Harry & Meghan Documentary Review

A logical mind would say that we ought to believe that everything that we read in the press is true. We can hope that the journalists have done their homework before putting (digital) pen to paper. But a realistic mind says otherwise. There are some publications that are more than happy to fudge the facts in order to increase sales.

The new six-part Netflix documentary, Harry & Meghan was released this weekend. In this docuseries, Harry and Meghan sit in front of their camera and tell the story. From their early years to their eventual courtship, marriage, and becoming parents, nothing is off-limits. Backing up the couple are family, friends, and a handful of respected experts who add additional details to the narrative.

I found their honesty to be refreshing and real. Harry talks about the mental health challenges he experienced after the death of his late mother, Princess Diana. For her part, Meghan describes the racism she experienced as a biracial woman. The villain in this piece is the media, charged with spreading lies and half-truths in order to get eyeballs on screen and hands on newspapers.

Though some say that the facts have been smudged, I think the message is clear. The purpose of the program is to hear their story in their own words, which I think is quite refreshing. It is also telling (in my mind, at least), there are crickets coming from the palace. Instead of responding to the criticism, the silence speaks volumes.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The first three episodes of Harry & Meghan are available for viewing on Netflix. The next (and final) three episodes drop on the 15th.

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Sanditon Character Review: Georgiana Lambe

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting last week. I had other writing priorities that came first.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. 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.

It blows my mind, that in 2022, race is still an issue. Instead of being seen merely as skin color, it is used to judge one another. Back in Jane Austen‘s era, the very thought of probing this topic was revolutionary. Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) is Austen’s first and only character of color.

Georgiana is a biracial heiress from Antigua whose mere presence in the town ruffles feathers. Among those who are a bit too curious is Lady Denham (Anne Reid). Without any direct family to support or provide for her, she is under the legal guardianship of Sidney Parker (Theo James). Feeling constrained by her circumstances, Georgiana bristles against Sidney and her house mother, Mrs. Griffiths (Elizabeth Berrington). One of her few outlets is her friendship with Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams).

When her past love, Otis Molyneux (Jyuddah Jaymes) arrives in town, both Georgiana and Charlotte play a game of subterfuge. Sidney does not approve of Otis because he believes that he only wants to marry her for her fortune. Later on, when Otis is up to his eyeballs in debt, he uses her name as collateral. This turns into a kidnapping which is only stopped by Sidney. As expected, Georgiana tells Otis where he can go.

When we see her again in the second season, her guardianship has been switched to Tom and Mary Parker (Kris Marshall and Kate Ashfield). Now that she is nearing her majority, it is even more important to ensure that she marries well. When Georgiana meets artist Charles Lockhart (Alexander Vlahos), she is initially skeptical of him. But over time, the skepticism turns into romance. That romance fizzles out when Lockhart reveals his true colors.

It would have been easy for her to crumble, given both her past and her present circumstances. But Georgiana has a backbone and is not afraid to speak her mind. What I personally like about her is her strength, knowing full well that a well-bred woman keeps her opinions to herself in that era.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

Sanditon Character Review: Charlotte Heywood

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the book and the television show Sanditon. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. 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.

Growth does not come from taking the easy way out. It comes from walking on an unseen path, not knowing what lies ahead. The heroine of the PBS/Masterpiece television series, Sanditon (based on the unfinished Jane Austen novel of the same) is Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams). Born to a rural farming family, her world opens tenfold when Tom and Mary Parker‘s (Kris Marshall and Kate Ashfield) carriage crashes.

Grateful for their brief respite, the Parkers offer Charlotte to stay with them for a short time in Sanditon, a growing seaside community. Among those who she meets are Tom’s younger brother, Sidney (Theo James), and Miss Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke). Sidney is a realist while Tom has his head in the clouds. Georgiana is a biracial heiress and is much as an outsider as Charlotte is.

Charlotte is also eager to spread her wings and not find love (at least not yet). She is eager to expand her mind and takes it upon herself to get involved with Tom’s business ventures.

Like many couples, Charlotte and Sidney’s relationship does not start off well. There are misunderstandings and miscommunication. But that eventually turns into mutual attraction, which turns into love. But there is no happy ending for Charlotte and Sidney. To save the family business, he must marry his widowed and wealthy ex. He then dies soon after, leaving her heartbroken.

After spending time at home recovering from her loss, Charlotte returns to Sanditon. Joining her is her younger sister, Alison (Rosie Graham). Alison is in the same emotional place that her sister was previously. Determined not to marry, Charlotte accepts a position as the governess for Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). She also meets Colonel Francis Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones). As with an Austen-ian love interest, there is a question of who is telling the truth and who is a good liar.

To sum it up: Through friendship, falling in love, and heartbreak, Charlotte starts to mature. Even when she is down in the dumps, she finds the strength to move forward and find happiness/purpose. Considering the time and place that she lives in, this is both refreshing and modern. The way I look it at is that if she can pick herself up and move on, then so can the rest of us.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

The Weight of Blood Book Review

Bullying is, unfortunately, part of the school experience. Though it may seem normal, the after-effects can linger long after we have grown up.

The new novel, The Weight of Blood, by Tiffany D. Jackson, was published at the beginning of the month. Essentially, it is a modern reboot of Carrie with the added weight of racism.

Madison “Maddy” Washington has been a social outcast for as long as anyone can remember. Raised by her fanatical Caucasian father in a small Georgia town, no one knows that she is biracial. That is until a storm reveals the truth and Maddy becomes an ever bigger target for the popular girls/school bullies.

