Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hagar: a study into a minor Biblical figure with a big life lesson for us all

Hagar Rediscovering the God who sees me by Shadia Hrichi is a 7 week Bible study about Hagar and her role in the Bible and God’s influence in her life. Each week is divided into 5 days of personal study with each day having one or more questions to ponder or group discussion. The author states in her introduction that Hagar is a great example of someone who discovered God during a difficult time in her life. A minor character with a powerful redemptive story. What lessons can be gleaned from a woman who suffered at the hands of others? What did God do for Hagar that He can still do for us?


This study is very interesting. Unfortunately, I had no time to fully do the study before posting my review; however, after reading though the study, I am eager to do the study in its entirety. I found the format cut off in the eBook version, if you can get a physical copy and want a study, I highly recommend Hagar Rediscovering the God who sees me.

Hagar Rediscovering the God who sees me

Is available in paperback and eBook. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Contemporary Native American Literature

Native American literature is traditionally oral stories handed down through the generations. Contemporary Native American literature saw a resurgence in the late 1960s during a time some have called the Native American Renaissance, a term considered by some academics to be controversial, and gave rise to a new generation of Native American writers. According to Anna Combs, “the purpose of Contemporary Native American Literature is to” fuse the literate and oral cultures and to construct an ethnic identity of Native Americans in the late twentieth century.” I will discuss three books which I see as examples of this purpose.


The first book I would like to discuss is N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn. It was published in 1968 and was created with the resurgence in modern Native American literature. The title is a reference to the connectedness between the spiritual and physical worlds as well as the people and the land. The story follows Abel as he returns to the reservation in New Mexico after fighting in WWII. His grandfather, Francisco, tries to instill in him a sense of native traditions and values. However, the war has left Abel broken and shattered. Abel begins to wander, eventually ended up in Los Angeles, California where life is difficult for him as many criticize him for not assimilating to the modern world. When he returns, once again, to the reservation to care for his dying grandfather, he hears the stories of his people. His grandfather stresses the importance of staying connected to the traditions. Abel participates in a traditional ritual which helps him return to the land, his people and his place in the world. I also read this book for a Native American literature class and again it stayed with me because the story is intertwined with poetry and I love poetry. The imagery and words are powerful as it highlights that many of our struggles are spiritual as well as physical. It is not a book to rush through. It needs to be read slowly, absorbing and contemplating the images and meanings. I still have my copy from college along with my notes in the margins. I’ve read many criticisms about this book and I find that many who disliked it do not truly understand the poetry as Momaday is a self-described poet and not a novelist. Regardless, I found House Made of Dawn very powerful.


The second book I would like to discuss is Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. I read this book for a Native American literature class in college over ten years ago. It is a book that has stayed with me. The imagery, the message, the process of recovery the main character goes through are powerful. The story follows Tayo, a half-white, half Laguna Pueblo man, who has returned from WWII. The white doctors say he’s suffering from battle fatigue (we’d now call it PTSD). He is struggling with the death of his cousin, Rocky, during the Bataan Death March of 1942 and the death of his uncle, Josiah, back home. He believes he let his uncle down as he was unable to keep his promises. After spending several years in a mental health facility, he is sent home to his aunt and grandmother. The story connects with the three main Pueblo spiritual entities who created the world. The fight in the spiritual world connects with Tayo and his own spiritual fight to rid himself of his guilt and pain. Tayo is key to the healing of the land as well as his own healing. With multiple timelines weaving into one and mixtures of spiritual, past and present, Ceremony is a story of how it’s all connected and how moving forward often involves confronting the past and making what peace you can with it.


