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.")

Monday, November 16, 2009

Question of the Week ~ racial profiling


“Racial profiling by the police is unjust, even if it might make us somewhat safer.”  Do you agree with that statement?  Answer yes or no, and then please tell us why.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Women Should Rule the World ~ by Dee Dee Myers, 2008

Dee Dee Myers, only 31 at the time, was the first woman ever to be White House Press Secretary.
"I wasn't the first woman to be the first woman, of course. I stand on the shoulders of the countless others who stuck their necks out -- and sometimes got their heads knocked off -- for going where no woman had gone before. Not all of them were trying to advance the interests of the sisterhood. Still, because of them, those of us who followed have had more, different, and better opportunities.  I know I have."
I highly recommend Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers (2008) to everyone, but especially to those who have taken on the Women Unbound reading challenge.  This book is an eye-opener and a consciousness raiser.

She starts with why women DON'T rule the world, moves on to why women SHOULD rule the world, and then give us her ideas about how women CAN rule the world.  I especially like her sense of humor.
"In her fascinating book The Female Brain, Dr. Louann Brizendine explains that male and female brains are indistinguishable in the weeks following conception.  Then, at about eight weeks, the male baby gets a dose of testosterone, which literally begins killing off cells in the communication, observation, and emotion processing centers of the brain -- and growing cells in the sex and aggression centers.  It's sort of like "Wow!" and "Duh!" all at the same time" (pp. 70-71).

"'If the three wise men had been women, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical gifts, and there would be Peace On Earth' [she quoted].  Of course!  But they weren't women, so the wise men got there late -- and brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Can you imagine what Mary -- who's just delivered a baby on a bale of hay without an epidural -- must have thought about that?" (p. 103).
Sometimes she states the obvious (obvious to most women, anyhow) and then shares her story.
"I often felt that I had to work harder than my male colleagues to be heard, a frustration I know so many other women have experienced" (p. 177).

"Still, lots of my female friends have chosen to downshift or suspend their careers at different points in their lives, for a variety of reasons, in ways that men just don't" (p. 160).

"Unlike the men in the room, she had to fight like crazy just to be part of the conversation" (p. 40).
She also clues us in on what we're doing wrong.
"Headhunters say that women often come off as less confident because they are more honest about their weaknesses, while men talk only about their strengths" (p. 191).
At the beginning of each chapter is an interesting quote:
"I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and career." -- Gloria Steinem (p. 153)

"When a man gets up to speak, people listen, then look.  When a woman gets up to speak, people look; then if they like what they see, they listen." -- Pauline Frederick (p. 15)

"It may be the cock that crows, but it's the hen that lays the egg." -- Margaret Thatcher (p. 129)
I could go on quoting from this book, but I'll just encourage you to read it.  This is an excellent book, and I rate it 9 of 10.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pull of the Moon ~ by Elizabeth Berg, 1996

When we read a book, we always bring to the task whatever is going on in our lives at the moment.  I read this book through the lens of feminism because I am taking part in the year-long reading challenge called Women Unbound.  This novel turns out to be perfect to kick off the project because I could see in it so many things happening to Nan (the protagonist) that women over the years have struggled with as they try to get a handle on what Betty Friedan called "the problem that has no name."  I started exploring that "problem" last week when I pulled a teaser quote from this book:
"And then I went to the bookstore, to the poetry section, to find something about the beauty of older women and I found nothing" (p. 23).
In our youth-obsessed culture, elderly women are not much noticed.  But women can feel diminished at any age.  The chapters of this book alternate between letters Nan wrote to her husband, Martin, after she ran away and entries she added to a journal she kept of her rambling journey to nowhere in particular.  Here, she's thinking about occasions when a woman feels diminished because she is being ignored:

