Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Fire Next Time by James BaldwinMy

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Read by Jesse L. Martin
Published 1963
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as "sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle...all presented in searing, brilliant prose," The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.

My Thoughts: 
I've got to admit that, although I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, I probably did not give it my full attention. I've got audiobooks piled up and I listened to this one while I was working, which doesn't allow me to really listen in the way I should to important books. 

Even so, Baldwin gave me something that I have yet to hear in a book about race - the role of religion in race and race relations. I have, for as long as I've known about slavery, wondered how enslaved people maintained their religion and how African Americans continued to do so despite all that has happened to them. Baldwin turned to religion - first Christianity and the Nation of Islam - and turned away from them. Baldwin found neither the comfort nor the answers he needed in religion. His journey to that was so intimate and insightful. 

It is always tremendously said to hear these calls to end racial injustice from decades ago and know that persons of color are still facing the same issues today. But Baldwin is not necessarily asking for integration; in fact, he asks the question, " Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?" And I can't help but think that black people today are still asking that question as well. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

One by One by Ruth Ware

One by One
by Ruth Ware
Read by Imogene Church
Published September 2020 by Gallery/Scout Press
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers...each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide. 

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech startup, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit. As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles by one.

My Thoughts: 

This is the fifth book by Ware that I've read and it's safe to say that I'm a fan. But I may have read too many of Ware's books in the past year (3) to fully appreciate her writing and to be unable to overlook the places where I feel like she's fallen back on things she's done before. We've seen Ware do the unassuming, dowdy young girl who has deep dark secrets; we've seen her do the chase scene between our heroine and the murder that goes on and on; we've seen her do a group of people trapped in an isolated location. 

Maureen Corrigan's review in The Washington Post raves about this one, particularly the ending. Kirkus Reviews calls the construction of this book "simply masterful." So maybe it's just me. After all, Corrigan has this to say about the ending: "The final section, where the last intended victim is locked in a ghastly battle of wits and endurance with the unmasked killer, has to be one of the most ingeniously extended plot climaxes in the suspense canon."

Ware uses dual narrators: Liz, the dowdy young girl who used to work for Snoop and who has been included in this trip because it turns out that she is very important to the company, and Erin, who works for the resort and who also has secrets she's hiding. Ware uses a little gimmick as she introduces each narrator which really started to annoy me and which only once gave any clue to what was happening in the story. 

I know all of this sounds like I didn't like this book at all, after telling you that I'm a fan. Actually, while this isn't my favorite Ware book, I did enjoy it and appreciated that way Ware middle part when the murders start, one person after another being killed in different ways, including one in a locked room. Ware has us looking at the each murder again and again, giving readers the clues they need to solve the mystery but throwing so many other things at us that it's hard to see the truth. And I really enjoyed the wrap up at the end, that part where the survivors come together; Ware still had a couple of surprises and moral dilemmas to throw at readers. 

If you're a fan of Ware's, and you haven't read three of her books in less than 12 months, I think you'll enjoy this one. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Life: It Goes On - October 25

Happy Sunday! It is cold here (30 degrees) and grey and yesterday we had to pull out all of the annual plants so the the yard looks bleak. What's worse is that we have snow in the forecast for later today/tonight. Y'all, this is why I don't get too excited about autumn - it so often lasts such a short time and the prospect of an extra long winter is daunting. Especially this year. So I'm trying to think of projects I can do that will keep me busy and make our home more cozy and less cluttered. How you may ask, can my home still be cluttered when I am forever decluttering? I wish I knew the answer to that question!

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and now I'm listening to Motherless Brooklyn. We saw the movie adaptation and really enjoyed it and, so far, I'm enjoying the book as well.

Watched: My brother-in-law arrived Friday afternoon and is using our house as a home base through Monday. He and The Big Guy have watched baseball, football, and hours and hours of Alaska: The Last Frontier and Gold Rush. Not what I would ever pick but I must admit that I did get a little caught up in those people's lives. 

