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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, compassionate, 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!

Malin_Fezehai-HUMAN_for_Malala_Fund_182.jpg

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

Propaganda 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 

 

 

2016 Election


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Conventional Wisdom Yields Convention

As election day approaches, some of us might still be struggling with who to vote for and how to come to that conclusion. I am honored to pass on this blog by blogger and author, Peter B. Roth, that captures, exactly, what I have been feeling during this election year. I could not have written a better article that explains why it is imperative that we vote for what we value and not for “the lessor of two evils.” Enjoy!

I woke up today and checked Facebook like I often do and to my dismay, I was disgusted by people gloating over voting for Hillary. It was quite obvious to me that they had not done their homework a…

Source: Conventional Wisdom Yields Convention

Gary Bryne


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July Book Review: Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne

Gary Bryne

Having had the very important job of protecting President Bill Clinton and the First Family, former Secret Service Officer, Gary J. Byrne, in Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate discusses his observations of the character of the President and his wife, Hillary Clinton, inside the White House. He also discusses the culture that emerged during the Clinton presidency. In his book, he explains how his dream of being a secret service agent became a reality when he was given the chance to protect President George H.W. Bush and the Bush First Family toward the end of Bush’s term. Byrne was later assigned as Secret Service Uniformed Officer outside the Oval Office during the Clinton Administration.

Reading Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne educated me on the lifestyle and struggles of a Secret Service officer and the politics of the agency.  Author Byrne discusses the Clinton scandals including Whitewater, Vince Foster’s suicide, Travelgate, Filegate, Troopergate, Bill Clinton’s affairs (while president, in the White House and as former governor of Arkansas), the Monica Lewinsky trial and affair, and more. In every case, the Clintons denied allegations, and it came down to their word against others’ word. He discusses how Bill Clinton arrogantly denied his affair with Monica Lewinski until he was forced to acknowledge that he blatantly lied as evidenced by the taped conversations by Linda Tripp between herself and Monica. He also writes about what he witnessed in the White House from former First Lady, Hillary Clinton – her outbursts, rage, and violent behavior toward her husband. She also used abusive language towards the Secret Service officers on many occasions.

Byrne also explains how he was put in the horrible position of having to testify about what he witnessed in the White House (Monica Lewinski and President Clinton in the Oval Office alone on many occasions and more) while upholding his oath to protect the President, and having to balance that with telling the truth and not jeopardizing his job as a Secret Service officer! The stress it put on his family finally resulted in Gary resigning from his position with the Secret Service, then taking a job as a trainer, and then as a law enforcement officer for the Federal Air Marshal Service.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for the truth about the character of the Clintons from the perspective of someone who was assigned to protect them.  The author’s experience is an indication of what kind of culture we will have in the White House again, if Hillary Clinton should become president. There are positive and negative criticisms of this book that have arisen. I am not including them here.

A bit about the author, Gary J. Byrne:

Gary J. Byrne’s career was in federal law enforcement for nearly thirty years. He served in the U.S. Air Force Security Police, the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service, and most recently as Federal Air Marshall. While an agent for the Secret Service, Byrne protected Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Gary Byrne can be contacted via Facebook.

To purchase a copy of Gary J. Byrne’s, Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate, visit: Amazon.

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

 


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My Voice Matters: A letter from an Immigrant to Bernie Sanders

Dearest Bernie,

You have truly done it.

I have not been one to get heavily involved in politics, but this year, I couldn’t help myself. The reason is you, Bernie Sanders.  You have reminded me that I have a voice, and my voice is heard.

You need to know, Mr. Sanders, that in the past, my voice shattered when I spoke. I stuttered badly as a child, because I was not secure in my skin. I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood in California as part of a working poor class family. My family and I were considered strange – Mexicans that were a nuisance who would not amount to anything (even though we were Argentine; no offense to anyone who is Mexican or Hispanic reading this). I did not feel accepted, liked, normal, and especially, heard. I had no voice then. It was not until decades later that I realized what had happened to me and to my family. Thank you, Bernie Sanders, for speaking for immigrants and the working poor. Thank you for reminding me that my voice matters, that our collective voices matter.

Bernie Sanders

I am a first generation, Argentine-American who is now a United States citizen.  Like most of the masses of people in this country, I believed that what I witnessed in the world around me and what I had experienced first hand was all there was or will ever be. I believed that no one had the courage to fight for what we need, what we want, what we should have and what we deserve as citizens of this country or of the world. I believed there was no way to change the corrupt system we endure year after year. I believed with every cell of my body that there was no way to change a system that has been in place for decades, even centuries. I believed that I would not see significant social change and significant betterment of society in my lifetime. You, Bernie Sanders, have taught me that I was wrong. I owe this to you and only you.

As the eldest of three children, I watched my father devolve from a fun-loving, gregarious, and funny man who was usually the life of the party into a silent, dispondant, depressed alcoholic until his untimely death of a heart attack at the age of 59.  Dad worked in a book binding factory in an assembly line with no air-conditioning or heat for very little pay (he was a legal immigrant who did not speak English) and with an unrealistic production goal from management. My father was the sole breadwinner in our family and would often have to work overtime, sometimes as much as sixty hours per week.  He eventually secured a job working the swing shift so he could avoid the heat from the sweltering summers and meet the production assembly-line quota. Because of this change of schedule, we only saw an exhausted version of dad on weekends. My mother was left to care for me and my siblings and hardly spent any time with her husband. We were the working poor class. Dad sacrificed his life working his ass off getting paid minimum wage or less doing a job that would drive anyone insane. I am now part of the middle class because of my father’s unrelenting dedication and sacrifice. I acknowledge that sacrifice and commitment from my Papa. I have never forgotten that.  

Like my father, Bernie, there are many other fathers (and mothers) in this country working menial jobs where the pay is not enough to even survive month to month. This is the result of the unregulated, corrupt capitalistic system we have in place where greed flourishes and people are viewed and treated like machines for production. This is unacceptable. No person should have to work in deplorable conditions and earn a meager income. YOU, Bernie Sanders, are the only politician in a long time that has even addressed, (and much less cared about) the condition of the working poor or the immigrant, and I thank you for that. I thank you for standing up for working class families and fighting for an increase in the minimum wage in this country. June 24th would have been my father’s 82nd birthday. Below is a picture of him working at the factory. I often imagine what his life would have been like if he had been treated better at work. I wonder if he would have lived sober, if he would have not died so soon. I imagine how different my childhood might have been.

Dad

We have a long way to go in this country (and worldwide) to change or improve the systems in place that abuse and oppress people. It is your vision, Mr. Sanders, your courage and your passion that ignites the fire within each person to step up and do their part in changing our country for the better, not only for the plight of the poor and the immigrant, but also for all the other problems facing this country that you address. Thank you for your courage, your diligence, your inspiration, your unwavering conviction, your honesty and trailblazing spirit. You are the inspiration that we all needed to fight for change, to fight for freedom, to wake us out of our slumber. It is people like you who change the world for the better. You are our voice and have helped us rediscover our own voices. I sure hope you will be elected our next president, Bernie Sanders, but if you should not, I want you to know how truly grateful I am for you.  And, if my father were alive today, Bernie, I picture him shedding a tear (or two) knowing there was a candidate running for president that would have heard his voice.  He would have Felt the Bern, and he would have been SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL.

From one inspired immigrant who speaks for other immigrants,

Thank you, Bernie.

To learn about Bernie Sanders and his vision, visit BernieSanders.com or Bernie’s Facebook page, BernieSanders.

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