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Happy Nationalday to Norway, Finland´s and Sweden´s cool neighbour!

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Take Care/ Maaretta

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Hello,

While studying for a Master´s Degree in Literature and having potential other writing gigs going on is very time consuming, it is still regretful I´ve been neglecting this blog. The first installments of ”Maaretta Reads Salman Rushdie” and ”The Quest for Freedom” are still on their way, promise, but in the meanwhile let´s talk about protesting.

The March For Science – a protest against the Trump administrations anti-science politics – was not only an event in America. In Stockholm there was a big march on last Saturday, that is 16th of April. It is estimated that 2500 people participated in the March. While I was most certainly marching against climate change denial, anti-vaxxers and other misinformation that politicians in the US are spreading, I also had a personal reason for marching. I shared the reason on Facebook and will quote it here: ”Today I will #Marchforscience because when I was 2 years old, I had a tumor in my head, and it’s only thanks to scientific research that the technology to discover it in time and to operate on it exist. I wouldn’t be alive today without science. #Ilovescience”.

Below will be some pictures from said March.

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Many signs had a humorous way of protesting, while others were more straightforward.

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“Proud Researchers” in Swedish

Many different scientific fields were present at the March, such as the Natural History Museum and The Karolinska Institution for Medicine.

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Take care/ Maaretta

Saw Disney´s newest animated feature, “Moana” (2016) and loved it. Jemaine Clement voices the sort-of villain Tamatoa, which he discusses down below. Enjoy!

Yesterday Was Dr. Seuss day in the US! To celebrate here´s one of the classic author´s greatest quotes, from “Horton Hears a Who”(pub. 1954)

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February in The United States is ”Black History Month”, a national holiday in which Americans remember the long, multilayered history of Black Americans. The holiday sheds light on events and struggles Black Americans have faced, but also highlights the contributions that this minority has made nationally and internationally. In honor of this holiday, here are five diverse Cultural items that discuss race and experiences of Black Americans, and which, naturally, are headed or produced by members of this vibrant community.

1. ”Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler (published 1979): While often referred to as the first science fiction book written by a Black American woman, Butler herself considered it a fantasy novel. This splendid novel follows a time travel tale of the protagonist Dana, who one day is suddenly transported from 1976 to the 19th century, where she encounters her ancestral for-bearers, who are both white slave owners and Black slaves. Thus begins a journey that not only openly discusses American Slavery, but also raises complex questions about morality and power. This novel interestingly deconstructs the concept of time traveling, while also showcasing some of the most horrid and uncomfortable aspects of human nature. Not for the hesitant, or those who have a light acquaintance with the realities of slavery, the book deals with rape quite heavily, and is explicit in the sexual violence that Black women (both free and enslaved) were subjected to. The protagonist Dana, herself, often is ensnared in situations where she wanders into morally uncomfortable territory, and a subtle swell of self doubt is entangled in the interactions and reflections she experiences with her white husband (who time travels with her) with his faint dismissals of the repugnance relations of slavery. Her relationship with Rufus, her white slave-owning ancestor, is twisted and full of abuse, verging continually between friendship and hatred. Yet regardless of all this ”Kindred” mesmerizes and can only be called a real page turner. Fast paced and very exciting; Butler is able to mix historical fiction, social commentary and action-packed fantasy all into one book. Highly recommended to both genre and literary fiction lovers.

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2. ”Lemonade: the Visual album” (2016) by Beyonce: Few culture events were as buzzed about last year as Beyonce´s visual album ”Lemonade”. This ambitious hour-long odyssey adeptly combined poetry, songs and visual, while simultaneously being both an ode to Black Womanhood and Beyonce’s own personal explorations, including facing the anger for her husbands infidelity, the eternal messiness of complicated relationships one has with ones parents, Black lives matter, to name a few. Both the lyrics of Beyonce´s songs and the poems (a collaboration between Beyonce and British poet Warsan Shire) survey a riveting tale of a woman living and dealing with anger, jealousy, sadness and ultimately forgiveness towards her husband, while also remembering the resentment and love she felt towards her father, who cheated on her mother when she was a child. The mixture of visuals reflect not only the long form music video form but also makes loving nods to the production of visual artists from the likes of Matthew Barney to Pippilotti Rist. The stirring and lingering camera and vocals looking at the strides and difficulties of the Black Lives Matter movement, touch us especially as a melancholy segment where the group of (real life) Mothers of unarmed young black men gunned down in obviously racist events, stand as the human face of the stricken down in evident calm and startlingly noble demeanor. Loss and strength of a people are embodied in this scene where it´s hard not to tear up. So much has already been talked about “Lemonade”, so all that’s left to say is: watch it, you won´t regret it.

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3. ”A Patch of Blue” (1965), directed by Guy Green: This classic drama which resonates with elements of the romantic genre follows the young blind girl Selina who lives with an abusive mother. Selina´s mother has not only barred her from attending school, but seeks to totally and sadistically isolate her entirely from society. By accident, Selina stumbles upon Gordon, a (unknown to her) black man, and the two become friends. The movie stars Sidney Portier and Elizabeth Hartman (who would later voice Mrs. Brisby in ”The Secret of NIMF”). These two galvanizing presences enlighten the screen and give the tale a touch nuance a midst the strength of many heartfelt moments. The film discusses Gordon’s experiences with racial segregation of the period, and how his friendship with the white woman reverberates with fears, hesitations, and anxieties. Selina, trapped in her own segregation from the society, deals with a systematized ableist world which looks askance and down on the “less than human” of her blindness. The two characters, both dealing with their own oppression’s but also empowerment, bond and encourage one other, which blooms into a deep human relation. Connecting the leads, here, nothing more important need be said then that they really do seem to have an authentic and sweet feel between them. The movie also plays with the romantic aspect in a realistic way; while the film hints at a mutual attraction, the movie does not overly prioritize the love story, and instead focuses on Selina´s development and new fond chance to get education. A little known gem, but totally worth checking out.

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4. ”Home” by Toni Morrison (published 2012): While all of Morrison’s novels are worth reading, ”Home” is one of her newest releases and is fairly short, so a much more of a quicker read. The book follows two siblings, Frank and Ycindra Money, in Post-Korean war America. Frank is suffering PTSD from his time in the war, and lives in a world composed of continual confusions and a persistent mourning of the death of his fallen friends. “Home” begins with the duo being split due to Franks time in Korea, followed by him moving in with his girlfriend. Frank then hears via letter that Ycindra has grown sick, and must rush to her side. The book is told in a series of nonlinear flash backs from both Ycindra’s and Frank’s point of view, and is rounded out with segments of Frank´s internal dialogue candidly presented to the reader. While the book tackles issues such as racial discrimination and eugenics, the book also confronts the subjects of guilt, unreliable narration, and family. The relationship between Frank and Ycindra, who´s parents died when they were young and, therefore, were raised by unkind grandparents, is moving but also with it´s darker elements. The novel explores race and gender in subtle ways, with themes that anyone regardless of their backgrounds can relate to. ”Home” also gives a shocking twist that is bound to get the reader thinking. A must read.

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5. ”for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf ” by Ntozake Shange (published and first performed 1976): This experimental play has a dedicated fan-base, but was highly controversial at the time of its release. The author was accused of hating men, and the all black cast was unusual for the time. The play is told in verses, and if read in book form comes across as more poetic than play (Ms. Shange is a poet, as well as a playwright and novelist). The narrative follows the intertwined stories of a group of Black women, all having their own chronicles of joy and heartbreak. The poetic text tells a myriad of tales of rape, domestic abuse, sexual awakenings, the discovery of reading, and independence. The form of the play lies with each women telling their stories, playing on a narrative open field which moves from the uplifting to the funny and, naturally, through the devastating. The style also makes the reading experience unique. The cast is entirely female, entirely black, and talks about issues that revolutionized theater in America and beyond. A play that deserves the title classic in every way.

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So those are a few suggestions in honor of Black History Month. What would you all recommend? Comment down below!

Dorit Rabinyan is a rising star in the literary world. Born in Israel to Iranien Jewish parents, she has three books translated into English: “Persian Brides”, “Our Weddings” (also published as “Strand of a thousand pearls”) and “All the rivers”. “Persian Brides” won the Jewish Quartely-Wingate Prize in 1999, and “All the rivers” has been an international best seller. However, “All the Rivers”, has been controversial in Israel; despite being well received and winning an award, in 2015 a scandal emerged: a committee of teachers requested the novel to be added to the recommended curriculum for Hebrew high school literature classes. Another committee in the Israeli Ministry of Education however objected to the request and declined to add it, on the grounds, according to The Economist, that it ”promotes intermarriage and assimilation”. In short, ”All the rivers” has gotten flack for portraying an interfaith and intercultural relationship.

Before moving on to the review, I must tell an endearing story about when I was waiting in a posttalk line to have Ms. Rabinyan sign her novel, ”Our weddings”. Ms. Rabinyan had not quite understood that she was suppose to do signings after her talk. Her publisher went to get her for the signing, and when Ms. Rabinyan appeared and saw the line, she exclaimed happily: ”Wow, are all these people here for me? This is fantastic!”.

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All the rivers” tells the sad love story of Liat, a Persian Jewish woman from Israel who, while temporarily living in New York, meets Hilmi, a young Palestinian man. Despite Liat´s internal reluctance, the two fall in love. However the relationship is filled with conflicts and Liat, additionally in her hesitation, hides the relationship from her parents and from many of her friends. Hilmi and Liat, in the midst of their tumultuous relationship, continually revert to mammoth arguments regarding the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Regardless, as the days go by, and the relationship with Hilmi deepens, it becomes harder for Liat to stick with her original plan to merely have a frivolous adventure while on a long trip and to return to her ”normal life” once she leaves the escapade of New York.

