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Being Seen

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 Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman's Fight to End Ableism, by Elsa Sjunneson A little bit ago I posted that my kid had given me Sitting Pretty , which was on the new bookshelf at my work library, because I'd put it there -- along with Being Seen .  That was actually the one I'd intended to read, so I grabbed it too.  Since eye issues run in my family, and I have my share, I'm always interested in books about low vision and so on. Elsa Sjunneson is a writer and activist; she's done a lot of writing and editing in SF.  This book is a memoir and meditation on how the world sees disability, and disabled people.  She is Deafblind -- that is, partially sighted in only one eye, and uses hearing aids -- because her mother got a mild case of rubella from an unvaccinated person.*   In each chapter, Sjunneson talks about different aspects of disability and navigating a pretty unfriendly world that isn't set up for disabled people.  At first I found Sjunneson's tone kind

House of Glass (CC Spin!)

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 House of Glass, by Pramoedya Ananta Toer It's the last of the Buru quartet!  Toer wrote these novels while he was imprisoned at the Buru Island detention camp.  They were published in the 1980s, but banned in Indonesia until 2000.  Here are the previous three titles: This Earth of Mankind Child of All Nations Footsteps Together, these tell the life story of Minke, who was loosely based on Tirto Adhi Soerjo (1880 - 1918), a native Indonesian journalist who criticized the Dutch colonial government. At the end of Footsteps , Minke is exiled from Indonesia. House of Glass actually moves away from Minke during his exile and is narrated by Jacques Pangemanann, a Native police officer who admires Minke, but also possesses a talent for explaining Native movements to the Dutch government.  Pangemanann has always wanted to be a Good Guy, keeping the law and bringing down the Bad Guys, but his long-awaited promotion dumps him into a much more complex world.  Now he's working for the colo

The Treasure Chest

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  Schatzkästlein des rheinischen Hausfreundes ( The Treasure Chest), by Johann Peter Hebel I have no idea how I got this book; it's been sitting on my tablet for some time now.  A few weeks ago I started reading it at bedtime, for which it is perfect, because it's a collection of short little stories, vignettes, jokes, and so on, usually with a little moral theme.  Johann Peter Hebel (1760 - 1826) was from Basel in Switzerland and spoke the Allemanische or Alemannic dialect of German, which is/was spoken in much of Switzerland, Bavaria, and Baden.  He lived in a few different places in those areas, and I'm going to count him for Switzerland.  Hebel became a professor, a poet/writer, and a deacon in the Lutheran Church.  Eventually he rose to become a prelate and a member of the Parliament of Baden, though what he really wanted to do was be a parish priest in the Bavarian/Swiss borderland.  Anyway, in the first years of the 19th century, he also edited a yearly almanac, and

The Seventh Bride

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 The Seventh Bride, by T. Kingfisher I've enjoyed a few of Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher's books before, such as Castle Hangnail and A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking .   This one just popped up as a Kindle offer for free, and the description sounded interesting, so here we are. Rhea, age 15, is a very ordinary girl.  Her family runs the local mill, and she spends most of her time helping at the mill, doing chores, and trying to fend off the swan that always steals her lunch.  She's not pretty, or talented, or rich, so why does this Lord Crevan want to marry her?  Maybe it doesn't even matter, because you can't say no to a lord.  Peasants who try to say no to lords generally end up homeless and out of work, at best.  So when Crevan orders Rhea to walk a certain forest path to his house, even though that's completely improper and there shouldn't be a house in the forest at all, she has to do it for her parents' sake. She arrives at a truly horrifyi

Model Children

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 Model Children: Inside the Republic of Red Scarves, by Paul Thorez This is a reasonably interesting memoir, with the worst cover (from 1990; the original French edition was published in 1982).  This is terrible.  First of all, it really bugs me when people try to use Cyrillic letters to substitute for Latin ones in order to make a title look Russian.  Я is not the same thing as R.   Я says ya .  It's a vowel.  P says R in Cyrillic. But that is not nearly as bad as this cover photo.  This kid is not Paul Thorez as a child, and he's meant to give you a feeling of how desolate and sad Soviet kids must be.  The shaven head is meant to evoke prison life, or a place so lice-ridden that every child must go bald.  Thorez' memoir is, in fact, a description of life at the very posh summer camp of Artek at Yalta, where children spent most of their time swimming, playing sports, and eating a lot of food.  Thorez comments that for years, he thought all Soviet children ate four meals a

