Recommended: My Book Reviews

I occasionally write reviews on Goodreads. When I have new ones I’ll post a link of my recommended books here.

The Future of Recommended Books

There has been a discussion around the blog-sphere concerning author quid pro quo marketing that leaves readers questioning whether they can trust reviews.

These are legitimate (a word here that means “justified”, in case you are a Republican representative from Missouri) concerns. I myself do not trust the big book seller’s starred reviews anymore.

My end-run is to build a list of reviewers whose opinions I trust. I typical start at Goodreads to see what my friends are reviewing/reading.

The more venues you peruse the more likely it is that you will find reviewers whose opinions you can respect and trust. Some of my favorite reviews come from these bloggers, publications or websites:

Diane Prokop

The Rumpus

NPR

Lithub

I don’t read much science fiction or fantasy so it’s especially import for me to trust the reviewers opinion. These guys are funny too.

Elitist Book Reviews

 

Food For Thought

Someday, I will add a section on food. It will be here.

Written, Not Published…Until Now

Long time no see.

Over the last two years I have composed impassioned pleas that decry the lack of justice, and have railed against the rampant ignorance of our leaders. Not that you would know. I’ve written, not published. 

Once again, I’ve shown up to write about an issue that has outrage me to the point of disbelief, but I am stopped in my tracks by the list of drafts that have never seen the light of day.  

I hadn’t realized I’d gone dark. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I have been here, written nearly a dozen posts or so – on topics you could easily guess by picking any event that has made headlines since, well…

80 Dead in France”  July 14, 2016.

That was my last post. What used to be a satisfactory end to my rampage – hitting the publish button – no longer sufficed. Nothing comes from screaming into the wind. Or does it?

Silence is Not Golden

Damn. You know that feeling when you’ve said something important that is supposed to have meaning to you? 

“Shouting into the wind” means to complain pointlessly, and posting my outrage had begun to feel just that, pointless. But, as in the immortal words of Patsy Cline, “I was sooooo wrong, for sooooo long…” 

I was wrong to stop posting.

Though writing holds a certain cathartic release, it isn’t very satisfying if no one reads it. How could anyone read it if I didn’t publish it. The solution to stop feeling like I’m shouting into the wind isn’t to shut up. 

“Anything worth shouting about is worth shouting into the wind.” Seth Godin

The solution is to give it purpose beyond my own construction of it. I have to force myself to put it out there – into the universe. Scream louder. 

But…People

The world is fraught with people who will try to shut you up no matter what you are talking about. Contrariness, just for the sake of it, is the new black. Writing about politicized subjects that are rife with emotion can invite responses you might not be ready for. 

Hell, I pissed someone off on a foodie site just asking them to be nice. What happens when I point out they’re racist, privileged, assholes? White fragility makes it difficult to confront a lot of what is wrong with our society. But, certainly not more difficult than it is to live under the oppressive systemic racism in America. I can take a few assholes disagreeing with me.

Which leaves me with the question who is going to listen to that message? The people who already agree with me? 

Will those apparently unaware of their assholiness stop spewing that shit just because I wish them to be woke to the truth of it. Why would they even be reading what I have to say? Is that who I’m trying to reach?

I wonder too, can the same be said about me? Am I just being an asshole screaming into the wind? Contrary villain to their racist values?

Opinion is Not Fact

I’m nothing, if not opinionated, but I conceded long ago – to my credit – that my opinions are not written in stone, they aren’t facts. I learn from my mistakes, I expect some of you might to. That’s what I’m aiming for.

When it comes to the rights of all, I intend to be tenacious. There is no give on this point. 

I wish I wasn’t such a hammer but subtly is an art I am unaccustomed to and ill suited for. Try as I might – even walking away from publishing –  the intensity of my feelings on the subject have not changed. I’m not being bombastic for the sake of it. This shit is important.

Reaching out to white people who may read my words and stop to consider their racial bias and white privilege, is worth every second I spend doing it. 

While my writing is not unbiased, I aim for fair-minded in the pursuit of justice for all. My raging against the current circumstances we find our country in is a necessary evil in confronting the source of those injustices. 

While I may not reach the huddled masses surrounding POTUS, I might reach you. I hope you might ponder further upon your privilege. If you do that, you might change your behavior, or notice when it effects people of color. Even better, notice when people of color are being restrained by the privilege of other white people, and call it out. Because once you notice it, once you see it for yourself, it’s hard to turn your back to it.

Maybe then too you will notice when our policies are restrictive, when they impinging on personal rights and responsibilities, when they reflect, not the broad spectrum of our citizens, but that of one supremely powerful, and corrupt sector. Because, once you see it for yourself, you can’t unsee it and remain silent.

