Voor Elise, Memories of the ‘Lo

Voor Elise, Memories of the ‘Lo ISBN: 9781457552632, first offered by Dog Ear Publishing, a memoire in e-book by Denise Keustermans and Henry Sienkiewicz.

This is a story “about seven children left orphaned after their parents’ deaths” and their struggles “to find their own paths, paths that went across borders and oceans.” And “They each found their own route without losing sight of one another.” The storyteller’s grandfather was “the eldest of the seven; Elizabeth (Elise) was the fifth in line” and the person around whom most of this story centers. It begins in the very small Belgium town of Kessel-Lo (‘Lo) in the early 1900’s with the hard life of the poorer families, progresses through the brutal effects of WW I and proceeds to her meeting an American soldier. It then follows her marriage and move to a small Texas farm where life not only is brutally hard but increasingly difficult in the extreme because of a dominant mother-in-law and a husband who drinks heavily and is having an affair. Her subsequent activity is presented in some detail along with her constant attempts to maintain contact with other family members, especially with her often responding brother Michael. Vignettes of the grandfather are included as are pieces about the other members of the family. An Epilogue provides bits about the story teller’s husband as well as her children, their activities and that of the grandchildren.

The memoire ends: “Rather than diminishing over the years and across the miles, our connections have deepened. Elise’s children have remained in contact with their cousins. Our ties to the ‘Lo have only deepened, and the families across the oceans are as one. In the words of Elise’s pastor, we have let peace and happiness rule our hearts and we are glad that we could call this lovely woman our mother.” This is followed by Authors’ Notes which for some undefined reason regrettably stop in mid-sentence.

3* 4*Depressing but poignant for readers appreciating mitigating effect of familial ties on hardships.

Then SHE was BORN

Then SHE was BORN, by Cristiano Gentili is a fact based novel originally published as Ombra Bianco in Italian by Ota Benga Editore. This e-book version has been translated by Lori Hetherington and represents part of an effort to support a “campaign supported by eleven Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the Dali Lama and Pope Francis” to bring further awareness of, and help for, African Albinos.

Plot: The father of the protagonist is immediately aware that this albino girl born to him and his wife in a small rural area, is a disgrace to the family. She is a zeru zeru (Swahili name for an invisible, ghostly ‘thing’ of witchery and magical powers) that can bring disaster to the village. Thus she is to be left in the jungle to die or worse, to be discovered by individuals constantly looking for such persons. The reason – bodily parts of such individuals are worth large amounts of money from local medicine men/soothsayers who make various ‘good luck charms’ and potions from these parts. The grandmother, however, through adroit maneuvering, prevails and is given the girl to raise. She even is able to obtain a name for her through persuasive means with the local Catholic Priest. As Adimu reaches school age she is permitted to attend but is shunned by all and each time she sees a glimmer of acceptance, it is dashed because her ‘acceptance’ is only as a means of some specific gain for the accepting associate(s). Her story continues through constant similar and even more crushing episodes and mostly dangerous encounters resulting from her uniqueness. It is an existence that places her in suspension between being feared and shunned by most because of her different appearance and simultaneously being hunted by others because of the value placed upon her bodily parts. Numerous other influential characters are involved in the tale, especially Charles Fielding, the highly influential gold mine owner and his wife Sarah. Some of the characters are totally unenlightened, others partially so, and still others supposedly totally enlightened but suffering from overwhelming psychological burdens resultant from childhood happenings.

Discussion: This book is written by a man with degrees in Political Science, Humanitarian Assistance and Social Science, who journeyed to Tanzania in 2011 to assess the living conditions of native born albinos in this totally black society with its firm beliefs in sorcery, demons and the like. It is an enthralling story with all of the elements of a thriller as one suspenseful situation follows another and the heartache of the child is empathetically presented. Additionally demonstrated to varying degrees are the existence of greed, position/recognition importance and the lengths to which desperate individuals will go to attain their goals. The attitudes attributed to the old Rhodesian Afrikaners are brought into the mix and, although exaggerated to a degree, can be accepted when considering the mentally affecting manner of Charles’s childhood and that of his wife Sarah.

Conclusion: An enthralling suspenseful tale with faults that can be ignored because of the importance of the subject. (See Help African Albinos)

4* Enthralling, suspenseful fact based novel.

The Evolving Peacemaker

The Evolving Peacemaker, A Commitment to Non-violence ISBN: 9781504371049, Balboa Press, an e-book by Leona Evans and Matthew J. Evans.

The author opens with an explanation that the book is “based on the Gandhi philosophy of nonviolence and contains a set of principles and practices designed to guide us on a powerful journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. It begins with the premise that peace is not a one time achievement but a lifelong practice that starts with our willingness to “be the change we wish to see in our world””. She follows with the admonition that peace is much more than a task with a beginning and end. That it is an abstract spiritual process of discovering who we are, why we’re here, and how we can honor our relationship with all creation; that Peace is acquired through use of words instead of weapons; having respectful and ethical relations with those of other faiths, cultures, mores and other unique qualities; that it is most important to remember that in a win-lose system EVERYBODY loses; AND most importantly the person responsible to accomplish this feat is ME.

There follows a step by step procedure to attain this ME person and to gain its acceptance. One must begin with a search for the truth both introspectively and through education so that eventually the “art of self-acceptance” is attained. Along the way an understanding of Gandhi’s Satyagraha, or Sanskrit title for his Philosophy of Nonviolence must be absorbed along with understanding: “the many faces of passive violence”; existence of both overt and concealed anger; how to turn this emotion into a positive influence; obtain an enhanced ‘social and emotional intelligence’ so that eventually that ME will have “malice toward none”; project the “forgiving power of love”; ultimately “understanding our purpose” and pass this on “one person at a time” so that it eventually may become a universally overriding theme. If this can be accomplished, the world will come to respect all life, end discrimination, promote equal rights, ensure protection for children, eradicate poverty and illiteracy, save the environment and reduce inequality among nations. An epilogue summarizes the presentation and a set of questions offer the reader an opportunity to intensely review exactly what he/she has acquired and retained from the presentation. A sizeable number of individuals are acknowledged and biographical data of the author and co-author are included followed by a suggested list of readings.

Discussion: This indeed is a most interesting and ambitious project set forth in a somewhat unusual manner. It is part ‘how-to’ and part memoir and/or autobiographical. A forward by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi explains that the co-author came to him at the age of fifteen with a film proposal. Wondering what a fifteen-year-old would know of non-violence, he recalled the words of his grandfather: “If we are going to create peace in the world, we will have to begin with educating the children.” He discovered the lad to be “wise beyond his years” making a film that changed the life of his mother, the author and Unity minister Rev. Leona Evans who “has put into this book everything that Matthew put into his film-and more. This book will take humanity another step closer to peace and harmony in our world”. The film’s subject projected all-enveloping peace and gained recognition from the United Nations. Chapters in this book written by co-author Matthew, Leona’s son, are interspersed with those by the author whose words provide the volume’s main message. From Matthew’s words we gain an understanding of Gandhi’s remarks and understand the pertinent autobiographical material.

Conclusion: The author(s) have set forth a very ambitious proposal for establishing a far better world than the one in which we presently live and have done so in a quite clearly presented manner from which many will gain much. It may be exactly the ‘tonic’ required for the sick condition in which today’s world exists, even though ‘time appears to be running out’.

5* Well-presented ambitious proposal for a ‘better world’.

Trump, MELANIA

Trump, MELANIA, Slovenian Side of the Story  ISBN: 9789612838256 (mobi), an e-book by Sandi Gorišek,

This short book provides few facts but gives rise to interesting speculation. It is written by a person raised in a similar setting and time as Melania Trump and sets forth a few interesting facts about Mrs. Trump and her early life, along with some speculations about the woman herself. Specifically presented: the home of Amalija and Viktor Knavs and their two daughters, Ines and Melanija was the mediaeval town of Sevanica, now approaching 5000 population; it was a largely self-contained town in which solid middle class individuals worked under a Socialist regime; her father was an entrepreneur who fought a decidedly uphill battle under a socialistic government; Melania had the fortitude to pursue a modeling job in a country where the tendency was rather toward self-effacement – an ‘inner’ strength she believes was further demonstrated by Melania’s well-presented speech at the Republican convention when she was totally unfamiliar with this type of activity. The author further believes that the country’s President Tito’s excesses stimulated a secret love for ‘flashy’ surroundings and beautiful attire that, combined with other scattered bits, offers a possible insight to the glitter evident in the Trump Tower private quarters. She further believes the same probably served to influence Melania’s career in modelling. She cites the purported esteem that Melania has for Betty Ford and Jackie Kennedy, and believes a closer relationship than usually believed may exist between Donald and Melania because a) he and her father have been described as ‘looking enough alike to be described as twins’ and b) there is great similarity between her and Donald’s father’s wife – both immigrants who struggled for ten years to attain citizenship. Further, she believes that Melania probably strongly believes in the principles that Donald appears to espouse because she absorbed similar thoughts from the mores of the time in the country in which she was raised.

The remainder of the author’s presentation is to provide some insight into the country’s mores, local customs, people and geography to support her speculations.

Discussion: The reader is presented with a minimum of factual material that could be immeasurably expanded merely by checking the internet. However, the speculation generated is intriguing and does seem plausible. The author states: “…future of the USA and its population will be partly tailored by the patterns and principles learned from the people of a small proud nation situated on the sunny side of the Alps.” The statement seems a little extravagant, if not outright ‘over-the-top’. In actuality what has been provided is some evidence about Malinia’s strength of character PLUS material that the reader can interpret as being that which naturally would be incorporated by a child maturing with the influences extant. Specifically, the author presented relatively short but definite views of the beliefs of this society with special emphasis on attitudes toward respect and discipline, postulating that introduction to which would insure that a child raised in this environment would make the reader tend to believe that she would clearly have a mindset in complete accord with the President’s and of the individuals that voted for him. This, in turn, depends upon the reader’s acceptance of a belief that Trump and his supporters agree and no doubt at least in part espouse, the opinion of a man whose book I reviewed several years ago. Hutchinson, the author, was on a destroyer that survived engagements from Guadalcanal to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay and stated: “We hope to be remembered as the products of a different country and society from what the United States of America has become in the last fifty years. Products of a far more disciplined society with rather rigid moral and social standards to which everyone was expected to conform given how society chastened and disciplined offenders. The way of the transgressor was hard. We were taught individual responsibility, that evil is due to character flaws in the individual and not to the shortcomings of society.”

Yes, this is a quote from a member of the generation that fought WW II. Much of the mindset expressed by this man no doubt is considered totally outrageous by today’s far more liberal society. BUT, there does seem to be quite a large segment of the population living in this country that does agree with much of it and have expressed strongly a need to curtail at least some of the ‘out-of-control’ activity extant in the non-united states of today. Trump appears to reflect this feeling by word and deed. Thus, if speculation by the author of this present book may be believed, Melania would seem to be most supportive of her husband.

Conclusion: A very short, not particularly well written book that offers little of a definitive nature about the President’ wife, but undoubtedly opens a wide area for interpretation and speculation.

3* Because of fascinating content for speculative interpretation.

MOZART, A Life of Genius

MOZART, A life of Genius, Fritzen Media, an e-book by Alexander Kennedy.

The author has provided a highly detailed listing of this celebrated musician’s life activities. Included are his amazing accomplishments beginning as a child of three and extending to his early death at thirty-five years of age. It details his virtuosic abilities with several instruments, his incomparable ability to sight-read any musical score set before him, his establishment of unique musical themes admired by and influential in the lives of subsequent musical greats and his production of six hundred musical compositions ranging from religious to comedic that still are as lovingly enjoyed throughout much of the world today as they were in his highly acclaimed but tragically short life. A most interesting read.

5* Interesting, detailed biography.