Bottom line: laugh out loud funny. I can't remember the last time I laughed this much through a book. I first heard Bill Santiago on an episode of LatBottom line: laugh out loud funny. I can't remember the last time I laughed this much through a book. I first heard Bill Santiago on an episode of Latino USA, and I was hooked from his first riff about riding the A-train through the oprima-el-dos corridor. Alerta a todos mis Spanglishistas out there: go pick up this book. If you've ever let slip a ¿Qué what?, read a bedtime story when it's time for mimí, or lived in dread of the pow pow, rest assured you will recognize yourself and your family in this book, and you'll laugh your way from beginning to fin.
But this is not really just a funny book. There's way more than that going on here. For one thing, hiding beneath that comic exterior is a serious cultural milestone. Pardon My Spanglish is a consciousness-raising call to all of us closet Spanglish practitioners, who have labored under and seriously internalized all the anti-Spanlish bias and hostility we've heard from parents, teachers, and pedantic followers of The Book -- by which Bill Santiago and I mean, of course, el diccionario de la Real Academia Española. At the heart of Santiago's very funny primer is a mighty revolutionary notion: Spanglish is not "bad" or "lazy" Spanish. It is a cultural marker born out of the deep well of creativity of a very distinct social identity, a bi-cultural community equally at home in Latina/o and American culture, and never fully of either one individually. And, as such, Santiago's call to all us closeted Spanglishistas is powerful and unambiguous: it's time to wave your freak bandera high. Own your Spanglish as proudly as you own your Latina/o heritage, and practice it to your heart's delight.
And there's even more in there. While the comedian may make light of the the Santiago Spanglish Institute for World Peace, the truth is you can't write a book this good without actually knowing something about what you're playing with. To a semi-professional linguist like me, Santiago's dirty little secret is pretty clear to see. He's really done his research. Yes, he does collect real world Spanglish specimens like birdwatchers log rare sightings. But he also knows a thing or two about grammar and linguistics. Don't worry, all the eggheady stuff is very well hidden and will not get in the way of the abundant laughter the book will produce, but it's there, and it makes his effort all the richer.
This book is an absolute treat -- funny, smart, and full of love for the Latin culture. And if all I've written doesn't convince you why you should read this book, the best I can do is leave you with the most beautiful words ever spoken in the Spanglish language: ¿Cómo que why? ¡Porque because!
Bonus feature: To see some vintage Spanglish, beautifully executed by none other than that august founding papucho of Spanglish, Ricky Ricardo, check out this video. And if for some reason that link doesn't work, nada más googléelo. :)...more
This volume is an illuminating, if sometimes ponderous, collection of essays investigating a series of related topics in the context of two cities witThis volume is an illuminating, if sometimes ponderous, collection of essays investigating a series of related topics in the context of two cities with similar attributes during a particular historical period (from 1870 to 1930). Published in 1994, the book originated with a particular conference held in Budapest in 1988. As such, it basically preceded all the major political and social shifts that took place in the world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, but as the subjects generally are events that occurred century earlier, it is hard to discern any major impact on the content.
Anyone looking to this book for a survey of Budapest and New York history of a particular time frame should be forewarned: It is, first and foremost, an academic study, with all the syntactical complexity and theoretical heft that implies. It’s not what one would call a light read. Moreover, reading the chapters – the book pairs essays on similar topics by American and Hungarian authors side by side – one is quickly reminded that American academics write to communicate; Eastern European academics write to impress. Unfortunately, as an American reader, this usually made the New York articles far more engaging to me than the Budapest ones. Still, for someone with more than a passing interest in the subject, it provides some excellent insights throughout. For myself in particular, having lived as an expat in Budapest for several years, the book opened up some crucial background to things I never knew, or completely misapprehended, about life in Budapest and Hungary.
