Today I’m repeating a blog post I wrote two years ago not long after the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. In light of Friday’s white supremacists’ terrorism and murder spree at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, I think it’s worth repeating. My August 21, 2017 blog post addressed racism in the United States, but racism and religious intolerance exists around the world.
Christchurch, New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the last
places we thought would see racial and religious hatred on the scale it saw on
March 15, 2019. Ironically, that’s the very reason the perpetrators chose it as
“Today’s blog post highlights the first paragraph of The Dry Grass of August, Anna Jean Mayhew’s debut novel. That paragraph is a great hook, for it draws you in and conveys that there’s bound to be a good story in the coming pages. Here it is:
“In August of 1954, we took our
first trip without Daddy, and Stell got to use the driver’s license she’d had
such a fit about. It was just a little card saying she was Estelle Annette
Watts, that she was white, with hazel eyes and brown hair. But her having a
license made that trip different from any others, because if she hadn’t had it,
we never would have been stuck in Sally’s Motel Park in Claxton, Georgia, where
we went to buy fruitcakes and had a wreck instead. And Mary would still be with
us.” ~ Anna Jean Mayhew in The Dry Grass of August
“The Dry Grass of August is a novel that takes you to the American South in the days of lawfully-mandated racial segregation. It is written from the point-of-view of a 13-year-old white girl from Charlotte, North Carolina. It sheds light on how it was in the 1950s for a black maid, Mary Luther, traveling from North Carolina to Florida with her white employer, Mrs. Watts, and the four Watts children. Mary couldn’t eat in restaurants, couldn’t sleep in motels, and couldn’t use public bathrooms because they were the legal domain of white people.
“Mary Luther is in constant but often subtle danger. She was, no doubt, apprehensive and in danger even when the members of the white family she was riding with were unaware. That unawareness is today referred to as “white privilege.” When one lives his entire life as a member of the predominant and ruling race, he enjoys privileges and advantages of which he isn’t even conscious.
“The Watts children witness things along the way to Florida that open their eyes to how differently whites and blacks are treated in the United States. They cannot return home to Charlotte unchanged.
“In light of the August 12, 2017 violence
“I chose the opening paragraph of The Dry Grass of August as my blog topic for today many weeks ago. When I selected it and put it on my blog schedule, I had no idea I would be writing it in the aftermath of the tragedy in Virginia of last weekend. I did not anticipate writing a 1,000-word blog post around that paragraph.
“Although published in 2011, The Dry Grass of August speaks to us today as, in light of the murder of Heather Heyer and other violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, Americans are having a conversation like never before about race relations. That conversation is long overdue and painful. It will not and cannot be a short conversation.
“For all the progress that has been made between the races in my 64 years, it is abhorrent and repulsive to me that in 2017 there are Ku Klux Klan members, white supremacists, and Neo-Nazis not only living among us but being emboldened by the words, actions, and inactions of President Donald J. Trump. It is Mr. Trump’s lack of moral leadership that has added fuel to the fire and given bigots a green light to publicly spew their hate.
“I had hoped to keep politics out of my blog, but I cannot remain silent. This is bigger than politics. This is morals and humanity and freedom. Freedom to live without fear. My blog is not a huge platform, but it does give me an avenue through which to speak. My blog has 1,300 followers [update: 1,500+ as of March 18, 2019] from all over the world. I don’t want my blog followers in other countries to think Americans are vicious and at each other’s throats. That is not who we are.
“Whereas the people who doggedly hung onto the myth that white people were a superior race used to cowardly hide their faces and identities under white hoods and robes, they now demonstrate and march with torches in regular street clothes. When they marched in Charlottesville last weekend, some of them were outfitted with helmets and shields, making it difficult for the anti-Nazi protesters to tell the difference between police officers and the white supremacists.
