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"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus

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BOOK REVIEW | Paradise Regained by John Milton

Paradise Regained - John Milton

Paradise Regained while not at the same level of rhetoric and literacy as Paradise Lost does offer an interesting insight into Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Milton uses language in order to assert Jesus as the Messiah, and Satan as an agent of evil, which is being used by God, to help that assertion. Paradise Regained is largely static. There is no real rise and fall of tension and there is no real climax, either. Rather, all of the stress is placed in the importance of language and silence.


When comparing Satan and Jesus' speeches, there is an immediate difference: Satan's speech is clouded in "persuasive rhetoric," whereas everything that Jesus says is plain and accessible. Jesus does not need fancy language in order to convey his message. Instead of trying to make Himself more confusing, the Messiah takes language back to its roots during Adam's days by keeping it as simple and as close to God as He can.


In his brilliant essay, "The Muting of Satan: Language and Redemption in Paradise Regained," Steven Goldsmith argues that the language Jesus is using is not the same as the language Satan is using. Rather than stay silent while Satan tempts Him, Jesus uses the fallen language in order to thwart Satan and beat him at his own game. In the process of using this language, Jesus is paving His way towards becoming the Messiah by silencing Satan so that His voice will be heard. Underneath all of Satan's fancy word plays lays absolutely nothing. He is the "linguistic anti-christ," who "has nothing to express."


Jesus finally asserts Himself as Messiah and readies Himself to be "all in all" with God towards the end of the poem:


"To whom thus Jesus: Also it is written,
Tempt not the Lord they God, he said and stood.
But Satan smitten with amazement fell."


At first glance, it is easy to see that Jesus and Satan are opposites: one is standing and the other is falling. However, the fact that Jesus "said and stood" is important. It parallels God's perfect speech during the creation of the world: "God said... and there was." This is the pinnacle of the poem - the point where Christ has officially triumphed over Satan and can now go public as Messiah. Satan is allowed to roam the fallen world and has even created a kingdom of his own in Hell and in the sky (according to Milton) where he perversely "blesses" people with wealth, glory, etc. Jesus has to enter the fallen world and first silence its biggest voice before He can redeem it.


"Queller of Satan, on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind."


According to Goldsmith, "the process of verification that is the purpose of Paradise Regained has been accomplished." By using language, Milton paralleled Jesus' own entrance into the world as Messiah by silencing Satan and glorifying Christ.


While I still believe this is not nearly as fascinating as Paradise Lost (and is also much shorter), it's still well worth the read if you've read the former. They really are two parts of a whole. Satan's temptation of Christ not only mimics his temptation of Eve, but it is also referenced throughout the entire poem whenever he feels foiled. This is the proper finale to Paradise Lost.

BOOK REVIEW | Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez by Marjorie Agosín

Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez (English and Spanish Edition) - Marjorie Agosín, Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman

Memory is the only witness that
Remembers the women of Juárez
Now statues,
Scattered bones,
Heads and little ears.

Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez is a collection of poetry written by Marjorie Agosín about the missing women of Juárez. From 2008 to 2013 over 211 girls have gone missing, but the murders have been going on since the 90s. The most disturbing issue of all is that the government has done nothing about it. In the introduction to these poems, written by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, she writes that Mexico is a country with a "machista" culture that "often accuses women of provoking their abusers." With this kind of victim-blaming perpetuating the minds of those who are in charge, it's not surprising to see that there hasn't been much progress made towards stopping these murders.

She dreams about borders
A knife parts her in two
North and South
The body of a woman lies
In the middle of the night
In the middle of the day
In the middle of the light
On the border no one finds her
The desert petrifies her memory
The wind erases sounds
Everything is a darkness without sunlight.

She has crossed borders
And doesn't return home
Her mother wanders about crying
And looks for but does not find her

She crosses borders
Wakefulness and dream
Ashes and bonfires.

Agosín's goal was to give these women a voice. They have been permanently silences and are suffering a second death because of the negligence of the government. These murders have been going on for over 20 years with no change in the system or in the enforcement of the law. Agosín uses free verse, often conflating herself with the victims and reminding all women that in another time, in another place, or even tomorrow in your home, it could be you.

News Reports

The news report of Ciudad Juárez
Announces another death
The child says that it looks like the same woman
All of those women are the same, the father replies
The mother prepares the food
She sees herself in those women
The news report continues
They announce the winners of the soccer tournament
The child asks his mother why
They always kill the same woman
The mother's voice is strange
Like that of a little girl
And a well of silence
Forms on her sad mouth.

By using free verse, Agosín is able to give a voice to the traumatic experiences of the women who were murdered and the women who have been left behind. Sometimes I had to read a certain poem over and over until I understood it, and other times I read it over and over because it was just that powerful. Combining the Introduction, Poems and Afterword, there are only 143 pages in this book. (Which you can also cut in half because half of it is in Spanish on one side and English on the other, so if you're not bilingual, it will go even faster.)

This book has easily become one of my personal favorites. I really appreciate the accessibility of Agosín's style. Had she tried to make her poems more complicated, she may have run the risk of taking away from the violence. Instead, she made sure her poems were succinct, easy to understand and straight to the point - given the women of Juárez and the women who are terrified for their lives a powerful and booming voice.

What #HaleNo and #Bloggerblackout Really Mean.

I feel the need to have a space where these two hashtags can be explained in an accessible way as possible.  I'm not perfect and my explanation of them may not be everyone's explanation of them, but I ask you to please take a moment to read my subjective interpretation.  If you've anything to add, please do so in the comments and I will be happy to include them in this post.  I'd love for this to be a community explanation.

#HaleNo is a hashtag that represents blogger's taking a stance against the recent insanity to do with Kathleen Hale stalking a blogger to her home, and now also has to do with Richard Brittain, an author who stalked a reviewer and committed physical harm against her.  It is a peaceful protest against that sort of behavior in the community.  Also, this needs to be made clear: We also do not support the recent doxxing of Kathleen Hale and many bloggers reported that incident.  I just wanted that to be heard.

#Bloggerblackout is a movement that has been ignited due to the recent events.  In short, it's a movement where bloggers are choosing not to review until October 27th (although I have heard that some are prolonging their blackout) in order to get back in touch with their roots.  The truth is, blogging is for the bloggers and the reviews are for the readers.  I think it's great when bloggers and authors and publishers form beautiful relationships.  I really think that's a wonderful aspect of blogging, but I don't think it's ever been intended to be the main aspect.  Please respect that bloggers are trying to remember why they began blogging in the first place and to rekindle their love for it.

The reason why I didn't participate in the #Bloggerblackout is because I do not do ARC reviews in general.  At least, not yet.  I've been reviewing much older books.  However, I do 100% the #Bloggerblackout for however long the bloggers want to maintain it.

I hope this explains a few things.


I will be doing more posts of this sort on my blog, if you'd like to see them.  Thank you for reading and I hope we can spread the message of what these hashtags really mean.

BOOK REVIEW | The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elaine Hedges

To summarize this book in one sentence: The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman's descent into the harrowing grasp of Post Partum Depression while her husband and sister-in-law ignore her growing issues out of ignorance, blind righteousness and fear.

This story starts out seemingly harmless enough. A woman and her husband move to the countryside so that she can recover from a mysterious ailment.  Her husband seems to be careful, even overprotective - "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction."- but with good intentions.  The narrator wants to stay in the downstairs bedroom, but her husband insists on her staying in the ex-nursey with the horrendous yellow wallpaper.

As the story progresses, she becomes more and more fascinated, and frightened, by the wallpaper: "There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will." As she continues her narration, the reader quickly discovers that there is something, very, very wrong.  However, it is only the reader who notices this.  All those around her seem to casually overlook her issues and they continue to grow and consume her.

Being trapped inside the head of a woman who is spiraling out of control is a terrifying experience.  Her obsession with the wallpaper grows, she begins to see in it a woman who "wanted to get out", she becomes an insomniac, falls into paranoia and yet nobody does anything about it.  The frustration I felt towards everyone around her, everyone who was seeing the effects of her PPD firsthand was something unlike I've ever felt while reading.

Towards the end, she conflates herself with the woman she sees in the wallpaper, signaling her final break:

"I've got out at least," said I, "in spite of you and Jane.  And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

I was honestly surprised by how chilling this was.  I knew, going into it, that it was about PPD and I knew that it was a disturbing read, but I didn't expect it to affect me as strongly as it did.  The honest truth is that PPD is still a very ignored problem among new and older mothers.  We still live in a world where a woman suffering from PPD is forced to have more and more children and never get any help - which ultimately leads to her being jailed for trying to drown them, but her husband getting off with a simple slap on the wrist for ignoring her mental issues.  The Yellow Wallpaper while written over a hundred years ago, holds a message that is still very relevant and important today.

