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February Book Review: Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story by Wolfgang Bauer

Did you know there is a very violent group called Boko Haram (meaning “Western education is forbidden”) in Nigeria kidnapping women and girls for the purpose of converting them to radical Islam? The Boko Haram refers to themselves as the “Group of People for Sunnah for the Preaching of Islam and Jihad.” Their goal is to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state. The fight has been going on since 2014, and they are a sector of ISIS. In the words of Boko Haram’s former leader Abubakar Shekau in 2014, “My brothers you should take slaves. I kidnapped girls from a school, and you are irritated. I say, we must stop the spread of Western education. I kidnapped the girls. I will sell them at the market with Allah’s help. There is a market where one can sell humans. Allah has told me to sell them [my emphasis]. He commands me to sell them. I sell women. I sell women.”

In award-winning reporter Wolfgang Bauer’s Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story, you will find heart-breaking interviews with the female survivors of Boko Haram raids, killings, and kidnappings. These women and girls were taken from their homes in Chibok, and forced into the swamps of the Sambisa forest in northern Nigeria. Some of the girls were as young as nine years old.  If they did not convert to Islam and participate in prayers and rituals, they were killed. They tell their heart-wrenching stories of how they were captured, abused, forced to watch beheadings of men and women, and how they survived after escaping by living under thick-brushed trees in the jungle.

Adult men were immediately shot when Boko Haram raided a village, and young boys were kidnapped and taught to fight for the radical group. In mid 2014, Boko Haram decided to attach bombs to mostly young women under loose dresses so they were unseen. Some of the women did not understand that they were being used as suicide bombers.  In addition, Wolfgang Bauer also talks a bit about the history and politics of Nigeria and the Boko Haram, which I found very helpful and interesting. The Nigerian military and security forces fought Boko Haram, but some of those fighters became corrupted. Eventually, the terrorists entered northern Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, and then the United States became involved by sending troops. As of February, 2018, the fight to remove Boko Haram from Nigeria continues, although some control has been regained. In terms of the number of people it has killed, Boko Haram has been called the world’s deadliest terrorist group to date. They occupied a fifth of Nigeria in just a few months in 2014.

I recommend Wolfgang Bauer’s Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story to anyone interested in current Nigerian politics, ISIS, radical Islam, or human rights. Although this book is very difficult to read, it is vital to understanding the extreme insanity of radical Islam, Jihad (a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty), and the violence perpetuated by Boko Haram and ISIS.

A bit about the author, Wolfgang Bauer:Reporter Wolfgang Bauer

Passionate about human rights, Wolfgang Bauer began his career as a freelance reporter in 1994, after studying history, geography, and Islamic studies at the University of Tubingen.  Today, he works for the leading weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, covering the Middle East and Africa. His reporting on Boko Haram has won him the prestigious Nannen Prize in 2016 in Germany as well as the Bayeau-Calvados Prize for War Correspondents in France. He is also author of Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe, which has been translated into twelve languages. He lives in Reutlingen near Stuttgart, Germany.

To learn more about Wolfgang Bauer, visit Wolfgang-Bauer.info. To purchase Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story, visit Amazon.

© 2018, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

 

 


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December Book Review: The Choice: Embracing the Possible by Edith Eva Eger

A stunning, powerful, beautifully-written memoir of her life as a Jewish child in Hungary, as a holocaust prisoner at Auschwitz, and the years of recovery thereafter, Edith Eva Eger’s, The Choice: Embrace the Possible, left me speechless. Through her incredible story, Eger shows us how to move from a victim, to a survivor, and then to an empowered person. She demonstrates how this is done by the power of choice. If there is anyone who has the credibility to teach others how to truly thrive after enduring horrific experiences, it is this amazing woman!

