Tyre Nichols Should be Alive Today

The purpose of law enforcement is to serve and protect, not to attack community members who are just going about their business.

Last Friday in Memphis, Tyre Nichols was on the way home when he was stopped by police. Instead of just being ticketed or taken in for questioning, he was beaten by five officers. By the time Sunday night rolled around, he was dead.

Now there is another son without a father, another mother without her child, and another town struggling to understand how and why another black man was killed by law enforcement.

After the murder of George Floyd, I would have hoped that logic would have dictated that everything would have been done to make sure that it never happened again. But I have been proved wrong too many times.

The only upshot is that the police officers who stopped him have been fired and charged with his murder. What makes it more complicated is that the men accused of his murder are also black.

I don’t know what it will take to get the message across on how to treat a potential suspect. But I do know that an innocent man is dead and there are too many unanswered questions hanging in the air.

May his memory be a blessing. Z”l.

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Finding Me Book Review

No one gets through childhood without an emotional scar or two. What matters is how we respond to those scars.

Finding Me is Viola Davis‘s memoir/autobiography. To say that her childhood was far from idyllic is an understatement. The last to youngest of five children, she grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who was forced to scrape the bottom of the economic barrel to get by. Living in Rhode Island, Davis was one of a handful of black children in the community and was bullied for her skin color.

As she got older and started on the path to becoming a successful performer, she was forced to reckon with her demons. It was only when she sat down and dealt with her past did she finally make peace with it.

In telling her story, Davis is raw, emotional, and unapologetically open. It is a tale of perseverance, strength, and the willingness to move beyond what is holding you back.

I loved it. This is not an award-winning actress talking. This is the real person underneath the Hollywood glam machine. I find her journey to be an inspiration. If Davis was able to heal her wounds, make her inner child smile, and have it all, then maybe the rest of us can.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Best New Television Shows of 2022

  1. Obi-Wan Kenobi: The DisneyPlus series answers the question of what happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in between the events of Revenge of the Sith (2005) and A New Hope (1977). My favorite part of the series was the introduction of Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram).
  2. Anatomy of a Scandal: Based on the Sarah Vaughan book of the same name, this Netflix miniseries follows the investigation of a politician accused of rape.
  3. The US and the Holocaust: This Ken Burns multi-part PBS documentary exposes how the United States failed to help the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
  4. Ridley Road: This PBS/Masterpiece program is based on the book of the same name by Jo Bloom. It tells the story of a young woman of Jewish descent in the 1960s who goes undercover to stop a Neo-Nazi group from destroying the UK.
  5. Gaslit: Julia Roberts plays Martha Mitchell in this Starz production that tells the tale of Watergate from Martha’s perspective.
  6. Dangerous Liaisons: A sort of prelude Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it started off a bit slow and took a few episodes to get interesting. Unfortunately, Starz canceled it at the end of the first season.
  7. The Serpent Queen: Samantha Morton plays the title character in this Starz series about Catherine de Medici. Wow, that is all I have to say.
  8. Women of the Movement: This ABC/Hulu miniseries told of the murder of Emmett Till and his mother Mamie’s journey to get justice for her son.
  9. Ms. Marvel: A young woman goes from an ordinary teenager to a superhero who saves the world.
  10. Andor: The prequel to Rogue One, the series explains how Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) became the rebel leader who led the fight against the Empire.
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This will be my last post for 2022. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for taking time out of your day to read this humble writer’s work. I’ll see you in 2023.

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Best Books of 2022

  1. Carrie Soto Is Back: Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s latest novel about a nearly over-the-hill tennis star took my breath away.
  2. I’m Glad My Mom Died: Jennette McCurdy’s memoir of her childhood, her career, and her abusive mother made me grateful for my parents, warts, and all.
  3. Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence: The revelations in this book are damming.
  4. What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix: The book takes Wuthering Heights in a new direction, deepening the narrative and an understanding of Bronte’s era.
  5. The Matchmakers Gift: A Novel: Lynda Cohen Loigman‘s latest novel about a Jewish teenage matchmaker in the early 20th century and her skeptic granddaughter is pure gold.
  6. The Princess and the Scoundrel: The book tells the story of the wedding and honeymoon of Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo after the destruction of the Empire in Return of the Jedi.
  7. The Weight of Blood: This reboot of Carrie adds racism to the mix, making Stephen King‘s novel even more relevant than it already was.
  8. Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America: Their tactics may not have been exactly legal, but standing up against antisemitism is nothing to sneeze at.
  9. Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power: This biography of Nancy Pelosi is a reminder of the barriers she has broken and the legacy she will leave behind.
  10. His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle For Racial Justice: The murder of George Floyd forced the world to face its racist past.

Here’s to the books we read in 2022 and the ones we will read in 2023.

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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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Armageddon Time Movie Review

There are certain genres that are universal. Regardless of labels, we are able to connect with the characters and understand where they are coming from.

The new movie, Armageddon Time, was written and directed by James Gray. Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), is a young man coming of age in 1980’s Queens. His favorite things to do are drawing and spending time with his Grandpa Aaron (Anthony Hopkins). Coming from a middle-class Jewish family, his parents Esther (Anne Hathaway) and Irving (Jeremy Strong) are doing the best they can.

