Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

Title: Unbowed: A Memoir
Author: Wangari Maathai
Copyright: September 4, 2007
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Format: book Pages: 368

I first saw this book at my local library and checked it out. I once again did what I have been doing lately and kept renewing it to the libraries limit and then hijacked the book for a few additional days while I waited for the book to arrive in the mail (I had to own a copy after I started reading it.) I’m not proud of holding on to books late but this bookworm had to do what she had to do!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country. Infused with her unique luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story of courage, faith, and the power of persistence is destined to inspire generations to come.

My Thoughts:

This book is such a very important read and even more so as we approach Earth day and the ‘March for Science’ across the country. I liked the way she told her story. She provided the readers with her background by going back to her childhood growing up and working the land with her family. Her story demonstrates how you don’t need to have a fancy education or be wealthy to make a difference in the world. One quote from her book sums it up:

“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them, even more, respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us to do what we can to protect it. As I told the forresters and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”   – Wangari Maathai

Although Wangari was able to pursue her education at a time that most girls were not in Kenya, she points out that her idea did not require her degree, it just helped the process. For her ideas for planting trees took hold and people began to help realize her dreams.  I love that although she received her degree in the United States, she didn’t choose the path to try to stay here, she chose to go back home and help her country. She ended up starting the Green Belt Movement in 1977 in response to her observation of the decimation of the local trees in her country and the negative effects it had on the land and the people of Kenya. She realized that the British colonists were cutting down vast amounts of trees for lumber to sell and that it had a tragic effect on the land. It compromised the integrity of the soil and caused droughts.  The Kenyan women told her of streams drying up, their food supply diminishing and as a result of the logging, they had to walk even farther to find wood for fencing. So Wangari proposed that the women take the seedlings and plant them to grow more trees.

The story is so amazing. It talks about her eventual marriage and the demise of their union and her on-going struggle with the Kenyan government, who saw her efforts as a threat.  Many times, I couldn’t believe how brave she was to keep pursuing her dream.  She endured imprisonment and death threats but continued her very important work. Did I also mention that she won the Noble Peace Prize in 2004? Yes, she was that amazing.

Wangari Maathai is someone we should all learn about because it is so relevant everywhere, not just in Kenya. In the photo above I am holding up the picture book version of her story that I read to Apollo. It was breathtakingly stunning and held it’s own in keeping up with all of the many important facts of Wangari’s story.

I leave you with one more amazing quote from the book:

“A tree… tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.”

I highly recommend this book and I give it 4 1/2 butterflies for not only delivering a great story and message but concluding with ways to help. As I too will leave you with the link to The Green Belt Movement so that you can see the great work that continues even after her death.

Happy reading friends!

Belinda

Belinda’s Book Nook Review: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins

Title: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate
Author: Susanna Calkins
Copyright: April 23, 2013
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, romance
Format: book Pages: 352

Why did I pick this book up in the first place? I enjoy historical fictions. I especially enjoy historical fiction series with female sleuths. I like using Amazon’s features especially when it comes to books. If you search for a book that you like, they will recommend similar authors.  I saw Susanna Calkins’ name and clicked on it to see what books she has written. I found this series and this searched for the first book and it sounded like a book I would enjoy. And let’s not kid ourselves, the cover was stunning.  So I switched to Bookoutlet.com where you can find deep discounted on used books and I ordered a few of them, taking the leap of faith that I would enjoy them.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy falls under suspicion. Lucy can’t believe it, but in a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn’t kill the suspect first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never find out what really happened. Unless, that is, she can uncover the truth herself.

My Thoughts:

 I read a bit about the author and it said that she has become fascinated with 17th-century England and she uses that in her stories. This story is about Lucy Campion who is the 17th-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate. I won’t lie a little bit of me thought of Downton Abbey when I read the this so it also prompted me to give it a try. It says the book is a historical fiction mystery with romance. I would say if you enjoy historical romance this one only had a touch of romance. A bit of a slow burn romance and very G-rated. The beginning of the story gives you a sense of Lucy and the people she works for as well as the people she works with to maintain the house. Not too far in the book, the murder takes place and so begins the mystery to figure out what happened.

The author does a good job of giving a sense of what was going on during this time period in England in terms of social relations, social stations, and the political atmosphere. Religious fears at the time were also included in this book, particularly of the Quakers. The story also gives you a real sense of what it was like during the period of the plague in London. So while you’re experiencing the main story, she created an environment that allowed you to see what people did during that time and how people reacted and responded to the plague. I was curious about both irrational and rational responses to the fears of becoming sick and dying during a plague. This is where I find historical fiction’s lovely because it gives you an opportunity to learn a bit about different time periods and often inspires further research.

