Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fair Food

It's a perfect Maine summer day. Sam and I wash beautiful
purple onions. Feathery carrots are being dug out of the good Orono
soil. College students are placing kale, chard, corn, potatoes, and
other locally grown veggies in colorful cloth bags. Our benevolent
bosses, Shelley and John Jemmison, carry on genial oversight, assisted
capably by garden dog Mika. After a juice and melon snack we deliver
the goodie bags to residents of two low income senior citizen housing
complexes. They await our arrival like kids anticipating a visit from
Santa. They admire the food, swap for favorites, discuss recipes...
I believe Oran Hesterman, author of Fair Foods: Growing A Healthy,
Sustainable Food System For All, would surely approve.
Let's face it. Our current food system is really screwed up.
Hesterman starts off by discussing the myriad reasons things have gone
wrong. We aren't protecting our precious water and soil from overuse,
erosion, and pollution. Much prime farm land is not being used for
farming. Current agricultural and transportation practices contribute
to climate change. Many people lack access to healthy food, resulting
in too high prevalence of obesity related diseases. Outbreaks of food
born illness and the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria strains
are major health problems. And workers at every point of food
production from harvest to waiting tables are treated as "expendable".
In the face of all this, Hesterman is an optimist. There are
some revolutionary undertakings in all arenas from reducing use of
chemicals in the farm to bringing wholesome produce to people with
lack of access to even basic grocery stores. The examples he cites
are truly inspirational.
George Shelter, a Michigan dairyman, was on the verge of losing
his farm. Then he began a system of letting his cattle eat grass in a
pasture rotation rather than buying feed. The benefits went beyond
saving money and getting back into the black. His actions had
positive environmental impacts. And he was able to produce better
milk and ice cream and sell them locally.
My favorite section is "From Conscious Consumer To Engaged
Citizen." The advice starts with what you can do in your kitchen and
community and goes on with ways to influence institutions and public
policy. Talk about inspiring! The policies section has over 50 pages
of organizations to connect with and learn from.
All I can say is if you care about the book already!
On a more personal note: I'm enjoying the week before Christmas--
friends, family, our lap cat, planning surprises for loved ones, our
beautiful Christmas tree.
A great big shout out goes out to John, Shelley, and the rest of the
Orono Community Garden crew--especially Mika.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Daddy Shift

I saw him at the Bangor Mall. He was about the size of a
football linebacker...gangsta clothes, tats and piercings, and draped
across his chest...a sling with his three-week-old daughter slumbering
contentedly. "She's my girl," he said, "She's my world."
When I was a kid child raising was women's work. As my
generation matured the more granola type guys took on some of the
duties and joys of parenting. Now it seems this more involved
fathering has gone mainstream and beyond. How special for those sons
and daughters who are their fathers' worlds!
Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift: How Stay-At-Dads,
Bread Winning Moms, And Shared Parenting Are Transforming The American
Family, is one of those fathers. The birth of his son changed his
life, especially a year later when he became the stay-at-home dad of a
toddler. At first his days were filled with anxiety and isolation.
Gradually he settled into his new role. Fortunately for us, he
decided to write the kind of book he wishes someone had given him when
he set out into this unknown territory.
The best thing about The Daddy Shift is its readibility. You
can see from his notes that Smith did his research. He also
interviewed parents from a wide variety of racial and class
backgrounds. Vivid portrayals of these encounters and the subjects
segue seamlessly with lucid analysis of themes and trends to make a
narrative that is hard to put down.
Smith believes that pioneering couples with mothers capable of
supporting households and fathers not narrowly defined by their
ability to bring home the bacon are a logical step in the evolution of
the family. Patriarchy was woven into the fiber of the industrialized
society. The prosperity following World War II made the suburban, one
earner, Leave It To Beaver family a reality for many people. The
switch to postindustrialism, however, was hard on men. As
manufacturing jobs went overseas many became eclipsed in earning power
by their own wives. In many of today's families the wife is the
logical choice for wage earner.
Smith debunks a number of myths that persist in today's
society. A lot of them revolve around the idea that men who don't
take outside jobs are lazy, inatentive, bumbling Mr. Moms or simply
biologically incapable of primary caregiving. The fathers he portrays
are competent, resourceful, and deeply involved with their young
charges. And evidence that male hormone levels and brain structures
change with the onset of parenthood is cited.
Other myths revolve around economics. Stay-at-home parenting
for either gender is a luxury for the rich. (Actually the cost of
child care is so high you have to earn enough to enable both parents
to work. Low income families are more likely to have a stay-at-home
parent.). The decision is always purely economic. (Many parents will
opt for a lower material standard of living to avoid putting kids in
day care.) Men would not take advantage of parental leave if it was
available. (In places where it's a viable option they do.)
Although he rejects more conventional utopias, Smith has visions
of a future where parenting roles will be dictated by family
circumstances, not gender role expectations. Parental leave and
flextime will be accessible and gender neutral. The welfare of our
children will be a national priority. Kids will be able to develop
deep and abiding attachments to both parents.
Smith asks if this a world we want to live in. He reminds us
that it won't come without work and commitment. Reading his book is a
good place to start.
On a more personal note: I'm looking forward to my kids' Christmas
vacations. The tree is up and ready to decorate. I'm baking cookies
and watching Christmas specials with the family.
A big shout out goes out to all the dads today who are deeply involved
in their children's lives.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

The Precariat

"...Falling into the precariat could happen to most of us, if
accidents occurred or a shock wiped out the trappings of security many
have come to rely on..."
I was finishing a chapter of The Precariat: The New Dangerous
Class by Guy Standing, author of the above quote. I checked my
email. I saw a petition requesting Target to scale back its black
Friday opening from midnight to 5:00 a.m. Doesn't this capture it in
a nutshell? Despite lip service to the sanctity of Thanksgiving,
retailers deprive their workers of the chance to celebrate it in their
unbridled pursuit of wealth. And they can. Anyone who objects can be
so easily replaced...
I never before have been stumped on how to how to review a
book. I read The Precariat cover to cover. It puts all my worst
fears (and many of yours, I'm sure) into black and white, portrays an
inferno that gives Dante pretty stiff competition.
We all know intuitively, from the laid off Maine paper mill
worker to the Florida retiree surviving on Social Security, that our
neo-liberal global economy has its dark side. Increasingly the vast
majority of us (excluding the elite who benefit from the system) live
more precariously. This book delineates the many ways.
Commodification is at the heart of this transformation. All
entities become commodities to further enrich the wealthy. Human
beings become easily replaceable cogs. Families and communities hold
no value since they fail to produce income. Education at all levels
goes from growth of the mind to training for wage labor. Companies
are subjected to hostile takeovers. Nonprofits become more like
firms. Entitlements morph into help given only to the "deserving".
This shouldn't make sense. The people being sacrificed and
endangered vastly outnumber those profiting from their losses. But
the elite are great at divide and conquer games. The young are set
against their grandparents. Native born are told that immigrants will
take their jobs. Workers bagging groceries and flipping burgers are
given descriptions of welfare queens living lives of comparative luxury.
Maine's governor, Paul LePage, notorious for playing hide and
seek with a labor mural and telling the president to go to Hell, gave
us a relevant example recently. Because of lost revenue, he
instructed that deep cuts be made in welfare. Otherwise he'd have to
take it out of education.
It's enough to fill a progressive with despair. Giving up,
however, is not an option. Fortunately, after a chapter aptly titled
"A Politics Of Inferno" Standing devotes the rest of his book to
delineating a new progressive vision. We need to achieve it. The
precariat is a class-in-making, a rapidly growing potential class.
And if they suffer too much for too long they could fall for the siren
song of a neofascist, demogogue, or maverick. Sarah Palin anyone?
Although The Precariat was very tough to read, I'm really glad I
did not give up. I recommend this book to anyone with the courage to
face reality.
On a personal note: I have discovered that attending a four hour
contract negotiations meeting right after donating blood is not a good
A big shout out goes out to all my comrades around the world in the
occupy movement. We are the 99%! We must persevere so our children
will inherit a fairer world.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Lockdown High

Caveat: Although I am a member of RSU 26's board of directors, the
thoughts expressed in this review are purely mine as a private citizen
and do not speak for any bigger entity.
Quite frankly, as a parent, the reactions in the educational
world to Columbine and similar events scared me a lot more than the
initial acts of violence. I read accounts of kids being diverted into
the juvenile justice system for saying and doing things that would
have earned them detention when I was in school. Heck, I hear mature
adults say things that wouldn't pass the zero tolerance test.
At some point I went from scared to angry. I felt that many
schools were allowing or pressuring their administrators to abnegate
their in loco parentis responsibility. And innocent kids were paying
for this...with their futures.
When I connected zero tolerance to No Child Left Behind and Race
To The Top I went from angry to over-the-top irate. Schools are
pressured to reach increasingly unrealistic standardized test scores.
A lot of kids being expelled and/or shunted into the juvenile justice
system are students whose scores might depress their schools'
averages. The expression "low hanging fruit" came to mind.
Then I read Lockdown High: When The Schoolhouse Becomes A
Jailhouse by Annette Fuentes. I learned that I wasn't paranoid. In
fact I had only glimpsed the tip of the iceburg.
Fientes claims that violence in schools is falling. In fact,
for most of our kids, school is one of the safer places to be. So why
do many people feel that our children are in constant danger of being
gunned down in algebra?
Not surprisingly, the very rare events like the Columbine
shootings are given extensive media coverage. "If it bleeds, it
leads" is rule number one in journalism. But it's not just the
media. A wide range of sources influence people's fears. If a police
department offers free live shooter training, for example, it can lead
teachers and parents to see this rare event as imminent. And when
elected officials react to perceived fear with draconian measures, the
measures are seemingly vindicated.
Things happen for reasons. As Fuentes points out, many people
keeping the climate of fear alive are in it for the money. There is a
lot of money to be made in the selling of products ranging from high
tech security devices to drug testing kits. And these goods are
pushed with evangelic fervor to school boards and administrators.
Ironically all the purchases in the name of safety do not make
students more secure. In heavily policed schools arrests rise.
Minority students and students with disabilities are especially at
risk for being funneled into a school-to-prison pipeline.
Some of what is described in the book is truly horrific.
Commando style raids with police throwing, pushing, and handcuffing
students take place. School security officers are advised to walk
around " complete tactical equipment, with semi-automatic weapons
and five rounds of ammo.". It's enough to make a parent despair.
Fortunately Fuentes offers a glimmer of hope in a chapter entitled,
"Busting Out Of Lockdown High: Alternative Paths To Safe Schools."
On a more personal note: I had a fantastic Halloween, handing out
candy dressed as a witch with Joey cat playing the role of my familiar
and eating candy and watching X Files episodes with my son.
A big shout goes out to all the school administrators and school
boards who are resisting the pressure to turn their schools into
lockdown highs.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Healing of America

If you're a parent you've been there. Your child is ill or
injured. Bandaids and TLC won't cut it. You have to find someone who
can cure your little one. Assuaging pain and relieving fear are also
high priorities.
Some of us have fears of our own. Can I afford this? Will my
child be treated if I don't have insurance or cash up front? Will
accumulating medical bills force us to lose our home? We're the
statistics you read about--the people who lack health insurance. I've
been a member of this very inclusive club for twenty-one years.
Only in America! The United States is the sole industrialized
nation to not provide some form of universal health care in the
world. This leaves us in a nasty little crisis. We spend more money
on health care than any other first world country. But when it comes
to results we're not doing much better than desperately poor third
world nations.
How can we do better? That's the question posed by T. R. Reid
in The Healing of America: A Global Quest For Better, Cheaper, and
Fairer Health Care. He visited industrialized nations around the
world, analyzing their health care financing and delivery systems.
His findings dispel the specters invoked by those with a stake in
maintaining the status quo.
The stereotype of socialized medicine does not hold true for all
nations. Health care in many countries has strong private sector
componants in finance and delivery. America's Medicare fits the
socialized medicine picture a lot better.
It's not all about rationing. Although some countries have
waiting lists for elective surgery and nonemergency care, their
citizens in general have quicker access and more choice than we do.
And we have our own economic rationing system. Every year twenty two
thousand of us die of treatable diseases!
The administrations of these nations are not wasteful
bureaucracies. Our for profit health insurance companies spend twenty
percent of every dollar on non medical costs. In contrast, France
spends five percent and Canada six percent.
Reid believes the United States should begin the discussion of
health care reform by posing these basic moral questions:
"Does a wealthy country have an ethical obligation to provide access
to health care for everyone?
Do we want to live in a society that lets tens of thousands of our
neighbors die each year, and hundreds of thousands face financial
ruin, because they can't afford medical care when they're
What do you think?
If you have any interest in health care fairness The Healing Of
America is a must read. It's a thoughtful analysis and comparison of
many nations' medical care and finance systems. Unlike many dry,
jargon laden tomes, it is highly readable and engaging.
On a more personal note: I'm trying to get ready for winter before it
arrives and looking forward to my first Maine School Management
Association conference.
Coming attractions: a YA dystopia novel. I'm striving for a better
fiction/ nonfiction balance.
A big shout out goes out to Shelly Gilman, our awesome school nurse at
Veazie Community School, and her dedicated peers. They are some of
the most accessible workers in our health care system.
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Friday, September 16, 2011