20 Books of Summer!

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 Yes, it's that time again, when we choose our reading lists for summer and then proceed to ignore them if we want.  Cathy at 746 Books runs this very relaxed reading event, which will go from June 1 to September 1. Between my recent reading slump and the fact that I'm going on a TRIP in June (to Germany!!*), I've made an effort to keep my list light.  Much of it is fiction, and some of it is quite easy fiction, though I've also thrown in a chunkster or two.  There are a few titles from countries I haven't hit yet (Italy, Spain, and Jordan) of which one will also count for WIT August, and everything is from my TBR piles.  The titles: This is How You Lose the Time War, by El-Mohtar and Gladstone The Honjin Murders, by Seishi Yokomizo All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders The Origin of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, by Andrew Breeze Word From Wormingford, by Robert Blythe Mink River, by Brian Doyle Lost Island, by Eilis Dillon Mysteries of the Middle

Needle and Thread

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  Needle and Thread: A Tale of Survival From Bialystok to Paris, by Charles 'Shleimeh' Zabuski as told to June Sutz Brott I nabbed this memoir from the donation table a couple of years ago.  I nearly always grab any Holocaust memoir I come across, but this one was particularly attractive because I like sewing, and because the author is from Bialystok, which I had read very little about, but remembered because Vasily Grossman's mother had lived there. June Brott wrote down this story through many interviews with her cousin Charles, originally Shleimeh.  They didn't really have a language in common, so it was quite difficult and was a process that took some years.  Charles had never spoken about his experiences and did not want to, but because he was the only member of his family to survive, he decided that it was important that their stories be heard. Shleimeh tells his whole life story; the oldest of 4 children, son of a tailor who had planned to emigrate to Argentina b

Sitting Pretty

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 Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body, by Rebekah Taussig My younger child read this memoir and told me that I HAD to read it.  And I agree; it's a great book and I could hardly put it down.  Taussig's voice is just so fresh, wry, and candid. Rebekah Taussig, youngest of six children and childhood cancer survivor, became paralyzed from the waist down at age 3, and for years didn't really notice that this rendered her different and pitiful in the eyes of most others.  But of course, the outside world's judgements eventually penetrated her happy childhood bubble, and she learned that according to those judgements, she would be relegated to the role of inspirational friend, never the heroine of the story who has a cool job, meets the guy, and lives happily ever after.    And then, as an adult, she started to question the societal assumptions we have about disabilities.  She got a graduate degree, got a teaching position at a high school, and th

The Girl and the Ghost

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 The Girl and the Ghost, by Hanna Alkaf  This is a lovely (and exciting!) story for, say, middle grades and YA, that not only features a lot of scary ghosts, but also explores the meaning of friendship and love, and the very complicated feelings around them. The ghost is an evil spirit who works for a witch, but the witch is dying.  He can only belong to someone of the same blood, so he searches out the witch's daughter and granddaughter.  The little girl is just five, and welcomes her new friend.  Of course, he needs a name, so she names him...Pink.  Because she's five.  Pink watches over little Suraya, who is a curious and active little girl, and he saves her from myriad dangers. Pink can't save Suraya from other kids, though.  Somehow she just doesn't fit in.  And when she goes to a fancier school in town, it gets much worse.  Pink's dark nature makes him long to exact revenge on the other girls.  Then a new girl, Jing, moves in and finally, Suraya has a real bes

Momo

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Momo, by Michael Ende In the US, The Neverending Story is the only work of Ende that is really well-known.  But I'd heard that there was this other story, Momo, and kept my eye out for it.  The first copy I found (on the donation table) turned out to be in Spanish, but eventually I got hold of it... At the edge of town, there is an ancient ruined amphitheater where children go to play.  Momo, a very small person in ragged clothing, arrives and takes up residence in a sort of cubbyhole under the stage.  Adults come and offer to take her in, but she prefers to stay as she is, so they share their food and goods with her.  Momo is an excellent listener -- the kind that seems to spark ideas and solutions for problems just by listening so well -- and she has many friends.  Games are always more fun when Momo is around. But the city is changing.  Unobtrusive grey men, in grey suits, are visiting citizens and convincing them to save time by banking it with them.  Everyone forgets the grey

