Save for later

Mar. 30th, 2017 11:29 am
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I would continue with my other examples but I’ve already reached the three hundred and twenty word minimum so I’ll save those for later.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see

Mar. 30th, 2017 06:34 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

Let's relax and take a deep breath with an almost completely Trump-free post, featuring the music of the Old 97's, a new documentary on Reinhold Niebuhr, and the sense of recognition that comes from realizing that comedian Pete Holmes is a Gordon College grad and a recovering evangelical (that explains a lot).

Current events

Mar. 29th, 2017 12:25 pm
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Trump signed an executive order making anime illegal, so watching anime is now an offense to the law.

What are you reading Wednesday

Mar. 29th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Nikki

Cover of Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-SmithWhat have you recently finished reading?

I read Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith on the Eurostar yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It makes me really tempted to get some diving experience so I can meet octopi and cuttlefish, though I’m very surprised to learn that they actually tend to live only two years. When he was talking about meeting friendly individuals, I was imagining being able to revisit the same cuttlefish throughout something closer to the same lifespan…Cover of After Atlas by Emma Newman

What are you currently reading?

A lot of things. The next book I’m going to focus on finishing is After Atlas, by Emma Newman; I also recently picked up Samuel Delany’s Nova, Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff and Ben Peek’s The Godless — all of which are fascinating, but I should really try and focus on one at a time.

What will you read next?

Probably I’ll get on with finishing The Godless and then turn to Britain After Rome to finish that, but maybe dual-wield it with Lamb for a lighter touch!

Review – Gaia

Mar. 29th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Nikki

Cover of Gaia by James LovelockGaia, James Lovelock

When I’ve heard of the Gaia theory before, I’ve usually heard of it in a sceptical sort of context that criticises the tree-hugging idea that Earth has a soul. That is not actually the main thrust of Lovelock’s argument at all: instead, what he argues is that Gaia, or Earth, is a self-sustaining system with in-built feedback loops which hold it more or less steady and capable of supporting life.

If you’ve studied climate or geology or even the water cycle, you know that he’s not wrong about the self-sustaining system. There’s so many negative feedback loops which keep things in check — some of which are, of course, threatening to be sabotaged by the action of one particular upstart mammal species with delusions of grandeur. We’re a part of the system, of course, but one which may have got out of hand. Or maybe not; maybe our intelligence will help rein us back in. We can only hope.

The point is, Lovelock’s not saying anything about a cosy loving Earth Mother spirit watching over us. Though his language in this book is sometimes poetical, and his sense of wonder at nature is clear, he’s talking about self-regulating, self-sustaining systems. He’s talking about the fact that the world has checks and balances in place which bring Earth into equilibrium, even though other factors — like the sun’s energy output — have changed over time. And okay, at some points he goes off on a tangent about whale intelligence and a hypothetical future in which whale brains give us technological advances, but the science here isn’t wrong.

There’s nothing actually revolutionary or tree-hugging here. It’s just true. Call it Gaia or call it a complex set of feedback loops; whatever you’re comfortable with, I guess. I do wish I’d read Revenge of Gaia instead, since this is horribly optimistic that humans will pull our collective fingers out and stop damaging the planet. I suspect Lovelock’s less sanguine about that prospect now.

Rating: 4/5

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Posted by Fred Clark

This is the difference between Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Parks effectively and strategically practiced civil disobedience. She broke an unjust law, submitting to her arrest and prosecution, and thereby helped to spark a public debate and a mass movement that ultimately changed and corrected that unjust law. Harriet Tubman broke an unjust law -- many unjust laws -- but she was compelled not to get caught doing so, for her own sake and for the sake of those she rescued.
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Posted by Debbie Reese

Editor's Note: Beverly Slapin submitted this review of Steve Sheinkin's Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. It may not be used elsewhere without her written permission. All rights reserved. Copyright 2017. Slapin is currently the publisher/editor of De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children. I (Debbie Reese) hope to read and review this book, too. See also the review at Reading While White

_____________________________________________________________

Sheinkin, Steve, Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. Roaring Brook Press, 2017; grades 6-9 (Potawatomi, Sac and Fox)


PREFACE

In “The School Days of an Indian Girl,” a chapter in American Indian Stories, [1], Zitkala-Sa (Dakota) writes of her experiences at White’s Manual Labor Institute in Wabash, Indiana:

The melancholy of those black days has left so long a shadow that it darkens the path of years that have since gone by. Perhaps my Indian nature is the moaning wind which stirs them now [2] for their present record. But, however tempestuous this is within me, it comes out as the low voice of a curiously colored seashell [3], which is only for those ears that are bent with compassion to hear it.

Zitkala-Sa devoted her life to seeking justice for her people and was one of the few early Native writers who wrote without the “aid” of a white editor, interpreter or ethnographer. While her stories describe the everyday humiliations, turmoil and pain that encompassed the Indian residential school experience, she also wrote of resistance and rebellion.

It’s my firm belief that no one could or should attempt to represent what the children experienced in the Indian residential schools without listening to the stories of their descendants, and with “ears bent with compassion to hear it.” And even Zitkala-Sa is not saying that those people are entitled to voice, much less to interpret, what they have heard.

--------------------------------

The 1951 movie, entitled “Jim Thorpe, All American” (starring Burt Lancaster as Jim Thorpe), begins with this hyperbole-laden voiceover:

“Jim Thorpe, All-American, the man of bronze who became the greatest athlete of all time, an Oklahoma Indian lad whose untamed spirit gave wings to his feet and carried him to immortality. Here in a mighty cavalcade of sport are all the giants who faced this champion among champions, each test adding new honors to his ever-growing fame. Here is the thrilling panorama of the Olympic Games, the nation’s praise for its returning hero, and behind the glory and glamour, colorful days at Carlisle University [sic]…” 

Stories of heroism and singlehandedly overcoming adversity are well received in European and European American children’s literature as well, and Jim Thorpe fits into this mold. He’s larger than life, a legend, almost mythic, so many stories about him—both true and false—lend themselves to the persona we know as “Jim Thorpe.”

That’s why, especially in a biography for children, it’s important to get things right. Unfortunately, Sheinkin writes through a cultural filter that objectifies Native lives, histories, and experiences, and in doing so, misleads young readers about Jim Thorpe, the real person.

--------------------------------

“CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL,” COVER AND BACK MATTER

Although Sheinkin refers to the “Carlisle Indian Industrial School” by its full name a few times, he then shortens the name to “Carlisle Indian School,” the name that’s reflected on the cover and front matter as well. Omitting the word “industrial” from Carlisle’s name—which Sheinkin does often in this book—belies the school’s purpose: to train its Indian students to be servants and other low-wage workers, rather than to educate them. (Referring to the school as the shortened version, “Carlisle,” after using its correct name is acceptable. Not acceptable is referring to “Carlisle Indian School” asits correct name.)

On the front cover flap—the first text the reader sees—there is this, in large print:


JIM THORPE:
SUPER ATHLETE, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST,
NATIVE AMERICAN

POP WARNER:
INDOMITABLE COACH, FOOTBALL MASTERMIND,
IVY LEAGUE GRAD


Here, Jim Thorpe is identified by his ethnicity, while Pop Warner is not. This introduction objectifies Jim Thorpe and sets the stage for much of what is to come.

--------------------------------

JIM THORPE AND BLACK HAWK

A caption on page 12 reads:

Young Jim’s first hero, Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, Black Sparrow Hawk, or Black Hawk. Black Hawk was a member of the Thunder Clan of the Sac and Fox, the same clan as Jim Thorpe.

This 31-word caption goes off in several confusing directions, echoed in the text that follows it. 

(1) Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak was a Sauk war leader whose name, as interpreted into English, was “Black Sparrow Hawk.”

(2) Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak was born into the Thunder Clan of the Sauk Nation. He was not a “member of the Thunder Clan of the Sac and Fox.” The Sauk and Meskwaki Nations formed a political alliance after 1732, and, although the US government referred to them as a single entity, the “Sac and Fox Confederacy,” each treaty had a separate place for Sauk and Meskwaki chiefs to sign, and the Sauk and Meskwaki remain two separate nations. As Johnathan Buffalo, Preservation Director of the Meskwaki Nation, explained to me, “We are Meskwaki. When we deal in government-to-government relations with the US, they refer to us as Sac and Fox. We’re stuck for legal reasons but not for cultural reasons.” He added, “They can terminate the Sac and Fox, but they can never terminate the Meskwaki because only our God can do that.”