Read: I'm highlighting the heck out of White Rage so it's taking me quite a while to get through. I've also started Finola Austin's Bronte's Mistress, which is a good break for me from all of the heavy stuff. 

Made: I threw together a Mexican soup the other night; I really need to at least write down what I used because we both really enjoyed it. One night I made spaghetti sauce to freeze and today I made enchiladas. At least this cold has me cooking again.

Enjoyed: Book club even if we had to do it by Zoom. We had actually moved it back two days because it was supposed to be 76 degrees on Thursday. Supposed to be. It's going to take some getting used to again but at least we got to see each other and catch up.

This Week I’m:  

I finished painting those chairs I was working on last week and will get the seats recovered this week. My office reorganization got sped up when my BIL arrived because the guest room was full of office stuff that needed to get moved. That meant that I didn't get as much of a chance to sort and toss as I went so after I finish up getting everything in place this week, I'll start going through stuff to try to create some breathing space in there.

Thinking About: Christmas. I know, I know - it's too soon. But I'm hearing that shipping is going to be really slow come December so I'm going to try to get Mini-me's and Ms. S's gifts ready and sent in the next couple of weeks. 

Feeling: Like taking a nap. These grey skies make me so tired!

Looking forward to: my 38th anniversary and my mom's birthday this week. 

Question of the week: Are you making any changes around your homes to make them pandemic winter ready?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

After The Flood by Kassandra Montag

After The Flood by Kassandra Montag
Read by Hilary Huber
Published September 2019 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library as part of Omaha Reads

Publisher's Summary:
A little more than a century from now, the world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, starting with the great coastal cities, rising floodwaters have left America an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water. Civilization as it once was is gone. Bands of pirates roam the waters, in search of goods and women to breed. Some join together to create a new kind of society, while others sail alone, barely surviving. 

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious and feisty eight-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting small hamlets and towns on dry land only to trade for supplies and information. Just before Pearl’s birth, when the monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska, Maya’s oldest daughter, Row, was stolen by her father. 

For eight years Myra has searched for the girl that she knows, in her bones and her heart, still lives. In a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment of raiders on the coast of what used to be Greenland. Throwing aside her usual caution, she and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas to rescue the girl, now thirteen. 

On the journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship, a band of Americans like them. In a desperate act of deceit and manipulation, Myra convinces the crew to sail north. Though she hides her true motivations, Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers, men, women, and children who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. 

But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten to capsize their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.

My Thoughts:
Some years ago, I began picking all of the books for my book club. While I worked to make sure they were books that were discussion worthy and that I thought would appeal to the book club overall, I also only picked books that I wanted to read. Book club no longer became a place where I was pushed to read out of my comfort zone (even as I pushed the other members to do the same). 

Once a year, the Omaha Public Library (along with votes from the community) selects a book for Omaha Reads that the community will read together. They are always books written by Nebraska authors or set in Nebraska. They are not always books that were on my radar or that I would have picked up otherwise. The Omaha Reads books tend to be the only time my book club reads a book out of my comfort zone and After The Flood was no exception. It also proves that it's good to read out of your comfort zone sometimes. 

Yes, After The Flood is, like most other dystopian novels, a survival story. But it is also much more than that. It is the story of what a mother's love makes her capable of doing as well as a story of hope, trust, and secrets. While Myra is a complicated character, we are drawn to her out of pity (she has lost her mother, father, and grandfather to the floods - how could you not pity her?) but also because of her courage. She will do anything to protect the daughter she gave birth to on Bird (the boat her grandfather built in their attic) but is also willing to risk everything to save the daughter her husband kidnapped. 

But as I begin to see what Myra was capable of doing, I began to question just how much I should trust her. Was she a reliable narrator, when we know that she is lying to others? Myra is not the only one keeping secrets and all of them will come back to haunt the crew of the Sedna, the ship Myra and Pearl are saved by when the Bird sinks. 

