Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gandhi and Beyond

Gandhi and BeyondFor all the decades of their astounding technological advance and expansion in many fields of education, mankind has persistently faced one big failure: attain peace. In the 21st century, we face not only war but the dark reality of terrorism, gang culture, organized crime, and continued oppression of minorities, leading to more hatred, anger, and ultimately violence. What’s the answer to this constant question of violence?

In one word, it’s nonviolence. This solution, sounding simple at first, is easier said than done. Yet there is an inspiring history of nonviolent social action in human history. David Cortright, peace activist and educator at the University of Notre Dame, discusses the work of the most influential nonviolent social activists of the 20th century in his book Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for a New Political Age (paradigm Publishers, 2010).

Cortright starts with the legendary Indian social activist Mahatama Gandhi and his philosophy of nonviolence materialized in his movement for freedom and social justice in the British Colonial India. The following chapters of the book detail the struggle for social justice in the west by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and activists such as Barbara Deming, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, Margaret Sanger, and others. The influence of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence was present in most of these later activists though there were certain differences in strategies and approaches to social change.

Cortright also discusses the role of various institutions – public and private – in facilitating or obstructing the goals of a social action movement. For this, the book draws on historical examples in 20th century and illustrates how social change is influenced by various factors, including media.  

Gandhi and Beyond is informative, especially for those who don’t know much about the history of social movements, as well as inspirational and motivational toward adopting a philosophy of nonviolence as the only solution that can lead to lasting peace against the constant existence of violence. Cortright ends the book with a letter to a Palestinian student, sharing his thoughts on the movement for justice against Israeli oppression of the Palestinian masses in the disputed territories of Israel-Palestine region. His concluding sentences reads: “New struggles for freedom lie ahead. If guided by Gandhian principles, they can wield a higher power and greater hope of success.”

ISBN: 978-1594517693

Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Gandhi-Beyond-Nonviolence-Political-Second/dp/159451769X

Friday, November 29, 2013

The McDonaldization of Society – 6

The 6th edition of George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society (SAGE Publications, 2010) critically
examines the fast food model of social life in modern urban societies. Taking the United States as the prime example of an increasingly McDonaldized society over the decades, Ritzer discusses the evolution of a number of key social institutions along the lines of the fast food restaurants – hence the name “McDonaldization”, after the fast food giant that has expansively established itself in US and is also growing steadily abroad.

The book discusses four core principles of McDonaldization: efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control. Each one is discussed separately as well as in relation to social structure and social relations. Ritzer illustrates how an overemphasis on these principles is leading to deterioration of our status and values as humans, increasingly being mechanized by the McDonaldization model whether in feeding, education, health, or a number of other areas in our daily life.  

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the Ritzer’s book is showing the self-defeating nature of the 
McDonaldization process, or what he terms as “irrationality of rationality”. His examples from various social institutions explain to readers how standardized procedures characteristic of a McDonaldized system work against it such that efficiency turns into inefficiency, predictability gives way to uncertainty, and so on.
This book has a good deal for the reader to digest including a few examples of potentially DeMcDonaldized systems or those that have not been completely taken over by the McDonaldization principles. 

This edition of The McDonaldization of Society is a good read for any serious readers and particularly for those studying social institutions, modern societies, or more recent history of the American society.  
ISBN: 978-1412980128

Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/McDonaldization-Society-6-George-Ritzer/dp/1412980127/

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Pine Island Paradox

First published nearly a decade ago, The Pine Island Paradox (Milkweed Editions, 2004) remains a
timeless read. Author and speaker Kathleen Dean Moore takes her readers along on her personal journey in and with nature on Pine Island, in the Alaskan wilderness. And while camping with her family on the island, Moore makes some vital connections with the place and life there.
Moore’s approach toward living in nature borders on the ecological and the philosophical – a state of finely tuned consciousness that diffuses the boundaries between one’s “self” and nature.  To Moore, the “harmony of the whole” is of prime importance, and that shows in her camping experience on Pine Island where she finds a reciprocal relationship between people and their places: people and the world are co-creators of the future. (126)   
The imagery in this book will literally possesses any reader who has experienced the purity of wilderness, but will also likely engage the attention of those who stay tethered to modern urban settings and have at least some vicarious experience of unadulterated nature. The sounds, colors, and feel of being out in the open enrich one’s reading experience on Moore’s pages – a journal wherein lost connections are discovered.
The Pine Island Paradox has deep ethical implications. Nowhere preachy, Moore’s work calls for “ecological ethics of care”; it is more a call for retrieving our lost relationship with our true nature, the one we have reduced to our ever-rising consumerism. These chapters work against the divide-and-rule view that has sucked our society in over the decades; it is a call for a unite-and-thrive way of thinking and living.
Moore’s book raises a number of important questions for thought. The one that stayed with this writer long after the book was closed is: If the world was created by the separation of one thing from another, the seas from the dry land, the birds of the air from the fish of the sea, will it end with a gradual coming together? (224)     