"Not long ago, I saw a woman in a drugstore pick something up in her hand, delighted, and hold it out toward her husband.  It was just a perfume bottle, but the shape of it was lovely.  "See this, hon?" she said.  And the man said, "Yeah," but he had his back to her and was walking down the aisle away from her.  The woman put the thing back, diminished" (p. 38).
Nan realized later that she had lost herself, which is another way of feeling diminished.  Here's what she wrote in a letter to her husband:
"When I got to the grocery store, the oddest thing happened.  I found it very, very difficult to buy anything.  I would pick something up, then think, no, it's Ruthie who really likes pineapple.  No, Martin is the one who loves London broil.  I wanted to get something special, ... but everything I picked up, I put back.  Finally, I leaned against the dairy case and thought, well, come on, Nan, what do YOU really, really like?  And then I thought, my God, I don't know.  I've forgotten" (p. 160).
And women are left out of the history books, as Nan noticed:
"It seems to me that the working minds and hearts of women are just so interesting, so full of color and life.  And one of the most tragic things I've seen is the way that's been overlooked, the way that if you try to discover what the women were doing at any given time in history, you are hard pressed to find out.  Why?" (p. 90).
When I was in school in the 1940s and 1950s, history lessons were all about men.  We had to memorize dates related to kings and wars and when Columbus "discovered" America (he "sailed the ocean blue" in fourteen hundred and ninety two, in case you've forgotten).  If a woman was mentioned, she was part of a pair (and was always listed second), as in Ferdinand and Isabella, the monarchs who sent Columbus west to discover a trade route to India.

Aging is difficult for many women, maybe all of us.  Sometimes it's the physical aspects of aging that seem most troublesome.
"A woman a bit older than me told me she recently found a hair under her chin and it terrified her so much she got in her car and drove for fifty miles -- nowhere, just around in circles.  It was a black hair, she said, stiff as a whisk broom.  When she came home she locked the bathroom door and got out her eyebrow tweezers and pulled the thing out.  She said she looked at it for a long time, and then she flushed it down the toilet -- flushed it twice.  After that she spent a good fifteen minutes checking her face for more hairs. ... It's so humiliating, she told me.  It's like you're being punished for something and you've no idea what you've done wrong except age" (pp. 148-149).
Nan was a woman on a journey to sort out her life.  The first book I have completed for the Women Unbound reading challenge, then, is The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg, 1996.  I rate it 8 of 10, a very good book.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Question of the Week ~ cheat a child?

Suppose a child goes into a store to buy a loaf of bread.  The shopkeeper realizes that he could shortchange the child.  But he worries that if he did so, other customers might find out, and he would lose business.  So he gives the child the correct change.  Does the shopkeeper’s action have moral worth?  Answer yes or no, and then please tell us why.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

For all my friends doing NaNoWriMo

moar funny pictures

 Joy Renee of Joystory came up with this one.  Now that she's gotten it out of her system, she says, she'll be able to continue her forays into fiction.  NaNoWriMo, for those of you who have never heard of it, stands for National Novel Writing Month.  November is the month when thousands and thousands of folks struggle daily with word count because they are attempting to write 50,000 words before November 30th.  Those 50,000 words will be the first draft of a novel.  Yes, really.  They're mad, aren't they?  Umm, and I've done it twice, in 2007 and 2008, succeeding both times in passing the goal before the end of the month.  Last year, however, I got sick on December 4th, mere days past the deadline.  The illness turned out to be congestive heart failure, so I decided not to pressure myself this year.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blueberry Girl ~ by Neil Gaiman, 2009

This book is a prayer for a blueberry girl, written by Neil Gaiman for a friend who was about to become a new mother and called her unborn baby Blueberry.

I bought this book for my first great-grandchild and gave it to her grandmother (my daughter) a couple of weeks before the baby was born.  It was a Sunday and I was invited out to eat with my daughter's family, including her pregnant daughter with her husband.

That same morning I had learned about this book from my friend Ellen.  Within two hours I had researched Blueberry Girl online, liked it, gone to the bookstore near where I was to meet the family for lunch, and bought the book.  While online I had listened to Neil Gaiman read the whole book (all 2 minutes, 20 seconds of it), and before lunch I had time to enjoy the pictures on every page of the actual book.

You're probably thinking I'm a bit strange to give a picture book to my daughter, who's in her forties.  My great-granddaughter was due soon and I was going to lunch with her parents, so why did I give the book to my daughter?  Ah, because it was her birthday, and it would be her first grandchild making an appearance.  Her parents had already named her Raegan, knowing the baby was a girl.  This seemed like a perfect book to read to one's first granddaughter.  I've already shared this photo, taken nearly three months after I got excited about this book, but it's the only picture I have that shows all four of us:  me, my daughter, my granddaughter, and Raegan, the one who has a Blueberry Girl book (along with many others) at her grandmother's house.

Listen to the whole thing poem by Neil Gaiman on this video that floats the wonderful illustrations by Charles Vess all over the screen while you listen.  "This is a prayer for a blueberry girl ... Help her to help herself,/ help her to stand,/ help her to lose and to find./ Teach her we're only as big as our dreams./ Show her that fortune is blind ... Give her all these and a little bit more, gifts for a blueberry girl."

Girls have not always been allowed to follow their hearts, as I'll be sharing when I review books for the Women Unbound reading challenge.  May Raegan's future be blessed with the freedom to pursue her dreams, just as Neil Gaiman imagines it for all the girls in all those beautiful illustrations.  I rate Blueberry Girl a 10 out of 10.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dona Nobis Pacem

Bloggers from all across the globe are blogging for peace.
We speak with one voice.
One subject.
One day.

"Dona Nobis Pacem" is Latin for "Grant Us Peace."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pull of the Moon ~ a teaser

Today's teaser is from page 23 of Elizabeth Berg's novel The Pull of the Moon (1996):
"And then I went to the bookstore, to the poetry section, to find something about the beauty of older women and I found nothing."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Look what I found ~ The Feminine Mystique

In moving something on my bookshelf a few minutes ago, I uncovered this paperback book that's 40-some years old.
The Feminine Mystique ~ by Betty Friedan, 1963
If you look closely, you can see the original price of the book in the top right-hand corner: 75 cents! I don't think I ever read it all the way through, so I plan to substitute this book for one on my list for the Women Unbound reading challenge. (Click on the link to see my list.) Here are the chapter headings:
1 ~ The problem that has no name
2 ~ The happy housewife heroine
3 ~ The crisis in woman's identity
4 ~ The passionate journey
5 ~ The sexual solipsism of Sigmund Freud
6 ~ The functional freeze, the feminine protest, and Margaret Mead
7 ~ The sex-directed educators
8 ~ The mistaken choice
9 ~ The sexual sell
10 ~ Housewifery expands to fill the time available
11 ~ The sex-seekers
12 ~ Progressive dehumanization: The comfortable concentration camp
13 ~ The forfeited self
14 ~ A new life plan for women
I know about "housewifery" that expands to fill the time available. I remember noticing that I could spend all day on a number of chores (doing dishes, laundry, ironing, vacuuming, dusting) -- or, if I had something else I wanted to do that day, I could finish all those chores quickly and STILL manage to do that special thing. I'm glad I found this book so I can read it during this year's reading focus on women because it's one of the seminal works of the women's liberation movement. Funny-ha-ha irony, that word "seminal," which is based on the word "semen":
1. pertaining to, containing, or consisting of semen.
2. (botany) of or pertaining to seed.
3. having possibilities of future development.
4. highly original and influencing the development of future events: a seminal artist; seminal ideas.
Obviously, I'm using the word in the fourth sense.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Women Unbound ~ meme to start the challenge

Women Unbound is a reading challenge I'm taking part in during the coming year, from now until the end of November 2010. Participants have been asked to do this meme, so here are some of my thoughts about feminism.

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?

Feminism is a lens through which we can evaluate women's situations in the work place, in the home, in social circumstances, in schools, in churches, in politics -- wherever we find ourselves. It involves a determination to pay attention so we can recognize when women are treated as less than fully human because women are people, too. Once upon a time, when a woman married, she and her husband became "one" and -- lest you think that is merely a very sweet metaphor -- let me explain that HE, the husband, was that person. When I was divorced in 1973, my husband had credit from paying our mortgage and other bills, and I did not. In some parts of the United States even that recently, a woman could not sell her land, even if it was inherited or bought and paid for by her, without the approval of her husband. My grandmother's generation fought for the right to vote in the United States, but I was among the women demanding equal pay for equal work and other rights some of you take for granted today.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Of course I'm a feminist. Every woman who lives in a patriarchal society should be, because this is still a man's world. Do I sound irate? Damn right, I am! Though we've come a long way, baby, we aren't "there" yet.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

Too many obstacles to list in a single blog post, but one that especially gets to me is in the field of religion. Fundamentalist protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church won't ordain women, for example, even though the first persons sent to tell the good news were women (see Matthew 28:5-7, Luke 24:1-11, and John 20:17-18). The "good book" of Christianity is frequently interpreted in ways detrimental to women, like blaming Eve for bringing sin into the world even though she wasn't even there when Adam was commanded not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. (Don't believe me? Read Genesis 2:15-23 and see that God made her after the prohibition to Adam.) Muslim fundamentalists like the Taliban severely punish or even kill a woman if a man disapproves of what she's wearing. I could give more examples, but we need a laugh so I'll just leave you with this cartoon (which, on second thought, I see isn't really funny).

