RAISING MY RAINBOW: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son

duron1LORI DURON

“A person’s sex is what is in their pants, their gender is what is in their brains, and their sexuality is what is in their hearts.”

This is the story of a couple of the most amazing parents. When Lori and Matt’s son CJ saw his first barbie their livies were changed forever. “It was like watching somebody come alive, watching a flower bloom, watching a rainbow cross the sky.” But it did take them some time to realize that their job wasn’t to change CJ but to love him unconditionally. But is also a parent’s job to protect their children. One christmas they gave CJ boy toys and gender non-specific toys.  Their older son, Chase, was thrilled with his boy toys and CJ had no fun at all. Both Lori and Matt knew that they could never do that again. CJ prefers every thing that is generally considered for girls. When a parent asks what they can get CJ for birthday present, Lori answers anything that you would get for a girl [that age]. When CJ started school he complained that his friends always make him be the dad when they play house. Lori had him practice self empowerment skills to let his friends know that he wants to be mommy some of the time.The book explores the themes that parents duron2of gender-nonconforming children often share, like self blame, fear of the future, and the fierce desire to protect our children from ridicule and the possibility of bullying. It wasn’t easy for Lori to be open with all her friends and family. Some of her relations deepened but others ended because of the narrow mindedness of people.

Rainbow is a well written memoir.

THE ORENDA

JOSEPH BOYDENboyedn

o·ren·da:   a supernatural force believed by the iroquois Indians to be present, in varying degrees, in all objects or persons, and to be the spiritual force by which human accomplishment is attained or accounted for.

Boyden describes the forces that led to the decimation of Canada’s First Nations culture. The novel is set in is set in mid-17th-century Huron territory, during a period of brutal skirmishes between the Huron and the Iroqouis, just as the Catholics launch their campaign to convert aboriginal peoples. The story is told by three rotating voices. The vengeful Bird, whose beloved family was murdered by the Iroquois; the equally vengeful Snow Falls, the Iroquois girl he kidnaps partly to assuage this loss; and Christophe, sent by his superiors in New France to convert the natives. The novel opens in winter, and with bloodshed. The great Wendat – Huron – elder and warrior, Bird, massacres a party of Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, and kidnaps a young girl. She is called Snow Falls, and Bird, haunted by the slaughter of his own wife and children at the hands of his arch-enemy years before, insists on making her his own  child. “She contains something powerful,” he thinks. This seems to have been a common practice at the time. Also taken as prisoner was a “Crow,” or Jesuit, who the Haudenosaunee party had been escorting home to torture to death.  Bird finds him “big, thick through the chest and clearly strong,” he asks, “is he not the most awkward man I’ve ever met?” Snow Falls, carried by the big Jesuit through the snow, is neither grateful nor impressed. When the “other prisoner” bends over her, “he smells so bad that I want to throw up, his breath stinking like rotted meat.” She wants to kill Bird in revenge and be rid of the foul-smelling Crow.  The priest believes the native peoples are less than human. “Forgive me, Lord, but I fear they are animals in savagely human form.”

This page turner is a must read for all.

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

junot190JUNOT DIAZ

Oscar, who’s family is front and centre of the novel, is “not one of those Dominican cats everybody’s always going on about — he wasn’t no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy.” Oscar is a fat, self-loathing dweeb and aspiring science fiction writer, who dreams of becoming “the Dominican Tolkien.” He’s one of those kids who tremble with fear during gym class and use “a lot of huge-sounding nerd words like indefatigable and ubiquitous” when talking to kids who could barely finish high school. He moons after girls who won’t give him the time of day and enters and leaves college a sad virgin. He wears “his nerdiness like a Jedi wore his light saber”; he “couldn’t have passed for Normal if he’d wanted to.”

Oscar’s beautiful sister, Lola — a “Banshees-loving punk chick,” becomes “one of those tough Jersey dominicanas” who order men about. Yunior, Oscar’s college roommate and Lola’s onetime boyfriend, do their best to try to get him to shape up. They try to get him to eat less and exercise more, to leave his dorm room and venture out into the world. Oscar makes a halfhearted effort and then tells Yunior to leave him alone. He goes back to his writing, his day-dreams, his suicidal thoughts. Yunior begins to think that Oscar may be living under a family curse, “a high-level fukú”, which has doomed him, like his mother, to lasting unhappiness in love.