YA. Fiction. Realism.
Imagine that you're 16. You've had the same best friend just
about all your life. Then suddenly she becomes evasive, distant,
seemingly reluctant to be in the same room with you. The reason is a
horrifying accusation that pits your loyalty to your friend against
that to your family.
Liz, protagonist of exposed, and her best friend, Kate, have an
argument at a sleepover. When Liz wakes up the next morning Kate is
gone. People are sure the girls will work things out. But Kate has
no intention to. She avoids Liz, saying she needs some space. It
turns out she's accusing Liz's brother, Mike, of raping her the night
of the sleepover.
It's not long before Mike is arrested. Liz doesn't know who to
believe. Her own brother can't be a rapist. But why would Kate make
up such a terrible lie? As her despair grows, even photography--her
passion and career choice--becomes difficult.
Author Kimberly Marcus tells Liz's story hauntingly in poetry.
Every phrase, every word is perfectly chosen. For instance, Liz sees
Kate's mom in CVS when she's shopping for shampoo. She wonders,
"What does she think of me, this woman
Who taught me how to bake cookies from scratch?
Does she hate me, blame me?
Does any part of her miss me?"
Liz is a beautifully nuanced, believable character it's
impossible not to care about. Not surprisingly, Marcus is a clinical
social worker who specializes in adolescent and childhood trauma.
Exposed is her first novel. This humble reviewer sincerely hopes more
will be forthcoming.
On a personal note: I'm enjoying the perfect late summer Maine
weather but missing the kids when they're in school, looking forward
to celebrating my birthday September 21 (also world peace day), and
totally craving a Dairy Queen tropical blizzard.
Coming attractions: we'll look at a book that disputes the idea that
our dysfunctional American health care system is too big to change.
A big shout goes out Geoffrey Wingard as he goes back to the
classroom. My Katie says he is an excellent teacher. He's also a
great board member and really good friend.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Memento Nora

YA; fiction; dystopia.
These are the times that would be great for inspiring good
dystopias. There is so much to raise disquietude in every facet of
life: politics, education, the environment... At the same time
there's so much pressure from the government and their BFFs in big
business to not rock the boat. So I knew if I went hunting for this
genre I wouldn't be disappointed.
The strength of a dystopia lies in its author's ability to tie
together troubling trends and take them just a bit further. There has
to be enough continuity to create plausibility. At the sane time the
future world must hang together with its own internal coherence. This
is not an easy task. Angie Smibert pulls it off brilliantly with her
YA novel, Memento Nora.
Nora, the heroine, a student at Homeland High #17, lives in a
time when traumatic memories can be erased quickly and painlessly.
All you must do is go to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. After
describing the event you wish to forget to a doctor you take a pill
and go on with your life, unaware that it had ever happened.
A bomb goes off in a store. A dead man falls at Nora's feet.
Not surprisingly, she has a nightmare and is taken to her mother's
favorite clinic. She ends up just pretending to take the pill. She's
seen a boy spit his out secretively. And she's heard her mother
describe an aspect of her home life she had never imagined.
The boy, Micah, is not in Nora's crowd. But she's strangely
drawn to him. They meet and decide that the stories being chemically
erased need to be recorded. When they create and distribute a comic
book the establishment goes all out to shut them down. As the
conflict escalates it becomes impossible to put the book down.
In addition to being a place where memories are erased and
dissent is crushed, Nora's world is heartbreakingly consumerist and
superficial. Ads stream through every aspect of life. Citizens are
taught that consumption is one of their freedoms. Everyone and
everything experienced positively is described as glossy. 'Nough said.
Dystopia fans and affecianados of a good suspense story will
find Memento Nora to be a must read. Teachers will applaud this book
and the thought provoking questions that arise from reading it.
On a more personal note: Hate to see the summer ending and the kids
going back to school. :P
Coming attractions: we're sticking with YA fiction.
A big shout out goes to Kathryn Olmstead. She was my journalistic
ethics professor when I was great with child 21 years ago. I still
remember the issues we discussed and the excitement of exploring them
under her expert guidance. When I lost her as a teacher I gained her
as a friend. A good and trusted friend. And hugs to her darling
canine companion, Lucy!