At the outset, the editors make it a point to emphasize that the studies were not designed to be truly coordinated. Rather they are simply presented as side-by-side but independent analyses of related topics. This is not just a shame, it is a seriously missed opportunity. It is a shame, because the book succeeds best when it is at its most comparative – namely in the chapters on painting in New York (Chapter 11) and Budapest (Chapter 12). (Wanda M. Corn’s article on “The Artist’s New York” is by far the most engaging and enjoyably informative in the book.)
The explicitly non-“coordinated” intent of the editors really is a missed opportunity. Clearly there is a very limited audience for this book – a reader would have to be very familiar with both Budapest/Hungary and New York/the US to be attracted to it – but that really is the editors’ own doing. A more consciously coordinated/comparative study could have been a useful contribution to urban studies in general, and would have been interesting to a much broader audience. The comparison of two cities that passed through a strikingly similar moment in their respective development at the same particular moment in history should raise a wealth of productive questions about urban development – especially when the subsequent histories of the two cities diverged as much as did the histories of New York and Budapest....more
A borrowed book; only made it around 1/3 the way through before I had to return it. will have to pick up my own copy, as what I read was really quiteA borrowed book; only made it around 1/3 the way through before I had to return it. will have to pick up my own copy, as what I read was really quite good and very informative. ...more
Will write a longer review sooner, but I loved this. Actually useful economics, what a shocker. :o) Got it from the public library but I liked it enouWill write a longer review sooner, but I loved this. Actually useful economics, what a shocker. :o) Got it from the public library but I liked it enough that I plan to buy my own copy at a certain point to have on my own shelves....more
I happened upon this book on a "new books" table at the local Borders and was immediately drawn to it. It begins with a woman looking for informationI happened upon this book on a "new books" table at the local Borders and was immediately drawn to it. It begins with a woman looking for information about her birth mother, and who discovers not only that she was actually a twin, separated from her sister before their respective adoptions, but also that the two children had been part of a secret study on twins. Soon she is reunited with her twin sister, and the two together embark on a project to unearth as much information as possible regarding the secret study and their participation in it.
Although it's not a particularly heavy book to read -- in fact, it reads more like an extended magazine article -- the story is quite absorbing. It proved to be quite a page-turner for me, its "truth-is-stranger-than-fiction"-type suspense keeping me up late nights, telling myself, "OK, just a few more pages and then I'll stop - I just wanna see what happens next". Who hasn't wondered, at some point in their lives, "Suppose I'm not actually who I think I am?" It's impossible to read this book without wondering, "What must that be like?"
Surprisingly, the pivotal mystery of the book, the secret study, turned out to be of somewhat less interest to me as a reader than the title and book flap would suggest. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that the study is only peripheral, dealt with in a chapter or two then discarded. Rather -- and I'm struggling to find the right words here to express what I mean exactly -- I expected a more sensational tone throughout the book as the chapters provided ever more shocking revelations about the secret study, the twins' separation, and whatever else had been kept hidden.
Of course, the study does play a central role in the story, but the tone is much less what I expected. As the story goes on and the sisters begin to access information in bits and pieces, the sense of urgency becomes more blunted, and the secret study mainly functions as the engine that moves the action constantly forward. Whereas the real substance of the story is the sisters' interior journeys as the come to terms with this continual flow (sometimes a tidal wave, sometimes a trickle) of discoveries about their histories, which inevitably challenge every thing they knew about their lives, and ultimately their own sense of identity and self.
This, to me, was the most interesting part of the book. Along the way, the book also raises intriguing and confounding questions about the notion of nature-vs-nurture, many of them discussed by the authors as they proceed with their own research into studies and articles based on twin research.
What I was most impressed with in this book was how personal and honest it was. The narrative continually bounces back and forth between the two authors, with the sisters alternating the narration every few paragraphs or pages. (This is done quite well, and I didn't find it intrusive at all). But it surely couldn't have been comfortable for either of the sisters to reveal some of their doubts and fears and secret wishes and misgivings about discovering a twin and incorporating her into their lives -- especially knowing that in revealing all this to their readers, they would also be confessing them to their twin. And yet you don't sense any hesitation on their part to do this. I marvel at their openness, and thank them for it, as it is certainly a big part in what makes the book an engaging read.
