Friday, March 27, 2009

April is National Poetry Month

I have joined a cause called NAPOWRIMO. The powers that be will send me a prompt to write a poem a day all during the month of April. I will post one or two of the better ones..prompts that is. I am not so sure about the poetry.

If you are a blooming poet, play along.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Traveling in San Francisco

I took my first trip to San Francisco right after I graduated from college. My college roommate always loved the city and wanted to show me around. I remember it quite vividly and have returned at least a half a dozen times since that first time.

For this trip, my husband found a true gem of a guide book which I will recommend to all people who love to explore San Francisco on foot. Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky is a collection of 26 two hour walks that have as their primary theme climbing staircases. Geoff and I have taken two of the walks featured in this book--not to mention a lot of just random walking up and down hills.

We saw the "magic staircase" at the right in the neighborhood of Golden Gate Heights. This set of stairs was transformed into art by an industrious resident who turned them into a beautiful mosaic. Tonight we climbed through a secret garden near Coit Tower. We have discovered some hidden treasures in this magical city.

Be forewarned, the book is a great treasure hunt through the city--looking at art and history, but there were a few places where she got directions wrong and it got a bit confusing. Not a lot--but in a guide book even once can be frustrating. If you are interested in a unique view of the city--check out this new favorite guidebook.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town

Outcasts United was an Advanced Review Copy sent to me as part of the early reviewer program to which I belong. The author, Warren St. John, published a series of articles about the Fugees (a refugee soccer team in suburban Atlanta) in the NYT and then left to live in Atlanta for a few months and write a book about this unusual team.

Mr. St. John is an adept storyteller and from the introduction has me captivated by this timeless tale of a band of refugees from all the war torn corners of the world and thier coach--Luma Mufleh--who brings them together to play soccer and to teach them to become Americans as the rest of the world has forgotten them. Mr. St John gives us a view, not only of each of the boys who joins the team, but also of the beleaguered town that hosts the boys, that cannot seem to understand that the world is changing. It is a well rounded story with many facets and many angles and the writer explores them all.

Luma and her boys battle racist policies that prohibit them from playing on community grounds, street gangs, lack of funding and proper equipment, but she manages to hold them together and take them to places even when it seems all is lost. Luma is very strict and hard on the boys but she beleives that it is her rules that make them better. She wants her team to rise above that which is expected of them. If you set the bar high, they will rise to the occaision.

Luma creates a business to employ some of their parents, takes the boys on thier first Halloween trick or treating excursion and helps them find a niche in this very confusing world.

I read that the auther was given a sizable sum for the rights to make his book into an movie and the team got a good donation which no doubt allowed them to create this website:
and hopefully buy some better equipment and battle the city to use the public lands for practice.

My advanced copy did not have an epilogue included, so I hope that when I finally do read the end, there is some good news about the town and the team and some of the boys sad personal tales.

The story, like all of life, had neither a good nor a bad ending. Without spoiling it--it is human and real and makes you want to meet this women and her teams and be a part of the very small fan club (which I would guess is growing) on the sidelines of the soccer matches in Georgia.

I am not a big sports fan, but playing and participating in sports and the thrill of running hard and playing fair is a universal theme. This story, and all parts of it, will draw any reader in. Hats off to Warren St. John for a timeless tale adeptly told. A modern story of love, dedication and beauty.

Monday, March 2, 2009

For GIRLS only

Remember fourth grade or fifth grade when the school nurse pulled all the girls into the library to show them a filmstrip (in my day it was a filmstrip--some of you may have had a video or a movie. By the way--what happened to all the filmstrips and filmstrip projectors? But I digress.)about...menstruation? (Shhhh!)

A young woman (a very young woman--18 years old!) thought to collect and edit women's stories of their first periods. She writes the most eloquent introduction to this small collection about how many women had to hide or felt ashamed of this very natural, normal occurence. But no more. The revolution has begun. This delightful collection of stories contains memories of dozens of women which are sad, funny, comforting and celebratory. The editor has included a classic essay by Gloria Steinem called "If Men Could Menstruate" (updated for 2008) as well as a list of euphemsims for "that time of the month". She provides commentary throughout the book about different customs and rituals surrounding menarche. She ends with a list of charities to contact to contribute to causes that help women in third world countries with no access to sanitary supplies. Imagine not being able to go to school once a month....

My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff.