Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Hours ~ by Michael Cunningham, 1998

I finished reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998) today and can't say I particularly like this book. Is that faint praise, or what? I do like the writing, like this description of water on page 9:
" the edge of the pool, watching the turquoise water lapping at the tiles, the liquid nets of sun wavering in the blue depths."
On the other hand, it was hard for me to keep the three protagonists straight in my mind. When I was over halfway through the book, I finally decided to jot down on paper what I knew about them -- Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Woolf, and Mrs. Brown, as each section is labeled.
Clarissa Vaughan was nicknamed "Mrs. Dalloway" by her friend Richard. She lives in New York City in the 1990s.

Virginia Woolf is in the process of writing the book Mrs. Dalloway. She is living in a suburb of London, and it is 1923.

Laura Brown, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway, is the mother of a boy named Richie. She lives in Los Angeles in 1949.
So the reader must keep in mind three women, three towns, and three historical periods.  All three are planning parties of one sort or another -- Mrs. Dalloway (Clarissa) is planning a party for her friend Richard who is getting an award for his poetry; Mrs. Woolf is planning lunch for her sister Vanessa and her children; Mrs. Brown is planning a family party for her husband's birthday, which includes baking him a cake.  She is so unhappy with the cake that she throws it in the garbage and bakes another one.  Still not happy, she gets someone to babysit with her son Richie and drives off, going nowhere in particular (there's a lot of that going on in the book).  She checks into a hotel to read her book (don't ask -- it's complicated).  Don't forget that the book she's reading is Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.
Here is her room then:  a turquoise room, not surprising or unusual in any way, with a turquoise spread on the double bed ... She is so far away from her life.  It was so easy.  It seems, somehow, that she has left her own world and entered the realm of the book.  Nothing could be further from Mrs. Dalloway's London than this turquoise hotel room..." (pp. 149-150).
See how it gets confusing? I had to stop and think if "Mrs. Dalloway" referred to the book, to the Mrs. Dalloway character in the book she's reading, or to the protagonist of THIS book who is sometimes called "Mrs. Dalloway" by her friend. And what's with the turquoise? It was only when I copied this quote from the book that I noticed the color is the same as the water (see the first quote above). I started wondering if the color turquoise had some special meaning, but if it did I didn't discover it.

Richard, the friend of "Mrs. Dalloway" (who is actually Clarissa, which is the name of the protagonist in Virginia Woolf's book), does something at the end of the book that seems crazy. As I try, now, to figure out the meaning of the ending, I can't help wondering if the author wants us to blame the women in his life. Can we? Should we? Did he? Did they blame themselves?

Rated: 7 of 10, because I'll probably think about this one for awhile. Some of the images will continue to run through my mind, but not a one of them is turquoise.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Sister Suffragette"

Have you ever heard of Emmeline Pankhurst?

No?  Well, my history textbooks didn't mention her, either, but that's not surprising.  Women weren't usually mentioned in my history classes, back in the 1940s and 1950s, unless as the "wife of" -- a king or a president, maybe.  But if you've ever seen the 1964 movie "Mary Poppins," you've at least heard the name "Missus Pankhurst," as the song writer called her.  Let me refresh your memory with this short clip, and then I'll tell you the story of Emmaline Pankhurst.

"Well done"? Okay, eventually women did get the right to vote (in 1920 in the United States). But was it worth all the pain and suffering?  (If the video quits working, click here.)  Take a look at this photo of "the militant campaigner for women's suffrage, Emmeline Pankhurst, being arrested outside Buckingham Palace, London, May 1914."

The blurb I read added, "A short time previously she had been released from prison after serving less than a year of a three-year sentence for a series of arson attacks in 1913." That guy carrying her doesn't look like a Bobby to me. His hat and uniform look more like military. As I studied this photo, I went from thinking the man in the middle was yelling at her, to wondering if he's trying to tell the big fellow that he is HURTING the woman. Look at her face. Her pain is even more evident in the photo below, which seems to be the untouched-up original. I'm pretty sure you can enlarge the photo ABOVE by clicking on it.

I can't help but wonder if he is breaking some of her ribs, carrying her that way.  I wanted to know more about this interesting woman, who went right back into the fray even though she had spent most of a year jailed for her activism.  I know that I am not that brave.  Wikipedia has a very long article about her, beginning with this:
Emmeline Pankhurst (née Goulden; 15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement, which won women the right to vote. In 1999, Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating: "she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back."
As part of the Women Unbound reading challenge, I've been reading a lot about women fighting for their rights.  About a hundred years ago, Emmeline Pankhurst was doing all she could to gain the vote for women.  The period from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, when women in England and the United States were trying to get voting rights, is considered the "first wave" of feminism.  Wikipedia has this definition of the word:
"The term feminism can be used to describe a political, cultural, or economic movement aimed at establishing equal rights and legal protection for women."
The "second wave" began in the early 1960s and lasted through the late 1980s.  Some scholars say the second wave continues to exist alongside the "third wave" of feminism, which has already begun.  I was called a Women's Libber during the "second wave" because I dared to speak up about sexism and the fact that women made less than men for doing the same work and could be told with impunity, "We don't hire women to do that."  It didn't matter if women could do the job, maybe even better than the man hired.  We were told, "Men have to support their families."

My question for this week is, Was the fight worth it?  I ask because when women got the right to vote, most of them (I've read) voted the way their husbands did.  I don't think that is necessarily the case today, but after the pain "Missus Pankhurst" went through, don't you think we ought to take advantage of our right to vote?  Why do so many stay home on voting days, especially if the weather isn't perfect?  So I ask, Was it worth it?

Read more about Emmeline Pankhurst by clicking on her name.

UPDATE:  I have found a BBC News photo of this event, taken from a different angle!


Friday, December 25, 2009

♫♪.•* Merry *•♪♫♪•* Christmas *•♫♪

My great-granddaughter Raegan (7 months old).

My youngest grandchild Cady (9 years old).

My daughter Barbara's family ~ Barbara, Cady, Bonnie, Chase, Cali. (Son-in-law Greg was working yesterday.)

My daughter Sandra's family ~ Jamey, Sandra, Bonnie, Kenzie, Raegan, Michael (Kenzie's husband). (Son-in-law Pat had left to pick up his mother.)

My son David's family ~ Brandy, David, Bonnie, Sharon. (Grandson Kendall and his wife Whitney weren't there, because he had to work yesterday.)

NOTE: I should give the ages of ALL my grandchildren: Kendall (23), Cali (22), Brandy (21), Kenzie (19), Chase (18), Jamey (16), and Cady (9).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Bookshelf of Our Own ~ a different kind of teaser

Yesterday I picked up another book from the library: A Bookshelf of Our Own by Deborah G. Felder (2005). Felder selected "the fifty most important and admired books by and about women." These books, she says, have defined and shaped our experiences since the Middle Ages. Maria Kochis, in her review for Library Journal, said, "Stretching across the millennium, these works of literature have made the case for female autonomy and helped lay the groundwork for modern-day feminism." I haven't read the book yet, obviously, but I'm curious about her selections.


Here are the fifty books she chose, many of which I have read.  There's a second list of Felder's "Honorable Mentions."  Pick one (or more) of these and tell me how the book was meaningful to you.  You are welcome to tell me how many you have read, if you want to, but I'm especially interested in how any of these books may have shaped any of us, personally.  Is there a book you think should have been listed?  Tell us why.  I'll even write something in the comments myself, after I look over the list and think about it.

Felder's Fifty

The Tale of Genji ~ by Murasaki Shikibu
The Book of the City of Ladies ~ by Christine de Pisan
The Princess of Cleves ~ by Madame de La Fayette
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman ~ by Mary Wollstonecraft
Emma ~ by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre ~ by Charlotte Bronte
The Scarlet Letter ~ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Madame Bovary ~ by Gustave Falubert
Little Women ~ by Louisa May Alcott
Middlemarch ~ by George Eliot
Anna Karenina ~ by Leo Tolstoy
A Doll's House ~ by Henrik Ibsen
Tess of the d'Urbervilles ~ by Thomas Hardy
The Yellow Wallpaper ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Awakening ~ by Kate Chopin
The House of Mirth ~ by Edith Wharton
My Antonia ~ by Willa Cather
Cheri ~ by Colette
A Room of One's Own ~ by Virginia Woolf
Gone with the Wind ~ by Margaret Mitchell
Gaudy Night ~ by Dorothy L. Sayers
Their Eyes Were Watching God ~ by Zora Neale Hurston
The Diary of a Young Girl ~ by Anne Frank
The Second Sex ~ by Simone de Beauvoir
Century of Struggle: The Women's Rights Movement in the United States ~ by Eleanor Flexner
The Little Disturbances of Man ~ by Grace Paley
The Golden Notebook ~ by Doris Lessing
The Feminine Mystique ~ by Betty Friedan
The Bell Jar ~ by Sylvia Plath
Wide Sargasso Sea ~ by Jean Rhys
Sexual Politics ~ by Kate Millett
Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement ~ compiled and edited by Robin Morgan
The Female Eunuch ~ by Germaine Greer
Black Women in White America: A Documentary History ~ compiled and edited by Gerda Lerner
From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies ~ by Molly Haskell
Fear of Flying ~ by Erica Jong
Against Our Will ~ by Susan Brownmiller
Looking for Mr. Goodbar ~ by Judith Rossner
The Woman Warrior ~ by Maxine Hong Kingston
Of Woman Born ~ by Adrienne Rich
The Women's Room ~ by Marilyn French
Silences ~ by Tillie Olsen
Women, Race & Class ~ by Angela Davis
The House of the Spirits ~ by Isabel Allende
Beloved ~ by Toni Morrison
The Shawl ~ by Cynthia Ozick
Backlash ~ by Susan Faludi
The Beauty Myth ~ by Naomi Wolf
Bridget Jones's Diary ~ by Helen Fielding
The Bitch in the House ~ compiled and edited by Cathi Hanauer