“There is no room in the United States of America for Neo-Nazis and other hate mongers. The good citizens of this country cannot allow the current occupant of the White House to lead us down this destructive road by his lame condemnation of evil and his attempt to equate the people carrying Nazi flags with the people who were there to protest their hateful agenda.
“Three of the founding pillars of the United States are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to assemble. I’m glad I live in a country where people can voice their opinions; however, no American has the constitutional right to threaten, terrorize, or murder other people simply because of the color of their skin or the way they choose to worship God.
“The United States is in a watershed moment. We will come out a better people on the other side of the current self-examination and soul searching because we are a good and decent people. We are not who Mr. Trump would try to make you think we are. We are so much better than that.”
P.S. Added on March
Still a watershed moment
Nineteen months later, the United
States is still in a watershed moment. Racism has a 500-year history here. It
started when the first white European explorers and settlers arrived and
started pushing the Native Americans off the land. It continued as each wave of
Africans, Irish, Italians, Chinese,
Hispanics, Middle Easterners – it didn’t matter what color they were, what
language they spoke, or what religion they professed. It seems to be human
nature for every group of people – particularly, white people — to feel
superior to another group or groups of people.
We live in challenging times when
certain politicians and social media have emboldened cowards to act on their
Since my last blog post
I returned to a short story I
started writing a few weeks ago. I added 1,750 words to it on Friday and
Saturday. It felt good to write historical fiction again.
my next blog post
Be sure and look for Anna Jean
Mayhew’s much-anticipated next novel, Tomorrow’s Bread, which will be
released March 26, 2019.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Forgiving Kind, by Donna Everhart.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have
quality writing time today.
The topic for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow is “Two Quotes by Inspirational Women.” The #TwoForTuesday writing prompts are supplied by Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog found at https://educatednegra.blog.
Thank you for reading my blog. You
could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to
read my blog.
As is obvious from the title, today’s #TwoForTuesday blog
post prompt is Two Books Written by Women of Color. Thank you, Rae of Rae’s
Reads and Reviews blog for supplying the prompt.
I’ve chosen two books that have nothing in common except
they’re both written by women of color.
Left to Tell: Discovering God
Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Of the nearly one million Rwandans who lost their lives in
the 1994 genocide in that country, college student Immaculee Ilibagiza lost
most of her relatives. This book is her telling of the story. Indeed, she believes she was “left to tell.”
Ms. Ilibagiza and seven other women hid in the bathroom in a
local pastor’s house for 91 days during the violence. During her ordeal she was
able to come to understand the true meaning of forgiveness. Afterwards, she
sought out and forgave her family’s killers.
This is an extraordinary story!
Jackie Tales: The Magic of
Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence
Switching gears completely from Left to Tell, the other book I’m highlighting today is Jackie Tales: The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of
Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence. Ms. Torrence was a reference librarian in
High Point, North Carolina and a master storyteller.
This delightful book not only includes 16 folk tales but
also has Ms. Torrence’s stage directions so the reader can learn many
techniques of good storytelling.
With an introduction by Ossie Davis and a host of up-close
photographs illustrating the wonderfully expressive face of Ms. Torrence, this
book is a real gem for anyone aspiring to be a writer, a storyteller, or an
entertaining reader to children.
Ms. Torrence had quite a gift and the storytelling world
will never forget her. I found myself laughing out loud as I read each of the
stories in this book. Bravo!
Until my next blog
Let’s continue the
Have you read either of today’s books?
Have you ever considered honing your storytelling talent and
sharing your gift with others?
Last Monday I blogged about five of the ten books I
read last month. Today I’m sharing my thoughts about the other five books I
read in February. Four of them are nonfiction. Any month I get to read ten
books is a good month!
Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring
that Saved the American Revolution,
by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
I really liked this book! I was intrigued by the
title. Although I always liked studying American history and minored in history
in college, this book was full of information I’d either forgotten or never
I’m going to show my ignorance here. The chapter about
Benedict Arnold was especially enlightening. We all (I hope!) learned in
elementary school that he was a traitor during the American Revolution. I
realized when I started reading the chapter about him that that’s all I knew
about him. I didn’t know what he did to betray America. If you don’t know the
story, I suggest you read this book or do other research on your own. You might
be surprised what you learn. Or, maybe I’m the only one who didn’t learn this bit
It saddened me to learn that one of the six American
spies was a woman whose name is lost to history. She is only remembered today
as Number 355. Each of the spies had a three digit number, just like James Bond
of 007 fame! Number 355 was found out by the British and taken prisoner on a
ship in New York harbor. It isn’t known if she survived her ordeal as a
prisoner of war.
Why are the contributions made by women swept under
the rug and not mentioned in history books? I know the answer. I’m just
throwing the question out in frustration for you to ponder.
by Tana French
I kept seeing publicity for and reviews for Tana
French’s new book, The Witch Elm, and
I realized I’d never read any of her books. Instead of starting with her
latest, I decided to read In the Woods,
which is the first book in her Dublin Murder Squad Series. It was published in
2007, and is set in the Dublin, Ireland area in 1984 and 2004.
The book begins in 1984 with the disappearance of two
children and the survival of one of their companions. Then the story shifts to
2004 to Detective Bob Ryan, who sees too many similarities between his
experience as that survivor and the mystery of a missing 12-year-old girl.
Bob Ryan keeps his past a secret as he and fellow-detective
Cassie Maddox try to solve the girl’s disappearance. Ryan hopes in the process
they will also solve the mystery of his own experience as a young boy.
That said, I did not finish reading In the Woods. The premise held such
promise, but one-third of the way into the book I lost interest in the
conversations the characters had that did not seem to move the story along. I
wanted to like the book and read the rest of the series. But alas, there were
too many other books calling my name.
a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So
Customers Will Listen
by Donald Miller
This book caught my attention because it had “Story Brand” in the title, but I almost didn’t read it since it had “Customers” in the subtitle. Everywhere the book said, “customer,” I mentally substituted “reader.” That worked pretty well in most cases.
I was unable to download an image of the book for my blog post today.
Here are a few takeaways from the book:
“The fact is, pretty websites don’t sell things. Words
“The reality is we aren’t just in a race to get our
products to market; we’re also in a race to communicate why our customers need
those products in their lives.” (In other words, my challenge is not only
getting my novel published, I must also get across to potential readers why
they will benefit from reading my book.)
“The first mistake brands make is they fail to focus
on the aspects of their offer that will help people survive and thrive.” (In
other words, how will reading my novel help the reader thrive? Oh my!)
“The second mistake brands make is they cause their
customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.”
(In other words, I need to be able to “pitch” my novel is as few words as
“In a story, audiences must always know who the hero
is, what the hero wants, who the hero has to defeat to get what they want, what
tragic thing will happen if the hero doesn’t win, and what wonderful thing will
happen if they do.” (I knew that about stories, but I didn’t know the same was
true in retail.)
“If you confuse, you lose.” (Just because I know what
I’m trying to say or write doesn’t mean anyone else understands it.)
Becoming, by Michele Obama
This was a book that I listened to. It was read by Michelle Robinson Obama, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her talk about her growing up years, college years, working so hard to excel in law school, meeting Barack Obama, working in a big law firm and coming to the realization that she was not going to be fulfilled by practicing law, finding a new career path, the struggles of trying so long to have children before Malia and Sasha finally came along, being under a microscope while living in the White House, and how much it hurt when people told lies about her husband and herself.
I know some people do not like Michelle Obama, and I don’t understand why. They might have a better opinion about her if they read – or better yet, listened to – Becoming. I enjoyed every bit of it!
Notice: A True Story of High Finance,
Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice,
by Bill Browder
This book was recommended by one of my loyal blog readers, Alison. (She has a keen sense of humor and often reveals it in her blog, “A Pierman Sister” — https://piermanparis.com/.)