It's very clear that both the authors are writers. When you see a book as capably written as this, it's easy to forget how easily material like this could descend into the maudlin, moralistic, saccharine -- or just plain clunky -- in the hands an unskilled writer.
One final point: in rating this book 3 stars, I don't want to come across as if I'm damning with faint praise. I enjoyed the book, it is solidly well-written, I liked the tone and voice of it, and I would recommend it easily to my friends. Still, I don't feel like I can honestly rate it as a 4 or 5, simply because I don't really feel it ranks, for me, alongside other books I've rated that way. It was a very good book, and it falls solidly into the category of "I liked it".
I read this book when it first came out -- I actually bought it as a Christmas gift for my dad (right up his alley) and ended up reading it entire, muI read this book when it first came out -- I actually bought it as a Christmas gift for my dad (right up his alley) and ended up reading it entire, much to my surprise, before putting it under the tree!
I never would have thought I would have gotten into this book, as I was not too into non-fiction in general at the time, and certainly not navy or submarine history! But, as a Russian/East European Area Studies kinda gal, I started leafing through it, and before I knew it, I was completely hooked.
First off, this is one of those great non-fiction books that is so compellingly written it soon gets you turning pages like it's a Grisham novel. :o) Second, some of the stories and facts it reveals are practically jawdropping -- you'll find yourself thinking again and again, I can't believe that actually happened.
It's a really fascinating book - I highly recommend it....more
Just a great, great story, excellent and compelling reading. The best part of this book, though, is that when I "read" it, I actually listened to theJust a great, great story, excellent and compelling reading. The best part of this book, though, is that when I "read" it, I actually listened to the unabridged audio book, read by Frank McCourt himself. (I used to get audiobooks from the public library for my long drives from Indiana to Connecticut.)
Hearing the book read by Frank McCourt is an absolutely incomparable experience. I would suggest to anyone that if you really want to get the most out of this book, get this version. It is the story of McCourt's own experiences, told in his own voice -- he gives voice and inflection to all the different characters around him, and speaks his own memories with the voice and rhythm of the child that he was at the time, replete with all the wonder, confusion, and naive certainty, and occasionally, child's sense of offense. An added bonus is being able to lend his voice to his father's character, especially when Frank is very small and listening to his father drunkenly sing Ireland's history -- to hear the songs actually sung is a real treat....more
Recommended by a good friend I love and respect, a psychologist by profession and warm and sensitive spirit by nature, when she heard my brother was bRecommended by a good friend I love and respect, a psychologist by profession and warm and sensitive spirit by nature, when she heard my brother was battling pancreatic cancer.
It took me a long time -- 3 years, actually -- to get to this book. I have to admit, the reason was that I was afraid to read it. My friend lent me her copy during the months when my brother was being treated for cancer, and I didn't know if I would be able to handle reading about someone who lost her own battle. I finally picked it up this year, and as fate would have it, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while I was reading it. So much for avoiding reading it during a trying time in my life...
As it turns out, though, my fears were pretty well unfounded. As my friend had said herself, Grace and Grit was a very uplifting story of someone who was transformed over the course of her 5-year battle with recurring cancer, who reached a new level of understanding and peace in her life and served as an inspiration to all who knew her as well as to many who have read her story since.
