Monday, August 29, 2016

Men We Reaped

Men We Reaped

Adult biography
"We who still live do what we must. Life is a hurricane, and we
board up to save what we can and bow low to the earth to crouch in the
small space of dirt where the wind will not reach. We honor
anniversaries of deaths by cleaning graves and sitting next to them
before fires, sharing food with those who will not eat again...We love
each other fiercely while we live and after we die..."
One of the books that should be up near the top of any Black
Lives Matter reading list is Jesmyn Ward's memoir, Men We Reaped.
Ward grew up poor and black in Mississippi. She was in a world where
racial hostility still created danger, where mothers had to raise
their children and support them from the low pay, hard work jobs they
were allowed to hold, where boys were raised with fewer restrictions
than girls but all too often died young.
Ward lost too many of the guys who mattered most to her. In Men
We Reaped she shares the stories of five of them: three childhood
friends, a cousin, and her only brother. She makes us see clearly and
in poignant detail their lives and personalities. She also points to
factors, such as indifferent schools that shuffled them through
instead of making the most of their talents, that ultimately doomed
them.
In between these chapters she shares her growing up life. She
tells us about the on and off relationship between her parents that
left her mother worn out from cleaning house for rich whites and
having total responsibility for four children, the responsibilities
she herself had to take on early, the self loathing she came to feel
as many in her community did, and the lonliness she experienced as a
scholarship student at a school where she was the only poor black.
She invites us into the world she escaped for college and graduate
school only to be drawn back to.
At the beginning of the book Ward shares several quotes. One by
Harriet Tubman:
"We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the
thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling
and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops,
it was dead men that we reaped."
And Tupac Shakur:
"Young adolescents in our prime live a life of crime,
Though it ain't logical, we hobble through these trying times.
Living blind: Lord help me with my troubled soul.
Why all my homies had to die before they got to grow?"
There is a gap of a century and a half between those times. Why
the Hell hasn't more changed? Why are too many young black men still
being reaped, still dying before they get to grow? These are
questions that should motivate us all to work toward solutions.
Whatever you do, read the book and let it take you way out of
the comfort zone many of us (whites) don't deserve to be in.
On a personal note, the UMaine students are back. After lonely weeks
shambling around a childless, silent house I am more than ready for
their laughter and spontanaity.
A great big shout out goes out to the UMaine students with wishes for
an awesome school year.
jules hathaway


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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trouble the Water

Trouble the Water

Juvenile historical fiction
"There was an uneasy peace between white and colored in
Celeste, and Mr. Renfrew understood how fragile it was, and how
scared colored folks were about breaking it. He himself had a cousin
in Breckinridge County who'd been lynched twenty years before, dragged
from the county jail after he'd been accused of attacking a white
woman. Violence was never far from the surface of any human
relations. Folks were right to fear it."
Trouble the Water is a rather unusual story about a girl, a boy,
an aged dog, and a couple of stranded ghosts. The girl, Callie, is
thrilled to be released from fifth grade by summer vacation. She
writes occasional pieces for a local weekly paper, yearns for
mysteries to solve, and finds just about any other activity preferable
to weeding her mother's garden. The boy, Wendell, is intrigued by his
father's childhood recollection of a run down cabin in the woods.
Perhaps he can find it and turn it into a club house. The old yellow
dog knows his time on earth is nearly up. He has a mission he must
achieve before he departs this mortal coil.
The old dog brings the girl and the boy together. After
achieving an uneasy truce, they begin looking for the old cabin.
There are people who don't approve of them being friends. She is
black; he's white. The year is 1953; the state is Kentucky. An
editorial has just come out in the black paper claiming that the
taxpayer funded swimming pool should be desegregated.
As for the two ghosts--read the book and discover their
identities.
This compelling coming of age story is another gem from an award
winning author...very end of summer read worthy.
On a personal note, my thrift shop research has helped me find some
cool stuff. My favorites have been a musical snow globe with
multicultural angels and a grab bag of cross stitch stuff including
two lovely already done pieces I aim to frame and hang in my studio.
A great big shout out goes out to the people, many of volunteers, who
keep thrift shops open.
jules hathaway