The story gets going when Paul starts to hang out with Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb). Johnny is one of the African-American students in his class. Due to racism and other issues, he has already been held back. Bonded by their mutual sense of rebellion and dislike for their teacher, Paul and Johnny become fast friends.

Paul is idealistic and stubborn, but also a little naive. When he is forced to transfer from public school to private school, the economic and societal differences between the boys become evident. The choice he has to make will define the rest of his life: speak up or stay silent.

Gray’s film (which is based on his own life), is half coming of age and half a family drama. It is well-written, well-acted, and absolutely fantastic. Repeta, as our young protagonist, blew me away. This young man was brilliant in the role and truly made me want to go on Paul’s journey with him.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Armageddon Time is presently in theaters.

Kanye West’s Anti-Semitic Comment Should Disturb All of Us

The Holocaust did not start with concentration camps, gas chambers, ghettos, and mass killings. It started with words, lies, and false accusations.

Kanye West is one of the most respected rappers/musicians in the industry. I’m not a fan, but he is considered by many to be a genius wordsmith.

He is also an anti-semite. A few days ago, West stated that he would go on “Death Con 3” on Jews. His excuse was the following:

 “The funny thing is that I actually can’t be antisemitic because black people are actually Jew[s]”

He also wore a shirt to a fashion event that said “White Lives Matter”.

And as expected, the cherry on top is the usual response from the right.

I don’t know if this is due to his mental health issues or if this is his way of grabbing the spotlight. If it is due to mental illness, then he should seek out help if he has not already done so. If he just wants attention, this is not the way to go about it.

While promoting her new film, Halloween Ends, actress Jamie Lee Curtis (whose father is the late Jewish actor Tony Curtis), responded to West’s comments on The Today Show.

The fact is that words matter. They can hurt and they can kill. Perhaps West should consider that before opening his mouth.

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P.S. If West thinks that pretending to be a right-wing nut will save him from the racists, he has another thing coming.

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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What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix Book Review

Wuthering Heights has been a beloved classic for centuries. The turbulent relationship between the orphaned Heathcliff and his adopted sister Catherine has enthralled audiences since 1847.

What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix, by Tasha Suri, is a YA reboot of the novel. It was published last month.

In the late 1780s, Heathcliff is the son of an unknown lascar (a sailor from the then British colonies who made their living by working on European ships). Taken in by Mr. Earnshaw, a landowner from Yorkshire, he is immediately labeled as an outsider. Though he tries to remain true to his Indian roots, it creates an even bigger chasm between himself and the family he has been brought into.

Catherine is the younger Earnshaw child. From an early age, she knows what her future will be: marry a man of appropriate stature (and wealth) and bear his children. Even if it means hiding her true nature in the process and slowly dying inside.

Though they appear to be completely different on the surface, they have a bond that is deep and unbreakable. When Catherine’s father dies, everything changes, and not for the better. The cruel treatment that Heathcliff receives goes from 0 to 60 the minute that his adopted father is in the ground.

The question is, will they be themselves and build a life together? Or will they give into the expectations of the greater society around them?

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I was blown away by this book. It is one of my favorite books that I have read this year. Using Bronte’s original as source material, Suri takes the narrative in new directions. While delving into colonialism, racism, gender lines, and the strict class structure of the period, she gives the reader new insights into the characters. Like its sister novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, the world expands beautifully beyond the original text.

Most of it takes place in the three years after Catherine says that she cannot marry Heathcliff. While she is flirting with the idea of marrying Edgar Linton, he is doing everything he can to make his name and his fortune. Even if that means getting involved with some shady characters.

If I had to choose a favorite part of the book, it is when Hindley (Catherine’s brother) stops being a drunken brute for a minute and reveals secrets that their father would have preferred to remain buried.

My only warning is that I recommend reading Bronte’s original novel first.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix is available wherever books are sold.

Where the Crawdads Sing Book Review

Combining genres is never easy. It takes a skilled writer to effortlessly blend each genre while making sure that the narrative is cohesive and easily understood by the reader.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, was published in 2018. Coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s, Kya Clark had to raise herself. Reviled by her neighbors in the small southern town she calls home, she is called the “marsh girl” and learned early on that the only thing she can rely on is nature.

In late 1969, local boy Chase Andrews is found dead. Many suspect that Kya is behind the murder. Like many rumors that are not based on fact, these people have no idea who the real Kya is. Though she has been independent since she was a child, the now adult Kya is ready for the possibility of romance. Two young men enter her life. They both make promises of love and devotion. What she does not know is that she will learn some hard lessons and be accused of taking one of their lives in the process.

Part murder mystery, part coming-of-age tale, and part ode to the natural world, this book is amazing. Kya is one of the best female protagonists that I have come across in a long time. She is intelligent, sensitive, strong, and fearless. Her bravery in light of the lies told about her and the accusations by law enforcement is mindblowing.

One thing I really liked was Owens highlighting how destructive racism and prejudice was and still is. This is represented by the only black characters, Mabel and Jumpin. They own the local general store and are one of the few people in town who are in Kya’s corner. Like Kya, they know what it is like to be ostracized and hated. Unfortunately, this small, but important narrative thread is left out of the film.

What got me was the ending. It made me question if I really knew Kya and if the jury perhaps made the wrong decision.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Where the Crawdads Sing is available wherever books are sold.

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