As Chast's parents aged, she recognised the need to care for them, and she did, until they died. Graphic novel memoir Can't We Talk about Something MoAs Chast's parents aged, she recognised the need to care for them, and she did, until they died. Graphic novel memoir Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? details her uncensored journey with humour and poignancy, examining her changing relationships with them along the way.
Being a middle aged married mother, Chast had alot on her plate already without having to worry about her 90-year-old parents living a couple of hours away. But when the increasing grime and clutter became disturbing, and as they refused to get someone in to help, it was time to move them into assisted living. Convincing them that this was for best was difficult, to say the least.
Roz:How's your cataract-removal-operation recovery coming along?
Mother:GREAT! It's like there was a yellow scrim over everything - and now it's GONE! I still have a patch over the eye, though. But not to worry: there's plenty of food in the house - Daddy and I just came back from Waldbaum's!
Roz:Mom! Listen to me. You can't drive with one eye. You have no DEPTH PERCEPTION!!!
Mother:Not a problem. Daddy guided me.
Chast's experience really resonated with me. She confesses to the things I feel embarrassed to admit, things I feel guilty about, as well as detailing the weirder and more messy aspects of illness and advancing age. I definitely related to the tedium of the never-ending paperwork.
Relationships with her parents were complex. Her mother was brash and never hesitated to give a 'blast from Chast'. Roz's father, on the other hand, was the exact opposite.
...he was kind and sensitive. He knew that my mother had a terrible temper, and that she could be overpowering. She had a thick skin. He, like me, did not. She often accused my father of "waling around with his feelers out."
In many ways, my father and I were more alike than my mother and I. We were both only children, and less used to the constant emotional tumult between people than my mother, who was one of five.
Although the subject matter is somewhat frightening in reminding us of our mortality, Chast's memoir isn't depressing. It's frank and reassuring. Death is only mysterious because we don't talk about it. By shining a light on the end stages of life, I feel informed. I've been enlightened.
"The Devil doesn't want her, and God's not ready yet."
However, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? also shows the need for medical euthanasia. DNRs don't go far enough. Both parents lingered in pain and unconsciousness. Quality of life did not exist for them in those last days and weeks. It seemed unconscionably cruel to prolong their lives when they could no longer partake in life's joys, in even something as simple as communication, in all its forms.
Upon finishing my library copy I immediately bought myself one. The hardcover feels lovely to handle. It begs to be touched. If you're even a little bit intrigued by this book, read it. It's definitely worth reading....more
Bad Feminist is an anthology of witty and confessional essays mixing personal experience; opinions on race, politics, media, gender and sexuality; andBad Feminist is an anthology of witty and confessional essays mixing personal experience; opinions on race, politics, media, gender and sexuality; and reviews of books, TV and film - sometimes all in the same essay. Roxane Gay lays out what it is to be a feminist. That there's no such thing as a 'perfect' one. Being human precludes us from perfection. We're complex creatures. We can enjoy something even if we don't agree with the ideas behind them. That's the very definition of cognitive dissonance.
...feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed. For whatever reason, we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always make the best choices. When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.
I know I'm a bad feminist. My guilty pleasures include the Charlie editions of the misogynist Two and a Half Men. I adore Seven Brides for Seven Brothers despite the sexist view of the role of women, the multiple kidnappings of women, the Stockholm Syndrome, and the shotgun weddings. BUT there's pretty dresses, lovely songs, and acrobatic, synchronized dancing.
I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be. I have certain . . . interests and personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism , but I am still a feminist . I cannot tell you how freeing it has been to accept this about myself.
Like Gay, I enjoy fairy tales. I like happy endings. Despite the suffocatingly strict gender roles they like to fit girls into. Paranormal and historical romances are modern adult fairy tales filled with overbearing alpha males. They stalk and harass their potential mates who always accept and marry these, what in real life we'd call, sexist jerks. And most of the time, I love them anyway - just like their brides.
I know, I should hang my head in shame.
Over the Christmas break I came across a Q&A with Gay. I read each of the linked articles. All of them were good, but it was the heartwrenching Things I Know About Fairy Tales that spurred me to move Bad Feminist to the top of my 2015 TBR pile. Strangely this essay is missing from the book. Knowing its contents increased the value of her opinion on certain subjects and gave me valuable insight into what drives Gay. I admire her for sharing the most intimate details of the worst experiences of her life and admitting what most would never say.
We're all at least a little racist, she says. It's true. For whatever reason. Even if we're not aware of it.
Gay's mentoring of black university students was a sad reminder of the effect of internalized racism on motivation, on ambition. They lacked the drive to achieve more than what they perceive is expected of them, until Gay badgered them to do better. An exhausting undertaking to nag multiple people to greatness.
Quite a bit of my enjoyment in reading Bad Feminist was derived from sharing similar opinions and experiences, of surviving what life has thrown at us while not letting it diminish us. Although I didn't always agree or understand everything she discusses.
