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Are you an aspiring writer? Do you just like to read? If so, you might be interested in a newsletter geared for both those groups. You can subscribe to this free, interactive, monthly newsletter by filling out the subscription form wherever it appears or dropping me a line at Deliagoodroe(at)yahoo.com. Happy reading and writing!
Writer contributions are welcomed! One short story and one book review will be featured each month. We hope you will join us for this new and exciting peek at the books of today.
Anne Marie Jasper
Newsletter Dated: 11/4/2001 11:28:35 AM
Subject: Pens And People , November 2001
If you are receiving this newsletter twice, I apologize. I've just been notified that some of the people on the list didn't receive the whole newsletter. It would be helpful to me if you would drop a short note to: Deliagoodroe@yahoo.com to let me know whether or not you get this. Comments, questions, book reviews and story/poetry submissions are welcome as always. Thanks! :)
PENS and PEOPLE
November 1, 2001
Welcome Readers and Writers!
Although our lives have been put on hold to some degree in the last several weeks, the fact remains that we canít let a few terrorists stop us from enjoying freedom. Frankly, Iím pleased with the unexpected result of unity among Americans that was the direct result of the most vicious attack this country has ever known. Iím more determined than ever to go on with my life and I hope you are, too.
My e-mailboxes have been filled with comments, pictures, cartoons, poems, prayers and news releases since September 11. Some of those missives are very meaningful to me. I donít generally forward things I receive in the mail because it does more harm than good for the e-mail system for ten people to pass things on to ten more people, who pass it on to ten more, ad infinitum. I believe that people should take credit for their statements and that the photographers, graphic artists and writers should get credit for the things their minds produce. That being said, I hope you will include the name of the author when you pass on the things you love best to others.
Iíve spent a great deal of time writing this past month. I find it calming, even if itís just something I write for my own eyes. To me, the number one rule for a writer is to write something every day. Needless to say, every paragraph we produce isnít brilliant or worthy of publication. And we shouldnít expect it to be so. Still, the exercise itself is important. I have often found that one image, one phrase, one sentence or one potential title can bring forth a good story or even a complete novel. My own first full length novel was written shortly after my mother passed away. One memory led to another, then another. Six hundred and eighty five single spaced pages later, a book was written. Not necessarily a good book. Not even a book worthy of publication. Nevertheless, I proved to myself that it could be done.
To test the competition, I attended every writing class I could for the next several years. From those classes, I learned several things. First, in order for a story to be considered a story, it must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The characters must seem believable. Something about one of those characters must grab the readerís attention in order to make the story readable. Although one of my teachers insisted that the story plot must end in a change of view for one or more characters, I have read many novels where that wasnít the case. Some characters are more interesting in their refusal to change.
As I grew more confident, I joined a writersí group in my county and a few others on line. I was surprised to discover that other people were experiencing similar struggles to my own in launching their careers. All of us had what we considered to be more than our share of rejection letters from various publishers. Once in awhile, one of those naysayers passed along valuable tips to those receptive to the criticism in the spirit in which it was intended. Even more rarely, one of us had a story, article, or book accepted for publication. Those moments when one of us was deemed good enough fueled the passion to keep on trying.
As a reader, I started out in grade school with a library card. Every week or two, I visited the branch library in an old house not far from my own. There, I discovered a wealth of knowledge and entertainment. The main library, across town, gave me even more variety when I was in my teens. My parents both read voraciously, as did many of my brothers and sisters. Although my preference has always been fiction, I started checking out biographies, autobiographies and history. Some of those books had enough impact to change my mind about famous people who I thought I liked or disliked. Even today, I make it a practice to read at least two works of fiction and two of non-fiction each month. Sometimes, if Iím studying a certain interest, I read several books on the same subject in order to glean as much knowledge as possible. Reading brings me pleasure and writing brings me peace.
To be honest, I started this newsletter just to see if I could do it. I asked for help from my subscribers not only because Iím on shaky ground but also because Iíve always been interested in what other people are reading and writing. Iím hoping that interactively, we can all broaden our horizons. I hope that in time, my readers will overcome their timidness and send me some material to include with my own. Now, without further adieu, let me relay my offerings for this month.
BOOK REVIEW: by Anne Marie Jasper
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
by Andre Dubus III
Copyright 1999-2000 by Andre Dubus III
Published by W. W. Norton & Company
This tragic episode finds a former Iranian Air Force Colonel, forced to flee to California. Steeped in certain customs, he lives above his means in order to restore dignity to his family and their name. One day, this hard-working immigrant sees an opportunity to buy a house on the auction block for a price far less than its value. Although his own family is less than enthralled to move away from their expensive rented quarters, the Colonel forces the issue with them and winds up a stranger in his own house.
Unfortunately, a woman who is recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism has been ousted from this very house because she failed to pay her taxes during her years of stupor. The womanís first connection with the Iranian colonel comes when she parks in front of his house, the house she lost after inheriting it from her parents, and falls asleep in a drunken stupor. Through this woman, a police officer, married with children but enchanted by the woman reduced to living in her car and sympathetic to her needs gets involved in the story.
When the former addictís lawyer fails to deliver the house back into her hands, the terror for all parties escalates into an intriguing tale depicting love, honor, prejudice and ultimate tragedy.
Although the colloquial tones are sometimes difficult to follow, I highly recommend this novel by a brilliant author who has made a literary contribution by exposing nuances of several cultures within the United States.
BOOK REVIEW: by Anne Marie Jasper
By Lynette Iezzoni
Foreword by David McCullough
Copyright 1999-2000 TV Books, L.L.C.
This book, although I did not know it at the time, was published as companion reading for a section on the 1918 influenza epidemic which was part of an ongoing documentary on PBS called The American Experience.
The author, Lynette Iezzoni, has gathered letters, interviews and statistics from various sections of the United States depicting the life and times of that period. The conditions that allowed the epidemic to spread sound accurate. Various government officials scoffed at the severity of the problem, which killed more American soldiers during World War I than enemy fire. Those who took it seriously were often belittled for spreading panic. Statistics of people who died after they contracted the disease are chilling, as is the speed with which they succumbed. Those who lived through it and were interviewed all comment on the mysterious way the single most horrifying event in their lives was obscured from history. Although the epidemic spread world-wide, it wasnít until years later that various countries compared notes and discovered the virulent strain of swine flu that sucked the breath from millions and left so many orphans, widows, and widowers.
For the history buffs among us, I think you will find this an informative read which has been well researched and expertly written.
The Writerís Corner contains two submissions this month.
The story by E.E.Sniklit depicts places of squalor and people in adverse conditions that truly exist. The name of the story is ďNadia.Ē The City of the Dead is a real place and the fictional family could have been real.
In Cairo, Egypt, there is an area known to western expatriates as the City of The Dead. In years past, acres of crypts were constructed, meant to be a final resting place for hundreds. At some point in time, the owner of the property, seeing a need for houses for the living and a way to line his pockets, began to rent out the tombs as homes for the living. Urns and boxes filled with the dead, taken from the crypts now sit outside and the rooms are occupied by living souls too poor to afford even the most meager apartment. It was here, in the City of the Dead, where Nadia al Biyad grew up, cramped into a two-room tomb with her parents and two brothers.
Nadiaís mother cleaned houses for a pittance for more affluent Egyptian families. Although she would rather have worked in one the Western homes, where she would make more money, her husband forbade her to associate with any European or American. He insisted that the mere presence of those people in Egypt would ultimately cause Allah, his god, to bestow wrath upon the Moslem population and those who associated with foreigners would suffer worst of all. His tirades only made his children more curious about the Khawagaiin he so furiously ranted against. The fact that Nadiaís father didnít work at all did nothing to lessen his stranglehold over the family. His maleness was the only qualification he needed to rule to roost.
Each day, Nadiaís mother covered herself so that only her hands, flip-flop clad feet, and her sorrowful eyes could be seen and left home to clean someone elseís house. Shortly after she left, her sons went about their daily business. Sometimes the boys hopped aboard a crowded bus and went to the pyramids to beg tourists for coins. Other times, they crept through crowded alleys of the Khan Al Khalili seeking favors from shopkeepers and shoppers alike. Rarely, they brought the money they scavenged home to add to the family coffers. Nadia, based on the premise that she was female, was never allowed to go out in public without a member of her family. At times, she was a nuisance to her father, and, at times she was an adored doll. The begetter of this brood spent his days sleeping and his nights smoking hashish and cigarettes in one of many teashops.
A day came when Nadiaís father decided that she was too active to stay home with him. His sleep time was diminished by the four year old child who sang too loudly or talked too much in her attempt to entertain herself during the absence of the family. At first, Nadiaís mother took her to work with her, where she was left on the sidewalk in front of one apartment building or another or in the courtyard in one of the more affluent homes. Nadiaís mother lost one of her cleaning accounts because her daughter demanded too much attention. Then it became her brothersí responsibility to keep track of Nadia.
At first, the two brothers resented the presence of their sister. However, the middle son, Essam, noticed that foreigners were enchanted by the beautiful little girl. He took sole responsibility for the child and parted company with Hussein, his older brother. In effect, Essam was using his sister to spirit extra money from unwitting strangers.
As time progressed, Nadia became a beautiful young woman. Essam found employment for her as a barmaid, where she earned considerable money in tips. What he didnít plan was for his sister to fall in love with an American. He wasnít aware that her most cherished dream was to marry someone who would take her far away from Cairo and the misery of having to live in poverty in the city of the dead. Nor was he aware that his oldest brother had been spirited away by the Moslem Brotherhood whose credo was eradication of every non-Moslem in Egypt.
Those two factors led to the death of Nadia al Biyad. When Hussein, her oldest brother, learned of her place of employment, he set out to rid her of the wicked belief that foreigners were good company. Before Essam could stop him, Hussein beat Nadia to death and left it to Essam to dispose of her body. As her brother, it was Husseinís responsibility to defend the family honor.
Now Nadia sleeps in a shallow grave in the shadow of the pyramids. Essam is in the United States praying to Allah that his brother Hussein and others like him who plot terror in the alleys of Cairo will be stopped before they bring disaster upon the world. Nadiaís mother still cleans houses for other people and her father still sleeps away his days and spends his nights in the teashops sipping and smoking.
The poem that follows was written by D.M. Whipp, on a sleepless night. I received it in a forum I subscribe to on Yahoo and asked her permission to share it with you:
When engines roared and hatred flew
and innocence was lost
In twisted steel and broken lives Ė
there lay Freedom's cost
When heroes crawled amongst the ruins
in desperate search of life
Their burning eyes bore witness to
Freedom's awful price
When travelers stood to wrest the course
of hatred from its goal
They knew full well they gave their lives
in paying Freedom's toll
When soldiers proud donned uniforms
for battles all too near
They knew they would not all return
for Freedom's dues are dear
When from the sorrow a nation rose
in determined unity
With heads held high, prepared to fight
for Freedom is not free
D.M. Whipp, September 20, 2001
In closing, let me wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Ours will be spent here in El Paso. That is it for this month, my friends! I hope you enjoyed this issue of Pens and People and that you will submit your own stories, poems, essays or other ideas for the next issue.
Copyright 2001 by Anne Marie Jasper, El Paso, TX