While After The Flood is nowhere as unrelenting or a dark as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Montag successfully builds mounting tension, fills the book with a level of violence that feels believable given the situation, and doesn't end her book happily-ever-after. But she leaves readers with hope. And, although Montag never explains what caused the world to flood, I can't help but believe it was caused by climate change, I need to be able to find hope in a future that oftentimes feels so hopeless. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dawson's Fall by Roxana Robinson

Dawson’s Fall
by Roxana Robinson 
Paperback Published September 2020 by Picador 
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

Publisher’s Summary: In Dawson’s Fall, a novel based on the lives of Roxana Robinson’s great-grandparents, we see America at its most fragile, fraught, and malleable. Set in 1889, in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson’s tale weaves her family’s journal entries and letters with a novelist’s narrative grace, and spans the life of her tragic hero, Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape.

Dawson, a man of fierce opinions, came to this country as a young Englishman to fight for the Confederacy in a war he understood as a conflict over states’ rights. 

He later became the editor of the Charleston News and Courier, finding a platform of real influence in the editorial column and emerging as a voice of the New South. With his wife and two children, he tried to lead a life that adhered to his staunch principles: equal rights, rule of law, and nonviolence, unswayed by the caprices of popular opinion. But he couldn’t control the political whims of his readers. As he wrangled diligently in his columns with questions of citizenship, equality, justice, and slavery, his newspaper rapidly lost readership, and he was plagued by financial worries. Nor could Dawson control the whims of the heart: his Swiss governess became embroiled in a tense affair with a drunkard doctor, which threatened to stain his family’s reputation. In the end, Dawson—a man in many ways representative of the country at this time—was felled by the very violence he vehemently opposed. 

My Thoughts: Back in 2009, I read Robinson’s novel Cost and remember being impressed with the way she handled the difficult subject of addiction. I’ve thought a lot about that book in the past couple of years and wonder how my impression of it might be different now, given what has happened in my family. I can’t help but think that I might have been more impressed with Robinson’s work. But you know how loathe I am to reread a book, given how many books I have yet to read for a first time. So when this book came to my attention, I decided this was my way to give Robinson another try. I’m glad I did. 

Robinson mixes newspaper articles of the time and diary entries from her great-grandmother’s journals into her novel to great a wonderful blend of fiction and fact. Those pieces from her family’s history served to both set the stage for her story but also to move the story along. There’s an element of thriller to the book, a feeling that you are watching a disaster unfold without being able to stop it. Dawson believes himself a true Southerner but some of his beliefs put him at odds with those who were born and raised Southern while others put him at odds with the very people who will ultimately judge him. I appreciated that where Robinson might have sugarcoated her family’s story, only glorifying her great-grandfather’s success, she gave readers fully realized characters. That feels like that was essential in the end, but a less honest historian might well have crafted a work around so avoid the ugly parts of her family history. 

The hardcover book came out in 2019. A lot has changed in our country since then that, surprisingly, make this book more timely than it might have seemed initially. Dawson is a man of his time and place, a man that fought for the South in the Civil War and now living in Charleston in the aftermath of that conflict. He’s a man of strong principles and a moral compass that frequently puts him at odds with his newspaper’s subscribers. Sometimes those same principles are at odds with Dawson’s own beliefs, particularly when it comes to blacks, and that’s where this book seems to echo some of today’s rhetoric. That tied the book into other nonfiction books I’m reading that deal with the South in the years after the Civil War and I very much enjoyed seeing what I’ve learned set into a novel.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Life: It Goes On - October 18

 Happy Sunday! This morning I'm coming to you wondering about my sanity. Knowing it was going to get cold yesterday, we got together with friends for dinner on the patio earlier than usual. Nearly four hours later, we convinced ourselves to take off the blankets, move away from the fire, and call it a night. I was still cold when I went to bed a couple of hours later. COVID makes us do things we never would have done otherwise, folks! 

Earlier, before the temperatures dropped, I'd been outside for several hours working on one of two projects I'm working on right now and it was the perfect fall day. The Big Guy wanted to go for a hike but I knew I needed to take advantage of that time to paint outside while I could. I think I'm done with projects that need to be worked on outside for the year, another reason I'm sad about the change of seasons. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished Ruth Ware's latest, One By One. Not her best and I fear she's falling into a formula. Her fans won't be much surprised by the ending of this one. 

Sookie thought the food 
smelled good.
Watched: Pretty much the only things we've watched are sports, American Ninja Warrior, and Biden's town hall.

Read: I finished Dawson's Fall and will have that review up this week. 

Made: Pasta al fredo, wontons, salads...easy stuff. Thought I might have my cooking mojo back but it appears I don't. 

Enjoyed: Wednesday evening we had two couples over for an extended happy hour. Between us, we had so much food we didn't even need dinner. It was the first time the six of us have been together in months which is much, much too long! It was so good for my soul. 

This Week I’m:  

On finishing painting the chairs I started yesterday and continuing work in my office. One of the walls that needs to be painted has been cleared off and I'll try to get that painted today so I can move shelves back onto that wall tomorrow. I've already conceded that this project is going to take much longer than I had originally thought. Like twice as long. 

Thinking About: Sourdough bread. I got two new starters this week and I need to find the time to work with it.

Feeling: Congested and slow. I think I caught a cold last week. How do you catch a cold when you wear a mask in public and sanitize your hands ever time you touch anything?

Looking forward to: Book club this week, although, sadly, it's going to have to be a Zoom meeting. 

Question of the week: How are you doing, really? 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Life: It Goes On - October 12

Happy Monday! We finally got the courage up to head out of town for a long weekend away and headed north to see my sister and her husband and only just arrived back a couple of hours ago, tired but feeling renewed. It was absolutely beautiful up there - we couldn't have timed it better for fall foliage. Although we couldn't stay with Mini-me and Ms S (did I tell you about the fire they had?), we also got to spend a few hours with them yesterday enjoying dinner and a fire. Everything in my suitcase smells like smoke after all of the time around fires this weekend but it was well worth it! 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: It was all about the road trip playlists on Spotify this weekend - mostly the NPR Roadtrip Playlist. 

Watched: A fair amount of sports in the background but that's about it. 

Read: As usual, I didn't read nearly as much as I thought I would in the car. I always feel guilty if I'm reading while The Big Guy is driving. 

Made: Some brownies to take with us that I probably won't make again. My sister made delicious meals for us: crockpot chicken potpie, instant pot lasagna, and a beer cheese soup that I would eat once a week.

 See above! All of those trees are at my sister's house. That's us in the middle, taking our annual sister picture. You'll notice that she kindly let me work on a project while I was there. It was almost as hard for me to leave a project unfinished as it was for me to leave my sister! But she knows exactly what to do from here on and my brother-in-law will get the final Danish oil coat on and the brass hardware cleaned up - can't wait to see it when it's finished. 

Of course, loved spending time with my kids, too. Mini-me whipped up a mean potato leek soup, Ms. S taught me some about sourdough bread and gave me some of her starter, we got to see the smoke damage from the fire (although we couldn't go in the room where the fire actually happened), and our grand pets were all happy to be loved on. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: My sis and BIL were getting rid of a bookcase (I have the mate already - they were built-ins in a lawyer's office and are at least a hundred years old) so you know I was happy to take that off their hands. It's going to go in my office and means I'll need to rearrange things quite a lot. But first I'll finally get around to getting those green walls painted white! My goal is to get it all put together by this time next week but BG is quick to remind me that my projects always take longer than I plan on them taking!

Thinking About: Going to bed early. Twenty hours of driving and three nights sleeping in beds that aren't mine have me longing to crawl into my bed early even if it means I'll be awake early. 

Feeling: Like I'm finally in the fall spirit. I might just join the R.I.P. Challenge after all. 

Looking forward to: Hoping for some warm evenings this week so we can catch up with friends. 

Question of the week: What did you do last week that brought you joy?

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Published October 2020 by Riverhead Books 

Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

It’s the season of Fallow, in the era of iron. In a northern misty bog surrounded by woodlands and wheat fields, a settlement lies far beyond the reach of the Romans invading hundreds of miles to the southeast. Here, life is simple–or so it seems to the tightly knit community. Sow. Reap. Honor Mother Earth, who will provide at harvest time. A girl named Devout comes of age, sweetly flirting with the young man she’s tilled alongside all her life, and envisions a future of love and abundance. Seventeen years later, though, the settlement is a changed place. Famine has brought struggle, and outsiders, with their foreign ways and military might, have arrived at the doorstep. For Devout’s young daughter, life is more troubled than her mother ever anticipated. But this girl has an extraordinary gift. As worlds collide and peril threatens, it will be up to her to save her family and community. Set in a time long forgotten, Daughter of Black Lake brings the ancient world to life and introduces us to an unforgettable family facing an unimaginable trial. 

And Now For Something Different: 

This being 2020, we have to do everything a little (or a lot!) differently these days. Authors can't travel to publicize their books; they can't get out to meet us and read to us from their books. So publisher's are having to think of new ways to get the word out about their latest books. For Daughter of Black Lake, that means a progressive excerpt for those who follow along with this TLC Book Tours virtual tour. To read the first excerpt, head over to Savvy Verse and Wit for excerpt number one. Today, I'm happy to bring you excerpt number two:

"But with Mother Earth’s visit, the ewes would lamb well, perhaps even produce a set of twins. Their milk would come in. Stinging nettle leaves would unfurl, ready for the cauldron, while the stores still held enough oats to thicken the broth. The cough that had plagued a newborn for two moons would disappear. The bog dwellers would begin Hope — that season of birthing, sowing, and anticipation — free of worry and disease. Purified.
As she searched for sweet violet, Devout thought of the wild boar that a bog dweller called Young Hunter had slain. He had been so arrogant on his return to Black Lake, calling out for men to help haul the carcass, recounting how he had tracked the boar three days, but never once pausing his story to give Mother Earth the praises he was due. Even so, Devout salivated. This Fallow, like most every other, bellies had seldom been full. 
In preparation for the evening, Devout and the other maidens would bathe and comb out their hair and leave it unbound to show their purity and youth, and clasp over their shoulders woolen dresses that smelled of the breeze rather than unwashed flesh. Then they would call at each roundhouse in the clearing, collecting offerings of honeyand wheaten beer and bread still warm from the griddle. Last, they would stop at the largest of the roundhouses and find, above the firepit’s lapping flames, the expertly roasted boar. The girls would set aside part of their haul — an old custom, staunchly followed by the bog dwellers, and not only on so hallowed a night. Of all they reaped, they returned a third to Mother Earth, payment for taking what belonged to her. And then, fingers slick with grease, they would swallow pork and bread and wheaten beer until their bellies grew taut. Eventually the boys would come, rattle the barred door, and demand to be let in for the dancing and merrymaking that would last until daybreak.  
She heard the snap of a branch behind her and whipped around to see a boy a year older than she was. “Young Smith?” she said."

For the remaining excerpts, be sure to check out the full tour, linked below. 

My Thoughts:

I've talked before about my guilt about how little I actually spend on books, given how much I love them and want the authors to be able to afford to keep writing. So when Buchanan reached some weeks ago, I decided I would buy this one because it was a given that I would read it. I'm a huge fan of Buchanan's and I've been waiting seven years for this, her third, book. So perhaps all I really need to tell you about this book is that you should definitely hit up your local bookstore, buy a copy of this book, and help keep the bookstore in business and Buchanan writing. 