A Battle of Wills

And here we are, at the meat of it. Politicians have become master manipulators, easily swaying the vulnerable with the illusion of control and righteousness. By using citizen’s religiosity, their fears, and desperation, politicians have mined uneducated and vulnerable citizens for votes. Oh, but that’s not you? 

Go ahead, explain to me how you are not one of the mindless acolytes we see chanting at POTUS rallies. Tell me what a thoughtful voter you are and that your support hasn’t been coerced out of you by the Republican/TeaParty/Corporate Overlords. How your choices are intelligent, about policy not personality, just a matter of opinion. A difference of opinion. 

Except, we do not have a difference of opinion. What we have is a difference of willingness. 

I am not willing to let other people suffer because they have a difference of opinion with me.

You are willing to let other people suffer because they have a difference of opinion with you.

That what’s between us. Your willingness to support racism, violence, hatred, lies, scandal, corruption, sexism, oppression…I wish this were hyperbole, but it is not. If your policy choices are about constricting, restricting, and subjugating another American, you are not talking policy, you are talking fascism.

You willingly collude to withhold justice and fairness for all Americans by supporting our current POTUS and the Republican Party. You willingly condemn them to poverty, joblessness, disease, anger, hopelessness, and despair.

You willingly supports a culture that ignores the rape, murder and disappearance of Native American women, and the murder of its black citizens. You willingly support depravity in the way our government treats human beings seeking refuge. 

You willingly accept lies and deceit coming the White House. You willingly allow the poisoning of children in Flint Michigan. You willingly look the other way, when greed, and profiteering dooms the sick, disabled, and elderly.

You willingly voting for politicians who incite violence against anyone, for any reason, is unacceptable.

You willingly sacrificing the lives of children to protect yourself from an imaginary bogeyman, is unacceptable.

I am not willing to accept any of this. 

It’s Not My Way or The Highway

There is not one way to do this life thing. We come at it with a differing set of morals, values, religions.  But what we share are societal standards, the ever changing social mores of our age. That’s the pinch point for people. Change is hard, especially when it pushes against long held beliefs. 

The basic premise of our great nation is equality. That we are all equal in the eyes of the law and government. It is because we have gone so far away from those basic tenets, that we find ourselves in turmoil. 

How can you superimpose your “right way to live” over mine, unless you believe I am your inferior? That you are “right” and I am “wrong.” 

The world should live only by your rules, your values, your morals, your religion? If you think that, truly believe that is the only truth, you are not one of us. You are not for America, or the Constitution or its principles. That is not what we do here. That is not who we are.

I am not asking you to abandon your principles, but make room for everyone to hold their own. 

If you have any understanding…even the slightest hint that you are not the holder of all answers, for all the people, then you have to concede. Your beliefs do not supersede any other human’s beliefs. Even when you don’t agree with them, you must uphold the right to have them.

How do we reconcile the need for individual choice, with living in a civil society? How do we impose a general regard for life, what is right and wrong for enough people, that it becomes a social more?

We adopt a Constitution that frames those exact circumstance. We live by its tenets, and when it doesn’t work for all, when an injustice arises, we amend it. 

Government for and of the People

Oh wait…we did that. What our Constitution does, is try to equitably disrupt our human inclinations, our quest for power and control, our imposing of the masses will on the minority.

For too long our political parties have been using the baser inclination of fear to control people. This goes against the intent of our constitution and against the idea that people should be free to make their own choices as to how to live a moral life. 

What it comes down to is personal responsibility. A responsibility not only of actions, inactions, but interactions. It is that personal responsibility that keeps the check and balances of our government working in proper order.

We are suffering a dearth of personal responsibility. Not the lack of personal responsibility ascribed by Republicans and the religious right, who suggest that the lack of responsibility pigeonholes people in poverty and lesser circumstances.  The people pointing fingers at those with the least power as the source of our problems…100% of the time, is a ruse. It is Oz hiding behind the curtain afraid you’ll find out he’s a fraud. 

And that is what our current POTUS is, a fraud, along with all the other Republicans standing behind him. If the government for the people is not taking care of its people, and is only taking care of itself, it is bereft of responsibility to its duty.

How are a bunch of rich, white, men, willing to take away our rights to a government for the people demonstrating personal responsibity? If they are passing laws that restrict the people, doing away with restrictions on corporations…if they are forcing those with little, to suffer more…if they give to the rich and take by taking from the poor…how are they demonstrating their personal responsibility to our nation, to our government, to our Constitution?

Despite All Evidence

I explained to a friend my conundrum. How can I keep writing about facts that hurt Americans when people claim they are a difference of opinion? She pointed out the problem.

