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As many of you probably now, I´m of Finnish Descent 🙂 And today marks one of my Homecountries 99 year birthday! Blessed are the Finns today!

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Take care/ Maaretta

Happy International Men´s Day!

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Today´s post will be a book tag, that was created by the booktuber A Clockwork reader. All the questions are based on characters from Nickelodian´s most popular cartoon, “Avatar: The last Airbender”, which is a fantasy-based world where different nations have unique people that can control certain elements. The summary of the shows three seasons arch is:

“Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed, until one day two teens Sokka and Katara discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. The Trio must then travel the world looking for teachers to help Aang control all four elements, so he can then save everyone from the ruthless Fire nations head lord.

A Clockwork Reader divided her questions into the four nations, and the questions are regarding the central characters of each nation and how they relate to other structures of literary or narrative mythos. Let´s get started.

Water:

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1. Sokka and Katara, or your favorite sibling relationship: (Sokka and Katara are the shows main leading heroes along with the Protagonist Aang, being a loyal and steadfast brother-sister team). Hansel and Gretel from the classic Grimm´s fairy tale. While it is a short fairy tale, it has always seemed remarkable to me how Hansel and Gretel are so fiercely loyal to each other. Despite being abandoned in the woods, and then being enslaved and breed for eating, Hansel and Gretel never double cross each other and never leave the other to their own faith. It´s even Gretel who in the end not only saves herself, but her brother, and together they bring back gold to their parents. While no doubt the parenting can seem more than lacking to modern audiences, the shere comradeship of these two is just awesome.

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2. Yue, or your favorite cross-stared lovers: (Yue is a princess that Sokka falls in love with, but due to complications they are never able to get together).

This was the most difficult question, and it seems the best answer would be the German girl Regine and the polish boy Jan from the young adult historical novel ”His name was Jan” by Irina Korschunow. It´s the story of a German girl growing up during WWII who accidentally falls in love with a Polish boy, something that is forbidden. The two are tragically split up apart by the 2/3´s mark of the novel, and Regine is left speculating whether or not Jan has been killed. It´s a little known book written by a German writer who herself was a teen during WWII and the novel displays a hauntingly accurate portrayal of the propaganda of the Nazis, the rounding up of Jewish neighbors, disappearances of dissidents, and fear of death being common place in this sad novel.

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3. Bloodbending, or a book with a disturbing concept: (“Bloodbending” is the knowledge of how to control a person through taking control of their blood; inside the show this was seen as the ultimate violation of a person).

”For a song and a thousand songs” by Liao Yiwu. This prison memoir is disturbing in not only it´s theme, an inside look into infamous Chinese prisons, but also in its execution of sparing no detail of the gruesome fates the prisoners meet; violence, rape and humiliation. While the book recounts many of the prisoners helping each other, it is especially Mr. Liao who comes to the assistance of the more bullied prisoners. There are several scenes that make the reader squirm at the recounting of the most horrible acts you will ever read in your life. But the author´s beautiful prose will help the reader through it all.

Earth:

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1. Toph, or a character who´s strength surprised you: (Toph was a blind, young girl who many underestimated due to her disability, but turned out being powerful enough to become a teacher to Aang).

Moomintroll, from ”The Moomins”-series. In the series, Moomintroll is, in the first of these series of novels, shown as a very kind creature, but very naive. A creature who often bumbles his way through life. However, in the fifth book, ”Moominland Midwinter” and in the seventh book, ”Moominpappa at sea”, we see that despite his naivety Moomintroll is a strong person in his own right, and that his kindness gives him an advantage. In ”Moominland Midwinter” he kindly and adeptly balances several spontaneous, unexpected, even slightly bad-timed guests imposing on him and his family, and in ”Moominpappa at sea” he is able to befriend and give comfort to Groke, the series’ most scary character, something that no other character does in the entire series. These actions illustrate that being nice makes Moomintroll able to overcome prejudices and to take a closer look at individuals that others simply reject. This kindly openness may not often or traditionally be considered a physical power, but nonetheless in the novel it is shown as a form of strength worthy of admiration.