Many of the details of how venture investing works
were beyond my interest or understanding, but I couldn’t seem to stop reading
This is the story of the author’s experience in the
world of high finance in eastern Russia. What I know about high finance could
easily fit on the head of a pin. I’ve never really needed to know the details
of high finance. I don’t move in those circles. Nevertheless, the book is
intriguing and sheds some timely light on current USA-Russia interactions.
Notice gives insightful background about how Russia
transitioned from communism to capitalism and why capitalism doesn’t work in
Russia the same way it works in America. There is a different mindset in Russia
after decades of communist rule and thought.
I’ll share a few quotes from this political thriller:
“It bears mentioning that in Russia there is no
respect for the individual and his or her rights. People can be sacrificed for
the needs of the state, used as shields, trading chips, or even simple fodder.
If necessary, anyone can disappear.”
“The moral is simple:
when it comes to money, Russians will gladly – gleefully, even –
sacrifice their own success to screw their neighbor.”
“The major downside to what I was doing was that I was
seriously disrespecting a Russian oligarch in public, and in Russia that had
often led to lethal results in the past. The imagination is a horrible thing
when it’s preoccupied with exactly how someone might try to kill you.”
Seizing an opportunity that was too good to pass up,
Mr. Browder founded what was to become the largest investment fund in Russia
after the demise of the Soviet Union. Quoting from Goodreads.com: “But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs
who were robbing the companies in which he was investing, Vladimir Putin turned
on him and, in 2005, had him expelled from Russia.”
Mr. Browder’s offices in Moscow were raided in 2007. His
attorney was arrested and eventually murdered by prison guards in 2009. Mr.
Browder wrote this book in an effort to bring justice for his deceased lawyer
and to expose what takes place in Russian business dealings right up to
This book should give us pause.
my last blog post
Two days this past week, no one from the United States
has looked at my blog. What’s with that?
Carolyn W. and her team at WordPress.com continued to
work on the problem I was having with the “like” buttons on other people’s
blogs. They didn’t stop until they’d figured out that it was a browser issue.
Now instead of using Firefox, I must use Chrome. Kuddos to WordPress.com’s
support chat for getting to the bottom of this!
my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read.
I’ll finish reading The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber today. I’ve
enjoyed it. It is set in what is now Capitol Reef National Park in Utah – a place
I had the pleasure of visiting in 2002.
If you’re a writer, I have you have
quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.
Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post
tomorrow: Two Books Written by Women of Color. Thank you for providing
the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog.
Thank you for reading my blog. You
could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to
read my blog.
continue the conversation
Have you read any of the five books I talked about
today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest
in reading any of these books?
I enjoyed participating in February so I look forward
to blogging the four Tuesdays in March using these prompts.
It was tempting to list two books that readily came to
mind, but I decided to give today’s prompt some deeper thought. I reviewed the
list of books I’ve read and the two I chose to write about might not be selected
by anyone else doing Rae’s #TwoForTuesday challenge.
by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi
Few books I read in 2018 left an impression on me like
Climbing Over Grit, by Laleh Chini
and her son. It left me wondering how any women raised in Iran have the
strength, resolve, and grit to overcome the oppression that men inflict on
“I have been following Laleh Chini’s blog, “A Voice from Iran” for quite a
while, but I had somehow missed knowing that she was writing a book. When she
announced that her book, Climbing Over Grit, was available on
preorder, I immediately ordered it. Laleh has a gift for storytelling, so I
knew her book would be good.
“Little did I know that Laleh’s book was based on some experiences within
her own family! The book is written in first-person point-of-view, but I still
didn’t catch on that it was written in her mother’s voice until I came to a
page well into the book that said something like, “The second daughter was
named Laleh.” I gasped out loud! It was then that I couldn’t put the book down.
I finished reading it at 4:30 in the morning.
