Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My wrap-up of the Women Unbound challenge

I discovered a need for theme songs about two months into the Women Unbound reading challenge.  That's when "Sister Suffragette" from the Mary Poppins movie came to mind.  "Sister Suffragette" was written about the First Wave of feminism, when women were struggling to get the right to vote in the early 20th century.  I posted a YouTube video of the song because of the line:  "Take heart for Missus Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again."  Emmeline Pankhurst was a militant British activist, doing all she could to get the vote for women -- and she was a minor character in Tracy Chevalier's novel Falling Angels, which I read for this challenge.  Surprisingly, what I wrote about Pankhurst and "Sister Suffragette" has become my most popular post ever.

Thinking of the First Wave of feminism, of course, brings up the Second Wave of the 1960s and 1970s.  I was a part of that, when women struggled to get equal rights, especially in the workplace.  Our most powerful song was "I Am Woman," later chosen as the theme song for International Women's Year (1975).  Care quoted from the song as we entered the closing weeks of the Women Unbound reading challenge.  Here's Helen Reddy singing her song live in 1975.



Listening to Helen Reddy sing reminds me of the years 1979-1981, when I did management training on EEO compliance.  My training partner was black, and one memorable day a manager shouted at me from the back of the large room:  "No black man and white woman are gonna tell ME what to do!"  I calmly explained to the belligerent man (all of the managers were men, by the way) that he could be held financially responsible for asking the wrong questions when hiring and firing.  He shut up and there were no further outbursts.

We are now is the Third Wave of feminism, so I asked younger women to suggest a song for this wave.  The 13-year-old daughter of a friend (Alisonwonderland, who also participated in this challenge) suggested "This One's for the Girls" by Martina McBride for the current Third Wave of feminism.  It's for the "girls" about 13, 25, or 42, "tossing pennies into the fountain of youth."   A young lawyer friend suggested that Martina McBride's "Independence Day" was even more appropriate for her generation's Third Wave.

These songs have become an important sidetrack for me as I've read books, books, books -- fiction and nonfiction -- about bound and unbound women.  Maybe some who participated in this challenge could suggest even more appropriate songs that haven't occurred to me.

Before November ended last year, I had decided to read and review as many books about women (and girls) as possible.  When I said "as many as possible," I really meant it and started a (long) list of books I have read for the challenge.  There are so many on my list that I haven't been able to keep up with book reviews for every single one.  I have read 109 books that fit this challenge and have reviewed 71 of them.  I've even decided to write a book.  Click this link, if you want to read the well-over-100 posts I've written about Women Unbound.

If you took part in the Women Unbound reading challenge, I'd like to hear from you.  I came up with these questions a couple of weeks ago.  Are there other questions I should ask?
1. What book (or two or three) really stood out for you?  Why?

2. Did you learn something new?  What was it?  Was it from a book or from another blogger?

3. If you are one who said in the beginning that "women are our own worst enemies," did you still think so by the end of the year?

4. Did you make great strides in consciousness or understanding?

5. Were you more interested in fiction or nonfiction?

6. Did the features [guest bloggers, etc.] enhance your learning or enjoyment?

7. Tell me something about yourself, like your age and how much you knew about women's issues before you took part in this challenge.
Read everyone's wrap-up posts (and post yours) on the Women Unbound main page.

The Paper Bag Princess ~ by Robert N. Munsch, 1980

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch (1980) is another princess book, recommended by Helen of Helen's Book Blog when I wrote about Princess Smartypants on Sunday.  Claire of The Captive Reader added, "You can never go wrong with Munsch!"  My friend Donna reminded me, "Munsch is the one who wrote Love You Forever" (published in 1986).  I'd forgotten that.  I got the book from the library and read it on Monday.  Here's the summary:
Princess Elizabeth is to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps Ronald. In resourceful and humorous fashion, Elizabeth finds the dragon and rescues Ronald -- who is less than pleased at her un-princess-like appearance.
Prince Ronald looks snobbishly conceited on the very first page. When "a dragon smashed her castle, burned all her clothes with his fiery breath, and carried off Prince Ronald," the prince is shown being carried away on the dragon's talon, upside down, peering at the reader between his dangling legs -- certainly not a time to be conceited. The princess is shown naked, her clothes burned away, though puffy clouds discreetly cover certain parts of her. Finding nothing unconsumed by the dragon's fiery breath, Princess Elizabeth dresses in a paper bag and sets out.

Here's one of my favorite illustrations from the middle of the book.  Princess Elizabeth confronts the dragon, who burns up whole forests with his fiery breath.  The brave little princess flinches, but she doesn't run away.  Ronna of Renegade Conversations shared another illustration, showing the defeated dragon and Prince Ronald behind a barred window.

Once again, I intend to post a "spoiler," hoping you adults don't mind.  Princess Elizabeth tricks the dragon and rescues Prince Ronald.  His thanks?
"Elizabeth, you are a mess!  You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag.  Come back when you are dressed like a real princess."

"Ronald," said Elizabeth, "your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat.  You look like a real prince, but you are a bum."

They didn't get married after all.
The final page shows her dancing off into the sunset, which is almost the color of the dragon's fiery breath (compare this to her silhouette on the Classic Munsch seal on the cover, above).  Rated:  9 of 10, an excellent book for smart little princesses.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Born to Win ~ my telephone story

Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gesalt Experiments ~ by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward, 1971

I remember a day when I was reading a book while eating lunch at my desk and ran across an intriguing sentence:  "If you had only one hour to live, what would you do?" That same day, I wrote what I now think of as the telephone story, describing what I thought I might do in that situation.

The book was Born to Win, and I had spotted it when I went out to grab a sandwich. From other thoughts I associate with that day, like taking my lunch and the book back to my tenth-floor office in the Chattanooga Bank Building, I think it may have been 1979.  I was enjoying the book, not reading it straight through, but finding bits here and there that grabbed my attention.  When I came across the question, "If you had only one hour to live, what would you do?"  I thought, What, not even a whole day?

One of the possibilities that occurred to me was having my sister Ann spend that hour with me.  She and I had decided years earlier that the one who died first would try to "appear" to the other.  Yeah, I thought, I'd spend my last hour with Ann.  So before the lunch hour ended, I picked up the phone on my desk and called her.  The line was busy:  "Brrrtt, brrrtt, brrrtt." I was stymied when I tried to "reach out and touch someone" as the phone company's slogan suggested.  After my lunch break I got back to work, occasionally dialing Ann's number again.  "Brrrtt, brrrtt, brrrtt."  Over and over I got that busy signal and wondered who on earth she could be talking to for so long.  Late in the afternoon I had one of those lightbulb moments when I realized, "I wasted the final hour of my life trying to call Ann!"  If I'd truly had only one hour to live, I would have spent it unsuccessfully attempting to get through to my sister.  I would have died alone!

After work I drove straight to Ann's house and learned that rain had knocked out the phones in her area.  Water in the system caused a problem and the lines were out.  Ann had not been talking an inordinately long time; she was marooned by a faulty phone line.  And thus I "died" alone.

There's a metaphor in this story!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Books about royals

This week's loot from the library includes a book recommended by Dewey two years ago and a children's book.  Both are perfect for the Women Unbound reading challenge, which ends on Tuesday.

Dewey rarely kept books she had read.  If they belonged to her, she would give them away or "bookmooch" them.  This is one she planned to keep and reread "soon."