To learn more about this reading challenge, read yesterday's post Women Unbound.

Question of the week ~ selling a kidney

Should it be legal for people to sell one of their kidneys on the open market? Answer yes or no, and then please tell us why.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Women Unbound

Women Unbound is a reading challenge that runs from today through November 30, 2010. Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to women's studies = "the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender."

Interested in participating? Choose one of these three levels:
* Philogynist: read at least two books,
including at least one nonfiction one.
* Bluestocking: read at least five books,
including at least two nonfiction ones.
* Suffragette: read at least eight books,
including at least three nonfiction ones.
Reading two books would make me a Philogynist:
Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God ~ by Joe Coomer, 1995, fiction.
Nine weeks after losing her husband, Charlotte escapes to a wooden motor yacht in New Hampshire, where her shipmates are an aging blue-haired widow, an emotional seventeen-year-old, and the ugliest dog in literature. A genuine bond develops among the three women, as their distinct personalities and paths cross and converge against the backdrop of emotional secrets, abuse, and the wages of old age.
We Are Our Mother's Daughters ~ by Cokie Roberts, 1998, nonfiction.
"'A woman's place is in the house... And in the senate' the T-shirts and buttons proclaim at women's political events." This first sentence got me because I used to wear this pin and probably still have it in my desk drawer. I was active in the women's movement in the 1970s, so I guess that makes me one of the mothers, huh?
I know full well I'll read more than two books about women in a year plus a month, so here are three more that would make me a Bluestocking:
The Pull of the Moon ~ by Elizabeth Berg, 1996, fiction.
"Dear Martin, I'm sorry the note I left you was so abrupt. I just wanted you to know I was safe ... I won't be back for awhile. I'm on a trip. I needed all of a sudden to go, without saying where, because I don't know where. I know this is not like me. I know that. But please believe me, I am safe and I am not crazy, I felt as though if I didn't do this I wouldn't be safe and I would be crazy ... And can you believe this? I love you. Nan"
Mrs. Man ~ by Una Stannard, 1977, nonfiction.
This book, which I read about 1980, is about women taking their husband's names. I read it not long after getting a divorce and wondering if I should use my maiden name again. ("Maiden" name? Sheesh! It was my daddy's name.) Because I had three young children, I kept Jacobs (their father's name) so we'd all have the same last name. I ordered a used copy of this book in order to re-read it. I haven't been able to get it any other way.
Prodigal Summer ~ by Barbara Kingsolver, 2000, fiction.
This novel is all about connections -- or better, interconnections -- as it weaves together the lives of three women: Deanna, a reclusive wildlife biologist watching changes in the ecosystem as coyotes are reintroduced; Lusa, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife who is recently widowed; and Nannie, an elderly woman feuding with her neighbor about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.
I may decide to go for eight and be a Suffragette. Here are the ones I'll read, if I get this far:
The Silent Passage: Menopause ~ by Gail Sheehy, 1992, nonfiction.
"The pregnancy club is for women a joyous one -- the menopause club is one nobody wants to admit she has joined" (from the back cover). "Menopause may be the last taboo," says Sheehy, whose goal in writing this book was to "render normalcy to a normal physical process." She takes a look at things like memory loss, "embezzles bone," hormones, night sweats, postmenopausal zest, and the risk of a heart attack.
Herland ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915, fiction.
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, thinking the women will treat them royally. I re-read this one about once a decade, and it's time to read it again.
Founding Mothers ~ by Cokie Roberts, 2004, nonfiction.
"George Lucas brought his English wife and daughters to South Carolina in 1734 to claim three plantations left to him by his father. Before long, however, Lucas left for Antigua to rejoin his regiment in fighting the war against Spain, leaving his sixteen-year-old daughter in charge of all the properties, plus her ailing mother and toddler sister. ... Can you imagine a sixteen-year-old girl today being handed those responsibilities? Eliza Lucas willingly took them on."
If you are interested in reading along with us, sign up at the special Women Unbound blog set up for this 13-month challenge.

UPDATED (November 21,2009):  I have posted a longer list of books I've read or have on my shelves, in case you need book ideas for this challenge.  I have already changed my mind about which ones to read, but I have also decided I'll read and review as many during the year as possible.  I see already that my final number will be much greater than eight!