Category Archives: Books

America Is Better Than This: Trump’s War Against Migrant Families Book Review

America’s story, as a whole, is made up of millions of individual stories of immigrants. Unfortunately, there are some who for political reasons, conveniently forget these stories. But there are others in the corridors of power who are determined that new generations of immigrants are given the opportunities as past immigrants.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) is determined to not only keep these stories alive, he is equally determined to remind Americans about the inhuman treatment that those who wish to become Americans are experiencing. In his new book, America Is Better Than This: Trump’s War Against Migrant Families, Senator Merkley writes about his first hand experience at the border. In visiting migrants who are forced into what are essentially internment camps, where children are separated from their parents, he reveals the hard truth that we, as a country, must face.

As I see it, there are too many politicians these days who are too willing to bury their heads in the sand or to further their careers. I admire Senator Merkley for speaking up and reminding us that, according to his must read book, America is better than this.

I recommend it.

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Flashback Friday- Charlotte’s Web (1973)

As we get older, certain books take us back to our childhood and simpler times.

In 1973, the beloved children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White was made into an animated film starring the late Debbie Reynolds as the titular spider. Through her wisdom and a flair for marketing, Charlotte is able to save a pig from ending up on the dinner table.

There is something magical about this adaptation, no matter how old you are. The lessons apply to young and old, but are couched in a way that does not feel like a lesson. It feels like a gentle maternal nudge in the right direction is that neither forced or sudden.

I recommend it.

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A Pure Heart Book Review

The relationship between sisters is often complicated.

The new novel, A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib, is set in New York City and Egypt. Rose and Gameela are sisters. At one time, they were very close, but their adult lives are completely different. Rose is married to Mark, an American journalist and living in New York City. She works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is studying for her Phd.

Gameela is much more devoted to their mutual faith than her sister. Unlike her sister, she is still living in their hometown of Cairo. In the chaos and violence after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, she is killed. After her sister’s death, Rose returns to Egypt and is trying to figure out who Gameela was and what secrets she was keeping.

The premise of this novel was interesting. I appreciated that the driving force of the narrative was the sisters and their relationship as adults. Like many sisters, they disagree on quite a few topics, but when push comes to shove, they are sisters and forever bonded as sisters. Though the ending was not as dramatic as I hoped it would be, this book overall is not a bad book.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story Book Review

For over 200 years, America, despite her flaws, has stood out as a beacon of democracy and liberty. These days, some question if the image of America is just that, especially given who is in the White House.

In the new book, The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story, radio and television journalist Joy-Ann Reid explores how you know who has forever altered this country.

She starts the book comparing New York City to it’s fictional comic counterpart, Gotham City and you know who to one of the many villains who take pleasure in antagonizing Batman. She then goes on to explore how you know who’s Presidency has forever changed America and questions what may change when he leaves office.

This book is an interesting one. Among the many books that have been published over the last couple of years about you know who and his administration, Ms. Reid writes about an angle of the story that I don’t think has been explored before. If nothing else, I think this book is the nudge that America needs to get involved in the future of our country before it is too late.

I recommend it.

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Blinded by the Light Movie Review

When one thinks of the bedroom of the average teenager, they think of a room covered with posters of a favorite performer. In the late 1980’s, Sarfraz Manzoor (the author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park) was like any other teenager with one exception: his love of Bruce Springsteen‘s music was more of an obsession than the typical teenage fan.

His story is told in the new movie, Blinded by the Light. The late 1980’s was not an easy time to live in the UK. Economic and social unrest was the news of the day. The late Margaret Thatcher was running for another term as Prime Minister. In Luton, 16 year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) is your average teenage boy. He wants to write, but his strict Pakistani immigrant father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has other ideas about his son’s future.

Then Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his world changed forever. But he is caught between the expectations of his family and his own idea of what his future will look like. It takes his teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) to convince Javed to go for his dream, but at what cost?

I really love this film. I love that it speaks to all of us, regardless of age. The expectation of what everyone else expects of you vs following your own heart is a story that has been told time and again. But in the context of this film, this basic narrative with added layers of race, relationships and music, it becomes a story that is both personal and universal.

I absolutely recommend it.

Blinded by the Light is presently in theaters.

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Thoughts on the New Little Women Trailer

Little Women is one of those books. It is the literary gateway drug that for many young bookworms (myself included). I remember reading an abridged version of the novel when I was around eleven or twelve. I loved it then and almost thirty years later, that love has blossomed into a life long affection.