A final book I would like to discuss is Mary Crow Dog’s memoir Lakota Woman. She is a Sicangu Lakota. Born September 26, 1954 and raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In her memoir, she describes her childhood and her young adulthood during the American Indian Movement of the 1970s. The book details her participation in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties, a cross-country protest to bring national attention to the issues effecting the Native American people such as living standards and inadequate housing. She also describes her participation in the 1973 Indian Occupation at Wounded Knee. Her description of the occupation is the part which has stayed with me. It began on February 27, 1973 when an estimated 200 Oglala Lakota and the followers of the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The town was chosen for its symbolic value as it was the site of the 1890 massacre where 300 men, women and children were killed. Her memoir was published in 1990 and she remained active in the Native American church until her death on February 14, 2013 at the age of 58.


In conclusion, there are many more examples of great Native American literature which help portray the Native American life, culture and traditions. There is power of these stories is in the imagery and in the words the author uses to tell the story of these characters. As an avid bookworm, I find profound life lessons and truths in stories outside my culture and the world as I experience it. I highly recommend reading these books I have discussed as well as other Native American authors. You will see and, hopefully, understand the world in a different way.

References

Combs, Anna Contemporary Native American Literature January 15, 2014. prezi.com/1eixsbcn0rqi/contemporary-native-american-literature/ Retrieved November 16, 2017.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting Back in the River: a great book through the grieving process

Getting Back in the River by Sara Dumaine Brouillet, Ph.D is a grief recovery book. Using Biblical principles and the psychological progress of grief, Dr. Dumaine Brouillet guides the reader on the path recovery following a loss. It doesn’t what type of loss, a sudden death or a death after a long illness, the grief process of the individual left behind can be devastating. Her main tool is what she calls GBU letters. Good, Bad and Uglies letters are two letters written by the individual. One from the individual to the loved one who has passed. The idea is to bring out the hidden thoughts and feelings and make them conscious. This letter is then disposed of in a manner chosen by the writer after 72 hours of writing it. The second letter is written by the individual from the perspective of the loved one. Each letter will discuss the good about the loss, maybe the loved one suffered from a long illness and his or her death was a relief. The bad about the loss, maybe the individual wasn’t able to say goodbye in time. And the uglies about the loss, anything the individual hated, feared and other worse thoughts and feelings.


Getting Back in the River is a book rich with information with in-depth information about the grieving process and God’s Word. It was a bit more complicated read than I expected but the author is sincere in her guidance through the grieving process. Writing from her experience as a grief counselor, she offers personal experiences with clients. As the grieving process is a long and complicated journey for some, I recommend this book. As we will all suffer the loss of loved ones in our lives, we can benefit from the book’s insights and techniques.

Getting Back in the River

Is available in paperback and eBook

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Spinster Wife: the twists and turns of a great mystery

The Spinster Wife by Christina McKenna is an emotional journey for one woman as she finds the strength to rebuild her life and deal with the demons that haunt her. The story opens as Dorinda “Dorrie” Walsh wakes up in a B&B on the Northern Irish coast, disoriented and covered in blood. Shifting to Rita Mae Ruttle, an abused housewife in Killoran, she finds an ad for a rental house and she decides to make a run for it and hide from her husband. Once there, she gets the sense that she’s being followed and even set up for strange occurrences which happen since she arrived. As the story goes back and forth between Dorrie and Rita, the reader is led on a path of twists and turns to discovering how the two women are connected. Is Rita truly safe from her abusive husband? How are the two women connected?


From the first page, the story takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns, of dangers and suspicions. And just when you thought you had it figured out, another twist and another turn. The resolution as the story reveals the connection between Dorrie and Rita is a shocker and the author does a brilliant job keeping it a secret until the big reveal. I loved it! I highly recommend The Spinster Wife as a brilliant story with excellent twists and turns which will leave the reader guessing until the very end!

The Spinster Wife

Is available in paperback and eBook

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Missing Factor: a game of cat and mouse and suspense until the end

The Missing Factor by Daniel C. Lorti is a suspense thriller which a man is on the run for his life. Jim Factor is a successful arms dealer who has worked with client all over the world. When a deal goes bad, Mikhail Borichov, a member of the Russian Mafia, believes Jim is the reason why and orders a hitman to find him and deal with him. Jim now finds himself on the run as he tries to find out who sold him out? When his wife hires a private investigator, Adam Weatherly, to find Jim, Jim now must evade the hitman and the PI. A cat and mouse chase starts in Newport Beach, California to San Francisco to Europe as Jim fights to discover who set him up to protect his family and regain his life. Will Jim survive? Will he be able to stay one step ahead of those following him?