Highly recommended.  82 accessible pages and maybe an hour of your time that will be well spent.

An Open Letter to The Guardian

Dear The Guardian writers and editors,


Maybe, considering I'm writing in regards to Kathleen Hale's recent piece on catfishes and negative book reviews, you think I should turn my attention to her.  But I don't think I can add much to what some other fantastic bloggers have already said in their Twitter feed and in their letters.  Instead, I want to talk to you.  


When you post an article like Ms. Hale's and allow a woman who stalked and harassed a book blogger to be painted in a heroic light, it's a problem.  When you sugarcoat the word "stalk" and replace it with "confront," it's a problem.  When you allow this woman to place herself on a pedestal, to gather sympathy for her wrongdoings, and ignore the fact that what she did was dangerous and illegal, it's a serious problem.


In 2006, over 3.4 million people reported incidents of being stalked.  And in these cases, over 130,000 people were fired or asked to leave their work place due to said stalking.  (Source.) Perhaps you can argue that this isn't the case between the blogger and Ms. Hale because the blogger hasn't been fired, but this blogger was called at her work place.  She was harassed on her work phone.  Ms. Hale brought her work place into this as soon as she made that first phone call.  


But wait, you'll argue, nothing bad came of it.  The blogger was not injured.  There were no threats made, no guns drawn.  Not all stalking starts off violent.  In fact, 70-80% of stalkers are just "obsessive stalkers" and do nothing violent at all... at first.  However, by giving her your approval, you have basically just given the green light to Ms. Hale that her behavior is okay.  And many stalkers do become violent after a time. (Source.)


You gave Kathleen Hale a platform. You allowed her to say what the blogger's real occupation is.  You allowed her to reveal personal information about this blogger that should have never been on the internet to begin with.  This blogger used a fake identity, but so what?  After this article, do you wonder why?  Can you blame her for being careful about her safety?  Can you blame her for using an alias?  But here's the kicker: after going to such lengths to portray herself as someone else, she was still stalked and harassed.  


The issue of this piece isn't the blogger's online alias, it's Ms. Hale's chilling and deeply disturbing behavior.


Kathleen Hale invaded that blogger's privacy in a way that is unforgivable.  She showed up at her house and placed herself into the blogger's personal life when she should have never had that information to begin with.  


Shame on you for allowing an article to be published.  Shame on you for defending a woman who is a predator.  Shame on you for allowing this predator to paint herself as the victim, and the perpetuate the myth that she was somehow actually victimized.


Ms. Hale is not a hero.  She is not a victim.  She is a predator.  


I am just so entirely disappointed in you.





BOOK REVIEW | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

"The circus arrives without warning..."


It is a place of dreams, all in black and white, with spots of red on certain customers. In this circus, you cann watch a trapeze act that defies gravity, enter into a tent of stories, watch kittens jump through hoops, make wishes on wells, have your fortune read and more. It is opened from sunset to sunrise and only stays a few weeks before packing and changing location. Maybe it will come back to your town, but maybe it won't.


The Night Circus is a beautiful book about a whole cast of characters. We have Celia, the magical protege; Marco, the studious student; Tsukiko, the contortionist; Bailey, the dreamer; Herr, the clockmaker; Poppet and Widget, the eccentric twins; Chandresh, the master; Tara, the one who saw too much; and many more. They all work in a magical circus doing various activities, from performing to creating tents to handing out food.

What makes this circus so magical is that inside, unbeknownst to anyone except for the players, lies a game. The rules are vague, the boundaries are flimsy and not even the participants really understand what's going on.


"I have never fully grasped the rules of the game, so I am following my instincts instead."


I would say how the game works is exactly how this book was written. The language Morgenstern uses is beautiful and poetic, but very often it was hard to imagine exactly what she meant because she constantly keeps her reader in mystery. This is done on purpose to create an atmosphere that could perfectly mimic the circus. Although I loved how atmospheric this book was, sometimes not understanding the game and the temporal displacement of the novel were a bit too much. There desperation of the characters was never properly conveyed to the reader, but we were told often of how one of the players was exhausted/on the brink of a meltdown, etc. I never saw these meltdowns or complaints. I never felt them.


As the game progresses and more and more lives are at stake, I could never really feel how on edge everything was. There were very few moments when the circus would have a ripple that would cause something drastic, and when these drastic things happened I felt the panic in the moment, but never the build up. Because the rules and stakes of the game were so vague, it was hard to feel any crescendo towards a climax.


