Tag Archives: Immigration

No Country Book Review

Intergenerational family stories are a genre unto themselves. What makes one narrative compelling or another boring depends on the writer ensuring that all of the threads weave together to create a coherent and engaging tale.

No Country, by Kalyan Ray, was published in 2014. The novel starts in a small town in rural Ireland in 1843. Brendan and Padraig have been best friends since they were young. As it usually happens when we are on the cusp of adulthood, the boys are torn apart by blossoming and confusing romantic feelings. Padraig is unaware that his girlfriend, Brigid is carrying their child, when he leaves for the city to fight for his nation’s independence. Instead of returning home, he makes a dangerous mistake that sends him instead to India.

Back in Ireland, Brendan is raising Padraig and Brigid’s daughter, Maeve as his own child. When the potato famine struck, he decided that it would be better to start a new life in America. As the years pass and different branches of the family tree come into being, questions of identity, politics, and history play with the fate of their descendants.

The book started off well enough. I was drawn into the narrative and the character’s struggles. The problem is that about 2/3rds of the way in, I got lost. I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, but for whatever reason, the story lost its momentum. While I did finish it, the ending left me with an empty feeling.

Do I recommend it? No.

No Country is available wherever books are sold.

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Turning Red Movie Review

Every birthday is special. But among the milestone birthdays, the day we turn thirteen is the first that represents a change in our lives. The subtle and not-so-subtle shift from childhood to young adult starting at this age is complicated for both the young person and their parent(s).

Turning Red is the newest release from DisneyPlus. Meilin (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), has recently turned thirteen. The daughter of a Chinese immigrant family who made a new life in Canada, she is smart, confident, and driven. Meilin is also on the verge of puberty (i.e. menstruation) and everything that comes with it. While she is on the slow road to becoming an adult, her mother, Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh), would prefer to keep her child from growing up.

One morning, Meilin wakes up and sees a giant red panda in the mirror. Her parents sit her down and reveal a long-held family secret. Upon reaching the age at which she starts to become a woman, every female in her family turns into a red panda. Any extreme emotion, either good or bad, will facilitate the transformation. Torn between wanting to please her mother and starting to take the first step on the figurate path to independence, Meilin has to make certain choices that we all had to make back then.

I loved this movie. I love that Meilin is a dork and proud of it. I love that that she looks like a normal girl and not the preteen version of a supermodel. I love the diversity and the strong female role models, both on the screen and behind the scenes. Though she does develop romantic feelings (well, as much as one can at the age), it is not the crux of the story.

The heart of this narrative is the push and pull between Meilin and Ming. Ming is not a bad mother. The idea that Meilin is no longer clinging to her 24/7 is an idea that her mind cannot compute. Directed and co-written by Domee Shi, this film has heart, humor, and fully human female characters.

Though it is not without controversy. Some parents have complained that that analogy of a girl getting her period is inappropriate. First of all, this is the color of the animal’s fur. It’s not like Mother Nature purchased a box of hair dye and decided to paint this creature red. Second of all, this is a normal process. Without the monthly visit of our friends, we would not be able to carry and birth the next generation. The fact that it is 2022 and some adults are afraid to talk about this topic speaks volumes about our culture.

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Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also venture to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if Turning Red was on several “Best Of” lists come the end of the year.

Turning Red is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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The Treatment of the Haitian Immigrants is Wrong and Un-American

America is made for and by immigrants. With the exception of being Native American, most of us can say that at least one person in our family came from another part of the world. The problem is that there are many people who forget this, or even worse think that they can amend our immigration policies to fit their racist ideals.

The truth is that no one wants to leave their homes if it is not necessary. If we live in a nation with a stable economy and political system, feel safe, and have access to education, jobs, and other opportunities, there is no need to go. But there are many places around the world in which life is harder than it needs to be, forcing many to flee in hopes of finding what they did not have in the land of their birth.

Last week, as Haitian migrants gathered at the US/Mexico border, they were attacked by law enforcement on horseback. Some were whipped as they tried to get away, creating reminders of the treatment of runaway slaves who were caught before they could reach freedom.

I can’t blame these people for wanting to leave Haiti. Between multiple natural disasters and the presidential assassination of Jovenel Moïse that has resulted in chaos and lawlessness, what reason is there to stay? We have every right to protect our borders and make sure that those who we allow to enter are not going to make trouble. But at the same time, we should be treating them as human beings. We are not obligated to let everyone into the country. But we are obligated to give them a chance.