The Uncommon Reader ~ by Alan Bennett, 2007
"When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book.  Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically.  Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the outines of her role as monarch.  Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff, and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large." -- from the dustjacket
Having already finished this small book (120 pages), I'll seque into a book review.  Dewey finished it the same evening she bought it, and I understand why she wanted to read it again.  On turning eighty, the Queen observes, "At eighty things do not occur; they recur."  But the queen does new things in this story, things neither she nor others would ever have suspected she was likely to do.  Is it okay to change when we are older?  Or is that suspect?
"It could have been a syllogism, if Gerald had known what a syllogism was:  Alzheimer's is common; the Queen is not common; therefore the Queen has not got Alzheimer's.  Nor had she, of course, and in fact her faculties had never been sharper..." (p. 82).
The Queen had changed her thinking.  Even one page from the end of the book, I would not have expected her to ... Ah, but I can't tell you that, can I?  Perhaps I can say the Queen, in spite of her life-long habits and obligations, became rather unshackled, making her perfect for the Women Unbound reading challenge.  Such a little gem of a book.  Such a fun, quick read.  Rated:  8 of 10, a very good book.

Princess Smartypants ~ by Babette Cole, 1986
"Princess Smartypants doesn't want to get married. She enjoys being a Ms. and she wants to live in the castle with her pets and do exactly as she pleases. Because she is very pretty and very rich, all the princes want her to be their Mrs. So Princess Smartypants has to think up some very clever ways of dealing with unwanted suitors in this hilarious fairy-tale-with-a-difference." -- from the dustjacket
It's a children's picture book, so of course I read it in one gulp. This little princess is different.  How many princesses have you read about who ride motorcycles, for example?  Crowds of royals are shown outside the castle in horse-drawn carriages, on camels, and in limousines -- I love the illustrations and the names of those young princes.
Suitors were always turning up at the castle making a nuisance of themselves.

"Right," declared Princess Smartypants, "whoever can accomplish the tasks that I set will, as they say, win my hand."
I hope you readers are all adults and won't be horrified if I share a "spoiler" about the book  She assigns each one an impossible task.  Most of the fellows are easily dissuaded when they fail, but Prince Swashbuckle manages to do everything she had asked of ALL the other princes, the whole list.  I thought she would, thus, have to fall in love with him or something like that.  Nope, she gave him a magic kiss and turned him into a gigantic warty toad.  He left in a huff, and Princess Smartypants got what she wanted.  This book, like the one above, is also perfect for the Women Unbound reading challenge.  I recommend it highly to feminist readers and little girls everywhere who dream of being princesses.  Rated:  8 of 10, a very good book.

Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Claire has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Caturday ~ Dewey's cat was a reader

Dewey's cat, 2007
Dewey wrote (January 30, 2008):
"My son is currently reading The Golden Compass and a Discworld novel, and my husband is reading Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell and The Martian Chronicles.  The cat claims to be reading Finnegans Wake, but I’m not sure I believe her."
Why would she lie?  I have no idea why she would want to read Finnegans Wake, but that's her choice, isn't it?  I myself prefer more modern books.

Dewey posted this photo of her cat on September 18, 2007, when she told this story:
"She may look innocent here, but don’t let her fool you. Last week she convinced the neighbors she was a stray and ended up with double meals all week."





I say she's a smart cat.  Like me.

Kiki Cat, signing off

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Friday ~ and I'm beginning a new book

It's Friday -- yeah, "black Friday" after Thanksgiving -- and I've started another book:  The Housekeeper and the Professor ~ by Yoko Ogawa (2009 in English translation).  Here's how it begins:
We called him the Professor.  And he called my son Root, because, he said, the flat top of his head reminded him of the square root sign.

"There's a fine brain in there," the Professor said, mussing my son's hair.  Root, who wore a cap to avoid being teased by his friends, gave a wary shrug.  "With this one little sign we can come to know an infinite range of numbers, even those we can't see."  He traced the symbol in the thick layer of dust on his desk.
If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Click this link to see other book beginnings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A book report by four non-bloggers



Lucy, Charlie Brown, Schroeder, and Linus are very much like book bloggers in the very different ways they think about the same book. Two weeks before she died, Dewey posted this "Book Report" featuring the Peanuts characters. I re-post it today in memory of Dewey, who died November 25, 2008.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I give thanks that I had a chance to know Dewey as a book blogger friend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Library Lust

Claire of The Captive Reader posts a regular feature called Library Lust.  I love this photo!  I also like what Claire wrote about it:  "A secret passageway hidden behind a bookshelf?  Leading to a staircase lined with yet more bookshelves?  When we were building our house (when I was 8), this is exactly what I begged my parents for.  I haven’t quite forgiven them for saying no."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book cover meme

Instructions for this meme:   Go to the advanced book search on Amazon, type your first name into the Title field, and post the most interesting or amusing cover that shows up.



