Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Congratulations WhiteBelt Productions!!

Congratulations to the owners and authors of WhiteBelt! I know they got their first check for book sales recently. Hooray!! Way to go guys!

For more about Whitebelt, go to

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Through a Harsh Dawn" by Hendrik Leffelaar

"Through a Harsh Dawn: a boy grows up in a Japanese Prison Camp" by Hendrik Leffelaar is a book that took me a long time to read. This is the story of a Dutch boy who is living in Sumatra and is about 12 years old when World War II begins. Japan invades and takes over, and this is his story of what it was like to live through that. It also has pieces of his father's experience as well. His father was part of the National Guard and spent most of the war in P.O.W. labor camps. Hendrik begins the story shortly before the Japanese invasion, and then takes the reader through his experiences in four camps. At first he was with his mother and younger brother, but later he was separated from his mom. Finally his brother was sent to his camp too. At the end of the story, all four of his family members survive. That's the good news.
I have not read much about what the Japanese did during WWII. When I think about WWII history, I think mostly about what the Germans did to the Jews. I don't know much about what was happening in the South Pacific so this story was interesting to me because it gave me some of that point of view. I almost threw down the book and quit reading when I read how complacent and wimpy the Dutch were in the beginning, but I kept going, and saw that they were very tough inside, they just had no idea what was going on in a global way. Then again, it's easy to look back now and say "Of course..." but back then, who knows? When the war was over, I expected the book to end. I was surprised that there were still another 50 pages to read. WTF? Of course even though the WWII was over, there was still another battle to be fought unfortunately. One that again, I did not think about, it did not really register on my mind. The Japanese left, and Britain did not help, and the Indonesian nationals took control of Indonesia from the Dutch so eventually the Dutch had to leave. After spending 4 years in concentration camps, they did not get their homes back. They eventually went to Holland, and then scattered to the winds beyond. The end of the book goes too fast, and I wish he had slowed down to really tell us how his family got out. His father was last, but I didn't really catch the details on how he got out. He definitely suffered the worst. Anyway, in spite of a slow start, and having to renew the book because it took me so long to get through it, I finally did, and then found myself reading all the appendices in the end too. This was a very good book if you like history, and want to hear a story that is about World War II, but isn't about the Holocaust. A worthwhile read!

Next up on my reading list- something considerably lighter I hope- "Street Gang, the History of Sesame Street". I am hoping to get through this one quickly as I have a coworker who is also waiting to read it as well.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Writing Class

My boss told me today that I can go ahead and take the writing class. It starts in a couple of weeks and goes until May. It's only 90 minutes/week, and I'll probably eat my lunch then too so I'm only missing about an hour/week from my desk. Not bad. I hope I have the energy to keep up with it. I wasn't sure I would be approved for the time, and am I kind of relieved. Should be fun. I think work is going to get pretty slow due to the budget cuts and this will give me something to do. Yay!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More on Natalie Goldberg

Well I read some book reviews on those books I was going to read, most of the reviews were on Amazon. A lot of them were not very kind to Natalie, but many were very informative. I narrowed down my reading list a bit. I think I'm just going to try to read Wild Mind and of course Writing Down the Bones. "Wild Mind" was missing from a local college library, so I asked my university library to buy it. I should be the first one who gets to see it. Yay! I will be looking forward to that. Still no word on whether I'll be in a writing class next week. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Chicken & in Love" by Natalie Goldberg

This is a small book of poetry, probably out of print now, published in the late 70s I think. The library says 1980 but the photo of the author looks like a 70s photo.

Anyway, a writing instructor has recommended a different book by Natalie Goldberg, and while I was looking for that one in the card catalog of the library, I ran across this one. I was a bit surprised when I first opened the book because the very first poem "Green split level" (I think) mentions the word "penis". It was not what I expecting! Still I read through the rest of the poetry, and while some of it was about sex, there were other pieces that were about visiting a grandmother in a nursing home, and being lonely, and other things. It was a pretty quick book to read through since it was so short, and I thought it was interesting to see some of Natalie's writings before moving on to hear/read what she says about how other people should write. I will be reading "Writing Down the Bones: freeing the writer within" at some point soon. I actually bought that book at the bookstore in case I wanted to make notes in it, etc.

Natalie has several other books that she has written as well. Many available at local libraries, and also through Amazon or Barnes and Noble or from your local bookseller. I will be reading more of her stuff I am sure. In the coming months, I hope to read "Long quiet highway", "Thunder and Lightening....", "Top of my Lungs", and "Wild Mind".

In the meantime though I still have another book to read, which I am slowly getting through, that is about a Dutch kid who was living in Indonesia living through WWII in Japanese concentration camps. I don't have the book in front of me now so I can't tell you the title etc yet, but I'll write more about that one when I'm done.

"Farm Friends" by Tom Fels

Well this is a good b00k, but honestly I have so much stuff going on right now that I did not give this book a good read. I just couldn't get in to it. I wanted to read about what was going on in Western Massachusetts in the late sixties and seventies etc, but this book just didn't do it for me. It was written after the fact of course, the writer doing interviews and including pictures and telling stories of the way it was. However, whether it was because I didn't give it the attention it deserved or what... I don't know. I just didn't get sucked into it. I'm sure for someone else it's great. I just found myself returning it to the library before I was done reading it, and I'd already had it checked out for several months. I kept moving it to the "back burner" until I decided I was going to give up on it. Maybe another time I will check it out again and really be able to read it.