Honorable Mentions

Twenty Years at Hull House ~ by Jane Addams
Bastard Out of Carolina ~ by Dorothy E. Allison
Kinflicks ~ by Lisa Alther
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents ~ by Julia Alvarez
The Handmaid's Tale ~ by Margaret Atwood
Pride and Prejudice ~ by Jane Austen
Persuasion ~ by Jane Austen
The Death of the Heart ~ by Elizabeth Bowen
Villette ~ by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights ~ by Emily Bronte
Rubyfruit Jungle ~ by Rita Mae Brown
Pavilion of Women ~ by Pearl Buck
Evelina ~ by Fanny Burney
The Three Sisters ~ by Anton Chekhov
The House on Mango Street ~ by Sandra Cisneros
Happy All the Time ~ by Laurie Colwin
The Hours ~ by Michael Cunningham
Life in the Iron Mills ~ by Rebecca Harding Davis
Moll Flanders ~ by Daniel Defoe
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek ~ by Annie Dillard
Rebecca ~ by Daphne du Maurier
Cold Mountain ~ by Charles Frazier
The Second Stage ~ by Betty Friedan
The Fountain of Age ~ by Betty Friedan
Women in the Nineteenth Century ~ by Margaret Fuller
Wives and Daughters ~ by Elizabeth Gaskell
In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development ~ by Carol Gilligan
Burgher's Daughter ~ Nadine Gordimer
Writing a Woman's Life ~ by Carolyn Heilbrun
The Children's Hour ~ by Lillian Hellman
Frida ~ by Hayden Herrera
The Portrait of a Lady ~ by Henry James
At the Bottom of the River ~ by Jamaica Kincaid
Interpreter of Maladies ~ by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Women ~ Clare Booth Luce
The Group ~ by Mary McCarthy
The Member of the Wedding ~ by Carson McCullers
'Night Mother ~ by Marsha Norman
them ~ by Joyce Carol Oates
Popcorn Venus ~ by Marjorie Rosen
The Magnificent Spinster ~ by May Sarton
Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen ~ by Alix Kates Shulman
A Thousand Acres ~ by Jane Smiley
The Joy Luck Club ~ by Amy Tan
Breathing Lessons ~ by Anne Tyler
How I Learned to Drive ~ by Paula Vogel
The Color Purple ~ by Alice Walker
The Heidi Chronicles ~ by Wendy Wasserstein
Delta Wedding ~ by Eudora Welty
Mrs. Dalloway ~ by Virginia Woolf

Monday, December 21, 2009

Question of the Week ~ same-sex marriage

With respect to marriage, the government should: a) Recognize marriage only between a man and a woman. b) Recognize both traditional and same-sex marriage. c) Get out of the marriage business, and leave it to private associations.

(Click to enlarge image below.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

When Everything Changed ~ a teaser

Today's teaser is from page 242 of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins, 2009.
"Ruth Bader Ginsburg applied for a Supreme Court clerkship and Justice Felix Frankfurter rejected her after asking, 'Does she wear skirts? I can't stand girls in pants'."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Question of the Week ~ patriotism

“Patriotism is not a virtue but a vice, a prejudice in favor of one’s own kind that we should try to overcome.” Do you agree?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A proud family moment

My granddaughter Cali graduated today from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  This photo shows her shaking hands with the Chancellor as she crosses the stage.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Question of the Week ~ civic virtue

Should the law aim at making citizens virtuous? How do you answer Aristotle’s claim that the point of politics is more than just mutual security and economic exchange? Isn’t the purpose of politics to encourage civic virtue and promote the common good?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Young people who deserve kudos

I live in St. Elmo, the historic district on the south side of Chattanooga. Since moving to this part of town just under a year ago, I have enjoyed living:
where there are bike lanes painted on my street,
where young mothers jog past, pushing a child in a buggy,
where I can stop and meet my neighbors when I'm out walking,
where old houses are being renovated by young couples,
where the community keeps in touch via an email list,
where diversity is a fact (young, old, black, white, Hispanic, etc.),
where people support the school in our district,
where we have a branch of our library system,
where even the youth get involved in making our community better.
Our neighborhood association meets at the old firehall, two blocks from my house. The photo above shows four of six young people who gave a presentation tonight about a problem they had investigated. Their handout begins, "St. Elmo is a great place to live. It is a great place to walk. Mostly."  The youngsters themselves did a study about walking to the central shopping area and the grocery store above it, literally up a hill from our main street to the stores and a large parking lot.  They found that it was easy to drive there to shop, but difficult for people to walk there.


The parking lot is fenced in, which means there are only two roads by which to enter the shopping center.  Both are heavily used by cars, and there are no sidewalks for walkers. There is a blind curve lined by tall shrubs, and cars tend to drive too fast. Having reached the hilltop, people still have to walk across the parking lot.  These young folks ask good questions -- and provide good answers.
"So what? Why walk to shop? Some people don't have any other way to get there. Walking is good exercise. Walking doesn't burn gas. Cars do. Short trips in the car are actually very bad for the car."
They have given this a lot of thought, listing reasons why they believe people would walk, if access were improved.  I like their comment about bus riders.
"Many residents come home from work on the bus, stop at the store, and then walk home. Since the St. Elmo bus does not enter the shopping center property, even folks riding the bus are pedestrians from the bus to the store and have to contend with the entrance problems."
They have figured out how many gallons of gas would be saved if 75% of households in the target area replace one weekly car trip to the store with a walk. And how many minutes of exercise these people would get, and how many calories they would burn.

How could the situation be improved?  One possibility would be to add sidewalks for pedestrians, but that would be expensive. Quicker and less costly would be to repaint the car lanes of the front entrance so there are two, instead of three, while adding a pedestrian (or bike) lane on each side. Best, they say, would be an easement to allow pedestrians to use the driveway of the (closed) VFW property, which would cut down the distance for people on foot -- and, they add, open the gate that blocks it!

