Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘family’

The Art of Thinking

51M7PrIvLmL._SY346_Who Are We: Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of One Another by Hussam Atef Elkhatib, Ph.D. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

How we think about experiences, places, or situations, and what we are aware of when and while we do, provides infinite possibilities to see ourselves and connect with others, by seeing their perspective and conditioning. Who Are We looks closely at practically every thing in life that can, and does, contribute to and shapes, who we are, how we see the world, and why we react the way to do to what is before us. Dr. Elkhatib offers the means with which we may use this awareness to, “Guide our vision through the way we see things.”

Though many of the topics may seem obvious at first, I have never seen such an extensive collection, and discussion, of all the factors which shape who we are, and how we behave, in one place. Each area is looked at closely with short essay-type sections. To give an overview of what is offered, here are some of the chapters that are included: 1) When You Were Born 2) Where You Were Born 3) The Control We have over What 8) How We Are 11) The Reason Behind Everything 13) The Art of Thinking 18) Internal Influences 20) Our Perceptions 24) What We Believe 26) Seeing the Big Picture.

Here is an example of some of the thoughts within. Nothing new, but said simply and with insightful precision.

Seeing things the way they are enables us to accept reality and deal with it. It contributes to our peace of mind.

People are eventually the same. Some of the things they can control while other things they have no control over.

We are more alike than we are different, though it is in observing and studying the differences, and how our environment, home, country, beliefs, conditioning, thoughts, and actions create who we are, that we begin to see the basic humanity that runs through us all. When our minds are open, and we look at our thoughts, it provides the opportunity to also see ourselves through the eyes of one another and discover that who we are is always in relation to other people, things, and circumstances. Take the time to ask the question, and open the pages of Who Are We.

 

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Say It Outloud

51TNQTUdZkLThe Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name – Short Stories by Fiza Pathan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Confession time. When I saw that this collection of short stories was over 450 pages long, I planned to skim over them and write a brief overview. After reading the first one, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, I was hooked and ended up reading each story from start to finish. They are all excellent, different and well written. They take place in different countries (India, Canada, United States, Iran, Syria, un-named South American country, Thailand, and the United Kingdom). What they all have in common is the portrayal of someone who is not part of the stereotyped heterosexual majority.

Each person must deal with the prejudice, religious intolerance, and/or ignorance, of their family, community, friends, culture, and/or government. Oscar Wilde quotes are also part of many of the stories, and match each perfectly. Each tale in The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name begins with the primary characters name as the first word of the story, thus speaking there name out loud, and validating who they are.

Sreekanth declares his love for another man to his father. Stanford’s father is outraged when he finds out who his son is friends with. Mrs. Almeida has to deal with her ex-principal who is outraged when she hears that one of her children was born biologically a boy and changed to a girl. Salman secretly lives with his boyfriend and wife, fearing the ISIS leaders will discover them at any time and put them to death. Melody discovers that she doesn’t fit into the sexual stereotype she expected. Five-year-old Ken wants to be Wonder Woman, and starts to take drastic measures to make it so, much to the dismay of his parents.

Another confession. Being the parent of a daughter who married her long-time girlfriend, a son who married another man, and some long-time friends who are transgender, as well as living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years, made it difficult to accept all of the violence, hatred, and mis-understanding portrayed in these stories. The longer I read however, the more I realized how much of a bubble I’m in, and that many parts of the U.S. and other parts of the world still have intense prejudice, fear, and anger, towards people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, born intersex, pansexual, bi-sexual, transvestite, or anything that is not the “norm”.

It is sad, but vital, that The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name was written. Giving a voice to those who cannot speak, who are shunned, dismissed, minimized, degraded, chided, threatened, misunderstood, and sometimes killed, just for being themselves, is proudly proclaimed with each tale. Though this is a work of fiction, many of the events, and reactions within this collection have, and are, taking place throughout the world. Ms. Pathan not only understands these realities, but is also able to share them with splendid prose, insight, and dramatic effect. It is one thing to aware of others lives, and another to be able to write about them so eloquently.

