|Show Me the Awesome: Children’s Librarians Can Do Anything
||[May. 22nd, 2013|08:00 am]
If you traverse the interwebs on a regular basis then you may have spotted the catchy “Show Me the Awesome” posts that have been springing up hither and thither. Thither and yon. The initiative was started by Kelly Jensen, Sophie Brookover, and Liz Burns. Designer John LeMasney was, in turn, responsible for the kicky graphic you see here. And if you’re interested in viewing what goes on you can follow the posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram with the hashtag #30awesome or you can head on over to Stacked to see a full roster of what has already taken place.
So what precisely is going on here? Typically an on-the-ball blogger comes up with original content and presents ideas in a unique and fascinating way. The lazy blogger cuts and pastes. Which do you think I’m about to do? From Kelly Jensen’s post:
While we have a lineup of official people taking part in the series, anyone is welcome to blog on the topic of self promotion. You can talk about a program you did and loved. You can talk about how you perform strong reader’s advisory with teens. You can talk about the grander idea of self promotion itself. There’s nothing off limits, as long as you’re talking about libraries and self promotion or librarianship and self promotion in some capacity.
Librarians talking librarianship. And so far we’ve seen everything from serving teen moms to promoting your own programming to using Kickstarter as a force for good and more. When I was asked to join I knew I had to talk about my librarianship in some way, but how?
As you may know I’m a Youth Materials Specialist, which means I buy books for the New York Public Library system. So when I ride the subway and see a kid reading a library book I can say, “I bought you that, kid” (not literally . . . that would be creepy). But before I was in Collections I was a children’s librarian. A job that has prepared me for life in so many different ways.
Consider my current life change. I am now an author of a picture book (something I may have mentioned once/twice/3 billion times before). And when one is a picture book author, one finds that the skills you learn as a children’s librarian have never been more important. Using a recent appearance I made at the Hip Tot Music Fest as a guide, here is a direct correlation between one job and another.
1. You must be able to command the attention of large groups of children.
The Hip Tot Music Fest is precisely what you would think it is. A Brooklyn-based monthly event where parents of toddlers and preschoolers dance and leap and scream and glide to the beat of live music from shockingly talented performers. Melanie Hope Greenberg is their resident author/illustrator and a strategic partner in the production. As such she was kind enough to invite me to read my book before one such show. In doing so I found myself using every bit of librarian-based talent I’ve ever acquired. And the first and foremost amongst these is what I learned when conducting baby or toddler or preschool storytimes. You need to be interesting.
Thanks to Dawid Parus for the image.
Thanks to those years spent doing “Five Little Monkeys” and “Open, Shut Them” ad nauseam I can retain the eyeballs of most kids from 3 on up. Before that age they’re a bit wiggly. Not impossible, but you better have something better than just a reading if you want their attention.
2. You must be willing to make a fool of yourself.
Remember those days in library school where you had to conduct a mock toddler storytime for your peers, and you thought it was the most embarrassing thing you ever had to do? Baby, you had no IDEA what you were in for! Whether it’s an 18-month year old taking a bite out of your neck or a general flailing of the limbs in an effort to engage a baby, you are going to look silly.
And if you can do it wearing blue fur, all the better.
3. You must be open to a change in plans.
You’re going to have a preschool storytime on a Saturday morning but what walks in the door instead? Tiny tots. Suddenly out goes the Fortunately by Remy Charlip and in comes The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade. And it is the exact same thing when you perform your own book. Though library storytimes have on distinct advantage over those performed by authors. When you’re in a library, you don’t have to worry about an all adult audience. THAT is an interesting situation.
Thanks to Dawid Parus for the image.
4. You must be able to handle any question, no matter how weird.
That’s a reference desk skill, pure and simple. You know when you’re sitting at the desk and a three-year-old comes up asking for, “The one with the baker and his wife and Jesus and the lady with the white hat and she is NOT a pilgrim” and after some additional questions you determine that in spite of all logical evidence to the contrary they’re asking for Strega Nona? That exact same exchange happens when you’re a children’s author. You open the book and a kid points out that they own a dog. There is no dog in the book. You did not mention a dog in your talk. Dogs have nothing to do with anything, but that’s what the kid is saying so you just have to go with it.
