Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reconciliation: Actions

Reconciliation must be owned at a personal level.  So must it happen on a personal level.  In my last post, I promised some actions that you and I can take that contribute to reconciliation, as well as to our personal growth.  The suggestions, in blue font,  come from the document Strength for Climbing: Steps on the Journey of Reconciliation  published by Kairos (in French, La force d’escalader :  Des pas sur le chemin de laréconciliation).   Unless I have indicate otherwise, I have read the books and articles recommended here, and viewed the films and videos.
  • ·  Reconnect with Indigenous ways of knowing.
Native Knowing: Larry Merculieff  (17 minutes)A video about keen observation, use of all five senses, and suspension of thought as a pathway to the language of nature.
  • ·  Dig into the story of what happened to First Nations people in Saskatchewan and in Canada after contact.
Daschuk, James.  (2013).  Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life.  Regina: U of R Press.   From the book cover:  In arresting, but harrowing prose, James Daschuk examines the roles that Old World diseases, climate, and, most disturbingly, Canadian politics—the politics of ethnocide—played in the deaths and subjugation of thousands of aboriginal people in the realization of Sir John A. Macdonald’s “National Dream.”
Daschuk, James.  (2015).  La destruction des Indiens des plaines : maladies, famines organisées, disparition du mode de vie autochtone.  Quebec : Presses Université Laval. En quelques années seulement, des milliers d'Autochtones sont morts; les survivants ont été réduits en sujétion. Dans cette ouvrage passionnante et bouleversante, James Daschuk analyse les causes de cet effroyable massacre : les maladies venues de l'Ancien Monde; les rigueurs du climat; mais surtout, la politique ethnocidaire du gouvernement canadien.Pour les premiers habitants des Plaines, le  « rêve national »  de Sir John A. Macdonald a tourné au cauchemar  (commentaire de Renaud-Bray).

King, Thomas.  (2012).  The Inconvenient Indian:  A Curious Account of Native People in North America.  Toronto:  Anchor Canada.
Thomas King offers a deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact. (University of Minnesota Press)
Manuel, Arthur, et Derrickson, Ronald M.  (2015).  Unsettling Canada:  A National Wake-Up Call. Toronto:  Between the Lines.    Manuel and Derrickson write a history of the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia.  The authors describe their experiences growing up, as well as their roles as activists in the events that shaped the directions of relations with First Nations on the federal and provincial levels.  They are frank in their assessments, and provide singular perspectives and insights.  
Sakamoto, Mark.  (2014).  Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents.
Toronto:  HarperCollins Canada.   
Disclaimer:  This book is in the mail.  I have not yet read it.  The 2018 Canada Reads winner,  this memoir, based on the suffering of the author’s grandparents during World War II, discusses the true meaning of forgiveness
Saul, John Ralston.  (2008).  My Fair Country:  Telling Truths About Canada.  Toronto:  Penguin. In this seminal must-read, the author provides a unique perspective on Canada.  Canada is a Métis nation, he says, shaped and influenced by indigenous ideas.  We are far more Aboriginal than European, he maintains.  To illustrate his concept, he recounts episodes in Canadian history and analyzes them in that optic.
Saul, John Ralston.  (2008).  Mon pays métis : Quelques vérités sur le Canada.  Traduction de Rachel Martinez et Éve Renaud.  Montréal : Boréal.
La version française de My Fair Country. Quelles sont quelques-unes de ces vérités ? Nous sommes une civilization métisse.  « La paix, l’ordre et le bon gouvernement »  sont une imposture.  Notre élite ne se reconnaît pas dans le Canada et ne souhaite pas le diriger. 
Savage, Candace.  (2012).  A Geography of Blood:  Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape.  Vancouver:  Greystone Books-D&M Publishers. The author moves to Eastend, Saskatchewan, and begins to explore the area.  She uncovers “a darker reality—a story of cruelty and survival set in the still-recent past—and finds that she must reassess the story she grew up with as the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of prairie homesteaders.” (quotation from book cover)

Heritage Minutes    A collection of one-minute videos on Canadian history.  Click the Indigenous History tab in Categories.
  • ·  Learn why we are all Treaty people, and the provisions of Treaty for First Nations and non-First Natios people.
A Solemn Undertaking: The FiveTreaties of Saskatchewan (14 minutes)
A concise summary of the treaty-making process and the perspectives of First Nations and the government.

