Three Books Read in February 2022

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you know February was not an easy month for me. Various events cut into my reading time, but today I’m writing about the books I read during that short month of 28 days. They represent three different genres. That’s appropriate because my reading interests are all over the place.


Violeta, by Isabel Allende

Violeta, by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is becoming one of my favorite novelists. I listened to her latest novels, Violeta, on CD and thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to the English translation of the Spanish original.

Violeta is written in the form of a letter to Violeta’s adult grandson and follows Violeta from her birth in 1920 during the Influenza Pandemic to the end of her life during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Born into a wealthy family, her father loses everything in the Great Depression which hits South America a little later than in the United States and Europe. The family loses their house and must move out into the hinterlands where they must adapt to life without luxuries such as electricity.

Woven into this story is a character who comes into Violeta’s life at an early age to serve as her English governess; however, it turns out the woman isn’t from England and isn’t at all what Violeta’s parents are expecting.

This is a delightful novel. Violeta would be a good Isabel Allende book for you to start with, if you’ve never read one of her novels. If you’ve read her other books, you know what a treat this one will be.


Our North Carolina Heritage, compiled by Charlotte Ivey Hastings, 1960

This book is well off the beaten path and one you probably can’t find. Just by happenstance, I purchased a copy dirt cheap at a public library used book sale several years ago. I added it to my to-be-read shelves and forgot about it.

I saw it on my bookshelf in February and decided to read it. It isn’t a history book that one can totally rely on for accuracy because it is a compilation of oral history stories. Many of them were written by junior high students.

However… (and that’s a huge HOWEVER), I found lots of little gems of North Carolina history in it that I’ve never seen or heard elsewhere. They are the bits of history that never made it into the history books but offer someone like me a jumping off point to do additional research.

One thing I was particularly glad to find was that the book gave information about a number of women and their bravery and contributions to the patriot cause in the American Revolution. Women have generally been omitted from the history books.

Here’s an example of something I don’t recall hearing or reading elsewhere: By the end of the 18th century, Jewish peddlers in North Carolina traded for eggs since they couldn’t easily come by Kosher meat.

The book reminds me of the series of local history books compiled in the 1960s by Mrs. Mabel Rumple Blume’s North Carolina history students at Harrisburg School in Harrisburg, NC. Every year for five or so years, Mrs. Blume’s students were sent out into the then rural Cabarrus County to interview the oldest residents to capture local history. The students won statewide first-place honors year after year for their books which covered general history, mail delivery and post offices, and grist mills. Much of that history would have been lost forever if not for Mrs. Blume and her students.

With that work in mind, I very much appreciated the contents of Our North Carolina Heritage. It made me sad that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library system had made the decision several years ago to weed the book from its collection and sell it for pennies. Sometimes people are put in positions of decision-making who don’t appreciate the true value of what they have.


The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield

This nonfiction book was recommended by Jane Friedman in her January 11, 2022 article, “To Everyone Who Wants Me to Read Their Writing and Tell Them What to Do.” Here’s the link: (To Everyone Who Wants Me to Read Their Writing and Tell Them What to Do | Jane Friedman Ms. Friedman has never steered me wrong, so I checked it out of the public library.

The book is divided into the following three parts: “Resistance ~ Defining the Enemy;” “Combating Resistance ~ Turning Pro;” and “Beyond Resistance ~ The Higher Realm.”

Part One explains that, “Resistance is the enemy within” when we attempt to do something worthwhile. Mr. Pressfield wrote that the rule of thumb for resistance is, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” We fear that inner resistance, but once we “Master that fear… we conquer resistance.”

Mr. Pressfield wrote that resistance is often manifested in the form of procrastination, which can become a habit.

In Part Two, Mr. Pressfield wrote that an artist must stop thinking of himself as an amateur and start seeing himself as a professional. He wrote, “A professional does not take failure (or success) personally.”

He also wrote, “A professional recognizes her limitations. She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows she can only be a professional at one thing.”

In Part Three, Mr. Pressfield wrote that we just do it. We do it every day. It’s work, and we do it. He also cautions artists from thinking of themselves in a hierarchy. In other words, art of all types is not a competition.


Since my last blog post

Every day has brought horrifying images of the suffering and destruction in Ukraine.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t receive an acknowledgement for some research advice I sought for the writing of my novel, but I won’t let that slow me down any longer. That’s life.

I got back to work on a project that relates to my church. I started it 20 years ago and it’s been on the back burner now for 15 years. I’ve been inventorying my unfinished projects lately. It’s overwhelming. I need to complete some, even if doing so cuts into my writing and reading time.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading an interesting book about 1816 – known as “The Year Without a Summer.”

May the world continue to condemn Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Janet

Writing talents from my mother

I’d like to think I inherited my writing talent from my mother, but she set the bar high. Today would have been her 104th birthday.

My mother was one of 10 children. She was the third youngest. She grew up on a farm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, attended first grade a one-room school where all 11 grades were taught in one room.  When she graduated valedictorian of a consolidated high school in Charlotte, some of her city classmates were displeased. How dare a farm girl make the highest grades in the class! She went on to major in French and English at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro during the Great Depression. After graduating, she taught French and English on the high school level for five years (also during the Great Depression, being paid $70.00 per month) until her marriage and second career as a homemaker and mother.

Growing up with an English teacher for a mother can be frustrating at times. Such a child is not allowed to make grammatical errors, even in jest. Such a child is taught from birth to use the correct verb tense. You might say the use of an incorrect verb tense was my mother’s pet peeve. By her example, I grew up ever-vigilant in catching grammatical errors I heard on TV or read in a newspaper. Although my mother died more than two decades ago, I still think of her and cringe  every time I hear an error by someone on TV who “should know better” or read a mistake in a news article written by someone who “should know better.” It wasn’t until I became an adult that I appreciated what my mother did for me. It wasn’t until I tried to become a writer that I became painfully aware that I should have paid more attention to punctuation in English class.

My mother loved teaching and late in her life she wrote and self-published a history of the first 100 years of organized women’s work in our church congregation. She even wrote a little play to accompany that 100-year milestone.

I was a young adult when she wrote that book, and I did not fully appreciate her accomplishments. For one thing, I just always took for granted what my mother did. I assumed all mothers could make doll clothes and some of their children’s clothing, even if they’d never had a sewing class. I assumed all mothers taught their toddlers to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in two languages. I assumed all mothers knew how to make doll cakes for their daughters’ birthdays. I assumed all mothers could teach themselves how to knit and crochet. I assumed any mother could write a book. Wasn’t that just what all mothers did?

It wasn’t until I reached my 40s and she was gone that I realized just how gifted my mother was. I’ve had sewing and quilting lessons, but I still struggle to darn a sock or sew on a button — things she did with ease. I can make a cake and ice it, but it would take me all day to make a doll cake and it wouldn’t be as elaborate and pretty as the ones she made. It wasn’t until I took a fiction writing course at Queens University of Charlotte in 2001 and started writing short stories and longer fiction that I realized that writing is hard work. My mother made all these and a host of other things look simple. I’m 63 years old and I still can’t get all the components of a meal ready on time or at the same time.

Mama, how in the world did you do it?