There is a lot of Dominican Republic history, especially the dictator Trujillo: “Homeboy dominated Santo Domingo like it was his very own private Mordor; not only did he lock the country away from the rest of the world, isolate it behind the Plátano Curtain, he acted like it was his very own plantation, acted like he owned everything and everyone, killed whomever he wanted to kill, sons, brothers, fathers, mothers, took women away from their husbands on their wedding nights and then would brag publicly about ‘the great honeymoon’ he’d had the night before. His Eye was everywhere; he had a Secret Police that out-Stasi’d the Stasi, that kept watch on everyone, even those everyones who lived in the States.”

This novel earned Diaz the Pulitzer Prize. An excellent read.

 

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING

Ruth2

RUTH OZEKI

“Forget the clock. It has no power over time, but words do.”

This is a book everyone will love. Ozeki is am amazing writer, juggling themes of time, metaphysics, suicide, history, time travel, zen Buddhism,  Japanese history, computer science, 2011 earthquake and tsunami as well as others. TIME also has an interesting structure. The author is a character in the novel though she is always referred to as Ruth, never as I.

Ruth lives on an island on the west coast of British Columbia. Out for a walk on the beach she discovers a Miss Kitty lunch box. Inside wrapped up in plastic to keep it safe is the diary of a sixteen year old Japanese girl, Nao,  an antique wristwatch and what turns out to be the diary, written in French, of her uncle, who died as a kamikaze pilot in the Second World War. Ruth and her husband Oliver begin to read the girls diary. She Ruthhad been born in Japan but moved to Silicon Valley for many years as her dad was a computer programer. When the dot com bubble burst they went back to Japan in poverty and shame. When Nao starts school in Japan, she is regarded as a foreigner is and is mercilessly bullied. Her only solace is writing about her grandmother, Jiko, a 104-year-old “anarchist feminist Zen Buddhist novelist nun,” with a long history of lovers, both male and female. Jiko helps Nao understand that  “time beings” are beings who understand that “everything in the universe is forever changing, and nothing stays the same, and we must understand how quickly time flows by if we are to wake up and truly live our lives.”

“I have a pretty good memory, but memories are time beings too, like cherry blossoms or ginkgo leaves for a while they are beautiful, and they they fade and die.”

Run out right now and get this book!

A HOUSE IN THE SKY

houseAMANDA LINDHOUT & SARA CORBETT

In 2008, when she decided to go to Somalia, Lindhout was an aspiring journalist. She had travelled the Americas, Asia and Africa. She had spent seven months in Baghdad working for Iran’s Press TV, sending freelance files to France 24, six months in Afghanistan as her first and unsuccessful correspondent bid, and had a column in her small hometown newspaper, the Red Deer Advocate, all funded by tips saved from her Calgary job as a waitress.

amandaTwo days after flying to Mogadishu with Australian fellow adventurer and photographer Nigel Brennan, the former couple were kidnapped. Their kidnappers confessed that they hadn’t even been their target. They had been after the National Geographic team who were staying at the same hotel as Lindhout and Brennan. The kidnapping was based completely on money. The captors wanted $2 million for their release. But neither family had much money.  Amanda quickly took lead of the two captives, appeasing the kidnappers as much as possible. At her urging they both converted to Islam and began to pray and study the Koran. But as time wore on patience failed also. There is a passage in the Koran that says it is alright for men to use women who are captive in times of war. But there were other forms of abuse that Lindhout was subjected to that Brennan wasn’t. While she was being kept in a totally dark cell she notice that Brennen was sitting in sunlight and reading in his cell.

(The photo on the right

shows Amanda and Nigel on the day of their release in Somalia.)ama2

A positive ending, Lindhout has set up a foundation to enhance the lives of Somalian women through education. It is a difficult read but worth the time. The book is uneven: the first half needs quite a bit of skimming, while the second half is page turning.