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Mailbox Monday #621

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Ghost Hour by Laura Cronk for review.

Sometimes compact, sometimes expansive, the poems in Ghost Hour emanate from adolescence and other liminal spaces, considering girlhood and contemporary womanhood―the ways both are fraught with the pleasures and limits of embodiment. As in her previous poetry, Laura Cronk writes personally, intimately, yet never without profound consideration of onslaught of contemporary violence, which we must love in spite of and rage against.

Why I Never Finished My Dissertation by Laura Foley for review with TLC Book Tours.

Foley’s writing may appear sparse and reserved but it harbors a subtle power. The poet’s greatest strength is her acute sense of observation. She possesses the ability to thread sensuousness into the fabric of everyday life. . .This is a dazzling volume of poetry that delights in crisp imagery and tender recollections. —Kirkus Reviews

The quest to discover why this poet does not complete a dissertation, leads to an astonishing read. This collection reveals a wide range of life-changing experiences beginning with a marriage to a hunchback Moroccan, almost twice the writer’s age. Other poems express revelations and observations that arise out of travels, such as a trip to Tehran, where the poet stands on a bullet-riddled balcony watching a hurried crowd “spill Khomeini from his coffin.” The signature poem unveils a suddenly busy domestic life in a second marriage with three young children and puppies. Toward the end readers experience love which results in marriage with a same-sex partner. No matter one’s personal story, what makes a story great is how it is told. —The US Review of Books

Woman Drinking Absinthe by Katherine E. Young, which I purchased.

From the naïve girl who willfully ignores evidence of Bluebeard’s crimes, to Manet’s dispirited barmaid at the Folies-Bergère, to the narrator of the book’s opening sequence, who sacrifices domestic security for a passionate lover who will eventually abuse her, the women of these poems brush abandon convention at their peril, even though convention also imperils their bodies, their spirits, and their art. In this second collection, Young—whose earlier Day of the Border Guards explored Russian history and literature—continues to employ what she’s learned from the great Russian writers she often translates. Like Marina Tsvetaeva, who makes a cameo appearance here, Young finds literary touchstones among sources as varied as German folk tales, Greek drama, and the Old Testament. Whether tracing the elements of Euclidean geometry or the terrain of a Civil War battlefield in Tennessee, these poems ask the hard questions: Why does love fail? How can art come from pain? What heals the soul?

wife|daughter|self: a memoir in essays by Beth Kephart, which I purchased.

Curiously, inventively, Beth Kephart reflects on the iterative, composite self in her new memoir―traveling to lakes and rivers, New Mexico and Mexico, the icy waters of Alaska and a hot-air balloon launch in search of understanding. She is accompanied, often, by her Salvadoran-artist husband. She spends time, a lot of time, with her widowed father. As she looks at them she ponders herself and comes to terms with the person she is still becoming. At once sweeping and intimate, Wife | Daughter | Self is a memoir built of interlocking essays by an acclaimed author, teacher, and critic.

What did you receive?

The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
I am an Amazon affiliate

The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis takes another look at Aline Griffith, a small town girl looking for big adventure and to serve her country. Loftis uses source material from the National Archives, Griffith’s own fictionalized accounts of her time as a spy with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and many are source materials to suss out the truth of her time as a spy. Aline was a model who trained to be a spy at The Farm and her own accounts of her exploits are likely to have been embellished because as publishers will do, they want to sell books and car chases, murders, and more sell books. While Aline may have wanted to recount her life honestly, other marketing experts were at play and Loftis strives to piece out what was true from those accounts with secondary sources. I also think some people have a glamorous view of spies and what they do (e.g., James Bond), and the reality is much more mundane and nuanced — it’s about building trust and relationships that can be leveraged for information.

