Sunday, November 14, 2010

have one baby for the Führer

Last night, I finished a really interesting book- I flew through this one, I literally couldn't put it down. Lately, I've been reading a lot of Holocaust fiction and this one, My Enemy's Cradle, by Sara Young, certainly fit the bill.

From amazon-

From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Children's-book author Young (who, as Sara Pennypacker, penned the celebrated Stuart series) makes a stunning adult debut with this beautifully told and heart-wrenching novel set in WWII Europe. Cyrla, half-Jewish, is no longer safe hiding in the home of her Dutch relatives under the increasingly harsh Nazi occupation. When cousin Annika, whom Cyrla closely resembles, becomes pregnant by a German soldier, Annika's father enrolls her in a Lebensborn, a birthing center for Aryan children, where the slogan is 'have one baby for the Führer.' In a tragic turn of events, Cyrla discovers her only chance of survival is to hide in plain sight: she must assume Annika's identity and live in the German Lebensborn until rescued. Within the Lebensborn's walls, mothers-to-be receive proper nutrition and medical care until their children are taken from them for adoption into Aryan families. The horrors Cyrla witnesses are softened only by her resounding optimism and strength.

I have read a good deal on this subject, but hadn't read anything like this before. I knew very little about the idea of a lebensborn, but isn't the purpose of a good book to introduce you to something new?

This book had a good deal of twists and turns and while I have read enough about the Holocaust to know that it was far from a pretty time in history, there were still passages that shocked me, that made me close my eyes for a monent in horror.

A lebensborn would house girls as young as 14 and 15 who were expecting babies. The fathers were Nazi soldiers, and in many cases, the girls didn't know the father at all. They only knew that they wanted to produce as many children as they could, because that is what was expected of them and that was their contribution to the cause. The children were taken from the young mothers and adopted out to German families. Before entering the lebensborn, the young mothers-to-be were tested to be sure that they were pure in the sense that Nazi Germany was looking for- blond, blue eyes, Aryan. Perfect.

Cryla was an intriguing character. I found myself talking to her throughout the book, urging her to look a certain way or think a certain thought. Maybe this was because I know the tragic history of Nazi Germany, or maybe I found myself identifying with her in some mysterious way. That might sound like a bizarre thought, as I did not grow up in WWII Europe, but I can identify with her passion for life, what she thinks is right and her fierce determination to protect the ones she loves the most in this world.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Possible Side Effects By Augusten Burroughs

I just recently re-read Possible Side Effects and I still laughed aloud the second go around. And I'm not really a laugh aloud sort of person when reading or watching movies. I really have to be taken by surprise. For example, when Augusten, at age 11 mails his grandmother all of her heads which he cut from the family photos and adds a note stating "you keep your bitch bald heads", I nearly died. These books are witty, funny, and heartbreaking. Just the way I like them. I bought this book on the way home from Tampa, and read it straight through before I even got back to Nebraska.

Now, my sister would say that Augusten is the knock-off of David Sedaris, and I see it the other way around! If you liked "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim", you will probably also appreciate the insane memoirs of Mr. Burroughs. To tie in some of his other books, "Running with Scissors", "Dry", and "Magical Thinking" are also very good memoirs. I bawled at the end of Dry. This man makes me laugh, cry, hurt, and understand that other people feel defective sometimes too. He's brutally honest and endearing. And I like the way his mind works. Its nice to know other people have similar quirks and theories about life that only make sense to ourselves! I highly recommend this book. And sister, its on. My man against yours! Either way, we both win now that we have these two men in our lives.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Article Submission By: Natasha Haqim

I am prone to losing things.

This is why I don't ask my parents for jewellery on birthdays.

I know, at the back of my head, "Someday, I am going to lose this ring/bracelet/necklace, and I'm gonna get yelled at for quite some time. So why do I want to put myself through one of Mama's long lectures on 'The Importance of Taking Care of Your Belongings' for the umpteenth time?".

So since I was thirteen, at almost every birthday, I asked for the same thing: Books.

I adore my books. And I have enough sense to buy a pretty wooden bookshelf so that each of them has a permanent home (much less I can say about my CD collection). And on rainy Sunday mornings, like how some young women lay out their shoes on the floor to admire, I sit in front of my bookshelf and caress my precious books.

Swear - if my house ever caught on fire, I'd somehow, someway, will summon enough energy to rescue all my books! They are the loves of my life, my windows to which I see the world and learn about people and places. Have you ever felt that way about anything in your life?