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Original picture from “Moominpappa at sea”

2. Tales of Ba sing se, or your favorite short story or poetry collection: (this was an episode that was a collection of small stories of many characters, which was a one-time “bottle episode” in the continuity of the show)

”Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park” by Nellie Wong. Ms. Wong´s almost entirely unknown poetry collection has short, prose like poems that discuss racism towards Chinese-Americans, sexism, poverty and family. Her poems are as beautiful as they are powerful, talking about melancholy themes with a honest voice.

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3. Kioshi Warriors, or your favorite warrior character: (Kioshi Warriors are respected all-female armies that appear in the show)

Mulan, from the Disney´s “Mulan”. This is cheating since this one is a cartoon character and not the original literary one. Anyhow, she is still very endearing and one of the best heroines in children´s cartoons ever. She´s been discussed on this blog before, so just shortly this: what makes her such a great warrior is not just strength, but also her use of intelligence to undermine her enemies (instead of just using brutal force) while her loyalty is strong and steadfast. She accepts no rest until she has successfully protected those she has sworn to defend. That is what makes her a great warrior.

Fire:

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1. Zuko, or your favorite redemption arch: (Zuko is a character who starts out as a villain, but as the series progressives changes his ways and befriends Aang)

Macon ´Milkman´ Dean III in ”Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison. While Macon technically is never a villain, or necessarily evil in this novel, he does come to a realization regarding his male privilege and more unkind actions towards the women around him. This book is cool and epic and important, so there will be not much detail here, but Macon has a prideful and disregarding relationship to his sisters and mother, that changes after some maturing and life changing events. He realizes that he has not been the most understanding or empathic to this female relatives, and comes to regret his actions. This all takes place inside Macon´s mind, where he asks himself hard questions about himself, even cringeing when remembering what he´s said and done, and comes to realize that his sister’s critique of his behavior was correct all along. It´s a stunning, amazingly written scene, where the deep thoughts of a character create much more drama than many action scenes would.

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2. Iroh, or the wisest character: (Iroh is Zukos uncle, who often is the shows source of elderly wisdom).

Dumbledore from the ”Harry Potter”-series. For better or for worse, Albus Dumbledore is the smartest person in the ”Harry Potter”-series, and one of the most famous wise characters in literature.

3. Azula, or best downfall: (Azula is a villain who falls from grace as the show progressives). Difficult question, but guess a good example would be the downfall of Thomas´ abusive father from ”The Book of everything” by Guus Kuijer. For more details, here´s my review.

Air:

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1. Appa, or favorite pet/animal: (Appa is Aang´s pet flying bison).

Cheshire Cat from ”Alice in Wonderland”. While he´s mostly trouble in Disney´s animated classic, he´s more of a harmless trickster in Lewis Carroll´s novel. Alice, who is a definite cat person, even becomes somewhat friendly towards him. The Cheshire cat is just the right blend of befuddling kindness, and playful trouble. Of manifest weirdness, but grand sanity by Wonderland standards. As a highlight his levitating head successfully trolls the Queen of hearts, starting a serious debate about decapitations. Fun!

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2. Aang, or the purest cinnamon roll: (Aang is often portrayed as the kindest, purest character inside of the show).

Josef K från ”The Trial” by Franz Kafka. While one of the driving questions in this novel is whether everyone by just mere existence is guilty of criminality, or if society continously, willfully, and wrongfully accuses everyone of crimes, Josef K is still a character who gives of impressions of being overly nice even in the face of empty madness. While Josef K could very well have done something to bring upon the notice of society (he is after all very quick to say he hasn´t) his actions throughout the novel are incessantly altruistic and exceptionally humble. He tries helping others, he is soft spoken and never causes any trouble (that we know of). His character is very lovable, with his awkward bumbling through a nightmare, and whether or not he is guilty of the unnamed crime he nonetheless always comes across as a sweet, nice man.

