07 October 2015

Wordless Wednesday 362

Early Fall Walk, 2015

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06 October 2015

Today's Read: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo OkparantaImagine that you're basically a good girl who loves her parents and you're sent away to work for another family because your home is in a war zone. Now imagine that despite your strict religious upbringing and the laws of your country, you cannot help but fall in love with the most inappropriate person. For young Ijeoma, that person is Amina, another displaced girl.

Midway between Old Oba-Nnewi Road and New Oba-Nnewi Road, in that general area bound by the village church and the primary school, and where Mmiri John Road drops off only to begin again, stood our house in Ojoto. It was a yellow-painted two-story cement construction built along the dusty brown trails just south of River John, where Papa's mother almost drowned when she was a girl, back when people still washed their clothes on the rocky edges of the river.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, opening paragraph; uncorrected proof)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: starts in 1968 during the Biafran-Nigerian conflict
  • Circumstances: Eleven-year-old Ijeoma is sent away to be safe during wartime, so her mother can prepare a new home for them. While in service to a schoolteacher and his wife, Ijeoma meets and befriends another girl, Amina. When the schoolteacher discovers their friendship has blossomed into love (although he calls their relationship an abomination), the girls are separated. Ijeoma returns to her family, where she's subjected to her mother's intense Bible lessons and instructions on the wrongness of homosexuality. As she matures, Ijeoma becomes secretly involved in the lesbian community, although she succumbs to family and social pressures to be a wife and mother. But how can she thrive or even survive under the lies and stress?
  • Characters: Ijeoma (a Christian Igbo) and her parents; Amina (a Muslim Hausa); the schoolteacher and his wife; villagers, neighbors, students, and people in the gay community; Ijeoma's husband and his family
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • Themes: family, same-sex love, culture clashes, war, family, social expectations, religion, struggling to stay true to oneself
  • What I like so far: The plot is beautifully balanced between Ijeoma's personal struggles with self-identity and the wider atmosphere of war and politics. On the one hand, this is a story about Ijeoma's coming of age; on the other, it's an examination of the results of civil war, as one culture clamors for independence from another. I love the descriptions of Nigeria and the bits of African folk tales that are woven into the plot.
  • Why you should consider reading: This is an important story, exposing the fear that so much of the LBGTQ community still endures across the globe. Currently in Nigeria, homosexuals can be jailed for up to fourteen years and/or stoned death.

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05 October 2015

Review and Giveaway: Diva and Flea by Mo Willems with Tony DiTerlizzi

Diva and Flea by Mo Williams with Tony DiTerlizziAre you a homebody or a wanderer? No matter which lifestyle more closely resembles your own, you and your young readers will love visiting Paris through the charming story Diva and Flea by Mo Willems with its beautiful illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi.

Little Diva has always been queen of her front garden, watching the world go by outside her fence and always, always running away from The Feet, which seem to come in pairs. Big, scrappy Flea is a Paris flâneur, who wanders the city just to see what he can see, always, always avoiding The Broom, which seems to live inside buildings. This is the story of what happens when Flea meets Diva.

I loved this sweet story of two unlikely friends who have something to teach each other about ways to see the world and ways to be brave. No matter how different you may seem from others and no matter whether you're little or big, a traveler or settled you--like Diva and Flea--can find common ground and mutual respect.

Willems (or his wife; see the video) was very smart to have thought of DiTerlizzi to help bring the characters and the city of Paris alive on the page. One look at the artwork makes it clear that DiTerlizzi truly understands Diva and Flea; he has perfectly captured their personalities in his illustrations.

Share Mo Willems's Diva and Flea with a youngster or read it yourself. Then make space on your shelves for this beautifully illustrated book; it's destined to be a children's classic.

For more on the story and the collaboration between Willems and DiTerlizzi (and to see some of the illustrations) take a look at this short video.

The Giveaway: Thanks to Disney Publishing, I'm able to offer one of readers, young or old, his or her very own copy of Diva and Flea. And to encourage your youngster's wandering spirit (perhaps she too can be a Paris flâneur), the publishing company is including a child's rolling suitcase to start her on her way. All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to have U.S. mailing address and to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on October 15. Once the winner has been confirmed and the mailing address sent along to the publisher, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck!

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03 October 2015

Weekend Cooking: The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara JenkinsThe Four Seasons of Pasta is written by the mother-daughter team of Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins, each of whom has deep culinary credentials. In addition, the Jenkinses know their pasta, having lived in Italy off and on for the last forty years. This joint effort gathers together over a hundred recipes that use authentic Italian ingredients and are perfect to serve all year round.

Right off the bat, you'll notice the absolutely stunning photography by Michael Harlan Turkell. The Old World kitchen, rustic pottery, vibrant colors, and garden-ripe veggies will keep you turning the pages and planing your menus.