This is not the America I know. The America I know welcomed my relations more than a century ago, providing safety and the chance to thrive that did not exist in Europe. If we do not at least attempt to live up to our promises and our values by letting at least some of the Haitians at the border into the country, we will be nothing more than a fraud and a lie. That is nothing short of heartbreaking and disgusting.

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Filed under International News, National News, World News

Jeanine Pirro Went Bonkers and I Love It

Facts and opinions are two different things entirely. Facts are indisputable. Opinions vary from person to person. Some people seem to think that the two are interchangeable.

On Saturday, immigration lawyer David Leopold was a guest on Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News. The topic was immigration. On any other channel, this would be an adult discussion between two professionals. Instead, it devolved into a mostly one sided conversation that ended with Mr. Leopold being kicked off the show.

Starts at 3:25.

I don’t know how far this lady’s head is up her ass, but she needs a reality check. Whatever “facts” she got from you know who are at best half truths and at worst, outright lies. The worst of those lies is that the people who are coming to the border are bringing Covid with them. This is not a new accusation. Every immigrant group, at one time or another, has been rumored to carry dirt and disease with them as they enter their new country. The fact that Mr. Leopold was able to stay calm and hold his ground as long as he did was nothing short of amazing.

If only there were more people in this world like him and less like Judge Pirro.

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How Many More Deaths Does Texas Governor Greg Abbott Want on His Watch?

With the anniversary of the explosion of Covid-19 coming up next week, I would have hoped that logic and science would have finally won the day. But stupidity and politics still have still have a hand to play.

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ended the mask mandate. As of next Wednesday, March 10th, all businesses are re-opening as if the pandemic never happened.

From an economic perspective, his decision is a sound one. The only way to restore the state and the nation to the pre-pandemic financial state is to get people working again. That being said, the only way we can contain this virus and stop the spread is to follow the protocols established by the CDC and the medical community.

Adding to the foolishness is the Governor’s statement blaming the spread of Covid-19 on undocumented Mexican immigrants and the Biden administration.

I wonder, as many others have wondered, if this is nothing but a smoke screen? The mess that the snow storm created is far from cleaned up. If he thinks that solely catering to his base is enough to keep him in office, he should look to the former President. There is a reason why you know who is thankfully no longer on the job.

The fact is that we can only return to some version of normal if we work together. It does not help that some people are so thickheaded that they ignore the facts to save their own skins.

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Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy/Lincoln: Divided We Stand Review

We can learn a lot about a specific group of people and their culture by their food. Without stepping into a lecture hall, we receive a history lesson, learn about their traditions, and hopefully begin to see them beyond the stereotypes.

Last night, CNN continued to air first of two series. Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy follows the Italian-American actor and cookbook author as he travels around Italy and samples the food that is specific to each region.

The second series, Lincoln: Divided We Stand, is narrated by Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us). This program tells the story of the 16th President in a manner that humanizes him and his story. Instead of just relying on the facts found in a history book, the audience takes a deep dive into the world from his perspective.

So far, I enjoyed both programs. Tucci approach to his family’s native land is that of love, respect, and curiosity. Like many Americans whose family came from elsewhere, he uses food to introduce viewers to an Italy that only the locals know. Instead of lionizing Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln: Divided We Stand introduces the viewer to the man behind the myths.

Do I recommend both? Yes.

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Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda Book Review

Fans of Broadway musicals and students of Jewish history know the final scene of Fiddler on the Roof all too well. The Jewish residents of the fictional shtetl of Anatevka have been forced out of their homes by the local authorities. As they scatter to four winds, their fate is unknown. Presidential advisor Stephen Miller comes from this world. As do I and millions of Jews of Eastern European descent. But for any number of reasons, Miller has forgotten this history.

Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda, written by journalist Jean Guerrero, was published in August. Miller grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in California. As a young man, his political beliefs began to swing to the extreme right, especially when it came to immigration. He was not shy about sharing his opinions, and like many with that perspective, couched his words in a way that would not immediately come off as racist.

After college, he went into politics, which ultimately led him to his current position working for you know who as a speechwriter and policymaker.