Was Loftis successful in finding the truth? For the most part, he did his best based on what was classified and what isn’t any longer. What I loved about Loftis’ narrative is that it read like historical fiction, and I think with any book based on research there’s a tendency to be too dry in the narrative. Because he chose to narrate it more like a novel, it was easier to eat up the pages and get engrossed in Aline’s story. Her time at The Farm was fascinating, and some may wonder why her family wasn’t in the book and asking about her whereabouts, etc., but I think it’s clear that when you become a spy and have a cover story, the family must accept it as truth and you make sure that they do. Adding those conversations would have bogged down this narrative.

Being part of the OSS coding room in Spain (considered neutral in the war) to send information to the U.S. State Department during WWII is not a glamorous job but no less important than being a spy. She spent much of her career in that room, but she also attended parties, social events, and had a semi-romance with a bullfighter. When she finally became a field agent, it is clear that all those parties and social events she was invited to opened the door for her career because she was in places where she could probe without drawing attention and could overhear conversations that might be of importance with regard to Nazi movements.

Loftis also creates a wider link between espionage and the Spanish bullfights. Like the matador, Aline lures her targets closer to her with the hope that she can evade capture, jail, and death. She’s weaving her spell on the crowd around her and she’s masterfully moving her cape to lure the bulls and create an illusion of a career woman learning about her current home — Spain. It probably helped that she was genuinely captivated by the Spanish culture.

The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis is engaging, thrilling, and insightful, and he provides a great deal of information about the spy business (but I’m not an expert). I do think there are holes and gaps that could be filled, and I would love to know more about her time doing “odd jobs” for the CIA after her marriage and her life in Spain was in full swing, but alas that information is still classified (my guess is it had a lot to do with preventing communism’s spread). Aline Griffith served her country with honesty and dignity, and she enjoyed doing it, even if she was in danger. She clearly was a people person and the relationships she maintained throughout her life are a testament to her personality and care for others. Loftis has humanized a spy who believed her efforts helped the country during WWII, but I’m still curious about some of the characters in her life like Pierre and Ryan (two figures who are much more mysterious — perhaps there’s a fictionalized account of them in Loftis’ future).

RATING: Quatrain

Excerpt, Interview, Giveaway: Came a Flight Gently by Leigh Dreyer, part of the Pride in Flight Series

Leigh Dreyer has published the third book in her Pride in Flight series, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Came a Flight Gently.

I’ve waited for her to complete this series because I want to read my series back-to-back and not have to wait. I usually wait for at least three books to be published before I start a new series. That’s my quirk.

I’ve been eager to read these because I love war fiction and non-fiction, even if War Through the Generations has gone dormant. Unlike other readers, I do like technical details, etc., but I’m also up for a mostly romance novel with military themes.

I had the pleasure of meeting Leigh in person at the JAFF Writer-Reader Get Together in 2019. Today, I’m happy to welcome her and her three books to the blog today, with an excerpt from Came a Flight Gently. In the new book, Leigh’s father, Paul Trockner, becomes a first time author himself. I was able to ask them what it was like to work on a book together.

About The Best Laid Plans:

In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?

About The Flight Path Less Traveled (a title that reminds me of Robert Frost):

In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight.

Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

About Came a Flight Gently:

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together.

An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Please welcome Leigh Dreyer and Paul Trockner:

How was working together on Came a Flight Gently?

Paul: Working to together for this book started when we went to Reno for research. Leigh had the first two written. At Reno, I helped break the ice with the race pilots, explain what was going on and translated between pilot speak and author speak. So, working came naturally as I enjoy introducing people to flying and talking with other pilots. Working together was not as father/daughter. It was really semi-experienced author, Leigh, teaching or showing me what to do. It was fun collaborating. Just like any joint venture we agreed, disagreed and worked things out. This is Leigh’s story so she got the last word. As a parent it is wonderful to relate to your kids as adults not just the 18 year old that moved out of your house.

Leigh: I really enjoyed working together. Paul had helped me make sure the first two books had realistic flight scenes, radio calls, and helped me connect with some Air Force specific resources. With this book, his 40+ years of flight experience was valuable while looking at types of planes, how planes are modified, and generally helping explain what is going on in various races. I follow pretty well, but he could really get into the nitty gritty and make sure I didn’t make any boneheaded mistakes. Story-wise, it was so nice
to be able to talk to someone about the plot, characters, etc. with someone just as invested as I was.