Towards the end, cultural differences proved a barrier to grasping certain subjects. As a Brit, Tyler Perry means nothing to me. It turns out I've only seen him in Alex Cross although some of Gay's criticisms concerning the themes he regular uses bore out in that film. The repealing of reproductive rights is another issue about which I'm appalled by, but once again I found myself asking:
America's problem with white men regularly shooting young black men is yet another a subject I'm not particularly familiar with. Sure, the UK's had some serious issues with institutional racism, like the police's handling of the 1993 racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence. Last year it was revealed the police had been by spying on Lawrence's family looking for dirt instead of hunting for the killers.
Bad Feminist is an emotional rollercoaster of emotion. From laughing, to indignation, poignancy, anger and even WTH. That foray into the world of Scrabble tournaments and its idiosyncratic competitors was a tangent I wasn't expecting, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Gay doesn't pull punches. She's a tattooed professor who likes to swear, loves to play Scrabble and doesn't suffer fools while still managing to seem open, honest and approachable. You don't come across someone like that everyday.
Bad Feminist is my first foray into black feminism, and it won't be my last.
Mindful of the fact Gay dislikes trigger warnings, I won't add any. And by mentioning them, I realize I've implied there are some. Oops....more
Oh the horrors of slavery!—How the thought of it pains my heart! But the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it is my d
Oh the horrors of slavery!—How the thought of it pains my heart! But the truth ought to be told of it; and what my eyes have seen I think it is my duty to relate; for few people in England know what slavery is. I have been a slave—I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows; and I would have all the good people in England to know it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free.
In 1831 Thomas Pringle, secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, took down Mary Prince's story in her own words and published it along with his commentary and corroborating statements, and Asa-Asa's story of how he was taken from his home in Africa and sold to white men as a slave. Two years after publication, in 1833, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire.
Although Mary had a blissfully ignorant and happy childhood as a companion slave to a white child, at age 12 everything changed. From then on she spent the bulk of her slave years with a succession of cruel masters. Travelling from her home in Bermuda to working the horrific salt ponds of Turks Island for four years, the onto Antigua, and finally to England where she was legally free.
Some of the horrors:
I was licked, and flogged, and pinched by her pitiless fingers in the neck and arms, exactly as they were. To strip me naked—to hang me up by the wrists and lay my flesh open with the cow-skin, was an ordinary punishment for even a slight offence.
My master flew into a terrible passion, and ordered the poor creature to be stripped quite naked, notwithstanding her pregnancy, and to be tied up to a tree in the yard. He then flogged her as hard as he could lick, both with the whip and cow-skin, till she was all over streaming with blood. He rested, and then beat her again and again. Her shrieks were terrible. The consequence was that poor Hetty was brought to bed before her time, and was delivered after severe labour of a dead child.
Our feet and legs, from standing in the salt water for so many hours, soon became full of dreadful boils, which eat down in some cases to the very bone, afflicting the sufferers with great torment.
This poor man's wounds were never healed, and I have often seen them full of maggots, which increased his torments to an intolerable degree.
...flung her among the prickly-pear bushes, which are all covered over with sharp venomous prickles. By this her naked flesh was so grievously wounded, that her body swelled and festered all over, and she died a few days after.
He had an ugly fashion of stripping himself quite naked, and ordering me then to wash him in a tub of water. This was worse to me than all the licks. Sometimes when he called me to wash him I would not come, my eyes were so full of shame.
...if the Lord had not put it into the hearts of the neighbours to be kind to me, I must, I really think, have lain and died.
...he prayed that God would forgive him. He said it was a horrid thing for a ranger to have sometimes to beat his own wife or sister; but he must do so if ordered by his master.
I was really quite appalled that a mixed race woman like myself would be so cruel to those less fortunate:
...hired a mulatto woman to nurse the child; but she was such a fine lady she wanted to be mistress over me. I thought it very hard for a coloured woman to have rule over me because I was a slave and she was free... The mulatto woman was rejoiced to have power to keep me down. She was constantly making mischief; there was no living for the slaves—no peace after she came.
Mary's spirit was never truly broken as she made money where she could to purchase her freedom. Several times she asked to buy her freedom and each time was turned down despite having the means to pay for it.
I never knew rightly that I had much sin till I went there. When I found out that I was a great sinner, I was very sorely grieved, and very much frightened.
While religion empowered Mary by educating her, it also added to her woes. Who wants to bet the majority of her 'sins' surround her lack of freedom? She shouldn't be made to feel bad for those feelings, her masters should.
He was very industrious after he bought his freedom; and he had hired a comfortable house, and had convenient things about him. We were joined in marriage, about Christmas 1826... We could not be married in the English Church. English marriage is not allowed to slaves; and no free man can marry a slave woman... I had not much happiness in my marriage, owing to my being a slave. It made my husband sad to see me so ill-treated.
When Mary came to England she was legally free and no longer a slave. Having no friends and no means of procuring a living, she was forced to remain with her master, still working as a slave, though he repeatedly tried to kick her out on the street. Until she found a branch of the Moravian church which educated and married her in Antigua where she found kind people who took her in and cared for her when she was bed bound from rheumatism. They then introduced her to the Anti-Slavery Society who not only championed her cause for freedom from her master so she could return to her husband in Antigua, but also sometimes supported her financially when she couldn't find work.