A lot of people, including Jim Thorpe’s family, refer to themselves by the government name, “Sac and Fox,” or even use “Sac Fox,” and historians and biographers should note the distinction. Sheinkin did not.

(3) Since Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak was born around 1767 and Jim Thorpe was born in 1887, Thorpe’s clan citizenship was the same as that of his Sauk ancestor, not the other way around.

--------------------------------

THE DAWES ACT

On pages 9-10, Sheinkin briefly describes the land rush that occurred after the General Allotment Act of 1887 (Dawes Severalty Act):

Three years later, twenty thousand settlers lined the edge of what had been Sac and Fox land. A government agent fired a gun, the signal for the land rush to begin, and everyone raced on horseback or in wagons, claiming open sections of land by driving stakes into the soil…. By nightfall, the plains around the Thorpes’ farm were dotted with settlers’ tents and campfires. In just a few hours, the Sac and Fox had lost nearly 80 percent of their land. [italics mine]

In the General Allotment Act of 1887, also known as the Dawes Severalty Act, the US government seized and split up Indian reservation lands held in common and “allocated” non-adjacent tracts of 160 acres each to individual Native families, forcing them into subsistence farming. The government then sold the “excess” 86 million acres of formerly communal lands to white settlers.

The government’s intent was to break up tribal communities, which is what they did. By seizing and “redistributing” the land, the government also destroyed the ceremony, social structure, kinship, respect for elders, and community child rearing—in short, the spiritual and material foundation of traditional Native beliefs and lives. Three years later, the government-sanctioned land grab stole almost all of the rest of the land. (Both the terms “allotment” and “severalty” euphemize what was actually theft of land and culture.)

After the US government forcibly relocated people from traditional lands to reservations, and, within a generation or two, from those communal lands to individual “allotments,” the Dawes Act became the metaphorical nail in the coffin.

When your family is abruptly cut off from land, community, and culture and surrounded by a hostile foreign environment, your life changes drastically. It’s not surprising that in this cultural vacuum—exacerbated by the easy availability of the cheap alcohol that can be likened to chemical warfare—Hiram Thorpe became a mean, abusive alcoholic, regularly threatening, beating and abandoning his several wives and many children.

Jim Francis Thorpe was one of six children (later 11) born to Hiram Thorpe and Charlotte Vieux Thorpe in 1887, the same year as the Dawes Act, and just before the massive white land grab. This was the difficult life—no, turmoil—that shaped Jim’s childhood. Land theft. Culture theft. Theft of Indian children into the government schools. A violent father. A strong, protective mother. He was not left unscarred. This is a crucial part of Thorpe’s life that Sheinkin leaves out.

--------------------------------

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Native babies and children are traditionally named in different ways and through different practices. Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down (“Sitting Bull”) was named “Slow.” His Horse Is Crazy (“Crazy Horse”) was named “Curly.” Some children are traditionally given names that encourage them to “throw away” their baby names. (I’m reminded here of Joe Bruchac’s excellent historical novel, Brothers of the Buffalo, in which identical Cheyenne twins are named “Too Tall” and “Too Short.”) And the baby name of a good friend of mine translates from the Ojibwe, “Maniigimoogibineyans,” as “little bird making mess by making poo.” (She remembers, she told me, that she tried her best to learn how to use the potty so that everyone would stop calling her “little poo butt.”) Sometimes babies are named by their parents, sometimes by a grandparent or by a spiritual leader enlisted for that purpose. Sometimes babies are given a clan name.

Jim Thorpe was born into the Sauk Thunder Clan, which assigned him his traditional name, Wa-tha-sko-huk, meaning “The Light After the Lightning,” a Thunder Clan name. Unfortunately, Thorpe’s birth name is often cited as “Wa-tho-huck,” and erroneously translated as “Bright Path” by his biographers. Just about all of the references to “Bright Path,” which lead back to Jim Thorpe himself, have a romantic overtone, signifying that he was destined for greatness. Here, on page 9, Sheinkin writes:

Jim would later explain that his mother, following Potawatomi custom, also gave her sons names inspired by something experienced right after childbirth. Through the window near her bed, Charlotte watched the early morning sun light the path to their cabin. She named Jim Wathohuck, translated as “Bright Path.”

In any event, both of Thorpe’s parents would have followed traditional protocol and traveled to spiritual leaders in the community who were responsible for providing names. (Potawatomi and Sauk aren’t that far apart—they’re both dialects of Anishnaabemowin.) Or they would have followed the father’s traditional protocol. Although it’s possible that some individuals might name their children in this way (and “Bright Path” could have been an endearing nickname) this “first-thing-they-saw-after-childbirth” thing is a well-worn trope. It reminds me of the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in which the great Will Sampson’s tongue-in-cheek story ends with, “But why do you ask, Two Dogs Copulating?" [4]   

--------------------------------

THE “OUTING” PROGRAM

One of the more infamous programs of the Carlisle experience was the summer “outing” program, in which the young students were sent to live with white farm families, who, more often than not, mentally and physically abused them. The reasons that Pratt gave for this program was for the students to experience living in the white world while being trained for regular work. The actual purposes of the outing program were to keep the students from going home for the summer and to continue to train them as domestic servants and farm laborers while they provided an equivalent of slave labor. Sheinkin does not acknowledge any of this. Rather, on pp. 100-101, he writes:

The Outing Program was a major part of life at Carlisle. The idea was for students to live with a “civilized” family,practice English, and learn how to run a farm. “When you boys and girls go out on jobs,” Pratt told students, “you don’t go as employees. You go and become part of the family.” [italics mine]

  Sheinkin continues:

That was not Jim’s experience. Assigned to a farm near Carlisle, he was put to work mopping floors and doing laundry. He was made to eat alone in the kitchen, and paid half of what a white laborer would typically earn.

While Pratt and the school administrators had full knowledge of the rampant cruelty from the white “patrons” to their young charges, Sheinkin describes the outing program as generally beneficent.

--------------------------------

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT

On page 141, Sheinkin describes Gus Welch’s life with his grandmother and younger brother in the woods of northern Wisconsin:

Gus spent as much time as possible outside, hoping the cold air would keep his lungs clear. His grandmother taught the boys to paddle a birch bark canoe, to trap animals for their fur, to collect maple syrup and wild rice. Gus earned money for the family by taking furs into Duluth to sell—which is what had brought him to town the day he saw the Carlisle football poster. [italics mine]

Here, Sheinkin, in one sentence—a wildly inaccurate one at that—purports to describe everything two Indian children learned from their one grandparent. The way it’s worded, as well as what it leaves out, implies that Ojibwe (“Chippewa”) people were and are simple, primitive, nature loving, and technologically impaired. All of it absents the reasoning, the science, the skill sets, and the methods of traditional Indian education. And it absents the fact that these traditional skills—valuable pieces of Indigenous knowledge and technologies—have been handed down for thousands of years.

In terms of canoe building, maintenance and management, many stories were traditionally used as instructive mnemonic devices. My friend and colleague, Lois Beardslee, told me that children were taught everything about the physics of that canoe and all mathematical things to know about a vessel: construction, ratios of length to width, use and repair, how and where loads should be balanced. They were taught hydrodynamics (the equivalent of aerodynamics), how each of the materials the vessel is made of reacts with its environment. For instance, they were taught how and why to weigh down a canoe and store it in the water. They were taught that bark and wood fibers need humidity to swell so that they hold together; that opposing tensions hold these materials together and the caulking is spruce or pine-pitch with fat, using ash as filler. They were taught that a canoe needs the coolness of the water.

Lessons about how to trap animals for their fur were traditionally accompanied by stories about how trapping assists in keeping animal communities healthy through population control, how animals give themselves to humans and how they are to be respected, how they are thanked and quickly killed, and how the pelts are cleaned and dried and prepared. If there were any meat, it would certainly not have been wasted. (My friend, Barbara Wall, commented: “Yum—muskrat and beaver…beaver feast in midwinter!”)

Maple syrup is not collected. People obtain maple sap from the sugarbush and again, there are stories and mnemonic devices for children to understand how things are done in a certain way. Children were and are taught that, as Lois told me, “When we make the syrup, the sap is transformed. It’s all about chemistry; it happens very fast. When the first crystals are formed at a certain temperature, they are the catalyst for a massive rapid series of crystal formation. Our language describes this chemistry accurately. Outsiders could not, because they didn’t have the scientific language to describe it.”