My favorites were three books by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, the one of Mary Poppins fame):
  1. Little Bo: The Story of Bonnie Boadicea
  2. Little Bo in France: The Further Adventures of Bonnie Boadicea
  3. Little Bo in Italy: The Continuing Adventures of Bonnie Boadicea, which was published this month.

I like cats and Bo, short for Bonnie, is okay.  I'll take the set. It's better than books about Bonnie Raitt or Bonnie and Clyde.

Dewey posted this meme back in September 2007.  Her search turned up mostly books by or about John Dewey, but she liked this one best: What Would Dewey Do?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another day, another book

I stopped by the library on my way home today to pick up the December book selection for the Book Buddies, my online book club.  The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogama (2009) looks like one I'll enjoy, and I was please to discover it's a relatively small paperback book.  Easy to hold while reading in bed, for one thing.
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem -- ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.  She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.  And every morning, the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew.
Now this is REALLY living in the present!  Eva of A Striped Armchair recently wrote a very interesting post listing books about neuroscience and neurological illnesses.  Yesterday, one of the many comments referred to The Housekeeper and the Professor:
"I’ve heard that in The Housekeeper and the Professor and Rebecca West’s Return of the Soldier feature amnesia or memory problems as well, haven’t read them yet though."
What perfect timing, picking up that book the very next day.  I'm halfway through with Hummingbirds by Joshua Gaylord (2003), so I'll probably finish it before starting this one.

I wonder if anyone (else) has ever done two Library Loot posts in one week (here's my first one).  Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Marg has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share the loot you brought home.

On another note:
My brother Jim (reading the bulletin on the front row of this June photo) had a heart attack on Friday, November 19.  When I visited him in the cardiac intensive care unit today, he was waiting to be transferred to a room.  Jim, who had a liver transplant two years ago, will be having bypass surgery in about six weeks, according to his doctors.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Lacuna ~ by Barbara Kingsolver, 2009

The Lacuna ~ by Barbara Kingsolver, 2009

The synopsis:  "Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities."  The story begins on an island in Mexico, when Harrison Shepherd is a boy.  He finds a cave below the water line.  I was fascinated by the cave called "la lacuna" hidden beneath the waves.  I found two photos to illustrate this quote from page 35, when the boy first found the cave:
Underwater cave (click to enlarge)
Today the cave was gone.  Saturday last, it was there.  Searching the whole rock face below the cliff did not turn it up.  Then the tide came higher and waves crashed too hard to keep looking.  How could a tunnel open in the rock, then close again?  The tide must have been much higher today, and put it too far below the surface to find.  Leandro says the tides are complicated and the rocks on that side are dangerous, to stay over here in the shallow reef.  He wasn't pleased to hear about the cave.  He already knew about it, it is called something alreaedy, la lacuna.  So, not a true discovery.

Laguna?  The lagoon?

No, lacuna.  He said it means a different thing from lagoon.  Not a cave exactly but an opening, like a mouth, that swallows things.  He opened his mouth to show.  It goes into the belly of the world.  He says Isla Pixol is full of them.
Cenote (click to enlarge)
This photo shows a cenote, defined as "a deep natural well or sinkhole, especially in Central America, formed by the collapse of surface limestone that exposes ground water underneath, and sometimes used by the ancient Mayans for sacrificial offerings."

Frida tells Harrison, "The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know" (p. 218).  Years later, he writes to her, saying, "Frida, you always said the most important thing about any person is what you don't know. Likewise, then, the most important part of any story is the missing piece" (p. 277).

