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Sisterland ~ by Elizabeth Curtis Sittenfeld, 2013, fiction (Missouri)
From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar "senses" — innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them. Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.
The Last Policeman ~ by Ben H. Winters, 2012, mystery (New Hampshire)
What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway? Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact. Winters presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job — but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week — except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond "whodunit." What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could have brought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this would be a very different story.This is a good hook to drag the reader into the story of Herland, in my opinion. Not that I needed it. I've been reading and re-reading the novel Herland about once a decade since the 1970s, and I've written about it several times on this blog, as in this example. Here's a summary of the story:
The book describes an isolated society composed entirely of women. They reproduce by parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) and have an ideal society free of war, conflict, and domination. The men who find this isolated culture think they've found heaven, assuming the women will treat them royally.This version, edited by Barbara Solomon, includes her own introduction and twenty stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, including the well-known "The Yellow Wallpaper" from 1892 that is often read in women's studies classes. Here are the opening paragraphs of the Introduction:
In the spring of 1887, a depressed and desperate young woman from Providence, Rhode Island, traveled to Philadelphia to consult Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, the famous physician and specialist in nervous disorders. She had been ill for about three years, experiencing symptoms which today might well lead to a medical diagnosis of clinical depression. Moreover, her situation and misery were perfect examples of the condition which would be described so accurately three-quarters of a century later by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique as "The Problem That Has No Name."
After a month of treatment at S. Weir Mitchell's sanitarium, the young woman was discharged with the following prescription: "Live as domestic a life as possible. ... Have but two hours' intellectual life a day. And never touch pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live."
Fortunately for posterity, the patient, who was Charlotte Perkins Gilman (though at the time she was Charlotte Perkins Stetson), found it impossible to live according to the doctor's instructions. She later wrote in her autobiography that those directions caused her to come very close to losing her mind.
Thus, in the fall of 1888, still in poor health and with little money, Charlotte Perkins Stetson did the unthinkable. She left Walter Stetson, her husband of four years, and traveled with her three-year-old daughter, Katharine, to Pasadena, California. There she began a life characterized by the independence, determination, and hard work which were to be her salvation.
This is a moving, passionate love story set amid the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide. All manner of Kigali residents pass their time by the pool of the Mille-Collines hotel: aid workers, Rwandan bourgeoisie, expatriates, UN peacekeepers, prostitutes. Keeping a watchful eye is Bernard Valcourt, a jaded foreign journalist, but his closest attention is devoted to Gentille, a hotel waitress with the slender, elegant build of a Tutsi. As they slip into an intense, improbable affair, the delicately balanced world around them – already devastated by AIDS – erupts in a Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsi people. Valcourt’s efforts to spirit Gentille to safety end in their separation. It will be months before he learns of his lover’s shocking fate.Today, Rwanda is mourning the dead. Click to enlarge the chart, to see what was happening during the hundred days of the genocide in 1994. In the early 2000s, I met one of the men who fled Rwanda and was living in Chattanooga. I met him through his wife, and today I should check to see if she's still working a couple of miles from where I live.
Favorite toy: doll
Best friend: Her dad
Behaviour: A good girl
Cause of death: Smashed against a wall
|Mayhem the cat|