“It takes ten gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and six gallons of syrup to make one gallon of sugar,” Lois continued. “Earlier, we made maple sap into sugar cakes; it wasn’t until the 1950s that glass jars were affordable in the Indian community and we started making syrup instead of sugar. We’re always a generation behind, financially.”

Manoomin (“wild rice”) is not “collected,” nor is it “wild.” Anishnaabe families have harvested and processed the rice, and seeded, cared for, and protected the rice beds for thousands of years.

--------------------------------

CONCLUSION

On page 154, Sheinkin writes:

The Carlisle School was supposed to sever these young men from their heritage, to “Kill the Indian in them,” as Pratt had so famously said. But fans and sportswriters never let the players forget they were Indians—and there’s no evidence they wanted to forget. They did not call themselves the Carlisle Cardinals or the Carlisle Wildcats. They were the Carlisle Indians.

It was Pratt who named the team, “Carlisle Indians,” and the place they practiced, “Indian Field.” These names were certainly not the choice of the Carlisle students. The racist scorecards and the heavily altered “before-and-after” portraits that depict the students’ so-called journey from “savagery to civilization” were made into postcards and sold as souvenirs.[5]  And the stereotypic headlines (“Indians Scalp Army”) and articles (“With racial savagery and ferocity the Carlisle Indian eleven grabbed Penn’s football scalp and dragged their victim up and down Franklin field”) were written by Carlisle publicists to rake in money for the school, from which the Carlisle students did not benefit. Rather, there was an athletic slush fund diverting money from the Indian students. Although Sheinkin quotes from this material, he neither analyzes nor even questions it.

Sheinkin also fails to follow the money trail regarding letters from the Carlisle students. “Dear old Carlisle” is a phrase that shows up in virtually every student’s letters—because these were also used as fundraisers. There were many letters addressed to parents that were never sent, and there is clear evidence that students were required to turn letters over to the “outing” parents rather than sending them home. These letters were heavily censored; especially heartbreaking are the letters to “Dear old Carlisle” from students who had left, requesting the return of their belongings and the balances in their bank accounts.

In terms of what Jim Thorpe actually wrote, fact-checking material whose research is entirely based on hype is impossible; what’s available is inherently problematic and fundamentally wrong. Nothing is real or true. Jim Thorpe was encouraged to market his life, so everything he publicly said and wrote has to be viewed in this way. In searching out the truths of the Indian residential school era, it would have been necessary—and it would have been Sheinkin’s responsibility—to dig deeper. Rather, he chooses to represent “stereotypes as stereotypes” without question.

And that is the main problem with this book. Among the questions neither asked nor answered: Why is there a children’s cemetery on the school grounds with 192 headstones? Whywere children sent home to die so as not to taint Carlisle’s statistics? Why was there a children’s jail on the school grounds? Why did twice as many children run away as were graduated?

Why did Sheinkin not interview descendants of the Carlisle students and especially, Jim Thorpe’s descendants? And why—when the sheer brutality that Pratt and his surrogates inflicted on his young Indian students, mentally and physically, has left generations of Indian people scarred and traumatized—does Sheinkin insist on finding “balance” in Pratt’s intentionality?

What does this say about Richard Henry Pratt and his life’s work? Was he a man who cared about the future of Native Americans at a time few other white leaders did? Was he a man who put down his rifle only to use his school as a weapon against the very people he was claiming to save? Can there be truth in both of the above? (p. 227)

The children who were in the clutches of the Carlisle teachers and administrators were parroting what they were expected to say. This is all clear from the school records—none of them document what the children actually experienced at the school. However, many first-person and descendants’ stories that relate the truths about Pratt’s “noble experiment” at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School have been passed down for future generations to know. But despite the copious research that Sheinkin conducted for this book (including 25 pages of source notes and six pages of works cited), his cultural filter as an outsider impedes his ability to tell the real story.

The purpose of this review is not to compare Undefeatedwith the countless other books and materials about Jim Thorpe, but it invites the questions: What if anything does Sheinkin offer here that is authentic, fresh or innovative? Is this an exceptional work?