The novel is full of beautiful imagery that gives a new name to originality:


"When she opens her eyes, they are standing on the quarterdeck of a ship in the middle of the ocean. Only the ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink."


"Inside, the train is opulent, gilded, and warm. Most of the passenger cars are lined with thick patterned carpets, upholstered in velvets in burgundies and violets and creams, as though they have been dipped in a sunset, hovering at twilight and holding on to the colors before they fade to midnight and stars."


In a way, a lot of the creativity of this story reminded me of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Beautiful images, exciting prospects, interesting concepts. The writing is what really propelled the book from being a nice read to being an amazing one.


Overall, I would recommend this book for fans of beautiful writing, for fans of experimental writing and for those that like fairy tales. If you're the kind of reader who needs proper foreshadowing and likes to have concepts and situations thoroughly explained to them, this might not be a book for you. For me, however, this book was beautiful and possibly the type of book you could read and re-read, finding more and more hidden secrets within.

Pedophiles, pornography and prison: a not-so-brief response to John Grisham

Reblogged from Abandoned by user:

Trigger warning: This post includes a rather blunt discussion of child sexual abuse.


In a recent interview with the Guardian, the entirety of which can be found here, John Grisham said this:


"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," he said in an exclusive interview to promote his latest novel Gray Mountain which is published next week.


"But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."


I stumbled onto this controversy when I saw this post by The Wicked Witch of East Anglia. Without even reading the article, I knew precisely what had happened to rock John Grisham's world: some friend of his had been prosecuted for possession of child pornography. 


I've mentioned this before, but for my new followers and people who have forgotten, I have been a child abuse prosecutor since 1996. In the last eighteen years, I've prosecuted hundreds of men who were hands-on offenders, who sexually abused infants, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school children and beyond. I've also prosecuted more than my fair share of men who were in possession of child pornography. I know a lot about this subject.


A great deal more than John Grisham, as it happens.


There is a lot to unpack in Grisham's statement, but let me begin with the obvious problem: he is not objective. He is drawing all of his conclusions about fairness/unfairness based upon his personal opinion of what happened to his friend, and his personal discomfort with the fact that it is men who are just like him - "sixty year old white men" - who are in prison for possession of child pornography. This, my friends, is what we call entitlement.


It's a variant of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. In other words: this man is like me, I am not a criminal, ergo this man is no true criminal. Corollaries of this fallacy include the "why don't you go after real criminals" fallacy (i.e., my friend/family member is a good guy. Good guys are not criminals, therefore why don't you go after real criminals - no matter what the crime might have been that he committed), and the "he just needs help" fallacy (i.e., my friend/family member is a decent man. Decent men don't do things like this unless they are having a mental breakdown. Ergo, he just needs help. Again, no matter what crime he has committed).


I will wager, right here, right now, a stack of John Grisham books that John Grisham has no freaking idea what kind of pornography his friend was actually downloading. Because here is the other thing that I know from years of prosecution - he got all his information from his friend. He has not actually seen the images/videos that were located on his friend's computer. How do I know this? Well, duh. The police don't - can't in fact - show anyone the content of the images seized. Because to do so is a crime in and of itself. Only members of law enforcement, the prosecution team, or the defense team are permitted to view the images. He is relying on his friend's statement about what he did to inform his judgment on how fair it is.


Let me let you all in on a secret. Sometimes criminals lie about what they did. They minimize. They are desperate, and being honest about the gravity and the heinousness of their crimes is not in their best interest. If I had a nickle for every guy who went to prison for raping an eight year old who told his friends that "she was sixteen, and she came on to me," I'd be a wealthy woman indeed.


I've been doing this a long time. I can count on zero hands the number of prosecuted offenders who just a few images of individuals in their late teens on their computers. Zero hands, as in zeee-fucking-ro. This is for a couple of reasons: 1) establishing that the offender "knew" that victim was under 18 is an element of the offense; and 2) establishing that the victim actually was under 18 is an element of the offense. So, if you believe that you are viewing pornography of a 16 year old, but it turns out she is actually 24, that's not a crime. And if you believe that you are viewing pornography of a 24 year old, but she is actually 16, that's not actually a crime either. It is only when the offender is "aware" that he is viewing pornography of someone who is underage AND she is actually underage that it is a crime.