Each story in Ms. Pathan’s collection of shorts could be part of its own novella, but they stand on there own just as they are. The theme of acceptance, being true to oneself, and the possibility for change, is the constant between them all. As Oscar Wilde states so knowingly, On an occasion of this kind, it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind. It becomes a pleasure.

Happy Family, Happy Cats

51WoCiuudlLThe Happy Cat’s Detective by Alex Mahon
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The Happy Cat’s Detective is a delightful story combing a budding romance, close family escapades, and trying to figure out why, and who, stole Mrs. Casanova’s cat, Fetish. The tale begins in Canada, but takes place primarily in the small town of Lleida, outside Barcelona, Spain.

Told in the first person, by Christina Solans Sentis, we hear about another volunteer veterinarian she meets in the forests of Canada, Alex. They fall for one another and he promises to visit her upon her return to Spain. Christina fails to inform her mother, or her mother’s friends, about Alex upon her return home. This fact eventually comes out, but none too soon.

It is the relationship between Christina, her mother (Irene), and her mother’s close friends since childhood (Laia and Ingrid) that steal the show. They all move in together in the country and start a cat sanctuary they call The Happy Cat’s Home. It isn’t long until Christina is asked to search for a missing cat (and get paid for it), that she becomes the books title.

I really enjoyed The Happy Cat’s Detective. The sense of familiarity between Christina and her mother, and between her mother and her friends, is heart-warming, funny, and authentic. Their joking around, memories, and shenanigans, make them seem much younger than their years. Nobody is perfect, yet they enjoy one another’s company and always have each other’s back.

Whatever Works

41nM1xKgcaLLetting Go into Perfect Love: Discovering the Extraordinary After Abuse by Gwendolyn M. Plano. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

When you’ve been emotionally and physically abused in a 25-year marriage, it takes not only courage to get out, let alone heal, but also an array of support and resources. Ms. Plano provides not only the details of her childhood, adult life and abuse, but also explores what helped, and what didn’t. Adding insult to injury, she later discovers that her daughter was abused by a Catholic sister and several priests. 

The first part of this story is anything but “perfect love”, but its important to provide context and depth to the despair, isolation, and shame that was experienced. The support and realizations that come to the author are as varied and individual as was the abuse. From the instruction’s of a zen teacher, theological inquiries into Christianity and the bible, feeling the presence of an “angel”, and getting psychological support, to the love and care of a Franciscan priest, and a center for abuse survivors. Whatever worked for insight, growth, and healing, is what Ms. Plano reached for.

Two quotes really stood out. “Rather than seeing the controlling behavior for what it was, I focused on what must be wrong with me.” This is such a common, and understandable, feeling that many abuse survivors have echoed. The other was, “It was a delusion to imagine that I was alone, just as it was to imagine that I was unworthy of love.” Self-loathing, self-doubt, and internalizing abuse as one’s “fault”, is one of the most horrendous effects for survivors. The other is feeling isolation and having nowhere to turn.

Another insightful passage, which is seldom spoken of, is about why some people never get out of an abusive relationship. “Domestic violence is usually not reported, and this fact is often misunderstood. Certainly, victims do not report the violence because of the real possibility of retaliation, but there is a deeper reason for their silence. To report partner violence is to betray the partner, it is to forsake the dream of a happily-ever-after marriage, it is to contend with the real and imaginary voices of condemnation, and it is to destroy the family unit.”

Letting Go Into Perfect Love is a blow to the heart, that leaves the reader with a sense that it is possible to survive the unsurvivable. It is possible to acknowledge, confront, and walk away from perpetrators of violence. It is possible to find support – sometimes in the most unexpected places. There are no cliches in this memoir (thank Goddess). There is an honest look at what has, and is happening, to thousands of women across the globe, and how each can find their way to not only survive, but perhaps learn to love again.