Why co-author?

Leigh: Well, when I started writing The Best Laid Flight Plans, I had a toddler and a newborn. Then during The Flight Path Less Traveled, I still had the two kids, but I was working from home (I’m a speech pathologist) and during breaks, I took advantage of my daycare situation and got it finished. Then, I had a baby with a really difficult pregnancy, then I moved, then COVID-19 hit so all of my writing time was sacrificed to more important things. I was really working to get Came a Flight Gently out when dad offered to write a scene because he had a good idea. The scene turned out great and we started collaborating more and more. Eventually, I told him I felt like he needed to either have a big acknowledgement or a co-authorship and our writing relationship became more official. It’s been great, honestly.

Paul: For the first two books Leigh wrote I just cleaned up the flying scenes and radio calls. I didn’t have nor wanted story input it was her thing. I was just technical assistant. Along the way at Reno we started talking about where she wanted this story to go. The first book follows Pride and Prejudice, the second resolves Elizabeth’s situation, this book finishes the story and is a completely original story with the characters. It also added characters that I thought I could relate to. So I pitched a couple ideas. Well Leigh, in the mean time, had to move, wrangle two kids while waiting for a third. So I asked if I could write a scene? Leigh said sure, so I did. She liked it so I wrote more. Well as we got going I’d helped with approaching half the book and had input on her scenes as she did mine as well as the direction of the book. As we wrapped up, Leigh asked if I wanted to be coauthor. So after discussion and some soul searching. After all it’s her brain child, I said okay. And that’s how I helped and became a co-author.

About the Authors of Came a Flight Gently:

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (Goose, you big stud!) when Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-
38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

GIVEAWAY:

Leave a comment about why you want to read Leigh Dreyer’s modernized Pride & Prejudice novels by March 9.

Also leave an email where I can reach you, if you win the trio!

Guest Post: Yiddish on the Bayou by Jennifer Anne Moses, Author of The Man Who Loved His Wife

Today, author Jennifer Anne Moses will share with us a guest post about her latest short story collection, The Man Who Loved His Wife.

Book Synopsis:

Jews being Jewish: that’s the subject of Jennifer Anne Moses’s new collection of short stories. Whether in Tel Aviv, suburban New Jersey, or the Deep South, the characters who populate the pages of The Man Who Loved His Wife grapple with God, their loved ones, fate, death, hope, Hitler, transcendence, and the 4000 year old history of Judaism. With a Yiddish sensibility born of passion, an eye for detail, and a deadpan sense of humor reminiscent of Singer, Salinger, and Tillie Olsen, Moses captures singularly Jewish and wholly human characters as they live and breathe through their stories. A secular Israeli loses his son twice, first to ultra-Orthodoxy and then to war. An elderly survivor of Nazism living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, believes his dog to be the reincarnation of his long-dead sister. Meanwhile, in Queens, an adolescent boy mistakes love for magic and brings his family to the brink of catastrophe. Lovely, tender, and hard to put down, these are short stories that leave you yearning for more.

I hope you will enjoy what she has to say. Please give her a warm welcome:

Yiddish on the Bayou

I’m about to publish my seventh book, in this case a collection of short stories about Jews being Jewish, meaning that the book is informed, soaked in, and shot through with Yiddish and Yiddishkeit. The former, Yiddish, is a language that appeared in late Medieval Europe, when Jews from France and Italy moved into what is now Germany, creating a new language comprised of elements from German, French, Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Slavic languages. The word, “Yiddish,” is in fact Yiddish for Jewish.” Thus Yiddish became the everyday vernacular of European Jews living across both linguistic and political borders. The latter—Yiddishkeit—roughly means “Yiddish culture” but expands to include an entire messily discordant and endlessly eclectic Jewish worldview, sensibility, and vibrancy. Nu?