A lacuna is a gap or missing part, and gaps are important in this book.  A large part of my enjoyment came from that dangerous cave, which I visualized as similar to these photos.  Another example of a lacuna is that people seemed to think they knew Harrison Shepherd because they had read his books (he was an author) or because newspapers reported this or that about him.  At the end of the book, his secretary Mrs. Brown discovered a gap in her knowledge of the man, when she realized she didn't know some important things about him, even though she had worked for him for years and had even traveled with him on business a time or two.  That's the lacuna that matters.

Joe McCarthy with his aide Roy Cohen
I was really drawn to what Barbara Kingsolver wrote about the McCarthy period.  I remember how uneasy I felt about the televised hearings, even at the age of twelve, when we got our first television in 1952.  I cringed at the thought of Senator Joe McCarthy ruining the lives of so many people, realizing, even then, that there was no way to refute the nebulous charges.  Because Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky were "known Communists," being involved with them in any way could be construed as treason in the 1950s.

Trotsky
I've read reviews of The Lacuna by lots of people, including one who thought the author brought in too many famous people.  I think her choices worked the other way around, that she used the fact that Trotsky, Rivera, and Kahlo were all together in one place at the same time and plunked her protagonist (Harrison Shepherd) down in the midst of them.  Because these people were in the book, I looked them up and read more about them, finding Diego's mural in Detroit and his famous mural in Mexico City and discovering Frida's life is now a movie.  I learned some things about these people in depth for the first time, even though I'd heard their names and could have told you a fact or two about Trotsky, the Russian revolutionist.

The story wasn't exciting enough to pull me along, especially in the beginning of the book, but when I reached the last part and the whole thing came together, I was left feeling satisfied.  Rated:  8 of 10, a very good book.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Secret lives ~ and fun reading

Cover in USA
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives ~ by by Lola Shoneyin, 2010

By page two I knew I was in for some fun reading:
Baba Segi stepped aside to make room for the schoolchildren on their daily pilgrimage.  These children went to great pains to bid Teacher good morning, just to see him steam up the louvers with his response.  "God mourning," the smoky-eyed sage hummed.
Good morning? or God mourning?  I love it!  The words sound almost the same, but they definitely mean very different things.  In a way, I see that as a metaphor for the book.  Things aren't always what they seem in this story.  Here's the synopsis I found online:
When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife's childlessness.
Meet Baba Segi ...
A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.
And his wives ...
Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi's youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband's home.
Iya Tope—Baba Segi's second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.
Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.
Bolanle—Baba Segi's fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life's misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives ...and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all.
Cover in UK
The book is primarily about Baba Segi's fourth wife's failure to get pregnant.  She may be educated, but she is lacking as a woman.  She is, after all, nothing unless she bears children.  Notice Iya before the other wives' names:  Iya Segi's first child was Segi, Iya Tope's first child was Tope, and Iya Femi's first child was Femi.  Get the picture?  Bolanle is simply Bolanle, the name she came with, mother of none.  What should be done about her childlessness?  Therein lies the tale, and quite a tale it is, too, as we learn a lot about Baba Segi, all of his wives, and Taju, the family's driver.  Taju looks at Baba Segi's rich life and compares it to his own:
"The rich have fat bellies.  They swagger until the world swings to one side.  They see more food and they lunge at it.  They have a permanent hunger, you see.  For the poor, it's different.  They've never known the taste of fullness, so they scramble for leftovers, not because they are hungry but because they want to know fullness, the contentment that makes the rich think the world is theirs. ... I am not paid to be a thinker.  I am a driver."
At the very end of the book (p. 280), one of these six characters says:
"I am back now and the world is spread before me like an egg cracked open."
What happened?  I'll never tell, but I recommend you read the book to find out.  Rated:  8 of 10, a very good book.

Book covers:  We in the United States get the green cover, but those of you in the United Kingdom get the more colorful one.  I don't know if the book has been published in Nigeria, the setting for the story.  Which of these two covers do you like better?

