Saturday, October 1, 2016

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

I’ve already described some of the outstanding qualities of Margaret Atwood’s oeuvre: ingenious satire and social insight along with well developed characters and plots.
 In "The Handmaid’s Tale" the United States of America is taken over by fundamentalist Christians. Under the new regime women are not allowed to read, work or think. They are only expected to obey  the rules that powerful men create. Women are forced to reproduce. The dissidents are severely punished.
  As part of this regime there is an underworld in which rich privileged men use women as a source of entertainment. When a woman is raped they say that she deserves it; it is God's plan.  Margaret Atwood wrote this book in the 1980s, yet it appears to be of relevance today.

  White women in America earn 75 % of what white men make; African American women make 63 %, even with the same level of education and experience; Latina women only make 54% of what white males earn. These figures show clearly that gender and ethnic discrimination go hand in hand.

 We all deserve the same respect, dignity and consideration. (And, by the way, if you don't like to hear a woman yelling, then don't excuse a man for doing so, even if he is white and American).

 If you want to understand how unconscious and conscious biases determine the way women are judged and treated differently from men I recommend the well researched book by Iris Bohnet: “What Works: gender equality by design.” In addition to exploring  the complexity and consequences of these biases through concrete examples, she proposes solutions to this important issue.

Friday, September 30, 2016

It will trickle down

This week I wrote my poem "It will trickle down", which was published by Leaves of Ink. You can read it here.
 I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I don't have Facebook

 Unscrupulous people created false profiles and accounts claiming to be me. Please know that I do NOT use Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, or any other. This is my only site.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mr. Pimp

 After reading Nita Belles's book "In Our Backyard" I was inspired to write my poem "Mr. Pimp," which was published by the New York Literary Magazine. It is included in the "Winds of Time" Anthology. You can read it here.
  Nita Belles is a heroine to me. She rescues slaves in the United States of America. Her book  educates us on what we can do to end and prevent slavery.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"The Japanese Lover" by Isabel Allende

There are many love stories in this novel by Isabel Allende, but it was not the title that attracted me to it. The hook was the first chapter. It narrates the story of Irina, a young woman from Moldova who is hired to work at Lark House, an imaginary nursing home located in California.

  Irina bonds with the residents of Lark House because she is kind, sensitive and caring. After an unexpected turn of events, Irina is also hired to work a few hours a week for Alma, one of the residents.

  Both Irina and Alma harbor secrets that hold the suspense of the novel till the end.

 Even though they had different backgrounds, Alma and Irina had something in common: they’d both migrated to America under difficult circumstances.  Alma had moved to the United States from Poland at age seven when her Jewish parents, terrified by the rise of Nazism, sent her to live with her uncle and aunt in America. During her childhood she met Ichimei, a family friend with whom she fell in love.

   The story is narrated from an omniscient point of view. The present and past moments of their lives alternate and the writer paints the intimate landscapes of the characters’ thoughts and emotions. We also get to know the Japanese lover through the letters that he wrote to Alma.

 This novel encouraged me to learn more about American history. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese government in 1941 President Roosevelt declared war on Japan. On the West Coast of the United States of America thousands of American citizens of Japanese background were detained and sent to concentration camps for no other reason than their race. Their bank accounts and possessions were confiscated by the government.

The Japanese had to quickly sell off whatever they owned at knockdown prices, and to close their businesses. They soon discovered that their bank accounts had been frozen; they were ruined.”
“By August, more than a hundred and twenty thousand men, women and children would be evacuated, old people snatched from hospitals, babies from orphanages, and mental patients from asylums. They would be interned in ten concentration camps in isolated areas of the interior, while cities would be left with phantom neighborhoods full of empty homes and desolate streets, where abandoned pets and the confused spirit of the ancestors who had arrived in America with the immigrants wandered aimlessly.”

 I think this is a relevant reminder of how hate speeches fueled by fanaticism, racism and economic hardship do have consequences. Nevertheless, those consequences were presented under the veil of censorship.
It was a temporary solution and would be carried out in a humane fashion. This was the official line, but meanwhile the hate speech spread. ‘A snake is always a snake, wherever it lays its eggs. A Japanese-American born of Japanese parents, brought up in a Japanese tradition, living in an atmosphere transplanted from Japan, inevitably and with only rare exceptions grows up as Japanese and not American. They are all enemies.’ It was enough to have a great-grandfather born in Japan to be seen as a snake.”

  Another important subject that this novel touches is that of sex trafficking and forced prostitution. This cruel horrifying “business” is one of the most profitable in the world, and it makes me wonder why it has not been eradicated yet. Is it because there are many “customers” out there who are willing to pay for sex slaves? Is it because society is too busy slut-shaming victims instead of helping them?

    This novel is about love, friendship and trust, and what I enjoyed the most about it is that the author merged the political and social aspects of it with the personal lives of the characters. The end is bittersweet, a reflection on the timelessness and endurance of love.

Friday, January 15, 2016

"God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" by Kurt Vonnegut

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

When I learned that “God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater” by Kurt Vonnegut had been banned I knew I had to read it. This thought-provoking satirical novel bristles with social commentary.

 Inspired by the stories of a visionary speculative fiction writer Eliot Rosewater, a millionaire, decides to invest time and money in helping anyone who asks for help. He believes that love is what everybody needs, so he is willing to be loyal to his ideal. Mr. Eliot Rosewater was also an alcoholic.
 “And Eliot Rosewater became a drunkard, a utopian dreamer, a tinhorn saint, an aimless fool.”

 Before he decided to devote his life to helping others he tried psychoanalysis, but his therapist gave up on him because he considered him untreatable.
I ask him what he dreams about and he tells me Samuel Gompers, Mark Twain and Alexander Hamilton. I ask him if his father ever appears in his dreams and he says ‘No, but Thorstein Veblen often does.’”

  Despite Eliot’s humility and well-intentioned motives he was harshly criticized. A greedy lawyer called Norman Mushari wanted to prove that Eliot Rosewater was insane to take advantage of his wealth.
 “The more Mushari rifled the firm’s confidential files relative to the Rosewater Foundation, the more excited he became. Especially thrilling to him was the part of the charter which called for the immediate expulsion of any officer adjudged insane. It was common gossip in the office that the very first president of the Foundation, Eliot Rosewater, the Senator’s son, was a lunatic. The characterization was a somewhat playful one, but as Mushari knew, playfulness was impossible to explain in a court of law.  Eliot was spoken of by Mushari’s co-workers as “the Nut”, “The Saint”, “The Holy Rotter”, “John the Baptist”, and so on.

 I can’t deny that the cynical aspects of the book can make the read hard to bear. Yet I believe that there is foresight in this story. Kurt Vonnegut was able to anticipate the submission of humanity to mindless technology and wars, as you may conclude from this insightful quote:
“In time almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering and probably medicine, too. So -- if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.”

 Eliot Rosewater’s father, a Republican Senator, was ashamed and embarrassed. He compared his son’s universal love to toilet paper.

 Why was this book banned and ignored?

I don’t know. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Eliot Rosewater was kind without being religious. It may also be related to comments that defy the status quo. This one, for instance:
Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up…”

Read this novel yourself and draw your own conclusions.

It was interesting to start reading “The American Way of Poverty” by Sasha Abramsky after I finished “God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater”. This non-fiction book helps us to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between Vonnegut’s fiction and reality.