The Missing Factor is an interesting suspense thriller with guns battles and vendettas. The story is filled with twists and turns, hidden agendas and suspense that the reader will be on the edge of his or her seat as the story reveals who is behind it all. While I enjoyed reading this book, I think the book will appeal more for fans of The Jason Bourne series and other espionage type thrillers. If you enjoy suspense thrillers with games of cat and mouse, cloak and dagger, I recommend The Missing Factor.

The Missing Factor

is available in paperback

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Native American Heritage Month: a time of celebration and contemplation

November is Native American Heritage Month. First sponsored by the American Indian Heritage Foundation through the efforts of its founder Pale Moon Rose, the aims of the heritage month is to provide a platform for Native people to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. It also gives Native Americans the opportunity to express to their community, at the city, country and state levels, their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understand and friendship. I’ve been interested and have great respect for Native Americans and their history and culture since the seventh grade. I will touch briefly on the topics of culture and traditions, music, crafts and dance, and ways and concepts of life in this post.  There are approximately 566 federally recognized Native American tribes in the US each with their own culture, language and history, and each with their own unique traditions, housing, dress and food.


I want to address the common misconceptions about Native Americans and there are many; however, I will address a few. First, the Natives weren’t that advanced when the Europeans arrived. They were primitive and similar to a third world country. The truth is they were advanced just different than from what the Europeans were used to. They had a complex society with medical advances that scientists today are using the plants they were as medicines today. The French who traded furs with many different tribes, had a great respect for the Natives and recognized the things they actually did better. Second, Indian Royalty. We’ve all heard people claim that they are descended from an Indian princess. My family was included in this as we were told we were descended from a Canadian Indian princess. While I was excited to be descended from First Nations (as they are called in Canada), I was skeptical of the princess part. Why? Because the Natives had no concept of royalty. Chiefs were not ordained from birth to lead the tribes. They were often chosen for their bravery and leadership and their family may have been well treated and respected but they were not royalty. I think the idea of royalty is how the Europeans tried to explain the Natives’ societal hierarchy and it stuck. Lastly, Native Americans worship nature. While they do have a profound respect for nature and are greatly in tuned with it, they do not worship it. There is usually a god they worship who represent an aspect of their daily lives. For instance, they would pray to the god who would help them with the crops or the hunt or. They also have a concept of a God, usually called the Great Spirit and an evil spirit similar to Satan.


With so many different tribes in the United States and each unique, it is hard to speak in general terms about the Natives’ culture and way of life. The Plains Natives were different from the Natives who lived in the Desert and those who lived in the Northern Mountains. No matter what area of the country, the Natives contributed a great deal to our country both past and present. Many foods were introduced to the world’s diets and became staples were first cultivated by the Natives of the New World. Foods such as corn, potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, chocolate, pineapples and avocadoes just to name a few (Scholastic). Natives were also the first to raise different types of animals for food, for example, turkeys. They also were the first to cultivate cotton, rubber and tobacco. Approximately 60% of the world’s food supply came from the Natives agricultural system (Gibson). Native Americans contributed a great deal to medicine as well. The Canadian Natives knew how to prevent scurvy by eating foods rich in vitamin C and passed the information to European sailors (Scholastic). The Shoshane tribes used crushed stone seed powder as an oral contraceptive while the Potawatomi nation used the dogbane herb for contraceptives centuries before modern medicine developed the birth control pill. The rate in which Native Americans have participated in military service is higher than any other ethnic groups. Most notably the Code Talkers in World War II; however, Native Americans served in the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the Iraq wars as well (Gibson). The concept behind American Sign Language originated with the hand signals used by the Natives and traders. Lastly, many of our English words are Native in origin such as barbecue, hammock and hurricane as well as many American cities are Native words, for example, Miami, Wichita, Spokane and Seattle (Gibson).


I also understand how many Native peoples would feel conflicted or even insulted at the idea of a month dedicated to people who were systematically abused and still suffer. Sunny Clifford wrote in an opinion article, “As much as I appreciate the gesture of Native American Heritage Month I feel torn about it. I’m torn because this nation needs a month to remember how it came to be. No, if you want to honor Native Americans then teach the real history in your schools.” I understand her conflict. While I think it’s great that a culture gets to be highlighted for a month; however, it is insulting that for the rest of the year, their part in history is largely ignored. I also hate that while I was in school, most of our country’s history is taught by dates and major events. I did not truly learn about Natives in our country’s history until I took history and ethnic studies classes in college. Unfortunately, history is expansive and detailed that it would very difficult to teach it as the individuals who lived it deserved to have it retold and remembered. History is only one subject that American children must take and unfortunately the focus is not on history but on math and science. Another hurdle is the Winston Churchill quote “History is written by the victors,” those who “win” are those who can write about “how” events occurred and who was at fault. Often, the victors or those writing about the victors will ignore or rewrite facts in order to make the victors look better. Some information gets lost to the sands of time and other information gets drowned out by the loud and more powerful. It is will take an extra effort to make sure every voice in American history is heard.


In conclusion, there is no denying that the Native Americans were not a backward or primitive society that many European settlers would have history believe. The Native peoples contributed not only to the United States but the world as well. I still have a deep respect for the Native peoples and I continue to discover new things about their culture, their way of life and their contributions to my life in ways I never knew before. Unfortunately, there are many myths about the Native tribes which are still believed by a vast majority of people. Whether it is by design or it’s by ignorance, our educational system has ignored the voices of those who lived through historical events. Only through education can we dispel these myths and see the Native Americans as great contributors to our country and our world. For the next couple weeks I will feature a post about an aspect of Native Americans in our country through books, films and sports.


References
Clifford, Sunny What Native American Heritage Month Means to Me. Indian Country Today. November 24, 2013. http://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/opinions/what-native-american-heritage-month-means-to-me/ Retrieved November 4, 2017.
Gibson, Kelly Native American Contributions to the U.S. September 22, 2011 http://blog.nativepartnership.org/history-of-native-american-day-part-2/ Retrieved November 5, 2017

Scholastic Native American Contributions www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/native-american-contributions/ Retrieved November 5, 2017.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Leia Princess of Alderaan: the story before A New Hope

Leia Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray is the story of Leia Organa as she comes of age and the events which lead to her role in the Rebel Alliance as we know her in A New Hope. The story opens on her Day of Demand when at 16, she demands that she be recognized as a princess of Alderaan. In order to prove herself, she must complete three challenges: one of the body, one of the mind and one of the heart. As she enters the political arena on Coruscant and sees the galaxy as a whole, she begins to truly see the Empire and the evilness of the Emperor’s hold. She also begins to see her parents and their secret dealings. She even has her first love as she and a fellow Alderaanian named Kier. More and more the galaxy is collapsing under the weight of the Empire’s hold, she learns who she can trust, who are her true friends and her role in the galaxy. How will Leia decide what her role and place in the galaxy is? We know she joins the Rebellion but how does she get there?


I was given this book as a birthday and I was excited to read it. It was better than I anticipated. I loved the little references to the events of the prequel movies, Rogue One (2016) and even The Clone Wars (2008-2015) TV show. Ms. Gray does an excellent bringing an intimate look into the princess and rebel we all know and love. The back cover of the book claims there are even hints and clues to The Last Jedi which hits theaters this December. Don’t let this deter you from reading it because unless you have seen the movie, you won’t know what these hints are. I look forward to reading it again after I see the new film and have my “a-ha” moment as the clues are clear. I highly recommend Leia Princess of Alderaan.

Leia Princess of Alderaan

is available at all major booksellers