I’m a Jew, so some of the world I write about came to me, along with my brown hair and eyes, at birth. But my family had been in America so long—since around the Civil War on both sides–that by my grandparents’ generation Yiddish was all but forgotten. Also, I grew up fancy, in Virginia, where I knew much more about horses and tennis than anything even vaguely related to Judaism or the Yiddish world that had been wiped out by the Nazi genocide. But then I went to college, where I fell headlong into what became a deep dive into Jewish literature and Hebrew, and there you have it: my muse began to speak to me with a Yiddish accent. The result being my new book, The Man Who Loved His Wife (Mayapple Press, March 1, 2021).

According to my blurbs (thank you givers of blurbs!) I’m a Yiddish writer who just happens to write in English and have even hit the high-water marks of Yiddish literature: humor, grittiness, pathos, passion.

I’m not knocking it—God forbid—but most of my work, until now, has been outside of Jews, Jewishness, and Judaism. In fact, my last book, which was published just a year ago (and in time for the pandemic to shut everything down, including readings) is about the struggles of two orphaned brothers living on the margins of decent society in a small, redneck town in South Louisiana. Twice my short stories have landed in the anthology New Stories from the South: the Year’s Best, and in both cases the stories featured impoverished Black characters in Baton Rouge, and their (largely impoverished) world. And what part of my Yiddisherkop (Jewish head) did this come from? The part that lived in Baton Rouge for thirteen years, where my husband and I raised our (now grown) children, and I volunteered among very poor, very sick full-Gospel African Americans.

According to Google I am a “multi genre” writer–but it’s more than a matter of genre. I’ve internalized many different worlds, and then those worlds show up in my work.

The fact of the matter is that I was raised in Virginia among ur-wasps and spent my entire life on the East Coast until, decades ago, I landed in Louisiana. Now I live in New Jersey—and with relatives living in Jerusalem, I go there, too. And it all seeps in–and eventually finds its way into my work.

I think at a certain point most writers of fiction would agree that you write what you have to write, because why bother doing it if it isn’t pressing so persistently against your soul that you have to give voice to it? My own soul, it appears, is indeed Jewish, which is perhaps why I love Yiddish literature more than any other world literature: because it speaks to me, way down in my kishkes.

When my paternal grandmother died, in her mid-nineties, she left behind not only three children (including my father) and eleven grandchildren (including me), but formal portraits of my grandfather’s grandparents, painted in dark oil paint and framed in ornate gilded frames. They were the founding couple of my father’s side of the family, arriving in Baltimore in the mid-19th century from Manchester, England, where there is every reason to think that they spoke to one another in Yiddish. (He was originally from western Germany; her family was from Prussia). All eleven of us grandchildren wanted the portraits, but perhaps because I’d long since put Jewishness and Judaism in the middle of my life, my father got there first and nabbed them for me.

The portraits now hang in my dining room, gazing down on us much like they’d gazed down on my grandparents and before that, my great-grandparents.

I like to think that my great-great grandparents wouldn’t just be moved by the world of The Man Who Loved His Wife, but that the stories themselves would resonate in their souls, and from there, light up their eyes.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing with my readers your writing process and so much more. I think your grandparents would be proud.

About the Author:

Jennifer Anne Moses is a multi-genre author whose books include Food and Whine, The Book of Joshua, Bagels and Grits, Visiting Hours, Tales from My Closet, and The Art of Dumpster Diving. The Man Who Loved His Wife is her first collection of short stories. Her essays and short stories have been widely published and anthologized. She’s also a painter. She is the mother of three grown children, and lives in Montclair, N.J., with her husband of more than three decades and their two bad dogs. Visit her website.

Mailbox Monday #620

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

frank:sonnets by Diane Seuss from the publisher.

