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Archive for the ‘privilege’ Tag

Samba, Memories and Regrets   1 comment

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The Air You Breathe by Frances De Pontes Peebles gifts readers with an expansive, beautifully-written view of the ebbs and flows of deep friendships.

Dores, whose existence is shaped by her role as an orphan on a Brazilian sugar plantation, narrates the story. Her life changes when Graca, the spoiled, young daughter of the sugar cane baron, arrives. The two are opposites in every way. It is no surprise that their attraction is the impetus for their future endeavors.

Since there are no other children her age, Graca’s parents enlist Dores as playmate and study companion for their daughter. Despite spending much of her life up to this point working in the kitchen, Dores is a good student, much better than her friend.  Yet, Garca possesses all of the advantages that will contribute to her success: beauty, a mesmerizing voice, a strong will and privilege.

The narrative begins with Dores looking back on her past, specifically the success of Graca, who becomes legendary Samba singer Sofia Salvador. The trajectory from rural Brazil to Rio de Janeiro to Hollywood is more than a rags-to-riches story. Each chapter begins, or ends depending on perspective, with the lyrics Dores has written and made famous by Sofia/Graca.

The characters are lively, the street scenes vibrant and the pulse of the 1930s and ‘40s sets the rhythm. The connection between the two women is full of joy and anguish, frustration and pride. Dores and Graca need each other, despite often wishing this was not the case.

The Air You Breathe
Five Bookmarks
Riverhead Books, 2018
449 pages

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Doing Time   Leave a comment

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I enjoyed Orange is the New Black, the book by Piper Kerman. I haven’t seen the Netflix series of the same name, but after reading Kerman’s account I’m now inclined to watch because Kerman’s account intrigued me.

The author, privileged and intelligent (except for the episode in her life that landed in her prison), writes about her year in a minimum security facility in Danbury, Conn. She is honest about her own fear at being incarcerated and the guilt she has for vicariously putting her family, fiancé and friends through her ordeal. Yet, she does so without self-pity, with humor and insightful respect for most of her fellow inmates.

It’s the latter that particularly garners the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. Kerman learned to survive thanks in large part to the women around her. It’s no surprise that Kerman would undergo a transformation, but perceptions about prisoners and their crimes do, too. Although it wasn’t an easy 12 months, Kerman shares moments of fun, revelation, pride and friendship – in addition to the aforementioned guilt.

Of course, hers is not a summer camp experience, but neither is it as brutal as initially anticipated. At least that’s the case while in Connecticut. This changes, though, when just before her release she is transferred to Chicago to await testifying in a related trial. There she confronts the woman who years earlier revealed Kerman’s name to authorities. Nonetheless, the author’s honesty and humor make this a worthwhile read.


Orange is the New Black

Four Bookmarks
Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperback, 2013
302 pages

http://piperkerman.com/

Wedding Nightmares   5 comments

Seating Arrangements

Anyone planning a wedding in the next few months, or ever, might consider avoiding Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead; but they would be missing a fun, albeit satirical, and poignant look at families under stress.

Shipstead’s debut novel focuses on Winn Van Meter, father of the bride-to-be, in the three days prior to the ceremony. Winn is a banker, a Harvard man whose greatest disappointments are that he didn’t have sons and has yet to be granted membership in a private golf club. His daughter Daphne, seven months pregnant, is marrying Greyson Duff. That name alone suggests privilege, which is an apt description for the entire wedding party.

The nuptials are taking place on a fashionable island off the New England coast. The Van Meters have long had a vacation home there, although, as it turns out, the Duffs have their own island. Yet, the only character concerned with one-upmanship is Winn. And, perhaps, his younger daughter, Livia, who was recently dumped by her boyfriend, Teddy Fenn – whose father, Winn surmises, is responsible for obstructing admittance to the private club.

Shipstead’s multiple talents lie in her ability to create distinct voices and flaws for each of her characters. The cast of which include friends, family, and the Fenns. Biddy Van Meter, Winn’s wife, is the voice of reason while humoring her husband. However, her patience and fortitude wane as his attraction to one of the bridesmaids waxes.

In Shipstead’s hands, humor and heartache are worn with the ease of a properly fitted cummerbund.

Seating Arrangements
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
302 pages