I think the author did a good job of the character development in the story I really was rooting for Lucy and I was very curious about the members of the household. Lucy was a strong heroine and sometimes got herself into situations that were definitely moments of nail-biting to read. I would find myself saying, “Oh no. No no no no.”

Being that this was Susanna Calkin’s debut novel might explain why I felt in the middle of the book the pacing really slowed down a bit much. Not to the point of discouragement but it picked up and the last I would say 100 pages the pacing picked up and I could not put the book down. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I also looking to the evolution of this author’s writing. I am glad I bought a few books in the series. I would definitely recommend this book for the reasons mentioned and if you enjoy historical fiction. I would give it 3 1/2 butterflies.

Happy reading!!

Belinda

Belinda’s Book Nook Review: The Orphan Keeper by Camran Wright

Title: The Orphan Keeper
Author: Camran Wright
Copyright: September 6, 2016
Genre: historical fiction
Format: book Pages: 432

Why did I pick this book up in the first place? I can’t remember where I saw a write up about this book but I think it was Book riot’s book blog. But when I saw this book in its physical form in the library, I saw a “chunker” and I had a moment of big book fear cross my path. I read a good share of books about or set in India in the past but thought I was due for another.  As part of my reading experience, I want to continue to read more books in that this region and around the world.

A few quotes that I liked from the book:

“Be honest, good son, be kind. You must, if he ever hope to see the end of your suffering and attain moksha. Moksha , a state of liberation where one could finally be free from the struggles of life and the cycle of reincarnation. ”

“Resentment, pity, shame … all were growing in the cracks of my soul like mold.” – The landowner (Mrs. Iyer) – what a great use of words to describe his mother’s feeling after losing her child to elements and becoming barren.

“it took me the entire day watching the sun part across the sky, but Lord Shiva helped me understand that my only journey of concern was to be like the sun, to make it through the day offering as much light and warmth and consistency for others as I could one single day. Each day. That was all.”
– the landowner (Mrs. Iyer)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Based on a remarkable true story.
Seven-year-old Chellamuthu’s life is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in India, sold to a Christian orphanage, and then adopted by an unsuspecting couple in the United States. It takes months before the boy can speak enough English to tell his parents that he already has a family back in India. Horrified, they try their best to track down his Indian family, but all avenues lead to dead ends.

Meanwhile, they simply love him, change his name to Taj, enroll him in school, make him part of their family—and his story might have ended there had it not been for the pestering questions in his head: Who am I? Why was I taken? How do I get home?

More than a decade later, Taj meets Priya, a girl from southern India with surprising ties to his past. Is she the key to unveil the secrets of his childhood or is it too late? And if he does make it back to India, how will he find his family with so few clues?

From the best-selling author of The Rent Collector, this is a deeply moving and gripping journey of discovering one’s self and the unbreakable family bonds that connect us forever.

My Thoughts:

I don’t want to spoil any of the story, so I won’t tell of his adoption process. But instead, jump to his experience in America. At one point, his adoptive mother suggests changing his name to something easier to pronounce to avoid teasing so he is renamed Taj.  I had mixed feelings about this and the practice in general. It seems like many foreigners are forced to accommodate the lack of effort and exposure of the general American population to foreign names by changing their given name. This sort of “kid glove” approach only further assists in detaching people from their homeland and past. I admit, I am notorious for butchering many foreign names but I would like the opportunity to learn the proper pronunciations so that I can improve my literary, social, and international experiences. Why make it easy for us at the expense of a person losing a piece of themselves? After all, parents take the time to come up with a name for their child that often has special meaning. So why should I take that from both mother and child to make life more “convenient”?  I feel like we can’t grow with such handicaps.

A surprising revelation while reading this book, was how much this book made me reflect on my own experiences here in the United States. I am not an orphan, I am not Indian, and I was not adopted from another country; however, I noticed similarities with some of the experiences this character had in this book. I found myself sharing many of the feelings and experiences of Taj in this book. So it made the experience for me much deeper. It was no longer just a story about this particular boy and the conditions in India. It talked about the experience of being different, trying to find a way to fit in. All of these kinds of things were explored in this book.

