Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Emancipation Day


This novel is set in Windsor, Ontario in the 1940’s during the post war period when race riots in Detroit occurred with frightening frequency. Jack Lewis’ family is “coloured”, neither white nor black, but a mixture of both. When he is born in the 30's, Jack himself appears white and his father accuses his wife of infidelity, rejecting young Jack, who then grows up feeling like an outcast from his own family. Prejudices get passed along and resentment festers for a lifetime.

During the war Jack signs up and finds himself in Newfoundland, where nobody knows that he isn't exactly what he appears to be. He marries Vivian and when they eventually move back to Ontario, Vivian finally meets members of the Lewis family and comes to the realization that Jack has been keeping his heritage a secret.

Set during the jazz and big band era of the 30’s and 40’s this novel challenges our perceptions of race and class. Issues that we have come to think little about in 2014 were big deals back then when people were measured, accepted and rejected by their colour and hired or not according to the shade of their skin. Families would be ripped apart and loyalty and love became complex issues. 

What really makes this novel stand out is that author, Wayne Grady, is giving us the history of his own family, only recently discovered by himself and revealed only at the very end of the novel. When I think about that, I’m blown away with the realization that probably most of us are mixtures of one kind or another. How fortunate that we are now in the 21st century and for the most part in this country we can claim our heritage with pride.

Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio's The Next Chapter had an interesting conversation with Wayne Grady last November. Listen to it here .

Saturday, July 26, 2014

First Moon Party

This is a pretty funny spoof involving some creative parenting. It's actually an ad for Hello Flo , a tampon subscription service which I've never heard of. I'd be horrified to hear that any parent ever treated their kid this way, but the ad is amusing.

More details:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Faces of Food

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Shocked watermelon
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Grumpy Cat
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French Fry Duck
Say "Cheese"
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Seahorse bacon
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Angry Pepper

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats


I can’t remember how this book got on my list of must-reads but I’m so grateful that it did. The author, Jan-Philipp Sendker is a German with journalistic roots. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Sendker’s first work of fiction, was translated into English by Kevin Wiliarty.

Julia Win is a young lawyer in New York City. She and her brother are the off-springs of a marriage between an American woman and a Burmese man. Julia adores her dad and has a lifetime of warm memories of times shared with him, though in recent years she has found some of his eccentricities somewhat embarrassing.

One morning her father kisses her good-bye and leaves, ostensibly on a business trip to Boston. He disappears.

When, after four years Julia comes across an old love letter that her father has written to someone – Mi Mi – in Burma she feels inspired to follow the trail of this faint clue to the other side of the world in hopes of finding him.

What follows is a tale so beautiful and so imbued with Buddhist philosophy that it almost seems like a fable. Julia finds out not only about her dad but also about her own roots. And we learn about life, love and death. We learn to listen deeply and to appreciate each moment.

My initial thought on finishing this book was that the author who created such a story, told with such sensitivity, must be a very special person indeed. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers


A few years ago I really enjoyed Tom Rachman’s debut novel, The Imperfectionists, a story about a newspaper and its various contributing journalists in Rome. I was impressed with the interesting way that the story line inched along, each chapter being told in a different character’s voice, each character becoming lifelike and engaging in the process. If you haven’t yet read The Imperfectionists, I highly recommend it.

So when Rachman’s newest novel, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers was published, I put a hold on it right away at my local library and was excited to check it out last week. I couldn’t get my nose out of it! What pleasure it is to read a book where you not only enjoy the revealing of an intriguing mystery, but also appreciate the skillful way that it unfolds, chapter by chapter.

This time Rachman introduces his main character, Matilda (Tooly) Zylberberg, as the 30ish-year old owner of a dusty second-hand book shop in an out-of-the-way town in Wales. In a succession of a trio of chapters, one time period each, Tooly is 10 years old in 1988, 21 in 1999/2000 and then back to present day, in her early 30’s, in 2010. Along this roller coaster of time we are exposed to her very unusual childhood and young adult-hood. Present-day Tooly knows that her growing up was unconventional, to say the least, but she has no understanding of how or why it came about that way. Where were her parents, who were these people she travelled the world with and where are they now? Maybe, now that she has “grown up”, she can get some answers.

When an email from an old lover finds her, against all odds, at her book shop in present-day Wales, she is inspired to travel to New York where she begins a journey of self-discovery. Along the way she encounters surprising things about those various characters that populated her youth and who molded her into the young woman she is now. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Run Like A Girl

Today is July 10, Kate's 10th birthday. Kate is an awesome, intelligent, thoughtful and wonderful granddaughter. She is also athletic, fearless and adventurous. What better day to post this video, which, though an ad, carries a powerful message. It's time for people to stop putting girls down just because they are female.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


This makes the para-sailing that Kate and I did as part of our Disney cruise look pretty tame! For that we were towed by a boat. This, on the other hand, is para-gliding and this adventurer didn't even need an airplane!