In 2010, I read Buchanan's The Day The Falls Stood Still; and, in 2013, her second novel, The Painted Girls. My recollection was that I had really enjoyed them and a re-read of my reviews confirms that. In both, I was particularly impressed by Buchanan's ability to blend fact and fiction and by her research. In Daughter of Black Lake, she has done it again. Inspired by the discovery of a body now known as Lindow Man, Buchanan has crafted a story to explain why this man might have died in the way he died. Because of this, Buchanan looks at first-century A.D. Britannia from a different perspective than we're accustomed to reading. The Romans are not the only people capable of doing terrible things to people. 

Her books are always intimate looks at the people history so often forgets. Here she looks at the way the beliefs of the people informed their lives in every way, from the ways they honored Mother Earth to the way they revered the druids who led them. Here we have a group of people who have begun to appreciate the things that the Romans have brought to their land (olive oil, stone roads, tempered steel) and who have also begun to question the wisdom of the druids. 

In a novel of just over 300 pages, there is not room or time enough to fully develop everyone of them and the reviewer at Kirkus Reviews felt that was a flaw of the book (don't read that review, they're wrong!). But we rarely get a complete cast of fully developed characters; it's just not necessary to most story lines. Buchanan brought these villagers to life for me and made me care about them and their survival. What's perhaps more impressive (especially knowing how rarely I buy into magic in books), I was completely ok with the supernatural ability that Buchanan introduces in order to help move her story along.

I raced through this book. Even though I suspected the big reveal that happens late in the book, I still didn't really know exactly how it would play out. And I loved that Buchanan doesn't tie things up neatly but leaves readers with hope that our characters will thrive and be happy. 

Now, for that link to the rest of the excerpts (and other opinions about the book), follow the tour here every day to continue reading.

About Cathy Marie Buchanan 

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the author of the nationally bestselling novels The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls. She lives in Toronto. 

Find out more about Cathy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram

If you check out Buchanan's website, she goes into detail about the inspiration for this book - it's fascinating!

Monday, October 5, 2020

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism
by Robin Diangelo 
Read by Amy Landon 
Published June 2018 by Beacon Press 
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher’s Summary: In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively. 

My Thoughts: Through research, personal stories, and examples, Diangelo (a race scholar and diversity trainer) addresses how racism has been engrained in us since this country was formed.
“[Thomas] Jefferson suggested that there were natural differences between the races and asked scientists to find them.”
“American scientists began searching for the answer to the perceived inferiority of non-Anglo groups. Illustrating the power of our questions to shape the knowledge we validate, these scientists didn’t ask “Are blacks and others inferior?” They asked “Why are blacks and others inferior?””
“Exploitation came first and then the ideology of unequal races to justify this exploitation followed.”
Over the ensuing decades, the courts have continued to uphold the inferiority of nonwhites. And while many whites have suffered from the ill effects of classism, they have always known that it was “better to be white.” Every time we’ve celebrated a person of color “breaking the color barrier,” we neglect to say that it only happened because whites allowed it to finally happen, implying there was only just now a person of color capable of achieving that level of success. “Narratives of racial exceptionality obscure the reality of ongoing institutional white control while reinforcing the ideologies of individualism and meritocracy.” 

“White resistance to the term “white supremacy” prevents us from examining how these messages shape us. Explicit white supremacists understand this.” Diangelo explains how the alt-right and white nationalists have spent thirty years reworking their messages to make them more palatable, to blend in. They’ve adopted messages against affirmative action, immigration, and globalism as veiled attacks on persons of color and, in so doing, have convinced a significant portion of other whites that their messages are valid and reasonable without those people even realizing the inherent racism in the messages. Diangelo also contends that millennials are every bit as mired in racism as the generations ahead of them and that claims of color blindness harm our ability to accept our own racism. 
'“White fragility”: the reaction in which white people feel offended or attacked when the topic of racism arises.”*
You know I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year about racism and working to educate myself on what it means to be black in this country. A lot of that reading has been uncomfortable, in no small part because it didn’t just call out white people in general, but me in particular. Diangelo takes it to a whole new level for me. 