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's Go Clean Green

My Joey cat is practically purrfect in every way. When I get up
in the morning he greets me with the ardor of a pre teen at a Justin
Bieber concert. At night he sits on my lap while I knit. And any
moment in between he's there for me.
Sometimes,though, Joey takes it into his head to destroy a piece
of furniture by clawing. Once when a sofa was under siege the hubby
brought home an aerosol can of something designed to keep pets off
stuff. I tried it once. Joey responded with the full bodied growl/
hiss usually reserved for hypodermic wielding vets. From then on just
the sight of the can elicited this response.
I was puzzled. The can shows a healthy looking cat and dog.
But when I read the cautions more can't even throw the
can away if it contains some product...and I was using it in my home!
I kept the cat, banned the can.
If you've had a similar dilemma or are just concerned about your
home environment you'll find The Complete Guide to Eco-Friendly House
Cleaning by Anne B. Kocsis to be a truly valuable reference book.
Kocsis had me from hello, starting her book with my favorite Erma
Bombeck quote: "Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.".
Sadly, there's more than a grain of truth in that. A lot of products
that unclog our drains, remove Fido's fleas, and get rid of that pesky
static cling contain carcinogens and other nasty stuff and can do harm
to us and our animal companions.
Ironically, even those of us who are aware of environmental
dangers of corporate practices in the big world can vary in our
enlightenment when it comes to products we use in our homes. Drain
cleaner and toilet bowl drop ins scared me out of my wits. But I
still put fabric softener sheets on the shopping list. And companies
can make creating a safe home environment really confusing. Sensing
our desire for green products, some have engaged in deceptive
practices--making products that are anything but appear to be
environmentally friendly.
Fortunately some firms are coming out with truly green
products. And there are basic substances and objects in your home
that can save money as well as being safer. But there are so many
things we use daily to clean our homes, clothes, and pets--locating
and replacing the bad stuff can seem overwhelming.
Now this is where the book comes in. Kocsis began her research
because her family got sick too often. The information she gleaned
made marked improvements in their health. And she dispenses it in
highly readable, well-organized sections.
Chapters one and two give the low down on some pretty nasty chemicals
that may be lurking in your home.
Chapters three to five give you safer options.
Chapters six and seven give manageable starting points for changing
your home cleaning system.
Chapters eight through twelve, my favorites, give you room by room
And the rest of the book covers special situations like pet care and
laundry stain removal.
If you want your home to be a less hazardous place buy the
book. Even if you don't decide to follow the program, it's an
invaluable resource for those inevitable household predicaments...
like keeping a cat from shredding a piece of furniture.
On a personal note: Joey is a radiantly healthy eight-year-old
cat who will celebrate his adoption day next month.
Coming attractions: Fiction. I promise.
A big shout out goes to Joey and all the other wonderful animal
companions who do so much to enrich our lives. I think it is totally
cool that a portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to
the Humane Society. :-)
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two for the kitchen

Watching the struggles of several friends who have diabetes
served as a scary reminder of my own genetic predisposition. True I'm
a vegetarian and not a couch potato. Still I thought there must be
something else I should be doing.
My good friend, Jann, who is a nurse, suggested that I cut down
on carbs. That rang a bell. I gave in too much to my sweet tooth.
To my fellow RSU 26 board members my lollipops were iconic.
I decided to give up sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and all
the other stuff that isn't good for people. I felt that I had to
choose between food for health and food that tastes good. Fortunately
Eat Naked by Margaret Floyd put this false dichotomy to rest. If you
want to feel better or lose weight or you simply are concerned about
what you're eating, this reader friendly book is a great place to start.
Eating naked has nothing to do with your clothes (or lack
thereof). It has everything to do with the purity of the food you
eat. As a society, we increasingly consume processed substances with
some pretty scary ingredients. And the (factory farmed) chickens have
come home to roost. Record numbers of us are overweight or obese and
on track for diabetes and heart disease.
Floyd's solution: start giving your body what it needs, not
what Madison Avenue says you want. There are five basic principles:
--Eat food that is whole and unrefined.
--Eat food that has been grown or raised naturally.
--Eat food when it's fresh and in season.
--Eat food that has been raised or grown as locally as possible.
--Eat food that has been processed as minimally as possible.
Eating naked fleshes out these basics. Floyd teaches us how to
navigate the complexities of shopping, dining out, and cooking. She
does not demand going cold turkey. In fact, she encourages gradual
transition. You don't have to totally cut out comfort foods. And
there are some pretty awesome recipes.
Eating locally year round can seem like a daunting challenge to
those of us who live close to the Canadian border. Lisa Turner's The
Eat Local Cookbook is a truly wonderful asset. It's written by a
Maine farmer and organized by season and dish type (appetizers,
salads, side dishes, entrees, and desserts). The recipes are quite
varied and tasty. All you foodies and locavores out there will be in
cooking paradise. So don't waste a minute. Get out to your library
or book store and find something good for dinner. There are even
ideas for our ubiquitous zucchini. :-)
On a more personal note: those two books have been my
salvation. It's been over two weeks since I embarked on my quest to
eat more sanely and prevent diabetes. All I can say is smooth
sailing. And I feel great!
Coming attractions: next we are going to do some eco friendly
house cleaning. Following that we'll kick back and relax with a bunch
of fiction.
A big shout out goes to my good friend, Jann. It's truly a
blessing to have someone who can console me when things go badly,
celebrate with me when they perk up, and know when to practice tough
love. The words, thank you, could never be adequate...but I guess
they'll have to do.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

