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Archive for the ‘family values’ Tag

Friendship Italian Style   Leave a comment

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It’s a rare movie that’s better than a book, so I didn’t want to gamble by watching My Brilliant Friend before reading the first in Elena Ferrante’s series known as the Neapolitan Novels. Although initially slow moving, the book didn’t disappoint. After watching the first episode on HBO, I can attest that it closely, beautifully follows the story of friendship, love and life in the outskirts of Naples, Italy.

Narrated by Elena, the plot follows her ties with her friend Lila, their families and community. Elena is the “good” girl of the two. Lila is fearless, tough. Both are exceptionally bright, although Lila doesn’t expend as much energy and concern into feeding her intellect; hers is an innate intelligence.

Ferrante deftly describes the poverty, the over-crowding, the classroom, the apartment buildings, the local businesses and the people who inhabit them. The reader can feel the dust from the dirt streets and smell the imagined cooking that must be emanating from the Italian kitchens. (Scant attention is paid to food, so it’s an assumption that meals are prepared; it’s Italy, after all.)

The girls are competitive and caring. Like many friendships, it waxes and wanes. Yet, Elena knows no else is capable of such meaningful conversation and exchange of ideas as Lila. Elena pursues her education from elementary to middle school and finally high school, but her friend’s parents don’t allow their daughter to continue. Still, the girls remain intellectual equals.

Against this backdrop are subplots of honor, superstitions and long-held societal traditions.

My Brilliant Friend
Four Bookmarks
Europa, 2012
331 pages

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Hooked on Broadcast News   Leave a comment

soledadobrien

Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien’s voice is honest, moving and completely engaging in her memoir, The Next Big Story. I’d expected nothing less than an accurate and fair narrative. It’s also a celebration of opportunities, not just for her as the daughter of a mixed-race marriage, but everyone willing to work hard for the prize. O’Brien acknowledges that for many the ability to make that reach is often riddled with obstacles.

Thanks to the values instilled by her family, O’Brien admits she wasn’t always aware of any impediments. Yes, she is bi-racial, and yes, she grew up in a predominantly white community, but she was never beaten down. This was largely due to her drive to keep up with family expectations.

Much of O’Brien’s story focuses on her journey to become a respected reporter. It wasn’t something she anticipated, but once she discovered journalism she was hooked. She shares her early days of trying, often unsuccessfully, to get meaningful stories on the air. Through hard work, strong friendships and tenacity, she worked her way to anchor weekend news programs locally then nationally. Along the way she married, had children, but continued her quest to share other people’s stories. CNN’s Black in America and Latino in America documentaries are hers, both award-winning works, although she never mentions the accolades.

Most riveting are O’Brien’s accounts of covering such catastrophic events as the tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. These are all familiar, but O’Brien’s insider retrospective evokes emotion and suspense.

The Next Big Story
Four Bookmarks
Celebra Books, 2010
321 pages