While the novels premise may sound banal and the books description would have the book sound like your average star crossed lovers story, ”All the rivers” surprises with a complex, mature and engaging story of politics and life. The novel is told from Liats point of view, and Rabinyan does not shy away from showing her heroine as deeply flawed. Liat often in fights with Hilmi exposes her insensitivity, and she often, and flippantly voices opinions she would be horrified to hear others utter. Yet, at the same time, Liat is very likeable. She is kind, self- critical and deeply cares about Hilmi, her family, and the humanity of all those around her. For those unfamiliar with Jewish culture they will certainly learn much about it through Liat´s narration.

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Hilmi as a character is loveable. Hilmi´s an ambitious and aspiring artist, has a deep and subtle sense of humour, and, despite a past of hardships engendered in the experiences of the Palestinian occupation forsakes bitterness for compassion and understanding. While hurt that Liat hides him from her parents, he has also remarkable patience with Liat. However he is not kind to a fault.

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In the two leads, Rabinyan explores a different spin on the tropes of intercultural relationships. While often in a text which wants the reader to sympathize with the protagonists, the tendency of the narrative of the two lovers would be written as free from prejudice or bias. Here though, we are exposed directly to Liat´s main flaw of her unremitting bias towards Israelis, and her admission of prejudice regarding Arabs, something she shamefully admits and tries to work on. (Note: people of Iranian descent consider themselves Persian, not Arabic). Liat is not purely a bad guy; Rabinyan shows that Liat deeply cares, supports and loves Hilmi, and listens to his stories of oppression without gaslighting him.

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Rabinyan’s plays in a refreshing perspective to the star-crossed lovers story showing us a human relation of real people embedded in both their prejudices and the dilemma of a loving intercultural relationship which resolves to neither the unloving or unkind. The novel paints a very morally complex and honest reality that explores the problematic nexus of privilege and biases, while showing the personal, political struggles the lovers have in recognition of their ignorances and invisible, unchecked privileges. The politics of the story are honest, and multilayered, while also being delicately critical of Israeli norms in understated ways.

Hilmi´s backstory also breaks ground in how Middle Eastern characters are often depicted in both cultural representations and narrative structure. Hilmi talks about his father, who he mentions was an atheist, and while it is never stated Hilmi himself does not seem very religious. While most literature often depicts Middle Easterners as Muslim or Christian, ”All the rivers” depicts two often forgotten groups: Jewish Middle Easterners and Atheist/non-believing Middle Easterners.

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The political context of the novel, one which the lovers are entrenched in and struggling against, revolves ultimately around the paramount and continual system of apartheid system towards the Palestinians in Israel. Hilmi, when going to Ramallah to visit his family, describes the oppressive atmosphere of the wall and details the surprising event of his time in prison for painting as a teen (the authorities thought he had painted the Palestinian flag). The novel, despite being written by an Israeli writer, does not shy away from the less than stellar aspects of the conflict.

The book is addictive, and difficult to put down. Despite being utterly depressing, ”All the rivers” also makes the unfortunately still relevant cautionary tale of not letting intolerance get in the way of the most human of things, our relationships with one another. Liat, despite knowing Hilmi is a good person, and despite acknowledging that she loves him, does not allow herself the relationship she desires due to fear of her parents disapproval. This denial leads to a heartbreaking ending where Liat is forced to face the harsh reality, of not only lost opportunities, but also of injustice as a destructive force. ”All the rivers” will surprise readers greatly, while also making them cry and rethink. Rare books do so much.

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Photo by Benoit Courti

All the rivers” is a triumph. Even if love stories are not your usual cup of tea (or if you just generally don´t like star-crossed lovers stories) still this novel cannot be recommend more highly. Beautifully written, brave and filled with both overt and restrained insights, ”All the rivers” is the love story for the person wanting to understand the world just a little bit more, and think of the individual enterprise a bit more clearly.

2017: New Year, new plans.

Hi Everybody.

It´s 2017. Due to exams, I was not able to be very active on this site in December. However Now it´s a new year, and I have three major plans for the future on this blog.

– Around the end of February, there will be the start of a series called “Pop goes the art!”, where I will examine the portrayel of art in popular Western animation shows.

– I´m starting probably at the end of this moth a long ongoing series called “Maaretta reads Salman Rushdie”. Each post will be a review of novel by Sir Rushdie, starting with “The Satanic Verses”.

– There will also be the ongoing series called “The Literary Quest for Freedom”, where each blog post will contain a review of a book that discusses democracy and human rights.

Hope you all had a good holiday, and let´s fight the power in 2017!

Take Care/ Maaretta

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

“Adua” by Igiaba Scego

My third published article appear on the feminist site “Femtiden” last week. It is a review of a novel published in 2015 by the Somali-Italien writer Igiaba Scego. The novel deals with Italien history from a postcolonial viewpoint. Link down below:

http://www.femtiden.se/kreativt/romanen-adua-behandlar-tillhorighet-skuld-och-ensamhet/

The novel is fantastic. Highly recommended.

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Happy International Men´s Day!

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