Undecided is Undecided

Part of my summer reading included a few books that looked promising from my local library’s “newly published” shelf. Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career – and Life – That’s Right for You by Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley (Seal Press: 2011) looked at the inability of millennium women to decide on a career. I thought it would be interesting to see what challenges and struggles face women of the next generation. The authors did a fair job of demonstrating the challenges and ambivalence facing young women who were raised to believe they could whatever they wanted to do. They used personal stories and some demographic statistics to make their point.

However, a large portion of the book explains the ongoing dilemma for women: how to work in jobs that pay less than men – so less money – while trying to raise a family. This is not a choice that men ever make, because as the authors spend time explaining, the business world assumes that men have a wife at home full time to take care of children and women will leave either to get married (if single) or to have children (if married), so pay them less for the same work (190-192). The fact neither assumption is any longer the case in today’s world is lost on corporate America. These are systemic issues that need to be addressed. The authors are clear that personalizing this issue will not solve the problem (182-183).

Further, they noted that in some countries, such as Sweden, these issues have been addresses systemically. Laws have been changed to require both men and women to take leave to care for infants or family members. The authors observed that this has narrowed the pay differential between men and women in Sweden significantly in just ten years (200-201).

But then these authors fall out of bed. Rather than provide ways that women can work to legislate similar laws in this country – they do exactly what they previously said will not work – they personalize this issue. Chapters thirteen and fourteen discuss how women should just turn inward, learn what they are really passionate about and all these problems will somehow be solved. They use the same individual stories from earlier in the book to demonstrate how it will work.

This is magical thinking at it’s worst (or best depending on your POV). Turning inward and learning more about ourselves can be helpful – but unfortunately it will not eliminate the inherent structural issues that women face – being paid less for the same work and society not valuing the work required to care for society’s children. This is the kind of thinking that must change. Unlike the authors hopeless suggestion to turn inward, women and men must see the ugly discrimination built into the system as it really is. Then it can be changed. Women must demand systemic change from men, and both can look to successful models (elements of Sweden for example) for ways to make things different.

So – I’m undecided about this book. It does help the reader see the dilemmas facing millennium women. But neither author understands the systemic changes necessary to solve the dilemma brought about by the discrimination of men against women.


The Healing

If you liked the story The Help, you’ll enjoy The Healing. It’s a great novel for summer reading from Jonathan Odell, a Minnesota author. Beautifully written, the reader is instantly transported into a plantation in the Deep South.

Rich in mood and atmosphere, The Healing is a warmhearted novel about the unbreakable bonds between three generations of female healers and their power to restore the body, the spirit, and the soul.

In Antebellum Mississippi, Granada Satterfield has the mixed fortune to be born on the same day that her plantation mistress’s daughter, Becky, dies of cholera. Believing that the newborn possesses some of her daughter’s spirit, the Mistress Amanda adopts Granada, dolling her up in Becky’s dresses and giving her a special place in the family despite her husband’s protests. But when The Master brings a woman named Polly Shine to help quell the debilitating plague that is sweeping through the slave quarters, Granada’s life changes. For Polly sees something in the young girl, a spark of “The Healing,” and a domestic battle of wills begins, one that will bring the two closer but that will ultimately lead to a great tragedy. And seventy-five years later, Granada, still living on the abandoned plantation long after slavery ended, must revive the buried memories before history repeats itself.

Inspirational and suspenseful, The Healing is the kind of historical fiction readers can’t put down—and can’t wait to recommend once they’ve finished.

“A remarkable rite-of-passage novel with an unforgettable character. . . . The Healing transcends any clichés of the genre with its captivating, at times almost lyrical, prose; its firm grasp of history; vivid scenes; and vital, fully realized people, particularly the slaves with their many shades of color and modes of survival.” The Associated Press

But in the end, one of the characters, wasn’t able to envision freedom. Caught in the culture (in the story it was a culture of the plantation life) creates blinders that prevent us from accepting the invitation for a new life when it is offered.

This story alerts us to the fact that merely changing the laws on slavery doesn’t create free people. In the same way enacting a law requiring affirmative action doesn’t eliminate descriminatory behavior – it just takes on more subtle forms.

Like the characters in the story, in our own lives we are often caught in the same way. We are invited, either by a new situation or by someone we know to embark on something new, to leave what we know. Because we can imagine something worse, but not something better, we refuse. We are too caught up in our own story – which we believe is true. It is our failure to imagine something better that holds us back – a failure of imagination. God exists, however, in our imagination – or God doesn’t exist at all. Our imagination is the only place God can exist because we can’t see, hear, feel or touch God.

God is not safe. Through our imagination, God is constantly inviting us to stretch, to become uncomfortable, to step out of our comfort zones. But we want so much to be comfortable, to have health insurance, to stay in a space that no longer serves our needs or our life. We are complacent and we want to stay that way. However, this is not living, this is not a life.

Next time you are asked to stretch – say “yes” to life, “yes” to God.

Why the Movie “I Am” Isn’t

I AM is the 2011 creation of film maker Tom Shadyac, “one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.”” Shadyac uses the film to explore two questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better?

In the film a series of experts explains that everything in reality is connected and when we don’t honor that truth, things go awry.

Shadyac should stick to comedy. These questions require digging below the surface and thinking at a deeper level. The movie fails at both.

This was truly a disappointing film. I would never show this in my classroom for the following reasons:

1. The film consistently uses non-gender inclusive language. For example “mankind” vs. humankind, “men”  instead of men and women or human beings, etc. What was he thinking? Was he thinking?

2. The scientific “experts” in the film are predominantly white males with the exception of one woman and one person of color, Archbishop Desmond TuTu.

3. Positive actions are portrayed by whites. Not so for persons of color. The first clip of a person of color is someone making a negative gesture in traffic, followed by another person of color aggressively picking a fight with someone in the car ahead. Wow, just wow.

4. Systemic aspects of the issues of patriarchy, racism, sexism, or nationalism are never even mentioned, much less addressed. In fact they are subtly promoted. This is done by using white males as “experts,” Obama’s presidency as evidence that the race issue is resolved – it isn’t, or the tragedy of 9/11 as moving the dial in an experiment – but what about the more than 5,000+ women who die every year in the U.S. due to rape, abuse, violence? Why don’t their deaths move the dial?

Basically this is a “warm, fuzzy, feel good” film that stays only on the surface. The economic, educational, taxation and legal systems that continue to transfer wealth to the rich, and rich countries, and keep the poor poor – by design are never discussed or even alluded to.

“I Am” is to systemic injustice what the movie “Crash” was to racism. Individualism is subtly promoted. It is a personal, feel-good message only; if we all just love each other the world will be healed. No. It. Won’t. Systems of injustice need to be dismantled. Laws must be changed.

The viewer is never challenged to think critically about the underlying causes. Perhaps this is because the director himself, a beneficiary of patriarchy and a very privileged background, experiences unearned benefits everyday due to his sex and skin color, to say nothing of his famous father. Who would want to question that?

As you can guess – I don’t recommend this film.

Instead I recommend the film: The Human Experience. You can read why in my write up of it here.

America in 1492

What do we really know about American history? I don’t know about you – but the American history I learned began in 1492 – the last five hundred years of history on this continent. But what about before that?

We were often led to believe that this land was simply vast and empty – a big wasteland – waiting to be “settled.” But this isn’t even remotely true.

Alvin Josephy Jr. has compiled information about our continent from the best authorities in this area in his book America in 1492: The World of the Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbus.

Publishers’ Weekly writes this about the book America in 1492,

In a concerted effort to quash myths and stereotypes, Josephy assembles essays by noted writers and scholars that depict Native American culture at the time of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas.

From the inside cover,

When Columbus landed in 1492, the New World was far from being a vast expanse of empty wilderness: it was home to some seventy-five million people. They ranged from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, spoke as many as two thousand different languages, and lived in groups that varied from small bands of hunter-gatherers to the sophisticated and dazzling empires of the Incas and Aztecs. This brilliantly detailed and documented volume brings together essays by fifteen leading scholars field to present a comprehensive and richly evocative portrait of Native American life on the eve of Columbus’s first landfall.

Developed at the D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian and edited by award-winning author Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., America in 1492 is an invaluable work that combines the insights of historians, anthropologists, and students of art, religion, and folklore. Its dozens of illustrations, drawn from largely from the rare books and manuscripts housed at the Newberry Library, open a window on worlds flourished in the Americas five hundred years ago.

From the back cover,

“A teeming panorama of North and South American life from prehistoric times through the 15th century …. A book like [this]needs no recommendation beyond its accuracy, comprehensiveness, and serious of purpose.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer

“America in 1492 totally shatters the pious fiction that there was no civilization here before the arrival of Columbus.” — Dee Brown

Both continents were filled with many nations, advanced cultures, languages, and even national federations for thousands of years prior to the invasion of Europeans. The genocide committed by conquering Europeans, largely destroyed existing peoples. Today First Nation decendents continue to be the victims of racism and are made to live in poverty in the U.S. as the result of current U.S. policies and laws that denigrate those of First Nation decent.

We are forced to pause and ask ourselves, “Who were the savages?”

Without acknowledgement of wrong doing there can never be forgiveness. Without justice there can never true reconciliation. Justice requires the correcting of racist laws and policies and the return of stolen lands and wealth – or restitution.

This book was an eye-opener for me. Learn about the amazing history of the land we are living on. New scholarship details an ancient and fascinating history that extends back thousands of years.

The true history of the people already here in 1492 compels us to realize that we live the lifestyle we have, in part, due to ill-gotten land and wealth stolen from these First Nations. Our own United States is founded on the genocide of millions. We need to acknowledge this. This is the first step. This is the beginning of justice.

You may also like What is White Privilege? and Prisons for Profit.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Visit the best, exotic, Marigold Hotel and be transformed. Life after all, is about transformation. This film will take you right into India. On the big screen you’ll swear you can smell the curry, feel the linen kurtis, hear the cacophony that is India.

The British characters in the story enter into a new culture and a new life, with all the challenges that brings. Like many of us, these characters are not at all used to being stretched or challenged. They come from a life of over privilege – like most of us – and believe they have earned the life they have.

Entering into a new life in India challenges their deepest assumptions, about their lives, their beliefs and who they are. This is Christian mission at its core. Opening ourselves to others who are different – and to the world. Like the inhabitants of the Marigold Hotel, it is we who are transformed.

Colors of India
Patna the oldest city of India


Flavors of India

Use the film as a way to become curious about the history and culture of India. Check your local library for books on Indian history and cuisine. Go to an Indian restaurant and sample delicious Indian dishes. Try cooking with curries. Learn about Hinduism or Yoga. Travel to India. Get curious. Learn more. Have fun.

You may also like The Empire of Tea and InnerPeace – Rewire Your Brain.