She calls white people out on the ways we deny racism and how we, so often, make ourselves the victim when confronted about racism. I’m sorry to say that I saw myself frequently in her examples. I have even, once, fallen into the “white women’s tears” scenario Diangelo talks about, whereby a white woman, feeling attacked about being called out, starts crying, drawing the attention away from the person who was legitimately injured. 

Diangelo says that “it is common to feel defensive if you believe that you are being told you are a bad person.” She points to what she calls the good/bad binary that has reinforced our resistance to admitting our racism. We’ve been raised to believe that only bad people are racists and, not considering ourselves bad people, cannot accept that we have done anything wrong. What, then, can those of us who would like to make changes in the way we think do? We can’t define racism as only “a conscious intolerance of black people.” Diangelo says that we must “identify our racist patterns” and make it more important to interrupt those patterns than managing how we think we look to others. She has raised my awareness and given me the tools to be a better ally and a better person. Now I need to work hard to make them a part of my life, every day. 

“The value of “White Fragility” lies,” says the reviewer from The New Yorker, “…in its call for humility and vigilance.” *Publisher’s Weekly

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Life: It Goes On - October 4, 2020

Happy Sunday! I was starting to type that it was chilly but sunny here today but then I realized that you don't need a Sunday Omaha forecast every week. I seriously need to think of a new way to greet you on Sundays! We're headed off shortly to have Sunday dinner with my parents. They are reducing the number of gardens they have to maintain and we are the lucky recipients of all of the landscaping blocks they no longer need so will be bringing more of those back with us. By the time we get all of them, we'll have blocks everywhere I've been wanting. I can't wait to see what it all looks like next spring when I get new things planted.

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Lots of music, which seemed to work better for me for working this week. I did start my book club book for this month, After The Flood, which is certainly unlike anything we have read before.

Watched: Sports, some of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Grace and Frankie, and Jack Ryan. The Big Guy is so tired of political ads that he finally agreed to turn off regular tv a lot of the time. 

Read: I had to take a break from Night Sleep Death the Stars (it's almost 800 pages long!) to read Daughter of Black Lake for a review. I'm not surprised to find myself really enjoying it - I always like Cathy Marie Buchanan's books. 

Made: I've got a pound cake in the oven right now. I'm making a twist on strawberry shortcake to take to dinner with my parents. 

 BG and I picked up a pizza last night and ate in our car while listening to a concert in a local park then went home and spent a couple of hours enjoying our first real fire of the year. I finally got to make the perfect toasted marshmallows!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: I have lots of little projects to finish this week, including getting those boxes I was working on last week hung, continuing work on going through the boxes of keepsakes, and, hopefully, getting BG out into the garage to get it cleaned up before it gets too cold to do that. 

Thinking About: Mini-me and Ms S who are living in a hotel this week, following a small fire in a closet in their house. Everyone is fine, there wasn't much damage, but there was enough smoke damage to require a week's work of repairs. The lesson here is this: test your smoke detectors regularly, keep fire extinguishers on all floors of your house, and replace those extinguishers regularly. If my kiddos had not done all of those things, the damage would have been much greater. 

Feeling: Upbeat - I got my hair done yesterday (long overdue!), I rearranged some furniture this week which always makes me happy, the sun is shining and warm weather is returning this week, and I'm loving the impact all of these little projects I've been doing are making on the house.

Looking forward to: Hopefully a trip north this week, assuming my sister has sold her house and Mini-me and Ms S are back in their house.

Question of the week: Are you on team all-out-decorating-for-Halloween?