Is it possible that there are a few cases in which this occurred. Sure. But it is far more likely that his friend had ten thousand images of child pornography on his computer, including torture porn, bondage porn, and, even, animal porn, with children who are elementary school age or younger. Because, for the most part, prosecutions occur when men download images/videos of very, very, very young children who cannot be mistaken for adult females. Or it means that the image is of an identified victim - one whose name we know and the date on the image is verifiably her before she turned 18.


This whole idea that we are imprisoning unsophisticated old white guys who just stumble upon a website where there is a seventeen year old girl nekkid girl, consensually cavorting about with men her own age, yeah, that's some bull shit right there.


I have had the misfortune, because of my job, to view a damned lot of child pornography. It is terrible stuff, especially the videos. Sometimes they have audio, and one is confronted with the visceral reality that these children are crying, and begging not to have to do it. It will burn into your brain and it will not let go. Sometimes they are drugged, and are barely conscious. Sometimes they are hit and beaten. Often the children in them have the empty eyes of the emotionally broken and dead, and the bruised, skinny bodies of the neglected and hungry. The normal human response to those videos is horror, and pain, and a deep sadness and empathy for the children in them.


Calling it "child pornography," actually, diminishes its awfulness and gives it legitimacy because, when they think of it at all, people who are unfamiliar with the reality mentally picture it as looking just like adult pornography, but involving smaller participants. Calling it kiddie porn, as we so often do, trivializes it, especially since we have culturally decided to expand the meaning of the word "porn" to include things like food porn (images of extremely delicious looking food) and fashion porn (images of beautiful women wearing gorgeous clothes) and book porn (images of mouth-wateringly beautiful libraries) Porn - that word - it has a modern meaning, and that meaning is all positive. Porn = desirable.


Child pornography looks nothing like adult pornography. It looks like exploitation. It looks like violence.


These videos glorify the rape of children. They are images of terrible, horrifying crimes. They document the murder of the soul of a child. The idea that men get off on this stuff is vile and nauseating. In addition, no one is "entrapping" these guys into going out onto the internet and playing hide and seek with law enforcement. They know that what they are doing is wrong. They know that what they are doing is disgusting, and is likely to end with them in prison.


Anyone who thinks that viewing child pornography is a victimless crime needs to read this: In Court, A Victim Gives Voice To Sex Abuse. John Grisham needs to read it. The young woman about whom the article was written was sexually abused by her father. He was sentenced to 30 years for sexually abusing her. He filmed his crimes, which have been uploaded to the internet, and which are referred to by child protection experts as the "Vicky" series. Vicky is not her real name, but the videos of the Vicky series are everywhere. They cannot be controlled. They will never be wiped from this earth. This is what she says about knowing this:


“I wonder if the people I know have seen these images,” the woman wrote, according to the statement, which was read by a senior assistant district attorney, Kateri A. Gasper. “I wonder if the men I pass in the grocery store have seen them. Because the most intimate parts of me are being viewed by thousands of strangers, and traded around, I feel out of control. They are trading my trauma around like treats at a party, but it is far from innocent. It feels like I am being raped by each and every one of them.”


John Grisham's friend got three lousy years for his behavior. She, and the other children whose images he, and people like him, watched, and masturbated to, and I'm sorry for being blunt, but we all know that is exactly what was going on while he watched those images, those victims got a life sentence of horror from the abuse itself and a life sentence of knowing that, even when they are all grown up and can't be hurt anymore, all over the world, legions of men that they have never met will ejaculate while watching them plead with their rapists to please not make them do it.


So, yeah, three years in prison sounds like a pretty small price to pay for that shit.




And, the truth comes out: John Grisham's Friend Swapped Pornographic Images of Children Under 12


So, explain again, you entitled douchebag, exactly how unfair it was that your poor friend served 3 years 18 months 15 months for possessing images of 16-year-old girls children under the age of 12 being sexually abused, including intercourse.


He is out of prison and was reinstated to the bar. From where I am sitting, it looks like he got a slap on the wrist. I've seen defendants serve longer sentences for stealing a set of golf clubs.

BOOK REVIEW | Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories - Sandra Cisneros

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories contains 22 short stories about the female experience, from one paged drabbles, like "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn," to short stories that are so long they could be considered novellas, like "Eyes of Zapata."

This collection is less than 200 pages yet packs more of a punch than 500 paged novels I've read. Sandra Cisneros is extremely readable an accessible. I read that her goal was that anyone could pick up her books and understand them, and I believe she accomplished that desire. That's not to say that there aren't layers to this, because there are, but at the same time her meanings aren't shrouded or concealed. The more you read and re-read the stories, more aspects are revealed.