The trailer for the reboot written and directed by Greta Gerwig was just released earlier today. Stepping into the iconic, universal and beloved roles of the March sisters are Emma Watson (Meg), Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Eliza Scanlan (Beth) and Florence Pugh (Amy). Supporting and sometimes bumping heads with the March girls are Marmee (Laura Dern), Laurie (Timothée Chalamet ) and Meryl Streep (Aunt March).

As a friend stated on Facebook, about this trailer and the film’s potential success, ” If anyone can top Winona’s Jo, is DEFINITELY Saoirse”. I have an incredible amount of love for the 1994 adaptation, but if this version can top that love, I will love this film forever.

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Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland Book Review

Sometimes, the enemy is found within and not without.

Earlier this year, the new book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, was published. Written by Professor and Psychologist Jonathan M. Metzl, the book talks about how the policies and beliefs of the conservative movement are hurting and not helping those who adhere to those beliefs.

In the book, Dr. Metzel delves into topics such as the ACA, the debate about America’s gun laws and other topics that continue to divide this country and ultimately shortening the lives of the men whom he interviewed.

Some might see this book as slightly academic in nature. I think in a certain light, it is an academic book. But, from my perspective, it is a cultural and sociological review of a sector of our country that many of us either dismiss or don’t consider because they are not part of our daily lives. I think this book is an important read, especially as we get closer to the 2020 Presidential election.

I recommend it.

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Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism Book Review

In our politically and socially divided world, the easy thing to do is to do nothing and let someone else step on the soapbox. It is far more difficult to get on that soapbox and do what right, even in the face of massive opposition.

Two years ago, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia was the badly needed wake up call that America needed. We may think that racism and prejudice is a thing of the past. But that day proved that it is still alive and well in the United States.

Terry McAuliffe was then Governor of Virginia. In his new book, Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism, the former Governor writes about the time before, during and after the rally. He is candid about his frustration with the bureaucracy of the city government, his belief that the rally should not have happened and the steps he took after the rally to prevent another unnecessary loss of life.

I wish there were more politicians like former Governor McAuliffe. He saw the coming storm in the distance and did what he had to do. It was not easy what he did, but did what he could to stand up for democracy and against those who would use hate to further a destructive agenda.

I recommend it.

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Ashes in the Snow Book Review

When we think of the atrocities and the mass murder that was unfortunately part and parcel of World War II, we think of the Nazis and the Holocaust. We don’t think of the Soviet Union.

Ruta Sepetys‘s 2018 novel, Ashes in the Snow (originally titled Between Shades of Gray) begins in Lithuania in 1941. Lina is your average fifteen year old girl with a passion and a gift for art that shows promise. Then her world is turned upside down by the occupation of the Baltic states.

Soviet officers force themselves into her home in the middle of the night. Separated from her father, Lina, along with her mother, young brother and many others are forced into crowded trains. Their destination is Siberia and a work camp that is dehumanizing in every sense of the word.

Lina uses her artistic skills to keep herself alive mentally and to draw what she is experiencing while hoping that her drawings will reach her father. In spite of the conditions she is living in, Lina fights to survive with her family, but is that enough to keep them alive until they are free?

This book is amazing and a must read, in my opinion. It is obviously not an easy book to read, but a necessary book to read. Experiencing this world through Lina’s eyes, we see this young girl grow into a young woman under circumstances that I would wish on no one. If one thing stood out to me, was that Lina has this incredible source of inner strength that keeps her going when she could easily give up and let death take her.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Guesthouse for Ganesha: A Novel Book Review

When we think of our what may or may not happen on our wedding day, the last thing we think of is being jilted by our almost husband or wife.

This is the inciting incident in Judith Teitelman’s new book, Guesthouse for Ganesha: A Novel. In 1923, brokenhearted that her fiance ran away with another woman on the day that they were to marry, seventeen year old Esther leaves her shtetl (village) for the big city. The baggage she carries is more than her solitary suitcase, it is the unspoken grief and anger of what should have been her wedding day. From that day on, her heart is cold.

Skilled with a needle and thread, Esther makes her living as a tailor and seamstress. Along the way, she marries and has three children, but not even their presence can replace the life she might have had. Then World War II and the slowly tightening noose around Europe’s Jews begins. Esther’s skills and emotional barriers may keep her alive, but for how long?

While all this is happening, she in unaware of her guardian angel, the Hindu G-d Ganesha. Watching and admiring her from his realm, he provides silent support to a woman whose emotional strength may be the only thing to keep above ground.

I was very impressed with this book. On the surface, the mingling of European history from the 1920’s to the 1940’s and a Hindu diety seems like a perfect mismatch. What the author was able is craft a riveting story of strength, survival and the idea that perhaps we all have our own guardian angels. We may not be able to hear or see them, but they are always with us.

I recommend it.

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