 

 

Water Under the Bridge

51JYwz0aZ4L._SY346_The Flowers Need Watering by Marcus Lopés
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This story was not at all what I thought it was, and I’m not sure what I thought it was before reading it. Either way, it turned out to be a real treat. The title alone is worth the price. In essence, The Flowers Need Watering is a love story that involves boy meets boy, falls in love, then moves away and loses boy. Then, boy returns, they meet again, and… let’s just say there is a lot of water under the bridge.

The primary characters are Mateo, his partner Simon, and Liam. All of there family and friends (Melinda, Zane, and others) are intricately involved and come together with the death of Mateo’s father. There is also a long-term conflict with Mateo and his family, that involve a painful split when he was a young man. The tension between Liam and his father, and especially with his religious mother (Doris), are perfectly portrayed and explain why Liam is estranged.

The Flowers Need Watering feels real, which speaks volumes for the authors insightful writing. The story is both ordinary, and extraordinary. It is the understanding of human behavior, and our need to love and be loved, that shines throughout this tale of love lost and found, though not found as one may expect. This reads like a good romance, interspersed with family drama, and a big dose of realism and undercurrents of unspoken sorrows and events. Recommend picking this up when you can, and anything else the author writes in the future.

Always the Season

264_400_csupload_67034708Seasons of love and War by Brenda Ashworth Barry
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This is a book to read in any season. Intimate, insightful, and identifiable. Seasons of love and War took me on an unexpected ride through American history, small town pride, and personal reflection.

In 1972, I was 18 years old, a conscientious objector, and adamant protestor against he war in Vietnam. At the time, I could not differentiate between the failed policies of the U.S. government, and those who were drafted to go fight in this disastrous conflict. Since then, I have come to know the difference.

I had friends at the time who went into the service, and I wrote a biography about a colleague who was there (Walking Into the Fire). I know how it effected thousands of lives, and the suffering that ensued. The impact it had on relationships however, never really hit me until reading this story.

The author conveys a deep understanding of two young people deeply in love (Beth Ann Rose and Kaylob Shawn O’Brien), the integral belief they have in honor and commitment, and the consequences there decisions have on one another and there friends and family. The time and place feel real and authentic.

It’s always a good sign when I find myself crying while reading about someone’s life, whether imaginary or real. This book touched me in unexpected ways. The support Beth Ann has from her friends (Frankie, Carol, Danny, Lisa) and the understanding she receives from her family, are precious. Many individuals do not have the kind of care and comfort she receives, or the faith that there loved ones will always come through.

Whether it is a time of peace or war in your family, nation or relationship, it is always a good time to pick up Seasons of love and War, and treat yourself to a moving, well told family saga that leaves you no choice but to read the entire series.

 

 

He Is Closer Than You Think

OutOfSyncOut of Sync by Chynna T. Laird
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Out of Sync impregnates the reader with love, loss, fear, suspense, murder, and for good measure, a little laughter along the way. Ms. Laird has given forensic psychologist, Cheyenne McCarthy, and those within her world, a sense of intimacy, complexity, and above all, an evolving understanding of family.

The cold-blooded murderer, Marcus Harper, turns out to be closer to Cheyenne than she ever imagined, and as revealed by elder Chief Longfellow, a human being to understand and value, in spite of his violence, terror and the revenge he enacts upon Cheyenne and her friends. The supporting characters in the story all have there moments of tenderness and humor, including Officer Perry Fulton, Katherine Fulton, bodyguard Henderson Meyer, and nurse Marilyn.

Loss, and hate, can at times go hand in hand. Most of us don’t take out our pain on others, or become mass murderers, but the seed of grief is the same. Cheyenne must fight for her life, and her baby, and with the help of Chief Longfellow, she not only survives, but discovers compassion, and the importance of native traditions in recognizing our common humanity. Out of Sync takes us through one extended families circle, with mystery, suspense, and care.

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