Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Poet Slave of Cuba

This week didn't turn out the way I imagined it to be. I had planned on turning in all assignments on time this week, get some reading in, and relax. Instead I caught a virus, maybe the flu, and ended up in bed for the last five days. I started feeling a little better yesterday. My youngest caught the virus last night and is miserable. Something tells me I won't be at school next week. . .

Poetry cools me, syllables calm me
I read the verses of others
the free men
and know
that I'm never alone. . .
-The Poet Slave of Cuba

While I was taking care of my son this morning, I picked up The Poet Slave of Cuba from my nightstand. Written in verse by Margarita Engle, it's the biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. Manzano was born a slave in Cuba. A favorite of his first master, Dona Beatriz, he had to follow her around like he was her own child, calling her Mama, and pretend he didn't know his real mother. As Manzano grows up, he shows a wonderful gift for words. He can memorize any song, opera, play, poem in any language after hearing it just once. Dona Beatriz uses him as a parrot, going to the parties of slave owners and having to recite works by request.

My first owner was sweet to me
I was her pet, a new kind of poodle
my pretty mother chosen
to be her personal handmaid . . .

As an act of twisted compassion, Dona Beatriz sets Manzano's mother free but not him, a child. She refuses to let him go until her death. But after her death instead of freedom, he is sent to be a slave of La Marquesta de Prado Ameno. Evil is not a strong enough word for her. A manipulative, sad, twisted person who finds nothing better in life but to focus on making Manzano's own life hell. I won't tell you the rest but there was one part that made me hold my breath.

It was the opening that made me check out the book.

My mind is a brush made of feathers

painting pictures of words

I remember
all that I see

every syllable

each word a twin of itself

telling two stories

at the same time

one of sorrow

the other hope

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano
Margarita Engle (2006)
183 pages

Read for:
Young adult challenge
Year of Reading Dangerously - Feb.
Diversity Rocks
In Their Shoes
Year of Readers
2009 Mini-Challenge #3

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Library Loot 2/18/09

I made a promise to myself that from now on I will only go to the library once a week. With this batch from the last two weeks you can see why.

  • The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle (Diversity Rocks & Y.A. challenges)
  • Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (World Citizen and In Their Shoes challenges)
  • Chains - Laurie False Anderson (Y.A. challenge)
  • Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (Y.A. challenge)
  • Sitting Bull - Bill Yenne (In Their Shoes challenge)
  • Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm - Bill Willingham (Graphic Novels challenge)
  • Life as we know it - Susan Pfeffer
  • Time is a River - Mary Alice Munroe
  • Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from The Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (Diversity Rocks and Lost in Translation challenges)
  • No one belongs here more than you: stories by Miranda July (100 shots of short)
  • A Raisin in the Sun -Lorraine Hanbery (Diversity Rocks challenge)
  • The Northern Clemency - Philip Hensher (Book Awards Challenge)
  • Annie on my mind - Nancy Garden (Childhood Favorites, Young Adult, and Banned Book challenges)
  • The Saturdays - Elizabeth Enright (Dewey Challenge)
  • Black Candle - Chitra Divakaruni (Diversity Rocks)
  • The Dark Hills Divide - Patrick Carman
  • Annie Allen - Gwendolyn Brooks (Diversity Rocks)
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (Lost in Translation challenge)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ten Things That Start with "F"

It's my turn! The lovely Cornflower gave me the letter "F" weeks ago. Surprising enough it took me less than ten minutes to come up with my ten.

French Vanilla Ice Cream. It's plain but tastes great with a waffle bowl.

French Vanilla CoffeeMate in my coffee. I've tried other flavors, but vanilla is the one for me.

Feist. Listening to her puts me in the best mood.

First, Body: stories by Melanie Rae Thon. I read this haunting collection of short stories many years ago and have not been able to get it out of my mind since. I have only one book left of Thon's to read.

Fridays. Not because there's no school for me, but because it's one of the few days I get my mother to myself for a couple of hours.

Family. That's not cheating. Their last name starts with "F" also.

Fables series by Bill Willingham. This series is so addictive.

Fresh Flowers. I try to buy fresh flowers just once a month. Even if I'm broke, I know I can buy some baby breath for two or three bucks.

Four weddings and a Funeral. I just love great movies.

Folgers Coffee. I'm a zombie until I get this stuff into my system.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Musing Mondays

How often do you visit the library? Do you have a scheduled library day/time or do you go whenever? Do you go alone or take people with you?

I visit the library once a week. I used to go to the library any time I felt like it but that's not really efficient time-wise. So now I usually go on Fridays or Saturdays. That way my family and I have at least a week to read some of books from the huge pile we checked out. I want to return a book that's been read as soon as possible so there won't be any late fines later on, which is important when all seven of us have library cards and the checkout limit is 25 items.

If I go to the library on a Friday, I usually go by myself. That way I can browse in peace and find some good reads I may not have found otherwise. If I go on a Saturday I take the kids. We spend hours there. The girls like to walk around and browse while the boys usually find their books first and then play with puzzles the rest of the time we're there. It's a really peaceful day for us.

Mailbox Monday - 2/23/09

Thanks to Paperbackswap and Dewey, my TBR pile is bigger than it was two weeks ago. Since I was on break last week I didn't write a Mailbox Monday post, so here's what I received in the last two weeks.

  • Angel of Forgetfulness - Steve Stern (Jewish Literature Challenge)
  • Because I said so: 33 mothers write about children, sex, men, aging, faith, race, and themselves (Dewey challenge)
  • What I talk about when I talk about running- Hariku Murakami (In their shoes challenge)
  • Flygirl - Sherri L. Smith (Y.A. challenge)
  • The World to Come - Dara Horn (Jewish Lit.)
  • The Victoria Vanishes - John Fowler (Just loved the cover of the title. I'll fit it into a challenge somewhere)
  • Jesus Swept -James Protzman (loved the synopsis)
  • Confessions of a Former Child - David Tomasulo (loved the synopsis)
  • The Maternal is Political - Shari MacDonald Strong (Dewey challenge)
  • Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Childhood Favourites challenge)
So that's it until tomorrow. I only have a handful of books coming this week. What did you receive last week?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading Journal

Good morning! The sun is just starting to come up while the clouds are slowly moving in. Today's forecast calls for rain which is perfect for me. Later on I'm leaving to celebrate my grandmother's birthday but until then I plan on reading and relaxing.

My plan last week was to stay off the internet and get some homework done. It didn't happen. I love being online. There's so many things to read and learn about. Thanks to fellow bloggers, I found a ton of books to put on my TBR list and pile and ordered several books this week.

I've been dipping into Language for a New Century: Contemporary from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond all week. It's a massive anthology of poetry from more than 400 poets, from sixty different countries, translated from fifty languages. One of the goals of the book is to introduce readers to poets they would never hear about otherwise. The book has been receiving criticism because it can only give you one poem per poet. I say the book is an introduction. If you want to read more from a poet then go and find their books and help support translated works.

The foreword by Carolyn Forsche gave me goosebumps and made me read it aloud:
We know, from the mellifluous litany of poets' names, who wrote these poems, but we might also consider what wrote them: the urge to sing, pray, cry, announce, and whisper; to write cultures into visibility; to write not after events but in their aftermath, through collisions in time and space, exile within and without; to walk around in the ruins of wars, awake. What wrote them was a determination to revolt against silence with a bit of speaking. What wrote was an upwelling of poetic apprehension of world.
Forsche calls the book "a field guide to the human condition". I think it's a perfect description for all poetry.

Reading this book made me think of my relationship with poetry. As a teenager it was all I read. I checked out the Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson hundreds of times in eighth grade. "Because I could not stop for death/He kindly stopped for me. . ."

After Dickinson I read and reread the haikus of Richard Wright before moving on to Alice Walker's Her Blue Body Everything we Know. "Good night, Willie Lee, I'll see you in the morning" is a favorite poem from that collection. From there I arrived at Chitra Divakaruni's Black Candle. It stayed next to my bed for months as I read and reread it, raking up library fines.

I wonder what happened, what made me neglect poetry for years? Now Language for a New Century is leading me back to the collections I've loved. Right now Black Candle and the Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson are sitting at my nightstand once again, while Her Blue Body is on its way to me. This week poetry has become the first and last things of my day.

