Tag Archives: #Poverty

Decruyenaere, Gilles: I Dreamt of Trees (2015)

I Dreamt of Trees is an amazing first novel. Mr. Decruyenaere has managed that difficult feat of listening to his editors and written tightness and tension into his story. Words flow from one to another drawing me into a dreary and terrible future inhabited by people who are all too believable.

The USS McAdam seems to have been built with every contingency in mind except the humans inhabiting it and the Squelchers. But for the most part it is the humans who are its main problem and also the main theme of the story. We enter the USS McAdam centuries after its launching from a place only guessed at by the general population.

“to think that anyone on the ship actually knew its true origins was just ridiculous; too many centuries had passed since the ship had launched; too many computer malfunctions, human errors, and political shenanigans had transpired for any real proof of Earth to remain.”

The society on the MSS McAdam seems to have been half-way decent during the Prologue. Thirty-five years after the appearance of the Squelchers, life has changed for the entire population of the vessel.

A crisis is a wonderful thing for power-hungry people. What was once unthinkable becomes doable by manipulating a fearful population into wanting to destroy the new “THEM” by any means possible. Even if that entails becoming a strictly stratified and segregated population (“one must make sacrifices”). The “have-nots” are stuck on the Rim-side of a ship-wide sewage moat while the “haves” get to live on the Core-side. Understandably, Core-dwellers will do what is required to remain on their side of the moat.

Core-dwellers are the people the High Command (and true rulers after the revolution) deemed desirable. The High Command tell their puppets, the Council, what attitudes need to be enforced through propaganda and terror. Like many of our own revolutions here on earth, life seldom becomes better for any but the very few. But while life may be terror-laden for Core-dwellers, it is infinitely better than what Rim-dweller endure.

What new regimes need are heroes and “Them”. In this case the major “Them” is obvious. Squelchers are bizarre aliens who zap people into their spaceships when their beams get through the shields of the MSS McAdam. Our new heroes are the Flashers and the Boosterettes.

Flasher Jason Crawford is our main character and seventeen years old. His level of aggression is at a height that is either drug-induced or bred into him. For some reason anger and aggression are seen as a positive qualities for the Flashers (along with youth and short and slender bodies). Everything about Jason screams aggression. His language reveals both his lack of ability to control his temper but also the extremely homophobic and misogynistic nature of his society.

A young girl’s greatest goal is to be able to work in privilege suites as a Boosterette. I strongly doubt dream and reality line up for these young girls. Medical staff are assigned to take care of what is left once the Flashers have “released the pressure”. Thankfully, Mr. Decruyenaere never shows us what goes on in the privilege suites.

Life is going to be full of surprises for young Jason and most of those surprises will shock him. I loved the ending. It was perfect.

Definitely recommended.


I Dreamt of Trees available at:


I was given a copy of this book by the author

 

McDermott, J.M.: We Leave Together – page 44

“She felt into the Unity for all the energy hidden in the air, where people live and love and the threads of life swell into one pattern.

In every room – every single room – her breaking heart was not alone.

A thousand upon a thousand snowfalls, and the city weeps in the dark, alone.”

2013 September: Ten poorest states in the US

This is a post I have on another blog of mine. Thought it might be of interest to some of you who are interested in the US.

CSFES Norway

usamapnew

In this post I am going to look at which states struggle the most economically. In addition I will try to include the worst and best schools of that state and finally I’ll see if there are high risk cities/towns/places in the state.

Although things are looking better in the US, they still have a ways to go economically. According to the US Census Bureau their latest numbers show that the ten poorest states are:

  1. Mississippi                   22,6 %
  2. New Mexico                21.5 %
  3. Louisiana                      20,4 %
  4. Arkansas                      19,5 %
  5. Georgia                        19,1 %
  6. Kentucky                     19,1 %
  7. Alabama                      19,0 %
  8. Arizona                        19,0 %
  9. South Carolina             18,9 %
  10. District of Columbia     18,7 %

Foreign exchange students are sent to all ten of these states.

MISSISSIPPI

 
mississippi-county-map
 
Our journey begins with the poorest of…

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Ethical Ocean: X-mas vs. the environment: What is Santa’s Carbon Footprint

The mid-winter holidays are a difficult time for a lot of people. Some years a lot of religious traditions come together to celebrate what is deemed to be a joyous occasion. At other times the mid-winter holidays becomes a lonely time for a great many. For me the reason X-mas is a difficult time of year for me is because of all of the people I have to deal with and the change from daily routine. After all these years, I have found a way to deal with that. One thing that is in fact becoming increasingly difficult for me to figure out the purpose and sense of is gifts.

When I was little, my parents struggled to make ends meet. At that point in history here in Norway I imagine this was probably more the rule than the exception. X-mas was a welcome time when we children would get things we needed. We children might not appreciate all of our gifts equally, but new things weren’t an everyday occurrence. My parents were happy. It was also a time of plenty food-wise.