As a holocaust survivor with most of her imprisonment at Auschwitz, Edith tells her story with first-rate prose, weaving her past with her present and taking the reader on an inspiring journey. Her book is divided into four major sections. She talks about her childhood and imprisonment as a teenager, her escape, her recovery, and lastly, her final healing which was not fully complete until she revisited Auschwitz decades later. It was then that she turned tragedy into triumph. Eger’s book covers how she watched her mother march to her death in the gas chamber; details her daily torture and starvation; explains how she and her sister, Magda, inspired each other to survive yet another, torturous day; covers how she was transferred to the Mauthausen and Gunskirchen camps in Austria; and finally, her rescue from a heap of dying bodies by U.S. soldiers.  This is the kind of book that gives you the chills, makes you gasp, makes you feel a multitude of emotions, and entices you to close it for a moment, put it down, and inevitably stare at the wall in awe.

In addition to her imprisonment, Edith explains how she kept her experiences in the concentration camp to herself for most of her adult life, until she realized she could not keep her secret any longer, if she wanted to heal from her past. As a clinical therapist, she explains how some of her clients were the catalyst in helping her eventually discover why she feared verbalizing her experiences during WWII. The Choice: Embrace the Possible is not only a story about a holocaust survivor, but also a story of hope, of courage, of forgiveness, of personal healing, and of how to escape the prison in our own minds.

I highly recommend The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eva Eger to those interested in learning about the Holocaust from the perspective of a thriving survivor, to those who are history or WWII buffs, or to those who want to read a beautiful, very inspiring story. I could not put this book down, and I definitely learned a lot.

A bit about the author, Dr. Edith Eva Eger:Dicu-e1467064906674

Dr. Edith Eva Eger holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and maintains a thriving practice in La Jolla, California. She also holds a faculty appointment at the University of California, San Diego. She serves as the consultant for the U.S. Army and Navy in resiliency training and the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Edith is eighty-nine years old, a dancer, an inspiring speaker, and ends her talks with a high ballet kick (a metaphor for the human spirit, her love of ballet, and the power of choice).

To learn more about Dr. Edith Eva Eger, follow her Facebook Page. To purchase a copy of The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eva Eger, visit Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

 

 


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October Book Review: Creating a World That Works for All by Sharif Abdullah

“A human being is part of the whole, called [by us] “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us … Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

The above quotation from the brilliant Albert Einstein is found in the beginning pages of Creating a World That Works for All by Sharif Abdullah because it encapsulates the author’s belief and mission.  Mr. Abdullah is on a quest to encourage and teach people how to create a world that works for every human being because presently the world only works for a few. His book details how and why shifting our individual and collective consciousness, followed with action, will accomplish this much-needed and urgent vision.

Abdullah Sharif divides his book into three parts: the envisioning of true inclusivity; the analysis of a new, humane society for all; and the practical advice on moving from a broken world to an inclusive one.  He thoughtfully terms and discusses the three types of people in today’s world: the “Keepers”– those who live in harmony with the earth and believe the planet was not created for any one species, we should not try to control life, and we should keep doing what works; the “Breakers”– those who believe the earth and everything in it was created for man, and man has the right and responsibility to control it all; and the “Menders”– those who work towards an inclusive, habitable planet that works for all human and nonhuman beings. Throughout this reading, Sharif very thoroughly analyses why a world that works for all is not achievable without restructuring our attitudes, our priorities, and our culture. In addition, he describes how exclusivity destroys and why inclusivity builds. He concludes with specific alternative actions for each of us to take that will create a sustainable, life-affirming world based on fundamentally different ways of thinking.

I found Creating a World That Works for All by Sharif Abdullah compelling. It was also sometimes arduous to read because Sharif’s words forced me to acknowledge how I sometimes participate in exclusivity (or in that which harms greater society) and how I could improve. I highly recommend this reading to anyone seeking a solution for all our social, political, and environmental problems worldwide and to those interested in an analysis of our collective denial. It is a very pertinent read at this time in history!

A bit about the author, Sharif Abdullah:

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Shariff Abdullah, J.D., is a consultant, speaker, author and advocate for societal transformation.   His mission is to bring currently dysfunctional systems and structures into alignment with our common human and spiritual values for the goal of creating a world that works for all living things. He consults with people and organizations on the leading edge of change including government agencies, businesses, and social service organizations.  As director of Commonway Institute, he has visited over forty-three countries and over 100 distinct cultures, giving him a unique perspective on our global human and spiritual issues.

