War has a way to pulling us apartment, forcing us to see someone else as “the other”. It can also bring us together and remind us of our common humanity.
Letters Across the Sea, by Genevieve Graham, was published earlier this year. In Toronto in the summer of 1933, Hannah Dreyfus and Molly Ryan are best friends. Both the grandchildren of immigrants (Eastern European Jews and Irish Catholic respectively), they are friends in a time in which antisemitism is rising in their hometown. Though Molly only sees her BFF and has a crush on Max, Hannah’s big brother, other people are not so tolerant of their differences. Things come to a boil in August during the Christie Pits riot, forcing Hannah and Molly to go their separate ways.
Six years later, World War II is on the horizon. After years of toiling at any job she could get, Molly has finally gotten her dream job as a journalist. Men from across the country have enlisted. Among them are Max and Molly’s brothers. When the letters from the soldiers start to arrive, Molly must contend with the past and the unspoken truth that has been buried since that night in 1933.
This book is amazing. Graham’s eye for the historical facts while creating a fictional world is top notch. I was fully invested in the story, hoping that Molly and Max would get together while praying that the male characters would come home. It was a history lesson in the best way, learning about this time in Canadian history without feeling like the reader is sitting in a university lecture hall.
Today is the 204 anniversary of the passing of Jane Austen. To say that she was extraordinary in her time and ours is and will always be an understatement. Though her physical remains are long gone, her name and her work will last forever.
After watching a few episodes, I can understand why some Orthodox Jewish women are annoyed by how their community is portrayed, I think the viewer has to take into account that this is Haart’s perspective. I like the mental health aspect of the series, addressing how many women in conservative or fundamentalist may feel trapped by the constraints of their gender and the rules of their gender. I also liked how positively Judaism is portrayed. Though Haart is no longer Orthodox, she is still Jewish and not afraid to be open about it. It is educational without hitting the audience over the head.
It has the gloss of a Bravo reality show, but it is slightly less trashy and not as much of a brain drain as other programs in the genre.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
My Unorthodox Life is available for streaming on Netflix.
I apologize for not posting last week. I moved and writing temporarily went to the back burner.
*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. I remember being the new kid in school. It is one of the most awkward experiences of my life up to that point. You want to look like you belong, but the reality is that you stick out like a sore thumb.
In Clueless, Tai Frasier (the late Brittany Murphy) has just transferred high schools. Befriended by Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), they decide that Tai needs a makeover. Like her literary predecessor, Harriet Smith, Tai is an outsider who looks up her new pals. When she starts to become friendly with socially inappropriate skater boy Travis (Breckin Meyer), she is steered toward big man on campus Elton (Jeremy Sisto).
But Elton is first rate asshole. He is using Tai to get to Cher. After this revelation and nearly being killed, Tai becomes confident and is no longer the student to Cher’s teacher. This leads to a temporary crush on Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd) and eventually back to Travis and teenage happily ever after (at least for the time being).
To sum it up: Switching schools is an opportunity to start over. But if you were to ask the young person, they would likely say that wished that they were back in their old school. Instead of living in the past, Tai accepts her fate and has the social/love life that the high school experience is made of.
Menstruation is a normal and natural part of human existence. But in many parts of the world and many cultures, it is considered to be a taboo subject that is both misunderstood and vilified.
Period. End of Sentence.: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice, by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent), was published earlier this year. Inspired by the 2018 Netflix film Period. End of Sentence., Diamant explores how one’s monthly visitor is perceived. Throughout most of human history and even into our present day, it is considered to be dirty. There are traditions that state that when someone is menstruating, they must be separated from their families and every day lives. Due to this false and misleading mythology, many women and girls are denied the same educational and professional opportunities that their brothers, fathers, and husbands don’t think twice about. She also talks about how individual companies and governments are slowly starting to undo the menstrual injustice that have plagued humanity for millennia.
I really enjoyed this book. It delves into a topic that it is intrinsic to the experience of half of the human population, but it is not given the respect that it is due. One thing I was surprised about was that some men don’t even know what a period is. Others believe it to be related to sex and sexual activity, forcing young women into a life that does not exist beyond the borders of home and family.
Art does not come from nothing. It comes from the world around us and the experiences that have shaped our lives.
Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics by Tom Keymer, was published last year. In the book, Keymer walks the reader through the Regency era and how that world had a hand in developing her voice as a writer. He goes into the politics of the period, the complete disenfranchisement of women, and how a strict, but slowly fading class system played a role in her work.
I loved it. It was short, concise, and a reminder as to why Austen’s work continues to be timeless and universal. I will say, however, that it is aimed at two specific and different groups of readers. The book can be read in an academic setting, but it is neither dry nor stuffy. It also squarely falls into the Janeite camp. My one warning is that to truly enjoy it, the reader should be well versed in her life and work. Otherwise, they may not understand the nuances and the details that a long-time Jane Austen fan can easily identify.
I wanted to like this book. If I am to be completely honest, it was an infodump. In writing terms, an infodump is where the writer(s) provide the reader with a lot of information without emotion or insight into what the characters are thinking or feeling. Now granted, this is a memoir and not a fiction book. What I was missing was the quickening of my pulse and the uncertainty of the dangerous situations she put herself into.
Once upon a time (the 1980’s and early 1990’s to be specific), Bill Cosby and his family sitcom, The Cosby Show was everywhere. He was America’s TV dad, breaking boundaries and telling stories that we all could relate to, regardless of skin color.
Cut to nearly 40 years later; Cosby was a felon, found guilty of sexual assault. But as of yesterday, he was released from prison due to the accusation that his due process rights were violated.
Adding fuel to the fire, his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad initially supported him by the following tweet on Wednesday:
“FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
By Thursday, it had been retracted and replaced with another tweet.
Starts at 6:09
This is why the #Metoo movement exists. To make sure men like Cosby are given their day in court and then locked in jail for the rest of their natural lives. While I understand that Rashad and Cosby have been friends and colleagues for years, she should not be excusing his behavior. She should be calling him out on what he did and standing by the victims.
As a response to her initial tweet, Howard University, where Rashad is a Dean of the College of Fine arts, has received complaints from students, parents, and potential students. Honestly, I don’t blame them. By condoning him, she sends the message that these kinds of act are not just acceptable, but those found guilty will get just a slap on the wrist.
When it comes to rape and sexual assault, we have finally reached the place in which the victims are believed and the perpetrators get what is coming to them. Bill Cosby’s release is not just wrong and disgusting, it is a cold reminder why we still need #Metoo.
The good thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is the room to find a new narrative angle. The bad thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is how quickly it can go wrong.
The 2018 movie, Opheliais a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.
Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.
*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. We all need a best friend. Someone who gets us completely, who loves us for who we are, and can call us out on our shit when need be. In Clueless, Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash) is the best friend of the film heroine, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone).
Like Cher, Dionne is high on the social pyramid at their local high school. The difference between them is that while Cher is quick to use her popularity for the greater good, Dionne has to be convinced that it is a good idea. She is also known to be the quieter and more intelligent of the two, usually when Cher is starting to question certain things.
But there is one aspect of her life in which Dionne gets on the emotional roller herself: her relationship with boyfriend Murray Duvall (Donald Faison). Though they are in love, they are also known to get into public fights that draw a crowd. When the subject of her virginity comes up, it goes from maybe its there to maybe its not to finally completely gone after the incident on the highway.
To sum it up: What makes Dionne’s relationship with Cher believable is the genuine chemistry between the actors and innate understanding that the characters have of one another. It is just there, removing the logic that what we are watching is fiction and not real life.