Barefoot at Bonnie's ~ a cat's perspective

Bonnie was reading a book the other day called Barefoot in Baghdad, and that got me to thinking.  I go barefooted all the time, but it would never occur to me to write a book about it.  Maybe a single post, like this, but not a whole book.  Maybe people get cold feet in Baghdad, since you have no fur.  We cats get cold as well.  I have walked around in the snow and it's not fun.  The pads on my paws are thick, but snow is still wet and cold.  Brrrrrrr!  I'd rather stay inside and look at snow through the window.  This snow picture is from last winter.  We probably won't have snow again until January, though it's possible around here in November or December.




Kiki Cat, signing off
(I think I'll go hide under the covers and warm up, even if it isn't snowing.)

......... It's CATURDAY .........

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beginning a book ~ in my mind's eye

Mind's Eye ~ by Paul Fleischman, 1999
Elva:
[Languidly, to herself.]
"So all night long the storm roared on
The morning broke without a sun. . . ."
[Pause.]
A bona-fide blizzard, in the first week of November.  It's too early.  Much too early.  Even for North Dakota.  [Louder.]  Don't you agree?
[Pause.  She sighs.  Voice returns to original volume.]
"In tiny--"  Tiny . . . First my eyes, now my memory.
[Pause.]
In tiny something, something, something,
". . . all day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own."
[Pause.]
Dear girl, are you awake?  It's nearly eleven.
[Long pause and sigh.]
That's how the book begins, with Elva talking to her sleeping roommate, sixteen-year-old Courtney, the one pictured here on the book's cover.  They are in the same room of a nursing home, along with May, who has dementia.  I wish you could see the back cover, showing an elderly woman in the other bed, eyes closed (imagine this) as the two of them use a travel book and their imaginations to visit Italy.  Eighty-eight-year-old Elva tells Courtney about her sister Rose:
Dear Rose.  She was an ideal older sister.  Life was quite inconceivable without her.  Now that she's gone, I find the memories of her coming up unexpectedly, like daffodils you'd forgotten you'd planted. . . . A marvelous memory garden to stroll through.
[Pause.]
Do you remember the book I gave you yesterday?  It was Rose who invented the sort of journey I'm proposing that you and I take.
I loved Paul Fleischman's Whirligig (click to read my review), published the year before Mind's Eye, so when I saw this one somewhere, I put it on hold at my library.  What a great little book this is!  I enjoyed the trip to Italy with them -- and the men they imagined for themselves.  As you can see from my quotes, the book is told entirely in dialogue, which worked beautifully, making the reader use her imagination, too.  I rate this book 10 of 10, I couldn't put it down.
It seems strange to be writing this review so soon. I brought this book home on Wednesday, went to bed on Thursday to read myself to sleep, finished the book in one straight-through reading, and am writing this review before midnight -- though I'll set it to post automatically just after midnight on Friday morning, so it can be an actual Book Beginnings on Friday.  If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Click this link to read other book beginnings posted this week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Libraries and sailing DO mix

Mornings in Jenin ~ a novel by Susan Abulhawa, 2010
Synopsis:  "Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family."
Mind's Eye ~ a YA novel by Paul Fleischman, 1999
Synopsis:  "Eighty-eight-year old Elva and Courtney, an attractive sixteen-year-old with a severed spinal chord, lie in adjacent beds in a grim Bismarck, North Dakota convalescent home. Ignored by the world, the only resource they have left is their imagination. As Elva and Courtney go on a fantasy trip to Italy (accompanied by Elva's long dead husband and guided by a 1910 travel book), Elva shows Courtney a new way to envision love."
My "loot" today includes three magazines from a librarian.  One day when I was volunteering, he and I talked while working at the check-out desk.  I learned that he had been in the Navy and mentioned my interest in sailing.  I loved my sailboat, a 19-foot Lightning. This nice librarian shares his sailing magazines after he's read them.  Here's one of three I got today.  What great librarians I have.  (Thanks, Greg!)


Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Marg has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share the loot you brought home.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Girl Effect

When I went blog-hopping this morning, I discovered that Ronna had blogged about her daughters -- after she had found this powerful video. I also have two daughters, who are now adults -- and I have four granddaughters and one great-granddaughter.



Wow! That's shocking!

I have a connection to another part of the world. Because my brother's son and his wife have adopted a daughter from Ethiopia, I want to share this video as well.



And I think of my great-niece. I know little Jane is now in a safer place -- the United States -- but I am very aware that things are not perfect for women anywhere in the world.

You really should click here to go read what Ronna said.  Then click here to read what other bloggers are saying -- TODAY -- all together.  We're all saying it today, now, for the GIRLS.

Whale says, "Thank you"

A female humpback whale became entangled in a web of crab trap lines near the Farallon Islands, about 18 miles off the coast of San Francisco.  She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps and was struggling to stay afloat.  The badly entangled lines were cutting into her blubber, and the rescue team worked for hours with curved knives to eventually free her.

Freed by divers from the tangle of crab trap lines, the whale nudged its rescuers and flapped around in what marine experts said was a rare and remarkable encounter.

"It felt to me like it was thanking us, knowing that it was free and that we had helped it," James Moskito, one of the rescue divers, said. "It stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun."

The daring rescue was the first successful attempt on the West Coast to free an entangled humpback, said Shelbi Stoudt, stranding manager for the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County.

The 45- to 50-foot female humpback, estimated to weigh 50 tons, was on the humpbacks' usual migratory route between the Northern California coast and Baja California when it became entangled in the nylon ropes that link crab pots.  It was spotted by a crab fisherman at 8:30 a.m. in the open water east of the Farallones.
Mick Menigoz of Novato, who organizes whale watching and shark diving expeditions on his boat the New Superfish, got a call for help, alerted the Marine Mammal Center and gathered a team of divers.

By 2:30 p.m., the rescuers had reached the whale and evaluated the situation. Team members realized the only way to save the endangered leviathan was to dive into the water and cut the ropes.

It was a very risky maneuver, Stoudt said, because the mere flip of a humpback's massive tail can kill a man.

"I was the first diver in the water, and my heart sank when I saw all the lines wrapped around it," said Moskito, a 40-year-old Pleasanton resident who works with "Great White Adventures," a cage-diving outfit. "I really didn't think we were going to be able to save it."

Moskito said about 20 crab-pot ropes, which are 240 feet long with weights every 60 feet, were wrapped around the animal. Rope was wrapped at least four times around the tail, the back and the left front flipper, and there was a line in the whale's mouth.  The crab pot lines were cinched so tight, Moskito said, that the rope was digging into the animal's blubber and leaving visible cuts.  At least 12 crab traps, weighing 90 pounds each, hung off the whale, the divers said. The combined weight was pulling the whale downward, forcing it to struggle mightily to keep its blow- hole out of the water.

Moskito and three other divers spent about an hour cutting the ropes with a special curved knife. The whale floated passively in the water the whole time, he said, giving off a strange kind of vibration.

"When I was cutting the line going through the mouth, its eye was there winking at me, watching me," Moskito said. "It was an epic moment of my life."

When the whale realized it was free, it began swimming around in circles, according to the rescuers. Moskito said it swam to each diver, nuzzled him and then swam to the next one.

"It seemed kind of affectionate, like a dog that's happy to see you," Moskito said. "I never felt threatened. It was an amazing, unbelievable experience."

Humpback whales are known for their complex vocalizations that sound like singing and for their acrobatic breaching, an apparently playful activity in which they lift almost their entire bodies out of the water and splash down.

Before 1900, an estimated 15,000 humpbacks lived in the North Pacific, but the population was severely reduced by commercial whaling. In the 20th century, their numbers dwindled to fewer than 1,000. An international ban on commercial whaling was instituted in 1964, but humpbacks are still endangered. Between 5,000 and 7,500 humpbacks are left in the world's oceans, and many of those survivors migrate through the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Whale experts say it's nice to think that the whale was thanking its rescuers, but nobody really knows what was on its mind.
"You hate to anthropomorphize too much, but the whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it," Menigoz said. "I don't know for sure what it was thinking, but it's something that I will always remember. It was just too cool."