Long story short, the best training ground for not just picture book authorship but ANY job is children’s librarianship. I bet you could apply additional skills to additional problems. It’s just that flexible.
|Library Loot: Third Trip in May
||[May. 24th, 2013|06:30 pm]
Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer
They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer
Death in the sTocks by Georgette Heyer
In Need of a Good Wife by Kelly O'Connor McNees
The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper
The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
|All About THE FIRE HORSE GIRL: Behind the Book, Q&A, & Giveaway!
||[May. 24th, 2013|09:00 am]
I owe you an apology, dear readers. Due to the blog hiatus I've taken for most of the year thus far, it's entirely possible that you have gone an entire five months without hearing about Kay Honeyman's The Fire Horse Girl -- and if that is so, then you have been MISSING OUT. Because while this book isn't fantasy, it features many of the things I love best from the girl-power-fantasy novels that are dear to my and so many readers' hearts (think Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Elizabeth Bunce, Kristen Cashore):
All tied up in a story that sheds light on a too-little-known fact of American history: the existence of Angel Island, the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island, where Chinese immigrants (and usually Chinese immigrants only) could be held for weeks, months, or even years. But the book is never heavy -- only real. As a matter of fact, as I'm thinking about it, I may have done you a FAVOR by holding out on you so long on this book, because it would make delightful summer reading: meaty enough that your brain doesn't rot with the sweetness, but still pleasurable all the way down.
- A heroine who's stubborn, willful, kind, outspoken, out of step with her society -- and utterly wonderful
- A plot that offers her the chance to make a better life for herself, if she has the courage to take it
- A love interest who's equally well-developed, and has an agenda of his own
- Terrific characters all around
- Tense action scenes
- Swoony romance scenes
Kay Honeyman is just as much fun in person as she is on the page, and I'm glad to have her here for a Q&A.
How did you come to write The Fire Horse Girl? I always have trouble backing up to the beginning of writing The Fire Horse Girl. My first instinct is to say that the story began to form when I heard about Angel Island. It was a slice of American history and specifically America’s immigration history I only discovered as an adult.
But, I wouldn’t have attached so strongly to that setting if my husband and I weren’t in the midst of adopting a child from China. I was not just drawn to the place, but its stories because my son would have his own immigration story. At first, I imagined all the wonderful things that the child would gain by coming to America. When I looked at the story from my perspective, my son Jack was gaining a home and a family. He would live in land of opportunity and possibilities. But when I considered his point-of-view, he was coming to a strange house in a strange country to live with strange people. It opened my eyes to the price that people pay to immigrate.
If you take the inspiration back one step further, it started with a deep love of stories in general. I used to lay the big books on my parents’ shelves in my lap and read every two and three-letter-word that I knew.
The Fire Horse Girl probably came from all of those layers of inspiration plus a lot of work and a little serendipity.
What sort of research did you do? The kind that piles up in boxes and notebooks all around the house. The kind that involves Friday night trips to the library because I really need to find out the names of ships that travelled between China and San Francisco in 1923. The kind that you have to shake yourself out of because you have a story to write.
I read novels set in China like Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord and The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. I spent hours on the Angel Island Immigration Foundation website. I read Chinese poetry and took Chinese language classes because the rhythm of structure of the Chinese language is very different from English, and I wanted to have a feel for it. I also researched the poems on the walls in the barracks at Angel Island. I filled notebooks and files with picture of the dorms at Angel Island, kitchens in 1900 China, and alleys in Chinatown. I wrote lists of details in the margins of scenes. I poured through Arnold Genthe’s pictures of Chinatown before the fire that destroyed Old Chinatown in 1906 (same year that Jade Moon was born) because I wanted to dig through the rubble that formed the foundation of the Chinatown Jade Moon would have to navigate.
I think the most important part of my research was my trip to China to pick up Jack. It isn’t that I picked up specific details that I put in the book, but it gave me a richer understanding of China and the Chinese. It gave me a peek at the rhythms of life, community, and family.
What was the most difficult part of writing or revising the novel for you? What flowed the easiest? The first draft is the hardest for me. Writing that initial version is frustrating because it never lives up to the image of the story I have in my head. It doesn’t even come close. Neither does the second or third or twenty-third draft, but in later drafts you have progress you can measure. For me, a first draft is just bad, it isn’t better than the last, or moving closer to the story I want to tell. It is just messy and so very, very wrong.
On the other hand, I love revision. It is exciting to find the right fix for glitch in the story or develop a moment into its full potential. I love watching the rough edges of a story smooth into this glassy surface that the reader can skate across.
