Words of Khaled Hosseini

I read that Khaled Hosseini had a new book coming out titled Sea Prayer, so I got on the waitlist at the public library as soon as it was ordered.

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini; illustrated by Dan Williams

I failed to notice that it was a juvenile book.

Thank goodness I didn’t know it was a children’s book. If I’d known, I probably wouldn’t have checked it out.

I recommend this book to everyone, no matter your age, as long as the reader or listener is old enough to understand something of the plight of refugees.

Mr. Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and now lives in California. He is beloved author around the world for his novels The Kite Runner, And the Mountains Echoed, and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Sea Prayer is a wonderfully illustrated in watercolors by artist Dan Williams.

The book was inspired by the story we all heard about Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 trying to reach a safe land.

The following words were for me the most powerful in Sea Prayer. Due to copyright restrictions, I cannot quote quite as much as I’d like. Therefore, to set the stage, the writer is talking about how unwelcome they are as refugees. Then, he writes the following lines:

“But I hear your mother’s voice,

over the tide,

and she whispers in my ear,

‘Oh, but if they saw, my darling.

Even half of what you have.

If only they saw.

They would say kinder things, surely.’”

Indeed. If we had only seen half of what that three-year-old boy had seen, perhaps we would say kinder things to and about refugees.

Since my last blog post

I’ve read several good books, and I look forward to blogging about them on November 5.

I’ve also reread some tips about blogging. No doubt, you’ll be glad to know that I was reminded that it’s not about me.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m reading My Dear Hamilton:  A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. .

If you’re a writer, I hope you have uninterrupted writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation. Would you consider reading a children’s book and be open to the possibility that it might make you look at a world problem from a different perspective? Have you read Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini? What did you like or dislike about it?

Janet

My Heart is in Eastern North Carolina

Due to Hurricane Florence, I’m a few hours later than usual getting my Monday blog post out. I live 200 inland in North Carolina. I’m happy to report that we came through unscathed although we had nearly 8 inches of rain in 48 hours. My prayers are for relatives, friends, and strangers who live closer to the coast and received upwards of 30 inches of rain. I lived in the eastern part of the state for a few years when I was a young adult, and my heart breaks to see the pictures of the current historic flooding there.

The photo below is a non-copyrighted photograph I downloaded from the internet. It is a typical picture of the current flooding in eastern North Carolina.

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Flooding in eastern North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, September 2018.

It seemed frivolous this weekend for me to write a blog post about my planned idea of highlighting a line I like from a novel. This afternoon I still feel guilty for being able to sit in the comfort of my home, with electricity and no danger of flooding, to write such a post. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead as planned.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

I wrote about this novel and another book I read in August in my September 3, 2018 blog post (Two Thought-Provoking Books in August.)

In case you haven’t read this novel, it revolves around Count Rostov, who is under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Over the decades, he befriends a variety of people in the hotel. Among those is the hotel’s maintenance man. They sat on the roof of the hotel all night drinking coffee, eating rye bread with lilac honey, and sharing memories from their younger years. Although from very different economic backgrounds, they found common ground in their memories of Moscow.

A quote from the novel

“So the summer sun began to rise, the fire began to die, and the bees began to circle overhead, the two men spoke of days from their childhoods when the wagon wheels rattled in the road, and the dragonflies skimmed the grass, and the apple trees blossomed for as far as the eye could see.” ~ From A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

That sentence is a beautiful piece of prose. The author not only puts the reader in the present but also in the past – all seamlessly in just 55 words.

Since my last blog post

It seems like all my sister and I did last week was anticipate Hurricane Florence and make preparations for its arrival.

We stocked up on batteries and bottled water. (When you live out in the country an depend on your own well for water, you have to think of those things.)

We put photo albums and other prized possessions in lidded plastic boxes to try to protect them rain in case a tree crashed through the house.

We checked on the southwest corner of the basement to make sure it was ready for us with quilts, etc. in case of a tornado warning. We made sure all drains in the yard were free of leaves.

We gathered important papers and secured them in Ziploc bags along with photocopies of the backs and fronts of our identification, insurance cards, and credit cards.

We bought ice so we could keep a few perishable foods in a little ice chest in the event we lost electricity. We ate some of the food we had in our freezer for later use.

We made sure we had bread, crackers, and peanut butter on hand to see us through a possible week or so without electricity. (It’s happened before.)

When a natural disaster knocks on your door, you realize what’s important. First on that list was our personal safety and the safety of those people nearer the coast. Most “things” can be replaced, or you might realize they weren’t really important after all.

We’ve begun to put photo albums back in the bookshelves. We’ve started drinking the water we collected in all pitchers and canning jars. We’ve tried to let the people who were concerned about our safety know that we are all right.

