Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Guns, Germs & Steel, and Book of Mormon Girl

I have some absolutely wonderful books to review for you today.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith by Joanna Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and I love Joanna Brooks. I related to so much of what she said, from the evident nostalgia with which she recounted her childhood experience of growing up in the warm, safe certainty of the Mormon faith to the anguish of finding a “knot of contradictions” at the heart of her faith.

My struggles and doubts and questions about my faith have been somewhat different from hers, but my feelings are very similar, as is my tightrope walk to find a way to belong to the faith I love while dealing honestly with its sometimes troubling past (and present).

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Why I am Voting for Barack Obama

Polling for this presidential election is nearly constant, both in “key battleground states” and in the nation at large. As a bemused inhabitant of one of those key battleground states, I admit that I check the polls . . . well, we won’t say obsessively. But often.

Recently, however, a rather unique poll was brought to my attention–the UPI/CVOTER/WIN-Gallup International Poll. The poll asked 26,000 people in 30 countries outside the U.S. how they would cast their vote for President of the United States of America if they were allowed to vote in our election.

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Inkheart, Marsupials, More Phineas, and The Handmaid’s Tale

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adored the movie Inkheart. It was funny and quirky, with lavish sets and costumes, even if it was a little weird that the main characters are named Mo and Meggie. Maybe it’s not so weird in German.

In any case, the movie is right up there with Ladyhawke, Labyrinth, and The Princess Bride when it comes to glorious fantasy cult classics that don’t take themselves too seriously. Inkheart was also set in beautiful Northern Italy, and made me awfully homesick. In particular, Balestrino, the town on the Italian Riviera where Capricorn has his headquarters is now on my list of must-sees next time I go to Italy. So of course I couldn’t resist the book. And I think the book is as good as the movie.

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ObamaParty

I’ll confess that in some ways I’m still slightly ambivalent about whether I want Barack Obama as president. But I am in no way ambivalent about the very solid fact that I emphatically do NOT want Mitt Romney. And I live in a swing state with a lot of electoral votes. So . . . yesterday we attended an early birthday party at our local Obama For America office.

The last real political meeting I attended was a caucus in Provo, Utah that felt like a cross between a Mormon Sunday School class and a high school popularity contest. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the Obama Party turned out to be delightful, with a very fun vibe.

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Strange & Norrell, Wine to Water, The Egyptian Revolution, and The Dream of the Celt

This week’s book reviews (with the exception of #1, which is just an irresistible indulgence) are dedicated to people who want to save the world.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an absolute delight: witty, intelligent, exciting, and original.

I am addicted to footnotes (I even like reading annotated critical editions of novels), so I adored the abundant tongue-in-cheek scholarly footnotes in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I also appreciated the length. No matter how quickly you read, you won’t be finishing it in an afternoon. At over 1000 pages, there is just so much of this book to love.

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Ramping Up the Mommy Wars

I woke up this morning to the above-pictured Time magazine cover and accompanying media storm. On the one hand, I love it. Breastfeeding is a normal thing, healthy both biologically and emotionally for mother and child. And the World Health Organization recommends that women nurse their children at least until age two for optimum health and development.

That’s why on the surface it’s confusing why such a photograph would be labeled by the Media as “controversial,” “shocking,” or “provocative.” Until I remember that it’s par for the course in our culture to sexualize every possible thing we can. Let’s face it, the fact that breastfeeding #1 involves breasts, and #2 in our society is typically relegated to bedrooms, out-of-the-way corners, and even bathrooms, causes certain people to view it as a subset of sex. Sad, but true.

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Fame

Guess what came out of my mailbox today? My copy of Bridges, the alumni magazine for Brigham Young University’s Kennedy Center for International Studies. And guess what I found on page 14? An article about the Tunisian Revolution. Written by me.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably already heard what I have to say about Tunisia. But if you think it’s as cool as I think it is to see my name in print, you can access the online version here.

Looks Like There’s Still Room in Tunisia for One Last Dictator

Can I tell you again how awesome Tunisia is? At the Friends of Syria meeting on Monday, Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia’s interim president (chosen just recently in December by the Constituent Assembly, the interim parliament) played an active role. He suggested only half ironically that Russia back up its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by offering him asylum should he choose to abdicate. And today Marzouki put his money where his mouth is, and offered President Assad and his family political asylum in Tunisia itself.

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Pieces of Syria

This time last year I was in Tunisia, breathing the heady air of revolution, and observing curfew every night to stay out of gunfights between the army and the rogue police still loyal to ousted president Ben Ali. Egypt had followed close on Tunisia’s heels, and Qaddafi’s Libya was teetering. But as of yet, despite widespread unrest across the Middle East, Syria was still as silent as the grave.

Today in Tunisia, representatives of over seventy nations, (including the United States, but conspicuously missing China, Russia and Iran) are meeting to consider once again what can be done for the people of Syria. The party (known as “Friends of Syria”) was briefly crashed by several hundred Assad supporters who had been bussed to the hotel where the talks were being held. The infiltrators gained access to the hotel, but were eventually stopped at a security cordon.

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Benvenuto

I absolutely cannot stop listening to this song, so I thought I’d share it with you. It is the official version, so you have to actually go to YouTube to watch it. But it’s worth it.

httpv://youtu.be/zNtDe7hfETQ

Fashionable Italian hippies recreating Woodstock in Amsterdam, and Laura Pausini by firelight. What’s not to love?