Thursday, February 16, 2017

we should all be feminists

My oldest gave me their copy of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, to read. Its an essay, based on a TED talk Adichi gave a while ago, published as a little soft-cover book. I read it in about an hour, maybe less.

Adichi is smart, dedicated to her cause—you can hear it in her voice—and her argument is simple, and commonsense driven. What I appreciated the most was her definition of feminism; its simply the belief that women and men should have equal rights, not just in the law, but in practice, in society. All societies.

She also understands that changing minds is difficult, and is therefor not focusing her attention on changing the way people act today, rather, she is advocating that we teach our children to be different than we are. Its a good argument.

Anyone who believes that equality will make tomorrow better for all, and decides that it may be easier for them to raise their children to be different than they are, without necessarily having to change their own behavior, may see this as a more achievable goal. Not having to give up their own prejudices and behavior may (at first) seem easier to swallow. But once they’ve agreed to this, then it may only be a matter of time before they begin to adopt these behaviors, as they guide their children, if only a little bit.

Ask your daughter to shovel snow or mow the grass. Ask your son to wash the dishes or the laundry. Speak to them both about sports, money matters, and responsibility. These strategies are simple, but give both sexes a more equal footing, and doesn’t presume that there are certain tasks, stations, or primacy better suited to one or the other.

Yeah, read this book.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

27th kingdom

The 27th Kingdom is an odd little book by English author Alice Thomas Ellis (1932-2005). I haven't read her stuff before, but its got a wonderfully English humor about it that reminds me of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," various English situation comedies, like "Are You Being Served," with a touch of Tom Robbins. That last one is just for the strange bits.

Aunt Irene (pronounced in the East European/Slavic way) is the owner of a small, historically interesting home on the outskirts of London, in the 1950s. Aunt Irene lives with her young, self-absorbed nephew, Kiril, and whatever wayward needling happens to come along. Aunt Irene simply can't say no, and so her house is often occupied by various adult, foundlings. The newest is young, lovely Valentine, sent to live with Aunt Irene by Irene's sister, the abbess of a convent in which Valentine is a postulate. The abbess believes that Valentine needs a time away from the abbey, but hasn't shared the reasons why, with her sister.

The Kingdom is absolutely driven by the dialog. There is very little narration or description. One knows very little about most things in this story if it doesn't come up in conversation. And the conversation is constant, and many times internal to Aunt Irene herself. And Aunt Irene is an odd duck, and the company she keeps is just as odd.

This book is short, fast paced, and pretty much begins partway through the story, and then seems to end partway through as well. When I finished, I felt like I had overhear the larger part of an interesting, but ultimately bizarre conversation, while riding next to some strangers on the T. Ellis writes as though she's a fly on the wall, in the house of whomever she happened to buzz in upon. It began odd, and ended even stranger.

All in all, it was fun to read.

Monday, February 6, 2017

time being

A Tale for the Time Being is a novel by Ruth Ozeki that I borrowed from my office lending library. It looks like the kind of book that would have been in someone's reading group list of books. As usual, I come to these books late because I'm picking them up used, some years after they were popular. I'm not sure how popular this book was at the time, but it certainly reads like one that would get the attention of book clubs.

I don't think I'm giving anything away when I point out that very quickly in the text, it becomes clear that the phase 'time being' is a double entendre. in fact its noted at the top of the back cover on the paperback I read As soon as I read that, the Zen of this book started kicking in. This book is as much about an interestingly disjointed trans-Pacific relationship, as it is about philosophy. Think Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Yeah, like that.

Ozeki is writing her thoughts about Zen into this storyline, just as Pirsig did in his, but I think Ozeki does a better job of working the teachings into the narrative than Pirsig did in Motorcycle Maintenance. The other difference I'll point out is the story in this book is better too! Ozeki sets up a pattern of switching back and forth between two storylines, narrated by two people on different sides of the ocean. Its a one-sided relationship, and we can't help wondering what will happen next with each of these characters, and their supporting characters.

Its a story of loss, change, caring, moving away and what 'home' means, bullying, nature, war, coming of age, old age, dreams, Japan, suicide, and Zen. Its got a little of everything, and is just riveting.

Ozeki dances us right out to the edge, and teases us with a universe that is larger than we may ever understand, and then grounds us by reminding us that our finger is not the moon, but that they are, still, the same. Just as a man and a wave in the ocean are.

I really enjoyed this story, as a narrative, a conversation between different peoples, and as a primer for understanding eastern philosophy. Ozeki has a keen understanding of people, and does a great job building characters that have weight and depth.

Read this book. Move others out of the way, if needs be.