Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cult films which I don't like, love and don't care to see

What is a cult film? A cult film is a film that has acquired a cult following known for their dedicated and passionate fan base. An elaborate subculture is created that engage in repeated viewings, quoting dialogue and even audience participation. These movies could be box office bombs which gain a fan base once released to home videos and DVDs. Most people would exclude movies that were released by major studios or had big budgets. But for my purposes, I will consider movies based on their fan base rather than their studio or budget. I began thinking about cult favorites that I really don’t care for that everyone seems to love. Movies that I love and movies that I don’t care to see despite their popularity with others. I will list the movies with a brief explanation why it is include on my list. There is no particular order and not a complete listing. It’s just a few that come to mind. And I know I might shock people by the movies which are included.

Cult favorites which I don’t care for:
Labyrinth (1986): I know, I know. I can hear a few of my friend gasp in shock. I saw this film as a child and I never cared to see it again. It didn’t appeal to me then and it doesn’t appeal to me now. While researching this movie, I found reviews that tells me that I’m not the only one. For many fans, this movie holds a bit of nostalgia that I just don’t have.
The Nightmare before Christmas (1993): I know! More gasps! I didn’t see this film when it came out in theaters. I actually saw it years later and I still don’t understand the appeal. Yes, the stop-motion animation is stunning but the characters are not as beloved by me as they are to some.
The Warriors (1979): My husband loves this movie and I don’t. It’s a very simple story. One gang, The Warriors, is falsely accused of killing a leader and the other gangs are on the chase to find them. The Warriors race through the night to get to the safety of their own turf. 
Fight Club (1999): Ugh! Everyone loved this movie. They quoted the rules of Fight Club ad nauseam. When I finally saw the movie, I didn’t understand the appeal other the fight scenes for guys and Brad Pitt for women (if you happen to be one who enjoys Brad Pitt which I am not).
Office Space (1999). While in college, I worked at a local bookstore and a few of my co-workers quoted this movie and would laugh hysterically. So I checked it out and I don’t get it. There were a few funny moments and memorable characters. We’ve all seen the memes that feature the boss. But other than that, this film isn’t my cup of tea.

Cult favorites that I love:
The Princess Bride (1987): I saw this movie as a child but really didn’t fall in love with it until I was an adult. It’s filled with great moments and great lines which are still being quoted 30 years later. I love the character, The Man in Black, as the mysterious person who is chasing Vizzini and his crew. It’s a great movie to watch over and over again.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974): The film is long and filled with great quotes. I’ve always enjoyed British humor and while some jokes can be a bit crude but others are hilarious. One of the best scenes is the debate about the swallows. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
The Goonies (1985): I will admit this movie wouldn’t have made my list years ago. However, since my husband loves this movie and I’ve watched it with him, it started to grow on me. The humor in the movie is the subtle one liners that you wouldn’t notice until one day you finally hear it for the first time.
Zombieland (2009): I normally don’t care for movies (or TV shows which feature zombies) but this movie surprised me with its humor and its heart. Starting with Columbus’s Rules for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, to Tallahassee’s search for the world’s remaining Twinkies and the fact that the entire movie is carried by the four main characters as they search for a zombie free area.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993): I know it’s not one of Mel Brooks’ best films but it’s one of my favorites. Like many Mel Brooks’ films, it is filled with great one liners and subtle twists that allude to other films. And it just doesn’t take itself too serious. It’s meant to be fun and tongue in cheek which when done right can be hilarious.

Cult favorites that I have no desire to see or finish:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): I tried watching this film to see what the fuss was about and I couldn’t finish it. While I normally love musicals, The Rocky Horror Picture Show just isn’t one I enjoyed. This film has a huge following in which fans will dress up and dance and sing along with the film in theaters. Yeah, definitely not my cup of tea.
Legend (1985): My husband loves this movie and wanted me to watch it one day. I tried but soon lost interest and never tried to watch it again. I don’t know what the appeal is and I feel this is anymore 80s movie that many people who grew
Pulp Fiction (1994): This movie or any other Tarantino film I never want to see. His films just don’t appeal to me and I don’t see what the big deal is. However, I don’t think I’m Tarantino’s target audience anyway.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004): I’ll admit I have never seen this movie, nor have I attempted to watch it. From the trailers and the few scenes I have seen, it just doesn’t appeal to me. I know a lot of people quote this movie like it was a hilarious film, it just doesn’t seem funny to me.
Pitch Perfect (2012): I never heard of this movie until everyone started talking about the Cup Song. So I started watching it one day and could not stand it. There is one scene toward the end where all the girls start vomiting as they stood in a group. Why? I don’t know but it grossed me out so much that I turned it off then and there. I refuse to watch it or its sequels.

In conclusion, I find it interesting that many of movies on this list people would say the movies helped defined their childhood. And I look back on the films that I watched as a child and I don’t know if I’d say the same. I think more than movies defined my childhood like climbing trees, gathering the walnuts that fell from those trees and playing baseball in the park. There are even movies that I watched as a kid that I am perfectly happy never to see again. Most of these films I grew to dislike, love and don’t want to see as an adult. It may be a little different if I grew to love them as a child. I know my husband was very disappointed that some of his favorites main my dislike and don’t want to see lists. Oh, well to each his own. And don’t criticize, hate, or belittle someone because they don’t like a movie you hold so dear. Like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Right Handed Lefty: a coming of age story about finding one's identity in this world

Right Handed Lefty by Ryan Coughlin is the coming of age story in 1983, in the small town of Boscobel, Wisconsin, as a boy with no real identity in his family history discovers you are much more than your bloodline. Ellis Sayre has had a crazy life. Orphaned as a baby, adopted then return. He spent much of his early years in an orphanage until he is adopted by Marty and Suzanne Sayre after the tragic death of their only son. When the story opens, Ellis is 12 years old and trying to figure out where he fits in with his new family, his classmates and his friends. Until one day when he, along with his friends George and Mason, witness a crime. The authorities and their parents don’t believe them. Fearing for their lives, the three boys run away and have an adventure along the Mississippi River. The search begins for the boys. One group, the concerned parents who become increasingly aware the boys were telling the truth, and one man who wants to make sure the boys never tell their story again. The stories of Ellis Abbot, a World War II vet, and an orphaned Native American boy, Two Right Feet, in the 1800s, are key to helping Ellis come to terms who he is.