For this review, I wanted to focus specifically on her story, and the namesake of this collection, "Woman Hollering Creek." This short story follows Cleofilas, a young woman who moves from Mexico to Texas for marriage. In a very short time, her dreams of living in America happily are destroyed when her husband turns out to be abusive and a cheater.

Close to where Cleofilas lives is a river called Woman Hollering. Because of her experiences, she believes that the only time a woman hollers is when they're angry or sad. As her life gets darker and more abusive, she begins to relate to the sorrow that she sees in the river.

Two women end up liberating Cleofilas and on her way out of Mexico, one of them lets out a whoop of triumph. She hollers in joy, and suddenly everything Cleofilas has thought about herself, about women and about the creek are challenged.

There are more aspects to this story, like feminine displacement, oppression, La Llorona, motherhood, etc. And each time I read the story, a new part jumps out at me. This is just one story, and not even my favorite one! (My favorite is "Eyes of Zapata.") I love that Cisneros is easy to read, but not afraid to portray a powerful, even controversial, message. Highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW | Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. With a slave owning father - who was presumably his first master - and a slave mother, all Douglass ever knew was slavery. However, even though he was a slave, he knew he was being denied his basic human rights without anyone telling him: "The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege."

Douglass also offers an interesting insight into the emotions of slaves:

"Slave sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery."

This is before Douglass has learned how to read or write. There is something innate in people that tells them when they are being wronged and Douglass knew that his condition as a slave - and the entire enterprise of slavery - was wrong. But it wasn't just wrong for himself. When describing his owner's wife, he describes her as angelic, as one of the first people who ever looked upon him with kindness and sincerely smiled at him. However, "The cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon." (Emphasis is mine.) He goes on to explain that when it came to Sophia Auld, the aforementioned woman, "Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me." Douglass explains that she wasn't a born slave owner and that in the power of owning another being she became as corrupted as the worst of them. The slaving system is detrimental not only to the slaves, but also to their masters.

Douglass also sheds a light on the hypocritical nature of the slave holder. How the most pious of Christians turn out to be the worst of slave breakers, using the example of Mr. Covey: "Added to the natural good qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion - a pious soul - a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church. All of this added weight to his reputation as a "nigger-breaker."* He then goes on to compare Mr. Covey to God, in what I can only imagine was meant to be a sardonic and ironic comparison by saying "His comings were like a thief in the night" when he went to go check on the slaves and make sure they were doing their work.

Throughout the narrative, Douglass is trying to establish his identity. He is forming himself from nothing. He has nothing to remember except a mother who used to sneak in to his plantation even though it was miles from his own to visit him, a grandmother who was left to rot by her slave owners and a father who may or may not have been his actual master. When it comes time for him to find a name, he changes his surname a few times, from Bailey to Johnson and then eventually to the last name Douglass, which was actually given to him. But when Mr. Johnson, the man who named him, gave him his name, Douglass told him that "he must not take from me the name of 'Frederick.' I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity." At this point Douglass is a free man in the North, and his identity is that of an ex-slave, now married, and living a life where he can be his own master. But there is power in that first name, as I believe it reminds him of where he came from and how hard it took for him to get to where he is. There is power is names.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a narrative that is well worth the read, and I understand why it is required reading in high schools and colleges. This review is a brief overview of the amount of subjects offered up, the themes involved and more. To properly explain this book it would require multiple dissertations, but I hope it gave you interest in wanting to read it. This narrative offers an in-depth and personal look into slavery from an ex-slave's point of view while also being incredibly accessible and readable. Highly recommended.

* I'm sorry to have had to use the "n" word in a review. Please understand it was in the quotation and does not reflect my own speech.


This review can also be found on The Book of Jules.

John Milton, Censorship and the Murder of Reason.#BannedBooksWeek

In honor of #BannedBooksWeek, I figured I definitely needed to make a post on the horrors of censorship and how it limits intellectual growth.  Over the years, various governments, usually those based in religion, have banned books that they think have an agenda against their own.  Normally, these books do have a different point of view, but that is what makes them great.

I recently read John Milton's Areopagitica.  This essay is an appeal to the Papacy to drop the legislative censorship act that they had just put into motion.  It's most a selfish piece.  Milton was viewed as heretic by many church members and he was afraid of his work being censored or unpublished.  However, regardless of his intention in writing it, the meaning inside of it is relevant: you need to read all kinds of books to decide what you think is right or wrong and you should never be limited in your intellectual - and ultimately moral - journey.


Read the entire article here.

BOOK REVIEW | Lilus Kikus by Elena Poniatowska

Lilus Kikus and Other Stories - Elena Poniatowska

5 deconstructing stars.


Lilus Kikus by Elena Poniatowksa, on the surface level, is about a young girl and her adventures as she grows up.  This book was first published in 1954 erroneously as a child’s novel due to the age of the protagonist (although her age is never clearly defined) and the simplistic writing style.  However, Lilus Kikus is bursting at the seams with a feminist and anti-patriarchal agenda.  


 As a modern reader, the evidence of this book’s agenda is so apparently and blunt that the only explanation as to how it could ever be passed as a children’s novel is because the publishing industry in the 50s, especially in Mexico, was dominated by men and they just didn’t expect this sort of commentary from a woman.


The reader is first introduced to Lilus when she is outside playing.  Lilus does not like to play with dolls (which are traditionally feminine), instead she prefers to play doctor and perform experiments (traditionally masculine roles).  As she grows up, she joins an all-girls school where one of her closest friend, the “Lamb,” is being sent away due to pre-martial sex that resulted in pregnancy.  


When Lilus is talking to her next door neighbor, the Philosopher, he says this of the Lamb:


“The lamb, the lamb… let me think.  Ah yes, the feminist.  The free thinker.  … Well, life started too early for her.” Lilus herself is neither fully feminine nor fully masculine, but she knows better than to try and stand up for her female rights.  She knows she will end up exiled like the Lamb and decides that "she would rather keep quiet.  It is better to feel than to know."


Indeed, the Lamb was born into the wrong time period, where women are not allowed to commit the same “sins” as men or hold the same positions.  They are meant to be beautiful, vivacious and submissive: “Also, Lilus had heard it said that dummies were the most enchanting women in the world.”  


One of my favorite parts of this book is when Lilus is describing her good friend, Chiruelita, who is very naiive and innocent.   Chiruelita is the picture perfect idea of a "feminine" lady, of a "delicate" woman.  She ends up marrying an artist and obeying him easily, until the one day she decides to think for herself and “with a languid gesture, the eccentric artist wrung her neck!”


If that's not a blatant statement comparing the patriarchy to the silencing of women, then I don't know what is.  It is baffling to see how original readers missed all of this subtext. 


Eventually, Lilus cannot be contained and is sent to a nunnery where she is completely oppressed, both by the patriarchy and the Catholic religion.  The ending is open – it can be read as Lilus searching for signs of rebellion or as Lilus searching for signs of God.  Either way, the message is clear: the woman’s place is in the silence of the men’s voices. 


All this in a “children’s” book.


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Reblogged from Book-love:

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Authors I've Only Read Once

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn The Fire Lord's Lover - Kathryne Kennedy The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood In the Shadow of Blackbirds - Cat Winters White Noise - Don DeLillo

Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish, a fantastic book blog.  This week's theme was Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED To Read More.


My list:


1. Joyce Carol Oates

2. Cat Winters

3. Elena Poniatowska

4. Kathryne Kennedy

5. Rainbow Rowell

6. Laura Whitcomb

7. J.R.R. Tolkein

8. Margaret Atwood

9. Gillian Flynn

10. Don DeLillo


For explanations about each author, be sure to check out my blog. :) 


What's YOUR list?  I'm curious to know!

BOOK REVIEW | Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

Rumble - Ellen Hopkins

1 controlling star.

RUMBLE, by Ellen Hopkins, tells about the life of 18-year-old Matt, who has been on edge ever since his younger brother Luke committed suicide. Since then, his life has gone to shambles. He's lost his brother, his best friends, his parent's marriage is falling apart and his own relationship with his girlfriend is being tested to an uncomfortable point. Acting out in anger is one of the only ways that Matt can cope with all of these issues and he begins a steady cycle into self-destruction.

I admire what Ms. Hopkins tried to do in this novel. She tried to showcase the after-effects of suicide, the importance of forgiveness, and the destruction of relationships all within 500 or so pages. There is a strong chance she could have done this successfully as well if she hadn’t warped, perhaps, the main point of her novel: Control.