In my world, Miller would be described as a shanda (disgrace). As an American and a Jew, he has forgotten the traditions and the history that we carry with us. Without the United States, Miller’s family, like my family would have been part of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

There is nothing wrong with regulating who can come into this country. But as I see it, his policies are a bridge too far. There were moments while reading this book that I was both outraged and disgusted. While it was a good book, it was a smack in the face that hate, prejudice, and xenophobia is still alive and well in America in 2020.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Third Daughter: A Novel Book Review

History seems to always have a way of teaching the current generation, that is if they are willing to listen.

Talia Carner‘s 2019 novel, The Third Daughter: A Novel, was published last fall. In 1889, Batya is a fourteen year old Jewish girl trying to escape Europe with her family. The many pogroms that have turned her world upside down. Along the way to hopeful freedom, a handsome and wealthy man presents himself. He wants to marry Batya and give her a new life in America.

It seems like a fairy tale ending to what has been a horrific experience. But like many fairy tales, it is nothing but a sham. Batya is sold into prostitution or “white slavery” along with thousands of other young immigrant women in Buenos Aires.

As the years pass, she adjusts to her forced circumstances, but still dreams of the day when she will be reunited with her family. When an opportunity appears to become a Tango dancer, Batya takes it. It is also an opportunity to get justice for herself and the other women forced to earn their living on their backs.

Previous to reading this book, I thought white slavery was a story told to young girls to keep them chained to the patriarchy. To say that I was educated by the novel is an understatement. I thought that I knew almost everything there was to know about Jewish immigration around the turn of the 20th century. I was wrong.

I loved this book. It was well written, entertaining and educational without hitting the reader over the head.

I recommend it.

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Thoughts On the Impeachment & You Know Who’s Sea Wall Comment

Regardless of where you land on the political spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that this current President has, if nothing else, rocked the political boat.

You know who’s recent comment about the proposal to build a seawall to protect New York City from another Hurricane Sandy is both arrogant and ignorant. I don’t know where he was during the hurricane, but I know where I was. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life and a kick in the pants that climate change is real and destructive.

The ironic thing is that while he mocks the effort to protect the residents of New York City from another massive hurricane, he continues to believe that building a wall is the solution to resolve the issue of immigration reform. Building the wall and maintaining on the Southern border is a waste of money, time and the human resources. If he truly wanted to reform our immigration issues, he would be doing everything in his power to work with Congress. Instead he makes up lies and spouts false promises that will never become reality.

Speaking of, last week, he became the third President in American history to be impeached.

To be fair, this does not mean (at least at this point in time), that he will be even found guilty or removed from office. Only time can tell us that. But, the message is clear. No one, not even the President of the United States is above the law. He or she is as bound to follow the rules as any of us are.

As Senator Nancy Pelosi (D-California) stated on Real Time with Bill Maher,

“If I knew that the president is listening, I would want him to know that he is impeached forever, and he is impeached forever because he used the office of the president to try to influence a foreign country for his personal and political benefit. In doing so, he undermined our national security, he was disloyal to his oath of office to protect the Constitution and he placed in jeopardy the integrity of our election,” she added later. “He gave us no choice.”

As of now, we don’t know how this will all turn out. Regardless of what happens, it is a stark reminder of how important it is to what has to be done to keep our democracy alive. If we don’t, I am seriously afraid of what the consequences will be.

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The Golden Girls Character Review: Sophia Petrillo

*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 television series The Golden GirlsRead 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.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from The Golden Girls.  to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When it comes to women of a certain age, the impression is that time have taken their toll. At this point in their lives, they are living quietly, without the excitement of their younger years. Sophia Petrillo (the late Estelle Getty) on The Golden Girls proved that women of a certain age do not lose their lust for life just because their younger years are behind them.

Sophia was born in the first few years of the 20th century in Sicily. One of three children, she immigrated to New York as a teenager. After the death of her husband and being hospitalized for a stroke, Sophia moved in with her daughter, Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur).

The stroke took away Sophia’s ability to censure herself. This often led to conversations that ended with Dorothy threatening to send her mother back to the home. “Shady Pines, Ma” was often heard out of the mouth of an exasperated Dorothy.

Though she openly mocks her housemates, Sophia loves them as if they all were her flesh and blood. It is that love that sustains her, especially after Dorothy re-marries and moves in with her new husband.

To sum it up: It would be easy to create a character of a certain age who has taken a back seat to life. It is harder to create the same character, especially if she is female, with the same vibrancy and joie de vivre as a younger woman. Fans of The Golden Girls love Sophia because she is sassy, she is smart, but most of all, she loves her daughter.

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