ISBN: 978-1571312815

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Road-Shaped Heart

Free verse doesn’t always instantiate the freedom of voice carried within its lines. Not so with Nick Purdon. The Road-Shaped Heart (Modern History Press, 2011). The poet from South African liberates his poetic expression from the constraints of time, space, and perceptual confines of man in his book of collected poems

The 25 poems included in this collection explore the dimensions in and beyond the perceptual experience. Purdon’s motifs include the sacred distance, the tenderness of emotion, life as a journey, and the cycle of life and death. His freedom of spirit shows in blending perception with delirium to witness what he terms “blinding synethesia” (p. 15).

Purdon’s use of language has poetic beauty, often fitting short words skillfully to create the rhythm in lines: “I will you to slice me open/I want you to see/how scarlet I am for you” (p. 27).

The message that takes precedence in The Road-Shaped Heart is celebrating this unique journey called life, with “an awesome heart” that is likely to drown in itself – the gift of being able to make our choice of the path we take in life.

This book is lovable for its aesthetic and literary merit.

ISBN: 978-1615990573

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Yearning for Normal

Yearning for Normal
Twenty-two year old Mike was lying in intensive care at the burn unit in a hospital in Ohio. Sitting beside her is his mother. Both are struggling for his life while his nearly dead body is showing signs of its last breath. Will he make it? If he does, will he be able to return to normal life at all?

The story of Susan Ellison Busch, as narrated in her memoir Yearning for Normal: My Son’s Life with Deletion 22q.11 (Tate Publishing, 2013), engages the reader since its very first page. An experienced nurse, Susan shares with readers the story of her second child, Mike, who was born with a less-known genetic condition called Deletion 22q.11 syndrome. This condition, extremely difficult to diagnose, made Mike a special need child who faced a range of adverse, often life-threatening risks, both physical and psychological, since his birth.

But equally, or more so, it was the challenge faced by his mother who, from her experience in the medical field, was torn between hope and despair as to how to save her son’s life from what seemed an inevitable disaster. From rushing her son to emergency rooms to monitoring his breathing and praying non-stop for his life, Susan’s journey is filled with the compassion and strength of a mother that are next only to the divine in this universe.

There is plenty of invaluable health-related information in this book – medical terminology and their meaning, various medical procedures and their importance, things to watch out for, and the way life is affected by medical conditions like Deletion 22q that are difficult to diagnose and treat. Above all, however, this book shows the power of love and compassion, which makes life meaningful and valuable in the face of threats that most of us face at one stage or another in our lives.

Highly recommended for everyone who values life and love.

ISBN: 978-1625106728

Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Yearning-Normal-Susan-Ellison-Busch/dp/1625106726

Friday, September 13, 2013

Daddy Versus The Suck Monster

Are you a guy planning to get married and have kids? You need to read this book first. A memoir of first-time fatherhood, Daddy Versus The Suck Monster details the nature and extent of challenges the author experienced with the birth of his first child Keller – aka “The Suck Monster” (the book explains better whence comes the moniker).

Joseph Matthew Nespoli makes full use of his humor to show readers what it is like to be a father for the first time, how it rewards the man as well as bounds the once free-roaming single guy. As a new dad, the author’s challenges ranged from changing stinking diapers to an intimacy crisis with his spouse and embarrassments in public places. At the same time, the new life now breathing – and crying at the oddest of hours – galvanized the machine of life in ways never experienced before. His baby, as readers will feel in the book, is the ultimate gift of life, warts and all. 

In the book, in different chapters, readers also get to know 20 “Essential Rules of Parenting” – witty and attention-grabbing inferences derived from the “thrilling” parenting experiences narrated therein. There is some light-hearted, at times sharp-toned commentary on social issues, usually involving family, gender roles, and stereotypes.

With an adorable cover title showing the little cute “monster”, this book is one of those not-to-miss reads for would-be fathers and humor lovers.

ISBN: 978-1489533975

Monday, September 09, 2013

Reena’s Bollywood Dream

Jewel Kats always writes special books addressing the most important needs of children, particularly of Reena’s Bollywood Dream is unique in that it takes an Indian girl as its central character and shows how her dream of becoming an actress in Bollywood makes her the pick of a sex predator.
young girls.

The story has a great lesson about the innocence of a child’s dream and her bad experience with a relative who tries to take advantage of her by appearing as a source that could lead to the realization of her dream. Reena’s character shows courage, honesty, and intelligence.

Also lovable are the illustrations by Richa Kinra.

This book is a must-read for all kids, especially for young girls so many of whom grow up with fantasies of becoming a showbiz girl and this fantasyland prays on their healthy inhibitions. It is also for parents and teachers of all cultures who need to protect their children from sexual abuse.

ISBN: 978-1615990146

Monday, August 05, 2013

Teddy Bear Princess

A short and sweet book for toddlers, Teddy Bear Princess (Marvelous Spirit Press, 2013) by Jewel Kats
tells the story of a girl named Teddy bear Princess who lives in a castle in the forest and has a peaceful and fun life with simple, innocent pleasures.

Teddy Bear Princess has beautiful full-page illustrations – from Richa Kinra – for each page of the story, such that the story is told in written as well as visually. The story shows the beauty and value of sharing with others as children see Teddy Bear Princess sharing her treats with her pet friend Zumba, a unicorn, and other unicorns in Zumba’s world.

This book makes a great first lesson for toddlers, introducing them to the meaning of kindness and sharing with friends, including animal friends and pets. Highly recommended for every parent/educator who has a toddler at their care.    

ISBN: 978-1615991631

Author Website: http://www.jewelkats.com

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cinderella's Magical Wheelchair

Major accidents, injuries, and illnesses in early life, all have the debilitating potential to run rings of fear
around a child and imprison them in a cage of low-self-esteem and negative self-image. Here is one book for children that liberates them from fear and brings them the message of hope and confidence.

Winner of the silver medal for the Mom’s Choice Awards 2013 in the category “Children's Picture Books: Inspirational/Motivational, Cinderella's Magical Wheelchair: An Empowering Fairy Tale (Loving Healing Press, 2011) by Jewel Kats is a modern version of the timeless fairy tale Cinderella in which children meet a young Cinderella who is physically bound to a wheelchair. However, her beauty and creative talent are boundless. As her relatives make fun of her wish to meet the Prince at the up-and-coming royal costume party, her destiny turns out to be beautiful and true.

Taking a character with a physical disability and making her as lovable and strong as anyone is easier said than done; but Jewel Kats has done it perfectly. Her Cinderella on a wheelchair makes a model character for children who have suffered any kind of trauma or injury and its related psychological toll. Cinderella in Kat’s book lovingly goes about her jewelry-making work and remaining very positive and patient against the negative attitude of her family.

Cinderella's Magical Wheelchair also breaks with social stereotypes. Beauty for the Prince in this story does not mean looks; the Prince is moved when he sees Cinderella’s caring heart as she has made a get-well-soon card for her ill father, the King. Then, at the dance session, neither the Prince nor Cinderella is kept from dancing together by her wheelchair. It is a unique dance made possible by mutual love, respect, and care. Later in the story, Cinderella becomes an independent character, renting her own place and actualizing her artistic talent to earn her own living. She proves by example that one’s inner strength, the strength and beauty of one’s spirit is superior to physical abilities.

Like all empowering books, Cinderella's Magical Wheelchair is full of hope and encouragement for children. And it is also fun to read with the special fairy character Monique coming as a surprise and an amusing presence in Cinderella’s life. Written tightly with a touch of good humor and adorned with Richa Kinra’s eye-catching illustrations, this is one uplifting book for every child with any kind of physical disability, or any lingering effect of trauma, illness, or injury.

