I’m happy to return from my blogging break and report that my mother has recovered and is progressing well. My heartfelt thank you to those who kept in touch with emails and messages. Love is the backbone of existence, and I’m so grateful for its presence in my life.
I’m still in catch-up mode, so it will take me a few days to get back in sync with visiting your lovely blogs and dealing with my social network pages. The nearly 700 emails that greeted me have slowed me down a bit 🙂
Although I had no time to be online and visit blogs during my break, I did read and review several books while traveling cross-country by train. I found all of them delightful, compelling, and enlightening. I can’t think of a better way to re-enter the blogging world than by featuring the following reviews.
YELLOW HAIR by Andrew Joyce
My 5-Star Review
A Native Truth Unveiled
In this gripping historical novel, Andrew Joyce threads the fictitious tale of a White man’s life-changing events through the factual tapestry of the devastation suffered by the Plains Indians at the hands of the American government. The White man is Jacob Ariesen, who becomes known as Hin Zi or Yellow Hair.
It is Spring of 1850 in North America. Imagine you are a member of a wagon train of one hundred and forty-four White people going West in search of a better life. You encounter overwhelming hardship and are rescued by Indians. You are treated well and with respect.
Now imagine you are a Plains Indian. Soldiers invade your land at the behest of their government. They do not ask your permission. They do not treat you with respect. They look upon your people as savages and presume all you hold dear is theirs for the taking. They force you to sign their treaties, by which they trick you into selling acre after acre of your land in exchange for gold. You tell them you have no use of the yellow metal, but they deceive you into trusting you can use it to barter for horses, tools, food, and other necessities. They employ deception time and again when their Congress rewrites the treaties – without your knowledge or consent – and drastically cuts the agreed-to purchase price. They literally steal your land, upon which soldiers build forts and settlers build houses. The Wasichus (Whites) trap and hunt indigenous wildlife into near extinction, forcing you to become dependent on the American government for your very existence. You once were proud, fierce, and free. You now are demoralized, displaced, and angry.
In this sober and eye-opening tale, Joyce strips away the facade of righteousness brandished by White military and political figures, people whose names appear dominant in American history. He lays bare the greed and fear that fueled their ignorant beliefs and heinous deeds, not the least of which was the bloody slaughter and mutilation of women, children, and old ones.
Noted Native American figures, presented as one-dimensional savage people in White history books, become fully developed animated characters under the pen of Andrew Joyce. They jump off the page, grab and captivate the reader. Among these are Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who pull us into their world and show us first-hand the effects of severe hardship coupled with dehumanization.
This was the perfect book to read while traveling across the United States by train and following the Colorado River for 230-plus miles. I imagined covered wagons caught in deadly currents that drowned all life forms as they carried them downriver. I imagined the battle at Wounded Knee Creek. I imagined the Battle of the Little Bighorn fought on the banks of the river that lent its name to this historical event. But most of all, as the train moved through mountain gorges and territories not traversed by automobile or person, I imagined a time when life was lived by the seasons, close to Mother Earth. My heart broke as distant memories of such a life played across my mind like a slide show.
This book is a page-turner that kept me glued from beginning to end. It is very well-written and chock-full of engaging characters, be they honorable or deplorable. I appreciated the humor Joyce attributed to the Indians, which he sprinkled throughout the novel. This added an inherent humanizing dimension to the indigenous peoples of whom Americans learn so little in school.
I also appreciated that the author intermittently but consistently focused on Native American spiritual beliefs. My favorite line was: “It is a good day to die.” In what way is that spiritual? you ask. Well… You’ll just have to read the book and figure it out for yourself. Hoka hey!
P.S. I FORGIVE YOU by D.G. Kaye
My 5-Star Review
A Courageous Revealing
Parenthood does not come with a user manual. Children learn parenting skills from the adults in their lives. They generally emulate what they see and experience. If their lifelong experience is a negative one, they might be inclined to perpetuate it. But this does not have to be so.
In her compelling memoir, P.S. I Forgive You, D.G. Kaye reveals the habitual neglect and abuse she and her siblings suffered at the hands of an envious, threatening, narcissistic, and deceitful mother.
It takes courage, strength, and determination to prevail over hardship, especially when it is a constant in childhood; especially when a parent perpetrates neglect and abuse. But it is not impossible to overcome adversity when one focuses their intention.
Kaye shows us how to take the energy consumed by feeling mistreated, hurt, fearful, and guilty, and instead make it work for us by directing that energy toward building self-esteem, fortitude, and positive intention. She tells us how she reacted as a child, and then shows us how, as an adult, she turned a negative into a positive. Acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness are major players in this scenario, a dynamic that tested the author’s resilience, challenged her conscience, and ultimately allowed her to triumph over the all-consuming adverse conditioning perpetrated by her demanding narcissistic mother.
I highly recommend this book to anyone whose childhood was hijacked by a neglectful and abusive parent, and who would like to learn how to break free and live a happy healthy life.
SAM: A SHAGGY DOG STORY by Sally Cronin
My 5-Star Review
Do You Speak Dog?
Sam: A Shaggy Dog Story is one of the most delightful books I have ever read. Sally Cronin gives her Rough Collie a voice, allowing him to narrate his own tale.
A few of the things Sam tells us about are his friends (cat, dog, and human alike), his favorite things (sausages, cheese, ice cream, snow), his job as security consultant, car rides while singing along with Sally, and walks along the beach.
Sam is very observant and intelligent. He learns to understand both cat and human vocal sounds. He also learns to speak a few human words! Mawgh is more; heyoo is hello; and Orh, Ee, Va is Oliver. ‘More’ and ‘Oliver’ are interchangeable, as they both indicate he would like ‘mawgh’ of a delicious treat he had just enjoyed.
Sam’s introduction to cats is very positive. When he is still a puppy, Sally and her husband David – the alpha humans in Sam’s pack – adopt a feral cat whom they dub ‘Henry.’ Henry teaches Sam many worthy things about life, and they become great friends. Also, a feral mama cat has kittens on Sam’s property, and he dubs himself their guardian. These experiences prepare Sam for when Sally brings home two kittens. He readily steps up to the plate, nurturing and protecting them.
Sam’s story is heartwarming and humorous, sure to amuse and delight adults as well as children. I read this book in one sitting and was disappointed when it ended. I wanted more, and so will you.
What I appreciated most about Sam’s story is that it leaves the reader with a heightened respect for nonhuman animals. They think and feel as we do; and anyone who thinks otherwise will be hard-pressed to hold on to that opinion after meeting Sam. I would like to see this book offered for sale through animal rights and humane organizations around the world. And for me, that is the highest praise…
ON TRYANNY by Timothy Snyder
My 5-Star Review
“It can’t happen here.”
In his eye-opening book, On Tyranny, Timothy Snyder draws parallels between Nazism/Fascism/Communism and what is occurring now in the United States of America. It is a small book, quickly read but packed with relevant data.
The road to tyranny can be subtle, drawing people in with false or exaggerated claims of terrorism from homeland or abroad. Real news is purported to be fake and is consistently repeated as such, gradually moving people to mistake falsehoods for truth. Free thinkers become the enemy of the State, and the exercise of free speech becomes a criminal act.
The author suggests that truth dies in four modes: (1) open hostility to verifiable reality; (2) endless repetition that makes the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable; (3) open embrace of contradiction; (4) misplaced faith. Snyder states we have witnessed all of these with the current U.S. President. (1) During the 2016 campaign, the candidate vehemently repeated lies as facts; 78% of his factual claims were found to be false. (2) Repeating “Build that wall” and “Lock her up” served to reinforce the connection between him and his followers rather than describe what he actually planned to do. (3) He promised to cut taxes and erase the national debt while also promising to increase defense spending. These promises were mutually contradictory and encouraged people to abandon reason. (4) “I alone can solve it” was a self-deifying claim that made truth “oracular rather than factual” and made “evidence” irrelevant.
Snyder details the progression to tyranny in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist Russia, showing how small and often subtle changes serve to lure the people, little by little, into accepting the dogma of tyranny and, thus, tyranny itself. He warns us to be wary of one-party States, paramilitaries, and dangerous language.
Entrancing words can mesmerize and entice people into blindly accepting the prelude to tyranny. Once the prelude is established, totalitarianism slides into place with ease. It would behoove those of us living in democratic countries to remain vigilant to this slippery process. Tyranny is a beast with many tentacles. We need to recognize them and prevent their institution. We need to dialogue with each other and realize that differing opinions are healthy and necessary to democracy. We need to pinch ourselves daily and remain alert to subtle changes that would erode democracy (e.g., The Patriot Act trades freedom for a false sense of safety). We need to get involved in the democratic process and not fall prey to the mistaken belief: “It can’t happen here.”
Tyranny can gain a foothold anywhere people are drawn in by a charismatic leader whom they follow blindly. In remaining alert, aware, and vigilant, we are our own best allies.
Thank you for reading my reviews, and I’ll see you soon on your lovely blogs. The beautiful featured image is courtesy of Terri Webster Schrandt ❤