Shariff Abdullah was raised in Camden, New Jersey, a formerly prosperous Industrial Era city, now devastated by poverty, violence, and hopelessness. His early life was a study in toxic relationships, and he experienced living on welfare in public housing, violence, and pollution. The deep desire to facilitate a world that works for everyone resulted from his childhood experiences.

To learn more about Sharif Abdullah, or to purchase a copy of Creating a World That Works for All, visit: Sharif.Commonway.org.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

 

 

 


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December Book Review: Obasan by Joy Kogawa

“If I could follow the stream down and down to the hidden voice, would I come at last to the freeing word? I ask the night sky, but the silence is steadfast. There is no reply.” – Joy Kogawa, Obasan

Obasan, Joy Kogawa

Obasan by Joy Kogawa, written in 1981, is a stunning work of fiction depicting the life of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, including their internment and persecution. Set in Cecil, Alberta, Kogawa beautifully tells her story from the perspective of a child. She uses deep, powerful metaphors of water, streams and stones to portray the emotions experienced (or not able to be experienced) during this time of persecution and prejudice. Masterfully written, Obasan (the word for “aunt” in Japanese), weaves the present and the past with dreams and memories into beautiful prose that will remind you of the undeniable pleasure of reading well-written literature!

Kogawa’s main character, Naomi, attempts to understand the sadness and secrets within her family and culture.  The death of her uncle leads Naomi to visit and care for her widowed aunt Aya, whom she refers to as “Obasan.” During her brief stay with Aya, she tries to reconstruct her painful experiences as a child during and after World War II. Eventually, Naomi learns that her mother, who had been in Japan before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was severely injured by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Her perspective on the war then changes as she recalls these difficult memories. The story essentially interweaves the past and present with the themes of time, memories, prejudice and injustice. The last chapter weaves the entire book together when Naomi discovers the secret her family has been keeping.

I recommend this fictional piece to anyone who is interested in Japanese culture or World War II (including the ramifications of the dropping of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki) and the persecution and ill treatment of Japanese-Canadians during the war. Furthermore, if you love metaphor in literature, this book is first rate!

A bit about the author, Joy Kogawa:7069_orig

Joy Kogawa is a writer and poet and has worked to educate Canadians about the history of Japanese Canadians. Joy has studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan. Her most recent poetic publication (2003) is A Garden of Anchors. Her long poem, A Song of Lilith, published in 2000, retells the story of Lilith, the mythical first partner to Adam. Kogawa has also published other books: Itsuka, The Rain Ascends and Naomi’s Road.

In 1986, Kogawa was made a member of the Order of Canada; in 2006, she was made a member of the Order of British Columbia; and, in 2010, the Japanese government honored Kogawa with the Order of the Rising Sun. Joy Kogawa is also known for her contribution to the understanding and preservation of Japanese Canadian history. Obasan is usually required reading in college literature or ethnic studies classes in Canada and the United States.

To learn more about Joy Kogawa or to order a copy of Obasan, visit: joykogawa.ca.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being 

 


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November Book Review:  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, spoken in 2014 in Oslo, Norway, as the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai, a Pashtun Pakistani, is a courageous, exemplary, and determined young woman on a mission to bring education to every girl and boy in every town, province, city, and country in the world.  Her memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, is a rich, beautifully-written, compassionate and inspiring story that explains her past, her passion, and her life mission.

i-am-malala

Yousafzai begins her memoir with anecdotes about growing up in Mingora, in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, a lush mountain region full of breathtaking rivers, waterfalls,  and gorgeous valleys. She describes life as a Sunni Muslim, her love of Allah, and the customs in Mingora. Her book explains the poverty she and her family endured – no running water, no stove, no heat, very little food at times, for example. She explains how poverty and tradition in the midst of paradise kept most girls from attending school. Her own mother could not read or write, for example. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, her hero and inspiration, is a fierce advocate for girls’ education, and after political opposition and financial problems, founded an all-girls school in Mingora where Malala attended.

In the second half of this memoir, Malala explains the fundamentalist beliefs of the Taliban and the extreme damage and fear they exhibited in her country. She writes stories about beheadings and public lynchings, suicide bombers, the bombing and destruction of hundreds of schools, general politics in Pakistan, the horrific damage and tyranny and eventual ruin of Mingora caused by the Taliban, and more.  As outspoken advocates of education for girls (which the Taliban was against), Malala and her father eventually became targets. Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban and survived. Her recovery is nothing less than remarkable. Her story has garnered worldwide attention, which has caused a nonstop collaboration of many individuals and countries for the fight of education for all girls everywhere.

I highly recommend I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai to anyone who is curious about Pakistani life and customs, about Islam, or about the Taliban and the damage they have inflicted in Pakistan. I especially recommend this memoir to human and women’s rights activists. It is an incredible story that left me speechless, in awe, and at times, in tears!

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Opening Malala Yousafzai’s All-Girls School near the Syrian border in 2015.

A bit about the author, Malala Yousafzai:

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.

Malala has received many awards. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured Malala as one of “the 100 most influential people in the world“. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In July that year, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. In 2014, she was nominated for the World Children’s Prize in Sweden, and in May of the same year, Malala was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Later in 2014, Malala was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Today, Malala is founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates at the local, national and international levels for resources and policy changes needed to ensure all girls, worldwide, have the right to twelve years of schooling.

To learn more about Malala Yousafzai and her work, visit: Malala.org.

To purchase I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, visit: Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being 

 

 


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Has The Donald Trumped Us?

Once again, another excellent article by Peter B. Roth summarizing the politics in this country and what we can do to improve our lives! Enjoy!

Well now we done it! After “electing” Trump and enough Republicans to Congress, we have the GOP controlling all three branches of government.  What are we in for?  It appears that many …

Source: Has The Donald Trumped Us?

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October Book Review: Propaganda by Edward Bernays

Considered a fascinating and controversial read, Propaganda by Edward Bernays-written in 1928 and revised in 1955-explains the role of public relations in government and business, or rather, explores how power is used by the ruling elite of our society to curb, control and manipulate public opinion. It is a summation of how the elite control how we think, how we act, what we buy, and what we do. I found Propaganda apropos to read in October of an election year.

The definition of propaganda, according to Edward Bernays, is “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses.” Not only is propaganda necessary for social order, but Bernays believed that it is also a vital and important element in democratic society, and without its use, the masses would be confused and lost.  Propaganda is used to sell an idea, a product or service, every day. Bernays, although insists that the use of propaganda is essential, does acknowledge that curbing its potentially destructive mass ramifications is impossible; essentially, he does not idealize his stance but rather understands that the use of propaganda is manipulative, covert and only serves the propagandist. Today, the word “propaganda” has a very negative connotation, and the Oxford Dictionary definition is: “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”  An example of this, of course, is the propaganda deliberately used by the mass media in this election year of 2016 with the goal of shaping public opinion in regards to the two major presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In addition to analyzing the role of propaganda in politics, Edward Bernays scrutinizes how it is used in education, social services, business, art, science, and what he terms “women’s studies.” He also briefly discusses the psychology of public relations. I found Bernays book a brief but thorough introduction of the subject of propaganda. Even though this book was originally published in 1928, it is still very pertinent today, almost one hundred years later. I recommend this reading to anyone who seeks to understand how the masses are covertly (and sometimes overtly) manipulated into thinking and acting on all levels. It is truly and eye-opener!

A bit about the author, Edward Bernays:Edward Bernays

Austrian-American intellectual Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion. During WWI, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda machine that sold the war to the American people as one that would “make the world safe for democracy.” The marketing strategies for all future wars would be based on this model. Bernays fashioned a career as a proponent of propaganda for political and corporate manipulation of the population. His career earned him the well-known title of “father of public relations.”

To learn more about Edward Bernays, visit Wikipedia.

To read a copy of Propaganda, visit Amazon or download a PDF version.

© 2016, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being