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Archive for the ‘Social justice themes’ Category

Somalia Piracy in the News Again

I consider piracy to be deplorable, and yet I have to wonder why people, especially those with families dependent on them, choose such a dangerous lifestyle. Is it, for some at least, their level of despair over joblessness? I’m not alone in thinking of that possibility. One of the cures listed in the quotation below is ‘building livelihoods ashore.’

“Piracy is like an ancient disease that should be extinct in this modern world,” said Commodore Simon Ancona of the British Navy, who is currently deputy commander of Combined Maritime Forces. “The cure is difficult and requires the disruption of pirate actions, building law and order and livelihoods ashore, and making the merchant prey less vulnerable. Although there are signs of remission, I would judge the medicine will be required for some time to come.” from the August 28  NYTimes online: Piracy around Horn of Africa has plunged

As I look at the faces and body language of imprisoned pirates caught on film by  Jehad Nga for The New York Times, I see youth, hunger, belligerence, fear. I wonder what I can do in affecting a cure for piracy.

In my novel, Pieces of You, my protagonist asks the same thing after one of their corporate tankers is attacked by pirates.  What they tried worked for three years, and they were proud of helping young Somalis learn skills and pleased with organizing a large network to deter attacks. Then another of their tankers was captured.

What do you think Americans can do to cure this “ancient disease that should be extinct in this modern world?”

Who Are We Killing in Wars?

I used “The Killing Zone” for some of my research on the Vietnam War, one of the turning points of my protagonist. In his book, Frederick Downs recounts:

‘A man pointed to the hook sticking out of my left sleeve and said:

“Get that in Vietnam?”
When I affirmed his guess, he replied.
“Serves you right.”
Of one thing I am certain; none of the men I knew who served in Vietnam deserved to die or to be maime
d, either physically or mentally.’

Downs said that, twenty years later, when he returned to Vietnam for the first time since the war, he recognized the hatred he had held onto all these years for the ‘dinks’ was for “an enemy less than human” but, suddenly, he knew better. He recognized a reflection of himself in the natures of a Vietnamese man and his son.

So true! Here’s my perception as I wrote it in Pieces of You:

I wake each day waiting for him to call to me. Then I remember that he was put in a box and the box was covered with dirt. You know, Ban, it hurts more than when the mule stepped on my foot last year. This pain is in my heart. It must have broken into more pieces than my foot.”

Now tears were pouring down the boy’s cheeks and he began to wail, a sound that pierced the invisible listener’s soul. (more…)

Five Things I Love About Davis Bunn’s Latest Book, “Rare Earth”

  1. Bunn’s impression of Kenya, its culture, challenges, and natural features
    Here are a few examples from the book:

    • the African limp handshake of warriors trained to show no aggression;
    • the African rhythm, where the passage of time is measured in the sweep of stars, the rising of crops, the carving of cliffs by wind and rain;
    • the elders’ circle where tribal leaders meet to discuss local issues
  2. Davis’ protagonist, Marc Royce, who characterizes a man with the standards, strengths, and physical features of a man almost any woman could love
    Here are a few examples:

    • Traits: strength (“swinging around, his entire body a whip”) and sensitivity (he feels for the villagers loss of their homes “with all his heart”)
    • Leadership ability: called Shujaa by the elders – a warrior who rises within the tribe to save it in times of crisis
  3. International intrigue mixed with social justice issues
    Examples:

    • Chinese are trying to control the world supplies of rare-earth minerals using a cheap, primitive extraction technology
    • An Israeli kibbutz has found an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solution
  4. Portrayal of hope that people of different backgrounds and belief systems can learn to serve each other in ways that allow everyone to benefit
    Examples:

    •  Clans who were sworn enemies meet together in peace
    •  Representatives from the U.N., the U.S., the Kenyan government, and elders of three dozen displaced villages work out a solution to the book’s primary conflict
  5. The book’s ending – justice prevails: the bad guys get caught and the good people get the rewards they deserve
    Examples:

    • Lodestone is under investigation, their worldwide assets frozen
    • A Kenyan corporation is formed, holding all licenses for extraction and refinement of rare earths with one-third of all profits to go to villages
    • And the missing man, Serge… you’ll have to read the book to find out if he’s found alive (and to find out if Marc gets the girl)

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

“Hidden in Dreams” – A review of Davis Bunn’s new novel

Story Synopsis

Foretelling the future through dreams is—for nearly everyone—a compelling frame for storytelling. And we all know that not everything is as it seems, but I did not for a moment foresee the surprising twist to the prophesy of these dreamers. As Davis Bunn stated in his author note, he had to use his expertise from several careers to explain the aftermath realistically.

Davis uses the still-desperate economic conditions in the world as a backdrop to send a warning of the lengths to which greedy corporate types will go to gain more wealth and more power. Unlike so much  of what has occurred during the last four years, though, the bad guys in the novel are caught and will likely be convicted, but the first priority is to stabilize global financial markets.

Less significant, but effective for a good read, is a romance with two very eligible men vying for one woman, the protagonist. It’s pretty clear early on which one she will choose; and almost too sweet that her Christian values are mirrored in the perfect guy, a widower and her mentor, whose daughter takes to her immediately as a mother-replacement.

*My Evaluation

  • Command of language:  5 stars
    Varied sentence structure; word choices that paint vivid pictures; realistic dialogue.
  • Characterization: 4 stars
    All the main characters were fairly well developed, although not terribly unique. The bad guys were…all bad; and the good guys rarely stepped out of character, either.
  •  Creativity:  5
    The plot displayed an extremely creative mind. (I expected that—it’s what has made Davis Bunn one of my favorite authors—and I was not disappointed.)
  •  Content suitable to diverse audience(s):  4 stars
    This one seems to be written almost exclusively for Christian readers. The protagonist and all those who work closely with her often pray together. The one who chooses not to is somewhat ostracized. As great as the power of prayer is and as needed in our chaotic world, I think a more subtle approach—or maybe a stronger approach showing God at work—would reach audiences who might be turned off by all the spotlight on pray-ers.
  • Connection (and application) to current issues: 4.5 stars
    The timing for this story is excellent; economic conditions are still fragile and exposing too many people to painful choices and harsh living conditions. My only concern is the realism of the ending.

             Average – 4.5 stars

****

Tomorrow I will add Bunn’s answers to interview questions about this book. Please come back and bring some questions of your own!

Follow this link to read Chapter One of Hidden in Dreams

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Privilege or Oppression – Do We Construct Our Own Destiny?

Privilege and oppression: two sides of the same coin is the title of this slide, part of a PowerPoint presentation by Terry Keleher, a keynote speaker at Holland, Michigan’s annual “Summit on Race and Inclusion” held this week.  Many of my friends and neighbors disagree, thinking individual effort is the key to the “good life.”

My own story challenges that assumption. I was born in Holland, Michigan at a time when the public school system did many things well, including teaching grammar and spelling.  I was born into a family that did a few things well, including modeling a strong work ethic.  Just months before my birth, my parents had come to Holland, Michigan, from their birthplaces in the hills of Kentucky. My father has a sixth grade education and my mother completed high school (although the schools would not pass today’s standards for a quality education and my parents would likely not pass the standardized tests).  IF they had not moved, I would not have the education that propelled me onto two university degrees.  Without some higher education, I would not have had careers in banking, economic development, and teaching. Most likely, I would not in semi-retirement be interacting with people who support my continued learning and civic engagement.

Did I construct my own destiny? NO! I was born in the right place to parents who had the courage to move from their home and who worked hard.  Many people have as much ability as I do but either don’t have the educational base or the will to succeed because they’ve not seen positive outcomes of working beyond adversity.  (And the positive outcomes are much less visible than in my youth–even to graduates.)

If you agree that we don’t construct our own destiny, and would like to be a part of reducing oppression,  then please follow this suggestion from Charles M. Blow:    According to Blow in a NYTimes editorial he wrote on June 6, we need to “have a conversation about the direction of the country that takes that [government involvement] into account but lifts the language to a level where common goals can be seen from differing racial vantage points — to show a way to be merciful to those struggling while providing a path to financial independence and social equality.”

Please reply here or send me an email (harmlessjoyce@yahoo.com) if you’re willing to include me among those you engage in this conversation.

[The source for the image is: “‘Better Together: Fostering Unity Through Equity,” by Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, 6/5/12.” Posted with permission.”]

The Bread We Stash Belongs to the Starving

I just read Peter Singer’s essay, Famine, Affluence, and Morality. In it Singer quotes from the Decretum Gratiani: “The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked; and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless.” Singer concludes that “we would not be sacrificing anything significant if we were to continue to wear our old clothes, and give the money to famine relief. By doing so, we would be preventing another person from starving.”

I have thought that just giving money, especially not at a sacrificial level, would not be making a difference. Singer suggests that is untrue.  His message haunts me when I think of my Lent “sacrifice.”  For those few weeks, I gave up buying things I could do without. The outcome was that when a friend was struggling to buy fuel, I had a few extra dollars to share. And I didn’t have to give up anything because I had not already spent the money on my own wants.

Sadly, I have reverted to buying for the few seconds of pleasure something new gives me. It’s time to go back to my Lenten practice.  Donating doesn’t mean we have to send money to an international relief fund (although Mercy Corps is one I strongly suggest when that is the plan); it does mean that our “extra dollars” will find a good home if we are sensitive to the needs around us.

If you have a good story of how sensitivity and stewardship paid off, please share with us! It may just motivate others, for as Singer wrote, “what it is possible for a man to do and what he is likely to do are both, I think, greatly influenced by what people around him are doing and expecting him to do.”

Let’s expect this of each other because it is wrong not to do so.

Social Justice Issue: Food Insecurity (aka hunger, starvation, malnutrition, famine)

Why do so many of our friends and neighbors go to bed hungry? I found this website to be very helpful in answering that question and defining World hunger – Reasons and What We Can Do.  

I have just completed an outline for my second novel, one that will answer this question with, “Food is being used as the weapon of choice to keep people (the 99%)  in servitude.” It will portray a future where a few corporate leaders have taken control of most of the food supply by transporting basic foodstuffs off our planet using a space elevator.  Sound unrealistic? Space elevators are not far from reality according to this article: Space Elevator by 2050?

You may have read about government leaders limiting the availability of food to “crush the hearts, minds and spirits of civilians.” Here’s a recent article on how that is playing out in Ethiopia: African Hunger Games

I am convinced the best way to serve the hungry is to communicate our distress, our suggestions and willingness to act by writing stories or articles and/or by speaking out.  My way (at least for now) is to write stories using words that paint true pictures rather than disguise reality by playing semantic games (e.g., famine and starvation vs food insecurity or shortages).

I would love to hear from readers who feel strongly about this injustice. Would you please  make comments, tell your stories or share your images here?

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