Tag Archives: book

The Warmth of Other Suns

I was leaving the South.. To fling myself into the unknown… To see if [I] could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns and, perhaps, to bloom.” – Richard Wright

During the 20th century, some of the most impactful moments in our history stemmed from World War I, the Great Depression, World War II,  and the Civil Rights Movement. All of us have at least some basic understanding of how these events shaped our lives today, but during that sixty year period another phenomenon happened that has shaped the North and the South, has outlined popular thought and has defined many of our biggest cities. Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns, is dedicated to studying this phenomenon, a movement now known as the Great Migration.

Through this sixty year period, hundred of thousands of black people fled the South in search of greater freedom, opportunity and stability. They left the south as fugitives, forced to become both emigrant and immigrant in their own country– orange pickers driving down back roads, sharecroppers concealing their plans from farmers, those condemned for activism smuggling themselves in coffins,  others still driving days without sleep. Now in the new world,  a world which Northerners had advertised and led them to, they could walk on the same street as white people, talk to them without honorific titles, and work for a wage, but the North erected its own set of obstacles. The racism of the north disguised itself in higher rent, and lower wages. It made itself evident in the white flight from a neighborhood as soon as a black family moved in. “The hierarchy in the North called for blacks to remain in their station…while immigrants [from other nations] were rewarded for their ability to leave their old world traits”.

The Warmth of Other Suns
not only inspects how migrants made their way from South to North, but how they navigated the injustices they faced once there, how they realized the North was not the oasis they dreamed of. Wilkerson is a masterful story teller, interweaving smaller vignettes into the longer arcs of three primary “characters”– each of whom followed a very different path North. Ida Mae Brandon Gladey, a sharcropper from Mississippi, leaves the South on the verge of the Great Depression. She settles in Chicago where her resilience and affectionate practicality helps her make a home in a swiftly changing city. George Starling Swanson, a passionate, willful orange picker from Flordia, flees the state  to Harlem, New York after the owner of the groves decides to kill him for organizing an ersatz union to fight for workers’ rights. Robert Pershing Foster, an ambitious surgeon hemmed in my limitations of Louisiana, drives to California where he hopes to prove himself to his family, his race and his oppressors.

I’ll admit, some of Wilkerson’s  reminders  of information in previous chapters felt repetitive,  and I do wish she had included some of the images on her website in the book itself, I still learned a great deal from this book, and appreciated the stories it told. In fact, I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I put it down.  For anyone who wishes to understand how  false myths surrounding welfare, inner cities and crime first took root, or who for those just wishing for a good story pick up The Warmth of Other Suns.

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All by my shelf: Book Goals for 2017

Back in high school I had a pretty sweet gig  reading books. Publishers used to send them to me in exchange for a review. I know. I was pretty psyched about it too. As I got older, I dropped it. I won’t bore you with the reasons, but I will say I have been reflecting on my teen-self. I loved reading in a way I think has faded. I switched passion out for responsibilities and anxieties.

Oh, I never stopped reading. I will always love reading, but for the past several years, every time I picked up a book for me I felt a prick of guilt.The last several months I’ve been rekindling my love of reading– reading not for academic or intellectual advancement, but for personal enjoyment. If I learn something along the way, then great. If I don’t, well then it’s been great stress relief.
Still, just because it’s relaxing doesn’t mean I can’t use a challenge, so here are the challenges I’ll be participating in this year:

1. Flights of Fantasy Challenge: Ah, Fantasy, my first love. I’ve set a goal of 15 fantasy books this year, mainly because I’m planning on doing two other challenges, and I want to make sure I read a bit more diversely this year.

Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge 2016 banner Alexa Loves Books Hello Chelly

2. Around the World Challenge: In Arabic there is a saying “Language is the bowl of culture”. To look for the lessons different people value, it is useful to read the popular literature in the region they grew up in. Bonus: Often times, people whose second language is English think about differently. That means there might be fewer cliches or more refreshing choices in diction and syntax. This also applies to insightful translations.

3. The TBR or the #beatthebacklist challenge: Like so many of us, I have lists of books I haven’t read yet. I have a stack in the corner that, for some reason or another, is unopened. Time to remedy that. If you’d like to see some of my TBR’s, you can check out my Goodreads account. I think I have about 20 or so books on my TBR, and I’d like to get through all of them this year.

4. Finally, I’m participating in a challenge of my own making. That challenge is the non-fiction or Learn Something! challenge. Despite what I said above, I’d still like to learn something about our own world that isn’t nestled in fiction.

As a whole, I’d like to shoot for 52 books this year. Let’s see if I can pull it off!

There you have it. My 2017 reading challenge.

Is anyone else participating in a reading challenge this year?

50 Shades of Grey and defining the BDSM community in Taiwan

There’s a joke in Chinese about 50 Shades of Gray. The Joke apparently relies on the similarity between the phrase “shades of gray” and “vaginas”. Personally, after running the words through google translate I don’t hear it, but I’ve been told the joke exists. Regardless of how many vaginas there actually are in the film or the books, they have gained some popularity in Taiwan. When I arrived in Taiwan, the advertisements for the film were plastered on billboards and buses, and in the first two months I was asked several times if I had heard of or read the series. Despite this popularity, I wondered how controversial the content of the books were and how the BDSM community in Taiwan was receiving them. While at a munch last month, I spoke with one of the organizers about his feelings on the matter.

The rise in the popularity of 50 Shades in the states precipitated a debate in the BDSM community in Taiwan.  Many BDSMers viewed 50 Shades of Grey with some agitation and some righteous anger. On one hand, the series’ growth contributed to the popularity of BDSM in Taiwan and S said he’s seen evidence of that growth at his events. On the other hand, many in the BDSM community prefer to distance themselves from the series, and what they feel it promotes. Like BDSM communities elsewhere, they were concerned that people might misconstrue BDSM relationships that don’t value consent. Christian Grey, the dominant in the film, repeatedly violates his submissive’s trust and demonstrates varying levels of emotional instability. Not only does he coerce Ana into sexual acts she isn’t fully comfortable with, but it is evident that Ana isn’t confident enough to communicate fully when she is and isn’t uncomfortable. This bleeds into other parts of their lives, with Christian going so far as to track Ana’s cell phone to find her. The repeated lack of communication and violation of trust throughout the book lead many in the community to be disturbed that others could think this was what a healthy BDSM relationship looked like.

“There was a lot of backlash from BDSMers. Y’know, they say ‘this is not BDSM,'” S told me when I asked him to elaborate. While S agreed with their assessment, he didn’t share the same anxiety. For him, 50 Shades of Grey presented an opportunity to educate Taiwanese people on what BDSM meant to those involved in the community. It provided opportunities to educate them on the three pillars of BDSM: safe, sane and consensual. 50 Shades sparked the interest, but it provided little in the way of education.  Beyond this, S felt it forced those already involved in the community to inspect what BDSM was to them. To S, the community needed to do more than say what BDSM was not– namely 50 Shades of Grey– they also needed to examine why the differences mattered and, in doing so, define what BDSM meant to them. Which parts of 50 Shades, if any, were acceptable to the community and which weren’t? If Christian Grey, who is widely considered a terrible Dom in the community, conducted himself in an unacceptable manner, what manner would be more acceptable? The BDSM community in Taiwan has an opportunity now to demonstrate the difference between BDSM and abuse, between healthy kinky relation ships and unhealthy ones and S feels they should seize it.

Despite these discussions, the BDSM community in Taiwan remains fairly small. S contributes its size in part to the lack of openness in Taiwan, but is hopeful that is changing. It would be interesting, in the future, to conduct some research on the perceived impact of 50 Shades in Taiwan. One way to measure that may lie in researching the  rise in prevalence of sex toy related injuries, as the Washington Post did which it claims is indicative of the popularity of 50 shades in the United States. If such a study is conducted in Taiwan, perhaps the BDSM community in Taiwan can use that knowledge as a means publicize its existence and educate those interested on proper sex toy use. Another way to measure it might be to measure the increase in users on BDSM websites globally prior to the release of 50 Shades and after it. As of now, it is unclear what sort of impact 50 Shades of Grey has had on the growth of the BDSM community in Taiwan or how the community will use it to educate people who found the book titillating, one can only hope the S’s positive outlook on the potential effects of the film prove true.