Their brochure is very professionally done, with black-and-white photos of the problem areas, a map, and a box of factoids. They ended their presentation by urging us to Take Action!

I was very impressed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Complete Persepolis ~ by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ~ by Marjane Satrapi, 2003

Technically, I read The Complete Persepolis, which is divided into two books. The copyright page shows separate copyrights, so I decided to divide this review into the two books. Marjane grew up confused. When she was ten in 1980, the year after the Islamic revolution in Iran, girls were suddenly required to wear the veil when they didn't have to the day before. Because her parents demonstrated against the new regime, she learned to think for herself and got in trouble for some of the things she said. As a matter of fact, she seemed to always be in trouble. But how could she not think it was right to speak up, when she heard things like this at home (from page 74 of the graphic novel)?
Her mother: "They insulted me. They said that women like me should be pushed up against a wall and f**ked, and then thrown in the garbage."

Her father: "Forget about those morons!! Let's go home..."


Marjane: "Anything I can get you, Mom?"


Television, bearded man: "Woman's hair emanates rays that excite men. That's why women should cover their hair! If in fact it is really more civilized to go without the veil, then animals are more civilized than we are."

Her father: "Incredible! They think all men are perverts!!"

Marjane: "Of course, because they really are perverts."
The only rapists to fear were the men now making the rules. The family's activism drew attention and so did Marjane's outspoken ways. Finally her parents decided to send Marjane to live in Vienna with her mother's friend.

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return ~ by Marjane Satrapi, 2004

Marjane didn't stay long with her mother's friend, or with anyone else for that matter. She was an adolescent who had no idea who she was and had a hard time finding out. She tried a lot of things I would not have done, and I wondered as I read about her life if I would have considered doing the same things if I had her background. One part of this section rings true to what I observed, admittedly from afar, about the changes that occurred after the revolution in her country. Her mother, who had come to visit her in Vienna, said:
"I remember the days when we traveled around Europe. It was enough to carry an Iranian passport, they rolled out the red carpet. We were rich before. Now as soon as they learn our nationality, they go through everything, as though we were terrorists. They treat us as though we have the plague."
Marjane was too young to give us an account of the taking American hostages from the U.S. embassy in 1979, a crisis that didn't end until January of 1981. But I think she realized why Westerners no longer trusted Iranians.

This is the first graphic novel I've read, and I can't say I'm particularly impressed with it. I must admit, though, that she managed to get a lot into the book anyway. Nevertheless, I think I prefer more details and getting to know the characters in more depth. Rated: 7 of 10, a good book, but nothing special.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My crepe myrtle ~ summer, fall, winter

Yesterday the maintenance guys chopped off all the crepe myrtles. Today it snowed. The blank spot is for spring.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

We Are Our Mothers' Daughters ~ by Cokie Roberts, 1997

I was hooked by the first sentence:
"'A woman's place is in the house... And in the senate' the T-shirts and buttons proclaim at women's political events."
The first sentence grabbed me because I used to wear this button and probably still have it in my desk drawer. I dealt with many of the things Cokie Roberts writes about in this book, so therefore I became active in the women's movement in the 1970s.  Here's one of the situations that resonated with me (pp. 25-26):
"When my mother [Lindy Boggs] was elected to Congress in 1973, she had just learned firsthand that many widows lost their credit along with their mates.  It was bad enough to lose my father [Hale Boggs], who disappeared in an airplane over Alaska and was never found.  He was Majority Leader of the House of Representatives at the time.  To add insult to sorrow, Mamma found herself dealing with banks and creditors, trying to explain her peculiar situation."
Me, too.  I was divorced in 1973 and suddenly had no credit, even though "we" owned a house.  "He" got the credit WE had paid for.  I had to start from scratch, by getting a Sears Roebuck credit card (I had worked there briefly and they knew me) and asking my pharmacist for credit (he also knew me).  When a law was passed in 1974 making it illegal to deny credit to divorced women while giving it to their former husbands, J. C. Penney's -- which had recently denied me a card -- suddenly decided I could have one after all.  Lindy Boggs, Cokie's mother, served on the Banking and Currency Committee (pp. 26-27):
"It [the Committee] became a perfect place to right the wrongs of the credit discrimination she and friends of hers whose husbands had died or deserted them had experienced.  As my mother tells the story, the committee was considering legislation barring banks from denying anyone a loan because of race, national origin, or creed.  According to Mamma, she snuck into a back room, wrote the words 'or sex or marital status' in longhand into the text of the bill, made copies, and then brought them back to her colleagues, saying in her sweet, southern way, 'I'm sure the omission of women was just an oversight on your part.'  It helps to have a woman in the right place at the right time."
Cokie noticed something interesting when she was covering the Persian Gulf War debate (pp. 62-63):
"Like so many other areas of female endeavor in the last thirty years, we tend to think that the idea of women on the battlefield is something brand-new under the sun.  It's true that the congressional debate on the Persian Gulf War marked the first time I can remember the phrase 'our men and women in the military' used regularly to describe the fighting force.  (As a reporter covering the debate, I was struck by this interesting bit of rhetoric and then I realized that it was also the first time I had regularly heard the term 'our men in the military.'  It had always been 'our boys in Vietnam' or 'our boys in Korea,' leading me to the quite delightful observation that this was not the first time a woman had turned a boy into a man.)"
Just as I noticed a difference in sermons when women started preaching (like one sermon from the book of Exodus about the midwives), it is also true in the field of journalism (pp. 123-124):
"Women journalists write more about women politicians and issues affecting families and children, whether it's about breast cancer research or hardships in child care, or overcrowding in schools."
Women notice different things.  As she says in the book (p. 124):
"The real point here is that we need diversity in newsrooms.  We need people of different ages, races, sexes, and interests so that all kinds of ideas come to the table."
"The advances of women have always advanced men."  That's a quote from Dorothy Height, followed by an example (pp. 134-135) that I remember from when it was in the headlines:
"A prime example:  a case in the Philadelphia post office, where women couldn't lift the heavy bags, so men said they shouldn't have the jobs.  'Men shouldn't have been lifting them either,' she recalls with a laugh, 'they had hernias and all from it.  'We said, "If you can put a man on the moon, there ought to be some way to lift those."  Well, they got ways of electronically doing that.  That advanced it for men.  And I think a lot of men don't understand that.'  There's an understatement."