I especially love the moment in the revision process when you aren’t guessing anymore, when you aren’t experimenting, when the story is more right than wrong. It feels like turning into your neighborhood after a long journey. It doesn’t mean the work is over, but there’s the sense that you are heading to a place you’ve been trying to get to for a long time.
How much of the book did you have planned out before you wrote it? Are you a plotter or a pantser generally? Uhhg, you had to ask. And I tried so hard to hide it. I am a pantser who tries desperately to be a plotter. I am a very organized person. I love lists and papers stacked across the top of my desk. I make multiple outlines, but the story strays so far from the outline that I’m not sure I get to claim the title of plotter. Maybe I am just a horrible plotter. Is there a category for that?
I do like one element of being a pantser/horrible plotter. I tend to have a very fluid vision of the story. I’m more likely to see why something could happen then why it couldn’t. And I have a high tolerance for revisions. I don’t have any illusions that something must happen.
Admit it: You’re a Fire Horse girl too, right? (I am an Earth Horse myself!) Even if you aren’t: What qualities do you most and least admire in Jade Moon? Are they qualities you yourself share? You are an Earth Horse! Did you know we are both hard-working signs? However, your sense of humor is far superior to mine.
I am a Water Ox – patient, dependable, determined. I would make a disastrous character in a novel because in a crisis I make a to-do list and label color-coded file folders. So, I am pretty much the opposite of Jade Moon, but I admire her strength and spirit of determination. I also admire her big dreams and the way she ignores the impossibility of them.
I come from a family of strong women. My sister is a Fire Dragon and my son Jack and my mother are both Fire Pigs. I love people with a fire inside them. They bring fresh perspective and passion to life. They aren’t afraid to burn through the old to see if there is something better behind it.
The trait I most share with Jade Moon is probably the one that gets her in the most trouble – her stubbornness. However, a little stubbornness can help you hold your own, teach eighth-grade, and write a book.
What books have been the most influential in your reading and writing lives? I open every book expecting to be delighted, and I take in some element from most books that I read. I would probably make a terrible editor, but I make a great reader.
I love Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice. I love any book that looks at a society – F. Scott Fitgerald, Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Mitchell.
There are also so many talented contemporary authors in YA. Elizabeth Eulberg (Lonely Hearts Club, Take a Bow, Prom and Prejudice, and Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality) creates characters with flaws that just make them more relatable and more charming. Paul Volponi (The Final Four, Rikers High, Rucker Park Setup, Black and White) packs sweeping stories into tight settings and timelines. Whole stories get threaded through the overtime of a Final Four basketball game. It is like a gritty Hemingway if Hemingway wrote about basketball instead of bullfighting. I could go on and on. The more I write, the more I find to admire in other writers.
I also keep a few books on writing at my elbow. My two favorites are Second Sight (I am unabashedly slipping it into this interview because I tell everyone how amazing it is). Since I can’t email you every time I have a minor dilemma or a major nervous breakdown, I keep it close. I also love my Synonym Finder (love, adore, cherish, esteem, prize, etc.).
What are you reading now? And writing? I just finished 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody. It is always fun to watch teenagers realize that their potential soars far above people’s expectations. My first summer read is going to be Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.
I am working on a book set in West Texas. It is about Friday night football, small towns, and politics. It is full of women with sweet smiles and sharp tongues, high-stakes competition on and off the field, and a love that takes a few detours. I want to tell the story of a girl who discovers the beauty in life’s imperfections.
And what the heck, we'll do another giveaway here too, for a proper hardcover edition this time. Calculate your Chinese Zodiac sign and tell me both what you are and whether that (or any other form of astrological sign) matches your personality. (I don't think I'm a particularly notable Horse, for instance, but I am totally Queen of the Virgos -- a similarity between sign and personality that fascinates me, even as I think most daily horoscopes are bunk.)
|Friday's Child (1944)
||[May. 24th, 2013|07:30 am]
http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2013/05/fridays-child-1944.htmlFriday's Child. Georgette Heyer. 1944/2008. Sourcebooks. 425 pages.