I would rather work for my living than get it for nothing. They were very good to give me a supply, but I felt shame at being obliged to apply for relief whilst I had strength to work. At last I went into the service of Mr. and Mrs. Pringle, where I have been ever since, and am as comfortable as I can be while separated from my dear husband, and away from my own country and all old friends and connections.
At this time Mary was approximately 40 years old and despite the Pringle's support, Mary's master wouldn't grant her freedom even with many offerings of money.
As she had no one to refer to for a character in this country except himself, he doubtless calculated securely on her being speedily driven back, as soon as the slender fund she had in her possession was expended, to throw herself unconditionally upon his tender mercies; and his disappointment in this expectation appears to have exasperated his feelings of resentment towards the poor woman...
...prefers losing entirely the full price of the slave, for the mere satisfaction of preventing a poor black woman from returning home to her husband!
...there existed no legal means of compelling Mary's master to grant her manumission;
...intention to bring in a Bill to provide for the entire emancipation of all slaves brought to England with the owner's consent.
Mr. Wood became at length alarmed,—not relishing, it appears, the idea of having the case publicly discussed in the House of Commons; and to avert this result he submitted to temporize—assumed a demeanour of unwonted civility, and even hinted to Mr. Manning (as I was given to understand) that if he was not driven to utter hostility by the threatened exposure, he would probably meet our wishes "in his own time and way."
In trying to help Mary, her new boss, Mr. Pringle, conversed with Mary's owner by letter:
He alleges that she was, before marriage, licentious, and even depraved in her conduct, and unfaithful to her husband afterwards.
Her husband, he says, has taken another wife; "so that on that score," he adds, "he does her no injury." Supposing this fact be true, (which I doubt...
Pringle was deeply offended at the cruelty of such words. He had no reason to believe the lies since he saw Mary as ...a well-disposed and respectable woman.
Pringle later finds from a source in Bermuda that:
...she was viewed by her owners as their most respectable and trustworthy female slave. It is within my personal knowledge that she had usually the charge of the house in their absence, was entrusted with the keys, &c.; and was always considered by the neighbours and visitors as their confidential household servant, and as a person in whose integrity they placed unlimited confidence...
How ironic. For Mary to be treated so dreadfully for 13 years by her owners to find they valued her so highly. To throw her away, tossing her out into the street, you'd think they hated her. That's no way to treat someone you want to keep around.
In fact, how slaves were treated in general made no economic sense. If you beat and maim your slaves, they lose value. Their productivity drops, perhaps permanently. You'll not make back the money you paid trying to sell them on. And killing them, well, you might as well have burned your money. What was paid for slaves back then translates into hundreds and thousands of Great British Pounds today. It was in their best interests to treat them well, and yet they didn't.
"I would rather go into my grave than go back a slave to Antigua, though I wish to go back to my husband very much—very much—very much! I am much afraid my owners would separate me from my husband, and use me very hard, or perhaps sell me for a field negro;—and slavery is too too bad. I would rather go into my grave!" - heard by Thomas Pringle
Countless efforts involving men of influence to beseech Mary's owner on her behalf, he never set her free. However, two years after publication slavery was abolished. It's not known whether Mary returned to Antigua to be with her husband after finally gaining her freedom, but I'd like to hope they were reunited and that their ending was a happy one. Although I suspect if she did return, Mr. Woods, her vindictive former owner, would never allow Mary to be happy for one moment while he still breathed.
I admire Mary for her strength, bravery and determination to never let the bastards win, as well as her willingness to openly share her story with others, to tell England and its countless families profiting from slavery what she really thinks of them:
I am often much vexed, and I feel great sorrow when I hear some people in this country say, that the slaves do not need better usage, and do not want to be free. They believe the foreign people, who deceive them, and say slaves are happy. I say, Not so. How can slaves be happy when they have the halter round their neck and the whip upon their back? and are disgraced and thought no more of than beasts?—and are separated from their mothers, and husbands, and children, and sisters, just as cattle are sold and separated?
I have often wondered how English people can go out into the West Indies and act in such a beastly manner. But when they go to the West Indies, they forget God and all feeling of shame, I think, since they can see and do such things. They tie up slaves like hogs—moor them up like cattle, and they lick them, so as hogs, or cattle, or horses never were flogged;—and yet they come home and say, and make some good people believe, that slaves don't want to get out of slavery. But they put a cloak about the truth. It is not so. All slaves want to be free—to be free is very sweet.
We don't mind hard work, if we had proper treatment, and proper wages like English servants, and proper time given in the week to keep us from breaking the Sabbath. But they won't give it: they will have work—work—work, night and day, sick or well, till we are quite done up; and we must not speak up nor look amiss, however much we be abused. And then when we are quite done up, who cares for us, more than for a lame horse? This is slavery. I tell it, to let English people know the truth; and I hope they will never leave off to pray God, and call loud to the great King of England, till all the poor blacks be given free, and slavery done up for evermore.
'Wherever slavery prevails, there will inevitably be found cruelty and oppression.' - Mr. Thomas Pringle
The story of Louis Asa-Asa
A great many people, whom we called Adinyés, set fire to Egie in the morning before daybreak; there were some thousands of them. They killed a great many, and burnt all their houses. They staid two days, and then carried away all the people whom they did not kill.
They sold all they carried away, to be slaves. I know this because I afterwards saw them as slaves on the other side of the sea.
...the children were too small for slaves, so they killed them.
I do not know if they found my father and mother, and brothers and sisters: they had run faster than me, and were half a mile farther when I got up into the tree: I have never seen them since.
[I] was about thirteen years old. It was about half a year from the time I was taken, before I saw the white people.
...offered the choice of going back to Africa, replied, "Me no father, no mother now; me stay with you."
...for if I go back to my own country, I might be taken as a slave again. I would rather stay here, where I am free, than go back to my country to be sold.
I am well off myself, for I am well taken care of, and have good bed and good clothes; but I wish my own people to be as comfortable."
What drew me to this book is the first hand account from a slave who was not only from the Caribbean but had also lived in England. From what I can tell, that's rare. Most slave narratives, at least the most popular ones, are American. Finding out there was also an account from a slave who was taken from Africa was an unexpected bonus. Both made for fascinating reading despite the harrowing yet insightful content. There was never a dull moment.
It was heartening to know Mary finally made it beyond a life of physical suffering, if not a mental one, to know that she never once blamed all white people for the crimes committed against her, and to know there were kind and powerful allies who championed her cause.
Laura Bates brings issues of harassment, assault and abuse of both men and women to light, after being deluged with submissions to her website and Tw
Laura Bates brings issues of harassment, assault and abuse of both men and women to light, after being deluged with submissions to her website and Twitter accounts. Seemingly small incidents of off-hand remarks can feel like the death of a thousand cuts when they happen everyday in every facet of your life. These sexist ouccrences happen so often and are so insidious and pervasive in Western society that they've become normalised to the point we feel silly for being upset about instances others brush off and disheartened when our complaints are ignored. All of this undermines confidence and erodes self-esteem. Even if we don't realise it, we've all witnessed sexism - on the street, in the media, at school and work, and now online with social media and comment forums. As Bates says, 'Enough is enough'.
Sexism is more socially acceptable than racism. Misogyny and misandry. Men get their own chapter but instances of misandry are sprinkled throughout. Bates doesn't just focus on the stereotypical, she points out that women can rape men, women can rape other women, and that men can be feminists.
Huh. Reading your post, I realise now that I experienced sexual harassment at 18 in my first office job - I've never thought of it as being that before. He was a 40-year-old client who publicly harassed me in front of my colleagues. I had no idea what to do because he was also a friend of my boss and almost everyday he would come in for an hour after he'd finished work, every time hitting on me and trying to shame me into submission because I was so young and inexperienced - I'd yet to have a proper boyfriend. This went on for months until my only female colleague told the boss, and suddenly the man didn't come in as much. I didn't tell any friends or family because I found it deeply embarrassing that I couldn't handle it.
As a result, I changed my behaviour towards men, practically fearful of them for years afterwards; making as little eye contact as possible in case I was encouraging any of them, and always making sure I wasn't showing flesh or wearing too much make-up. But I'd still attract the creepers. I look very young for my age - as in not legal - and every now and then an older man will approach me. The worst was when I was in the YA section of the library (I get approached there alot so I don't go in much now) where a man said he wanted to be "my friend". I had Pippi Longstocking-style plaits/braids at the time and was wearing teenage clothes precisely to deter attention.
But that's not all.
Age 12, holidaying in the Seychelles, a native reaches out to touch my left breast "They're coming in nicely," she says. Age 18, Freshers Week at uni saw a guy banging on my dorm room door for ten minutes shouting that my room used to be his and he wanted to see inside again. I didn't open the door. Age 19, being followed around a clothing store then out into the street. Quick thinking had me walk into the well-staffed John Lewis which he refused to enter, instead waiting for me outside. I left via another exit. Age 21, interviewed by a lecherous man who couldn't take his eyes off my chest. Was offered the job immediately. Despite the huge increase in salary and intriguing career-making job description, I turned it down.
Then there are the occasions when a man asks "where's that smile?" or "smile, might never happen" which somehow gave rise to 'bitchy resting face' which only appears to affect women. Hmm.
Sadly, as the majority of the perpetrators of the incidents that left the biggest impressions on me have been Pakistani and seemingly African immigrants (I live in a town with large communities of both), I'm wary of men from similar backgrounds.
83 per cent of Egyptian women report experiencing sexual harassment in the street. Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 2008
More like 100%. I visited Sharm El-Sheik in November 2008. Worst. holiday. ever. I needed another holiday to get over the stress of that one. The Lonely Planet Egypt guide dedicated just a couple of sentences in the safety section on the street harassment of women so naively I believed it wouldn't be a problem. Nothing prepared me for what I experienced. I've very briefly talked about this before.
I travelled there with only my sister while in our early 20s. Big mistake. We were harassed every day. We didn't even have to leave our hotel room to witness it. We saw it from our balconies. Men clustered around the pool and the massage tables openly staring at women. Men calling after us in the street, trying to get us to follow them down dark alleys in that creepily cliched way we were warned of as children. They took every chance to touch us, to compliment us, to grill us about our marital status. A wedding ring or a husband standing by your side didn't necessarily protect you. (I was surprised the husbands tolerated the blatant disrespect of their wives, I kept hoping the offenders would receive a bloody nose or a black eye.)
I received multiple marriage proposals, me more so than my sister, we reasoned that was because she was gobby while I was quiet and observant, constantly looking out for grabby hands and other dangers. As for assault, my sister's breasts were manhandled. She tried to let it roll off her but I could tell it was starting to get to her. We decided to abandon our plans to visit Cairo and the pyramids - too risky. Would I ever go back? No. I don't want to feel like I need intimidating bodyguards to feel safe walking down the street or relaxing on the beach. No wonder native women didn't leave the house, the one or two I did see wore stiflingly hot burkas.
For awhile now I've held the belief that our deeply ingrained gendered stereotypes beaten into us as children and reinforced by society at large, are the main contributor to society's inability to accept the transgendered. Gender should be a matter of biology alone with none of the additional spurious and unequal social expectations, that if not met, leaves those 'failures' vulnerable to public disapproval and condemnation.
This is my new top 5 of non-fiction feminist reads:
Okay, so Everyday Sexism took me 3 weeks to read it because I had to pause for a mental swig of spirits every now and then when the rage overcame me, but I can assure you this is a 5-star read that I recommend to all.
Kira Cochrane provides an excellent introduction to feminism with this concise and up-to-date history covering the last 100 years in this 70-page exteKira Cochrane provides an excellent introduction to feminism with this concise and up-to-date history covering the last 100 years in this 70-page extended essay. She discusses rape culture, online feminism - including an intriguing David and Goliath battle with Facebook (I cheered at the outcome), the huge impact humour makes in highlighting feminist issues, and the importance of intersectionality and inclusion of all demographics as feminism is for everyone not just white, middle class women.
In the process, Cochrane refers to some very interesting organisations, projects and movements along the way. (Some of the names will make you smile):
Unconditional love and care for a child teaches him how to love, how to love his parent in return, and how to love his own child.
Case in point:
(ClickUnconditional love and care for a child teaches him how to love, how to love his parent in return, and how to love his own child.
Case in point:
(Click to enlarge)
My only criticism: When the mother visits her son's house in the middle of the night I expected an unknown, bleary-eyed woman screaming "Burglar!" lying next to him in bed. Possibly with smeared mascara and a strong whiff of tequila on her breath. Now that would've been realistic. And hilarious.
Thank you, Karen H., for recommending this heart-melting book to me....more
Besides the veritable buffet of Hollywood A-listers from various ethnic backgrounds providing narrations, there's beauDo not read this, listen to it.
Besides the veritable buffet of Hollywood A-listers from various ethnic backgrounds providing narrations, there's beautiful music and songs in the interludes between stories and in the stories themselves. I've derived much enjoyment from the imaginative and enthusiastic performances from the narrators, most of whom possess great skills with accents. Even if you don't recognise a couple of the narrators' names, odds are you'd recognise their faces.
Whoopi Goldberg and Hugh Jackman's performances were outstanding though most were above average.
Urban legends, origin stories, fables, parables, myths, magic, time travel, African versions of well-known fairy tales, clever and devious characters, and emotionally touching stories - what more could you want?
Well, the publisher has donated 100% of its takings from the audio to Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and Artists for New South Africa who work with children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Introduction - Desmond Tutu
★★★☆☆ The Ring of the King (Mythical African kingdom) - Alan Rickman Slightly iffy narration. Very clever story. I laughed at the end.
★★★★☆ Asmodeus and the Bottler of Djinns (South African English) - Whoopi Goldberg Excellent and highly enjoyable narration. Another clever story.
★★★★★ Mpipidi and the Motlopi Tree (Botswana) - Matt Damon Beautiful singing. Heartwarming story of a boy who finds and takes care of an abandoned baby girl.
★★★☆☆ Natiki (Namaqualand, South Africa) - Parminder Nagra An African version of Cinderella.
★★☆☆☆ The Mantis and the Moon (San, South Africa) - Forest Whitaker A mantis tries to capture the moon.
★★☆☆☆ How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster (Nguni, South Africa) - Sean Hayes How Hlakanyana outwitted the hare was more interesting than him outwitting the monster.
★★☆☆☆ The Message (Namibia) - Charlize Theron Greed leads to the garbling of a message of comfort and hope into one that compounds grief and desolation.
★★★☆☆ The Wolf Queen (Cape Malay) - Benjamin Bratt A girl requests a silver dress, then a gold one, then a diamond dress to put off having to reject the sultan's marriage proposal as she was already in love with another. She eventually shapeshifts with the help of a wolfskin.
★★★☆☆ The Snake Chief (West Africa/Zululand, South Africa) - Scarlet Johansson Never make bargains you don't intend to fulfil, especially if it involves gifting a family member to a stranger, the snake. Luckily it was a Frog Prince story - the snake turns into a human because a virtuous girl had accepted him.
★★★★☆ King Lion's Gifts (Khoi, Southern Africa) - Ricardo Chavira How the animals came to look and sound the way they do. The King Lion bestowed gifts such as suits and laughs upon them.
★★☆☆☆ Words As Sweet As Honey from Sankhambi (Venda, South Africa) - Debra Messing How monkeys gained their muscular physique.
★★★☆☆ Sakunaka, the Handsome Young Man (Zimbabwe) - LeTanya Richardson Jackson Great narrator. A selfish mother depriving her son of a wife for fear of losing him to another woman. Sad that the mother had to die. Why couldn't she live with or near her son after he'd married?
★★★★☆ Wolf and Jackal and the Barrel of Butter (Cape Dutch) - Hugh Jackman Awesome narration. Poor wolf didn't know he'd been hoodwinked by the Jackal.
★★★★☆ The Guardian of the Pool (Central Africa/Zululand, South Africa) - Gillian Anderson A daughter uses her mother's multiple sacrifices to keep her child alive to give her the strength to take a risk to save her mother's life. Another Frog Prince story.
★★★☆☆ Sannie Langtand and the Visitor (South African English) - C.C.H. Pounder Excellent narration. Time travel. Dragonflight. Flying carpets.
★★★★☆ The Sultan's Daughter (Cape Malay) - Blair Underwood Excellent narrator. Lovely story and moral; doing a kindness when there is no chance of reward.
★★★☆☆ Van Hunks and the Devil (Cape Dutch) - LeVar Burton Urban legend explaining why there's smoke around Table Mountain.
★★☆☆☆ The Clever Snake Charmer (Morocco) - Samuel L. Jackson Great narration. Not as clever as I'd hoped, except for the tiny donkey. He just gives vague answers to riddles and questions posed by the king.
★★☆☆☆ The Enchanting Song of the Magical Bird (Tanzania) - Jurnee Smullett Children sometimes see and hear truths where adults hear only lies.
★★☆☆☆ The Hare and the Tree Spirit (Xhosa, South Africa) - Sophie Okenado A girl is struck dumb after unknowingly she was cursed by an old woman who'd tripped over the girl's rubbish. A hare hoodwinks a man into providing him fresh green meals, until he feels guilty and makes good on the deal he made by helping the girl regain her voice.
★★★★☆ The Mother Who Turned to Dust (Malawi) - Helen Mirren A unique human origin story.
★★★★☆ Fesito Goes to Market (Uganda) - Don Cheadle Telling the difference between those who take advantage of you and those who genuinely need help, and overcoming great difficulty to succeed. Great narration.
Niggling downsides to the audio are: narrators are not introduced nor is the origin of the each tale, the stories are in a radically different order to the paperback and not all of the stories in the paperback are bundled into the audio. Ten are missing, five of which can be found on Audible for which I paid an extra £7:
★★★★☆ The Cat Who Came Indoors (Zimbabwe) - Helen Mirren Even if you're not a cat lover, you'll like this origin story of the cat-human relationship.
★★★★☆ The Lion, the Hare, and the Hyena (Kenya) - Alan Rickman Don't try to break up a relationship in order to befriend one of your victims, it could turn out badly for you.
★★★☆☆ Spider and the Crows (Nigeria) - Don Cheadle Greed can make friends into enemies and leave you rich but without allies.
★★★☆☆ Mmadipetsane (Lesotho) - Alfre Woodard Excellent narration. A disobedient girl dances with danger by encroaching on a monster's territory despite warnings from her mother, until her luck runs out.
★☆☆☆☆ The Cloud Princess (Swaziland) - Matt Damon Stockholm Syndrome. Princess wants to marry her captor. He follows her back to her kingdom where the king tries several times to have him murdered until he decides to return to his home. The princess follows and their gifted with a village of people who worship them.
The others found only in the paperback are:
➛ The Great Thirst (San, South Africa) ➛ Mmutla and Phiri (Botswana) ➛ Kamiyo of the River (Transkei, South Africa) ➛ The Snake with the Seven Heads (Xhosa, South Africa) ➛ The Hare's Revenge (Zambia)
*Read as part of The Dead Writers Society's Around the World challenge....more
Get ready to laugh your f*cking arse off. Actually "Sexy and I Know it" is the perfect soundtrack for this one. Brace yourself.
Cat and Mouse
Get ready to laugh your f*cking arse off. Actually "Sexy and I Know it" is the perfect soundtrack for this one. Brace yourself.
Cat and Mouse
An unconscious 30-year-old man was brought in to us by ambulance. His girlfriend had found him lying naked on the floor of his bathroom and called 999. Upon examination, he was found to have a large lump on his forehead and, strangely, several scratches on his scrotum. The lump was obviously from a fall of some kind, but we couldn’t work out the cause of the scratches until he’d woken up. He said he had been cleaning his bathtub while naked, kneeling on the floor beside the tub. His cat, apparently transfixed by the rhythmic swaying of his scrotum, lunged forward, sinking its claws into this deliciously pendulous target. The man wasn’t sure what had happened next, but clearly he’d jerked forward to protect his package and cracked his skull on the edge of the bath.
Chilli-filled vagina, unchoreographed slapstick, some harmless bestiality, many an ESA (Embarrassing Sexual Accident), fat nurse gets comeuppance, battered woman not actually battered... by a human - nothing is what it appears. You can't make this shit up.
One surgeon has removed from rectums: an unbroken lightbulb, a smashed champagne glass, a prosthetic arm, many toothbrushes, a large rubber ‘Hulk’ fist (and again, two years later), many eggs, and a stapler.
And I'm not sure why but losing an eel up the arse is more common than I'd originally thought.
(Click to see eel in human intestine story)
Also, penis augmentation - why?
An elderly male came in to the surgery with a steel cock ring stuck behind his scrotum and penis, both of which were swollen to four times their usual size (he told us with pride). I asked him how long he had been in this predicament, to which he replied, ‘Three days.’ I asked, ‘Why didn’t you come in sooner?’ His answer: ‘I could still pee, and the wife was happy...’
A warning to those that are sexually active and like a drink:
Rip it Up and Start Again
We were called to an attempted suicide in a student flat. A young couple had been drinking, had a fight, then made up, before falling into a deep sleep. The girlfriend had woken in the early hours, with the sensation that she was soaking wet. Turning on the bedside light and pulling back the covers, she was horrified to discover they were both drenched in blood, huge amounts of it.
She quickly worked out she was okay and it seemed her boyfriend had been driven to try and kill himself as a result of the fight the previous evening. He was unconscious. She called 999 immediately.
When we arrived she was hysterical. The bed was a mess. Like that scene in The Godfather. There was even blood on the walls. But something wasn’t right. We couldn’t find any incisions in his wrists or on his thighs. Although he was totally unconscious his pulse and breathing were normal.
After further examination, it appeared the source of the blood was around his groin area. But again no cuts. My colleague then had a brainwave. He peeled back the lad’s foreskin and sure enough, his frenulum (the piece of skin that runs between the foreskin and the head of the penis – also known by Paramedics as the banjo string) was completely ripped. There was a lovely gaping wound right up to the urethra. Believe it or not, a remarkably common injury when couples have sex drunk – caused by lack of lubrication.
You have been warned.
When the health professionals get to have a little fun:
A man was brought in with a bad case of concussion, which had resulted in extreme short-term memory loss. I’d walk into the room and tell him he had a concussion and he’d explain he had one when he was a kid. This was repeated every time I walked into the room. After about 10 times of doing this, I walked in and told him he had a concussion and he’d had one before when he was a kid. Mind blown. Priceless.
When you realise humanity is doomed:
I asked him if he’d been travelling overseas recently or eaten anything off or odd. This is what he told me: ‘Well, I was at a brothel last night and I may have swallowed some water in the communal spa they have there, would that count?’ And I had to treat this guy.
These two went viral a few years ago:
Fire in the Hole
‘In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake, but I was only trying to retrieve the hamster,’ Philip told colleagues in the Severe Burns Unit he’d been rushed to. Philip and his partner William had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong. ‘I pushed a cardboard tube up his rectum and slipped Gerald, our Campbell’s hamster, in,’ he said. ‘As usual, Will shouted, “Apocalypse!” – our safe word that he’d had enough. I tried to retrieve Gerald, but he wouldn’t come out again, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him.’ The match must have ignited a pocket of intestinal gas and a flame shot out of the tube, igniting Philip’s hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to Gerald’s fur and whiskers, which in turn ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the intestinal tract, propelling the hamster out like a cannonball. Philip suffered second-degree burns and a suspected broken nose from the impact of the hamster, while William suffered first and second-degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract. I never heard what happened to Gerald the hamster.'
Burned to be Wild
A woman was cleaning up the mess left by her hairy biker husband after he’d decided to strip his motorcycle engine on the kitchen table before putting the parts back together and taking it for a spin. One of the things he was using was a bowl of petrol (apparently it is great for getting rid of grease). She took this bowl and, not knowing what to do with the contents, decided to pour them down the loo. Her husband came back, lit a cigarette and, happy with his bike, went to the bathroom. As he did a wee he threw his cigarette end into the loo. The explosion brought his wife running upstairs, where she found him crumpled against the wall, having been blown backwards through the door, his hair, beard, eyebrows and pubes burnt off and his clothes smouldering. She dialled 999 and we came and took care of him. Hopefully he’ll remember to clean up his own mess in the future...
