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review 2018-11-06 01:49
A dispassionate, factual account of cultural genocide against First Nations in Canada



Residential schools operated in Canada for a hundred years and about one hundred and fifty thousand First Nations children were forcibly removed from their parents and their communities and sent to them. The philosophy of these institutions was to kill the Indian in the child so they could better assimilate into white society.


It’s been well documented, indeed even Prime Minister Trudeau has apologized for the physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse these children endured for the ten years they were enrolled.


What isn’t understood is that as well as losing a normal childhood they also lost coping mechanisms, trust, a sense of safety and belonging and future parenting skills. For generations there was a cycle of remove children from their family, culture and support systems; shame, punish and abuse them; and then return them to parents who had undergone the same treatment.


If you don’t have this information, and other information about the cultural genocide perpetrated by the Canadian government, supported at least indirectly by the Canadian people than you cannot begin to understand the struggle of First Nations people in Canada.


I didn’t and now I do, thanks to Lynda Gray’s book, First Nations 101.


In a readable and dispassionate voice, Gray, a member of the Tsimshian Nation and Executive Director of the Urban Native Youth Assoc. in Vancouver, Canada, lays it all out and it’s horrific, unjustifiable and unresolved.


Chapters include identity, social control, community issues, fairness and justice, taxation, health and wellness and arts.


Apologies and commissions aside, First Nations still struggle with poverty and discrimination which are born out by statistics including Indigenous adults representing 4.1 percent of the of the total Canadian adult population — but 26 percent of adults in federal custody.


As they begin to recover from the effects of our assimilation policies and decades of intergenerational trauma all they ask is that they receive justice and fairness and for us to get out of their way so they can get on with the healing and rebuilding of their culture.


At the end of the book, Gray describes what needs to be done by the Canadian government and Canadians individually, and First Nations themselves if both sides are really interested in truth and reconciliation.


Reading First Nations 101 is a good first step.


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review 2018-10-23 18:26
Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond - Emiel W. Owens

Born in Texas in 1922, Emiel W. Owens went on to live an extraordinary life as an educator and economic/financial consultant. He shares with the reader his life experiences from growing up under Jim Crow segregation in Texas, through his service in the U.S. Army during World War II with the 777th Field Artillery Battalion (which was engaged in almost constant combat in Europe between October 1944 and V-E Day in May 1945), and his subsequent reassignment to a quartermaster unit that was shipped to the Philippines shortly before the end of the Pacific War.

Owens was honorably discharged from the Army shortly after returning to the U.S. in early 1946. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Prairie View A&M University and graduate degrees (a Masters and doctorate) in economics from Ohio State University. He would go on to teach and serve in a variety of educational and consultative endeavors both in the U.S. and abroad.

I very much enjoyed reading this memoir. It is well-written and a rare work, because there are very few memoirs from African American veterans of World War II. That in itself makes "BLOOD ON GERMAN SNOW" a book to treasure.

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review 2018-10-22 19:30
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People - Sally C. Rooney

I fell in love with Rooney after reading Conversations with Friends. I’ve read a lot of good books this year, but this one had something special about it. The fact that it (and this) was set in Ireland, where I’m from and reside, is just another reason it was so special.


The story follows Marianne and Connell who know each other from school, even though they don’t interact there. At school Marianne is seen as a bit strange and this is the key factor in Connell not telling anyone when they strike up a relationship.


The narrative, written in third-person multiple, follows Marianne and Connell throughout the next few years when they go to University and have an on-again-off-again relationship.


The strength of the author lies in her ability to write flawed, authentic characters who the reader cares deeply for, regardless of the mistakes they make. Her pacing is also a strength, never too much or too little given away. It’s not hard to see why Rooney was on the longlist for the Booker, although I found her debut to be stronger. While the characters were expertly crafted, I did feel there was a little too much similarity between them and those from her debut, no more so than their political beliefs. While I agree with much the author states in regards to politics, that kind of rhetoric always feels forced. It can also come off as a little preachy, but luckily it wasn’t overdone. Another thing is when novels are mentioned in a narrative, like what a character’s reading. This always comes off as a bit pretentious, even though I do find it interesting as it adds to a character’s depth.


I feel like I’m being unfair to the novel by essentially picking it apart. I did still really like it, it just felt a bit similar to her debut.

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review 2018-10-06 09:51
Barmy Kafka: "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast - And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home" by Laura Vanderkam
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home - Laura Vanderkam

(Original review, 2013)

This is all grimly self-helpish and there is no common denominator, so there is no top tips take-away. I’m coming from the Rough Guide’s “50 things You Must Do Before You Die” and all that, this is a bit of a double whammy. Are we supposed to squeeze the last drop of productivity out of every second? I spotted a book with the title “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” and I just had to buy to see for myself what it was all about. (Make it, presumably - or if they're really successful, have the help make it.) There is no end to it. Can't we just get our Weetabix down us in peace?



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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text 2018-09-25 19:59
Reading progress update: I've read 21%.
Normal People - Sally C. Rooney

The authors debut novel, Conversations with Friends, is one of my favourites I've read this year, so regardless of Bingo, I felt physically compelled to read it her latest effort. I couldn't look at it just sitting on my kindle anymore! I'm not going for a blackout in bingo anyhow and this is very short at just over 200 pages, so I decided to go for it. I can happily say that it's excellent already. It's about two young people and charts their relationship from school to University. Another bonus, it's set in Dublin, just 200 miles from me.

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