The beginning of the story hooked me in. I felt a connection to Ellis and his uncertainly as he life has been anything but stable. However, when the side stories of Ellis Abbot and Two Right Feet start to intertwine with Ellis Sayre’s story, I got lost and seemed to lose interest. It reminded me of the 1986 film, Stand by Me, as a group of boys leave on an adventure innocent and return with a new perspective on life and their own identity. The story picked up again once the boys were on their adventure and the adults were on their trail to find them. It is a decent coming of age story about finding your true identity and place in the world. Right Handed Lefty is marketed as a Young Adult book and this may be its main audience; however, I feel adults would enjoy this story as well.

Right Handed Lefty

is available in paperback and eBook

Sunday, October 15, 2017

How are schools evaluated and what can parents do for their child's education

Education is something my husband and I take very seriously. As a college graduate, I know the importance of a good foundation is needed to help a child succeed. As my daughter approached school age, my husband and I were looking into the school in which she would be attending. We looked into all the information about our local school that we could. After a conversation with a friend, I realized that despite my research, I didn’t know how the school was assessed. How were schools rated? And what are the alternatives if parents do not like the local school. For this blog, I will focus on the state of California which is where I reside. I strongly urge parents to look into their own state’s educational ranting.

The Academic Performance Index (API) is a measurement of academic performance and process of individual schools in California. It is one of the main components of the Public Schools Accountability Act (1999) which was passed by the state’s legislature. The API scores ranged from 200 (low) to 1000 (high). The statewide API score was targeted at 800 for all schools. A school’s growth is measured by how it was moving toward or past that goal. Scores were calculated for all students as a whole as well as by groups i.e. race, English learners, students with disabilities and those who were considered socioeconomically disadvantaged. A school’s score was designed to be an indicator of performance level and was calculated annually by the California Department of Education. Primarily by students’ performances on the California Standards Test (CST) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). Due to the API’s heavy reliance on standardized testing, many critics argued that the reliability and accuracy of the API scores as weaknesses as indicators of a school’s academic achievement. The scores were suspended after the 2013 calculation and later cancelled as a new system is being devised to replace the API scores. This new system will be designed to measure progress on the Common Core Standards.

Since 1988, California has required all public schools receiving state funds to prepare and distribute a School Accountability Report Card (SARC). A similar requirement is also contained in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). The SARC’s purpose is to provider parents and the community with important information about a school. “A SARC can be an effective way for a school to report on its progress in achieving goals. The public may also use a SARC to evaluate and compare schools” (California Department of Education). The SARC has four parts. First, Conditions of Learning section details the student body. The number of students enrolled in total as well as by groups. The number of teachers that are fully credentialed and the types of textbooks and instructional materials used for each subject and grade. The school’s physical status is rating as Good, Fair or Poor as well as notes as to repairs that are needed and actions taken or planned to fix any issues. Second, Pupil Outcomes section details scores on statewide assessments, particularly the California Assessment of Students Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System which is given to the general education population in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11. One of these assessments in this system is the California Alternative Assessments (CAAs) for English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) and mathematics. A CAA test for science will be piloted for this school year and is expected to be operational by the 2019-2020 school year. Third, Engagement is the schools scores on the level of parental involvement. What opportunities has the school offered as to getting or allowing the parents to be involved in the school’s operation and their children’s education? Most common opportunities are the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Back to School and Open House Nights. This section also details the school’s suspension and expulsion rates and well as the school safety plans. For example, my daughter’s school is a closed campus. Once the bell rings, the gates are locked and no one is allowed in or out until dismissal. If someone needs on campus, for example to volunteer in the classroom, it must first be arranged with the teacher and the office must be informed and the individual must check in with the office before being allowed inside the gates. Lastly, the SARC provides information about support staff such as counselors, librarian, psychologist and other non-teacher positions. This section also details the average class size, professional development for its teachers and as well the types of services that are funded and provided to its students.

What can parents do if their local school isn’t up to their standards and they do not want to send their children to that particular school? Do they have any recourse? I was in the California public school system, the districts were starting an idea that as long as a student lived in the district boundaries, he or she could attend any school in the district. However, I could not find any information that this is still the case. So, if you don’t want your child to attend the school closest to you, what are the other options? There are private schools which are usually privately funded and thus costs money. There is the option is homeschool. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the average cost of homeschool is approximately $900 per child per year. There are ways to offset such costs. For example, if you are not going to use the curriculum again for another child and the materials are in good shape, you can sell the material to another parent. Before considering homeschool, check out the requirements for your particular state. For example, California requirements that parents who wish to homeschool establish a home based private school by filing an affidavit. There are numerous homeschool sites which can help parents with this process. Another option is charter schools. Charter schools have been in the news in recent years and little is understand about them. Charter schools are government funded but operates independently of the established state school system and in some cases are privately owned. According to the California Charter School Association, these schools are public schools which are non-sectarian (no religious affiliation), tuition free and open to any students who wish to attend regardless of where they live as long as there is space.

When my daughter was entering school, I felt I had to find the right school for her to enrich her and help her thrive. I realize now that school is only one tool to do this. Her education begins and ends at home. What my husband and I do is more important than finding the school with the best scores, the best teacher-student ratio, etc. Parental involvement can turn any low performing school around by simply getting involved, being a voice for your child. I understand this could be difficult for working parents; however, there are simply ways to so do. And start early, my daughter learned her colors and numbers while riding in the car. She learned her shapes, animals and food with grocery shopping. And oh, bad TV! But don’t discount preschool TV programming, they can make learning fun and engaging. My daughter loved Disney Junior’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Nick Jr’s Team Umizoomi and many others which taught problem solving, shapes, patterns, etc. In the two months my daughter has been in kindergarten, she has grown by leaps and bounds. Within a month, she was writing words other than her name. She is reading short sentences and eagerly wants to read anything she can. I love her teacher and her school. Bottom line: DO NOT be the parent who drops their child off at the school gates and says “OK! She’s your responsibility for six hours!” No! Your parental responsibility doesn’t end at the school gates. You are your child’s first and greatest teacher. It begins and ends with you.

In conclusion, there is no test that the state can devise which will accurately measure what a child has learned. One test given on one day cannot possibly be the only tool we can use to measure this. Every standardized test, assessment test is supposed to be better than the one it’s replacing. The SARC is a useful tool to get a picture of how the school is doing and other important but it is only a snapshot. Your involvement is still key to your child’s success. If you are curious about your local school, set up a meeting with the principal, discuss your concerns and any questions you may have. If you have any concerns about your children’s education, contact his or her teachers, set up meetings and voice your concerns. Be your child’s strongest and loudest advocate.

California Charter School Association Retrieved October 15, 2017
California Department of Education Retrieved October 14, 2017

Home School Legal Defense Association Retrieved October 15, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Girl in the Tower: the exciting sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden is the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale and second book in the Winternight Trilogy. It picks up right after the first book ended with the aftermath of the final events. A band of bandits are terrorizes villages, burning them to the ground and taking young girls. Dmitrii, Grand Prince of Moscow sets out to investigate along with Sasha, the priest. At the same time, Vasya is starting to blaze her own trail, determined to make a life on the road as a Traveler. She is continually visited by Morozko, the frost demon. His help comes at a cost as the people will view her as a witch. When events puts her in the path and favor of Dmitrii, she must tread lightly to avoid being discovered as a girl as she is taken to Moscow. Little does she know that someone is plotting against her and each day she gets closer to discovery or escape. Will Vasya be discovered? Who is behind the plot against her?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale and I eagerly waited for the chance to read The Girl in the Tower. This book did not disappoint. From page one, it was a nonstop adventure, with a bit of romance mixed with the thrill of the mystery surrounding Vasya. My favorite quote from the book is spoken by Morozko. He tells Vasya “Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.” It is a very poetic statement about the ‘what ifs’ in life. I also eagerly await book three. I highly recommend The Girl in the Tower. A rich adventure story that you cannot miss. If you haven’t checked out The Bear and the Nightingale yet, I highly recommend that you do, you will not regret immersing yourself in this beauty story.

The Girl in the Tower
will be available on December 5, 2017
in hardcover and eBook

The Bear and the Nightingale
is currently available

in hardcover, paperback and eBook

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Common phrases that misquote or misrepresent Bible verses

After a recent conversation with a friend of mine, I wanted to right about many misquoted Bible verses as well as sayings that are not in the Biblical. I found some phrases which were taken out of verses but removed portions of the verse that it doesn’t give the full message of what the verse is trying to convey. Some verses aren’t Biblical at all but since the phrase references God, many people are lead to believe that they appear in the Bible. I have chosen a few out of the many I found online. These are the most common verses or phrases that I found across the board.

  • The Lion shall lay down with the lamb. This phrase doesn’t not actually appear in the Bible. The closet verse is Isaiah 11:6 which says “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” Despite the misquotation, the image is still the same. While saying the lion will lay down with the lamb is technically wrong, the image is still powerful and conveys the same message as Isaiah 11:6. The once predators will be at peace and live in harmony with the once prey. It is a time when nature will return to its intended balance and harmony. The time of Christ’s second coming and his established earthly kingdom.
  • Money is the root of all evil. This is a bad misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10 which says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” When this verse is quoting many people leave out certain key words: love, a, and kinds. Greed can lead to all kinds of trouble. However, money itself is not the root of all evil. Money is a necessity of life. We need it to live, eat, pay for our homes and clothes. If you go to the previous verse, verse 9 states “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction {emphasis mine).” Money should be handled respectfully and carefully.
  • Spare the rod, spoil the child. This is a paraphrase of Proverbs 13:24 which says “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who lives their children is careful to discipline them.” This phrase has been the justification for physical discipline. However, the verse is not stating that a parent has the right to beat their child into submission. The verse states that discipline is a nurturing guidance for child. Without correction, children grow up to be adults without a sense of right or wrong. The phrase was actually coined by Samuel Butler, a 17th century British poet in a satirical poem Hudibras: “What medicine else can cure the fits/ Of lovers when they lose their wits?/ Love is a boy by poets styled/Then spare the rod and spoil the child.” In the poem, a love affair is compared to a child, and spanking is mockingly applauded as a way to make the love grow stronger.
  • All things work together for good. This phrase is taken from Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God works in all things for our good, not just isolated occurrences. When evil occurs in our lives, God is able to turn every situation into a good. We may not see the good until much later. God is not working to make us happy or make all things right. He does it to fulfill his purpose and for those who love him. Also this promise isn’t for everyone, the verse specifically states it is for those who are called according to his purpose. Those who have received Jesus and been touched by the Holy Spirit. Those who love him and trust in him.

  • God works in mysterious ways. There is no actual verse which states this and there are several verses that allude to this idea. For example, Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Another example is Romans 11:33-34 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” In both verses, the authors are telling believers that we cannot know why events happen the way they do for we do not think the way he does. Where this phrase originated from has been debated; however, one source is thought to be a hymn written by William Cowper in 19th century "God moves in a mysterious ways; His wonders to perform; He plans His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm."
  • Pride comes before the fall. This phrase is taken from Proverbs 16:18. However, it is a bad paraphrase as it takes out the middle of the verse. The verse actually says “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Destruction is the end result of pride. A haughty spirit is the sense of arrogance, superiority and being disdainful. Pride and a haughty spirit leads to an over sense of self-confidence and the feeling that one does not need God. This attitude leads to carelessness and eventual destruction and fall. In contrast, Proverbs 15:33 states “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom and humility comes before honor.” So it is not just pride which leads to the fall, it is a haughty spirit. Pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, when pride is boastful, self-centered, and blinds you to your own faults and limitations can lead to very bad results.
  • God helps those who help themselves. It is a phrase that emphasizes the importance of self-initiative and action. This phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible at all. The phrase originated in Ancient Greece and is illustrated in the fable Hercules and the Waggoner as well as Ancient Greek drama. However, there are verses which have been used to support the claim that the idea of this phrase is in the Bible. One example is 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul writes “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” Paul is speaking against laziness and skirting responsibility. Paul is telling them and us to be responsible and get back to work. I think using this verse to support the phrase is a bit of a stretch.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. This phrase does not originate from the Bible. In my research, I found claims that the phrase originated from an ancient Babylonian and Hebrew proverb; however, I’ve been unable to find proof to this claim. It was first used in English by Sir Francis Bacon in Advancement of Leaning (1605) where he said “Cleanliness of body was ever deemed to proceed from due reverence to God.” It was further popularized by John Wesley in a 1778 sermon. The Bible does not speak to outward cleanliness with a connection to godliness. In Matthew 7:18-23, Jesus makes it clear that it is man’s hearts that are unclean. Many of the online responses and comments I came across seem to interpret the phrase as cleansing in the body, mind and in spirit through physical washing, meditation and confession. It’s not a bad phrase to live by; but it’s not in the Bible.

In conclusion, it is very easy to take a verse from the Bible and turn it into a catchy, feel good phrase that makes everyone warm and fuzzy. As we’ve seen with a few of the phrases I’ve highlighted, taking key words or phrases from the verse removes the whole picture of the main message. People misquote phrases all the time, especially with a certain phrase being repeated for centuries, it becomes a part of our lexicon. However, what astonishes me is that many of these phrases are quoted by people who claim to have Biblical knowledge. If you are going to quote anything, the Bible or another’s work, make sure you understand the context in which it is given. It makes a world of difference in some cases. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Enchanted Isle: a story of mystery and family redemption

Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson is the story of one family’s dream turned into a nightmare when one man is accused of murder. A mystery hovers over the family and the village as the decades pass. The story opens in Lakeland, England, 1935 as Gilbert Kemp high on his recent marriage proposal to his love, Liz. He heads to the island amusement park that his brother created and runs. He comes across a scene which shocks him. His brother, Simon, is standing over the dead body of his partner, Curtis Sloan. Fast forward, 1958, a young girl named Jenny Winter is staying with a family friend in the village. She is almost twenty one and having her last hurrah before heading home to marry the man her grandfather has chosen for her. She soon becomes fascinated with the Enchanted Isle, the amusement park which now lay in ruins and no one is allowed in. She soon befriends Adrian Kemp and his sister, Emma as she learns more and more about the mystery that the town tries hard to ignore. Can she discover the truth behind the murder of Curtis Sloan? Will the Enchanted Isle ever reveal its secrets?

Enchanted Isle is a wonderful story of a mystery whose truth can redeem a family’s past or continue to haunt their lives. This is the second book I’ve read of Ms. Dobson and she is an amazing storyteller who weaves an intriguing tale with self-discovery and the power in become who you are truly meant to be. I love Jenny’s story as she’s trying to discover her place in the world and find the strength to stand up to her grandfather’s life plan for her. I enjoyed Adrian and felt for him as he’s trying to overcome of the shadow and rumors of what his family’s past. I highly recommend Enchanted Isle for its mystery, its uplifting self-discovery story and a cast of great characters.

Enchanted Isle

is available in paperback, eBook, and audio CD

Saturday, October 7, 2017

My reflections on Hispanic Heritage Month

As I begin my final post for Hispanic Heritage Month, I reflect what it means to me. I grew up in Southern California in a highly Hispanic and Latino area. My best friend from junior high and high school is Hispanic/Latino. Her parents graciously opened their home to me so I could graduate high school with my friends. Her mother taught me how to make taquitos and fried burritos. To make chile and refried beans. It is no surprise to me that I would fall in love and marry a Hispanic man. I’m often wondering, especially with the high tensions in society right now, how does the Hispanic community view me?

I married my husband 8 years ago. At our wedding, one of my husband’s cousins came up to us as we said our goodbyes and told him: “Hurt her and you will not only have to answer to her family but yours as well.” It’s a statement that has stayed with me ever since. I felt truly welcomed into the family. Even while we were dating, I felt overwhelmingly accepted by his family. It may have been because he finally found someone. Sometimes though I feel like an outsider looking in. I often wonder if my efforts to learn their culture, their family history, to participate and understand their culture, I’m seen as trying too hard, an outsider trying to atone for sins of the past. In my head, I know this is not true because my family has only been in California since the 1940s and grew up knowing that my family truly never treated anyone differently because of the color of their skin. However, is my family lumped together with the Anglo-Americans who oppressed Hispanics and other minorities? I don’t know. I’ve never asked.

I do know that my husband has been given disapproving looks and even comments because he married a white woman. He’ll have comments made to him about my cooking Mexican food along the lines of “Not bad for a white woman.” As if my skin color would affect my cooking ability or my ability to follow a recipe. I do know that we still gets looks when we are out in public especially when we are with our daughter. The looks are especially harsh from Hispanics from an older generation who probably believe we should all stay with our own kind. I would love to learn to speak Spanish fluently; however I am self-conscious about my accent and horrible pronunciation. It keeps me from trying. My fear of ridicule from native speaks if I were to make a mistake. I do feel I’ve proven myself worthy of the family as I love and adore my husband. It is obvious that we care very deeply about each other. And I have taken good care of him. Stood by him in good times and especially in the bad.

I feel we need to understand the truth in history. Acknowledge and embrace the Hispanic and Latino influence in our state, our country and our lives. As well as other cultures that have helped make America who we are. To ignore their contributions would be to ignore everything about our great country. We eat the food but criticize the people who brought it here. Hispanics and Latinos have touched every aspect of our lives and may not be aware of it. They are award winning authors who open our eyes to a different point of view. They are musicians who touch our hearts with their music. We may not understand the language but it can speak to you in so many other ways. They are the actors and actress who make us laugh, make us cry, and makes us cheer for those have overcome. And in many, many areas of life that we may never know their names. How do we move forward? We acknowledge and learn from the ugly truth in our history, we work on the present and focus on the future. We cannot fix the past but we can shape the future.

In conclusion, I will continue to embrace my husband’s heritage as it is a part of my daughter’s heritage too. The common sentiment I have read in Latino literature is the sense that they are straddling two culture and not truly belonging to either one. I want my daughter to know and be proud of both sides of her heritage. I want her to know her ancestry and where her family has come from and been through to get to America. I remember in school, America was called a melting pot of different cultures. I see now that statement is not true. Throughout history, those in power have taken bits and pieces of other cultures as a way to prove we are a blend. I see now that we are more of a mixed salad. Multiple cultures together in the same bowl. Cultures blending together where possible but still distinct. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Space between Words: healing powers of connecting the past with the present

The Space between Words by Michelle Phoenix is a story of where the past meets the presents and helps offer healing to a deeply wounded woman. The story opens in 1695, France as the Baillard family is being persecuted. Why? For being Protestant and not converting to the king’s religion. Fast forward to the morning of November 13, 2015 where Jessica Jackson wakes up in Paris with her friends, Patrick and Vonda. They are trying to decide what to do on their last night in Paris. The next thing she knows, Jessica wakes up in the hospital, wounded from the terrorist attack at the Bataclan theatre. As she recovers, her friend Patrick, convinces her to continue with their plan to travel through France. They arrive in Balazuc of the Ardeche region of southern France where Jessica finds an antique sewing box. Soon she is on the path to discover what happened to the original owner, Adeline Baillard. Will she discovered what happened to the Baillard family? Will she truly find peace and renewal from her terrifying experience? Can she find the good in the bad?

The Space between Words is a powerful story weaving one woman’s recovery from the Paris attacks and one family’s attempt to flee persecution and certain death in 17th century France. There were some great quotes in the story that many of us read to remember. One of my favorites is “Life goes on and people forget.” So true with the speed at which life goes. Many of those who do not experience the events soon forget. The story is also a reminder of what Christians in history and power have done to other Christians simply because they differed over doctrine. It is always what Christians have done to non-Christians, but a reminder of what they have done to each other. I highly recommend The Space between Words.

The Space between Words

is available in paperback and in eBook

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Harvard Square Mob: a war protest and its unforeseen aftermath

The Harvard Square Mob by Neil Mahoney is the story of one group of individuals plan a radical heist to protest the Vietnam War and the aftermath. It’s 1969 and the Vietnam War still ranges on and the Harvard Coalition is growing tired of the lack of progress of Washington listening to their protests and concerns. A group of five individuals, four students and a professor, break off from the Coalition to plan their own protest, a type of protest that will grab the attention of the nation. Frank, the professor and the story’s narrator, recounts the events which changed their lives forever. The students of the group: Total, Abigail, Nathan and Harry, all have their own motives and reasons to participate. When the plan is successful, it is the aftermath that threatens to tear them apart and expose them as the culprits. Will they figure out a way to stay silent and still bring attention to the cause? Will they be found out and their protest be for naught?

The Harvard Square Mob is an interesting story about a turbulent time in our country when a war ranges on and no one supports the cause. Frank has the age that has seen the change in the country. As Frank puts it a country that “sees ourselves as a heroic people with a high historical purpose” and a country that “invented the national paranoia of the communist menace” and made “national pride a religion.” These quotes and many others hit home for me as they are eerily familiar to what is going on today. However, the story itself is less about the war protests but about these people who are bound by a secret and a paranoia when they think they will be found out. The story started off slow but picks up quickly once the heist occurs. It is a story of how a group of people protest for a greater good but get caught up in their own individual concerns. I recommend The Harvard Square Mob.

The Harvard Square Mob

is available in hardcover and eBook

Friday, September 29, 2017

Important Latino musicians who used the universal language of music to impact the world

Music is a language we all speak. It doesn’t matter what language the lyrics are in, the melodies and harmonies speak to each of us in a universal language. Music is also a big part of any culture and the Hispanic culture is no different. In fact, I’d say music is extremely important. Have you ever been to a Latino home for a party when the radio wasn’t playing? I haven’t. In fact, most Hispanics and Latinos won’t considered it a party until there is music they can dance to. So when I asked my Facebook friends for their advice about who in music has been influential in Hispanic and Latin communities, the response was strong. It was hard to pick just three but I feel I have chosen three performers whose music has a lasting impression on his audience.

First, Vicente Fernández was born February 17, 1940 in Huentitán el Alto, Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. He is called El Rey de la Musica Ranchera (The King of Ranchera Music). Ranchera music is a genre of traditional Mexican music which dates back prior to the Mexican Revolution and become closely associated with the mariachi groups which evolved from Jalisco, Mexico. Fernández spent his early years on his father’s ranch. At 8, he began playing the guitar and singing ranchera music. He begab to sing in contests at local festivals and won many times. By 1960, he devoted himself full time to music. His big break came in the spring of 1966 when Javier Solis, the El Rey del Bolero Ranchero died and Discos CBS offered Fernández a recording contract. He would have a long and successful career until he retired from live performing on April 16, 2016. Even though he retired from performing, he continues to record and publish music. While he was usually accompanied live by a mariachi group, he is not considered a mariachi musician because he does not play an instrument live. His greatest hit was Volver, Volver (1972). It is a song about going back to a love her left behind. Fernández sings the song with such emotion you can hear the tears in the narrator’s voice. I listened to this song twice. Once without the English translation and once with the translation, the emotion is so raw in the song, you can’t help getting choked up. I read several comments online which describe family functions and a drunk dad or uncle will eventually play this song and sing along. One commenter said “We all have that one dad or tio that plays this and cries.” While another commenter said “Is this like the universal sad song for Hispanic families? Every single woman in my family cries when this plays.” Volver, Volver reminds me of many country and rock songs where a man realizes he was wrong to leave and is coming home…if she’ll let him. Vicente Fernández is currently 77 years old. When he does pass away, I know the response from his fans and the music world will be resounding.

Second, Juan Gabriel was born Alberto Aguilera Valadez on January 7, 1950. He was a beloved Mexican singer and songwriter. Nicknamed Juanga and El Divo de Juárez, he was known for his flamboyant style, breaking barriers within Mexican music. He is considered one of the best and most prolific Mexican composers and singers of all time. A true pop icon. At 13, he composed his first. In the 1960s, he would perform at various bars around Juárez, Mexico. While trying to achieve a recording contract, he was wrongfully accused of robbery. He spent a year and a hald in prison until he was released due to the lack of evidence. He chose his stage name Juan Gabriel in honor of Juan Contreras, his mentor, and his father, Gabriel. He released his first studio album in 1971 with his first of many hits, No Tengo Dinero. He had successful hit after another. He became a world renowned singer performing in a wide variety of styles from mariachi to pop to disco. His lyrics often spoke of heartbreak and romantic relationships. Although he never married, he had 6 children. Four of them with Laura Salas whom he describes as “the best friend I ever had.” When his sudden death of a heart attack was announced on August 28, 2016, the shock rippled through his fans. Even though I wasn’t familiar with his work, I remember the impact the news of his death had. One of his most well-known songs is Querida, a song about a lost love and begging her to come back. The song sounds like a very 80s pop love song but it is one that still sounds good and resonates decades later. Another song is Amor Eterno, a song he wrote for his mother after her death. It was first recorded and made famous by Spanish singer Rocio Durcal. It has become a standard song at funerals for those who refuse to say goodbye. He would call the song a prayer of love and a mediation on love. It is a song about the grief and life after a loved one has passed. Both songs and many others are a testament to the versatility of this man’s amazing talent.

Third, Carlos Santana was born July 20, 1947 in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico. He learned to play the violin at the age of 5 and the guitar at the age of 8 under the tutelage of his father, a mariachi musician. The family moved around for years before eventually settling in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. He graduated in 1965 from Mission High School and was accepted at both California State University, Northridge and Humboldt State but chose not to attend college. He was influenced by artist of the 1950s, Ritchie Valens, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker with musical influences of jazz, folk, and rock and roll. He became known for Latin infused rock, jazz, blues, salsa and African rhythms. He began his career with the Santana Blues Band, which was later shortened to Santana, and quickly gained popularity in the club circuit of San Francisco. A memorable performance at Woodstock in 1969 would lead to a recording contract with Columbia Records. He is most known for covers of Oye Como Va (written and original recorded by Tito Puente in 1963) and Black Magic Woman (written by Pete Green and originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1968). Santana would see records sales sag in the 1980s as the tastes in music were changing. He would see a resurgence in popularity in 1999 with the release of his corroboration album, Supernatural. This album is how I was truly introduced to Santana with the song Smooth with Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. Seventeen years away from the charts, Supernatural would help him achieve hits and numerous Grammy awards. In 2002, he’d released another corroboration album, Shaman, which didn’t have the same success as Supernatural. However it would produce 2 radio friendly hits including The Game of Love with Michelle Branch. He continues to create music and release albums experimenting with sounds and styles. Santana has been cited as an influence by Prince and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. I think he will continue to influence many future guitar musicians as he experiments and expands his style.