“Nothing” and “no.” Just like the others, Sheinkin’s story only adds to the vast collection of what a friend calls “manifest mythology.” It’s no lie that Jim Thorpe was a remarkable human being. But praising onlythe achievements of one or two or a few Native individuals while all but ignoring the hundreds of Indian children whose lives and spirits were stolen from them in that same place is an injustice to the Carlisle students and their descendants and to both Indian and non-Indian readers as well. The forced removals and brainwashing of children, after forced relocation, after forced land theft—those are the stories whose importance is buried in the children’s cemetery, and in Sheinkin’s book. The greater win is empathy and compassion, and accomplishments and rebellions collectively shared. Whispering encouragement in Lakota to frightened younger children. Protecting little ones from being beaten for not knowing what is expected of them. Sneaking out in the middle of the night to give food to runaways. Secretly turning the children’s jail into a bonfire. Burying medicine bundles to save them from being destroyed. Pouring salt into a pot of mush or mashing the turnips with such fury that it breaks the jar. Many such stories have been told and many more are waiting to be told.

Sheinkin’s Undefeated is yet another addition to the cult of individual exception. It’s one person’s “bright path” superimposed over everyone else’s dirt road. Our Indian children deserve better.

—Beverly Slapin
3/28/17

————————————————————————
‘Chi miigwech to my dear friend, Barbara Wall (Citizen Potawatomi), whose grandfather was a student at Carlisle, and whose great-great grandmother on her father’s side was Jim Thorpe’s mother’s sister. You have strong shoulders and a good heart. And to my friend and colleague, Barb Landis, whose life’s work has been devoted to documenting the Indian students’ lives at “Dear Old Carlisle.” And to my friend and colleague, educator and poet Lois Beardslee (Anishnaabe), who ceaselessly speaks truth about power. And to my dear friend, Dovie Thomason (Lakota, Kiowa-Apache), for her brilliant and compassionate stream-of-consciousness telephone conversations and unwavering support. 



[1] Hayworth Publishing House, 1921

[2] Here, Zitkala-Sa is referring to her teachers at White’s Manual Labor Institute.

[3] Here, Zitkala-Sa, who was born of mixed parentage, describes herself as “a curiously colored seashell.”

[4] I substituted “copulating” for the actual word.

[5] These “before-and-after” portraits were made for two purposes: (1) as fundraisers for the school, and (2) as propaganda. The children’s complexions were often darkened in the “before” photos and lightened in the “after” photos. As well, children in the “before” photos were often “costumed” with props that were not theirs. For instance, on page 33, Wounded Yellow Robe and Chauncy Yellow Robe are wearing eagle feathers in their hair, standing straight up. These feathers were props.

Of the Five Wounds: Life of the Day

Mar. 29th, 2017 12:01 am
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Today's biography from the Oxford DNB:
Sinclair, Margaret Anne [name in religion Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds] (1900-1925), Poor Clare nun

Review – Maisie Dobbs

Mar. 28th, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Nikki

Cover of Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearMaisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear

I had high hopes for Maisie Dobbs as the series that would take over from Phryne as my current new comfort reading. I don’t think Maisie is the detective for me, though; for a lot of this, it felt more like the focus was historical fiction that detective fiction. There’s a big digression in the middle which eventually leads up to Maisie’s interest in being a detective, but it’s mostly about her character and the issues of class she’s faced. There’s something very cold about it — for example, the fact that she never went to see the man she’d intended to marry after his operation. She feels more like Sherlock Holmes than Peter Wimsey. Which is fine, but not what I’m interested in.

In terms of the mystery, well, any sense of urgency gets taken away first by the fact that there’s a massive flashback section, and secondly by the fact that Maisie doesn’t face any of the dangers personally. She doesn’t even meet many of the characters involved in the mystery more than once or twice. And she relies heavily on a “shiver down her spine” to tell her what’s going on. Sure, instinct, okay, but… it’s just too perfect, too precise, even alongside the many notes she takes. It’s more like precognition than detection, and I don’t think it’s intended to be supernatural.

I might give the second book a try, because there are aspects of the character and the context that I quite enjoy. I was curious/interested enough to finish this book, after all. But I’m not really feeling it at this point.

Rating: 2/5

Top Ten Tuesday

Mar. 28th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Nikki

I’m in a tearing hurry and the theme for this week didn’t excite me madly, so instead, have a Top Ten of books I’ve pulled from the depths of my TBR to take back to Belgium with me to read. Some of them are more recent than others…

  1. Nova, by Samuel R. Delany. I haven’t read any Delany. I know, I know. I’ve just started reading this one, and I’m all at sea, but with how important a work it has been to the SF/F community, I have no doubt it’s going to be interesting.
  2. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, by Christopher Moore. I was assured I would enjoy this, but heavily doubted it — while I’m not very religious and definitely not Christian, I still have a certain respect for stories as foundational to culture as the story of Christ. But, I’m 100 pages in and… yeah. I am actually really enjoying it.
  3. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, by James Tiptree Jr. I keep meaning to read it, and I think I mentioned it in a recent TBR, so I loaded it in.
  4. Darkwalker, by E.L. Tettensor. I forget who I follow that read this and sold me on it, but I do recall that it went straight on my TBR after reading their review, so I grabbed it.
  5. The Godless, by Ben Peek. You’re going to groan at me, but this is another one I’ve picked up recently without finishing the others I’ve already started. I’m not in love with the characters, but I’m fascinated by the world-building.
  6. The Beacon at Alexandria, by Gillian Bradshaw. I still need to finish reading Cleopatra’s Heir, but I do love Bradshaw’s work. If you like Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels, it has a similar flavour, though it’s more adult and dense in style. The Beacon at Alexandria features a woman pretending to be a eunuch so she can learn medicine and become a doctor! How can that not appeal?
  7. Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. I have realised that I never finished reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, recommended to me by a wise English teacher who just happened to be ten years too early to catch my interest in non-fiction reading. So I want to read this and then maybe I’ll revisit the other book!
  8. Reality 36, by Guy Haley. From the depths of my TBR, truly — I was given this copy when I visited Angry Robot way back just before I started this blog. I’m a little lost so far, but starting to catch on. (And yes. It is another one I’ve picked up and started recently, but not quite finished. That makes four in this post alone.)
  9. The Family Trade, by Charles Stross. I’ve never yet got on with a book by Charles Stross, but I keep on trying. Technically I have the omnibus containing the first two books of the series, which I think has some changes from the original separate novels.
  10. The Days of the Deer, by Liliana Bodoc. I don’t remember anything about this or why I picked it up, but it happened to be the right size to fill a corner of my suitcase. So in it goes!

Knowing me, I won’t manage to read any of these before I travel back again. It’s the thought that counts…?

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Today's biography from the Oxford DNB:
Clarkson, Thomas (1760-1846), slavery abolitionist

Or driven to its knees

Mar. 27th, 2017 10:05 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Guess what, all those phone calls and town halls and protests against the awful, awful "Trumpcare" bill? They worked. Well done, folks. Also: Trump's budget wants to cut LIHEAP; the CFPB ain't dead yet; what flat-earthers are on about; and YNATKC.
[syndicated profile] aichildlit_feed

Posted by Debbie Reese

A reader wrote today, to ask if I've seen Beauty of the Broken by Tawni Waters. It came out in 2014 from Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster. Here's the description:

In this lyrical, heartwrenching story about a forbidden first love, a teen seeks the courage to care for another girl despite her small town’s bigotry and her father’s violent threats.
Growing up in conservative small-town New Mexico, fifteen-year-old Mara was never given the choice to be different. Her parents—an abusive, close-minded father and a detached alcoholic mother—raised Mara to be like all the other girls in Barnaby: God-fearing, churchgoing, and straight. Mara wants nothing to do with any of it. She feels most at home with her best friend and older brother, Iggy, but Iggy hasn’t been the same since their father beat him and put him in the hospital with a concussion.
As Mara’s mother feeds her denial with bourbon and Iggy struggles with his own demons, Mara finds an escape with her classmate Xylia. A San Francisco transplant, Xylia is everything Mara dreams of being: free-spirited, open, wild. The closer Mara and Xylia become, the more Mara feels for her—even though their growing relationship is very much forbidden in Barnaby. Just as Mara begins to live a life she’s only imagined, the girls’ secret is threatened with exposure and Mara’s world is thrown into chaos.
Mara knows she can't live without Xylia, but can she live with an entire town who believes she is an abomination worse than the gravest sin?

The description doesn't mention Henry, the Native character. Here's what I see in Amazon's "look inside."

We meet Henry at the start of chapter 4:
There's a new freshman named Henry at our school. He's an Indian who moved from the reservation. His father came here to work at the prison, not as a guard, but as a janitor. Henry has no mother. No one knows why for sure. Some people say she drowned herself when he was little, right after his baby brother drowned in the tub. But I don't know if that's true. People talk a lot, and only half of it has any basis in reality.
What I do know is that Henry has long braids, black and shiny like licorice whips. Daddy said Henry's father fought the school for Henry's right to keep his braids and they agreed because they needed his tuition money. That pissed Daddy off so much, he drank all night and punched out a window. "It's a disgrace for a man to have long hair!" he bellowed. "It says right there in the first Corinthians. They call that place a Christian school? The little fucker probably worships rocks and trees and wolves and shit."
Daddy isn't alone in his convictions. All the boys at school hate Henry. Especially Elijah Winchell. I heard that in the bathrooms, they shove him up against the wall and call him gay. Also, people say he wears tighty-whities, which is weird because, apparently, most boys wear boxers these days. Not that I'd know from personal experience, but everyone seems to agree on it.
Mara feels bad for him. By the end of the chapter, she's invited him to her birthday party. He accepts her invitation. The last line in the chapter is this:
And that is how I ended up with a genuine Indian coming to my birthday.
I'll order a copy and will be back once I've read it.

Plea for more happy poems!

Mar. 27th, 2017 04:39 pm
[syndicated profile] papersky_feed

Posted by Jo Walton

How is it only bad things count? And why
Are happiness and friendship and delight
Found frivolous, and beauty held so slight
As if life doesn't matter, since we die?

Here in the city, as I'm passing by
The afternoon is skimming down to night
The sun declines, bare branches weave red light,
The silken water folds the rippling sky.

So much of art is tuned into despair
Cold irony and all-embracing gloom,
It can feel hard to hymn the lambent air
Or strike a joyful note, but there is room.
Good things are real too, praise life and dare:
From beauty let a thousand sonnets bloom.

Sponsored by my lovely patrons at Patreon.
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Science reports like this make listening to "secular" news radio just one more thing that's being taken away from them. And so this feeds into the weird (but also delicious) delusion that white Christians in America are being persecuted for their faith.
[syndicated profile] aichildlit_feed

Posted by Debbie Reese

A few years ago, Aaron Carapella launched his Tribal Nations Maps website. At first glance, the project seemed terrific, but a close look revealed a lot of problems.

People--some who are scholars, others who are resource people for their particular nation, and some who are teachers--spotted problems and began to talk about those problems on social media. Among the problems with his maps are the sheer volume he tried to put on a fixed page. Native Nations moved and were removed over time. So--where he shows a given nation can be incomplete or wrong altogether. Another problem is that he tried to tell Native peoples the right name to use--based on his research which many told him was wrong, but he persisted and told them they are wrong. Another is that he used photographs in the public domain--much like people have used them forever--which means replicating problems in the photos themselves and how they were taken and used. An admirable project, yes, but when you get down to the product itself, problems! Nonetheless, Carapella continues to sell his maps.

Some people recommended alternatives to Carapella's maps. I'm sharing their recommendations, below. Some are maps, and some are in-depth looks at the concept of mapping. If you've got one to recommend, drop it in the comments.

Important! A first step, always, is to go right to the website of the specific nation you're interested in. See if they've got maps you can study.

The Invasion of America is a time lapse map project created by Claudio Saunt. It's interactive features provide a lot of information teachers will find useful. (Added here on 3/27/17.)

Maps are Territories is a close look at the concept of mapping. There's terrific material all through that site. If you're a teacher who asks students to make maps, study the site before you do your mapping projects. Recommended by Eric Ritskes.  (Added here on 3/27/17.)

Yuhaviatam (People of the Pines) is a map of Native peoples in southern California. Recommended by Pamela Peters. (Added here on 3/27/17.)

Yup'ik Environmental Knowledge Project Atlas is interactive and was created by elders. (Added here on 3/27/17.)

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