CC Spin #29: Report

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 Well, I'm only about a third of the way through my Spin title, but it's very good and I'll report in when I'm done!  That reading slump killed all my goals, but no worries.  And, I also wound up prioritizing a biography of Genghis Khan that my kid is reading for a class so that we can discuss it.  It's very exciting.  The author is surprisingly pro-Genghis, though.

"We Never Make Mistakes"

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  "We Never Make Mistakes:" two short novels by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn This is what I mean about my April reading slump -- it took me the entire month to read this very short, very readable volume.  I don't think we can call these two stories novels -- at best they're novelettes or longish short stories.  About 70 pages each.  Also, I love love love the cover design, with its stark buzz saw blade.  There are, of course, no buzz saws of any sort in the stories. "An Incident at Krechetovka Station" centers on Lieutenant Zotov, who runs a small country train station.  It's 1941 and everything is overwhelmed by the recent German invasion.  Trains of troops, goods, refugees, medical supplies...there's not enough fuel to keep them all going, and nowhere near enough food.  Zotov has one competent assistant, Valya, and various other personnel who all seem to be lazy, corrupt, or very elderly. A 'straggler' arrives in the station, a man who has been

Tunnels

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Two sets of siblings, two ethnicities  Tunnels, by Ruth Modan, trans. by Ishai Mishory I was intrigued by the descriptions of this graphic novel, and I was not disappointed; it's a complex and fascinating read set on the fraught borders between Israel and Palestine. Nili is an unemployed archaeologist, single mom, resident of Jerusalem.  As a child, she helped her dad in his pursuit of his dream; he was convinced that he knew where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden, but the dig was canceled.  The spot is right under an Arab village, that village is behind a huge wall, and no Jewish archaeologists can get anywhere near it.  Now, with Nili's dad lost in dementia, and her brother working for a rival academic, she is determined to find a way to continue the project. Nili winds up with a strangely assorted crew of workers -- Jews, Palestinians, her brother, her son (whose name, inexplicably, is Doctor -- he's 6 or 7 and worryingly addicted to phone games).  As they dig into the

Angels Found

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 Angels Found: Book 4 in the Z-Tech Chronicles, by Ryan Southwick This is the fourth book in the series, so here are reviews for previous volumes: Angels in the Mist (v. 1) Angels Lost (v. 2) (I have read this book, and I don't know why there's no review) Angels Fall (v. 3)  Zima: Origins (prequel) We come back to our story with everyone enjoying a breathing space, living undercover in the country.  It would be idyllic if it weren't for the rising population of vampires in the US and all around the world.  Anne was turned so early on that she is now one of the head vampires, but she stays shielded from knowledge by the electronic implant that also protects her from the Entity, the mysterious and malevolent being that started the vampires in the first place. Then two visitors show up in quick succession.  Tabby, Anne's long-lost daughter, has found her mother through Anne's brother, but he hasn't explained much.  And the soldier Calum has found the Entity in Russ

The Horse and His Boy

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The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis Someday I will write a #Narniathon21 post on time, but it is not this day.  April's book is The Horse and His Boy, which I've always liked for all the action and travel.  Plus I just like the title.  This story is also a bit unusual in the Narnia books, in that most of it is set in Calormen or Archenland; Narnia is often described, but not really seen (well, that happens in half the other books too!).  Calormen is the kingdom to the south, across a desert, and it's stated that it is much larger than Narnia, with many provinces, and is growing larger through conquest.  The only reason Archenland and Narnia are safe is that the desert is too difficult to cross.  Lewis doesn't really get any further into this, but I do find it interesting that Narnia is described as tiny and obscure compared to the huge countries elsewhere in the world -- who know nothing of Aslan.   This may parallel the way that Christianity is not, and never has be