Do you know how long it took me to write this review? I read this aloud on Christmas Day. Too many quotes I wanted to include; half the book was copied here, and I had to cut it down.
To all the firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, emergency call handlers, dentists and every other health professional, thank you for your service and your stories....more
I am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't foughtI am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't fought for racial equality and against segregation.
Brilliant free BBC audio of "I Have A Dream" read by Maya Angelou, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ndileka Mandela (granddaughter of Nelson Mandela), Stevie Wonder, Doreen Lawrence (mother of murdered British teenager Stephen Lawrence), Malala Yousafzai (sixteen-year-old student from Swat in Pakistan, shot by the Taliban for going to school), and a few others.
Each reader seemed to have read a passage personally relevant to them, bringing new meaning to MLK's eloquent words from his impassioned speech delivered to hundreds of thousands of people in Washington 50 years ago, the anniversary of which was yesterday (28th August 2013).
1st read: 29th Aug 2013 of BBC audio 2nd read: 9th Sep 2013 of Paperback ...more
Sold is a lyrically beautiful and graphically descriptive story of an innocent 13-year-old Nepalese girl from the mountains, sold by her oppressive gaSold is a lyrically beautiful and graphically descriptive story of an innocent 13-year-old Nepalese girl from the mountains, sold by her oppressive gambling addict step-father and trafficked into India to become a prostitute in a brothel run by a woman with no morals. There, Lakshmi's body is sold for the price of a Coca-Cola - a luxury she'd once cherished as a poor country girl. When she'd left home, she'd believed she was to become a maid in a rich woman's household in the big city where she could save and send money home to her beloved mother and her baby brother. The reality is soul-crushing. She's told so many lies she doesn't know what to believe.
Justine Eyre's narration is wonderful. I truly believed she was from that part of the world, but it turns out she's just great with accents. I was transfixed by her voice. Lakshmi's pain and horror at her situation is palpable. What makes it worse: once a prostitute, always a prostitute. There's no going home to your family if you manage to escape. You'll be shunned for bringing shame and dishonour to them. The only way out is HIV and death. As Lakshmi's fellow prostitutes fall prey to these, she eventually becomes the one to have resided in the brothel the longest. She survives her sexually-transmitted disease and endures the daily humiliations in the hopes of one day being free.
My only criticism: that Americans were Lakshmi's saviours. The white man. Considering the Author's Note at the end, describing how ex-prostitutes patrol the Nepal-India border and the work of various organisations (like this one) who work with the governments of these nations, it would be much easier to infiltrate these despicable places if the 'rescuers' were Indian themselves.
I think the most unconventional family I've come across was in a documentary about a couple who were gay female-to-male transgendered. One of them had undergone gender reassignment surgery and the other used his uterus to have babies via a sperm donor. They had three or four children and were loving parents.
Love is love, and family is what you make it. If any child in a neglectful or abusive situation were to be offered a loving home with a gay couple, I'm sure they'd jump at the chance. As long as the children are loved, who really cares if their parents are gay, straight or transgendered?...more
The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introducti*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introduction to a world where the dead suddenly return alive, The Sparrow delves into the moral issues that arise from it. Are the Returned human? Are they still the people they were when they died? How is this possible: Is it magic or can science explain it? And do we sacrifice our humanity in seeking the answers to these questions?
Married couple Heather and Matt face these questions when they discover Returned little girl Tatiana. Heather embraces the child, accepting and caring for her while husband Matt treats the Returnee as a thing to be exploited:
"These things aren't people. They're something else. And if there's a way for us to capitalize on this, then I'm all for that."
Heather is appalled at his reaction but replies with compassion, hoping to change his mind:
"If I could see my mother again... If my mother somehow shows up in all of this, if I get a call that she's been found in some far-off part of the world, I'd pray to God that the person who finds her would take care of her, that they would get her back to me, that they would have the decency to let me decide whether or not she was real, whether or not I could love her again."
Fear and uncertainty in the face of this bizarre phenomenon is to be expected, but the actions taken driven by these feelings have shown to be, in some cases, unaccountably violent and homicidal. In an attempt to understand Matt's rejection of Tatiana, Heather believes that since he's never experienced loss, he's unable to reconcile what the Returned can mean to those left behind in their grief:
'Heather was certain that Matt's problem with Tatiana stemmed from the fact that he had never lost anyone. Both of his parents were still alive. His brothers and sisters, even his grandparents, were all still alive. He had never known the loneliness of waking in the middle of the night from a dream of spending time with a mother who had been dead nearly a decade.'
The object of contention, Tatiana, is shown to be a normal human child and nothing indicates that she is otherwise. She possesses memories of her former life with loving parents, who took it in turns to make up bedtime stories to entertain her. Unfortunately her short life, and that of her mother's, was cut short when violence came to her home in what I assumed to be the Rwandan genocide in 1994, leaving her father bereft and alone (who was away at the time, helping those in need).
I'm definitely looking forward to the next installments of this series....more