When we first meet Lord Sherington* he is proposing to Miss Isabella Milborne. He marries a few chapters later, but, his wife is NOT Miss Milborne. After a brutal rejection, he decides to marry the first woman he sees. He happens across an old friend from childhood days, a Miss Hero Wantage. She is much younger than he is--just seventeen! But she's willing, more than willing, to be his wife. How did these two happen to meet? Well, she's running away from home! So Sherry and Hero set off together to London to arrange their marriage. He settles her into a hotel room, and, then begins to go about the necessary details of arranging a super-quick wedding!
Sherry wanted to marry so he could inherit now instead of later. At first he thinks his marriage won't really change anything at all in his daily life. But, of course, he was mistaken! Hero is completely clueless about how a proper young wife should behave, what things are socially acceptable and socially encouraged, and what things are NOT to be done. Hero absorbs everything, she's very observant but not exactly discerning. She's impulsive too! So if she wants to try something, she does!
Hero's closest friends are her husband's closest friends: Gil, Ferdy, and George. And they all adore "Kitten." In fact, sometimes they understand her better than her own husband. They are quicker to perceive things! They can "read" her better and sometimes they interfere in the marriage to help things run smoother. They often explain things to Sherry in such a way that he finally gets it. Sherry, however, feels that they interfere too much!
While Hero is aware of her feelings for Sherry, will her husband ever realize how he truly feels about his young wife?!
I enjoyed Friday's Child. It is not my absolute favorite Georgette Heyer regency, but, it is quite enjoyable!!!
*Throughout the novel, he's simply "Viscount" or "Sherry" or "Anthony"
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
|10 Plants That Shook The World
||[May. 24th, 2013|06:42 am]
10 Plants That Shook The World
by Gillian Richardson (Author) and Kim Rosen (Illustrator)
Booktalk: Plants might start out as leafy things growing in the earth, but they can come into our lives in unexpected ways. And believe it or not, some have even played an exciting role in our world’s history.
Snippet: The latex that tappers collect from rubber trees does not look or feel rubbery. Latex is a liquid that flows from shallow cuts in the bark of mature trees. It becomes rubber after it is pressed, to remove water, and then heated and molded into various shapes.
It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
Copyright © 2013 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
|the poetry friday roundup is here!
||[May. 23rd, 2013|10:28 pm]
Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!
I must say you’re even more good looking today than you were last week. How is that even possible?!
I see by the twinkle in your eye that you’re hungry for good words and good food. You’ve definitely come to the right place. Please help yourself to some freshly brewed Kona coffee and homemade mango bread.
♥ TODAY’S POEM ♥
Actually, I’m on a mango kick this week. I reviewed the breathtakingly beautiful Moon Mangoes the other day, and today I’m sharing Lesléa Newman’s mouthwatering “Mangoes” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, compiled by poetry goddesses Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Pomelo Books, 2013).
a tad extremely partial to Week 10 (Food) and Week 11 (More Food) in the anthology, I was thrilled when Lesléa’s poem appeared as a delicious surprise in Week 31 (Different Forms) for Seventh Grade (page 165).
“Mangoes” is a ghazal, an Arabic lyric poem that incorporates the repetition of the same ending word in each couplet. When it comes to mangoes, Lesléa is a poet after my own heart, for her chosen end word is “heaven.” What better way to describe that luscious golden fruit personifying the sun-drenched days of summer?
Peel it back, cutie pies, and let those juices drip down your chin.
“Woman with a Mango” by Paul Gauguin (1892)
by Lesléa Newman
I’ve got to know before I go,
do mangoes grow in heaven?
Without that treat that tastes so sweet
don’t want no seat in heaven.
If there ain’t none — at least a ton –
won’t be no fun in heaven.
If they substitute another fruit
I’ll give the boot to heaven.
A mango a day like the good doctor say
and I’ll make my way to heaven.
Will a mango slide through my fingers and glide
down my throat as I float up to heaven?
Now say for real, are there mangoes to steal
and peel on the way up to heaven?
If you say no, Lesléa won’t go –
no mangoes isn’t heaven!
“Mangoes” copyright © 2013 by Lesléa Newman. Reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
via Doodle Lounge
* * *
♥ THE ROUNDUP ♥
Please leave your links with the fun-loving Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of your poem or the book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. I will add your links manually to this post throughout the day.
