The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Edna Pontellier is a 29-year-old mother of two in late nineteenth century Louisiana. As befits a woman in her station, she has maids to clean, cooks to prepare her food, and a nanny to care for her young ones. As Kate Chopin’s novella The Awakening (published 1889) begins, she is spending her summer vacation at a lake, where she begins to see her husband’s treatment of her, her pointless “proper” behavior, and especially her own sexual identity in a new light. For the first time, she recognizes herself as more than the superficial image her era dictates her to be. As she develops a friendship with a young man, Robert, Edna becomes awakened to her own limitless possibilities for self-determination.

At once both a feminist tale and a sexual awakening story, The Awakening delves into the complex emotions of a woman searching for herself. Edna searches for ever-elusive happiness, and when society fails to meet her in her newly discovered self, she abandons the social mores and traditions for her self. Although The Awakening is short, I found it to be an intriguing look into society of the late nineteenth century American middle class, as well as a story that may unfortunately be all too resonant to women today.Continue Reading

Growing Up Muslim by Sambul Ali-Karamali (Brief Thoughts)

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam by Sambul Ali-Karamali (published August 2012 by Delacourt Books for Young Readers) provides a practical and personal account of what it means to be a Muslim in America. Relating her own personal experiences growing up as a Muslim in Southern California, Ms Ali-Karamali manages to speak to young adults in both a practical and a friendly tone as she explains the difficulties and complications that arise from being a part of a commonly misunderstood religious minority in America.

Although the book certainly remains a personal account throughout, with the additional weight of the author’s educational training (she has a J.D. in Islamic Law), Growing Up Muslim also speaks with authority about the complicated facets to being Muslim. She describes basic Islamic beliefs  (including various ways of interpreting and living those beliefs), as well as the difficulties youth and children may have in living their religion in a country where others do not seek to understand or simply are ignorant (such as those times when she was fed pork, not realizing it was pork until after she had eaten it).

I have read a number of books about Islam, and I’m always eager to learn more. As a part of the Judeo-Christian majority that makes up America, I must admit that as a child and teenager I was pretty ignorant to both the tenants and the practices of Islam. Given the amount of time I’ve studied Islam in the past (including a brief Islamic culture class I took while living in Jerusalem more than a decade ago), I wouldn’t say Growing Up Muslim revealed anything new or surprising to me. But it was still highly valuable and intensely interesting to me. What it did provide me with was a distinct personality giving voice to difficulties. Ms Ali-Karamali’s stories reminded me how real her challenges are in America today — but it also reminded me how similar childhood is for American kids, regardless of religion.

While I don’t think teenagers today are as unfamiliar with Islam as I may have been three decades ago, given the highly charged political situations around the world, misunderstandings may be much more rampant. Sambul Ali-Karamali’s book paints a clear picture for youth today of what Islam means for a young Muslim in America. In some respects, I think a practical explanation of Islam like this is a necessary read for American youth today: they must seek to understand the other religious traditions they will most certainly encounter regularly throughout their lives.

I highly recommend Growing Up Muslim.

Note: I received a digital review copy from the publisher via netgalley.com for review consideration.

Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Power edited by Joanna Lambert

Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Power (Inner Traditions International, 1993) is a fascinating collection of tales from Australian Aboriginal woman as dictated to a Western woman in the late 1800s. Editor Joanna Lambert expands upon these tales by providing commentary and discussion after each tale, focusing on the various folkloric traditions around the globe and emphasizing both the uniqueness of the Aboriginal tales and the similarities the Aboriginal folklore has with other cultures. Given the thousands of years in which Aboriginal traditions flourished essentially unaltered, I found it fascinating to read the folklore.

Kate Langloh Parker was fascinated by the Aboriginal traditions as a child, and as an adult, she collected the stories the women told her. Tragically, in her day, such folkloric anthropological research was not appreciated in Australia. In the past century, Aboriginal traditions have been overshadowed by the Western traditions entering into the territory and the 60,000 year old culture is losing it’s solidarity.

Ms Lambert’s volume reintroduces Ms Parker’s anthology of collected stories with sensitivity into a world that may be better equipped to appreciate the culture of the Aborigines. Although I am not an anthropologist, I greatly enjoyed Ms Lambert’s commentary. The stories of Dreamtime are a fascinating look at an ancient culture and religious tradition. I only wished Ms Lambert and Ms Parker had more folklore collected to share with me!

Virtual Advent Tour: Christmas Fudge

Welcome to Day 19 of the 2011 Virtual Advent Tour!

Although this is my fourth Christmas blogging, this is only my second year of joining in the Virtual Advent Tour, since I hadn’t found it my first years. But, even in my first years of blogging, I still posted about the holidays. Here are some Christmas posts from the past you may enjoy.

Also, in 2008, I wrote a few posts on some classic Christmas books:

This year, I have decided to share one of my fun Christmas traditions: making fudge for the neighbors! I have enjoyed making chocolate fudge since I was a kid. It’s a family recipe. And then a few years ago, I found a white chocolate fudge recipe online.

Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 can evaporated milk
dash of salt

8 oz chocolate
2 cups nuts (optional)
a little less than 1 lb marshmallows (Use real marshmallows, not marshmallow fluff.)
12 oz chocolate chips

Directions

Bring the first four ingredients to a rolling boil for four minutes. (Note: Make sure it’s boiling vigorously for four minutes or it will not set right.)

Pour over the next four ingredients and stir well. Pour mixture into a 9×13 buttered or wax paper-lined pan. Let it sit until set, possibly overnight. Cut in squares. For an extra touch, roll squares in powdered sugar just before serving.

That’s it! It is pretty easy if you follow the directions. I’ve been making it since I was 16! It’s also very delicious!

White Chocolate Fudge

My white chocolate fudge is also very delicious. However, because I found it on a blog online, I don’t want to take the credit when it’s due elsewhere.  Go visit Lemonpi for an absolutely delicious recipe. Keep in mind that you want to use real, yummy white chocolate for this, not the cheap stuff. Yes, it’s very expensive. Yes, it’s very yummy in the end.

This season, I also made some peppermint bark, as well as some frosted sugar cookies. It’s been a fun way to bring in the holidays with a bit of sugar delight!

What do you bake or cook around the holidays to make the season bright?

See the others on the Virtual Advent Tour today:

Krissi @ Lighting my Light

Check back at Rebecca Reads for some more Christmas cheer throughout the next few days. I’m going to post Tuesday through Thursday on a few Christmas stories you may enjoy. ETA: I’m not on the ball in terms of getting posts up. Given the fact that I’m sure you’re all busy too, simply have a great Christmas holiday and I’ll be back when I can be!