A couple of examples of interest to mothers (pp. 144, 166):
"No such thing as maternity leave existed."

"[T]here's no such thing as calling in sick on mommyhood."
And my last quote, about something I absolutely hated (p. 147):
"When a children's TV program I was producing was nominated for an Emmy, I received a certificate inscribed with my name.  Instead of the name that appeared on the show's credits, 'Cokie Roberts,' the certificate reads, 'Mrs. Stephen [sic] Roberts.' That, I think, says it all."
Yep, and when I review the book Mrs Man, which is about women taking their husband's names, I'll have a lot more to say on the subject.

My reading progress through this book was slow, but it may have had something to do with taking twelves pages of handwritten notes as I read.  It is also very frustrating to read, but that's the nature of her subject, at least for people who were there and saw the same things she writes about.  So how do I rate the book?  We Are Our Mothers' Daughters gets 8 of 10 from me because it's a very good book.

The Dewey Tree

Lisa Roe, the OnlinePublicist, has a new project that honors the memory of our book blogger friend Dewey.  I think it's a great idea, and so I want to share it with you.  Here's part of what Lisa wrote:

As I write this, I think of a favorite blogger who passed away this time last year. Her spirit lives on in the Dewey Read-a-Thon, Weekly Geeks, and The Bookworms Carnival. She loved reading. She loved books. She supported Banned Books Week and believed everyone had the right to reading material. In her honor, I'm calling this donation project The Dewey Tree. It's a little bit The Giving Tree, a little bit Dewey, a little bit charity. :-D

Here's what you do:
*Gather up the books you can live without. It can be 4 books, 10 books, or 20 books!
*Find a worthy group you would like to donate your overflow books to. It can be your local library, a literacy campaign (mine will go to the literacy center I volunteer for), or overseas. There's a great list of book donation sites here on the ALA. Find a charity that speaks to you!
*Then take a picture of your donation and email it to me (onlinepublicist [AT] gmail [DOT] com). It can be a pic of the mailing label on your package, one of your kids giving a box of books to a librarian, or you handing books over to your literacy center. Be creative and have fun!

I will accept pics (and will post favorites) until January 4, 2010. At that time, I will enter the names of all who sent donation pics into and choose three. Those three winners will receive custom made totes from me! I will email you pics of my available fabric and have you build one you like.
When you go to Lisa's site, you can get a copy of the nifty button for your own blog. I plan to donate some books to my local library.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hide and seek ~ find the hidden kitty

The "clue" would be even more obvious if this were video,
as it was "waving" at me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Question of the Week ~ ethnicity

Is it unfair for universities to consider race or ethnicity as a factor in admissions? Answer yes or no, and then please tell us why.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


"So, in Kentucky at the Montgomery County High School there is an English teacher named Risha Mullins. Mullins does amazing things at her high school to encourage reading and literacy. ... So, an energetic, dedicated professional who is getting positive recognition locally and nationally. Who brings money in, even!  What's a school superintendent to do?  Why, micromanage her classroom, telling her what books she can and cannot use."
You may want to hop over to Liz B's cozy blog and read all of what she posted today about this Kentucky school situation.  Her post is entitled, What Do You Think?

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan ~ by Lisa See, 2005

"Even now, after all these years, it is difficult for me to think about Mama and what I realized on that day. I saw so clearly that I was inconsequential to her. I was a third child, a second worthless girl, too little to waste time on until it looked like I would survive my milk years. She looked at me the way all mothers look at their daughters—as a temporary visitor who was another mouth to feed and a body to dress until I went to my husband’s home. I was five, old enough to know I didn’t deserve her attention..." (p. 12).
This novel set in ancient China may seem remote to our western way of thinking, but we aren't really so different.  The excruciating pain of foot binding to make women's feet small and somehow appealing to men is not really that different from wearing pointy-toed shoes with high heels that distort the bones in a woman's feet, making them grow crooked, and tilt her spine in a way that men may consider sexy, but sets up a woman for back trouble in later years. I quit wearing high heeled shoes many years ago.