The Socio-Economic Impact ofTreaties (18 minutes)
The video discusses treaties in Saskatchewan from an economic standpoint.  It contrasts the role of First Nations and aboriginal people in the early trading economy with that of the agricultural economy of Saskatchewan.    Education and entrepreneurship are identified as means of integrating First Nations into the Saskatchewan economy. 
Treaty Message Minutes
We Are All Treaty People (14 minutes)
This video traces the history and accomplishments of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, and highlights the reciprocity of the Treaty relationship. 
  • Be clear about the circumstances in which First Nations pay taxes.   
Here’s an article that can help:  "First Nations pay more taxes than you think" by Aleksandra Sagan for CBC News, April, 2015
  • Share what you have learned in conversations with others (book clubs, film clubs, movie night).
Reconciliation: Where Will YouStart ? (31 secs)Thoughts on reconciliation from a variety of individuals and groups end with a question:  Where will you start ?  Great way to begin or end a discussion on the subject—with a personal call to action. 
Reconciliation: What Does It Mean toYou? (31 secs)Reconciliation is exploring the past and choosing to make a better future. A variety of individuals and groups comment on what reconciliation might mean.  This video would be an effective catalyst to discussion on the subject.  
  • Watch films by Indigenous filmmakers and storytellers on Indigenous themes.
Reserve 107 : Reconciliation on the Prairies
Indian Horse, from a novel by Richard Wagamese
Disclaimer:  I have not yet viewed these films. 

  • Confront stereotypes and racism wherever you witness them.
  • Acknowledge the traditional territory where you live.
  • Integrate observance of days such as the National Aboriginal Day on June 21.
  • Model reconciliation by volunteering with those in or just leaving prison.
  • Attend powwows or other Indigenous gatherings.
  • Visit an Indigenous place of learning (Elders’ Centre, classes at a university, Friendship Centre).
  • Watch how people around you are living out reconciliation.
These actions don’t seem to be epic.  They can be mostly private, at first, and then, inevitably, public.  They don't require signing anything or organizing much at all.  But they can be epic in their very smallness.  They take the most precious thing we have, our time.  They require openness to new ideas and to changing our perspective.  And, in many cases, as you surely know, they take courage.  Courage to say something that might mark us as the outliers in a group.  They do effect incremental change over time, and that’s epic.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Reconciliation: Questions

As usual, the missing piece to a project puzzle showed up, unannounced, comme un cheveux sur la soupe, as my mother would say (like  a hair on your soup) on CBC while I was driving home from Regina on Saturday.    Two weeks after  we hosted the Social Justice in Motion Conference of the Archdiocese of Regina, I am mulling over possible next steps around Reconciliation for discussion with our Social Justice Committee.

Leaving the city on a preternaturally warm May late-afternoon, coffee at hand, I boost up the radio volume to hear Rosanna Deerchild, host of Unreserved, chatting about the very topic with Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (a rebroadcast from October 22, 2017).  This centre has morphed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established as part of the Residential School Settlement Agreement with a five-year mission to inform Canadians about what happened in residential schools and to collect and document those stories.  The TRC finished its work in December, 2015.

Moran maintains that each person in Canada must own reconciliation and contribute to it.  The Calls to Action are everyone’s responsiblity.  "One of the most fundamental responsibilities that individuals have,” he says, “is to take that inner journey, that self-reflective journey.”  He provides questions for all of us to answer in the depths of our hearts, to see what we really do know about indigenous people.   Here are the questions:

·  What really am I carrying around? What prejudices? What biases?
·  Perhaps what racism am I carrying around?
  Do I know any Indigenous people? If not, why?
  Have I ever participated in ceremony? If not, why?
  Am I able to name the traditional territory I stand on? If not, why?
  Have I meaningfully engaged in deep conversation with Indigenous people? If not, why?
  Have I read an Indigenous author? If not, why?

I confess to ignorance on First Nations for most of my life.  I have probably used insensitive, if not downright racist, language, without even being aware of it, for decades.  When I was invited to facilitate Treaty workshops in French for teachers under the auspices of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner almost ten years ago, what started out as a service I could provide turned into the self-reflective journey Moran describes.

Since then, I have read extensively.  During the workshops, I had the privilege of listening to many Elders and engaging with them on a host of subjects.    As a result, I couldn’t help but analyze my own language and my worldview, and to realize that I had to make changes.  Even more disturbing, my informed perspective colored mind movies from childhood experiences and echoes of conversations from my youth.

So, depending on the answers to those questions, we can take some steps, ourselves, toward reconciliation.  Although governments, schools, and community organizations have their own responsibilities to act, we can’t rely on them to do the coordinating and organizing for us.  Each of us must take a few small steps that will move our country closer to reconciliation.   In my next post, I’ll list a few possibilities and provide links to more to make exploration manageable right away. 

For now, though, the questions are enough to ponder.  I thought about them all the way home.  As you see, they are going to hang around for a while.  They compel me to action.  These posts number among my own small steps.






Friday, May 4, 2018

Macronism

The world needs more Macron, I’ve decided.  Emmanuel Macron, the President of France,  models a pathway to communicating one’s ideas and values while maintaining civility and building relationships.  Unlike the impression given by Facebook memes, some tweets, and comments in social media, civility and the expression of opinions are not mutually-exclusive events.  What about Macron’s approach illuminates an alternative to the vitriol in words and memes on the Web?

In his approach to politics, Macron reminds us that relationships are central to the advancement of ideas.  Fostering a rapport with someone means accepting the person for who he or she might be.  In his association with Donald Trump, Macron shows that he can separate the person from the ideas or actions.  Macron knows that all people want to be liked, and have a hard time working with people they know are contemptuous of them.  As a result, he tries first to understand what Trump likes (to be complimented and treated well according to his definition of both), and then to provide for that in the relationship (for example, an invitation to visit France; a military parade; hugs and handshakes; frequent telephone conversations).   As Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post observes, « he treats the president of the United States with respect — and has found his respect reciprocated. »  All of us have that little bit of Trump in us. 

Macron makes it a point to understand how people tick.  He loves to be among people.  To find out what people think, he makes regular trips to the countryside to engage with his fellow citizens.   Like PMJT, he enjoys taking selfies with people he meets, when asked.  It’s a rapprochement of people with their government.  He believes in the importance of listening : “Yeah, you understand a lot,” he says. “You listen, you learn. Because you have direct contact, . . . you have the feeling of the people. » (quoted by Tom Sancton in Vanity Fair, April 17, 2018).  Relationships can’t happen when leaders are ensconced in an ivory tower.

Macron is no yes-man, though.  He expresses his disagreement with policy clearly, in frank but polite language.  In his address to the United States Congress last week, Macron said, “We [Macron and Trump] both know that none of us easily changes our minds, but we will work together, and we have this ability to listen to one another.”   Just like in families, he maintains.   “Let’s share the disagreements ... To just say ‘I disagree and I don’t want to speak with you’ [is] ridiculous.”  Macron’s positions are diametrically opposed to Trump’s, yet he can vault over that barrier and focus on finding common ground in order to problem-solve.

So, what does all that mean for us?  To follow Macron’s example might require not only a lot of soul-searching, but also some daunting changes in how we do things, both in our real-life and online interactions.  In concrete terms,

·  Focus on the issue, not the person. 
Present points for and against an issue.

·  Back up one’s viewpoint with evidence from reliable sources.  
Yes, that takes work.  It means research; it means an investment of time.  It  means reading.

·  Be open to all points of view.  
Ask questions of people with whom we disagree.  If we are pro-life, let’s find out the reasons behind the pro-choice stance.  If we think a carbon tax is a good idea, let’s see why people oppose it.  If we think Canada needs to accept even more refugees, let’s learn why some people are reticent.

·  Listen.  Truly. 
Not, as I heard someone say in a meeting, I listen to what other people have to say but I won’t change my mind.  In my view, that’s hearing, not listening.  And, it’s dishonest.  Listening involves openness to the merit in another’s ideas, and merit can lead to a re-evaluation of one’s own beliefs and viewpoints, even those long-held.

·  Make the goal problem-solving, not ideology. 
The key is to find answers, no matter the political colour of the source of those ideas.

·  Refuse to name-call. 
Refuse to call people idiots, morons, and all the insults one sees on social media.  When people call  others names, and attack the person, I conclude that they have nothing else, and can’t take the time and work to become informed themselves.  I automatically dismiss their point of view.  Donald Trump is one example of that kind of person.

·  Refuse to post and share dishonest and false memes. 
You know the kind—usually in very bright colors, with an unflattering photo of the target of that meme, often replete with uncivil language and misleading or false statements.


We have an obligation as citiens to be involved in the political process.  That means sharing ideas with others.  It also means decency, and respect.  Emmanuel Macron shows us how it’s done.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Conference

Our parish’s Social Justice Committee, which my husband and I co-chair, hosted the Social Justice in Motion Conference of the Archdiocese of Regina this past Saturday.   We are so fortunate to belong to an inspiring and dedicated team (nine people in all) with great ideas and the desire to realize them.

My husband and I are very protective of our time in retirement.  We are very careful about what we commit to (often it’s hard to « escape » once you’ve signed on).   Volunteerism can be a black hole just as deep as teaching ever was.  Still, social justice is critical to us, so we got involved two years ago.  Our team’s efforts are designed to support people in crisis at home and elsewhere, foster awareness and understanding, encourage dialogue, and effect change on a small scale.  We live by the mantra: Think Small.  Incremental change is the business we’re in, one event, one speaker, one conversation, one person, one insight at a time.  Hosting the archdiocesan social justice conference seemed to fit in to our modus operandi.

The challenge for this particular conference, a sequel to last year’s, as Bert Pitzel, the Archdiocesan Social Justice Coordinator indicated, was to provide participants with an experience of interactive strategies they could use in their own parishes to start a conversation on reconciliation with First Nations and Métis peoples. 

Bert came across the video "Native Knowing"  by Larry Merculieff, an Aleut indigenous messenger and teacher,  underpinned the entire conference.   In that TED talk, Merculieff maintains that Western society works in reverse: the mind informs the heart, rather than the heart informing the mind.  Aleut children learn by observing their adult mentors and nature, rather than by having their minds filled with other people’s thoughts and conclusions.  The message for us as conference planners  was clear:  few words and lots of action and reflection.  Sessions needed to be interactive, so that participants could  deepen their understanding not only from the content, but also from their emotional impact and from the ensuing conversation.  The conference would work on two levels, the what, and the how.  In essence, the conference attempted to mirror First Nations ways of knowing.

The conversations allowed participants to make meaning by considering the connections other participants made to a common experience.  Throughout the day, a diverse group shared ideas with a few people and in the large group.  Roman Catholics and their Christian brothers and sisters from other denominations,  young people and seniors and those in between, First Nations people, as well as people originally from India and Korea, all contributed to a rich dialogue from various perspectives. 

Lyndon Linklater
The Blanket Exercise got people up and moving.   Ruth Robillard and her students from SIIT (Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies) provided an interactive dramatization that connected participants with both mind and heart to the history of First Nations peoples, from a shared experience of the land and peaceful trading to the expropriation of First Nations lands and of their children.

After lunch, Lyndon Linklater took up Treaty as a path to reconciliation, calling it an "undiscovered country. He asked the participants to imagine their responses if visitors from a dying planet indicated that they were coming to reside on Earth to escape calamity at home.  They were coming—it was just a question of treaty or no treaty.   His simulation helped participants understand the situation the inhabitants of this land faced as Europeans arrived, stayed, and settled.   Lyndon provided an original, immediate, and captivating context around which to frame an understanding of Treaty.  One participant, who had indicated to me that he would leave after lunch to attend to an afternoon commitment, delayed his departure until the last possible minute, in order to experience as much of Lyndon’s session as possible.
Archbishop Donald Bolen

The final segments dealt with the consequences of Canada’s history with First Nations and Métis peoples.    First, Presley Thompson shared his experiences as a former gang member who has turned his life around.  His courage and sincerity underlined the strength needed to surmount the consequences of a childhood compromised as a result of the lasting effects of residential schools and attempted cultural annihilation.  

After the testimonial,  table groups wrestled with  question, Now what?   How could both individuals and parishes nurture relationships with First Nations  through experiences and conversations?  Even more to the point, how might the conference sessions as well as books, films, and speakers listed in a resource document be a catalyst for dialogue?  Archbishop Donald Bolen then connected the day’s experience with the Call to Action growing out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the responsibility of the Church to respond to that call.

That call to action brought the day full circle to a holistic conclusion.  It informed the closing prayer (so powerful that it is reprinted below in its entirety), and put the exclamation mark on what planners hoped was a memorable day for participants, and what, for planners, was the satisfaction of supporting another step on the path of reconciliation and justice.

We Can Not Merely Pray
Jack Riemer

Likrat Shabbat

We cannot merely pray to you O God to end war;
For the World is made in such a way
That we must find our own path of peace
Within ourselves and with our neighbors.

We cannot merely pray to you O God to root out Prejudice:
for we already have eyes
With which to see the good in all people
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to you O God to end starvation:
For we already have the resources
With which to feed the entire World
If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to you O God to end despair:
For we already have the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to you O God to end disease:
For we already have great minds
With which to search out cures and healings
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray instead
For strength, determination, and will power,
To do instead of merely to pray
To become instead of merely to wish:
So that our World may be safe,
And so that our lives may be blessed.






Saturday, April 7, 2018

Nightmare

I’m not a hockey mom.  I’m not even a hockey fan.  Although I live in a hockey town, I don’t need all my fingers to count the number of hockey games I have attended in my community.

Yet since last night when I heard that a tractor-trailer had T-boned the team bus of the Humboldt Broncos on its way to a playoff game in Nipawin, leaving 15 people dead and 14 others wounded in body and soul, I can think of nothing else.  I haven’t read anything unrelated to the crash.  I haven’t watched anything unrelated to the crash.  I’ve checked Twitter repeatedly for updates. 

Since then, I process in images:

·  the fifty + passenger school bus I rode for twelve years to school, fifteen miles (in those days, miles not kilometres) from my home.    Three students to a seat, mostly, overhead racks stuffed with lunch boxes, books, and school bags.   Gravel roads, on the good days; snow and ice in the winter; clay gumbo for the mile or so off-road in a downpour to a farmhouse on the way to school.  I can still feel the back end of the bus sliding across muck, and the entire vehicle tilt sideways on two wheels on the way into the ditch;

·  my children’s faces as they boarded buses bound for Yorkton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Idaho, Spearfish, various ski resorts, for band festivals, school sports teams, or school excursions;

·  the lists of names on the emergency contact information papers I carried with me as a teacher-supervisor on school trips in my analog teacher days;

·  my hockey-player students bleary-eyed after an away game and a late (or early, depending on your viewpoint) return;

·  debris strewn across a lonely interesection in northeast Saskatchewan.

"'The worst nightmare has happened,'" Bill Chow, president of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, said today. 

I’m not part of the hockey family, and I don’t know the hockey culture.  But I’m  a parent.  I know Saskatchewan.  And I know buses.  The heaviness in my heart will be there for a long time.  I grieve with the city, the province, and the country.  To the devastated families and friends of the deceased, the critically injured, and the survivors, I mourn with you even if I can’t fathom your pain.  To the first-responders and the medical teams, thank you for your courage and your skill; take care as you process this tragedy.


My heart goes out to all whose lives this tragic event has forever altered.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Bronze

More than two weeks after the fact, I am still thinking about the Canada’s bronze medal victory in hockey at the winter Olympics.   I caught the last  ten minutes of the game, exciting in its own right, and watched until the very end of the medal presentation, mesmerized.     

It was clear to me that the Canadian team wanted this win.  After all, the Czechs would be happy to be medaled in their stead.  With three minutes left, and Canada leading by three, the Czechs scored.  Then, Canada took a too-many-men penalty.  The Czechs scored again.  The score was then 
6 – 4 with two minutes left.  Am I watching a CFL football game, I asked myself, where no lead is safe?   In the end, Canada prevailed.  The joy is still infectious. 

The ceremony itself had all the hallmarks of a gold medal presentation.  The only thing missing was the singing of the national anthem.  Blue carpets were stretched on the ice for the dignitaries.  Officials methodically made their way down the line of players, placing the bronze medal around the neck of each player, and taking the time to convey a few words of congratulations.  Every single player beamed.  Each was ecstatic.   Then, they converged to take a group photo.  To commemorate a bronze medal!

I am thrilled for this group of men.   When the NHL announced that it would not release its players, Hockey Canada looked to other professional leagues to build a team.  According to the Toronto Star, thirteen players come from the KHL, four from the Swiss league, three each from Sweden and the American Hockey League, and one from Germany and Austria.  Forward Andrew Ebbett explained the thrill: "What a special honour.  A year ago, nobody in this locker room would even have been given a chance to be here. I’m 35 years old, and I never thought I’d be at the Olympic Games. I’ll cherish this one for a long time."  In his congratulatory tweet, Peter Mansbridge echoed those sentiments.

At average age 31,  these players were a mixed bag of sporadic NHLers, former NHLers and international players.  That so many of them now in their thirties are still active players, though, speaks to their passion for the sport.  For many, it was a career highlight.  Ben Scrivens, the injured goalie, said,  “This is forever,” he said. “This is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”  

For me, the event shone a spolight on two essential life mindsets that, in my view, often get lost in the glare of the media emphasis on winning and being the best.

·   Carpe diem.  Opportunity doesn’t ask permission to interrupt the status quo.   It arrives when you are making other plans.  To seize it requires courage, grit, and hard work.

·  Be grateful.   More athletes left the Olympics disappointed, without medals or even best times.   "Losing is painful, occasionally horrific and, for many Olympians, inevitable," Nathan Vanderklippe wrote in the Globe and Mail.  Best, then, not to put onself on such a pedestal that a silver medal becomes an unworthy crumb.  Bask in the sweet moments of life; they cushion the inevitable disappointments.

In moments like Team Canada’s bronze medal win, sports can inspire at a visceral level.  At those moments,  it can stop people in their tracks to reflect on the intrinsic reset value of private victories that, to general amazement,  bear unexpected fruit in a public sphere.



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Reads(2017)

My reading life during 2017 focused on understanding the times in which I live, both at home and abroad.  To that end, I read countless articles, both in mainstream newspapers and online publications.  To hang on to my joy, I interspersed fiction runs, some of it pure escapism.  My mind and my soul thanked me.  So, on this last day of January, here are my significant reads for 2017, should some of them pique your curiosity.

Again this year, I made the most of my subscriptions to great newspapers. 
From the New York Times, I always read
·  Paul Krugman (anything he writes);
·  Charles Blow (check out The Lowest White Man);
The occasional columnists get me thinking too.  Try this article by Linda Greenhouse, The El Salvador Tragedy.

From The Washington Post, I usually click on anything by Jennifer Rubin,  E. J.  Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and cartoonist Tom Toles.  Check out the Opinion section here.  Phil Lee has a great op-ed on racism that hits close to home.

At the Globe and Mail, I look for perspectives from Margaret Wente and John Ibbitson.  Refreshing subjects and slants spur reflection on a range of subjects from stereotypes of Americans  to where to eat insmall-town Saskatchewan from Amy Rosen.

I’ve branched out to edgier publications as well, like the Establishment.  Ijeoma Oluo, for example, takes no prisoners in her piece on Trump supporters and white supremacists.

No wonder, then, with all this heavy stuff, that I often gravitate to what I hope might be lighter fare.  That’s how, about this time last year, I discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal in the New York Times, with You Might Want to Marry My Husband.  No spoilers here—let’s just say that, after reading this piece, I read as much of AKR as I could find, purchased her books for my grandchildren, and sent a few in my daughter-in-law’s direction.  Although there are so many yet to explore, here are some  favorites:
This Plus that
! Exclamation Mark
Little Pea
I Wish You More
That’s Me Loving You
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

What were some of the fiction highlights?
·  The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, no less powerful because I saw the series first, is an eloquent and stark representation of the speed with which our world can change when we’re not looking, when, as Atwood puts it, we are living in between the lines and in the margins of the newspaper articles alerting us to danger.

·  Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, all four of them.  Ferrante can astound with penetrating insight one minute, as she does in The Story of the Lost Child, where she comments: To carry out any project to which you attach your own name you have to love yourself, and shock you the next.    Be prepared for violence and abuse at the cellular level of family.  These are tough and disturbing reads.

·  The Buried Giant from 2017 Nobel Prize winner for literature,  
  Kazuo Ishiguro, a tale of an elderly couple searching for their past and their son,  as well as
·  Never Let Me Go from the same author,  the story of young people cloned to supply transplant organs to the affluent class.  Both books ask questions about memory.  Ishiguro wonders about the circumstances when either remembering or forgetting are advantages or disadvantages.  


In non-fiction books, I recommend
·  American Fascists:  The Christian Right and the War on America  (2008) by Chris Hedges.  I admire Hedges’ work, having read The Empire of Illusion: The End of LIteracy and the Triumph of Spectacle years ago.   With implacable clarity, he exposes the changes in values the Christian Right imposes on society.  Look for his articles and interviews at Truthdig.


·  The First Coming : How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity by Thomas Sheehan (1986).  A séminal read in my faith life, this account of the life of Jesus centers on his efforts to live the kingdom of God in the present. 


Not much respite in that catalogue, is there?  Lots of heavy reads, reflective of our times.  I wonder if my penchant for disturbing non-fiction combines my sense of duty with a rebuke of all the distractions society provides to keep us from noticing what's going on.  As the Post reminds us, "Democracy dies in darkness."  Best to be as aware as we can manage.