Until my next blog post

I will continue to put items back in place and perhaps decide there are things I should part with. I will be able to get back to my usual routine of life. I will eventually take for granted water, food, and electricity. However, my thoughts and prayers will be with my relatives, friends, and fellow North Carolinians who are still today in a state of emergency with disaster all around them.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m having trouble concentrating on a book right now.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Janet

GPS for an Enameled Toaster

Three of my last four blog posts have been sort of “heavy” in content, so we’re going to have a change of pace today. For those of you who prefer shorter and not-so-serious blog posts, this one’s for you.

I don’t have GPS for my vehicle. To give you an idea how old my vehicle is let me just saw the cassette tape deck works great.

After hearing a few stories from friends who’ve had less than stellar experiences with the device, I’m not sure I want a GPS.

Less by Greer
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

The following quote from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer makes me think the author has had some memorable adventures while using a GPS. This quote comes from the part of the book when the hapless Arthur Less is visiting Japan:

“. . . he takes the wheel of what basically feels like an enameled toaster and follows the clear, perfect signs out of Kyoto, toward the hill country. Less is grateful the signs are clear because the GPS, after giving crisp, stern directions to the highway, becomes drunk on its own power outside the city limits, then gives out completely and places Arthur Less in the Sea of Japan.” ~ from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

The author paints a couple of vivid pictures with these words. Instead of saying, “a small car” or “a sub-compact car,” he gives a humorous image of a car that “feels like an enameled toaster.”

Then, although we’re not meant to take it literally, we see Less in this car the size of a toaster floating on (or sinking in) the Sea of Japan.

Vivid imagery doesn’t just happen in a book. It takes a good writer to carefully choose his or her words.

Since my last blog post

I’ve gotten back into some genealogy work. That’s been a hobby of mine since my father died when I was 24 years old and I realized I had failed to ask him a lot of questions about his family.

My last blog post prompted more comments than I usually get. I enjoyed discussing cultural appropriation; Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright; and A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles with a good number of you.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Paterson. I’ve never read a James Patterson novel before and thought this might be a good one to start with. My political science background keeps showing up in my reading choices lately.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Janet

“Defeated cultures behave strangely.”

(I set out to blog about a paragraph I liked from The Quantum Spy, a novel by David Ignatius. My thoughts, as usual, took me in some unexpected directions.)

As I write this on Sunday evening, the one-year anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia is being remembered across the United States and marked by demonstrations in Washington, DC. Heather Heyer was killed while peacefully protesting against the white supremacists who were marching and spewing vile racist chants at the base of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville last year.

Our nation’s president said, “Very fine people on both sides.”

No, Mr. Trump. Nazis and white supremacists are not fine people. Fine people are not Nazis and white supremacists.

A quote from a novel

I have come to understand that fiction can be used to shine a light on reality. Ideally, a history book presents documented facts. A work of fiction allows an author to present differing opinions on an issue in a creative way. In a novel, a character can voice an opinion or a truth in a way we usually don’t find in a history book.

The Quantum Spy
The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius

As I thought about the protests in Washington, DC this weekend, I was reminded of a paragraph from The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius, quoted below. It is written in the point-of-view of a character named Chang. A statue of a Confederate soldier moves Chang to a clearer understanding of the American Civil War.

“There was a curious statue in the middle of the intersection…. It portrayed a Confederate soldier, hat in hand, head down, shoulders slouched as he looked south. It was called ‘Appomattox.’ An inscription under the figure said:  ‘They died in the consciousness of duty faithfully performed.’ It was a monument to defeat. Chang had never admired the Confederacy, but in that moment, he empathized. Defeated cultures behave strangely.” ~ from page 265 of The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius.

Letting go of the US Civil War

It seems like Americans will forever fight the Civil War, which officially ended in 1865 with the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to United States Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.

We as a people need to learn from the Civil War and not repeat the mistakes of the past. We need to stop using the Civil War as an excuse to hate. The Confederate flags and swastika-emblazoned arm bands belong in museums, not on our streets.

Putting away the symbols of division and hate will not solve the problem, though. Taking down Civil War monuments won’t solve the problem. Only honest conversation and empathy can solve this problem.

I am a Southerner. I was born in The South and have lived here all my life. All four of my great-grandfathers and one of my great-great-grandfathers fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Each of them must have felt like they were doing the right thing.

I cannot get into their heads to know or understand their thinking. They were products of their times, and they were prisoners of their times. They did not have the advantage of hindsight.

Defeat is a difficult thing to take and pride is a difficult thing to swallow, but I have to wonder if most of those Confederate veterans even came to believe that it was a good thing the Union won the Civil War.

Distrust and Fear: A national problem

There is a problem within America. A facet of it is racism, but it goes beyond racism. There is distrust between many people of different races, religions, and political views.

For reasons I don’t understand, a lot of people in the United States distrust and fear people who don’t look like them, worship like them, dress like them, vote like them, or talk like them.