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Friday, August 26, 2016

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons

Adult nonfiction
"Too often the social policies of the United States government
benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. Law protects power and
prosperity; it safeguards wealth; and, by the same token, it
perpetuates the subordinate status of the people on the bottom
(Friedman 1993, 13).
This is particularly the case with the penal system. This
system has penetrated all aspects of the lives of the poor. While
wealth and material success are valued by our culture, the poor are
feared..."
There's a lot going terrifyingly wrong with the American penal
system. The Supreme Court (they that bestowed personhood on
corporations) has declared potential proof of not guiltiness not
sufficient to stand in the way of the death penalty. We lead
industrial nations in percent of population doing time. Policies like
three strikes mean people can serve felony sentences for
misdemeanors. The school to jail pipeline has kids in juvie for
normal teen behaviors that my generation would have been given
detention for. And now we have for profit prisons that, like hotels,
need full houses to make money.
Why is no one putting the brakes on this out of control
devastation of lives, families, and communities? Probably because the
people who can do something are mostly well off whites. Most of the
people destroyed by the system are poor people and people of color.
They're pawns in a system in which people compete for our votes by
giving us law and order based security. The kicker: it's only an
illusory safety. Laura Magnani and Harmon L. Wray present a thoughtful
analysis of the whole sorry mess in Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith
Paradigm For Our Failed Prison System.
Magnini and Wray contend that prison reform can never be
enough. It's sort of like trying to cure cancer with a bandage. Our
current punishment based system enshrines and perpetuates racism,
sexism, xenophobia, and every other prejudice known to human kind. It
maintains the widening division between haves and have nots. Even
though laws are broken at all levels of society and white collar crime
(say a ponzi scheme that impoverishes thousands of retirees) can cause
much more harm that blue collar crime (say shoplifting), it is the
latter that will be zealously prosecuted. Also, by focussing on
jailing the (presumably unreformable) "bad guys" to keep the "good
guys" safe, those at the top of the system absolve themselves of the
need to ask the hard questions.
"We reject the concept of criminality that supports the myth of
a criminal type--a concept that grows in part out of ignorance and
fears based in biases and prejudices. This concept of criminality
represents a gross distortion of the nature of those caught up in the
criminal justice system and provides a simplistic explanation of
highly complex social problems..."
After showing all the dangers and evils of the current system,
Magnini and Wray advocate replacing it with a restorative/peace
building justice system. Rather than putting the "bad guy" away,
there is a focus on healing victim, perpetrator, and community. A
twelve point plan helps to show interim steps between where we are and
where we need to be.
I strongly recommend this book to all leaders in religious and
secular positions and all people in all walks of life who hunger and
thirst for justice. Although it speaks of a strongly entrenched
system of evil, it points strongly to a means of hope and redemption
for all Americans. It is a book to read slowly and thoughtfully and a
great choice for adult Sunday school classes.
On a personal note, this week my major project is visiting local
thrift shops. This is not just for shopping (though I'm doing a
little of that). I'm creating a guide to thrift shops for
international students, most of whom will need cold weather clothes
and apartment furnishings, so they won't have to spend too much
shopping retail. It's a good thing I'm doing the leg work. One has
shut down and several have made major changes.
A great big shout out goes out to all who advocate for a more just
system of justice.
jules hathaway



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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Masters Of Disguise

Masters Of Disguise

Picture book
In a couple of months my husband will don his camo garb to try
to bag a buck. In his world November is deer hunting season. Around
the world soldiers do their tours of duty in garb designed to blend in
with their environments. But when it comes to camoflauge, Cabellos
and the US military have nothing on Mother Nature. That's the message
you get in Rebecca L. Johnson's Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal
Tricksters.
As the book opens an ant stops to rest in the wrong place. What
seems to be a pebble (I think it looks more like a blackberry) turns
out to be an assassin bug that has built its disguise out of ant
corpses. In the eat and avoid being eaten world of nature a clever
disguise can be the winning edge. Other fascinating creatures you
will read about include:
*a baby bird that mimics a venomous caterpiller;
*a caterpillar that gets itself adopted by ants who favor it over
their offspring; and
*a small spider that actually uses natural materials to create a large
spider puppet that frightens off would be predators.
My favorite is a moth that can avoid being eaten by bats by producing
a noise that messes up its radar.
Masters of Disguise is a good way to interest children in
science. For each creature the science behind the story describes the
research that teased out its secret. This fine book is a great
addition to public and school libraries.
On a personal note, autumn is on its way to Penobscot County. I've
seen some yellow and red leaves. And the nights are getting downright
sleepable.
A great big shout out goes out to the scientists who uncover nature's
fascinating stories.
jules hathaway


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Prairie Dog Song

Prairie Dog Song

Picture book
There are times when the visual aspect of a picture book grabs
me. I can spend scads of time gazing on the pictures. If I'm lucky
the narrative will also be unforgettable. This is truly the case with
Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore's Prairie Dog Song.
The song is one of natural beauty, its devastation, and a
gradual redemption and restoration. The first part describes a
vibrant ecosystem in which prarie dogs dig burrows that are also
inhabited by owls, bison graze, and golden eagles soar. Then ranchers
and farmers mess things up...all but one place. Fortunately
scientists became aware of this place and stepped in to restore it to
its original glory.
Each page carries text on two levels. There are of, course, the
verses to the song. Below in gold you will find natural and historic
information for older readers. At the end there are several pages of
background.
But the collages steal the show. They are done in exquisite
detail. Roth guesses she cut about fifty billion blades of grass.
Probably pretty close. The bison look shaggy. The sky is shown in
many conditions from blue with puffy clouds to moonlit night. The
gold eyed feathery owls are my favorites.
What more can you ask for?
On a personal note, I had a wonderful weekend. I took the bus to
Portland. I spent the night with Katie, Jacob, and creamsicle cat
Archie. The next day Katie and Jacob took me to Santa's Village and
we did it up right. One of my very favorite places with two of the
most precious people in my life. Who could ask for more?
A great big shout out goes out to Katie, Jacob, and good cat Archie
who loves to play with yarn.
jules hathaway



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Meet Me at the Moon

Meet Me at the Moon

Picture book
Books that celebrate (or attempt to celebrate) the unconditional
love of mother and child range from the beautiful to the banal, the
timeless to the very forgettable. Gianna Marino's Meet Me At The Moon
is one of the great ones.
The land is dangerously dry. Mama (elephant) must climb a
mountain to ask for life saving rain. Little One, fearing their
separation, asks for signs of her continued love and eventual return.
The language is poetic. The pictures are richly beautiful, evoking an
African landscape.
Toddlers go through a stage that baffles many parents. A
formerly outgoing child will suddenly turn "shy" in the presence of
strangers or even family acquaintances. This happens at a stage where
the child is making rapid advances (that are exciting and scary at the
same time) and needs extra reassurance and security. Meet Me at the
Moon is a perfect bedtime read aloud at this transition point.
On a personal note, my niece, Maggie, is college bound. The family
recently had a lovely send off barbecue for her.
A great big shout goes out to Maggie at this exciting transition in
her life.
jules hathaway


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Suryia & Roscoe

Suryia & Roscoe

Picture book
Animals never cease to amaze. They provide us with some of the
most memorable stories in the library. Suryia & Roscoe: The True
Story of an Unlikely Friendship by Bhagavan "Doc" Antle with Thea
Feldman is a gem in this genre.
It was a hot day. Suryia, an orangutan was en route to the
river when confronted by a member of a novel species, a dog named
Roger. They hit it off right away. Roger followed Suryia home.
Lucky for both, no humans claimed Suryia's new canine companion.
Barry Bland's photographs are truly aaw worthy.
This lovely volume will be treasured by parent and child alike.
It can also provide a gentle introduction to the world of animal rescue.
On a personal note, I have a new friend. Her name is Crissi. She's
the graduate assistant who will be running rainbow resource room at
UMaine. She is totally the cat's pajamas.
A great big shout out goes out to Crissi of course.
jules hathaway



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