Facts don’t matter. You can’t argue with someone who can’t be swayed by fact. You can’t find a compromise with someone who isn’t willing to concede your side is just as valid. We are in the age of deniers.

Despite any and all evidence, they will not bend to any truth. They decide by personal opinion and “belief.” They are the epitome of “I think, therefor I am right.”

I came full circle back to, “Is this me?” I can hold a hardline and be unyielding in my opinion, true. But do I ignore evidence to the contrary and turn a blind eye to evidence disputing my “facts?”

I don’t think so, but, we all tend to be blind to our personal foibles. So if I’m wrong, if evidence to the contrary appears, I’m open to learning and changing.

If You Aren’t Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem

My hope, what I’m choosing to believe…is that despite all evidence to the contrary, you–America–are willing to change too. Until then…

The facts in evidence are…We are a racist country run by rich, white men who don’t give a crap about anything but making a buck at the expense of those deemed unworthy…ie women, people of color, nature, basically anyone or anything they can exploit.

And I’m going to keep calling you out on your part of it until I don’t have to anymore.

80 Dead in France: Anger to Hate

80 dead in France. Another, I was going to say senseless tragedy, but the fact is this action made sense to someone. Not to me, not to you, but SOME ONE thought it made sense to kill those they hated.

Killing families, children? And likely someone helped him find the sense in it. What was it? Religious zealotry? Misplaced nationalism?

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about it over the coming days, the killer’s excuse, his mission. Was he mentally ill? A sociopath? Was he acting alone?

Do any of these killers act alone? There’s a lot of anger in our world. Anger that is fanned until it is a burning hate.

How Hate Thrives

Appallingly, here in the USA, we have politicians and a political party that inflames crowds into supporting this kind of vileness as a strategy. We have media outlets perpetuating it, and encouraging members of our society to despise one another for our differences. They make hate a headline, poking at embers till they roar again and throw another log/lie on to keep it going.

Hate is running rampant through our populace weakened by poverty, and isolationism created by corporate greed and political complicity. Business and government, rather than valuing its workers or citizens, uses them for their own gain then discards them.

They’ve stolen the middle class, and driven more, and more families into poverty leaving a lot of people with nothing else to do but channel their anger. And where is it channeled, and by who? Right where the wealthy and powerful have laid their kindling.

Who is behind the propaganda on issues such of abortion, religion, and race? If fuel is being added to the fires on these volatile issues it is the 1% who paid for it. They are no different from worst dictators and regimes in the world that uses the disenfranchised to do their dirty work.

They’ve fostered a vast wasteland of ignorance across our country. Those who want nothing but control and authority without any duty and allegiance to those they repress. Keep em stupid. These agents of financial totalitarianism bankrupted our goodwill toward all, and have left The United States of America divided, racially, financially, and morally for the convenience of deflecting the hate that should rightfully be aimed at them.

We Can Be Angry Without Hate

How do we fight that? Casting your vote is essential. Using your words to spread peace, and understanding. Be seen–your presence is a powerful indication of an issues importance. Practice mindfulness. Notice those suffering, as well as those acting with disregard for our nation’s best interest. Seek justice for all.

Value reason, kindness, inclusion, respect, empathy, and education

We cure the hate, the divisiveness, and the regime of oppression, by acting together. The police are not the only ones able to protect and serve our fellow citizens. As they work to improve relations between themselves and the communities they serve, so should we.

We are not a more racist country now, than we were before the recent events. It is the voices of division that have been amplified not multiplied. Do not lose faith in our country. There is so much to do and it isn’t happening fast enough. ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ is a convocation. A call for all to see and notice an injustice. It is not a restriction of concern for others.

Reject the tolerance of hate speech. And when those speakers inevitably decry their right to say what they want–agree. Yes, free speech, your speech, is a protected right. You, however, are not protected from the repercussions of that speech. Suffering the consequences of your words and actions is what we teach toddlers, isn’t it about time you learned that lesson?

These killers of our loved ones, our families, our neighbors, for whatever reason, thought their actions made sense. We have to stop letting killing one another make sense to anyone.

Truth: Orlando, Trump and You

It has been a heartbreaking week.

Orlando, Florida

How do we makes sense of yet another mass killing? Should we make sense of it? Will we shake our heads, wring our hands and refuse yet again to act against it?

I refuse to rationalize another hate crime. I just can’t do it. I don’t care about the gunman’s third grade report card that clearly indicates an already troubled youth. The subsequent stories coming out about his latent homosexuality, his politics, his wife, his religion, his mental state. Fuck him.

Emotions do that. They rile us, impassion us into reacting, acting out before we think of the consequences. I’m momentarily blinded by despair.