I was delighted to learn that women figured out a way, in their isolation from each other, to communicate even without email or telephones.  They made up their own women's writing, nu shu, that men were unable to read, and kept in touch by exchanging a silk fan with their secret messages painted on it.  However different the lives of Lily and Snow Flower may seem to me, my friends and I sometimes have misunderstandings that spoil our friendships, just like women of that age.  Having the freedom to visit or pick up a phone or email a friend to set things straight doesn't mean it will happen.  It's easy to busy ourselves with superficial contacts on Facebook or Twitter and use that as an excuse to avoid the hard work of making deep friendships by keeping up with a few friends face to face.

Lily was haunted by memories of who she once was -- and of a person, long gone, who defined her very life.  And so, with time on her hands, she recounts the story of Snow Flower.  Lily feels remorse, but is it too late for forgiveness?

I rate Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See a 9 out of 10.  It's an excellent novel.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

World Religion Challenge

Oh, my! I have gotten totally involved in the Women Unbound reading challenge, and now I've found another that grabs me. The World Religion Challenge, hosted by J. T. Oldfield (Bibliofreak), runs for the entire year 2010, from January 1st through December 31st.
1.  The Bare Bones Path
Read something about what are *technically* the only world religions:  Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.  (These are considered, by some scholars, to be the only world religions because while Judaism and Hinduism have the numbers, they don't proselytize or really invite other people to join, making them more of an ethnicity.)
2.  The Penthouse Path
Read something about the five major world religions:  Hinduism, buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
3. The Universalist Path
Read something about all five of the major world religions PLUS more books about any or all of the following:  Shintoism, Animism, Taoism, Confucianism, Wicca, Mythology, Atheism, Occult, Tribal Religions, Voodoo, Unitarianism, Baha'i, Cults, Scientology, Mysticism, Rastafarianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Agnosticism, Gnosticism, Satanism, Manichaeism, Deism, comparative Religion, Religious Philosophy, Jungianism, Symbolism, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.
4.  The Unshepherded Path
Read as many books as you would like about whatever religions you want.

I'm choosing the Unshepherded Path so I can read as many books of any religions as I choose.  J. T. Oldfield also calls this the "Don't Tell Me What to Do Path," which sounds totally appropriate to me.  Here are some books that are on my shelves that fit the criteria for this challenge (Eva and J.T. also have great lists of books):

The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels ~ by Thomas Cahill, 1998
The Red Tent: A Novel ~ by Anita Diamant, 1997
The Woman Who Laughed at God: The Untold History of the Jewish People ~ by Jonathan Kirsch, 2001
The Triumph of Deborah: A Novel ~ by Eva Etzioni-Halevy, 2008
The Song of Hannah: A Novel ~ by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
The Garden of Ruth: A Novel ~ by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith ~ by Marcus J. Borg, 2003
The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth ~ by Thomas Jefferson, 1989
The Bible: A Biography ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2007
God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now ~ by John Dominic Crossan, 2007
What Paul Really Said About Women ~ by John Temple Bristow, 1988
The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity ~ by Hyam Maccoby, 1986
The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age ~ by John Hick, 2005
The Grand Inquisitor ~ by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett, 1956 (or the translation by David McDuff, 1993)
The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity ~ by Thomas Sheehan, 1986
Is Jesus God?: Finding Our Faith ~ by Michael Morwood, 2001
The Jesus Legend ~ by G. A. Wells, 1996
A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity ~ by Keith Hopkins, 1999
The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus ~ by Marvin Meyer
The Gospel of Judas ~ edited by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, 2006
The Complete Gospels ~ edited by Robert J. Miller, 1994
The Essence of the Gnostics ~ by Bernard Simon, 2004
Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing ~ by Stephan A. Hoeller, 2002
Islam: A Concise Introduction ~ by Huston Smith, 2001
The Namesake: A Novel ~ by Jhumpa Lahiri, 2003 
Tribal Religions / Animism / Shamanism
Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux ~ by Nicholas Black Elk, as told through John G. Neihardt, 1932, 2000
Atheism / Agnosticism
Humanism for Parents: Parenting without Religion ~ by Sean P. Curley, 2007
The God Delusion ~ by Richard Dawkins, 2006
The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever ~ edited by Christopher Hitchens, 2007
Comparative Religion
The Great Transformation: The Beginning of our Religious Traditions~ by Karen Armstrong, 2006
People of the Book: A Novel ~ by Geraldine Brooks, 2008
Train to Pakistan: A Novel ~ by Khushwant Singh, 1956, 2007
The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2000
Agape Love: A Tradition Found in Eight World Religions ~ by John Templeton, 1999
God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism ~ by Jonathan Kirsch, 2004
Martyrs' Crossing: A Novel ~ by Amy Wilentz, 2001
The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalem ~ by Kanan Makiya, 2001
We Just Want to Live Here: A Palestinian Teenager, An Israeli Teenager, An Unlikely Friendship ~ by Amal Rifa'i and Odelia Ainbinder, 2003
The Sea of Galilee Boat: A 2000 Year Old Discovery From the Sea of Legends ~ by Shelley Wachsmann, 2000 
Religious Philosophy
Re-Discovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America ~ by Phyllis A. Tickle, 1995
The Twentieth Century: A Theological Overview ~ edited by Gregory Baum, 1999
Tomorrow's God: Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge ~ by Neale Donald Walsch, 2004
After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s ~ by Robert Wuthnow, 1998
Searching for God to Love ~ by Chris Blake, 2000
Science and Religion
How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science ~ by Michael Shermer, 2000
God for the 21st Century ~ edited by Russell Stannard, 2000
The Hidden Face of God: How Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth ~ by Gerald L. Schroeder, 2001
Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery of Harmony Between Modern Science and the Bible ~ by Gerald L. Schroeder, 1990
The Portable Jung ~ edited by Joseph Campbell, translated by R. F. C. Hull, 1971
There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives ~ by Robert H. Hopcke, 1997
Et cetera
The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community ~ by Jesse Rice, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kiki's been surfing the web

Kiki seems to like what Eva Etzioni-Halevy wrote about The Triumph of Deborah, which I am currently reading.  I can hardly wait to get to the part I put into a teaser last week.  Do you think I should hide the book from Kiki when I'm not actually reading it?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Question of the week ~ David Letterman

David Letterman, host of The Late Show, makes over $30 million per year, while the average schoolteacher makes less than $55,000. Is that just?  Answer yes or no, and then please tell us why.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest post by the author ~ The Triumph of Deborah

Eva Etzioni-Halevy has written three novels about women in the Bible:  The Song of Hannah, The Garden of Ruth, and The Triumph of Deborah, the most recent.  Welcome, Eva!

What attracted me to write about the Biblical figure Deborah:
An Amazing Story, A Shining Role Model, and a Leader to Peace

Sometimes I am asked what made me decide to write a novel about the biblical figure Deborah and warrior Barak. Deborah was a religious and national leader and a chief justice all wrapped in one, arguably the most eminent woman in the Bible (Old Testament), and Barak was a renowned warrior. This in itself is enough of a reason to write about them.

An Amazing Story

In addition, the Scripture (Judges 4-5) tells the most amazing story about them.

In ancient Israel, war is looming. Leader Deborah orders warrior Barak to launch a strike against the neighboring Canaanites, who enjoy military superiority and threaten Israel with destruction.

The Bible tells us that when Deborah sent Barak to go out to war against the Canaanites, he did something rather unusual: he demanded that she accompany him to the battlefield. Over three thousand years ago -- a woman in the battlefield? Very strange. As I read the story over and over again, I asked myself: why did he really want her there?

The Scripture further recounts that she ended up going with him not merely into battle but to his hometown as well. Yet she was a married woman and a mother, and there is nothing to indicate that husband Lapidoth accompanied her.

I began asking myself: what did her husband have to say to that excursion? What would ANY husband say if his wife suddenly went off to distant parts with another man, leaving him to do the babysitting? It makes sense that this created marital difficulties for them. Would they be able to overcome those problems? Further, what transpired between Deborah and Barak when they were together with no husband in sight?

These were the aspects of Deborah and Barak and their story in the Bible that I found most compelling, and they prompted me to write the novel, in which I used my imagination and my identification to answer these questions.

According to the biblical story, against all odds Bark succeeds and returns triumphantly. The Bible also says: "Barak, capture your captives!" In my novel, those captives are (among others) two daughters of the defeated Canaanite king and a tumultuous love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses, while Deborah becomes part of the turmoil.

I wrote the story in a manner that is faithful to the Scripture, but makes for light, entertaining reading and can be enjoyed by Bible lovers, but no less by people who have never held a Bible in their hands.

Beyond writing about Deborah because her story in the Bible may serve as the basis of an intriguing plot, I also chose her as my heroine because I believe that women of today can find inspiration in her.

A Shining Role Model

Based on the account in the Bible and on my novel, which enlarges on it, Deborah may serve as a splendid role model for contemporary women.

Deborah lived in a male dominated society, where women were downtrodden: they had few legal rights and their position in the family was deplorable. Nonetheless she succeeded in attaining an outstanding position as an exalted leader, and was highly revered by both men and women.

Much has changed since then, but the circumstances for women are still difficult, although in a different way. Legally, the situation of women has improved out of all recognition. At the same time, today's women face difficulties in their lives, which are far from negligible. One of them is that of combining partnership with a man and motherhood with a career.

The lesson that women today can learn from Deborah is: I can do it. No matter how difficult the circumstances, I can overcome them. That does not mean that all women must become political leaders, or judges. Rather, the message in the Bible and in my Bible-based novel is that the limiting circumstances did not deter her from asserting herself and doing what SHE wanted to do. Present day women seeking to build lives of their own may derive inspiration from her in whatever THEY want to do, in whatever field they choose to do so.

A Leader to Peace

The Scripture concludes Deborah and Barak's story with the following verse: "And the land was at peace for forty years." So, as Deborah was the one who instigated war, she must also have been the one who brought about peace.

In my novel, I show how Deborah, aided by Barak and others, groped her way toward the greatest triumph of her life: the attainment of peace.

Here, too, there is a lesson for our times: Based on the Bible, my novel shows that a woman can be a brilliant national leader. She can lead her nation to war when necessary, and to peace when this becomes possible. The world is just about due for such a woman-leader.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy

 (Bonnie's note:  See the teaser from this book that I posted on Thursday.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Women's Studies

When I decided to do the Women Unbound reading challenge, I needed to pick books related to feminism.  I started making a list and checking it twice -- well, probably checking it a half dozen times before I wrote about my eight choices (though I reserve the right to change my mind -- again).  This is my longer list, if anyone needs good ideas for books that fall under the "women's studies" label.

  • Diary of a Mad Housewife ~ by Sue Kaufman, 1967
  • The Triumph of Deborah ~ by Eva Etzioni-Halevy, 2008
  • Eleanor vs. Ike ~ by Robin Gerber, 2008
  • Evensong ~ by Gail Godwin, 1999
  • The Camel Bookmobile ~ by Masha Hamilton, 2007
  • Staircase of a Thousand Steps ~ by Masha Hamilton, 2007
  • The Secret School ~ by Avi, 2001
  • One Thousand White Women ~ by Jim Fergus, 1998
  • The Red Tent ~ by Anita Diamant, 1997
  • Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God ~ by Joe Coomer, 1995
  • Herland ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915
  • The Secret Life of Bees ~ by Sue Monk Kidd, 2002
  • The Pull of the Moon ~ by Elizabeth Berg, 1996
  • Prodigal Summer ~ by Barbara Kingsolver, 2000
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy ~ by Alice Walker, 1992
  • Mrs. Dalloway ~ by Virginia Woolf, 1925
  • The Hours ~ by Michael Cunningham, 1998
  • The Left Hand of Darkness ~ by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1969
  • Rashi's Daughters: Joheved ~ by Maggie Anton, 2005
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God ~ by Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
  • The Awakening ~ by Kate Chopin, 1899
  • The Women's Room ~ by Marilyn French, 1977
  • Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen ~ by Susan Gregg Gilmore, 2008
  • Some Days There's Pie ~ by Catherine Landis, 2002
  • The Penelopiad ~ by Margaret Atwood, 2005
  • Ahab's Wife ~  by Sena Jeter Naslund, 1999
  • A Thousand Acres ~ by Jane Smiley, 1991
  • Cherokee Women ~ by Theda Perdue, 1998
  • Why Women Should Rule the World ~ by Dee Dee Myers, 2008
  • Mrs. Man ~ by Una Stannard, 1977
  • The Feminine Mystique ~ by Betty Friedan, 1963
  • Women's Ways of Knowing ~ by Mary Field Belenky, et al, 1986
  • In a Different Voice ~ by Carol Gilligan, 1982, 1993
  • Dance of the Dissident Daughter ~ by Sue Monk Kidd, 1996
  • GirlDrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism ~ Nona Willis Aronowitz and Emma Bee Bernstein, 2009
  • The Boundaries of Her Body: A History of Women's Rights in America ~ by Debran Rowland, 2004
  • Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings ~ edited by Miriam Schneir, 1972
  • We Are Our Mother's Daughters ~ by Cokie Roberts, 1998
  • Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation ~ by Cokie Roberts, 2004
  • The Silent Passage: Menopause ~ by Gail Sheehy, 1992
  • A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman ~ by Joan Anderson, 1999
  • In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution ~ by Susan Brownmiller, 1999
  • In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose ~ by Alice Walker, 1983
  • Out of Africa ~ by Isak Dinesen, 1938
  • Lives of Our Own: Secrets of Salty Old Women ~ by Caroline Bird, 1995
  • What We Know So Far: Wisdom Among Women ~ edited by Beth Benatovich, 1995
  • Bookends: Two Women, One Enduring Friendship ~ by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, 2001
  • Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement ~ edited by Robin Morgan, 1970
  • A Room of One's Own ~ by Virginia Woolf, 1929
  • Women Who Run with the Wolves ~ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 1992
  • Reinventing Home: Six Working Women Look at Their Home Lives ~ by Laurie Abraham, et al, 1991
CHILDREN'S (because we're all children at heart)

  • Blueberry Girl ~ by Neil Gaiman, 2009
  • Miss Rumphius ~ by Barbara Cooney, 1982

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Triumph of Deborah ~ a teaser

This bit is quoted from The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy (2008), pages 155-156:
"Exalted judge, what does the Torah decree:  How long after his wife's demise is it permissible for a widower to take a new wife?"

"If this matter has been burdening you, you did well to come to me with it, for I have good tidings for you.  The Torah does not lay down any injunction at all in this respect.  All you need to do is to consult the dictates of your own heart.  And since I surmise that by now you are hankering after a new woman," she added shrewdly, "you would do well to consult her, too."

To this the man had a rather astounding reply.  "It is precisely what I am doing at this moment."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser ~ We Are Our Mothers' Daughters

Today's teaser is from pages 62-63 of We Are Our Mothers' Daughters by Cokie Roberts (1998):

"Like so many other areas of female endeavor in the last thirty years, we tend to think that the idea of women on the battlefield is something brand-new under the sun.  It's true that the congressional debate on the Persian Gulf War marked the first time I can remember the phrase "our men and women in the military" used regularly to describe the fighting force.  (As a reporter covering the debate, I was struck by this interesting bit of rhetoric and then I realized that it was also the first time I had regularly heard the term" our men in the military."  It had always been "our boys in Vietnam" or "our boys in Korea," leading me to the quite delightful observation that this was not the first time a woman had turned a boy into a man.")