My most turbulent experience with what author Peggy Orenstein
calls "the new girlie girl culture" arrived with a permission slip my
Katie wanted me to sign. Her Girl Scout troop had been chosen to
receive a highly coveted prize--a sleepover at the mall. Stores would
be opened for their shopping pleasure. Girl Scouts had been there for
me and even my mother as an affirmation that we could be authentic
achievers, loyal friends, and world class survival campers in the face
of limitations the outside world strove to impose. And now, with the
world so vigorously reinforcing girls' identity as consumers, they
were throwing in the towel.
If you're raising a daughter, I suspect you're having your own
"what the heck..." experiences. If so read Cinderella Ate My
Daughter. Orenstein is a parent like us. She's up front about what
she's confronting as her child's advocate. She raises a lot of good
--Is dressing like a Disney princess harmless fun or does it set a
girl up to fixate on appearance as identity?
--is the difference between beauty pageant parents and the rest of us
one of degree, not kind?
--Do children playing with movie or TV based licensed products follow
already developed scripts at the expense of creativity and imagination?
--How are our daughters effected by the wholesome to whoresome
transition of idols like Mikey Cyrus?
"Just Between You, Me, and My 622 BFFs" was the chapter that
gave me the most food for thought. The real eye opener for me wasn't
cyberbullying or sexting. It was the way Facebook and similar sites
have changed the way teens perceive themselves. Do you remember the
self consciousness of your middle and high school years? Now try to
imagine your audience expanding to include hundreds of people you've
never met who can instantly and publicly comment on every aspect of
your projected image. Holy cow!
"Cinderella Ate My Daughter" is perfect for book clubs. It is
meant to be discussed.
Coming attractions: next we're going to head into the kitchen
to eat naked and eat local.
On a personal note: if you (like me) can't pass up yard sales,
you're in a position to stock up on books for winter reading.
Finally, a big shout out to my wonderful daughters, Amber and
Katie, who survived the pink jungle and grew up to be assertive,
creative, confident women any parent would be proud of.
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Sunday, July 10, 2011


Ages ago (when my college senior daughter was in the primary
wing of elementary school) I took my three kids to the Bangor Public
Library children's room. Anne Mundy, then its reigning matriarch,
gave me valuable insider info. Rick Levasseur, then Style Page editor
for the Bangor Daily News, was looking for a freelancer who knew what s
(he) was doing to review children's books. I called Rick. He told me
to give it my best shot.
I'd never reviewed before. I thought I'd be winging it. But
that never happened. I felt my voice as a reviewer come to me full
fledged. It was the friend-talking-about-a-great reading discovery
With my voice came my self-imposed taboo. I never review a book
I don't believe in. I don't want to violate the trust of readers by
hyping a work I consider mediocre or worse. And I think scoring easy
points by panning is a waste of space.
Rick proved to be a dream editor. I grew as a writer and loved
what I was doing. Parents, teachers, and librarians trusted me.
People without any kids went out and bought the books. Writers felt
that I really got what they were saying. I won awards.
Then changes in the economy made free lance work hard to come
by. I missed reviewing. Readers and writers missed my work--even
years later. So I decided to try a book review blog.
In cyberspace too I'll only review books I believe in. There
will be no fluff or panning. And I don't plan to be pretentious or
artificial. My coffee chat style is what you'll get.
I've started reading the book for my first cyber review:
Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I'm near the end of the third chapter.
All I can tell you my next post and see what I have to say
about it.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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