Books have defined who I am; and I honestly believe that if I had not read particular authors, I wouldn't be me now. Here's a glimpse of my bookshelf, if you ever do decide to read these authors, I hope you find them just as fascinating and life-changing as I did:

Malcolm Gladwell

Okay, so I know he looks kinda wacky, but this man is a genius! He's written three books, The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers and I have been educated and entertained through all of them. If you're a big picture kinda person (macro-economists, take note!), he is your guy. I swear to God, after reading The Tipping Point, I saw society in a completely different way. Even browsing through advertisements and window shopping, I find myself having a sense of awareness of the way consumer behaves. I think it saved me from falling into the trap of becoming brand-conscious for no apparent reason except to 'keep up'! If not for The Tipping Point, I would never have developed an interest in all things marketing, advertising and branding - the one extra knowledge I pursued independently that I believe has truly helped me secure what I want from life. I would even go as far as to say that Gladwell taught me how to 'think outside the box'. He was in London for a talk (nerd-concert) at the Lyceum Theatre last November, but I was occupied then - it was my biggest regret that I didn't get to see him Live! Darn it. :(

Haruki Murakami

Another man I have great respect for. To read every single thing written by Murakami is one of my Life Goals, and I'm happy to say that I'm more than halfway done. I'm reluctant to recommend Murakami because I don't think everyone will enjoy his style of writing. If you're into practicality, then I'd say "No Entry" to Murakami world. Don't even bother reading the synopsis to any of his books, because it tells you nothing of the adventure you're about to experience! I just buy any title, and let the book tell me whatever it wants to tell me. Sometimes, it makes no sense at all and I just go with it. And most times, the ending will disappoint you - because it has No Ending. It's like it's just hanging there, and you're like "What the hell was this story about?". With a Murakami masterpiece, you can't put it down, yet you have no idea what it is you're reading, and yet, when it ends, you feel overwhelmingly satisfied. I am drawn to his books because of the main characters - I relate to them very strongly, and it was only through his memoir, 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' that I realized his personality is much embedded in the characters I adore so much. They all indulge in solitude and find enjoyment in their own company, much like myself. If you do wish to give Murakami a shot, I highly recommend 'Norwegian Wood' and 'South of the Border, West of the Sun' because they have a romance element to it that makes it easier to relate to.

Elizabeth Gilbert

I've only ever read one book by this author, 'Eat, Pray, Love' but it was a real eye-opener. I envied her experience of dedicating months to traveling for soul-searching. Since then, I've been obsessed with the idea of solo travel; something I'd really, really love to do when cash permits. I have this deep, strong desire to visit Naples, Italy and taking a crash course in pizza-making while there! And I'm determined to find the pizza place Gilbert was talking about - it made me drool all over the pages of my book because she made the pizza sounded absolutely 'to-die-for'! It's fun to read, and while some might think the author was selfish, her bravery for self-discovery was still something to be admired.

Nick Hornby

If you noticed, a lot of really good movies out there have been adapted from books by Nick Hornby: High Fidelity, Fever Pitch and About A Boy. I've only read High Fidelity but it's definitely a must-read! (especially if you're a lad, you enjoy music and you're nursing a broken heart) I don't particularly enjoy romance novels and chick lits because I find them cheesy and cliched, but I love to read romance from a male point of view - it's so much more subdued and real, not wishy-washy and fairytale-like as most female authors approach them. I guess I'd say Hornby is my window to understanding the male psyche. Once I'm done with all my Murakamis, Hornby will be the next author I attempt to stalk-read.

Roald Dahl

I grew up with Dahl - Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches! Wonderful books, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was possibly my first experience in knowing that books could have a profound effect on the reader. I remember at fourteen, I finished the book at 9 o'clock in the evening, and begged my mother to drive me to the nearest 7-Eleven so I could get my hands on a piece of chocolate bar! I savoured that Cadbury like I've never had a chocolate bar before - truly changed my chocolate-eating experience.

Francine Pascal

It's not fair that the previous authors I mentioned gets applauded for writing good literature, but Francine Pascal didn't get the credit she well deserved: For making reading accessible and fun for the young beginners! If it weren't for Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from Sweet Valley, I would never have loved reading in the first place. The Sweet Valley Twins series, remain until today, my guilty pleasures - I can't count the number of times I've read 'Lila's Secret Valentine'! If you ever need a quick picker-upper and something light, fun and just entertaining, you know you can always count on the Wakefield Twins. ;)