When a video of this incident is leaked out, the administration has some serious explaining to do. The leaders of the student body (one of whom is Maddy’s tormentors) devise a plan to hold an integrated prom for the first time in the town’s history. Feeling guilty for everything that has happened, Wendy, the class President, knows that something has to be done. She asks her African American quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to the prom.

For the first time in her life, Maddy starts to believe that she will be like any other teenager. She does not know that her peers have one more trick up their sleeves. But they don’t know that she has a secret of her own, which could be deadly if and/or when it is unleased.

I loved this book. Jackson does an amazing job of being true to the original text while taking the narrative to another level. In adding racism to the already heightened story of a girl who is teased and humiliated by her classmates, she speaks of the short-term and long-term damage that both create.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I would say it is in the top ten new books of 2022.

The Weight of Blood is available wherever books are sold.

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Ben and Beatriz: A Novel Book Review

Among the thousands of writers that have existed throughout history, there is only a handful who have reinvented or added to stories as we know them to be today. One of them is William Shakespeare.

Katalina Gamarra‘s new romantic comedy, Ben and Beatriz: A Novel was published last month. It is essentially Much Ado About Nothing set among a group of modern twenty-somethings. Beatriz Herrera and Ben Montgomery are as different as night and day. Beatriz is a queer, biracial Latina who can take you down a peg or two with her sharp tongue if needed. Ben Montgomery is an all-American boy who comes from a WASP 1% family whose politics couldn’t be farther from Beatriz’s.

Though they claim to hate one another, underneath that hate is an attraction that cannot be ignored. As their expectations about one another begin to dissipate, there is a question of whether they can be honest about their feelings and their future as a couple.

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I was so excited to read this book. Unfortunately, the excitement quickly turned to disappointment. The promises made by the description were not fulfilled. Though the reader is told that Beatriz is queer and trying to hide it because of the political climate, it was barely mentioned. I kept asking myself if it was just being used to pull in readers without truly exploring this part of her persona.

Though the author does a good job of balancing the original text while recreating it in our time, it cannot be overcome by the expectations that were not met.

Do I recommend it? No.

Ben and Beatriz: A Novel is available for purchase in bookstores.

Domestic Supply of Infants is Not That Hard to Understand

The difference between being seen as breeding stock and a fully-fledged human being with responsibilities, dreams, ambitions, etc comes down to one word: rights.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made a very damning and unnerving statement in the body of the leaked draft of the opinion that could potentially overturn Roe V. Wade. Buried in the footnotes is a quote from a 2002 CDC report about adoption within the United States.

“Whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted has become virtually nonexistent.”

I’m going to let NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the late George Carlin take it from here.

What bothers me are two things. The first thing is that it opens the door to a slippery slope. Abortion is low-hanging fruit to these people. What’s next? Losing access to birth control? Taking away the ability to marry for LGBTQ couples and biracial couples? Undoing the 19th amendment and the 14th amendment?

The second thing is that this opinion is based on rulings that are centuries old. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that they are grasping at straws, finding any legal theory (even the archaic ones) that they believe will support their cause.

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about SCOTUS judges. Their appointments are for life. But we can vote for Democrats at every level. They are the only ones who are both working for the people of this nation and fighting for the freedoms that we all hold dear.

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Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family Book Review

The Passover story and the Exodus of the Hebrews from slavery to freedom is a potent one. In one way or another, we can all relate to the idea of breaking free from whatever is holding us back.

Laura Arnold Leibman‘s new book, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family was published back in August. The book traces the ancestry of Blanche Moses. Moses, whose Jewish-American ancestry goes back to the Revolutionary War, tells the story of her biracial ancestors. Both Jewish (mostly Sephardic with a handful of Ashkenazi) and black, her ancestors had to navigate a world in which they could be doubly ostracized while passing as Caucasian. Living in such different places as New York City, London, and the West Indies, it was akin to a game of chess, in which every move must be calculated before proceeding.

I wanted to like this book. The subject is one that is certainly of interest to me. The problem is that it is slow to read and void of the excitement that I should have had while answering the question that the book asks. While I appreciated this deep dive into a part of Jewish history that is not always in the spotlight, the promises laid out by the author are not met.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Passing Movie Review

When one is part of a minority group, there are two obvious choices. The first one is to be who you are, regardless of what is being said about you. The second is to pretend to be someone else and fit in, otherwise known as passing.

Passing is the title of the new Netflix film. Based on a book written by Nella Larsen, it is set in New York City in the 1920s. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) were friends in high school. Both are biracial and have not seen each other for many years. Irene has embraced her identity as a woman of color while Clare is passing as Caucasian. Upon meeting Clare’s very white and very prejudiced husband John (Alexander Skarsgard), Irene is both curious and disgusted by her old pal’s life preference. For her part, Clare is drawn into Irene’s circle of mostly African-American friends (including Irene’s husband, Brian, played by Andre Holland). Unlike Clare, they have openly and proudly embraced their identities. She is forced to grapple with the self-applied mask of passing she has put on.

Written and directed by Rebecca Hall (who has been speaking to the press about her own biracial identity), this is a powerhouse of a film. Though both the book and the movie tell the story of two women who are both partially of African-American descent, I felt like understood them. I’ve often spoken on this blog about my own Jewish faith and identity. I could, if I wanted to, pass as someone of another faith or no faith at all. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I am of Irish ancestry due to my red hair.

At the end of the day, it is this decision we make that defines our lives. Do we not give a fuck and just be ourselves or do we submerge who we are to be accepted by others? It is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, knowing the outcome has to potential to have life-altering consequences.

Do I recommend it? absolutely.

Passing is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. I would not be surprised if Passing did well come award season.

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