“I still cringe to think about some of Laleh’s family members being
subjected to arranged child marriage and the abuse that often goes along with
“Fortunately for her readers, Laleh got out of Iran at the age of 16 and
came to the United States. She now resides in Canada. The photographs and
Iranian folktales she shares in her blog have helped me get a picture of an
Iran I didn’t know existed.
“Climbing Over Grit is not a pleasant read, but I highly recommend
it to anyone wanting to know more about the child bride culture of Iran. Her
blog can be found at https://avoicefromiran.wordpress.com/.”
Taster, by V.S. Alexander
I’m sure somewhere in my study of history I knew that
tasters had to sample Adolph Hitler’s food before he ate it, but it wasn’t
something I’d given a lot of thought to until I read The Taster, by V.S. Alexander. What The Taster shines a bright light on is the fact that Hitler’s
tasters were all women because in his warped mind women were replaceable.
I’ve read The
Magdalene Girls and The Taster,
by V.S. Alexander and I am impatiently waiting to rise to the top of the
waitlist at the library for The Irishman’s
Daughter. Alexander is fast becoming one of my favorite historical fiction
“The Taster is the story of a young woman in need of a job and
living in Hitler’s Germany. The job she got was not a job she wanted. She was
selected to be a food and drink taster for Adolph Hitler. Hitler was mortified
of being poisoned, so all his food and drink had to be tasted in advance by a
replaceable woman. If a taster died, she could be replaced. Hitler, of course,
did not see himself as replaceable.”
The life of a food taster for Hitler was beyond
stressful, as we can only imagine. The tasters didn’t know from one meal,
snack, or reception to the next if that would be their last bit of food or
Wow! Where do I start? Although it was the shortest month of the year, February was jam-packed with good books. I read a variety of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and “how-to” books.
Truth be known, I started reading several of the books in January and finished them in February. Each one probably warranted its own blog post, but I’ve condensed my thoughts into two blog posts – today’s and the one on March 11.
Here’s what I thought of each book, in no particular
and Again, by Barbara Delinsky
I enjoyed this novel by Barbara Delinsky about a woman,
Mackenzie Cooper, who runs a red light and causes an accident in which her
five-year-old daughter is killed. The event results in a divorce and an
estrangement between Mackenzie and her mother.
In an effort to leave her sad past behind and start a
new life, Mackenzie moves from Massachusetts to Devon, Vermont and adopts a new
name. Things go well for her until her ex-husband shows up in the small town
where Mackenzie lives. It turns out that Mackenzie isn’t the only resident of
Devon living with a secret.
I gave this story of forgiveness four stars on
Goodreads.com. I was surprised to see many two-star ratings for it on that
site. With an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, from the reviews, it
appears people either really like it or don’t.
Character Arc: The Masterful Author’s
Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development, by K.M Weiland
This book is an invaluable resource for anyone writing
fiction. It helped me focus on the protagonist in the novel I’m writing and
organize her journey step-by-step throughout her story. The questions Ms.
Weiland included in her book helped me to know my main character better, which
enables me to write with more confidence than I had before.
If you’re learning to write fiction, I highly
recommend Creating Character Arc: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story
Structure, Plot, and Character Development, by K.M Weiland. Or perhaps you
are a fan of fiction and you’re curious about the structure of a good novel.
Then, I think you’ll find this “how-to” book interesting.
Week in Winter,
by Maeve Binchy
This book was a bit of a surprise for me. A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy was
the January selection for the Rocky River Readers Book Club. Since it’s not
historical fiction, suspense, or a mystery, I didn’t expect to like it as much
as I did. That’s one of the good things about being in a book club. Sometimes
members are exposed to a book genre they wouldn’t usually select for
Although I rarely listen to an audio book, an episode
of vertigo prompted me to borrow the book on CD from the public library. The
accent of professional reader, Rosalyn Landor, was delightful and helped to
keep the setting in Ireland clearly in mind. The fact that I enjoyed listening to a novel was a bonus.