Our little family has not had to struggle financially. We aren’t rich by a long stretch but we have always had enough and more. Our children have never really wanted for anything. To me it makes no sense that we should receive gifts that are to us personally. What does make sense is the kind of gift that helps those who need it more in some way.

At the same time I admit to loving book gifts or the gift I got from one of my sisters-in-law this year (a building-set lamp). I cannot help feeling bad about it all though. Which is why posting the below infographic from Ethical Ocean makes sense to me:

Santa's Carbon Footprint Infographic

via Ethical Ocean – eco friendly products, fair trade and vegan shopping.

Francis, Diana Pharaoh: Path of Fate I (2003)

Path of Fate - Diana Pharaoh Francis
Cover art by Alan Pollack

Magic. Not all fantasy books include magic, but a lot of them do. Path of Fate is definitely about magic. We have the bond between the ahalad-kaaslane, Reisil-Tark’s evolving power and the power of the Patvermese magicians. All of these types of magic come together and open up a discussion about power, politics, gods and responsibility.

My rhetoric question of the day is: If you have power, do you also have a responsibility for how that power is used? Hell, yes!!! But just because you have a theoretical responsibility does not mean that translates into having to answer for your use/abuse in the real world. We all know that. Even I know that and I am not the best person in the world when it comes to paying attention to what goes on around me.

Reisil-Tark’s greatest role in Path of Fate seems to be to put a light to the abuses of power going on in and around Kallas during the story. We join her as her own sense of responsibility grows and embeds itself firmly into her mind and heart. Watching her come to realise that the people around her are not what she had thought/hoped for is an interesting process. It hurts when people we trust betray that trust. More difficult is seeing how we, ourselves, betray the trust of others. Reisil-Tark has to come to terms with that side of herself as well. My experience is that the reality of myself is the most difficult one of face. Being able to say that I screwed up or need to change a part of myself hurts. The pain is in many ways similar to the pain I have experienced whenever there has been need for surgery. This is the kind of pain I am sensing from Reisil when she has to come to terms with herself.

Path of Fate is Reisil-Tark’s story. She is an enjoyable character who does her best to deal with the life she has been given. Finding her strength in a world where she is pretty much alone is a process and we get to follow her on that journey.


Reviews:


  • Series: Path of Fate (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451459504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451459503

Canavan, Trudy: The High Lord (The Black Magician III) (2010)

The High Lord - 7 covers
Top left: French cover
Top 2 left: French cover
Top 2 right: Cover art by Matt Stawicki
Top right: Turkish cover
Bottom left: Indonesian cover
Bottom center: Cover art by Les Petersen
Bottom right: Russian cover

My son and I recently finished reading The Black Magician trilogy together. What he discovered is that sometimes favourite characters die. He felt that was kind of cruel of Canavan. It is one thing when the bad guys die, but good guys (especially ones you really like)? Oh, well. It is unlikely this is the last time he experiences this. Despite that, he really enjoyed himself during our adventure. As did I.

The High Lord answers all our questions about why Akkarin uses black magic. It also shows us that the powers that be sometimes make long-term decisions that are seemingly wise at the time but turn out to be bad for future generations. Accidental deaths can cause a lot of trouble down the road.

I’m still impressed with Sonea. I think that growing up rich and powerful blinds you to the reality that most people live under. Peggy McIntosh discusses this phenomenon in her White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Sonea growing up in the slums has made her aware of the harsher sides of life and made her more open to the possibility that status quo must change. Even Rothen and Dannyl, who are open-minded for wizards, fail to understand exactly how privileged they are.

My dad grew up under extremely difficult conditions. His mom was a paranoid schizophrenic and his dad disappeared after he had enjoyed German hospitality in prison camp. Torture got the better of him and alcohol was used to self-medicate. That left my dad as the responsible person at home from a very young age. His mom did her best, but, you know, being a paranoid schizophrenic without access to medication does not help in creating stability for your children. My mom’s childhood sucked as well. Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom worked her tail off to provide for them. When my mom has told me what it was like to drag a drunk dad up three stairs to get him inside the apartment – after he had pretty much spent his earnings on booze – well, I wonder how she made it????

But that childhood made them into pretty awesome people who have always been concerned with the greater good. They turned what could have made them bitter into something that helps others each and every day (even when they are now ancient =) ). Like Sonea, not all of their decisions have been wise. But like Sonea, what they have done is try to be true to the motto of “not doing unto others what you would not like to have them do unto you”.

Sonea grew up without her parents but was fortunate enough to get to live with her aunt and uncle. This is probably what saved her (and the rest of the city). Her hunger, poverty, the Purge, being bullied by the other novices and being suspected of everything “bad” by the adult wizards did not stop her from being true to her own values. Sonea’s situation is in no way unique in the world (except for the magic that is). Poverty, war, captivity, orphanhood and homelessness are all part of the lives of a huge amount of children and adults. That people are actually able to rise above their experiences and make the world a better place is amazing. Yet people do it all the time – just like my parents have. Which is why I find Sonea utterly believable. Her decisions regarding Akkarin seem inevitable and sensible considering the kind of person she is.