Matt is suffocating himself with his desire to control. He wants to control his parent’s marriage, he wants to control his girlfriend, he wants to control his environment (“I need order. I’m used to order”). And who can blame him? He has lost his brother, which was out of his control, his parents are at each other’s throats, something else that is also out of his control, and his own relationship is slowly, but surely, disassembling itself. With all of this pressure, it’s no surprise that the only way he feels like he can regain his life is to enforce every bit of dictatorship he can muster.

There were many passages referring to his girlfriend, Hayden, that reek of Matt’s desire to not only control her, but to literally possess her:

“Hayden turns, waves and her smile is all for me. I think. She gives Jocelyn a quick hug and as she starts away the guy touches her arm, redirecting her attention toward his goodbye. I definitely want to kick his spindly ass.” (Jealousy over innocent gestures by other men.)

“Any guy with a libido and half a brain would want to possess her…” (Trying to justify his powerful feeling of possession over her.)

“Arm still firmly wrapped around Hayden’s waist…”(He is even controlling in his body language.)

“The way she believes every word. The control that gives him.” (This basically spells it out for the reader.)

Perhaps the most frightening of all:

“Having no one to rape and nothing to pillage but myself, I step into the hot water stream, lather up with Mom’s fancy rosemary bath gel, and when I close my eyes, it is Hayden I imagine ramming into, take extreme pleasure in her pain.” (Rape is one of the ultimate forms of control.)

Hayden can feel this control, jealousy and possessiveness in him. It, quite rightly, scares her.

“But sometimes I worry if I tell you what’s on my mind, you’ll freak.”
“Sometimes you scare me.”

All of this control, all of this jealousy, finally culminates into a stand off where Matt physically forces his possession onto Hayden,

“Our hands unlace and I think our lives have, too, and I just can’t let that happen. I maneuver her back against the building, place one hand on each side of her face and repeat, ‘What are you saying?’” (Here he has quite literally trapped her in place, as he's been trying to metaphorically trap her into their relationship the entire time.)

As the book goes on, Matt learns to relinquish some of that control. This comes in the form of forgiveness. All of this time he has been playing the blame game when it came to his brother’s suicide. He blamed his father, his mother, his friend’s, his girlfriend, her friends, himself and, most importantly, a book that is based on interpretation. These grudges he has been holding (which are also a form of control) one by one slip lose and he steps back into the light of forgiveness.

“I blamed the Bible, when its words were not at fault, only the way they’re interpreted by those too willing to wield them like chain saws, cutting other off at the knees.”

However, the rest of the control remains, especially when it comes to his relationships with women, and it is covered up and sugared over, which is where this book lost its merit. Matt never realizes he has a control problems in terms of intimacy. Yes, he acknowledges his OCD-like issues with cleanliness, but there is so much more under the surface that he needs to deal with, and never does. Instead of working on his problems, he finds a girl who will perfectly suit his needs for possession, a girl who is desperate enough to be whatever he wants her to be, unlike Hayden.

“’They say puppies are good for mending broken hearts,’ she joked once. ‘Woof, woof. You can pet me if you want.’” (Willing to change herself for his benefit.)

“She winks. ‘Anything I can do to entertain you, my dear.’” (Willing to demean herself for his benefit.)

The worst part of this is that the author never mentions it. She leaves her character blind to this particular short coming and expects the reader to forget his earlier problems with control and Hayden. I don’t think the author was blind to his controlling personality. Why else mention the fact that he has OCD tendencies? Why else mention how he wants to literally possess Hayden and spend every waking moment with her? My issue is that she did not even attempt to resolve it.

Perhaps the worst part of this is that by the end, after Matt has forgiven himself and those who bullied his brother, he thinks: “Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this, it’s to have faith in love.” He mentions his parent’s loss of love and how his father had found it in someone else, and how Matt found a new, and supposedly better, love with Alexa. I cannot believe that his innate issue with possession gets thrown to the side to try and make this novel about him not trusting love.

This was never about love. This was never about forgiveness. This was never about faith. This book was about a young man who needs to learn how to live his life without having to control every aspect of it, and that was not given the proper attention. Matt should have been in counseling for his control problems, not his problem with forgiveness,because his problems with forgiveness will go away as he learns to let go of wanting to be in charge of everything. He should have never entered into another relationship without even fixing what went wrong in the first.

This novel had the opportunity to convey a strong message but, in my opinion, never reach its goal

Tolkien's Ten Tips

Reblogged from Derrolyn Anderson:


Nevermind the alliteration, here are: