…about Time

It’s been a difficult winter. Snow kept us housebound for a few weeks. A few other things happened that I won’t complain about here; it’s been one thing after another. Needless to say, I have spent the past two and a half months spinning my wheels and not accomplishing much. As the weather warms and spring nears, I am finally beginning to get busy and do some spring cleaning and work on other projects. I need to make up for lost time. Daylight Savings Time just robbed me of one more hour.

Since the switch to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, I have spent the week convincing myself that it’s “really only ___ o’clock” even though the clock shows one hour later. I’ll adjust in a couple of weeks. This fall when we switch back to Standard Time, I’ll follow the opposite line of thinking.

Daylight Savings Time is something of an odd concept. I understand the desire to shift  daylight from the beginning of the day to the end; but why keep going back and forth? It doesn’t make much sense to me that we willingly throw everyone and everything off schedule twice a year, risking higher numbers of heart attacks and traffic accidents, just to have our daylight in the right place. Why don’t we just decide once and for all, and leave the time alone?

We live in a world in which people disagree on so much. We disagree on religion, how to govern, how to distribute wealth, how to insure the populace, how to educate our children, climate change and other science. Heck, we can’t even agree on who should use which bathroom.

Common wisdom tells us to look for what unifies us instead of dwelling on what divides us.

Time just may be the one thing we all agree on. After allowing for geography and time zones, nearly every member of the human race knows what time it is.

It’s five o’clock somewhere.

big ben 5 o'clock

Photo: http://www.bbc.co.uk/staticarchive/87b328f434a981fd34e6466c6054604327d740c0.jpg

Advertisements

The Pecan Man

Every now and then, a reader meets a book that bears rereading. I have found such a book in The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck.

The story is set in a small Florida town in the late 1970s. The “Pecan Man” is Eddie Mims, a homeless black man who is feared by everyone in the neighborhood. His life becomes intertwined with those of Ora Lee Beckwith, a middle-aged white woman, and her black maid Blanche, when a tragic crime happens to someone in Blanche’s family.

Ora Lee wants to go to the police, but Blanche will not hear of it. She believes her family will be at greater risk if the police hear of the matter. Ora Lee and Blanche agree to cover up the incident, a decision which leads to more tragedy and a great injustice.

Through the events that follow, Ora Lee, the narrator, learns lesson after lesson about the advantages and attitudes her white privilege has afforded her.

The Pecan Man is a quick and entertaining read. I found myself torn between reading to see what happened and stopping to think about a passage here and there. Reading straight through won this time, but I will read the book again. The Pecan Man would be a good discussion book.

Note to my English teacher friends: If you’re looking for new titles for the classroom, The Pecan Man is a good candidate.

Happy Free-Reading Friday!

pecan-tree-tree-pecans

Photo credit: Public domain

 

Conflicted

Today is Read Across American Day in honor of the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Children in schools across America celebrate the day. Lunch rooms serve green eggs and ham, teachers wear crazy hats, and libraries hold special reading events.

This would have been Dr. Seuss’ 113th birthday. Children love his zany, colorful, rhyming stories. Not only are his books fun, they also contain many words of wisdom. There is no denying Dr. Seuss did much to promote reading among young children.

But during the 1940s, Theodore Geisel, a political cartoonist, drew and published some very offensive cartoons depicting the Japanese in a derogatory light. He also spoke of his support of Japanese-American Internment camps.

Learning that was like learning the Atticus Finch of Go Set a Watchman was not the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. I was crushed.

I was also angry. The internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, including my husband’s family, during World War II was one of the darkest episodes in the history of the United States. Theodore Geisel fanned the flames of racism.

So today, when we honor the man who gave children so much joy and did so much to promote reading, I am conflicted about honoring him.

The Dr. Seuss who helped children love reading does not seem to be the Theodore Geisel who drew racist cartoons. In fact, Horton Hears a Who was apparently written as an apology of sorts for his past views after he visited Japan and witnessed the devastating aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima.*

Over time, many of us evolve in our view of the world. I know I have evolved in many ways. Perhaps that is what happened with Theodore Geisel. I will work on forgiving him for his earlier views.

Although I remain conflicted, I honor the literary legacy of Dr. Seuss. To balance the message, I also pay tribute to the Japanese-Americans who were held prisoner by their government.

*http://www.openculture.com/2014/08/dr-seuss-draws-racist-anti-japanese-cartoons-during-ww-ii.html

20170302_215211

A few good children’s and young adult books.

…about Executive Order 9066

February 19 marked the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942. The order forced the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans–citizens and their immigrant parents–for the duration of World War II.

Many Americans do not know about this horrendous chapter of U.S. history. Because the best way to educate oneself is to read, and because today is Free-Reading Friday, I thought I would share a few books on the topic that might be of interest to you.

1. Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese-American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves is a good place to start if you want information. Infamy is the most comprehensive, thorough history I have read on the topic. Reeves explains what happened and why. The book is well-written. It is non-fiction, but I often felt as though I were reading a novel.

2.  Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald is the author’s own story of her family’s evacuation from Vashon Island, Washington shortly after Pearl Harbor. The author provides one of the better descriptions I’ve read of  camp life. Her telling of the yes-yes/no-no crisis is especially effective. Because the author was seventeen at the time of evacuation, this is also a coming of age story.

3.  Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston is another excellent memoir of someone who experienced imprisonment at the hand of her own country. Jeanne Wakatsuki was only seven years old when her family was evacuated from the West Coast and “relocated” to Manzanar.

4.  When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a short novel which tells about the internment experience from the points of view of the various members of one family. It is a quick but powerful read.

5.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a novel by Jamie Ford, offers a slightly different perspective. Set in Seattle during World War II, the story follows a young Chinese-American boy who befriends a Japanese-American classmate. This is one of my favorite books of all times. The hotel featured in the novel, the Panama Hotel, still stands. If you’re ever in Seattle, it would be well worth your time to arrange a tour.

These are just a few of the many books on the subject of Japanese-American internment. I welcome you to comment with your favorite titles.

Happy Reading!

236

My daughter, husband and I were fortunate to have the current owner of the Panama Hotel in Seattle take us on a guided tour. I highly recommend the experience.

Ersatz Spring

spring has begun

its yearly game

of hide and seek

bits of green emerge

the sun tries to shine

temperatures inch upward

days lengthen

children at recess shed their coats

drivers open car windows

people walk more briskly,

no longer afraid of slipping on unseen ice

the freedom of the game continues

until the weatherman announces

another storm is on the way

too soon to yell,

“Ollie Ollie oxen free!”

spring-flowers-covered-in-snow                                                                                                                Photo: public domain

…about Praying for Enemies

Before becoming a Christian in 1979, I read the Bible. All of it. I wanted to know what I was signing onto when I joined the church. Shortly after that, during the Iran Hostage Crisis, I prayed for the Ayatollah Khomeini to know Jesus. I was quickly and soundly chastised by another church member.

Huh? Isn’t that what I was supposed to do? Having read in the Bible that we are to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), I was fairly certain I was doing the right thing. Jesus himself set the example while on the Cross, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a)

Still, the disapproval of the fellow church member stung me to the core. Was I somehow wrong? Had Jesus mentioned an exception that I had missed in my initial reading of the Scriptures? Today, after years of study and prayer, I remain convinced that I was right to pray for the Ayatollah.

I was reminded of that long-ago incident Sunday when someone in church requested prayers for our enemies; in her next breath she mentioned President Trump. I cannot pretend to have read her mind. Was the implication that Trump is an enemy intentional, or merely coincidence?

It is only fair that I tell you I did not support Trump for election. I do not believe he is doing a good job as President. I believe his behavior is erratic, reckless, and dangerous. I do not like him.

Enemy or not, regardless of political views, the President needs and deserves the prayers of anyone who believes in prayer. Jesus said so.

That brings me to my dilemma.

I know I should pray for Trump, but so far my prayers have been half-hearted. I don’t see him changing his behavior any time soon. I realize I am praying for a miracle. Am I setting myself up for God to say, “No.”? How can I word my prayer so I get the answer I want? Is my faith so small that I cannot pray for a miracle?

But, wait. Jesus didn’t say to pray only if I feel like it. He didn’t say to pray only if I think my prayers will yield the answers I want. He simply said to pray.

Funny, isn’t it, how one prayer leads to another? In order to pray for the President, I need to pray for a softening of my stubborn attitude. I need to pray for obedience and persistence in prayer. I need to pray for God’s patience with me.

Most importantly, I need to pray for a strengthening of faith that allows me to trust God to answer prayers the way He knows they need to be answered. He has a greater plan than you or I can imagine.

duerer_praying_hands

Photo: public domain

Free-Reading Friday

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”                                                                                           Mark Twain

You may remember it by another name; Drop Everything and Read, or Sustained Silent Reading perhaps. It may have come at a different time of the week for you. For me, Free-Reading Friday was the best part of the school week.

At the end of the week, after lessons had been learned and homework checked, the teacher would say, “O.K., boys and girls. You may read anything you wish for the next 30 minutes.” I eagerly looked forward to that delectable half hour. I would lose myself in whatever book I was reading. I traveled to faraway places, met famous people, and learned about different cultures. I commiserated with a main character over a dilemma we had in common. I sympathized with characters when they faced obstacles I had not yet known existed in the world.

When I became a teacher I learned that my teachers had probably had an ulterior motive for letting us read. They needed time. Time to catch up. Time to help struggling students. Time to sit at their desks to rest their voices and feet. But they also must have realized the importance of giving students time to read. They could easily have assigned busy work instead, but they chose to have us read.

Free-Reading Fridays were joyful times for me, both as a student and as a teacher. The joy I experienced as a student was my own. That which I experienced as a teacher was shared. It was a time during which I could connect with students as we visited over whatever they were reading.

Of course, there were those students who did their best to get out of going anywhere near a book, but they were a minority. I let them read magazines with lots of pictures in them. The magazine articles became springboards for discussion.

As the years went by, it became increasingly difficult to allow for free reading time. Shortened class time, interruptions, the ever-growing list of struggling students, and politics over how the curriculum was taught let to diminishing “free” time in the classroom. At the high school where I taught before retiring, I may have been the last holdout for scheduling free reading time for students.

The demise of Free-Reading Friday makes me sad. Reading is important. It needs to be a joyful activity, not just an item on a skills list to be checked off when learned. Without that joy, people will not read. If they don’t read, they will not learn. If they don’t learn, well…they will remain ignorant.

With that joy in mind, I am launching  my “Free-Reading Friday” feature, which will address all things reading: book reviews, quotes, information and opinions. Check it out. I hope you enjoy what you find.