“The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without,” Diane Seuss writes in this brilliant, candid work, her most personal collection to date. These poems tell the story of a life at risk of spilling over the edge of the page, from Seuss’s working-class childhood in rural Michigan to the dangerous allures of New York City and back again. With sheer virtuosity, Seuss moves nimbly across thought and time, poetry and punk, AIDS and addiction, Christ and motherhood, showing us what we can do, what we can do without, and what we offer to one another when we have nothing left to spare. Like a series of cels on a filmstrip, frank: sonnets captures the magnitude of a life lived honestly, a restless search for some kind of “beauty or relief.” Seuss is at the height of her powers, devastatingly astute, austere, and―in a word―frank.

Woman Drinking Absinthe by Katherine E. Young, which I purchased.

The poems in Katherine E. Young’s Woman Drinking Absinthe concern themselves with transgressions. Lust, betrayal, guilt, redemption: Young employs fairy tales, opera, Impressionism, Japonisme, Euclidean geometry, Greek tragedy, wine, figs, and a little black magic to weave a tapestry that’s as old as the hills and as fresh as today’s headlines.

What books did you receive?

Review & Giveaway: The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 98 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler explores the human condition and our struggle to grapple with our own mortality. Sandler begins the collection with just that concept in “Gauze” where the narrator has surgery and as he goes under from anesthesia “Now breathe deeply, and I vanish,/a plastic wristband flashing Vacancy/” (pg. 9) There is that fear, especially as we age, that our lives will vanish and our bodies will be cast aside as empty shells.

It is easy for us to foster a myopic point of view — “Isolation arrests a point of view” (“Lighthousing”, pg. 19) But on occasion, changes in our view can help us see the best, like in the title poem, “Lamp,” where amber light can dull the anguish of the past. From bullying to loss, Sandler tackles many of the trials of the human condition, rooting his poems in recipes, family tradition, and advice from his father. While not all of these moments prevented sadness, anger, or loss, the narrator looks back on how each represented the care and love of family — a foundation that strengthened over time even as those family members passed.

from "Garlic Press" (pg. 44-45)

until desire flashes again.
What keeps drawing me to those blades?
When the ensuing sight of blood
subverts a show of nonchalance.
I try to take a firmer grip,
one more inexorable squeeze.

Sandler explores desire and how it draws us to things that may not be good for us. In the same collection, “Cenobite” explores shyness and antisocial behavior as the narrator walks in a dog park and finds that he’s unlike the social dogs, standing apart he fails at small talk and interacting. He needs to force himself to try to move beyond his neutral ground apart. There is a peace in aloofness and a camaraderie that can be found with animals alone.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler is about the human condition in all of its stripes of good and bad, memory and action. Sandler’s use of science, science fiction, and photographs helps to illustration of struggle, perseverance, and peace with what has come before and what awaits the future.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Michael Sandler is the author of The Lamps of History, a poetry collection that explores connections between personal and historical experience while wrestling with the ambiguities (and choices) between connection/estrangement and faith/doubt. For much of his adulthood, Michael wrote poems for the desk drawer, while working as a lawyer and later as an arbitrator. He began to publish in 2009. Since then, his poems have appeared in scores of literary journals including Arts & Letters, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Zone 3. He lives in the Seattle area. To learn more about Michael and his work, please go to sandlerpoetry.com.

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of The Lamps of History

Leave a comment on this post about why you want to read the collection and an email where I can reach you by March. 8.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 6+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo, narrated by Amy Landon, takes a sociologists’ approach to race (which does involve generalizations). White Americans must remember that we are products of our socialization and culture, and no aspect of society lies outside the forces of racism, even if you come from a mixed-race family, had ancestors who were once discriminated against (Irish, Italian, etc.), or experienced poverty, etc. The trick is not to see our unique experiences as making us exempt from racism but to see how those experiences shaped who we are within a racist society and to see the larger picture of how racism impacts others. Secondly, she says we need to redefine the term “racist” — we’ve been taught that racists are immoral and mean and that they consciously hate/oppress others based upon their race. However, this assumption is a societal definition propagated by a racist society. White people need to first examine what it means to be white and what that has brought them in society and cost others — this examination will be a struggle for many.

