Make the Right Choice

Every moment of every day, we have to make a choice.  Each of us will choose what we will allow into our lives.  This decision affects what we do and what we say.  There are many influences vying for our attention.  Some of them are good, and some of them are bad.  Yet in the end, the responsibility for how we act and what we say falls to each individual.  Such were my thoughts as I read Angie Thomas’s book, The Hate U Give.

One of the points about the book that was extremely disturbing was the reference to Black Jesus.  Besides the obvious fact that Jesus was a Jew, I found this to be heartbreaking.  Too many times in history deities were created in mans’ image because that made them easier to control.  This also allowed the person creating his/her ideal deity off the hook from following what God/Jesus actually said and did.  Jesus’s message never had anything to do with skin color.  He also didn’t blend doctrines from made-man religions, such as the characters in the book do, to come up with Chrislam.  Even more chilling was when Ms. Thomas blasphemously compared spray-painted signs reading “black-owned business” to the blood of the Lamb as a means by which the stores wouldn’t be burned during a riot.

Also disconcerting were the broad, sweeping generalizations Ms. Thomas made regarding white people.  Through her story, we learn this is the very thing she scorns when it comes from white people.  Yet the duplicity was overwhelming.  Throughout the book, the protagonist, Starr, made gross assumptions about white people and police officers as if she could not only read their minds, but knew for a fact what they thought and believed.  In her mind, that made it true.  The sad fact was that Starr’s behavior and opinions were learned.  The cycle of hatred was instilled in her life because of prejudiced statements she heard her father, Maverick, repeat.

Ms. Thomas would also have the reader believe that doing wrong is noble as long as it is for the right reason.  The character Khalil lost his mother to drugs; he saw it destroy her life.  This, however, was not enough to keep Khalil from selling drugs to other people in his own community.  He had a job but walked away from it to sell drugs.  Per Khalil, the money was for food and utilities.  It was also for Jordan sneakers and gold chains.  This reminded me that we are our brother’s keeper all the time.  Not just after the fact.  If the whole community could pull together to collect money for Khalil’s funeral, why couldn’t they pull together to buy food and pay for utilities?

The profanity in the book was appalling.  Maybe that’s the way some people talk, but for a teenager, I found it to be inexcusable.  It’s used so casually, and it doesn’t add anything to the story.  Neither does the promiscuity portrayed, especially among the teenagers.  I suspect Ms. Thomas would like for you to believe that everyone is doing it, so that makes it okay, but I disagree on both points.

The book promoted lawlessness and compared police officers who want to make a difference to slave owners.  It endorsed disrespect for any authority figure of a different race and condoned violence and chaos as an acceptable response to disappointment and as outlet for anger.  It failed to address the problems within the community which are taking more lives than police officers, it denounced anyone who told the truth, and it threw morals and ethics to the wind.  In short, the lessons to be learned are that different laws should apply to different people based on race and whatever feels good for you to do is what you should do regardless of the harm it may cause.

Diversity is good.  I prefer to think of it as our individual uniqueness because what makes us unique goes far beyond skin color.  When these differences are used to point the finger and lay blame, then they are being used for the wrong reasons.  Instead of breathing life, this book spews death.  It perpetuates hatred over love.  It causes division instead of generating unity.  It aims all this negativity at teenagers who are, despite their own beliefs, still children.  I suspect this is done because teens are already a volatile mix of thoughts and emotions.  They rarely take the time to research what they hear and see to determine whether or not it’s true.  And without guidance, they may believe this one-sided story is true.

There are many more errors in The Hate U Give.  I took six pages of notes, initially intending to refute all of them.  Instead, I decided to break the cycle and speak peace.

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

tabloid-cityI enjoy sharing reviews for books, movies, and music in the section of my blog by the same title. Every now and then, I mention one that didn’t quite hit the mark in my opinion because I also enjoy generating discussion on the material especially if a follower disagrees with my review.

Such is the case with Pete Hamill’s novel, Tabloid City. I would never discourage anyone from reading this book because I allow people to come to their own conclusions but mostly because I’m hoping he or she will point out what I missed. Until then, I believe this novel would appeal solely to people who lived or are living in New York and/or are currently employed or retired journalists. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into those categories.

It’s not that I find New York and journalism boring, but the way both subjects were presented in Tabloid City did nothing to pique my interest regarding them. It’s not unusual for me to grab my phone while reading to Google something for reference even if it’s a subject with which I am familiar. Many of my favorite authors spur this kind of self-education in me, and I love it.