In conclusion, Santana once said “There’s a melody in everything. And once you find the melody, then you can connect immediately with the heart.” The music of these men are perfect examples of melodies which connect with the heart. It doesn’t matter what language it is in, the melody drives the emotion that words will often fail to convey. There are so many more examples of amazing music which transcends language and culture. Listening to the story told in these songs reminds me that no matter what culture we are form, we all experience love, hurt, grief and joy. You may not understand the words but you can hear the emotions in these songs and the musical notes pull at your heart in a language we all can understand. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Jonah, Micah, Nahum: minor prophets with a major message

This month’s study is one three minor prophets with very important messages. Jonah, Micah, and Nahum are short book with a big impact. Everyone is familiar with Jonah and the big fish. However, what are the important themes in the book? What lessons can we learn from his story? In the book of Micah is the answer to what does it mean to pervert one’s faith? As well as to the question what does God truly expect from us? Nahum is the prophecy against a powerful and once repented nation. What does it mean to say that God is judge and ruler?

Jonah was a prophet who was sent by God to the city of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria during the approximate time of 785-760 BCE. At the time, Assyria was a great enemy of Israel and Jonah resisted being sent to Nineveh into the arena of bitter enemies. Why should they hear and receive God’s message of salvation? Jonah took to the sea and God sent him a violent storm and into the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1:17). The book of Jonah is unique because it is a narrative story of the prophet rather than his prophecies. There are three major themes in the story of Jonah. First, God is sovereign. God is in control despite our desires to obey or not. The storm was used by God to guide Jonah to see God’s wisdom in sending him to Nineveh. Second, God’s message to all peoples. He loves all and offers his salvation to all. Jonah’s message was simple “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4). The Nineveh heard the message and repented. The king proclaimed that everyone “urgently call on God” (Jonah 3:8). However, even though Jonah delivered the message as he was commanded. He still didn’t want to see the Ninevites receive God’s salvation. He was angry when God didn’t bring destruction to the city. God sent him another message about compassion (Jonah 4:1-11). Third, when your repentance is real, God will forgive. When you respond in obedience, you will receive God’s mercy, not his punishment. Jonah offered his repentance from the belly of a great fish and God heard him (Jonah 2:1-10). The Ninevites turned from their evils way and God had compassion on them (Jonah 3:10). There is no place you can sink that God cannot hear you.

Micah was a prophet to the people of Israel during the dates of 742-687 BCE. The main theme of Micah is about perverting faith. Micah speaks directly to the false prophets, disobedient leaders and selfish priests in Judah and Israel. While they publicly carried out the religious ceremonies, they were privately seeking to gain money and influence. “Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right” (Micah 3:9) and “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say ‘Is not the Lord among us? Mo disaster will come upon us” (Micah 3:11) It is because of these leaders that the Lord will destroy Israel (Micah 3:12). To mix selfish desires with an empty display of religious piety is perverting faith. To remain silent for fear of losing money or church members is dangerous for the church; however, many pastors are influenced by these factors and will not speak up for what is right. On a similar note, God delights in faith not the sacrifices at the temple or the tithes you may give the church. He delights in faith that produces justice, love for others and obedience in him. Micah 6:6-8 tells us that God is more please with acting justly, be merciful, and walk humbly with him. The type or amount of sacrifices doesn’t matter. What God truly wants is faith and obedience. True faith generates kindness, compassion, justice and humility. We can please God by seeking these results in our work, family, church and neighborhood. We may not always succeed but with God’s guidance we can succeed in the future.

Nahum was a prophet to Judah and Nineveh approximately between 663-612 BCE. His purpose was to pronounce God’s judgement on Assyria. Nahum is writing his prophets approximately 100 years after Jonah prophesied in Nineveh which means that Nineveh’s repentance was short lived. God judged Nineveh for its idolatry, arrogance and oppression. Even though Assyria was a great military power of the day, God would completely destroy this powerful nation. Nahum 1:3 states “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.” Nahum 2 describes Nineveh’s fall which come true in 612 BCE as the armies of Babylon and Medes destroyed the seemingly invincible Nineveh. The city was so completely wiped out that its ruins were not discovered until the 1840s! God is judge and no human power can avoid his wrath. God also rules over all the earth even those who don’t acknowledge him. God is all-powerful and human plans are futile against God’s plans. Overconfidence in their wealth and power was the key to Assyria’s downfall. However, there is a bright light in Nahum’s message of doom. Nahum 1:7 states “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” This verse is important today as we are bombarded with news of nuclear weapons, armies and war. When we place of faith and trust in God, he alone can truly rescue us from fear and oppression. When we place our confidence in him because he alone rules all of history, all the earth and our lives. Does this mean we will survive any danger? Not necessarily, however, God is more powerful than anything on earth. What can physically hurt us can never spiritually hurt us as long as our trust is in the Lord.

In conclusion, Jonah is the lesson that God’s message is for everyone. It does not matter if we like the person or people, we are to bring his message of salvation to everyone who can hear and receive it. If God has shown us mercy and compassion, then we are to follow his example and show mercy and compassion to others by giving them God’s message. Micah is the important lesson for those in power. Whether it be church leaders, political leaders and leaders in our families, twist God’s word for your own personal gains and God will judge you harshly. The inner acts of faith are often more important than the outwardly acts of religion. Nahum is the lesson that God is more powerful than anything on earth. He can save and destroy.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

What is game theory?: a basic introduction

Recently I noticed in movies and TV shows, game theory is being mentioned and it struck me that I don’t know what game theory is. So here I am researching it and sharing what I learned with you. First, let me say that there is so much more to game theory than what I can write about without being long winded or boring. I will only cover the basics. That being said, here we go. Game theory is the study of mathematical models of conflicts and cooperation between intelligent rational decision makers. It is mainly used in economics, political science and psychology. It can also be applied to logic, computer science and biology.

The first known discussion of game theory occurred in letter to James Waldegrave, a British diplomat from Charles Waldegrave, his uncle, in 1713. Known as the Waldegrave problem, it was a mixed strategy solution to a two-person card game called le Her in which a standard deck of 52 cards are played between a dealer and a receiver. James Madison used what is now called game theoretic analysis to predict how the states can be expect to act under different taxation systems (Vice of the Political System of the United States, April 1787). Throughout the years, many other theories devised their own game theories. In 1838, Antoine Augustin Cournot used duopoly, a form of oligopoly where only two sellers exist in one market, and presented a solution to the Nash equilibrium. The Nash equilibrium is a solution concept of a non-cooperative game. The study of game theory didn’t truly exist as its own field until 1938. While there are many game types in game theory, I will be discussing three.

First, cooperative versus non-cooperative games. In cooperative game theory, players are able to form binding commitments externally enforced, i.e. contract law. The focus is on predicting which coalitions will form place and the resulting payoffs. Cooperative game theory does not focus on how coalitions achieve their payoffs. For example, a coalition can exchange whatever it wants among its members; however, it does not discuss how offers or counteroffers are made. The image of a bargaining table in which two or more people are hashing out a business deal or even a criminal plea deal. Non-cooperative game theory, players cannot form alliances or if all agreements need to be self-enforcing, i.e. credible threats. The focus is on predicting individual players’ actions and the possible payoffs while trying to predict what strategies the players will choose. In essence how people should or do act for the maximum individual benefit.

Second, symmetric versus asymmetric game theory. In symmetric game theory, payoffs for playing a particular strategy depends only on the other strategies played and not who played them. If the players changed without changing the strategies, the playoffs would be the same. The game of chicken is an example of a symmetric game. Each player has two decisions to yield or not. Regardless who yields and who doesn’t, the payoff is the same. If one player yields, the other player should not yield. If one player won’t yield, the other player should. In asymmetric game theory, there are no identical strategy sets for both players. For example, the ultimatum game which is used in economic experiments. One player receives a sum of money and proposes how to divide the money. If player two accepts the proposal, the money is split according to the proposal. If player two rejects the proposal, neither player receives any money.

Third, zero sum versus non zero sum game theory. In zero sum game theory, the choices made by the players can neither increase nor decrease the available resources. The total benefit to all players always adds to zero. In other words, a player only benefits at the expense of another. Chess is an example of a zero sum game as one player benefits when the other player loses a piece or cannot make another move. In a non-zero sum game, the outcomes results are greater or less than zero. A gain by one player does not necessarily correspond with another player’s loss. In layman’s terms, it is a win-win situation. One example is The Prisoner’s Dilemma. It is the problem faced by two accomplices locked in separate cells. Each is offered three choices by the police: one, they can both confess to the charges, both will be jailed for five years. Two, if only one confesses, he will be freed but the non-confessor will be jailed for ten years. Or three, if neither confesses, both will be tried for a minor offense and will be jailed for one year. If both prisoners know that the other will not confess, neither will confess and serve one year in jail. It’s a win-win for both prisoners.

In conclusion, game theory is, at its core, about prediction. Predictions of behavior, strategies, decision making and payoffs. It is about keeping an equilibrium or balance. It is about human conflicts and cooperation within competitive or game situations. It is about optimal decision making for the best outcomes for all involved or one individual over another. The theory is applied to many games we play: chicken, chess, poker and other situations where decisions are made for the best outcomes. It is a very simplified explanation and only hits the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what game theory is and how it is used. I’m curious to read further and hope it was informative for you, if you were unaware of what game theory is. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Latinos in movies and TV: laughter, thought provoking and beauty

Today’s post will focus on a famous Latinos in movies and TV. It was very hard to pick just three because there are so many great actors and actresses who deserve to be celebrate as the talents they are. To me, they are amazing people, talented actors who just happened to be Latino. Actors who made us laugh, who made us think and mesmerized us with their beauty. Actors who helped paved the way for future generations of actors. Individuals who came from nothing to rise above and become beloved and revered actors. Two of the names you will recognize as they are household names but one you may not know. My hope is that you learn something that you didn’t know about these individuals and see them beyond their profession, beyond their characters and see the person behind the famous name.

First, Desi Arnaz otherwise known as Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy (1951-1957). Born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III on March 2, 1917 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. I featured Arnaz in a post year and learned a great deal about the man. While I tried to find someone else to profile, I could deny his influence on TV, so I wanted to feature him again. Leaving Cuba as a young man, he came to America with nothing. And he learned to deeply love his adopted country. He was deeply patriotic and devoted to the United States. He wrote in his memoirs that he knew of no other country in the world where “a sixteen year old, broke and unable to speak the language” could achieve the success that he had. It is amazing to me that somewhere in the world, at any point in the day, I Love Lucy is still on the air and being enjoyed by millions of fans who weren’t even alive when the show first aired. Arnaz had a successful career after I Love Lucy. Toward the end of his life, he owned a horse breeding farm and raced thoroughbreds. He contributed to various charities and nonprofit organizations including San Diego State University. He also taught classes in studio production and acting for television at San Diego State. He died December 2, 1986 at the age of 69 from lung cancer.

Second, Edward James Olmos is an accomplished actor of both TV and movies. Born February 24, 1947 in Los Angeles, acting wasn’t his first choice. He really wanted to be a baseball player. At 13, he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system playing as a catcher. He left at 15 to join a rock and roll band. He would later pursue acting as he took classes at the East Los Angeles College. He starred in Miami Vice (1984-1989) as Lt. Martin Castillo and Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) as Admiral William Adama. He is most famous for his movie roles. In Stand and Deliver (1988) as Jaime Escalante, the teacher who taught math to Latino students that everyone else had written off. In American Me (1992) as gang leader Montoya Santana and in Blade Runner (1982) as Detective Gaff, a role he will be reprising in the upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049 (releasing October 6. 2017). He is also well known for his activism where he devotes most of his time to causes particularly involving children especially at risk kids. His main message is that we all have a choice about where life takes us. He also stresses the importance of education, the risks of gang life and tries to promote taking responsibility for one’s actions and happiness in life. He once was quoted, saying “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Third, Dolores del Rio had a successful career in TV, movies and the stage. Born August 3, 1904 as Maria de los Dolores Asúnsolo Lopez-Negrete, del Rio is considered to be the first Mexican actress to crossover to Hollywood and have a successful career in the 1920s and 1930s. She was a silent film star who was among the few who could continue in talkies. She is considered one of the more important female figures of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. She was, at first, billed to be the female Rudolph Valentino, the female Latin lover. However, her beauty and elegance shined brighter than that image. She embraced her Mexican heritage and enjoyed playing roles which allowed her to showcase it. Her film debut was in the film, Joanna (1925) and her first talkie film was The Bad One (1930) in which she could speak and sing in English “with a charming accent.” Del Rio was one of the prototypes of female beauty in the 1930s. She was never played the stereotypical Latin bombshell. Her image included words like “sophisticated, aristocratic, elegant, glamourous lady” by her contemporaries such as Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford.  Dolores del Rio died on April 11, 1983 at the age of 78. She is still celebrated as royalty in Hollywood as well as in Mexican cinema. She had appeared in over 50 films, none of which, I am sad to say, I have heard of or seen. I hope I can get the chance to see one of her films.