Sonea and The High Lord_by_ceara_finn24-d27a8o2
Picture photoshopped by Lauren Kelly Small

Tayend is my other favorite person of this story. He is our lad from Elyne. While homosexuality was not accepted in Elyne, homosexuals were not persecuted. Unlike Dannyl’s experience in Kyralia. Being a fan of the underdog, I would have thought that Dannyl would be the one to appeal the most to me. But Tayend has an innocence about himself that seems true. When that innocence is challenged, as it is in The Novice, Tayend rises to the occasion. He is loyal to Dannyl, in love with Dannyl and willing to avoid meeting with Dannyl if that is what it takes to protect him from the wrath of the magician’s guild. I wish I could have gotten to know him better.

Cery is back and this time he finds himself with a mysterious customer who seems willing to help him find whatever Sachakans arrive at Imardin. She turns out to be different from what he had originally thought, and that causes friction. But Savara still manages to be of assistance to Cery when he needs her help most. Who to trust or who not to trust when you are a Thief, that is the question.

Reading The Black Magician trilogy with my son was my third time through the series and I still had fun and learned new things about myself and the world.

In The High Lord Trudy Canavan gifted me with really fun words to read. During part of the book she had used the words Sachaka, Akkarin and Takan a lot. My mouth was having so much fun saying those sounds. Sometimes it is really awesome to be an autist (aspergian).


Reviews:


  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1841499625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841499628

My review of:

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice

 

Canavan, Trudi: The Magician’s Guild (Black Magician I) (2001)

Magician's Guild - 6 different covers
Various artists for the 6 different covers:
Les Petersen: bottom centre
Steve Stone: top centre
Matt Stawicki: top right

As far as I can tell, The Magician’s Guild has been published in 3 different English dialects and 15 other languages. That is impressive.

My son and I read the UK version of the The Magician’s Guild. As the reader I worked a bit harder with The Magician’s Guild than I have on my last few audio-jobs for my son. As the readee, my son seemed pleased with my job.

Sonea is somewhere around the age of 17 when we meet her. Her mom is dead and her dad has run off. Thankfully, she had her sister’s mother (Jonea) and Jonea’s husband who stepped in to take care of Sonea. They were part of the dwell society and at the point that Sonea’s mother died they lived in the slums. In the time since they managed to make their way into the Outer Circle of Imardin. There the three lived and worked out of a one room flat. Things were looking up for them. Then life did what life does and hit them in the face.

Before the threesome had moved behind the walls of the Outer City The city of Imardin - Trudi Canavan - Magician's GuildSonea was running with one of the gangs (Harrin’s gang) and had learned to pick pockets and steal. Several of the kids in Harrin’s gang are homeless kids who look upon the gang as their home. One of Sonea’s best friends, Cery, is such a kid. His father was killed by the Thieves for breaking trust with them.

Harrin, Cery and Sonea are one half of the equation of The Magician’s Guild. They bring in people to help them, but in essence the story is about them – and especially about Sonea.

The other half, of course, is about the Magician’s Guild. They have the food, the wealth, the king’s approval and magic. Like most privileged people the magicians are comfortable with status quo and reluctant to share their goods with “less worthy people”.

Compared with the rest of the world I am probably somewhere in the top 20% when it comes to privileges (in spite of being a woman). Being a woman lowers me somewhat but this is what I have going for me: I am of Norse blood living in Norway. I have a college degree and am married to a man who has a university degree. He is well-paid. I am not – due to health issues. We live in a country that assures that all of its citizens have free health-care, free education and are assisted if they should fall on hard times. Our home isn’t stylish or up-to-date but it is largish and warm during the winter. We always have plenty to eat. In other words, we have lucked out in the lottery of life.

What this means for me, is that I have to make some kind of effort to keep the other 80% in mind. Then I have to make even more of an effort to try to be of constructive assistance. It would be much more comfortable to pretend that the other 80% did not exist and that I had no responsiblity for the lives of other people on this planet of ours. But I know life is all about luck, nothing more. So I don’t have a choice.

The Magicians are at the point where they are going to be made aware of the dwells as something more than cockroaches to be stepped on once a  year during the Purge. Sonea is the tool to make it so. Discovering that there is one among the dwells whose powers are so strong that these powers have manifested all by themselves is going to change the opinion of some of the Magicians, frighten others and cement the prejudices of the rest.

Good luck, Sonea! You are going to need both it and loads of hard work to even begin to make an imprint in the sceptical attitudes of most of the magicians of the Guild.


Reviews:



Phantastik Award

Winner: Gilde der schwarzen Magier 1: Die Rebellin
Bester internationaler Roman 2007