But, of course, as I always say, pretty is fine, but the recipes and information make a cookbook. As you can guess, the recipes in The Four Seasons of Pasta are indeed divided by season. Within each section you'll find many quick pasta dishes that are just right for weeknight dining. A few recipes, for example baked dishes and ravioli, will take more time, so you might want to save them for weekend meals.

copyright Michael Harlan TurkellApparently there is no running out of recipe ideas in Italy because, as Jenkins and Jenkins tell us, it's a country where most people eat a pasta dish once or twice every single day. The rest of us have some catching up to do, and this cookbook will start us on our way.

The Four Seasons of Pasta is full of great tips on how to stock your kitchen, buy key ingredients, and make basic stocks. I also love the introductions to the recipes, which provide culinary advice as well as food history. The recipe directions are written in an informal style and easy to follow. I was happy to see that the Jenkinses call for canned tomatoes in the winter and dried pasta for most of the dishes.

There are recipes for all kinds of tastes here: heavy and light sauces, quick stovetop dishes, hearty ragus, pestos, and even seafood options. Meat-lovers, vegetarians, and everyone in between will find plenty of new favorites in this cookbook. Here are just four of many that have my name on them:
  • Penne Rigate con Cavolfiore alla Sicilana, which has cauliflower, raisins, and white wine
  • Lamb meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Elicoldali, which is warmly spiced with cumin and coriander in a tomato sauce
  • Garganelli al Ortolano, which includes grilled eggplant, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes
  • Zuppa di Pasta e Ceci, which is a chicken soup with greens and chickpeas
copyright Michael Harlan TurkellI know one good friend who will be all over the mussels recipes and another who will be cooking up a ragu storm.

The recipes in The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins are comforting and traditional yet fit a modern lifestyle. The fresh, flavorful, and simple dishes in this cookbook are destined to become family favorites and will take the burden off the age-old question of What's for dinner?

Because I don't have a finished copy of the cookbook, I'm a little hesitant to share a recipe, in case there were changes. So instead, I'll direct you to Nancy Harmon Jenkins's website, where you can find more photos and some recipes.

NOTE: The photos in this post are from the cookbook and are included in the context of a review. All rights remain with the copyright holder, Michael Harlan Turkell.

Published by Penguin Random House / Avery, October 6, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780525427483
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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01 October 2015

Review: Rywka's Diary by Anita Friedman & Rywka Lipszyc

Rywka's Diary by Anita Friedman / Rywka LipszycMore than a half century after the destruction of the Lodz ghetto and the liberation of Auschwitz, fourteen-year-old Rywka Lipszyc's voice is still strong and clear. Although several diaries from the Holocaust have been published, Lipszyc's is important and unique, especially because of her unwavering faith in God.

Lipszyc kept her short diary from the fall of 1943 to the spring of 1944, when it ends abruptly midsentence, although we know she survived at least another year. By the time she started documenting her thoughts, Lipszyc had seen both parents die and had lost two younger siblings to deportation. Later her aunt, with whom she was living, also died, leaving behind a household of five girls, all under the age of twenty, to endure the privations of the ghetto.

When the cousins were deported to Auschwitz in the fall of 1944, Lipszyc was able to take her unfinished diary with her. In the remaining months of the war, the girls were transferred first to Christianstadt and finally to Bergen-Belsen. At the liberation, the two surviving cousins were told that Lipszyc would not live, even with medical care. Thus they reluctantly left her behind in the care of Allied doctors. Meanwhile, a doctor in the Red Army discovered Lipszyc's diary in a pile of prisoners' personal effects at Auschwitz; she picked up the little notebook took it back to Russia.

Children headed for deportation: WikimediaThe diary remained with the doctor's possessions until it was discovered by her granddaughter in 1995. The young woman, recognizing the historical significance of notebook, turned it over to American scholars and historians. After this remarkable journey, Lipszyc's private thoughts are now, finally, available to the world, offering an unexpected opportunity to learn more about the Lodz ghetto.

So often the words of young Holocaust victims focus on secular issues, on broken dreams, on the unfairness of their lot, on their growing hunger. And Lipszyc is, of course, no exception, as she grieves the loss of her family and the closing of her school. But she struggles especially with the dichotomies in her life: she is responsible for her little sister but is watched over by an older cousin; she wants to practice her faith but is forced to break God's commandments; she doesn't want to let go of hope but is compelled to face reality; she wants to be understood but also to be left alone.

Even if Lipszyc's diary were predictable, it would still be a significant historical discovery. But this remarkable girl was not like her peers. She astounds us with her keen observations of her neighbors and, particularly, with her deep reliance on God. Unlike many Holocaust diarists, she never turns her back on her religion; instead she embraces the hardships "because as long as it hurts, I'm a human being. I can feel--Otherwise it would be very bad. God! Thank you for your kindness toward us!"

The short diary is supplemented with fascinating supporting material. Readers will find annotations, discussions on the diary's authenticity and historical context, photographs, and even an essay from one of Lipszyc's surviving relatives.

Beautifully and sensitively translated, Rywka Lipszyc's diary provides an eloquent and surprising perspective on life, hope, and faith in one of the worst of the Jewish ghettos.

NOTE: photos are of the Lodz ghetto and are, as far as I can tell, in the public domain. Click images to see them full size.

Originally written for a September issue of Readerly magazine.
Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780062389688
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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