Until. Until commonsense returns. Until the horror of their voices screaming dim and the images soften. Then I can reason. I can make choices on how to respond, how to make sense of this tragedy. How to act, not react.

Trump

I picked up Robert McKee’s Story this morning, a passage resonated so loudly I had to jump up and write about it.

Strangely enough, he is discussing a vigilant movie called Death Wish, a movie I abhor, one critics panned, but audiences responded to for its theme, “Justice triumphs when citizen’s take the law into their own hands and kill the people who need killing.” Mckee’s is appalled.

“Of all the vile ideas in human history, this is the vilest. Armed with it, the Nazis devastated Europe. Hitler believing he would turn Europe into a paradise once he’d killed the people who needed killing… and he had his list.”

Striking isn’t it? Not only speaking to the mass murder of members of the LGBTQ community that took place in Orlando, FL this week, but our current political climate of hate and its lead propagator Donald Trump.

Mckee’s point is two-fold. One, he is glad he lives in country where this kind of movie could be made, that he opposes all censorship.

“In pursuit of truth, we must willingly suffer the ugliest of lies…If everyone is given a voice, even the irrationally radical, or cruelly reactionary, humanity will sort through all possibilities and make the right choice. No civilization, including Plato’s has ever been destroyed because its citizens learned too much truth.”

Plato had banned all poets and storytellers thinking their ideas too easily spread via emotions. That emotions were dangerous, the truth is dangerous.

Think about that in context of what is going on now, and the rise of Donald Trump. He lies, he panders to the worst of our self-centered society. His vile ideas, the racism, misogyny and hate spill out of his mouth in direct response to his audience because of emotions, not intellectual discourse. He whips his followers into a frenzy of fervent intolerance, creates a reactionary force that acts against common sense, human decency and its own best interests.

You

But, I still believe in YOU, America. We will not elect a hate spewing racist bigot.

Secondly, Mckee, talks about story’s power to influence being an artist’s social responsibility.

“… we have no responsibility to cure social ills or renew faith in humanity, to uplift the spirits of society or even express our inner being. We have only one responsibility: to tell the truth… For although an artist may, in his private life, lie to others, even to himself, when he creates he tells the truth; and in a world of lies and liars, an honest work of art is always an act of social responsibility.”

Sure, you’ll get people who will argue that truth is subjective and you’ll get just as many who’ll argue it is clear as black and white, but there are universal truths in humanity by which we gauge a stories success. Truth, in these cases, are about resonance.

Though he is talking about fiction, and how your story reverberates with your reader, I think it speaks to our own personal narratives as well.

Tell the truth.

The marriage of a gay or lesbian couple has no effect on your marriage.
The person’s mode of peeing in the stall next to you doesn’t affect you and is none of your business.
That job taken by an immigrant is one you refused to do.
You pay taxes for the privilege of living here, it is our collective coffers as Americans, and all are entitled to its benefits, as all able to are needed to contribute fairly.
You are better off because of what we accomplish collectively, stop trying to divide us, we are indivisible.
Liberty and Justice is for all, not just you.

These truths are self-evident.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Truth resonant within even if you try reject it.

There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

– Anaïs Nin, diary, Fall 1943

You don’t have to like the truth, or agree with it, to uphold its tenets.

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
– Gloria Steinem

Imprisoning others hinders your own freedom forcing you to always be on guard.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

And just because I love a good quote…

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
– Ronald Reagan

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
– William Faulkner

It’s on all of us, this responsibility to truth and freedom, and each other. All for one, and one for all.

Further Reading

Responsibility and Freedom

 

 

 

 

 

What is Writer’s Block?

I’ve never acknowledged having writer’s block because I don’t believe it is a thing. At least not a single problem to be overcome, but more of catch all problem for what keeps you from writing.

Think about it. Can you literally not write? Forget the staring at a blank page and not knowing what to write, but the actual mechanics of it. Of course you can write. Whether you type, use a pen, or dictate, the words will come out of those instruments at your direction.

The rub is what words come. I’m a firm believer in it doesn’t matter what you need, or want to write, just start and you will find your way there.

Write you shopping list, a wish list, a list of places you’ve been. Write out a poem or song you know by heart. Just write and keep writing for 20 minutes non-stop. Walk away. Come back tomorrow. Write about politics, about your opinion on a world crisis, on why you should be able to eat chocolate cake for breakfast. Write for 20 minutes then stop. Come back tomorrow.

Everyday, until you hit it. The day you can’t stop at 20 minutes. The day you figure out what it is you want to write. It will come. Writing is a practice you have to show up for and exercise whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have something to say or not. Whether you feel sick or tired, or are too busy. Show up everyday, for 20 minutes and practice being a writer. Banish writer’s block by writing.