3. Avatar state, or a stubborn character/a character that has trouble letting go: (Aang, when triggered, goes into a state where he is mentally absent with a concurrent dark force taking control of him. This causes often much destruction, but can result in both good and bad effects).

Lila from ”My Brilliant Friend”. While I have only read about 40% of the first Neapolitan novel, which means that all the characters could very well change, so far Lila, the narrators friend, is by all accounts a very stubborn, competitive and prideful child. She is too stubborn to ever admit defeat or to being wrong. She´s determined to get to all her goals despite it often being hurtful, and she is very manipulative. She has trouble letting go in the face of being second place, and stubbornly claws her way through life. Quite the hellraiser.

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Hope you all enjoyed, comment down below what some of your picks would be!.

Take Care/ Maaretta

(This is Part 1 in the theme month of Child Abuse Awareness)

Guus Kuijer is a respected children´s books author who has won several awards, including the prestigious Astrid Lingren memorial prize. His bibliography includes novels for both young and old, and is a household name for exploring faith, multiculturalism and dementia in his works. His magnum opus however is “The Book of Everything”, about a young boy named Thomas who, like his mother, is ruthlessly and routinely physically abused by his zealot father.

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Guus Kuijer

The novel is slim, yet captures and intertwines many issues in a complex manor. The main focus of the story is the devastating effect physical abuse has on young Thomas and his mother. The novel chronicles their struggle to survive in a violent home and their forlorn attempts to overcome the mental prison the father has created. The book also shows the problematic aspects of loyalty inside families while baring witness to the strengths of such loyalty as well and illustrates the residency of the unimaginable power positive communities can bestow. Kuijer, while following this predominate story of abuse, additionally, tackles the issues of superficial appearances and our uncritical responses in a tangent thread which the story details with Thomas coming to different realizations regarding his thinking towards many of the characters in the novel. As Thomas grows in the storyline he comes to see many people around him in a completely different light than what he does at the novels beginning. By combining all of these themes, Kuijer paints a breathtaking and moving story of how, through courage and altruism, one can use the willpower and thinking to right the wronged.

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From the first chapter Kuijer presents us with Thomas who is often and regularly beaten by his father for so-called sins. While this is devastating for Thomas, he is much more concerned about his mother, who is as often beaten for her “sins”. From the very first pages, we are pitted into Thomas’s deep despair and abject feelings of powerless to save himself or his mother and the first chapter ends on a prayer where Thomas in his devotion pleads to god: “I hope you exist. He (the father) hit mother just now and it was not for the first time”.

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As the story unfolds we discover more about nine year old Thomas and the 50´s Dutch town he lives in. Thomas is in love with a teen girl who is often ostracized for having a fake leg and he is very much afraid of his neighbor, whom the children have gossiped about being a witch. However one day, after being beaten senseless by his father the previous night, Thomas happens upon his “witchy” neighbor and spontaneously offers to help her carry her bags. This leads to the surprising discovery that she is in fact a kind and generous person and one who, in her kindness, introduces Thomas to the realm of books. After establishing a friendship, the woman asks Thomas if he is beaten at home. Thomas, out of fear and confused loyalty, quickly denies this well-founded charge. Kuijer in this scene illustrates a sad yet very realistic event for the abused. Where the vast chaos of the abused subjects mind, created by confusions of the ever present trauma of violence, fuses with the constant fear and hate with an immeasurably, and horribly misplaced, loyalty to the abuser. Thomas´ emotions are a bundle of self-blame, anxiety and hopelessness.