In conclusion, Desi Arnaz is one of my favorite actors. His character of Ricky Ricardo is a part of lexicon that when my husband speaks in rapid Spanish, I always tease him and call him “Ricky.” Although he is always remembered as Ricky Ricardo and the man who was married to Lucille Ball, he was also a man who did great work in and out of Hollywood. Edward James Olmos is an actor that has been an icon for many years and will continue to be held in high esteem. Dolores del Rio was an actress who broke the image of a Latin bombshell with her grace and beauty. While she has faded into obscurity for most of us, she still is remembered as the talented actress of American and Mexican cinema. Three amazing actors who opened our eyes to amazing characters and stories through the magic of movies and TV. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Minor Fall: a major disappointment

A Minor Fall by Price Ainsworth is a legal thriller about up and coming personal injury lawyer Davy Jones. He is giving cases he’s not supposed to win; however; somehow he finds a way to win and win big. After one particular case, he is given a big case by his boss, mentor and father-in-law, Timothy Sullivan. He tries to emulate him in every way. He is sent to Kentucky to represent landowners in a suit against an oil company. Beth Sheehan, a beautiful contract lawyer, is added to the team and soon the sparks fly between Davy and Beth. While in Kentucky, they have a brief affair. The stress of the affair and the pressure of the case starts to get to Davy. He starts a downward spiral which seems out of control. He begins to questioning everything. Will he lose his wife? Will he lose his job at the firm? Will he abandon law altogether?

Unfortunately, I could not finish this book. I made it through three chapters and I was disgusted that I didn’t want to continue. First, the language. There were a couple scenes when character use dirty sex talk. I don’t care what people say, it is NOT sexy. I don’t like it. Second, there is a scene as they are heading to Kentucky to start the next case, they are on a plane. Davy, pretending to be asleep, witnesses his boss and father-in-law, receives a blowjob from his paralegal! That was the final straw. I realized I didn’t care about Davy. I didn’t want to see how or if Davy changes after his moral crisis. Mr. Ainsworth is a lawyer who wrote a book. While the legal knowledge and descriptions are spot on, his story never takes off. He’s no John Grisham. I do not recommend A Minor Fall.   

A Minor Fall

is available in hardcover and eBook

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Latinos in Literature: life, heroism and beauty

Today I will discuss three famous Latinos in literature. As an avid bookworm for most of my life, I have read a variety of books across genres, languages and cultures. When I decide to discuss a few important Latinos in literature, I didn’t realize what a task it would be. While there are so many great writers to choose from, it was hard for me to pick just three. However, I hope discuss the wide range of talent and cultural impact in these writers’ works. All three have been influenced by the world around them as well as influenced those who followed. All three are from different ancestral backgrounds but through their writing they attempt to bring the world closer together with stories of growing up, stories of heroism and beautiful poetry of love.

First, Sandra Cisneros was born December 20, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. The only daughter in a family with six sons, she often left pushed aside and isolated. Ms. Cisneros is best known for her debut novel The House on Mango Street (1984) which is taught in classrooms across America. It is a coming of age story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago with Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. The major themes include the quest to lead a better life and the promise to help those who remain behind. The biculturalism and bilingualism is very important in Ms. Cisneros’ writing. She will use Spanish in place of English when the flow of the passage is improved by the beauty of the language. For example, instead of saying “my girl,” she will use “mihija” which is a Spanish endearment literally meaning my girl. However, there is a poetry with the use of mihija. I didn’t read The House on Mango Street in the context of a classroom but after the recommendation of a friend. The themes are common of any coming of age story: the beloved childhood adventures, the heartbreak as one realizes that life is dirty, unfair and requires hard work from you. In many ways, the book reminds me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) as the main character grows from a child’s point of view of the world into the jaded adult view of someone who grows up too soon.

Second, Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American poet, novelist and essayist. Born March 27, 1950 in New York, she spent the first ten years of her life in Dominican Republic until her father’s involvement in a political rebellion forced the family to flee. One of my favorite of Ms. Alvarez’s books is In the Time of Butterflies (1994), a historical novel about the Mirabal sisters: Minerva, Dede, Maria Teresa and Patria during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. The sisters were active in the underground revolution against Trujillo. Three of the sisters were murdered on November 25, 1960 while on Puerto Plata Road. Their code name, Las Mariposas “The Butterflies” and their story has remained with me years after reading the book. Ms. Alvarez once said “A novel is not, after all, a historical novel, but a way to travel through the human heart.” In her books, the reader is able to see, feel and experience another side of life through the eyes of her characters. There is a beauty and brutal honesty in her writing. The scenes in which the sisters suffered in prison and later the scene of their death are hard to read; however, gives the reality of what the sisters and their fellow revolutionaries suffered to fight Trujillo. These are the scenes which I remember the most. As with most courageous stories, the Mirabal sisters have not been lost to time thanks, in part, to Ms. Alvarez’s book. When a writer has such an important impact to help keep such stories alive is noteworthy.

Third, Pablo Neruda is the pen name, and later legal name, of Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Ricardo Eliecer Neftail Reyes Basoalto. Born July 12, 1904, he has been called the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language. He began composing poems at the age of 10 and was published by 13. It has been thought that he published under a pseudonym to avoid his father’s disapproval of his poems and interests in writing and literature. Neruda would serve in various diplomatic posts including Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Mexico City. He was an ardent communist for most of his life and an admirer of Stalin and Lenin. He died September 23, 1973 at the age of 69. However, it is his poetry which has gain him notoriety. Pablo Neruda has influenced many in music and movies. Jackson Browne featured a Neruda poem on the back of his album, The Pretender (1976). One of his famous poems, LA Muerta (The Dead Woman) was featured in the film, Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990) starring Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson. The poem is about grief and living after a loved one has passed. My favorite quote from this poem is “I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow, my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall stay alive, because above all things, you wanted me indomitable.” An image of a constant grief and missing the person once they’re gone; but a moving forward because the beloved wouldn’t want him to be defeated by her death.

In conclusion, these are just three examples of amazing writers who are a great asset to their culture as well to the world of literature. They are just writers for the Latino community but for the world as a whole. Their writings speak to the universal truths of life that we all must face and the lessons we all must learn. I highly recommend reading the books and poetry I have discussed here as well as branching out to other writers. I think we can learn about a culture, a people and ourselves within those pages. Within the adventures of a book, we can discover that we aren’t that different after all.