Although the United States has been called a “melting pot,” that process has been fraught with strife and misunderstandings. As each new group of immigrants entered the country, they faced discrimination and ridicule; however, eventually, they found acceptance. The following words inscribed at the Statue of Liberty meant something.

“Give me your tired, your poor,                                                                                                   Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;                                                                     The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Statue of Liberty vertical photo
The Statue of Liberty, New York, New York

(Photo by Juan Mayobre on Unsplash)

For reasons I don’t understand, some people can’t get past the Civil War. Some people no longer accept the words of this poem as the embodiment of the American philosophy.

Let the conversation in America begin so the hatred, distrust, and fear can end.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading several books, none of which is compelling me to read to the point that I’m skipping meals or losing sleep. Rule #1:  You don’t have to finish reading a book. I’m still trying to embrace that rule.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Have you had an honest conversation about race, hatred, or distrust with someone of a racial background, religious beliefs, or political stance different from yours?

Let the conversation in America begin so the hatred, distrust, and fear can end.

Janet

Save Us From Ourselves

The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle was one of the novels I read last July. My impressions of the book can be found in my August 8, 2017 blog post, Late July Reading.

I wrote down the following quote from the book in my writer’s notebook. The words were written in the context of temperance in an earlier time in US history; however, in light of the events of the last year and a half, I believe it is apropos to the state we Americans find ourselves in politically in 2018.

“Says right here — he pointed to the paper — ‘I’ve learned that the inalienable truth of America is that its people sometimes must be saved from themselves.'” ~ The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

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The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

You may disagree with me, but I am very concerned about the way things are going in my country. I never intended this blog to be a political platform but if I don’t speak out, I’m part of the problem.

I see facts being ignored, lies being normalized, science denigrated to the sidelines, journalists being shut out of events, children of refugees being separated from their parents with no forethought given for their reunification, our allies being insulted while enemies are being embraced, our justice system under constant attack, and now we’ve been told by the United States president not to believe what we see with our own eyes or hear with our own ears.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are bedrock principles upon which our country was founded. They are under attack from within our country and from outside sources. Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog and express my views.

I have faith in the goodness and the sense of fairness possessed by the majority of Americans. I believe good will ultimately overcome evil, but it won’t be easy.

Since my last blog post

I saw some relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, a second cousin I’ve never met has located me and we look forward to getting acquainted.

With summer half over, I finally got around to doing some “spring cleaning.”

I wonder where May, June, and July went. The warm months are flying by!

Until my next blog post

I hope to visit a bookstore that is under new management since I first called on the owner after the publication of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Support your local independent bookstore!

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware. After reading her novel, The Woman in Cabin 10 two years ago, I wanted to read her next book.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Janet

The Piece of Luggage Less Hasn’t Lost

Today’s blog post highlights several sentences I like from Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Less. Arthur Less is a downtrodden writer who bumbles his way around the world in order to avoid attending a wedding.

Less by Greer
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

I read Less in April and wrote about it in my June 4, 2018 blog post, Reading in May 2018.

“He supposes he is meant to experience humility; by now, he is well acquainted with humility. It is the one piece of luggage he has not lost.” – from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer.

Perhaps you must read the book or at least part of it in order to get the full benefit of that quote, but it encapsulates the dismal life of the 50-year-old failed novelist in this hilarious novel.

Another line I like from the novel because it paints such a vivid mental picture is the following:

“The driver works the horn like an outlaw at a gunfight.” – from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

That analogy leaves no confusion in the mind of the reader. I aspire to write in a way that gives the reader such a clear image of what is happening.

Since my last blog post

I’ve enjoyed reading a variety of books and spending some time with long-time friends and some special cousins.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Korbel Albright, which if I had to sum up in one word it would be “chilling.”

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it!

I look forward to your comments about today’s post. Feel free to share a line you like from a book you’ve read.

Janet

“Had a family once.”

The prologue to Right Behind You, an FBI profiler thriller novel by Lisa Gardner, is in the head of an older Tally. The following first line in the prologue is very telling and sets the stage for the book:

            “Had a family once.” ~ from Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner

That first line packs a punch and insinuates that Tally no longer has a family. You have to keep reading to know the rest of Tally’s fictional story.  He grew up in foster homes after his father was murdered. There are wonderful foster homes and there are not-so-good foster homes. Tally’s experience fell into the latter of those scenarios.

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You may recall that I read Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner last year and wrote about it in my April 1, 2017 blog post, The Authors I Read in March.

Since my last blog post

I continue to declutter my house and, hopefully, my life.

I made more infographics for my various boards on Pinterest, such as The Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains, Historical Fiction, and Harrisburg (#TheBurgNC.) You can look at my Pinterest boards at https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Note to Self: Inspiring Words from Inspiring People, collected and introduced by Gayle King.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it!

Janet