What do you think of poetry? Do you read it? If so, what are your favorite poems? Who are your favorite poets? If not, why?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Salon

My reading this week has been scattered. Last Sunday I finished Daphne's Book by Mary Downing Hahn for The Inner Child Weekend and Childhood Favorites Challenge. I haven't finished a book since then. I've been swamped with homework, studying, kids, and being sick. I'm still a little tired but I'm feeling much better.

I'm almost up to date with homework and studying, so I plan on using today to finish The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It's a reread for my online book club, The Well-Read Ladies. I'm loving the discussion we're having.

After The Thirteenth Tale I plan on starting a book of poetry called Language for a New Century. It's an anthology featuring contemporary poets from Asia and the Middle East. I also plan on finally dipping into Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff. It's been killing me that I haven't been able to give it my attention.

With all the assignments and studying I need to accomplish this week, I think I'm going to take a week-long break from blogging. That way I can spend more time focusing on what I love, reading. I hope you have a good week and see you next Sunday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Library Loot 2/10/09

I just came back from one of my favorite places in the world! What is it about libraries and bookstores that give me butterflies?

My library already had issues one through five of Bill Willingham's masterpiece series Fables, but for some reason didn't have the rest. I asked my library to order the rest of the series and they said yes! Now volumes six through eleven are on their way. I also put the beginning of the series on hold so I can reread it. For some reason I received volumes one, seven, and eleven. Hopefully I'll receive the rest of the series before I have to return the books.

I'm an English/Anthropology major and I love fairy tales. So when I saw The Hungry Clothes and other Jewish Folktales, I had to check it out. Can you believe I've never read Peter Pan? My family loves the various movie versions of this book, so it's our newest family read. I'm reading Exit Wounds for the Graphic Novel Challenge. I'm also in a short story mood, so I had to check out Yiyun Li's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers before I read her latest Vagrants.

What have you checked out from the library lately?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Salon: The Peaceful Post

Good morning! Right now there's no sun in sight and the air is nice and cool. I love these winter mornings. Since I'm in Southern California, snow is not a worry but we did have some rare thunderstorms yesterday. When you do hear thunder, you can't help but pay attention.

Last week I read only children's books again. Something tells me this might be how the rest of the year will be. This week I read:

Ziggy's Blue-Ribbon Day by Claudia Mills. Ziggy is not good at running, jumping, or throwing balls for track-and-field day. Though his teacher told him to try his best and Ziggy will, he knows he won't be receiving a blue-ribbon award. He's an artist, great at drawing. By chance things change and Ziggy might be receiving a blue ribbon after all.

Chicken Feathers by Joy Crowley. Chicken Feathers is the tale of Josh, an ordinary boy living on a farm and his pet chicken Semolina, who can talk. Not talk like a parrot does and repeat what you say, but actually talks. No one believes Josh when he says Semolina can talk, but he has bigger things to worry about. His mom is in the hospital pregnant with his little sister and he suspects a fox is taking eggs from one of the chicken houses.

Potato Joe is a counting book for small children by author and illustrator Keith Baker. The illustrations are simple yet beautiful though my youngest was not interested in it at all.

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber. I can't believe I have never read this book until now. Ira is going to sleep over his best friend's house and tries to decide whether or not he should take his teddy bear with him. Full of repetition and funny scenes, Ira Sleeps Over is a new favorite in this house.

A Couple of Boys have the Best Week Ever is written by Marla Frazee and was nominated for a Cybils award last year. Frazee is also the illustrator for Sara Pennypacker's great series, Clementine. A Couple of Boys is about James and Eamon's week-long adventure with Eamon's grandparents Bill and Pam. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is great. I didn't want it to end.

This weekend I participated in the Inner Child Weekend loosely hosted by Dovegreyreader. The purpose of the weekend is to put aside your adult reads and read your childhood favorites.

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day by Judith Viorst has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first books I was able to read by myself. The title explains the story perfectly. When my kids are having a bad day this is the book I reach for.

My other read for this weekend is Daphne's Book by Mary Downing Hahn. I read this book when I was around eleven years old. I was browsing my local library and I remember I just happened to find it. The cover intrigued me. Daphne with her flowing hair and beautiful face sitting back-to-back with Jessica. I don't think I can do this book justice. Just read it. I promise you'll love it.

After Daphne's Book, I plan on reading Lauren Groff's short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds and Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale for The Well-Read Ladies book club.

What are some of your childhood favorites? What do you plan on reading this week?