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The father (per classical abuser manipulations) upon finding out Thomas has found a passage outside of his control, condemns Thomas’s reading of books (other than the bible) and demands he revoke the companionship of the neighbor, whom he sees as a “dirty communist”. Yet the real tale of the neighbor is whispered to Thomas in the absence of the horrific father when the mother recounts how the woman had hidden people from the Nazis during WWII and grants Thomas access and encouragement to foster the friendship. Even in the despairing prison of abuse the mother encourages Thomas in the appreciation and harboring of the altruistic, and that she struggles against the onslaught of destroying violence to give alternative life advice to her children differing from the father´s absolutism. Her bravery shines multiple times as beacons of hope in the dark cruelty, where she repeatedly attempts to defend Thomas from her husband´s aggression. Kuijer’s novel is continually punctuated with scenes like these, describing the ghastly nuances used in abuse and in fleshing out a subtle horror and hope in Thomas´ character as well as his mother´s.

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“The Book of Everything”, though looking appallingly askance at the violent religious fundamentalism of the father, is embedded with strong sacred elements combined with magical realism; for instance throughout the entirety of the book Thomas witnesses odd things that resemble the plagues of Egypt. Whether these are real or not are dubious, adding an unsettling but lingering touch to questioning the reader about its authenticity. As with most classic magic realism tradition, the fantastical is strongly symbolic and reflective of the strong emotional situation that Thomas is in while, as occurrences of events, play a titanic task in giving Thomas psychological strength.

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But the real emotive power of this novel lies in its climax, where Kuijer illustrates the possibility of depowerment of the tyrannical abuser and the gaining confidences of the suppressed and abused. From the onset of the novel the character of Margot, Thomas´s teenage sister, is seen as “stupid”, however this assessment comes to a startling change when her character takes surprising action. Late in the book once again we find the vicious repetitions of the father threatening Thomas with violence, yet now the simple Margot dives at her father and holding a knife to his throat, exclaiming: “Now I have had enough. I´ve had it up to my throat with this. You always say mum and Thomas are bad, but you´re wrong, they are more than kind, but you are not kind. Don´t think I won´t do it, I’m just like you, I am not nice neither”. With this final desperate act we come to understand, finally, that throughout trails of the family the supposedly simple Margot has been persistently challenging the brutality of the father in subtle ways, and now, when all else has failed, she goes to the final resource of physical in a scene that will have the reader cheering her on. Through this instance of Margot’s rage and agency, the mother finds an inner strength, and she, together with the kindly neighbor, arrange for a celebratory party later that day. The mother, motivated by Margot´s counterexample, rejects now all of the father´s opinions, manipulations, enticements, and lastly the importance of his person: “´But what about me? Yelled dad from upstairs. ´What am I suppose to do tonight?´. He got no reply”. Margot’s act gives the mother a chance to wrench herself and Thomas from the obliteration of the father and to become a part of a whole community which calls to them. The community opens them up to new possibilities, a place to become oneself with others who encourage and, as a final nurturing, a place which will protect her, and her family from the violence of the husband. Through new found friendships and community, the mother and Thomas rekindle there lust for life.

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A novel of immanent power, this book for older children is a MUST read for even adults. It´s a portrait of the damage of abuse, but also of survival and love. “The Book of Everything” is above all, a story of two souls who not only survive abuse but find the power to live on and embrace new changes.

Happy Valentines Day!

Greetings from Maaretta! This moth will be a divide of post-Valentine subjects and reivews of classic Black American Novels (due to it now being Black History moth). Stay tuned.

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Well, the years is coming to an end, and Missmagic girl sent this tag to make promises I probably can´t keep. But as a dreamer and a reader who adores a challenge, I will promptly answer these questions in all my humble, enthusiastic honesty. Let´s begin!

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1. The promise to read a Classic: This year I saw the newest film adaptation of “Far from the madding Crowd”, which is based on the 19th century novel written by Thomas Hardy. The films was so poignant and wonderful that I instantly bought myself a copy of said novel. The film dealt with issues such as female independence, stability vs. passion and realistic depictions of Victorian age farmers. The book is usually always better than the filmic version, which makes me hopeful that those themes will be even more present in the novel.

“Seven Brothers” by Aleksis Kivi is a book that as a Finnish speaker I´m ashamed of admitting I´ve never read. It is one of the founding literary works in Finnish literature as well as Aleksis Kivi being a pioneer in writing in the Finnish language, paving the way for future of the Finnish language. Therefore it is a must read for all Finnish speakers.

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“Germinal” by Emile Zola is about Miners in 19th century France. It was a big influence on changing the way France viewed worker´s rights. Sounds interesting.

“I am a cat” by Natsume Soseki. It´s a novel with a cat as a narrator that snarks about society and human frailty. How can one not want to read that book?

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2. A promise to Finish a book series: I have two books still to go in the “Sms from Soppero”-Quartet by Ann-HelĂ©n Laestadius, that focus on the Sami girl Agnes. The series’ first book, “Sms from Soppero”, is a masterpiece. The sequal “Hej vacker (Hey beautiful) was a bit of a let down, but still enjoyable and in fact informs the reader about Sami culture a bit more than does its predecessor. I have also bought “Ingen annan är som du” (“No one else is like you”) and “Hitta hem” (“Finding your way home”), which I pray won´t be delayed by too much university work to get to quickly!

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“Wizard of eathsea” is a series I have read the first book in, but never read any of the other books in the series. Same goes for the “The giver”-quartet by Lois Lowry. I hope to be able to continue both series, since the first installments were highly thought provoking and entertaining.

3.A series I promise to start: “Uglies”-Quartet by Scott Westersend. It seems to have everything I love in books; strong female protagonist, social commentary and topical issues (in this series case, body issues and beauty standards).

“Pimeys”-trilogy by Asko Sahlberg is another series I want to desperately read. It follows a lonely, bitter Finnish man living in Gothemburg during the 60´s and 70´s. The subject matter seems like one that might hit a bit close to home for me, but then again the best reading experiences do just that.

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I haven´t read many books by Romani writers, so hopefully that will change next year with me beginning this endeavor with reading Katarina Taikon´s “Katitzi”-novels, a classic children’s books series that deals with the everyday joys and discriminations in the life of the Swedish Roma. Same for Kiba Lumberg´s “Musta perhonen”-trilogy (Black butterfly), which on the other hand discusses gendered violence in the Finnish Roma community.

3.A writer I promise to read something from: So so many. So I’m going to cheat and just make a name list: Mariama Ba, Ngugi Wo Thiongo, Maya Angelou, Moses Isegawa, Percival Everest, Grace Ogot, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Ernest Gaines, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Samar Yazbek, Hanan al-shaykh, Susanna Abulhawa, Mohammed Choukri and Heidi Köngäs.

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4.Books I will re-read: “Nervous conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga, which I loved in high school but remembered only partially now. After a re-read I would like to review it on this blog.

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison, because it´s so epic it needs a second read. “Candide” by Voltaire would be fun to re-visit, as well as “Joy Luck club” by Amy Tan.

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5.Genre I promise to try out: Arabic, Korean and Kurdish literature! I haven´t read much of from those literary fields but would love to explore them. If anyone has any good recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments! I will also try out reading a fantasy novel (a genre I miss continually in my reading), specifically “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman which according to Mr. Gaiman himself is a supernatural exploration of homelessness.

6.Graphic novel I promise to read: “Make me a woman” by Vanessa Davis has been on the radar for a while, as well as “All-star superman” by Grant Morrison. “Vagina Dentata” by Emmi Nieminen is a comic I recently heard about and sounds interesting. It explores male sexual trauma.

7.A Short Story I promise to read: Any of the short stories by Grace Pailey I can get my hands on!. “The Crab Cannery Boat” by Takiji Kobayashi is a short story I read half way through for a University class in Japanese literature, and I would like to Finish. Also More stories by Yu Dafu would be awesome. I wish to also be able to read the collection “Below the line” by Sara Chin.