The story is that of Treya Killam Wilber and her husband Ken Wilber, who meet and fall instantly in love, are married within months, and just weeks later are hit with the devastating news that Treya has been afflicted with breast cancer. Their 5 years together are dominated by Treya's health -- episodes of remission and recurrence, a wild array of treatments and approaches, the cancer's increasing aggressivity -- and their struggle as a couple as their love grows but their relationship is tested by the slings and arrows of their outrageous fortune. The book is also an examination of their spiritual progression, and much space is given over to explanations of spiritual seeking and practices from Ken Wilber, a well-known expert in the field of what most people would characterize as new-age-type spiritualty,
As a result, I would say that reading this is not for the faint of heart. Not, as you might expect, because of Treya's illness and treatment, but rather because of the spirituality/philosophy discussions, which are weighty, academic, and arcane, and far beyond most people's level of engagement with such things. I often found myself wishing I could excise away most of that discussion, and give much more time over to Treya's story. One of the nice parts of the book is that Ken includes excerpts from Treya's journals, and I would have enjoyed hearing even more of her voice. To be honest, Ken himself sometimes comes off in the book as someone who rather likes to hear himself speak -- although he does deserve much recognition for being stoically honest in owning up to some of his own failings as Treya's partner and caregiver, and he does not dress up his own mistakes.
The best and most interesting parts of the book were those that had to do with Treya. I have my own struggles with (against?) traditional religion, and I don't think that simply switching allegiances to other, more exotic or alternative spiritual paths is a solution to the problem. Having said that, since I didn't actually skip any part of the book, the spirituality parts did spark a few intriguing questions even for me, but it was not what I came to the book to get. Treya's journey, on the other hand, not only kept my interest engaged, but also, as a person with two close relatives affected by cancer, and conscious of the distinct possibility that I may one day face it myself, reading about Treya's experience opened new perspectives in my understanding of what my family members were/are experiencing, and encouraged me to contemplate many new questions regarding how I might want to go through such a situation myself. For example, when Treya gets her first diagnosis of cancer, she captures in her journal her feelings of untethered isolation and bewilderment at the future, writing simply:
"Should I prepare to live? Or should I prepare to die? I do not know. No one can tell me. They can give me figures, but no one can tell me." (p. 39)
Also, she often returns to the theme of the myriad meanings that we give to illness, and how we often subconsciously blame the patient for his or her own disease, even when that patient is ourselves. One lesson I hope to remember from Treya's story is this:
"Pain is not punishment, death is not a failure, life is not a reward." (p. 279)
Not having read any of Ken Wilber's 800,000 other books, I only have this one to judge his skill as a writer, but on the basis of this one, I'd have to say his ideas are a bit ahead of his writing skills, to put it mildly. The first and most important complaint I have about the writing itself is that I finished the book really feeling that Ken failed to show, rather than tell, his readers about the kind of person Treya was. Again and again, Ken remarks on how wonderful she was, how everybody not only loved her but was inspired, moved, transformed by her. However, he rarely if ever gives examples of this, and as such, it's really hard just to accept what he says at face value. I mean, I'm sure she was a nice person and all, but isn't everyone who is close to someone going to say, oh, she was such a wonderful person? Just telling me over and over again doesn't convince me that she was any more extraordinary than any other nice human being on the earth. If you really want to convince me, help me feel what was special about her. As my high school composition teacher taught us, use examples to make your point, illustrate with details.
Secondly, for all his new-age/advanced/evolved thinking, Ken comes off as a fair bit of a sexist. Of course, I'm sure he would say all the right things about women's rights and gender roles, etc., etc. But at the same time, throughout the book women -- but not men -- are always introduced with some comment about their good looks. It really felt like no woman who entered the narrative was described without reference to her physical beauty. And despite the obvious deep-soul connection Ken has with Treya, most descriptions of why he loves her or why he was attracted to her begin first with a comment about how beautiful she was. I found it really condescending and trivializing toward women. If he did the same thing with men, it would sound ridiculous -- it would sound as ridiculous as it is. Take this description of one woman, for example: "She was tall, statuesque, good-looking, with black hair, red lipstick, a red dress, and black high heels." Multiply that by a factor of about, oh, thirty, to cover virtually every new woman who comes into the story. Now imagine he said of a man they had just met: "He was tall, magnificent, handsome, with sandy hair, shiny white teeth, a blue suit, and black wingtips." Now multiply that by a factor of 30 and you'll get an idea of how silly and annoying it is to have to deal with that type of description of practically every woman in the book. Pretty basic stuff, Ken. Time to read up on a little feminism. To be fair, I do think this is largely unconscious on his part, but that still doesn't make it right.
Leaving aside the writing style, if you are a follower of Ken Wilber and/or the type of spirituality he focuses on, I'm sure you'll find much to love here. If you're not, there is still a lot to learn from in the book in terms of living with cancer. For example, the best explanation of chemotherapy I have ever come across can be found on page 132:
"Aside from surgery, the main forms of Western medicine's attack on cancer -- chemotherapy and radiation -- are based on a single principle: cancer cells are extremely fast-growing. They divide much more rapidly than any of the body's normal cells. Therefore, if you administer an agent to the body that kills cells when they divide, then you will kill some normal cells but many more cancer cells. That is what both radiation and chemotherapy do. Of course the normal cells in the body that grow more rapidly than others -- such as hair, stomach lining, and mouth tissue -- will also be killed more rapidly, hence accounting for frequent hair loss, stomach nausea, and so on. But the overall idea is simple: Since cancer cells grow twice as fast as normal cells, then at the end of a successful course of chemotherapy, the tumor is totally dead and the patient is only half-dead." [emphasis in original:]
Also, even though at 20 years out, the book is quite dated, you can still get a good feel for some alternative cancer treatments, as well as the difference between approaches to cancer treatment between cultures, especially with respect to the treatment Treya undergoes in Germany. For example, this description of conversations with Treya's doctor in Germany when asked about particular treatments used in the US:
" 'We don't do it because the quality of life is so much lower. You must never forget,' he said, 'around the tumor is a human being.' [. . . :] We asked him about another treatment that was popular in the States. 'No, we don't do that.' 'Why?' 'Because,' he said directly, 'it poisons the soul.' Here was the man famous for the most aggressive chemotherapy in the world, but there were things he simply would not do because they damaged the soul." (p. 288)
Finally, two more quotes that spoke to me:
(1) "Ken likes to say that the work we do on ourselves, whether it's psychological or spiritual, is not meant to get rid of the waves in the ocean of life but for us to learn how to surf." (p. 378) This was a nice way of putting an idea that is partially captured by sayings like "Don't sweat the small stuff" and "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." To me, the goal of life is contentment, and equanimity, and it would seem that a sure path to a discontented, dissatisfied life is to spend your days trying to stop the waves.
(2) "To forgive others for insults, real or imagined, is to weaken the boundary between self and other, to dissolve the sense of separation between subject and object." (p. 158). When I read this, I thought not so much of forgiveness, but of my field, grassroots rights work and community organizing. Real help for oppressed people comes from a compassion that is rooted in solidarity -- I am not helping you with your struggles; rather, your struggle is my struggle. It reminds me of the quote, well-known among activists, from Lila Watson, member of an Aboriginal women's rights group: "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." Real help comes from dissolving the separation between us and them, betwen subject and object. Without this solidarity, what you have is not compassion; it is patronizing, it is paternalism. ...more
An interesting book which makes some compelling points. I enjoyed many parts of the book, though I never quite felt the whole was up to the sum of itsAn interesting book which makes some compelling points. I enjoyed many parts of the book, though I never quite felt the whole was up to the sum of its parts. I didn't quite feel that I knew what I was supposed to do with the information once I had it. AS a book of interesting observations, it works, but as anything more than that, it came up just a little short....more
Just a quick, off-the-cuff comment, as I just discovered I never wrote an actual review for this, which is a shame.
I learned so many lessons from thiJust a quick, off-the-cuff comment, as I just discovered I never wrote an actual review for this, which is a shame.