ISBN: 978-1615991129

Author Website: http://www.jewelkats.com

Monday, July 22, 2013


Denise Carey-Costa writes empowering, uplifting stories for children. Her stories teach compassion for Lucky (Robertson Publishing, 2011) is one such heart-warming story about the life of a homeless cat, named Lucky, who is lucky enough to survive on the street against accidents and people’s neglect.
animals, particularly for animals with a disability or physical limitation that makes them less attractive at first sight.

In the story, Lucky is a character that calls for compassion, being himself a model of love and care as he befriends a lonely boy with a disability. The two find each other as best friends but Lucky is not accepted by the boy’s mother. How he ultimately fins her place in the boy’s home is the inspiring tale of Lucky that will entertain children while also teaching an invaluable lesson in care and love. 

The book is written in an interesting style with a good deal of suspense that keeps the reader turning page after page to learn what happens to Lucky as he hopes for having a family while facing rejection due to his ugly appearance. The story’s illustrations have been provided by Nicole Sjostrom and Jonathan Iseminger and they visually complement the story well.

Lucky will touch hearts and amuse kids and make a great read for kids in school and at home. 

ISBN: 978-1611700350

Monday, April 22, 2013

Girl in Translation

Jean Kwok literally brings her characters to life in her debut novel Girl in Translation (Riverhead Books,
2010). The book traces the life journey of a Chinese girl Kim who moves along with her mother from Hong Kong to New York as an immigrant and takes on the challenges of poverty, underpaid labor, and cultural adjustments – her strength being the “talent of learning”.
Of the challenges Kim faces as a young Chinese immigrant in her new place, she specifically struggles with language. To her, learning English is at once the problem and the solution to her difficult situation. Given her gift of learning, Kim gradually takes control of her life and by the time she steps into adulthood, she has achieved what would make her and her mother proud. A tale of challenges and the courage to face them with patience, this novel has immense inspirational and motivational value, particularly for the newly immigrated people who have to grapple with issues of culture and identity in a foreign country.

Kwok’s voice is compelling, her talent of expressing character situations extraordinary. Far from trying to raise her protagonist to an inflated model of courage, the author lets Kim’s character come of age realistically, showing various shades of her person – the fear, the innocence, and the spirit driving her forward. The author’s approach is direct, her characterization anything but lofty so that the reader gets a sense of immediacy about the characters and their situations. By the end of the novel, the reader is most likely to be already in love with it.

Girl in Translation is one of the more refined works of contemporary fiction in English language. Whether immigrants or natives, this book makes an enjoyable and moving read of solid literary merit for all readers. 

ISBN: ISBN: 978-1594485152

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Angelina’s Angel

Angelina’s Angel (Robertson Publishing, 2011) is about a nine-year old girl Angelina who feels sad after her mom tells her they won’t be able to buy all the items Angelina wants for Christmas.

But when Angelina visits her Uncle Marty’s workshop, her feelings change to happiness and excitement. What gifts she sees there and how they cheer her up switch the mood of this story to sweetness and pure joy.  

Authors Marilynn Carey and Denise Carey-Costa have dedicated this very special Christmas story to ‘Great’ Uncle Marty. A life well lived is never forgotten, says the dedication page of this book. The story of Angelina and her uncle make the perfect example of what makes life really good.

Angelina’s Angel shows kids what is most valuable in life. It’s a book for all kids and makes an excellent Christmas gift, since the story takes place at Christmas time when happiness and hope fill the air all around us.   

ISBN: 978-1611700480

Friday, April 05, 2013

Edwin’s Flight

Interesting, inspirational, and uplifting – Edwin’s Flight (Trafford Publishing, 2010) by Denise Carey-Costa
is an important book for children and for parents – particularly those having children with any kind of disabilities. It tells and shows the story of a baby bird named Edwin, born with a disability and unable to fly at first due to his physical limitation. However, with determination and personal effort, Edwin overcomes his weakness and flies high as any other birds of his kind and age.

The story is touching and written in an easy-to-understand language so that children who are just starting school can read and learn from it. Edwin’s change in his situation from a depressed bird to a confident flying one has an empowering potential for many children with special needs who will readily identify with Edwin’s character. Nicole Sjostrom and Jonathan Iseminger have beautifully illustrated this book with colored drawings of scenes from the story.

Edwin’s Flight can be of great value to for parents and educators who live or work with children having special needs and are vulnerable to low self-esteem and/or lack of participation in activities due to their special needs. 

