Refugee Children and Private School Rich Children, Tens of Thousands Flood to U.S.

Is it just me or does this seem odd to others, too?

Situation 1: Thousands of children have crossed the Mexico to U.S. border in the last months from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. They are needy, hungry, mostly alone, and very poor. Some communities have gathered to help and then there’s the story out of Murietta, California where angry, picketing people turned away a bus of children.

The U.S. for all its yammering about border crossings, has had very little experience with refugees. The last great flood was in 1975 when the Vietnam War ended. In the end it did create a sea change of restaurant choices, but over thirty years later doesn’t seem to have undone the fabric of the nation. I’m getting off track. Back to my point.


Situation 2: This week it was reported that “tens of thousands” of foreign students, particularly Asian were applying to and getting into U.S. high schools with the intention of continuing into U.S. colleges. No one is picketing.

My off track comment on this fact before returning to my point is, how does this unintended result of changing our free public education to charter schools effect our children?

Now to my first of two points: It is duplicitous, blind-to-the-larger picture, and another strike in favor of the 1% that the media and too many citizens don’t see that our “fight” with the people south of our border who come thirsty, hungry, and begging for help is against people who come to lowest paid service jobs while the rich are flying overhead, laptops in hand, getting educated at the top levels, and taking the jobs we should really be squealing about.

My second of two points: Well, duh! How long did we think we could get away with growing all our marijuana, etc., in poor, desperate countries without gang wars and syndicates not forming to keep the money and enslave, torture its own people? And how long should they watch their families die and wait to be next?

I’m not making this up. Please see the Sunday, July 13, 2014 New York Times article by Sonia Nozario.

Wow! What a parallel between our gluttonous need for both drugs and crude oil on other countries and the detrimental effects that eventually, in one form or another, come home.

Are Colorado and Washington the states that are finally bringing out a little antiseptic for this wound? The very same week this is going on the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado.

Can we use the headlines in USA Today as a cosmic message for our answer to the problems on our southern border?

I don’t know the best course in dealing with the children from Central America except to afford them what our laws tell us to do and what our humanitarian selves compel as our best action.

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The Coven Circle of Revising


All chapters lined up to be put in circle.

All chapters lined up to be put in circle.

I’m all for mind magic, imagination, flights of fantasy, intelligent alter egos, and inviting muses, guardian angels, and ghosts. I’ll take my help from a gifted teacher, luck, a chance remark by a waitress, or a homeless person with something meaningful to say.

Especially at this point in writing a book-length manuscript. Here’s where I’ve been so far in this tumultuous historical fiction relationship.

There was a flash of inspiration. (Is that heaven or hell?)
It fermented to obsessive size.
I semi-organized thoughts and notes and wrote it. Three hundred eleven pages.
I am now overwhelmed by the changes, details, and story flummoxes that need fixing.

This doesn’t feel like the holy grail of fun novel writing. It feels like washing and waxing a Greyhound bus after a hurricane. On a hot summer day. In the sun. Alone.
It is book #5 and this is what works best for me at this point.

Hail in the muses! Invite ghosts and sprites of intuition. Ransack! With intent, pillage creativity. Make every word, idea, and scene justify itself to survive.Tell fear, exhaustion, impatience, and the nauseatingly prim Mistress of Time Management to vamoose.

Welcome to the Coven Circle of Revising. The steps:

Circle arranged.

Circle arranged.

1. Paperclip all chapters separately.

2. Arrange in circle.

3. Step in circle and commune. After judgment is gagged and tied in a dark basement or thrown over the fence to neighbor’s yard, open the heart and mind. Invite the chapters to chat amiably, productively, without my interference. Let them discuss the matter privately while I go about my life. They are as free as I am. They are to consider their combined future, I am to enjoy life without them. Eavesdropping only happens in night dreams. Let chapter discussion continue uninterrupted for a minimum of three to seven days.

Left to their own devices.

Left to their own devices.

Full moon is preferred, but the Creator of All Things does not require a puny night light to work.

4. Step into circle and proceed to listen to best points of discussion. Make note.

5. Revise.

Posted in Not the Grocery List, Writing and Creativity Outpost | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Anya von Bremzen
Crown Publishers, 2013

9780307886811_custom-1007aebba5cbb497b76e89b257c398a450929429-s2-c85This book circled back to me because I gave it to my mother for Christmas. She traveled to the USSR in 1978 and she loves travel and cookbooks. It seemed like a slam dunk present and it was. So much so that she wanted to share it with me. She loved when von Bremzen wrote her family story that takes the reader from the 1910s to the 2000s.

