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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Friday Reads | Essays, Memoirs, Religion, Comics, Translated & Middle Grade Fiction

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Hi there! I'm Jen. This is Remembered Reads. And this is going to be a Friday reads video.

There were a couple of books that I was reading near the end of November that I

haven't talked about yet - one of which was Lee Maracle's "My Conversations with

Canadians" Which is the writer Lee Maracle talking about conversations that

she's had about settler and indigenous conversations in a Canadian context from

the 60s to the current day. Her angle is quite powerful because it looks at the

construction of First Nations and makes the point that if a nation has

self-determination it wouldn't have all the restrictions that the Canadian

federal government has on the nations of the First Nations. The federal government

determines who has status and "status" being essentially citizenship, if the

First Nations had self-determination you could decide who has status. And that's a

big deal because there are a lot of situations or for example if a woman

marries a non-status man her children don't have status. But if a man marries

a non-status woman they do. So there's a lot of discussion of when people say

First Nations it sounds good it sounds as though you're acknowledging

nationhood but without the rights of nationhood it's just lip service

essentially. She also talks about the changing the demographics of the

literary world within Canada. She talks about going to readings, for example in

the 70s, where she would be the only woman in the room

and the only indigenous person. And how that changed slowly but often she's the

only one of those two identities even now. And there's also discussion of the

way information that under normal circumstances would have been

transmitted between generations was halted and then has to be paid for later.

One of the points that she makes is that because so many generations were sent to

residential school they were not able to learn the skills or the information that

a couple of generations ahead of them would have had but non-indigenous

anthropologists went and talked to those grandparents, great-grandparents,

whichever - and may have written down or even patented things that they found out.

Which means that then the younger generations of indigenous people who

were basically cut off from the original information have to go to these

anthropologists or business people who are then selling it,

when they should have had the right to the information to begin with. And I

think both that and the nationhood element are things that I haven't read a

lot of elsewhere so I thought that was quite powerful if I had an issue with

this book it was that a few times she presents a little bit of information

that is really that's just not true. And it's not necessarily anything that's

core to the argument. There's one point where she talks about trigonometry being

"European mathematics" and I just thought well, the father of trigonometry was

Persian. And most of the complex mathematics that she's brushing off as

"European mathematics" are actually West Asian or Middle Eastern. So the whole

idea of "European mathematics" is, it's incorrect. And I understand the point she

that she's making about indigenous vs. settler but the label European is

incorrect. Because if she just said "settler" it would have made more sense.

And similarly there's another point where she's talking about the way gender

roles are impacted by language. And I mean I certainly agree that language

impacts the way you see the world but her presentation of how those interact

is just not true in a global context. She makes the comment that like

non-indigenous Canadians should learn an indigenous language, because indigenous

languages don't have for example the heavy gendering that settler languages

like French, Spanish, Portuguese have or the gendered pronouns that English has.

And the issue with that is one it's not universally true of indigenous languages -

Mohawk has gendered pronouns. And it's not true globally the majority of human

languages actually don't have gendered pronouns and it has nothing to do with

whether those countries are less patriarchal or whether they're less

imperialistic. I mean Hungarian, Turkish, Mongolian - they don't have gendered

pronouns. It's very common for languages not to have gendered pronouns and to

present it as an indigenous versus settler thing is just not accurate. And

it's not accurate regarding imperialism or sexism in any given society. I thought

those were kind of weaknesses but still overall the book itself is having a lot

of conversations that you don't necessarily see every day in regard to

settler indigenous conversation. Another book that I started in November

and haven't talked about yet was Reza Aslan's "No god but God the evolution and

origins of Islam" Which I had expected to have a lot more information about

pre-Islamic Arabia - and it doesn't. It may be the first 15 pages and the rest

of it is essentially a history of basically covering the timeframe of the

first four caliphs of Mecca, and then kind of a Q&A of frequently asked

questions in the back and a glossary. It is very basic and very simple I think

it's primarily aimed at an American audience who I said this in when I did

that 1k q and A's I answered a question about the differences in US and

Canadian culture. And when I was living in the US I found a lot of people know

nothing about Islam. And I think this book is trying to give the kind of 101. I

do think the author has some slight biases that come through but it's so

basic that there isn't really room for a lot of that. Like in the glossary there

were a few terms that had a very practical definition when I think

there's a lot more discussion and multiple definitions of things, but I

think for the starter kit that I guess this is meant to do be I think it was

fine. It wasn't what I was looking for, but I mean if you that's what you're

looking form that's what that is. So I don't have a lot to say about it.

But you know if you don't know who the first four caliphs of Mecca were, I guess

you could read this book and find out. Next up some books that I actually started

actually in December! This is "I Hope We Choose Love: a trans girls notes from the

end of the world" by Kai Cheng Thom. she's the author of the poetry collection "a

place called no homeland" which was I think brought of my favorite poetry

collections of the past few years. And she talks in this about basically intra

community conversations some of which is from a general socially progressive

angle, some of which is from a generally queer angle, some of it is specifically

trans women or trans feminine perspective. And I thought a lot

of the conversations were quite powerful. She talks a lot about the idea the

harshness within communities that prevents that makes people afraid to

progress conversations if they're afraid of getting something wrong.

And I thought that was a really interesting conversation. Some of the

conversations that she's having our community discussions that are so

specific like there there's one bit where she seems to be talking

specifically about people who would have been in a particular scene in Montreal

ten years ago. Being outside of that I don't have an opinion positively or

negatively on anything like that, because it is outside of my experience and she's

clearly talking to people within that experience primarily. So as a whole I

thought it was worth reading and I think the more communities that you are

familiar with or belong to that she is talking about these in her community

discussions the better this will probably be for you. But yeah I thought

this was well worth reading. And it is a quick read. Next up I picked up the

fourth volume of The Wild Storm. I talk about this all the time I had read these

in floppies but I still wanted to pick this up because I do think this is the

best superhero book I've read in years. This is written by Warren Ellis and

drawn by John Davis-Hunt. It is the reinvention of the Wildstorm universe.

And what we have in the end is basically a rebuilding of the authority the

characters are slightly different than they were in the original Wildstorm

label. I think all the changes either work for the better or are essentially

neutral so there is honestly nothing about this that I think was mishandled. I

just love this series. And if you like the less poppy style of superhero story,

I definitely recommend this without reservation. Before and after I read that

I was also reading Pajtim Stavoci's Crossing. This is an interesting novel it

is both more and less weird than the same author is My Cat Yugoslavia there

are fewer talking animals in this but it is I would say even less traditionally

structured. It's interesting, when I added this on Goodreads I looked at some other

people's reviews and when you look at their reviews they're about a third of

people believe that there are two narrators in this whereas I thought and

I would say two-thirds of the people felt that it was a single narrator and I

think the reason that there's the disagreement is that the main narrator

kind of takes on the personality traits of people that he encounters so one of

those people is this boy who grew up in the flat next door and because he takes

on some of that boy's characteristics it seems like we're getting the two of them

in their adult lives jumping back and forth, but I think it's more that the one

man grew up to take on the characteristics of not just his friend

but then other people as well as they go on. This jumps back and forth between

time and place the main character grew up in Albania during the end of the

Communist era. The earliest bits are set right around 1990 when there's this huge

social change it was the end of that whole state required atheism. The

main character is basically someone who decides as he leaves Albania and goes

first to Italy then to Spain then to the United States than to Germany that that

no element of identity should be fixed that nationality is irrelevant that

gender is irrelevant, that sexuality is irrelevant, none of that matters. So he

will present himself any way he needs to. So sometimes he will present himself as

male, sometimes female. When he immigrates to Italy he does it as an Albanian but

when he leaves Italy he pretends to be Italian in Spain, and then Spanish in the

United States, Bosnian in Germany, Turkish in Finland. And

the back story changes depending on where he came from the last place that

he lived but also the people that he meets and he absorbed some of their

stories into himself. So is he such a person in flux or is he

just a compulsive liar? I saw a few people who'll compare this to the carrot

main character and the Talented mr. Ripley, taking on somebody else's life

but he's not really taking on one person's life he's taking on different

bits of lives. So I thought this was really interesting, but it is odd and I

don't think it will be to everyone's tastes. There is also a relatively

graphic rape scene in here that I think will turn people off.

I thought this was really interesting and compelling on the complete opposite

side when it comes to tone I also read a middle-grade novel this is roll with it

by Jamie Sumner. This is about a 12 year old girl who loves baking. She lives with

her single mother in Nashville. Her grandfather who's in Oklahoma has

Alzheimer's and she and her mother go and move into her grandparents trailer

park home to look after the grandparents. And so there's a lot of talk about how

best to support the grandparents in this situation. There's a lot of class

discussion because she starts a new school and has to deal with the fact

that she and her friends who she carpools with are all the trailer park

kids, and that's all interesting. She's an avid Baker and so each chapter opens

with her writing to either a magazine editor or to a famous cook or chef or

Baker about recipes that she's trying out and all of that was quite charming.

The first 25% of this which is about their lives in Nashville I thought was

really weak. It was weirdly medical, it felt like it didn't need to be there. And

the main character has CP and uses a wheelchair. And in the final three

quarters of this I thought that was mostly dealt with in a way that was very

naturalistic because it wasn't really a focus except in the sense that the

school bus isn't accessible and there's discussion about whether she can get

into things and the kind of conversations that would naturally pop

up. But in the first quarter of this I did find myself thinking "I bet this was

written by the parent of somebody with CP" - And indeed in the back it says

that. And I feel like you shouldn't feel that kind of external voice. I don't

think it's ideal that I could tell that this was written by a parent and I think

that's a shame. So I thought that was too bad but the final three quarters of this

were decent and I like books that talk about food so as usual I was also

listening to an audiobook although the weather has turned which means I'm not

listening to them as much because I only listen to them where I'm walking the dog

and I think this may have expired in the past couple of days but I got about 3/4

of the way through it and that was John Cleese's memoir

So Anyway. It is read by the author, which is brilliant because occasionally

he laughs at bits and pieces. And it is a full memoir of his entire life he talks

about his parents during his childhood he talks about things like when he

finished his a-levels it was the same year that the UK did away with mandatory

service so there was a double cohort a cohort of people going to university so

he ended up teaching for two years because he got into university but they

weren't going to take him for two years because they were taking these people

who had been doing their military service first. So he talks - I mean it's

it's kind of delightful to hear about his teaching experiences because so many

of those ended up becoming fodder for his comedy writing later. Hearing about

how BBC television and radio worked in the 1960s about how they lived as this

kind of TV culture was changing is all really brilliant stuff it's less

laugh-out-loud funny than some comedian memoirs are but when the chuckles happen

they're genuine and sometimes he laughs at his own memories as he's reading them

to you which I thought was additionally charming so if you are a fan of John

Cleese's - any of his properties that he's written - I think it's definitely worth

reading or listening to. Because you do find out a lot of facts story and a lot

of things that were based on actual experiences of his and it is just great

fun and I wish I'd finished it cuz I'm pretty sure it's now returned iselft

to the library. I guess technically the first couple of a couple of those things

qualified during November for nonfiction November and the in digital and these

three would qualify for the queer lit read-a-thon that was happening the first

week of December as well. So yeah. So that was all fairly positive. If you've read

any of these I'd love to hear what you thought of them. I think maybe I'll end

this video instead of the usual dog video I might add the bulletin board

from the library. Because I felt like filming that yesterday and I don't know

what I'm gonna do with them if I don't put it one of these. Anyway, that's it for now.

Ciao!

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