ISBN: 978-1426922176

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Not Becoming My Mother

One of the most interesting aspects of literature is the ease with which it bridges the gap between relationships that define generations, particularly when the relationships are gender-specific. Tracing traits among a line of descent provides a measure of the progress and/or decline in various parameters of life. Ruth Reichl’s Not Becoming My Mother (Penguin Press, 2009) draws a perceptible line of circumstances and individual choices from the time her mother grew up in a conservative American society of the 1920s to her own life in a more emancipated status.
Reichl tells the story of how she finally decided to pen her mother’s diaries on the day of what would have been her mom’s 100th birthday, and she found bits of her own self strewn through the lines in the pages her mom wrote. Growing up in Cleveland, her mom had to choose between becoming a good wife or fulfill her potential as a person in the way she liked. As she opted for becoming what society expected of her, the woman left unfulfilled inside her chose to record her life’s gaps in words that would later fill the spaces discovered by her daughter in her own life.
Not Becoming My Mother is a book of deeply personal and highly valued relationships – that of a mother and child, and that of a person with themselves. It is a tribute to womanhood for all what this gender has been and how it has continued to come out of the haze of social standards set particularly for her. Aside from the exceptionally illustrative title cover, Reichl’s style of writing has a feel of immediacy and depth that goes to the core of her subject. It is a book for people who want to know their mothers’ lives and their own.
Author Website: http://www.ruthreichl.com/

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Stricken Yet Crowned

Suffering rape at the age of 12 was the beginning of Michell Spoden’s eventful life as Spoden tells her life story in Stricken Yet Crowned (Sakura Publishing, 2010). Physical rape, as the author shows through her story, is only one of several forms of abuse besides various factors facilitating abuse of women even in societies where they have more civil rights than the rest of the world.

Michell Spoden’s book outlines the abuse of women in multiple forms and at various stages in life – physical rape, emotional deceit and manipulation by intended immigrants, and administrative denial to help pursue the truth and bring the culprits to justice – all laced in the same thread of womanhood. Readers will find it inspiring and motivating how something greater within the author never gave up on life. Making her past the path to her liberation, Spoden shows us that the spirit of healing never fails us if we commit not let ourselves down. That is how she learnt to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit and save her inner self from life-long possession by trauma and abuse.

The style of narration in Spoden’s book is interesting, fairly unusual as we read it like a documentary with an omniscient voice introducing various phases in the author’s life followed by her first-person account of the details of those stages in her life. It is the straightforwardness, the unaffectedness of her voice that feels as the most striking quality of her story. There is no drama in her book, no sentimentalism or appeal to any sort of trite gender-based victimization. The author’s account as well as questioning of attitudes and procedures is clear, to-the-point, and grasping.    

Now involved in helping the affected, traumatized, and suffering, Michell Spoden is starting to reach out to women in places where they suffer abuse regularly but have no voice to raise against it. By her own example, as detailed in Stricken Yet Crowned, she affirms that oppression is to be taken no more by the victims; that it “really is time for change”.

ISBN: 978-1463546304

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Tony’s Tale: Tragedy in Arizona

June 18, 2012 was one of the darkest days in the recent history of Arizona since the terrifying series of victimization of a harmless pet dog, named Tony, reached its peak that day. Tony was put to death by the animal control in Clifton, AZ, following judicial orders that ignored the international outcry for a fair trial of the dog accused of fatally injuring a smaller dog in the neighborhood while no physical evidence or solid testimony supported the accusation.

Tony’s Tale: Tragedy in Arizona (Robertson Publishing, 2012) is a short book, authored by animal rights advocate and spokesperson Denise Carey-Costa, telling Tony’s story from birth to execution and beyond. The book shows glimpses of memorable phases in Tony’s life as a beloved member of the owner Michelle Dozier’s family – Dozier’s acknowledgement to supporters being part of the book.

This book is important to read as it gives voice to the question of victimization by authorities, including a judge, which impose orders despotically on civilians and are not accountable to the people despite getting paid by the money raised from their taxes. A true story full of love, belongingness, and pain, Tony’s Tale is the voice of not a single person but everyone who believes in justice, family, and love. 

Note: A portion of the proceeds the book gets from sales will be donated to The Lexus Project, a legal defense fund for all dog breeds.

ISBN: 9781611700992