Weekend Reads: “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”

Hi, everyone. Things are still more than a little off-kilter here. We’re anticipating more thunderstorms tomorrow and Monday, with dry lightning strikes, and don’t know what that will mean for us. The current fire is moving away from us, but that could change at a moment’s notice. To make things worse, Penelope has moved her kittens under a pallet of huge granite rocks (and I mean huge: I can’t lift one of them) that are being used in restoring our back yard. I am assured by my husband, our son, and our son’s buddy that they will be able to move those rocks and get the kittens if we have to go.

So, that’s the update as regards the fire. I have been more than a little stressed out, so Weekend Reads is late this time. My apologies. Here is this week’s review.

Caste: The Origins of Our DiscontentsCaste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is at once one of the most challenging and fascinating books I’ve ever read. Author Isabel Wilkerson examines racism in the United States, Nazism, and the caste system of India to make apt comparisons among all three. She points out early on that this book is not about racism, as more than ethnicity goes into how societies determine dominant vs. subordinate castes.

Wilkerson’s prose draws you into the scholarly work; she’s a skilled storyteller. The volumes of research listed in the end notes are brought out not just as dry recitation but as backup to anecdotes from experiences that she and/or her interviewees relate about their experiences as subordinate caste members in their relative societies.

The book provides deep insights into caste insecurity and the lengths to which dominante-caste people will go to ensure that their supremacy remains unchallenged. Across the three cultures that Wilkerson examines, we see strong parallels that should give all us us pause. Thinking about US culture in this way gave me a far better understanding of how racism works than I, as a member of the dominant caste, could possibly have understood otherwise. While I’m aware of my privilege, I didn’t understand nearly as much about where that came from until I finished this work.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “The Answer is …”

The Answer Is…: Reflections on My LifeThe Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of the Jeopardy quiz show since I was a kid … which means I have seen a few hosts come and go. None of them has been quite as entertaining or well-prepared as Alex Trebek. Suffice it to say, I’m a fan.

This memoir is set up in an unusual fashion; it’s not a chronological narrative, but a series of essays on numerous subjects that also happen to touch on Trebek’s life. The chapter titles are phrased in the form of a question (not too surprising, if you are familiar with the show’s format).

Trebek’s thoughtful exploration of various subjects, and his no-holds-barred discussion of his life and circumstances, provides an inside look at not only a popular television host but a man of compassion and concern.

Trebek has clearly made peace with the fact that his time is short due to cancer … and I’m grateful to him for sharing his thoughts with us.

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Weekend Reads: “Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom”

Hi, everyone. I know that I usually do this on Fridays, but I’m having some health issues related to my Hashimoto’s disease and so some things have fallen through the cracks. Please enjoy this week’s review. Thanks.

Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom (Book 1)Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom by Yecheilyah Ysrayl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to tell you right up front that the minute I finished this book, I ordered the other two in the series.

Stella is part historical fiction and part modern-day story-telling. A racist young woman and her equally racist boyfriend are invited to her grandmother’s house. There, (view spoiler). The grandmother, Sidney, is a gifted story-teller and she weaves a tale of both the antebellum South and Reconstruction that are absolutely gripping.

I enjoyed the author’s use of vernacular prose, showing the changes in diction and education of characters across the years. We also saw an unvarnished look at what life was like for slaves, with family separation, rapes, and even murders happening on the plantation.

I am looking forward to reading the next two books to see how the story turns out (this volume ends on a bit of a cliffhanger).

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Weekend Reads: “Ace Boon Coon”

5/5 Stars

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a review. The book is scheduled for official release on September 15, 2020.

When I opened the first Elliot Caprice novel, A Negro and an Ofay, I told my husband that I wanted to be Danny Gardner when I grew up. His prose takes you smack into the middle of a scene (in that particular case, a Chicago jail cell during Jim Crow) and doesn’t let go of you until after you close the cover of the book.

In this sequel, Caprice is still trying to help save his uncle’s farm, as well as figuring out how many of his old friends from childhood are involved in a racketeering “short paper” operation (aka, collecting protection money) … and why so many of them seem to turn up dead.

One of the things that was a little confusing is that flashbacks to Caprice’s childhood were not readily delineated. You had to figure out from context that he was now a little kid, or a teenager, or a soldier … and then you’d find yourself back in the main setting of the book. It was a distraction at times, as I had to go back and re-read to make sure I understood what was going on.

In the end, though, Gardner presented another solid historical noir detective story with more twists and turns than Chicago has back alleys. Highly recommended.

Weekend Reads: “Across That Bridge”

It seems impossible that it’s been a week since we lost civil rights icon John Lewis to cancer. Although this review is brief, I can assure you that Across That Bridge is one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for ChangeAcross That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change by John Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I deliberately took my time reading this important memoir. Each chapter/essay dealt with a theme of peaceful resistance via a particular concept: love, peace, unity, etc. And coming as it does from a civil rights hero like John Lewis, this is important information for our own time.

We are living in a time when peaceful resistance is the only way to stand up against the tyranny that has come to live in the Executive Office; Lewis has a number of great recommendations from which we can all benefit.

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