The Storm is Upon Us

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 The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything, by Mike Rothschild Since I'm always interested in reading about conspiracy theories, and I've had a hard time wrapping my head around the Q movement, I snapped this one right up from the library.  I must say that it really just tickles me that the author's name is Rothschild (no relation, he specifies), since that name is so often caught up in conspiracy theories too. Rothschild gives us a readable history of Q, which is pretty impressive given the chaotic material he had to work with.  He explains the boards it started on, the major names, related scams, and the unusual nature of the movement, which is charismatic but practically leaderless.  It also co-opts many older narratives into this new form and trades mostly in fear.  After the history, Rothschild meditates on possible ways to reach loved ones who have fallen down the Q rabbit hole and gives some limited advice, while ack

A Spring Riffle of Reviews

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 I'm going to give in and admit that I have more books to post about than time to post in.  Besides, it's a beautiful spring outside!  So here we go: I continued my March Magics reading with Pyramids by Terry Pratchett , which I haven't read in many years.  It's an early one, about #7, and comes after Wyrd Sisters .  Pteppic, only son of the king of the narrow desert/river land Djelibeybi*, spends his youth in Ankh-Morpork, training as an assassin, but right after he survives his final exam, his father dies and he becomes king himself.  His ideas about bringing Djelibeybi into modern times are not welcomed; here, everything is done exactly as it has always been done, and head priest Dios is present to make sure of that. This is such a fun story, absolutely packed with mayhem, humor, and satirical insight.  I really enjoyed revisiting it. *A pun Americans may not get, since we don't have the British candy jelly babies -- which are basically gummy bears.  I don't

The Silver Chair

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 The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis I've always thought of this as a slightly oddball Narnia story, but that doesn't mean I don't like it.  I like this one quite a bit.  I just feel like it doesn't quite fit the mold. OK, so Eustace is back in school, and his school sounds like a dystopian Summerhill gone wrong, which is funny to me.  Lewis hated his own schooling, but he still seems to have stuck to that model as being the proper kind of education.  This school is co-educational and works on democratic lines, and so it's run by vicious bullies.  (Because boys' public schools didn't have much bullying??)  Eustace runs into Jane Pole and tells her about Narnia, and whoosh, into Narnia they go!  Well, actually, they start off at the top of the mountains that were visible across the edge of the world in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Aslan sends them over the sea.  I like Jill very much.  She's a sensible, tough kid.  But she and Eustace are kids, and they

Unexpected Magic

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 Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones I chose this volume for March because I wanted to revisit that weird and nightmarish short story, "The Master."  I did that first, and ....it's really weird and nightmarish.  I'm not sure what else to say about it.   Some of the other stories in this volume are for younger readers: "Plague of Peacocks, Fluffy Pink Toadstools, Auntie Bea's Day Out."  They each feature an upsetting, irritating older person who must be got rid of in various ingenious ways.  "Enna Hittims" is a twist on this, and must have been inspired by the final pun of Magic Markers really being magic, and bringing Anne's story people to life.  I really like that one.  (Funny how both DWJ stories featuring girls recovering from long illnesses have them named Ann/e!) I have to say, I'm not a fan of "Nad and Dan adn Quaffy."  Maybe because I don't like coffee?  That story just really doesn't speak to me, though it&

This Is How Your Marriage Ends

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 This Is How Your Marriage Ends: A Hopeful Approach to Saving Relationships, by Matthew Fray This book comes out tomorrow, and I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review.  Matthew Fray went viral a few years ago with a blog post about how little things had -- um -- frayed his marriage until it broke.  There were some big things too, but what it had come down to, he finally figured out, was that he had consistently not respected his wife's feelings.  He had, without ever really meaning to, thoughtlessly ignored what she tried to communicate. So this is a relationship book that is very definitely written to men.  Fray writes with kind of a dude-bro voice, a very 'I'm just like you' attitude.  This is not to say that there's nothing here for women to benefit from (I think I did), but really this is a guy writing to other guys, trying to give a different perspective.   Fray feels that most 'ordinary' breakups (sans abuse, etc.) come from a lack of