I learned so many lessons from this book, and I recommend it to just about everybody I know. De Becker guides us all to how to listen to our own inner voice that almost unconsciously catches signals of danger, and not to discount our own intuition -- an especially important point for women, as we are so socialized not to make waves or cause offense. For example, he points out the absurdity of not confronting someone who is making you uncomfortable -- for example a man who is semi-forcing his "assistance" on a woman. If you do it politely but directly, someone who sincerely has good intentions will understand and adjust.
There are lessons here for employers and people in all kinds of relationships - including but not limited to romantic relationships. One of my favorites, which I repeat all the time, is that if someone you told to stop calling keeps calling, and finally after the 50th time, you pick up the phone to say, "Hey, I told you to stop calling!", all you've accomplished is teaching them that it "only" takes 50 calls to reach you.
One other major lesson I learned by reading this is that your mind and body are always picking up signals about your safety. (One fascinating note is that we often cover up our internal fear signals by joking about them.) And if you carefully go back over a bad situation afterwards, you can actually identify the thing that told you that something was wrong, even if you weren't conscious of it at the time. He uses the example of a woman who, after an assault, was able to pinpoint the moment when her intuition forced her to fight her way out and escape -- there was one thing her attacker did that made her realize that his intent was to kill her. After reading that section, I thought back on a time when I was followed by a strange guy in a city, down a street, in and out of stores, coming right up against me at one point, literally taking off running when I started walking toward some security guards. Recapping everything that had happened before, I was able to pinpoint the moment when I had first noticed something off -- I'd been aware of him, but it wasn't until he walked into a coffee shop with me, already holding a coffee, that my brain saw that his presence wasn't an innocent coincidence, even if I wasn't conscious of it at the time. At that moment, I felt alert to his presence and felt something was off, but I couldn't put my finger on what. It was only going back over it that I realized that my brain had flagged not just the exact moment but the exact detail that made the situation wrong.
Anyway, this is not exactly a polished review, but I haven't opened this book in years and I can write this all (and more) from memory -- that's how powerful the impact of the book was on me. ...more
Horrific, horrible, terrible. Perpetuates the WORST stereotypes of "gypsies" under the guise of spreading knowledge about the Roma minority. Lord saveHorrific, horrible, terrible. Perpetuates the WORST stereotypes of "gypsies" under the guise of spreading knowledge about the Roma minority. Lord save us from the friends of the colored people...
This - above - was my original review of this book. Later I received a comment on my review to which I responded. It's true that because of my utter distaste for the book, I'd been direct, but brief. In my answer to the comment, I elaborated further. Now, having seen so many positive reviews of the book here, I felt that I ought to re-post my exchange with the commenter here, so more people may see a fuller explanation of my sentiments:
I have a suspicion that you didn't read this book or you would realize that the author is trying to disprove stereotypes.
I most assuredly have read the book. Perhaps I was careless in my use of the word "sterotypes". What the author does is essentialize and exoticize "the Roma" in a way that is completely out of proportion to reality. And the worst part is that I have met countless people who will defend this book with their last breath, yet have not once in their life spent any time with someone who is actually of Romani background. As someone who had worked on Roma issues and has interacted with many Romani people from all socio-economic classes, I can also tell you that this is a book that makes pretty much everyone I know groan. Not to mention that the author is flat-out wrong on many of the generalizations that come out of her book -- Roma are not inherently "secretive", obsessed with cleanliness, or for that matter, nomadic (nor have they been so, by and large, for a couple hundred years). To be sure, Romani communities have their pathologies, just like any other community -- there are people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities that beg, that steal, that are unemployed, that are homeless. The worst that can be said about the Roma in Europe (especially Central and Eastern Europe) is that for reasons of historical oppression, they are disproportionately poor and marginalized in every country they live in, and (as it does in every country around the world) poverty makes all those pathologies more acute. But, in my view, whatever the author's good intentions, this book does nothing to advance the cause of Roma, and much to set it back.