The Veins of the Ocean is a contemplative look at grief, shame, loss, destiny, and hope through the eyes of Reina, a young Latina in south Florida. TrThe Veins of the Ocean is a contemplative look at grief, shame, loss, destiny, and hope through the eyes of Reina, a young Latina in south Florida. Traumatic events have shaped Reina's life from her earliest days, and when her beloved brother, Carlos "Carlito" commits a shockingly similar crime to the one her father did, Reina is tested in loyalty and love. She knows he is guilty, but devotes every weekend of her teen and early adult years to visiting Carlito, who now is on Death Row in a Florida prison.
This brother-sister relationship forms the backbone of this story: rich and lyrical in tone and detail, weaving present situations with dreamlike sequences of her and Carlito's past. When Reina meets Nesto, a Cuban refugee who now lives and works in the Keys, she is drawn to the loyalty and devotion that he displays for his family, who he wired tirelessly to provide for, back in Cuba.
There were some amazing plot points in the story: the dolphins at the "dolphinarium", scuba diving, Reina's visit to her family's home in Cartagena, and then to Cuba. I also liked the undercurrent of mysticism and the way destiny and freedom were a part of the larger story landscape.
Engel's prose blew me away and I am really looking forward to reading more by her.
-- Book Riot 2017 Read Harder Challenge: Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration theme ...more
These books were recommended to me many times over the years when the recommender learned that I studied archaeology in college. "Oh, you must have reThese books were recommended to me many times over the years when the recommender learned that I studied archaeology in college. "Oh, you must have read the Amelia Peabody books!" was often followed with "Indiana Jones!" It took me many years to get to the first one... and wow, I was disappointed.
At first, I thought it was a parody, so I kept on reading. The quips from the heroine Amelia Peabody are zingers akin to Maggie Smith's Lady Violet character in Downton Abbey, which was funny at first, but I really tired of the colonialist sentiment and the descriptions of the modern Egyptians as compared to the "highly evolved" English.
DNF - had to stop the noise. I became upset with myself for even sticking with it so long....more
Compelling and well-researched, Harris-Perry sets it all out in Sister Citizen. She covers a lot of ground here, and there's a strong case for a seconCompelling and well-researched, Harris-Perry sets it all out in Sister Citizen. She covers a lot of ground here, and there's a strong case for a second edition since its publish date of 2011. The last 6 years have provided a lot of data and cases to bolster her message in this book.
Opening with a passage and analysis of Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, she draws the parallels between the fiction events and the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina 70+ years later. The beginning of the book details the social history and framework of New Orleans post-Katrina, as well as the way the story of the storm and how it was translated to the public. I was particularly struck by the semantics adopted by the media of "Katrina survivor" vs. "refugee", appearing to be completely tied to the race of the person. Harris-Perry, in her own research in New Orleans psot-Katrina, draws from oral histories of many survivors. It's a heart-breaking, but eye-opening, section of the book.
The chapter on shame as a societal construct is profound. How is shame used by groups, by governments, by institutions? What does this do to the victim over time/generations? How does shame differ from guilt? The last question led to a specifically interesting quote:
[Guilt's] specific focus on behavioral violation can encourage empathy, and motivate the guilty to altruistic action. Something different happens with shame, by imposing a lasting stigma on their very identity. It is proclaiming that a person (herself or himself) is defective, rather than motivating restitution. Shame debilitates and encourages avoidance.
The book moves into common societal streotypes of African-American women: "Jezebel" with loose morals and a strong sexual appetite, "Mammy" the asexual matron who dutifully cares for her charges - even leaving her own family behind, and "Sapphire", the angry, domineering female with little regard for others. Each of the three stereotypes receives treatment, pointing out the origins of the stereotype in popular culture.
Using these stereotypes as a framework, Harris-Perry moves into specific cases showing the stereotype / trope "at play". This section of the book was surprising; these stereotypes have become so commonplace that many continue to perpetuate them, sometimes without even realizing it. Citing popular culture (the stand-up of Chris Rock and the dozens of Tyler Perry movies that make jokes at the expense of black women), Harris-Perry delves into events that underscore these stereotypes. Looking at the Duke University Lacrosse scandal in mid-2000s, we see the popular depiction of the black female "Jezebel" who was hired to strip/entertain for the lacrosse team, and the scandal that erupted after the woman accused the players of rape. Before the charges were dropped and the players were released, the Duke community rallied around the alleged victim, depicting her as a strong single mother. Professors at Duke - "the Duke 88" - stood up for her, believing her story to be true. When DNA evidence proved that the woman was lying, many in the public turned against the "Duke 88" allies who had stood up for her, claiming reverse racism, and using the "angry black" Sapphire stereotype to describe the people who had done no wrong. It was an infuriating reversal on the community that had already been hurt by this woman's dishonesty.
The final chapter of the book is dedicated to the most prominent African-American woman and her family: Former First Lady Michelle Obama. While Michelle Obama regularly fought the stereotypes that others tried to impose on her: "Jezebel" when she was once referred to as Barack's "baby mama", and other situations where her physical body became headlines, including her "Sapphire" anger/attitude, she became one of the most popular and favored of any First Lady in history.
There is so much more that I don't have time to touch on here in this review. This book is an outstanding study, and I am grateful that I was able to read and learn from it. My hope is that scholars and researchers like Harris-Perry keep teaching, writing, educating - we need this information as a society so much right now....more