Let me also say that I adored Forever, North River, and Snow in August also by Pete Hamill, and that one mediocre book will not keep me from reading his other works. Still, I’m not sure what the author was thinking when he wrote this jargon-filled tale. I know he writes his passions into his works (New York and journalism), and while I can bestow an A for effort here, I cannot go much beyond a D- for the result.

tabloid-city-2Tabloid City is incredibly disjointed. It’s a scattering of stories that read like newspaper clippings replete with jagged backstory and each character’s knowledge of New York, other characters, events, etc. I kept searching for continuity in this laundry list of stories, something to tie them together or make me care for the characters. Slow going defines the novel until about page 104. The thin thread of a tale about a Muslim terrorist and his police officer father and another about the demise of newspapers and libraries saved the book; otherwise I’m left feeling that this was the framework for a better story handed off too soon.

Let me end on a positive note and encourage you to read the other three books by Pete Hamill I mentioned above. Also, I haven’t read the Sam Briscoe mystery/thriller trilogy written by Pete Hamill, but fans of the books will be happy to see Sam reappear in Tabloid City.

A Sour and Sweet Situation

a-sour-and-sweet-situation-3The first time Dr. John Welles meets diner owner Bea Turner, he’s entangled in an embarrassing misunderstanding between himself and the town police officer. People in Addison had stopped to watch the encounter, but the situation became unbearable when John spied the voluptuous brunette sauntering toward him and Officer Boyce.

John would come to know Bea quite well in later years, but at the moment, he wished she had chosen another time to deliver a lemon meringue pie to the burly cop. Bea’s laughter upon departure only worsened the doctor’s humiliation; he believed he hadn’t made a good first impression.

When I choose lemon meringue pie for the above-mentioned scene, I didn’t realize how perfectly the dessert complimented what took place. John’s attitude toward life had turned sour, but in the hands of Bea Turner, he would know sweetness again.

Bea Turner’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Single Crust:

1 c flour

¼ t salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced into ¼-inch pieces

½ c cold water with an ice cube

To make a bottom crust, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Work with your hands until the flour and butter combine to make pea-sized pieces. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and work through until you can form a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill for twenty minutes in the refrigerator.

a-sour-and-sweet-situationPreheat oven to 425°. Roll the dough on a floured surface to fit a nine-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges and prick the bottom and sides of the shell with a fork. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or baking beans. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, remove the baking weights and continue cooking for 10 minute in 5 minute increments or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Filling:

1 cup of sugar (I used raw)

2 T flour

3 T cornstarch

¼ t salt

1 ½ c water

2 lemons, juiced and zested

1 t vanilla

2 T unsalted butter

4 egg yolks, beaten

Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Cook the mixture over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil. Stir in the butter. In the thinnest thread possible, slowly pour the egg yolks into the hot mixture directly where you are whisking vigorously. This will keep the eggs from cooking and becoming scrambled eggs in your lemon filling. Continue cooking while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Strain the lemon filling through a wire mesh sieve to remove any pieces of zest. Pour into the baked pie shell.

Meringue:

4 egg whites

6 T sugar (I used white as the raw is too coarse for this step)

Pinch of cream of tartar

Whip the egg whites on a high speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pie and seal at the edges of the crust. Set the meringue in a 425° oven for eight minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool the pie on a wire rack until you can handle the edges of the pie plate and serve warm, or chill the pie in the refrigerator for a couple hours and serve cold.

Enjoy!

Tips for success:

Chill the beaters and bowl in which you will beat the egg whites for meringue

That pinch of cream of tartar is what will keep your egg whites from breaking down and becoming watery

If you must buy citrus out of season, and you don’t want to risk pricey eggs and butter on bitter fruit, I suggest a test batch of lemonade to see how the lemons are doing. Another trick if you absolutely must make lemon meringue pie when lemons aren’t in season is a teaspoon of pure lemon extract to help take the edge off. I prefer having faith in my lemons, but that’s not always possible. Makes me wonder why so much lemonade sells in the summer!

Here’s a wonderful article on choosing citrus and when it’s in season

Zane in the City

Love Me, Love My Dog

Love Me, Love My Dog

The following short story was written for a contest hosted by the American Kennel Club.  When I wrote it, I had my friend, Diana, in mind.  Diana is a member of the writers’ group I attend at the North Branch of the Stark County District Library.  She is a dog lover and owns an Italian Spinone.  Her beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, Targa, recently passed away.

Targa was an amazing dog who pulled a little cart.  She was the subject of several children’s stories Diana wrote.  Together they attended classes to certify Targa as a therapy dog.  Even though she didn’t pass, Diana’s love for Targa was evident whenever she talked about her.  My goal was to capture that love and channel it into a story about a dog owner and her pet.

I decided upon a hound for my story because of another friend’s fondness for them.  Hounds can be strong-willed beasts who will own you if you don’t lovingly, patiently train them.  Even then, you may find yourself bested from time to time.

You’ll want to make a cup of cocoa for this cold weather story.  Lucky for you, there just happens to be a recipe for cocoa on my blog under Edible Fiction.  It’s the perfect beverage for the tale that follows.  So, grab some cocoa, curl up under your favorite throw, make sure your four-footed friends are gathered around you, sit back, read and relax!

Zane in the City

 

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