An example of some of the social challenges is when, as a teen, Taj participates in a foreign exchange program and goes to London. When he meets his host family in London for the first time I felt so connected with him and sorry for him by the host family’s initial reaction when he first spoke. They asked him how his trip was to London. And after he said his trip was long. The father of the family says, “it’s true, then …You look Indian but sound American. ” Although the father may not have meant any harm in that statement it shows the narrowness of their thoughts. When I was growing up, I lived in a predominately white town and there were only a few minorities in the school. So when I went to college and I had the opportunity to be around so many diverse groups and spend time with African-American students they would always ask me “What are you? You talk like a white girl.” I was taken aback by the statement because I am black and this is how I talk. I didn’t think there was just one way to talk or look or act for that matter. In this book, Taj has no “typical” characteristics of an Indian person because he was raised by a white family in a culturally white American household in a predominantly white town so his Indian heritage, those cultural characteristics were lost.

While reading this book, I felt that I not only was learning more about the plight of the very poor in India but specifically a possible fate for some of the poor children. The possibilities of being kidnapped and sold into adoption systems. Things like that are alarming and I think that the book is a good story for people that are curious about some things that are taking place right now and want to provide help. I also think this book is good for people of color to find common grounds with other people of color through similar social experiences within the American context. I think this is also a great book for children that may have a similar situation is as Taj, the main character, that wants to find their family and to encourage them to never give up that pursuit.

So there are so many ways this book is helpful to so many as well as being a great story. I feel like the author did a great job providing depth of character and a good amount of details.

My rating:

I believe I have to give this book a five stars for many reasons that I’ve already stated but I’m a big chicken when it comes to big books I tend to look at them and try to get to them later but when I saw this one on the library shelf, I said well what do I have to lose? I picked it up and I kid you not it was such a fast read that I really can’t even believe that it was a big book. It’s written so well and very accessible to everyone. It’s not one of those books where you’re sitting there and you’re so depressed reading it and you’re in tears and you just feel hopeless it’s quite the opposite it’s filled with hope and some humor at times. It’s definitely a book that can inspire us all. It’s not a book filled with a bunch of dry facts. But there is enough information in there to start the wheels turning and the curiosity to learn more about the country and the plight of the people particularly the children. I don’t like to give five butterflies very often but I feel like this book really just moved me in such a way that I cannot give it less than five butterflies.

Happy reading!

Belinda

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Reads of 2016

Hello, my bookworm friends! I have been meaning to write this post since the beginning of January. So there is no time like the present right? I had an amazing reading year last year, I read far and wide for myself and had so much fun doing it.

So I thought I would share 10 of my favorite reading experiences from 2016:

The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack – I first heard about this book on the Book Riot channel. Something about the description caught my attention and I am so glad it did. This debut novel kept me captivated from the first to the last page.

Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin – This was a review book. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading her story as she cooked her way “around the globe”.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington – I remember seeing Ms. Huffington talk with Oprah on one of her shows and found her quite inspiring. This book was such a fantastic read that motivated me to take better care of myself. I think I used up an entire post-it flags in this book highlighting key points.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel – It had been so long since I read any science fiction and this one came across my radar and reminded me why I love that genre. Such a unique story that kept me so captivated. The second book was released recently and I intend on reading it. I also believe a movie is slated to be made from this book.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – Oh this is my book. I first saw Mr. Stevenson speaking with Oprah on an episode of her Super Soul Sunday and just knew I had to read his book.  I found the audiobook on my Overdrive app and downloaded it once it became available. Oh my, what an eye-opener this book was and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I feel this book is so important that I am going to buy the book to have as a reference.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – This book had a bunch of hype prior to its release because Oprah endorsed it and put it on her reading list. I was resistant because you know me, I don’t like all the hype. I caved and bought the book. However, I ended up reading it and then switching to the audiobook because one of my favorite voice talents narrated it.

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pem Chodron – I own a few of Ms. Chodron’s books but this one was new to me. I checked it out on Overdrive and found it to be very helpful and refer to some quotes from it quite often.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Edited by Jesmyn Ward – Wowser!! A friend of mine recommended this book and I was blown away by it. It’s a fabulous and relevant book about race that I think everyone should read. I read it on Overdrive and will be ordering it in book form so I can refer to it often. It’s really an important book.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – An immigrant story that is quite relevant in this current state of affairs. It was a new release and I dived right in. If you get a chance to listen to the audiobook, take it. The voice talent rocks.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly – I’m pretty sure most people have heard of the movie based on the book. I included this book because it is a vital part of history that was only recently uncovered. Filled with a lot of facts it can read slowly at times but worth the journey.

Well that’s some of the great reads of last year. I have already read some pretty amazing books this year. So I will definitely have to do a wrap up at the end of this year too.

Happy reading!

Belinda

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