Superficial differences between races and genders are a result of geographical location and evolution, but biologically we are all the same. The race construct is just that – made up. White supremacy has taken that construct and divided resources based on a false hierarchy, hence the accessibility gaps for non-white groups and non-male groups. Many of these discussions are ones I’ve had before in college with courses and other groups — open dialogue is essential about things that are not “fact” even though they were credited as such. She does touch on exploitation as the catalyst for racism (I would read Stamped From the Beginning for more on this).

Imagine going to court to proclaim you are white because you were misclassified as another race! This actually occurred and scientific experts were called into these cases to provide “expert” testimony. DiAngelo indicates that those European immigrants are the only ones who were successful in becoming “white” after assimilation, etc. Assimilation — think about that — casting aside their customs, speaking English only, and eating only American foods, etc. Those assimilated people now benefit from their whiteness. DiAngelo also points out that if poor and working class Americans across all “races” worked together – they could become a powerful force against the upper “white” classes. However, many perceived as “white” also tend to look down on other poor and working class peoples because of their “whiteness” and the system that oppresses them both. The irony!

“Scholar Marilyn Frye uses the metaphor of a birdcage to describe the interlocking forces of oppression.16 If you stand close to a birdcage and press your face against the wires, your perception of the bars will disappear and you will have an almost unobstructed view of the bird. If you turn your head to examine one wire of the cage closely, you will not be able to see the other wires. If your understanding of the cage is based on this myopic view, you may not understand why the bird doesn’t just go around the single wire and fly away. You might even assume that the bird liked or chose its place in the cage.

But if you stepped back and took a wider view, you would begin to see that the wires come together in an interlocking pattern—a pattern that works to hold the bird firmly in place. It now becomes clear that a network of systematically related barriers surrounds the bird.

Taken individually, none of these barriers would be that difficult for the bird to get around, but because they interlock with each other, they thoroughly restrict the bird. While some birds may escape from the cage, most will not. And certainly those that do escape will have to navigate many barriers that birds outside the cage do not.”

We all have prejudices (it is the way our brain operates) or a sense of discomfort around certain people or groups — acting on those prejudices is discrimination. Racism is a structure (white supremacy) and we need to remember that we have a role to play in that structure. We need to learn to recognize our prejudices and work toward not acting on them and dismantling the structures that employ discrimination against groups different from white males. This is a tall order because many of these ideologies are reinforced in our daily lives.

One notion that came to mind, however, is the “kafkatrap” by which an accused is guilty by merely being silent. Many of us are silent, many of us fail to stand up and point out discrimination (even subtle discrimination), and does this mean we’re all complicit in racism? While this may be true, I prefer less circular arguments and prefer that we work as a human race to improve our systems for all of us. THIS will require us to have discomforting conversations and require actions that run counter to our normal daily actions. It will require us to reform and dismantle white supremacy. We’ll need to widen our view of history, particularly in schools, to acknowledge both the good and the bad, highlighting those who have exploited and committed racism to obtain the upper economic hand, among other things.

My only complaint is that DiAngelo was very repetitive toward the end. She would bring up examples she already used and talk about them again in the same manner she did in the previous chapter. I wouldn’t have noticed it as much if it wasn’t back-to-back repetition. Perhaps she believes repetition will stick with readers more and help them to see the situations she discusses in a new light. I’m unsure.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo, narrated by Amy Landon, asks us to recognize our faults, work to fix them, and to question ideologies that are considered the norm. There is much work to do. Challenging racism starts with recognizing your own prejudices and being conscious of how to modify/change your reactions and behaviors going forward. This is a very academic look at racism, which some may find too high-brow for them. Racism is real and present today (across the globe) — it is not a thing of the past, and we need to tackle it head on and in a multitude of ways. While some of her arguments are circular, she provides a good overview of racism in today’s society and the reactions that white people have when confronted with its subtleties.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #619

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton, which was free for Kindle.