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8.A book I promise to read despite it dealing with a tough but important subject: This promise is the easiest one for me, since as you can probably tell by my book reviews I tend to read novels and stories with heavy issues quite often. However there are still subjects that repel me and that can be quite upsetting to come across regardless of the amount of exposure. For me, two of the roughest things to get through are torture and sexual abuse against children. So I promise that despite it being infamous for the gory depictions of torture, I will read “The feast of the goat” by Mario Vargas Llosa. I will also try to read Lydia Cacho´s memoir “Memorias de una infamia” (Memoirs of An Infamy) which deals with her struggles after her whistle blowing on a corrupt, pedophilic network inside of the high powers in Mexico.

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9. A book that for the longest time I haven´t read but will: “Tuez-les tous” by Salim Bachi (“Kill them all”) is a book that´s been on my radar for two years but I haven´t read yet. Hopefully that´ll change this year.

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Swedish tranlation of said novel

10. Debut I will want to read: “Ole hyvä” (“You´re welcome”) by Riikka Takala, which is a satire about unemployment and idealism. Its focus and center is on unemployed women, which is refreshing, since most books on this theme have a male protagonist. It was the novel debut of Ms. Takala in 2014.

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11. A book or book series I have previously judged as uninteresting, but will give a new chance next year: “Is” (“Ice”) by Ulla-Lena Lundberg. I judged previously, and maybe prematurely, as sounding boring and without plot. But all my close friends love it so I´ll give it a try.

Happy New Year! Take Care/ Maaretta

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Happy New Year, Everyone!

Happy New Year, Dear readers!

I have been off since I got two upcoming exams on Tuesday and Monday the 13th. But After that is done, I will try to be vack kicking!

This Month I will try to keep up my short story series and start a trilogy on problematic elements in “The Simpsons”. Despite how awesome the show has been, there has also been downfalls.

Best Regards, Maaretta

Hi Everyone!

I know it has been too long since my latest post. Things haven’t been as they should be. As for now, I will continue my series of Short Stories. Now that Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize, short stories will no doubt have a higher status in our society now! The next review will be of the short story “Sinking” by Yu Dafu. I am also working on a rebiew of a science fiction short story. So hope people will toon in! The review will be inside of seven days.

I will also try and review more films and cartoons. I have long planed a series of “Simpsons”. Book reviews will be in order!

Now to some links.

The Fantasy and Science Fiction Author Jennifer Armintrout has been recapping the “Fifty Shades”-trilogy at her blog, with the ongoing theme of discussing th abusive relationship the novels have romanticized. The recaps are highly funny and insightful, check all of the recaps here.

I am a HUGE fan of the website “Fangs for the Fantasy”. I highly recommend for anyone to check out it out; it’s a site where the two bloggers, Renee and Sparky, analyze Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror media from a social justice perspective. For a starter, here’s a few articles to start with:

The problem with Queenie, a character on the show “American Horror Story: Coven”.


The Over-Sexualization of women in The “Dresden Files” novels.

An old, but interesting article on the characters Lafayette and Jesus from “True Blood”.

On depictions of Nubity.

And finally, race on “The Walking Dead”.

Best Wishes/ Maaretta

Sorry, More Delays

Unfortunately, due to a lot of personal issues at the moment, I won’t be able to post anything until late March. My deepest apologies.

But I hope to see you all again then!

Best regards, Maaretta.

Hello Everyone!

It has been a long time. I apologize for so few post in the two recent moths. Right now I’m pretty caught up with my studies, so it will still be about a week until my next post.

But no worries! I have lots of plans for this blog, including a post on a “Bob’s Burger” episode, thoughts on various graphic novels and discussions on films and books!

But for now, check out these links!:

This month is “Stalking Awareness Month”. Stalking is a form of abuse which should be talked about and discussed more often, especially since now a days when a common trope in popular culture is “Stalking is love”, creating a romanticized image of this form of violence. Go here for facts about stalking and how it is linked to other forms of abuse and violence. And here for one simple thing you can do for this moth.

At Racilicious Latoya Peterson featured a video on the African-American culture and atheism.

Best Regards, Maaretta