The author, Maeve Binchy, was a master of
characterization. Each character has such a unique backstory or quirk, you’ll
have no trouble keeping them straight in your head. In A Week in Winter, each of the ten chapters tells the backstory of a
different guest or pair of guests at The Stone House on the west coast of
Ireland. Ms. Binchy weaves their stories together perfectly as she brings them
all together as guests at the inn the first week the old house was open for
by Diane Chamberlain
After enjoying listening to the Maeve Binchy book, I
decided to give the audio version of The
Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain a try. Ms.Chamberlain weaves
quite a complicated story and cast of characters together in this novel set in
Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and Robeson County, North Carolina.
One of three close friends commits suicide, leaving
the other two women trying to find clues as to why Nicole felt that taking her
own life was the only option she had. Layer by layer they peel back the parts
of Nicole’s past they knew nothing about.
There was a horrible accident with a baby Nicole
delivered as a midwife. What choice did Nicole make after the accident that
changed the course of not on her life but also the lives of other families?
the Crawdads Sing,
by Delia Owens
The prose in this book is beautiful. Delia Owens
writes about the fauna of the marshlands of the North Carolina coast from a
place of scientific expertise. This is her debut novel, but she has co-authored
three nonfiction books about nature in Africa. She worked in Africa as a
wildlife scientist but now lives in Idaho.
As an aspiring novelist, I’ve been cautioned about
using dialect in my writing. A little bit of it can help put the reader in the
location and time of the story; however, using it too much makes the reading more
difficult and slow and also pulls the reader out of the story. Where the Crawdads Sing is a perfect
example of this mistake.
I loved the descriptions of the wildlife native to the
marshes of coastal North Carolina. Ms. Owens painted such a pictures with words
that I could have visualized the marshes even if I’d never seen coastal
I loved the story in Where the Crawdads Sing. I was interested in the main character,
Kya, from the beginning. It was a real “page turner” due to the life Kya lived
and the strong character she was. I devoured the book in 48 hours; however, the
dialect was over the top. There was just too much Southern and African-American
dialect. The dialect repeatedly slowed me down and pulled me out of the story.
If not for the excessive dialect and the Confederate
battle flag being in the county courtroom in 1970, I would have given it six
stars out of a possible five.
my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading/listening
to The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber;
Jacksonland, by Steve Instep; and Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan.
If you’re a writer, I have you have productive writing
time and your projects are moving right along.
I’ve enjoyed participating in the #TwoForTuesday blog
prompts in February and can’t wait to see what Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews
has in store for us in March. Today’s prompt was “Two books that Help you sleep
If you’ve followed by blog for a few months, you know that I suffer with insomnia. My sleep is way out of whack. I have trouble staying awake during the day and trouble going to sleep at night. My doctor has referred me to a sleep coach. Yes, it’s gotten that bad.
When challenged to write about two books that help me sleep
at night, I was hard-pressed to come up with a response. The “two” I settled on
are The Bible and just about any audio book. I know – that’s more than two
actual books and not very specific, but they’re what I came up with.
1. The Bible
This isn’t just the correct “Sunday School” or children’s sermon answer. This is my real answer. My nighttime insomnia aside, the book that allows me to give my troubles and worries to God so I’m not tossing and turning and wringing my hands is The Bible. I still do more than my share of tossing and turning, but it’s not because I despair.
I find The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language the easiest to understand and, therefore, the most comforting. The Message is a paraphrase of The Bible and was written by Presbyterian minister Eugene H. Peterson.
2. Just about any audio book
Until recently, I swore off
listening to any books. I found it stressful. I felt like someone was talking
“at” me and wouldn’t shut up. Got on my last nerve kind of stress.
Then, I got vertigo. In fact, I had two kinds of vertigo. One has cleared up, but the other still has me in physical therapy. Using the computer and reading tend to trigger an episode. Therefore, I’ve listened to two audio books so far this month plus part of a third. Even the ones I enjoy, eventually put me to sleep.