Archive for the ‘Women-around-the-world’ Category

Palin’s Latest Blunder

palin1 150x150 Palins Latest BlunderThe ex-governor of Alaska (and future presidential candidate?) messed up yet again. During her “One Nation” bus tour, she claimed that Paul Revere’s famous ride was intended to warn both British soldiers and American colonists. Seriously, Sarah? Even my fourth-grade son who studied the poem this year knows better. Paul was trying to warn the Americans that the British were coming!

What baffles me is how a woman who has been known for her ignorance since 2008 has done so little to shape up. She’s had three years to get the facts right. Yet she blunders her way through tours and speeches, then insists she was either factually correct or that the “mainstream media” misunderstood her. That’s right – news-anchors on major US networks have trouble undertsanding English.

And Ms. Palin may one day be our President. A very, very scary thought…

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Kate Middleton’s Dukan Diet

kate1 150x150 Kate Middletons Dukan Diet

Like there aren’t enough diet plans/fads already. But the Dukan Diet, which has been popular in France for years, is making the news  because Kate Middleton is allegedly using it to shed pounds before the royal wedding.

The diet seems to be a French version of the Atkins diet that was hugely popular in the US until…well, until Dr. Atkins, the main champion, passed away. (Interesting fact – he was several pounds overweight when he died but the doctors claimed it was “water-weight”). So, anyway, back to Dukan. The diet consists of high-protein, low-fat meals along with lots of water and oat bran. It is divided up into week-long cycles. Some weeks include vegetables but fruits are taboo. Wine and dessert are allowed, which is why the diet is popular in France. Excercise seems to be an afterthought – 20 minutes a day.

The Dukan diet sounds downright dangerous to me. Meat, barely any veggies, and no fruit? Sounds like a meal-plan for nutritional deficiency and kidney problems. Even the French admit the hazards -France’s National Agency for Food, Environmental and Work Health Safety said the Dukan Diet was one of 15 imbalanced and potentially risky diets.

And does Kate really need to lose weight? She looks like she’s a Size 2 on a fat day.  But if she MUST shrink further, why not just eat balanced, low-calories meals (whole-grains, veggies and fruits) and excercise an hour a day? That works just as well and is far, far healthier.

Oh well. To each her own.

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Sarah’s Key

 sarahs key4 Sarahs Key

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups, in which the French police arrested thousands of Jews and held them under inhuman conditions at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, before transporting them to Auschwitz. The story is told from the viewpoints of two people in different time periods: a ten-year-old Jewish girl who is part of the roundup, and an American-born French journalist, Julia Jarmond, who researches the story in 2003.

Sarah’s Key draws readers in effortlessly with its dramatic opening – the police drag the little girl and her mother out of their apartment while neighbors watch silently. Meanwhile the girl has locked her four-year-old brother in a secret cupboard to save him, assuring him she will soon return. Juxtaposed with the girl’s story is Julia Jarmond’s narrative. As Julia learns more about what happened to the child, troubling secrets about her own French husband and his family come to light.

The first half of Sarah’s Key is absolutely riveting. The plot is suspenseful, moving and tight, the pacing perfect. A Jewish child’s  innocence being gradually eroded, from her time at Vélodrome d’Hiver to her return to her brother, is beautifully portrayed, as is Julia’s emotional and cultural conflict as she learns more about the Paris roundup and her own family.  

However,  the major climax takes place midway through the book. The narrative loses steam after that; events appear somewhat forced and rambling.  It isn’t clear why Julia is so traumatized by the idea of her husband’s family living in the apartment where the Jewish girl once lived, or why she desperately tries to find the now-grown girl and her acquired family. There is a second revelation of sorts towards the end, but the construction seems amateurish compared to the first. Several one-dimensional characters who serve no clear purpose are also scattered through the book.

Perhaps my expectations are too high from having read Holocaust books like “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Boy in Striped Pajamas, but I’d rate Sarah’s Key a “Must Read But Borrow”.

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Are Chinese/Asian mothers superior?

I read this deliciously controversial article in the WSJ by Yale law Professor Amy Chua called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.  

Chua begins by stating some of the things her kids weren’t ever allowed to do – have playdates, watch TV, or be in a school play. She then advocates her style of coercive, military parenting with anecdotal (and often funny) personal examples. She wraps up by conceding that while there are different ways to raise your progeny, the Chinese way is clearly superior.

Predictably, her article has roused very strong feelings – some commentors are deeply disturbed by her parenting approach while others are awed by it. However, most readers seem to have missed the tongue-in-cheek apsect of her writing. Sure, she believes in tough love but Chua appears to be laughing at herself even as she shocks us with her opinions. It makes me wonder if she really is all that harsh or just exaggerating to make a point.

Personally, I wouldn’t go to the extremes Chua says she does, but I do believe a child’s primary goal is to learn. If teachers or parents can device ways to make learning fun, more power to them. If not, tough. The kid still has to learn, practice and compete in order to succeed.

What do you think? Chinese parenting or the Try-your-best-honey approach? Please vote.

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Women’s fiction versus Chick Lit and Romance

When I tell people that my novel, “Speechless”,  falls within the genre  “Women’s fiction”, I’m often asked one of two questions:  “Is it a romance novel?” or  “Is it a Sex and the City kind of book?”

Women’s fiction, usually grouped with mainstream fiction in book stores, is neither. It is serious fiction written by women for women. It  can be commercial or literary and deals with the empowerment of women, the issues they face, the relationships that change them for better or worse. Think “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett or  “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana De Rosnay.

While Women’s Fiction often has elements of romance, the plot focuses on the female protagonist rather than the chemistry between lovers.  There is also deeper characterization, and more intricate sub-plotting than in a romance novel. The ending may not be happily-ever-after. And yes, the cover will not have Fabio holding a swooning  woman in his Photoshop enhanced arms.

Women’s Fiction is also different from the fun, frothy “Sex and the City kind of novel” known as Chick lit.  While both  genres are usually about women’s issues (relationships, motherhood, coming-of-age), Women’s fiction usually has a serious, strong plot requiring emotional investment from the reader, and so tends to be more memorable than Chick lit.

Lastly, the three  genres are  unique in terms of target audience. Though Women’s fiction, Romance and Chick lit are all read primarily by women, a woman who reads Romance is unlikely to read Women’s fiction or Chick lit and vice-versa.

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The Grace of Elizabeth Edwards

I was saddened to read about Elizabeth Edwards’ death yesterday. But only momentarily.

For this remarkable woman epitomized resilience and strength. Life dealt her blow after crippling blow. The death of a child. Stage Four cancer. The revelation that her husband was a philanderer. Public humiliation as he first lied about his affair with Ms. Man Hunter…oops…Rielle Hunter, then admitted he had fathered her child.

Yet Elizabeth accepted it with equanimity and grace. Refused to be a victim. Smiled for the cameras. Kicked out her cheating husband instead of being a doormat. Wrote a book. Moved on with life, her head held high.

You don’t mourn the passing of a woman like that. You applaud as the curtain comes down.

Bravo, Elizabeth Edwards.

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