Humpback whales hold a special place in the hearts of Bay Area residents ever since one that came to be known as Humphrey journeyed up the Sacramento River in 1985. The wayward creature swam into a slough in Rio Vista, attracting 10,000 people a day as whale experts tried desperately to turn it around. Humphrey went back to sea after 25 days of near-pandemonium and worldwide media attention.

In the fall of 1990, Humphrey turned up again inside the bay in shallow water near the Bayshore Freeway, finally beaching on mud flats near Double Rock, just off the Candlestick parking lot. He remained stuck for 25 hours, until volunteers, helped by a 41-foot Coast Guard boat, pulled him free and sent him back to the ocean. He has not been seen since.  Humpbacks like Humphrey do seem to relate to people more than other whales, according to Stoudt.

"You do hear reports of friendly humpbacks, whales approaching boaters, especially in Baja California," Stoudt said, "but, for the most part, they don't like to be interacted with."

This is a whale of a story.  (Okay, bad cliche, but good story.)  I checked Snopes.com to see if this story is true.  Snopes says, "Status:  True."  Then I found the story in the San Francisco Chronicle, dated December 14, 2005.  (I like the story, even if it isn't book related.  So call me sappy.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baby shower

Today I attended a baby shower for my great-grandson, due December 22nd.  I gave him the 3-piece Tigger set I showed you last week.  Here's his mother, feeling oh-so-pregnant, but I didn't mention next month will be lots ... um, nice word? ... MORE.  Yes, that's it.  More girth.  More lumbering around.  More, more, more.  I started with twins and had a son three years later, so she looks mighty small to me.

I hope you can read his name on this toy train someone brought to the shower.  I'm sure it will be easier to read when the backing is taken off.  The cars between the engine and the little red caboose spell Jaxon.  I picked his middle name -- for my son, who gave it to his son, who is now passing it on to Jaxon Alan.  I'll post a picture of him as soon as I have one.

Ha!  I just noticed the cradle on the right.  My former husband made it for our grandchildren, and all of them used it except the oldest one.  I think it's about time he gets to use it, for his son.  My other six grandchildren, plus my first great-granddaughter used it.  So did their step-cousins, the two grandchildren of my ex-husband's wife.  It's solid and will last lifetimes because he is a meticulous craftsman.

Women Unbound ~ some questions

We are almost at the end of the Women Unbound reading challenge, but I'm not through with all the books I want to read on this subject!  The hosts suggested three levels of commitment, that we could choose to read two, five, or eight books.  I have read 107 books: 46 fiction, 19 nonfiction, 16 young adult, and 26 children's.  (I've reviewed only 66 of them.)

Lest you think I'm totally crazy, let me explain.  I decided to write a book about this challenge.  I want to include things like what we read this year, but also what it meant for us.  I want to talk about community and dedicate the book to Dewey, who worked harder at forming community among book bloggers than anyone I know.

I'll tie it all together by telling the story of a group of book bloggers being challenged to read books related to women's studies, defined as "the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender."  And I want to ask questions of some who participated.  Were you one of us?  What do you think of these questions?  Are there other questions I should ask?
1. What book (or two or three) really stood out for you?  Why?

2. Did you learn something new?  What was it?  Was it from a book or from another blogger?

3. If you are one who said in the beginning that "women are our own worst enemies," did you still think so by the end of the year?

4. Did you make great strides in consciousness or understanding?

5. Were you more interested in fiction or nonfiction?

6. Did the features [guest bloggers, etc.] enhance your learning or enjoyment?

7. Tell me something about yourself, like your age and how much you knew about women's issues before you took part in this challenge.

You may email your answers to me ... emerging DOT paradigm AT yahoo DOT com ... if you don't want to put them in a comment.  I am also quite willing to leave out your name or any identifying remarks, if you prefer.

This is my 105th post related to this challenge.