Rose Wallace’s world revolves around all things Austen, and with the annual festival in Bath – and the arrival of dishy archaeologist, Dr Aiden Trevellyan – just around the corner, all is well with the world…

But then a mysterious woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the great author moves in upstairs, and things take a disastrous turn. Rose’s new neighbour is Jane Austen, whose time travel adventure has been sabotaged by a mischievous dog, trapping her in the twenty-first century.

Rose’s life is instantly changed – new home, new job, new friends – but she’s the only one who seems to have noticed! To right the world around her, she will have to do whatever it takes to help Jane get back home to write Rose’s beloved novels. Because a world without Mr Darcy? It’s not worth living in!

And There You Were by Samantha Whitman, which was free for Kindle.

Interviewing a celebrity was a golden opportunity for aspiring journalist Juliet Evans, and solving a mystery about her past in the city her parents grew up in was even more enticing. A cryptic skeleton key would end up uniting both, and pave the way for an unforgettable quest woven throughout the romantic streets of London. Instead of unraveling the past, however, Juliet would uncover secrets that cause her life to come apart at the seams. Can she come to terms with who she is? Can she repair the damage before it’s too late? Or is everything beyond her control, left entirely up to fate to decide?

What did you receive?

The Last Tree by Emily Haworth-Booth

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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The Last Tree by Emily Haworth-Booth will remind readers of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, though here the tree is not personified, there is no Lorax, and the messages are very clear cut. In Haworth-Booth’s book, the focus is on the group of villagers who are seeking a place to live — the desert too hot, the valley too wet, the mountains too windy — until they find a forest with the perfect amount of light and shadow and breeze. But they soon need to build shelters and then homes to protect themselves from the natural elements, and they build and build until they are walled in and blocked from one another. One tree remains, which they call a weed. The children from different families are sent out to cut down that last tree for various structures, but the children have other ideas.

The people in this village are not demonized as taking from the world around them — the message is clear without being heavy-handed. However, it is clear that as they separate themselves from one another by barriers, their happiness declines and their ability to enjoy life falls. But is that because of their use of their resources and the scarcity of them in their present? Not necessarily. While the use/overuse of resources is clear in this book and can be talked about by parents and children, the authors is seeking to address the separation of families from their communities and their perceptions of others as a source of unhappiness.

The Last Tree by Emily Haworth-Booth is a gorgeous picture book that looks like crayon-colored drawings that kids can easily identify with. The text is definitely easy to read for younger readers, and the subject matter is broad and important for parents and their children. It would also make a great addition to school libraries and classrooms. I loved the redemption of this village in the book — we can all make positive changes.

The Other America – A Speech from The Radical King by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 25 min.
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The Other America – A Speech from The Radical King by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., read by Wanda Sykes, is as relevant today as it has ever been. It is one of 23 speeches and essays from The Radical King, curated by Dr. Cornel West, including words never recorded in public. This is a speech was given at the “Salute to Freedom” organized by the Local 1199 in New York City and outlines his Poor People’s Campaign.

I am on the fence about Sykes’ rendition of this speech. At points I felt like she was passionate about it, but at others I felt like she were merely reading by rote.

“You see, no labor is really menial unless you’re not getting adequate wages. People are always talking about menial labor. But if you’re getting a good (wage) as I know that through some unions they’ve brought it up…that isn’t menial labor. What makes it menial is the income, the wages.”

While not from a Black family, I can tell you that as a women from a working class family, this is no less true. My father toiled for pitiful wages most of my childhood, even if he worked 40+ hours a week. The plague for the Blacks in this country is also compounded by their involuntary work as slaves — forced labor. When you can barely afford food to feed your family after bills are paid even if the labor is honest and hard work, it is clear there is something wrong with the way those jobs are compensated. People in the working class and elsewhere are as equally frustrated as they are now.

Take that 25 minutes to listen to The Other America – A Speech from The Radical King by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., read by Wanda Sykes. All men are created equal, but not in a society where wealth gaps continue to grow and justice is not served. We need to DEMAND justice.

RATING: Quatrain