**spoiler alert** Mini Synopsis: This slim book is a story about a group of high school teenagers whom in an attempt to be more like the “prettiest” gi**spoiler alert** Mini Synopsis: This slim book is a story about a group of high school teenagers whom in an attempt to be more like the “prettiest” girl in school, who is very thin, go on a group diet. Two of the girls in particular with abandonment issues have unhealthy responses and take their distress to an extreme and use anorexia/bulimia and self injury as coping mechanisms – acronyms Ana, Mia, and SI. My Thoughts: Anorexia and SI are painful subjects for me. I have a beautiful sister whom has “body image issues”. As a teen she dieted extensively, only eating salads and drinking large quantities of carrot juice until she was very thin and turned carrot orange on the soles of her feet and palms. We all assumed that this was due to an overdose of beta-carotene. The issues continue even now into her 40’s with different manifestations. Although humorous for me on a certain level - as a teenager watching my sister turn orange, it is a serious issue. This particular example helps one to understand the obsession surrounding being thin for some girls. Even more disturbing, I have a close family member whom has been using “cutting” as an emotional coping mechanism. It is very disturbing when someone you love uses these unhealthy means to deal with their emotions or to try and fit into an unhealthy model of beauty. When reading this book, I could imagine young girls, and teens relating to the life issues which surround the main character and her friends. The story line and emotions felt real and normal within the text. This is important because it is young people the book needs to reach. Conversely, I found it frustrating and became annoyed when there was no mention of a character named Ana in the text since the title is Dancing with Ana. (Silly me.) It took some thought to figure out that Ana is a “code” young women use to address this issue and a means to keep it secret. Consequently, through my search about these subjects I found there is a “cultish” behavior surrounding them. I have included links here to sites that may be of interest to parents, teachers, caretakers, and girls themselves to become aware of these scary actions. Sadly, in real life things don’t always end happily and healthily as the author has depicted in her book. That this book could be used as means for important conversations and that it is very relevant in my life is the reason why I have given it 4 stars. We cannot prevent children from being subjected to these issues which are a part of growing up in today's world so guiding them is the key and perhaps this book can be a catalyst. Links for Ana: Pro-Ana Wikipedia definition ; Proanamia ; Pro-ana-nation ; House of Thin Links for SI:Wikipedia Self-injury definition ; Selfinjury.com ; helpguide.org ; self help magazine.com
By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip aActually 4.5 stars
By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip around the country where he explores the areas of the US where the majority of the population, curiously, is not a blend of color. He then strives to define these enclaves, which he terms “Whitopias”. They are popping up in spots all over the country for reasons which he questions in his book. As he does his personal research in this sort of “reverse ethnography”, he boldly goes into the territory to interview, live with, and experience the life style which defines these areas and the population.
Rich Benjamin is a very intelligent, highly educated, and extremely articulate individual. His writing is lyrical, satirically humorous and sensitive, and he has a very advanced fashion sense which adds some levity to the book. He is thorough and backs up his findings with statistics and references - be aware this book is somewhat academic in nature. But most significantly he’s brave, and goes into areas which for me as a white person would even be scary; areas where there are known connections with extremists who may threaten violence to people of color and/or their supporters.
He is welcomed warmly within these “white enclaves”, and what he finds is interesting, enlightening, and often quite difficult to swallow. It was for me. Although Benjamin specifically states that as a culture we have moved mostly beyond blatant personal racial discrimination, racism still exists within most static bureaucratic structures within the country. He also supports the adage that classism and racism are intimate partners. Knowing that both also exist among these “Whitopias” he further supports their link within the text.
This is a great book. My only negative thoughts around it is that it is so information packed it will probably not be a quick or easy read for most. It wasn’t for me. More importantly the subject matter is emotional and difficult, and one which many people do not want to deal with. Although the author does a brilliant job of attempting to making light of some situations, how can it be? Sadly, and most significantly, I also do not believe it will actually reach his intended audience. Considering myself for example, although white, to me I believe he is “preaching to the choir” - albeit I am the white kid in the back, who doesn’t quite know the words, and whom annoyingly sings a bit off key, but I certainly won’t stop singing. I give this excellent yet difficult book 4.5 stars. ...more
The Cost of Dreams is a complex story where the main character, Flora Enriques, is originally from Barrancas del C
Actually 3.5 stars
Basic Set Up Info:
The Cost of Dreams is a complex story where the main character, Flora Enriques, is originally from Barrancas del Cobre – the copper mountains just south of the Mexican border in the Chihuahuan state. Of Native American Indian descent, from what I believe is a tribe called the Tarahumara, this young woman escapes her humble and horrific circumstances within these mountains and canyons. Barely leaving with her life and with her siblings, and running from bands of illicit gunmen and overlords, she crosses over the border to the United States.
Fate has more in store for her, when she is shot and left for dead by a drug dealing thug and her brother in law. That is only the beginning of her incredible and harrowing story, which becomes even more complex as a parallel character, an American female biologist, saves her life as they embark on a journey of emotional and physical healing with some very dramatic events.
The Cost of Dreams is a layered and compelling story and one which I believe is the author’s first book. He calls himself an “amateur story teller” and brings to light some of the travails of what he terms calls “the struggle of the downtrodden.” He has created an amazing story line which is harrowing, gritty, and mostly a page turner. Gary Stelzer is also a physician and brings that knowledge into the story, making it interesting and complex. I enjoy medical images and terms within a novel and the author of course does a fabulous job.
My only grumbles are that at times I found myself a bit lost as new settings were introduced, or change back and forth, and there are complex events in the book. Additionally, I noted some extremely complex sentences – one sentence was an incredible five lines long. These elements slightly effected the page turning ability of the story. I would say that is is however a compelling and important read.
I really enjoyed this book because of its cultural significance. I have a particular fondness and sympathy for our Mexican and South American Neighbors. They have a complex and wonderful culture with sometimes difficult circumstances. If you enjoy these elements as well as convoluted story lines, and those which revolve around the border States of the US and Mexico, it is highly recommended. I do want to warn readers that there is some intense and graphic violence which may effect some. In the end I give this novel 3.5 stars. If not for the sticky bits my rating would have been higher. I am looking forward to the next novels in this series.