to at least three gun shows, and he comments how polite and considerate everyone is there. He describes the process for checking in, emptying your guns, and tagging them.   I have never been to a gun show or a pawn shop (that I recall) so it was interesting to read about those experiences and impressions especially related to who goes to the shows and the atmosphere there.


I enjoyed a couple of stories shared about people he met - at their houses or places of work --  who wanted to shoot guns with him. One was a sixty-two-year-old lady who wanted to see if she were a better shot than he (she was.)



One time the author showed up for an appointment fifteen minutes late.  A black lady in attendance was angry, and started talking about "white privilege," accusing him of taking advantage because he was late and didn't bother to call when he could have (he had a cell phone, after all!)  She accused, you didn't bother to call because you are white. You assumed I'd wait for you to come since I'm black!  He was stunned by her accusation.

And then there is this...

In Vicksburg, Mississippi,  when he told the group in a restaurant that he was from Massachusetts a white lady turned hostile accusing him of starving them.  "You made us eat rats!" she said referring to the siege (that was 1863, folks.)


As one person he met along the way said of the South, "history is alive and well here." 



Thankfully, the author didn't write in dialect throughout the whole book.  He did a little at times, but it wasn't overdone.  (If it had been, I'd probably stop reading.)  I'm a Southerner, but I hate reading more than a few words written in our accent.  I am used to writing and reading in a regular way, no' lahk thees, ya know?  Occasionally he'd mention a person saying he'p for help or "what the hail are you doing?"  cause we often really do say "hell" like "hail."   One thing the author quoted early on in the book were the words "ah mo."  I immediately recognized "ah" for the way many of us say "I," but "mo" threw me.  Is this "more"?  But then I read a few of the sentences out loud, and it made more sense.   One example. See if you can figure it out. 

Eutaw's first black mayor had served three terms, but lost the last election.  He spoke of how the election was dirty, and when the author suggested that he - Mayor Steele - could now just run his dry-cleaning business and let the new mayor try to solve Eutaw's problems, the former mayor is quoted as saying, "Exactly right.  Ah mo buy me some popcorn, set me down, and watch the show."  (pg. 81)


I read one of Peter Theroux's (Paul's brother) books back in late 2011.  Peter's book was about his travels in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Here is that post.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"God Can Take It"

One last bit from the book I've written about the last couple of days.


I enjoyed this section under "God Can Take It."   I couldn't help but think of an atheist friend whom I've never met, but we've been blogger, and now Facebook friends, for several years.  I know bits and pieces about her past so, while she sometimes posts vile things about God and my beliefs in Jesus - some things that make me cringe a little because they are blasphemous, I try to "listen" to her suffering heart, remembering from where she comes, and pray instead that Love will one day reach her and heal her. 




Speaking of interpreting the message of Job after "suffering on the scale of the Holocaust," the author says about the Book of Job, "We cannot read into it reassurances that things will work out for us in the end if we just trust God, for things do not always work out.  Interpretations of Job that do no more than confirm the absolute wonderfulness of God simply do not speak to the pain and suffering of real people.



... Those of us who choose to believe in a benevolent and powerful God, despite the suffering that we see all around us,...cannot use God, or our belief in God, to dismiss other people's pain.  Sometimes, this means listening to things that make us uncomfortable or challenge our beliefs.  It means allowing people to speak ill of things that we think well of - including (and perhaps especially) ourselves.  And it means listening compassionately to those who criticize, contradict, or seek justice from God or from the human institutions that claim to represent Him.  God can take care of Himself; our responsibility is to take care of each other. 



To meet our obligations to our fellow human beings, we need not believe that God is lacking in either power or goodness.  We just need to understand that He does not require our assistance in dealing with challenges to His authority.  We do not have to protect God from criticisms, complaints, and petitions...He can take criticism.  He can handle complaints.  And He has no need to fear when human beings ask Him to do things differently.  Too many people - often from positions of ecclesiastical authority - spend their time trying to make sure that God's feelings do not get hurt.  This is how we become the Comforters [used in this book to refer to Job's friends] when we should be listening - really listening with our hearts - to the suffering Job."




An excerpt from page 134  of  Re-reading Job:Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem by Michael Austin

Friday, February 26, 2016

Job and Jesus

Just something I wanted to note from the book I mentioned yesterday.



"If there is one uncontestable theme in the Book of Job it is that God lies entirely outside human understanding. ... If anybody manages to read all the way to the end of Job without getting the point, Yahweh himself shouts it from a whirlwind for the last four chapters.  God is not the sort of being that humans can even begin to understand.

The problem with perspective goes both ways. Human beings cannot understand God, but, at the same time, Job's God shows little ability to sympathize with human beings.  God's speeches are not even as comforting as those of Job's friends. He shows no interest in Job's feelings or his pain. He sees some people making theological arguments based on false premises and decides to spend a few hours shouting sarcastic comments out of a whirlwind in order to set them straight.  The Book of Job, therefore, shows us two perspectives - human and divine - that cannot be reconciled to each other.  Job, therefore, introduces the argument that human beings have a desperate need for reconciliation with God, which is also a central theme of the New Testament.

As one who was both fully human and fully divine, Jesus Christ could inhabit both perspectives at the same time.  He could simultaneously experience both Job's agony and God's responsibility. As Paul writes in his first epistle to Timothy, 'there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus' (I Tim. 2:5)."  

An excerpt from pages 116-117  of  Re-reading Job:Understanding the Ancient World's Greatest Poem by Michael Austin