* * *
- – - Today’s Poetry Friday Platter – - -
1. Steven Withrow (“First Saddle Sonnet”)
2. Cathy Ballou Mealey (Fernalicious Forest Fun)
3. Matt Forrest Esenwine @ Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme (“Book Report”)
4. Bridget Magee (Driving Mom Crazy)
5. Margaret Simon (“What If?” – Saying Goodbye to a Special Student)
6. Jeff @ NC Teacher Stuff (“The Song of the Ungirt Runners”)
7. Robyn Hood Black (Early 19th Century Limericks for Children)
8. Michelle @ Today’s Little Ditty (Losing my keys — and my marbles)
9. Iphigene @ Gathering Books (“You Are a Writer”)
10. Amy LV @ Poem Farm (New Puppies and Third Grade Poets)
11. No Water River (Poetry Comics Poe’s “Annabel Lee” Poetry Video)
12. Tara @ A Teaching Life (Monsoon Season and Mary Oliver)
13. Colette Marie Bennett (“Here Bullet”)
14. Charles Ghigna/Father Goose (“Peach Dreams”)
15. Karin Fisher-Golton (“Butterfly”)
16. Samuel Kent (“Last Day of Second Grade”)
17. Tabatha (Yahia Lababidi)
18. Catherine @ Reading to the Core (“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”)
19. Mary Lee (Think for Yourself)
20. Laura Purdie Salas (“You’d Better Be Scared” – with audio poem starter)
21. Heidi Mordhorst (Circular thoughts on time travel)
22. Penny Klostermann (two fiddlehead fern poems)
23. Diane Mayr (“Cultivation”)
24. Kurious Kitty (It’s International Tiara Day!)
25. Carol @ Carol’s Corner (Something Fishy)
26. Donna @ Mainely Write (Double Take)
27. Doraine Bennett (Words with Madeleine L’Engle)
28. Tamera Will Wissinger (Marion Dane Bauer essay on Resonance in Verse Novels)
29. MotherReader (Follow, Follow).
30. Liz Steinglass (A poetry retreat and a question)
31. Anastasia Suen (“Not What We Want”)
32. Little Willow (“Locations and Times” by Walt Whitman)
33. Jeannine Atkins (Tugs That Carry Writers Through)
34. Ed DeCaria (MMPoetry authlete Cheryl Lawton Malone in the Boston Globe)
35. Lorie Ann Grover (“Wedding White”)
36. Joy Acey (“Wheels on the Road”)
37. Janet Squires (Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant)
38. Dia Calhoun (“Hammock Queen”)
39. Iza Trapani (“Saving Pennies”)
40. Betsy H. (“Silent Thunder” and new poetry blog!)
41. Jone @ Check It Out (“Library Books”)
42. M. M. Socks (“Teacher”)
43. Karen Edmisten (Linda Pastan)
* * *
♥ THE RECIPE ♥
Trust me, you need to make this mango bread sometime soon. It’s super moist, not overly sweet (golden raisins!), and is even better the next day.
The recipe calls for diced mango, but I put mine in the food processor because I like even distribution of fruit in my bread. Since my mangoes were medium ripe, the consistency was sort of like grated carrots. Choice of nuts is up to you — unsalted macadamias are divine and add a nice Hawaiian flavor.
Mmmm Good Mango Bread
(makes one loaf)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 cups diced mango
1/4 cup flaked coconut (optional)
1. Grease a one pound loaf pan or a bundt pan.
2. Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon into large mixing bowl. Make a well and add the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
3. Pour into pan and let stand for 20 minutes.
4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
(adapted from A TASTE OF ALOHA by the Junior League of Honolulu, 1983)
* * *
P.S. Happy 72nd Birthday to my man Bob Dylan! He’s knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door — probably checking for mangoes.
Have a fabulous holiday weekend, and thanks for poetry-ing with us. Hello, Summer!
Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.
|Bombay Anna (2008)
||[May. 23rd, 2013|08:00 am]
http://blbooks.blogspot.com/2013/05/bombay-anna-2008.htmlBombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess. Susan Morgan. 2008. University of California Press. 300 pages.
A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed The English Governess and the Siamese Court. I found it boring and confusing. This biography of Anna Leonowens seeks to tell the "real story" of the governess of the King of Siam. Why is it necessary for the "real story" to be told? There are two very good reasons: first, Leonowens' own works--her memoirs and travel guides--were fictionalized in varying degrees, and, second, her life was further fictionalized by Margaret Landon in her 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam. These two portraits of Anna are different from one another, and neither are quite true enough, genuine enough. Anna and the King of Siam has inspired several film adaptations (musical and non-musical). There was a real story to be uncovered, a story that was not discovered until several decades after The King and I. Bombay Anna tries to unveil a third portrait of Anna that explains and to a degree justifies the lies.
Essentially, once Anna became a widow, she completely reinvented herself, erased her past, and cut off all connections with her family in India. She wanted to be an upper class British woman, and, so she BECAME a "proper" British woman. She sent one daughter to boarding school (in Ireland, I believe) and kept her youngest son with her and took him to Siam. (He returned to Siam as an adult, and spent the majority of his life there. Once his wife died, he brought his children to his mother to raise.) The stories she told her children, her grandchildren was the fictional one of her creation. She wove in her (fictional) history--her life story--into her written works and lectures. It was a complete new life she wanted, and she was successful her whole life through in keeping that story the real story.
- Did you know that Anna was biracial? Her mother and grandmother were Indian or perhaps Indian-Portuguese.
- Did you know that Anna was born in India? Despite her created biography, Anna was not born in England or Wales. She had never been to the UK at all when she entered into Siam.
- Did you know that Anna was raised in a diverse, vibrant multicultural environment? Siam was not Anna's introduction to other cultures or faiths. Christianity was not the only exposure, by any means, she grew up playing with children of other faiths; she respected and admired many faiths. She was definitely opposed to all forms of proselytizing. She felt the last thing Buddhists needed was conversion to Christ.
- Did you know that Anna spoke many languages, that she continued to learn many languages throughout her life? Anna was GREAT at learning foreign languages. She excelled in reading, writing, translating, speaking other languages.
- Did you know that Anna was well-traveled? The first twenty or twenty-five years of her life were spent in India; but, she later traveled with her husband to Singapore, and, then Australia. She then worked in Siam. After leaving Siam, she finally visited Ireland and England. She spent time in the United States, Canada, and Germany. She also spent months traveling in Russia.
- Did you know that she raised many of her grandchildren?
- Did you know Anna was a socialist?
- Did you know that her son Louis died in 1919 during the Great Influenza?
- Did you know that her great-nephew was Boris Karloff?
Bombay Anna shares details about Anna's family background. Readers learn about her maternal grandparents, her parents, her step-father, her siblings, her husband, her children, her grandchildren, etc. Readers learn about India in the nineteenth century. Several communities or areas are described in great detail. Bombay Anna discusses Anna's new identities and how those identities were purposefully crafted, shaped, and controlled. Time is spent discussing Anna's life before, during, and after her time in Siam. There are chapters about her role as an educator, her role as a popular lecturer and writer, and her role as a parent and grandparent. The most time is spent on her time in India, Siam, and Canada. (She spent decades of her life in Canada).
Susan Morgan's enthusiasm for the subject is evident. She at times praises and justifies Anna Leonowens creative "truth-telling." She acknowledges to a degree that Leonowens lied in her works, that she crafted her facts, that she sometimes completely embellished those facts, yet, she maintains that her works contain important truths. Morgan does spend a good deal of time discussing slavery, imperialism, and women's rights.
Bombay Anna was certainly interesting, and at times quite fascinating. While it didn't answer all my questions, it certainly provided some context! My one question remains why would she personally believe and behave in such a way in real life and then write about her experiences and present them to the world completely differently? The Anna presented in Bombay Anna was caring, compassionate, concerned. She loved the women and children she met; she valued them, respected them, wanted them to have more freedom. Yet the way she chose to write about them in her memoir was very condescending!
Never discovered, never unmasked, Anna went on to perform that new identity for the rest of her life, actually becoming the character she had made. On the basis of her self-invention, Anna led a wildly adventurous and influential life. A world traveler, she became a well-known travel writer and public lecturer at a time when most women stayed home. She remains the one and only foreigner to spend years inside the royal harem of Siam. She crossed all of Russia on her own just before the revolution. She emigrated to the United States, mingling with the rich and famous, the literary, and political abolitionists in the Northeast, and in her seventies settled down to raise eight children. Hers was a vigorous, intense, and inspiring life. (1)
Anna stepped off that boat with a brand-new identity and began a new life. She had chosen her new biography with care. It had to be a story that would account for her having no money, no available family, and no ties to her past, and--at the same time--would render plausible that she was a gentlewoman, entitled by birth to be part of the higher social classes, and also educated enough to qualify for work as a teacher. The story Anna came up with was, in fact, a very clever choice... She was, she said, Mrs. Leonowens, born in Wales and daughter of Captain Crawford, who died heroically in the Sikh rebellion, widow of Major Thomas Leonowens, with two children born in England. She was, regrettably, without family or income. Her grief-stricken mother, widowed in Bombay, had remarried a crude and materialistic man, and brought her teenage daughters out there from England. The crass stepfather disapproved of Anna's marriage choice and all intercourse between them had ceased. Anna's first child had died in Bombay, Anna's mother died virtually the same moment, and a second baby had died in New South Wales after their ship returning to England foundered there. She and her husband, after spending time back in England where they produced two children who lived--bless the English climate!--had returned east when he was reassigned to the Straits Settlements. But all her fortune had been lost in the bank failures after the terrible Indian Mutiny, and her beloved husband was dead, prostrated by heat after a tiger hunt. She found herself, alas, alone, unprotected, with little money, and with two children to raise. But she had come to Singapore full of determination. She was, after all, a British lady, well born and well brought up, well educated and firm of character, quite the right sort of person to earn a genteel living for herself and her dear children by educating the young. And so the new Anna was born. It was an excellent role, suited both to her passionate nature, so nourished by Tom's love, and to her deep intelligence. (70-71)
The beauty of Anna's story, her virtually uncheckable story, was that all it required was that she be able to act the part. Everything depended on how well Anna could play the role, could put across her new identity as a lady. And it is a tribute to her extraordinary intelligence and the extent of her knowledge and skill that Anna was able to play the part. She definitely rose to the occasion. She met the challenge of accent, that immediate giveaway of race and class in India. She was able to speak in the tones of the British upper class and even provided herself and her accent with a little leeway by locating her birthplace in Wales. And she knew how to behave like a lady as well. (72)
Her children never doubted their heritage. The conviction that they were born in England, were British and upper class, significantly shaped both their futures. (79)
Of course there was no romantic interest between Anna and King Mongkut, on either of their parts. He was a monarch utterly engaged in protecting and improving his kingdom, and she was a teacher mourning her beloved husband and struggling to make a professional life for herself and a future for her children. To cast their relationship in the frame of conventional romance is to do an injustice to them both. And it is also to do an injustice to what really is interesting about Anna's life. We tend too often to think, as George Eliot said, that the greatest stories are those of romantic love. But there are other stories, stories of the shaping of a character or a career or a country, that are at least as passionate and as deserving of being told. One such story is that of Anna Leonowens in Siam. (103)
One advantage her background gave her was that Anna never thought it her Christian duty to try to convert her Buddhist students. She was one of those rare Christians in the East in the nineteenth century who knew better than to judge the Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus she was acquainted with as somehow inferior in their beliefs and practices. (125)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
|A "Breakdown" on Breaking Down a Manuscript; Two Conferences; and a Personal Best
||[May. 23rd, 2013|08:00 am]
http://chavelaque.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-breakdown-on-breaking-down-manuscript.htmlThere's a new Narrative Breakdown up at the website -- this time on Revision Techniques (Part I), as James and I talk through a few of my favorite methods of figuring out what you want your book to do, what it IS doing, and how it can be made to do all of that better. If you've read Second Sight or taken any of my classes, these will not be news to you, but it might be fun to listen anyway. (Talking about outlining is everyone's idea of a good time, right? Right? Yay! So you'll enjoy this.)
Registration is now open at the Dakotas SCBWI website for a full Novel Writing Workshop with me, October 4-6 in Custer, South Dakota. This workshop will involve my Plot Master Class on Saturday and my intensive talks on Character and Voice on Sunday, and it's the only conference appearance I'm making the rest of this year, due to my upcoming wedding and honeymoon. Other than this, I do not plan to offer said Master Class again (online or in person) until next spring, so here's your chance if you want to catch it in 2013.
I will also be at LeakyCon in Portland June 27-30, participating in general shenanigans.
Finally, I will admit to using my blog as commonplace book and diary as much as means of transmitting information, and as such, I've made a habit of recording my running times here to track my progress through the years. Now I have a nice new personal best to note: The Brooklyn Half-Marathon, May 18, 2013, 1:59:28 -- with a personal best 10K in there too, at 56:39. Woo! I never get over the pleasurable strangeness of me, a longtime Enemy of All Things Exercise and In Particular Running, being able to do multiple miles in a single bound. (Or many bounds, really. You get the idea.)
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