Every chapter is a decade that combines history, family story, and of course reminiscences on food, or in this case, often the lack of it. Don’t expect a reference book anywhere near Julia Child’s iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The title is misleading as an attempt to slide in under Child’s fame, which is too bad because it also is unnecessary.

The book has a merit of its own. It is a generational recap without the messiness of a soul emptying memoir that includes ample politics and history to give a clearer picture of history no one ever learned in high school. Simplistically, the U.S. has a history of only a few centuries that has been defined by westward expansion and the power of individualism. For thousands of years, Russian history has been defined by a long series of despot leaders who took advantage of an uneducated and hungry people.

Von Bremzen comes from a family that at times struggles to survive living in a state-

An iconic Russian photo aspiring home cooks were to imitate.

An iconic Russian photo aspiring home cooks were to imitate.

owned apartment the size of a trailer with several families though her grandfather is in the respected intelligence work during the Cold War. Mother Larisa came from a loving, relatively secure family, though not many American memoirists with the same description could tell of grandma’s walking trip to claim a philandering grandpa and inadvertently spend the night in a battle trench with frozen amputated arms and legs. Von Bremzen’s father grew up as much on the streets as he did in the apartment where his cheery, lovable prostitute mother lived.

Mom Larisa was the dreamer who as a child believed there was more and someday she would experience it. It took until 1974, when von Bremzen was a young teenager, but at last the two of them emigrated to the U.S. The memoir is sketchy at this point but there is good information about the shock of American food that is equally divided between awe and disgust. No longer in the country of potato peel pancakes and millet, she was appalled by bad bread and flavorless strawberries.

Anya von Bremzen

Anya von Bremzen

More than a book of food and history, this is a peek into Russian character. There is a wicked sense of humor and six interesting paradoxes of “mature socialism”. They start with “There’s no unemployment but no one works,” and ends with “No one is satisfied, but everyone votes yes.”

Don’t read this book for the recipes though there are a few tucked in the back as an afterthought. A few would be worth trying out of curiosity. The nostalgic childhood invitation to Russian food is as if I told you about a childhood 4th of July picnic. I’d love to be there enjoying it with you, but I don’t need to make it. Instead, enjoy the book as a brush-up on modern Russia, food history, and an emigrant’s life who made good.

Posted in A Book Stream Review, Eating is for Everyone | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Woman in White

Wilkie Collins
Wordsworth Classics, 1993 edition

Unknown-1“I liked to see her hearty indignation flash out on me in that way. We see so much malice and so little indignation in my profession.” London Lawyer Vincent Gilmore was given the words, but every character in The Woman in White is generously written with bright, well-drawn personalities that move the story along, make them all memorable and are sociological comments for a reader to learn from over a century later. First published in 1859 this early mystery that is designated a classic became a television movie in 1997, though it was only recently that I had ever hear of it or the author.

As a contemporary of Charles Dickens and Herman Melville there

Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

are similarities with time period, story intricacy, style, and character development. Collins stands alone as a writer, however; he doesn’t need borrowed light from contemporaries. Inside a cavernous, well-appointed castle in the British countryside, by a village and a women’s insane asylum around the bend, he peoples a stage with characters that would explode most contemporary books.

Detail in Cardiff Castle.

Detail in Cardiff Castle.

There is a nauseatingly funny uncle charged with the care and marriages of two nieces (one smart, the other beautiful and prone to vapors), a large inheritance (of course), a soppy, altruistic but poor artist with true love, a manipulative well-connected man with huge debts in the neighboring castle, and his ever entertaining sidekick, an Italian count with the mind sharper than a razor.

The book’s title refers to a chance meeting of the soppy artist with a

British countryside.

British countryside.

delusional woman dressed all in white on her way to London. Collins used a similar meeting he experienced to inspire his complicated, interweaving story that takes the reader to London, Italy, and Central America as secrets are kept, marriages are promised, an evil, penniless scalawag (help me please, I’m falling into 1800 language) hides his bastard birth so he can marry the vaporing beauty who in a fit of honesty declares her love for the soppy artist but insists on carrying through with the wedding so she can please her dead father. What’s more, there is a secret that threatens to unravel everything, greed, an Italian Mafia, charming “foreigners,” and devious women.

Harper's Weekly

Harper’s Weekly

Oh yes, this is silly by today’s standards, but what Collins deftly did is force the question on women, “Why are you allowing yourself to be hemmed in and quashed by men?” The book was originally published as a serial in Harper’s Weekly and was meant to be read aloud. That makes it a bit repetitive as each installment must have digressed to bring the reader to date, but the story has merit as an early mystery novel. Besides, when was the last time you read a book that has a mountebank?

Posted in A Book Stream Review | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments