Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre of book. Setting fictional (and some non-fictional) characters in story with a backdrop of chronoligcHistorical fiction is probably my favorite genre of book. Setting fictional (and some non-fictional) characters in story with a backdrop of chronoligcal events takes quite a bit of imagination. As much as I think I know about a subject, these intimate peeks into these historical events add even more to my knowledge. Edwidge Danticat draws on not only her life, but stories relayed to her by family members, weaving stories of Haitian life into her fiction. The story of the 1937 Massacre ( has Ms.Danticat's usual elements of the mystical and the romantic. 'Farming of bones' refers to the work done by the Hatian cane workers, a back-breaking, thankless job, for which they are rewarded with ethnic genocide. The main character, Amabelle Desir, was rescued by the Dominican family for which she works, but loses her adopted home, her love and nearly her life to Dominican 'patriots' incited by Generalissimo Trujillo's ignorant prejudice. She is not the only one who suffers in this novel; indeed, it seems every character is marked by tragedy. It is said that history is recorded by the victors; in this history, there are no victors; both Haiti and the Dominican Republic still suffer today from a shared history they cannot escape. This is a fascinating book, which I am reading as a trio with In The Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Both authors are acknowledged by Ms. Danticat....more
I've long said: "I'll only cook for people who don't pay me", and after reading this book, I gave up any remaining aspirations of wanting to cook in aI've long said: "I'll only cook for people who don't pay me", and after reading this book, I gave up any remaining aspirations of wanting to cook in a restaurant. I'd add to the quote that people don't want to know how sausages and laws are made, that they probably don't want to know what's going on behind those swinging doors at the restraurant as well. Anthony Bourdain prepares a wonderful story, warts (his own and others) and all....more
For all the benefits of technology, it has changed how we interact with each other in a harmful way. Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor, examines thisFor all the benefits of technology, it has changed how we interact with each other in a harmful way. Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor, examines this phenomenon in Bowling Alone. Americans' proclivity to join clubs that benefit the community plummeted with the coming of the internet age. Where we used to enjoy movies together in the theater, we now stay at home; where we used to bowl in leagues, which have disappeared. Even on the street, where we could once make eye contact or say a simple hello to people you passed, people are engaged with their smart phones or i-pods, everyone in their own silo. This in turn limits the building of what Putnam calls "social capital", intangible, unquantifiable things which help individuals in the community and ultimately help the community at large. Things which build social capital may be as simple as organizing a block party, shoveling snow for your neighbor. The most powerful illustration of the power of social capital is the story from which the title of the book is drawn. There are two men in Michigan, one in his 30s, one in his 60s, one an accountant, one a retired maintenance man, one white, one black. They have NOTHING in common, no paths that cross except ONE. They both belong to a bowling league. The extraordinary thing is through this connection, one found that the other needed a kidney, and volunteered to see if he could help is fellow bowler. The social capital built by the league was exchanged by these two men. Had they been bowling alone, their lives would not have intersected....more
While the story as a plot is compelling and different, the character development was not as strong, and this made the story less satisfying. Keri is tWhile the story as a plot is compelling and different, the character development was not as strong, and this made the story less satisfying. Keri is the mother of 18-year old Trina, who suffers from bipolar disorder, making Trina violent and unpredictable. Keri finds that Trina can only be placed on a 72-hold, after which time she is released if she does not show signs that she will harm herself. Keri is determined to save her daughter and finds an illegal (and highly improbable) solution.
While I understand by any means necessary interventions and that a parent will do almost anything to save their child, the story ignores the fact that Keri has means and options. Additionally, while we are given a glimpse of the mental health system, Ms. Campbell leads one to believe there is no alternative option but the kidnapping of her child. I found it hard to believe that Keri would not have questioned her daughter's erratic behavior and educated herself about her daughter's diagnosis.
The one thing I will give this book credit for is discussing how mental health issues are handled by African American families. Hopefully the book will lead to more open discussion and prompt people to seek treatment and not hide in shame. ...more
Ann Fadiman has written a masterpiece. In combining literature, folklore, anthropology, sociology, you will likely reach the same conclusion when youAnn Fadiman has written a masterpiece. In combining literature, folklore, anthropology, sociology, you will likely reach the same conclusion when you get to the end of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: there is more than one right side to this story.
Lia Lee is the severely epileptic child of Foua and Nao Kao Lee. The story could have taken many paths, all of them less satisfying than the one chosen by Ms. Fadiman. If she had simply reported one side of Lia's story; had she omitted a brief, but thorough enough history of the Hmong people; had she not spent time with Lia's overworked medical practitioners and given you a sense of their dedication to patient care, you might simply place blame with one group or another.
This is a beautifully woven story of cross cultural misunderstandings. While this story tells it from the point of view of a Hmong patient, her family, and her doctors, the books shows the importance of cultural literacy and curiousity. Time after time, Ms. Fadiman asks the question, "what if?" You, as a reader will change your mind again and again about who is at fault, until you at last understand, everyone is and no one is. Every one of them had Lia's care and good health in mind.
This should be required reading for every single medical student. Cross cultural issues can happen even when the patient is capable of speaking the language, unlike Lia's parents. Western medicine is indeed, capable of miracles; so is acupuncture, meditation, and herbalistic medicines; there should be room for both. A little empathy, and the riqht questions can go a long way toward bridging crosscultural gaps, and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is part of the prescription for healing this particular malady....more
I started to read the prequel to this, and couldn't get past the first chapter for fear of nightmares. Then I won tickets to see the premiere, and felI started to read the prequel to this, and couldn't get past the first chapter for fear of nightmares. Then I won tickets to see the premiere, and felt if I was going to sit in the theatre, I'd at least want to know what was coming. I read this book in 2 1/2 days, and probably would have done so even if I didn't have a deadline. I couldn't put it down. Thomas Harris weaves a character so brilliantly evil and unrepentant that the makers of Freddy Krueger and Michael Meyers should be ashamed of themselves. Of course, this was before Jeffrey Dahmer came along, and we met evil in the flesh and not in a novel (pun intendended)....more
I suspect that this book was not complete before Ms. Butler died, and had she the chance, she would have refined it, either in this book, or in a seriI suspect that this book was not complete before Ms. Butler died, and had she the chance, she would have refined it, either in this book, or in a series The ideas, as always are fresh, but there were some very uncomfortable moments for me as a reader. I am torn because I am a HUGE Octavia Butler fan, as well as a HUGE fan of vampire lore, but I found this book less than satisfying from both perspectives....more
This is one of my go-to books when I'm looking for recipes for baked goods. Sometimes there's a hint in there about a technique or an ingredient thatThis is one of my go-to books when I'm looking for recipes for baked goods. Sometimes there's a hint in there about a technique or an ingredient that makes the knowledge useful beyond that recipe. KAF tests and retests, tweaking each recipe as necessary....more
Having read Patternmaster, I wanted to read all of the series, but I can see that Octavia Butler's writing was more refined and the story better toldHaving read Patternmaster, I wanted to read all of the series, but I can see that Octavia Butler's writing was more refined and the story better told in the latter part of this series...more
This book is one of my top 20 novels. I loved it so much that after borrowing it from the library and reading it, I sought and purchased a hard copy fThis book is one of my top 20 novels. I loved it so much that after borrowing it from the library and reading it, I sought and purchased a hard copy for my own library. I read this novel before I read Eva Luna, and the reverse order did not detract from my enjoyment. Sensual and mesmerizing, the narrative surrounding the story reminded me of another favorite, Tales of the 1001 Nights. The stories are self contained, but like chocolate (or cheese for me), you will want another and another until the book is finished. I will put this on my 2009 re-read list....more
With several hundred cookbooks in my home. I think long and hard before adding another one to the shelves. Perfect Party Food is worth making room forWith several hundred cookbooks in my home. I think long and hard before adding another one to the shelves. Perfect Party Food is worth making room for. The title of the book is misleading. The only thing that is consistently "party food" about this book is the size of the portions. Many recipes offer portions that will feed 10-12. The beauty of this book is the preparation; each recipe can be made ahead, to some extent, saving you time, and best of all, stress. I tried a few of the recipes in the book--I don't mind making extra, if I think I can freeze it, and found the instructions clear and concise; the tips were on the money every time. I was very surprised with the variety of recipes; instead of the typical dips, wings, etc., you will find recipes that are complex and tasty as well as easy to prepare because the process is broken down into manageable, do-ahead parts. For example, there are a bunch of tasty breads and dinner rolls, which would not normally be Party Food, because of the risings, but can be if you follow the steps. A favorite find was the killer recipe for Starbucks' Cranberry Bliss bars....more
Over the years I have read Mr. Trillin's writing in New Yorker magazine. His food writing reveals a completely different side. it's like bringing a kiOver the years I have read Mr. Trillin's writing in New Yorker magazine. His food writing reveals a completely different side. it's like bringing a kid to a candy store. Here is someone who clearly loves food, and people who love food. His style reminds of Jeffrey Steingarten, a mix of confession and comic writing. While some of the stories are dated, many are timeless, such as the feast he brought onto a flight to Miami, . It helped that as a native New Yorker, I have visited many of the eateries, and so the book provided a retrospective into what some eateries were like a few years before I got around to visiting them. Mr. Trillin's enjoyment of food is infectious, and you cannot help but laugh out loud at some of the situations in which he finds himself.What also shines through, even though he is seemingly having fun at her expense, is his love of friends and family, but especially his wife, Alice....more
I have a bunch of ice cream cookbooks already. Perfect Scoop has quickly earned it's promotion from the ice cream shelf to the favorites shelf. To staI have a bunch of ice cream cookbooks already. Perfect Scoop has quickly earned it's promotion from the ice cream shelf to the favorites shelf. To start with the book has more than 100 recipes, and drop-dead gorgeous pictures of ice cream, aka, food porn. Add to that a wonderful assortment of interesting flavors, a top notch review of ingredients and their function in an ice cream recipe, plus tips and resources for hard-to-find ingredients, this book has delivered ultra-high quality frozen desserts every time I've tried it. The recipes range from basic to super sophisticated. David Lebovitz, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, now lives in Paris, and writes one of my favorite foodie blogs.. The first recipe I tried, borrowing this book from the library, was the Roasted Banana Ice Cream, and I was hooked, and that was the start of my worshiping David Lebovitz' genius. Who else could create a Candied Bacon Ice Cream that has that wonderful salty sweet frozen thing going on that I love about Butter (add your favorite nut here) ice cream? Perfect Scoop is indeed appropriately named....more
Some people believe that good sci-fi might simply read like good fiction. If that's your take, Robert Sawyer's Rollback is for you.
Sarah Halifax is aSome people believe that good sci-fi might simply read like good fiction. If that's your take, Robert Sawyer's Rollback is for you.
Sarah Halifax is a scientist affilated with SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). When a message from Draconis Sigma is received, Sarah is the one who decodes it, and is one of 100 people whose response is included in the message sent in return. Because of the distance, the roundtrip for each message is 40 years. When a second message is received, Sarah is given a chance for a 'rollback', a youth restoring procedure costing billions of dollars. She accepts only if the procedure is offered to her husband, Don, as well. As fate would have it, the procedure is successful for Don, but not for Sarah.
Rollback combines morality and ethics in a thought-provoking, well-told story, even for people who might not think they like the genre. ...more