The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowdrop by H.M. Bouwman

At the moment, this is the book I’m reading.  I’m writing about it here because I think the book has a lot to say about colonialism and race and because the writer currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

Genre:  Fantasy, Adventure

 

Target Audience:  Ages 10-14 although anyone can enjoy the story. 

 

Plot Summary:  Two 12 year old girls try to save their island from conniving, evil politicians.  Each girl comes from a different background.  Lucy is one of the Colay, the original inhabitants of the island group.  Snowdrop is the daughter of the leaders of newcomers (prisoners from England destined to 7 years of indentured servitude in Virginia until they get shipwrecked on the islands).  Snowdrop’s parents die through mysterious circumstances.  Snowdrop flees to avoid being kidnapped by the politicians.  Lucy flees her island to save her brother from the fate of all the other native men, being turned to stone. 

 

Lucy and Snowdrop start as grudging friends, but eventually learn to trust each other.

 

Best Parts of the Book:  Humor.  Phillip the Tutor with his grandiose ideas and cowardliness is the funniest character.  In him and his writings you can see how explorers and their recorders made sense of and tried to rewrite their experiences. 

 

Phillip the Tutor, Lucy, and Snowdrop all grew and transformed in realistic ways throughout the book.  This gave the book a realistic and hopeful mood even though the book contained some fantastic elements.

 

Colonialism: 

  • English renamed cities on the islands. For example, Lucy’s hometown is Sunset, but the English renamed it Dover.

 

  • The Colays are used as a scapegoat by conniving politicians. They blame the crimes they committed themselves to increase their political power on the Colay.

 

  • The Colays are punished when they try to profit by trading their own resources. For example, Lucy’s father wants to trade in the native rock, lifestone. The English conniver asks him where the lifestone is so that the English can control the trade. Lucy’s father refuses to tell and the Colays are punished.

 

  •  The Colay are seen as inferior. The connivers see Snowdrop with Lucy. They try to divide the girls by mocking Snowdrop for spending time with Lucy.

Recommended?  Yes!  Short, entertaining read with some great truths in it.

Advertisements

Response to “Can I Whup Your White Child?”

Thanks to chineseambassador and thatindianbloke on ColorBlindCupid for a thought provoking discussion about race.  This post is a response to their discussion.

 

Racism does exist.  Below, are some of my personal experiences with racism.  Some of it is contradictory, which I think expresses how convoluted and confused this has become.

 

I live in a large urban city on the East Coast and work as a librarian in a city library.  Sometimes kids will call me “white b—” when I tell them they have to leave due to their bad behavior.  They say that just because it is the something they think will get under my skin the most.  Clearly, they’ve learned those words up from somewhere.  I’ve had a drunken man make fun of my hair when I was the only white woman on the subway train.  The train was packed with people-some joined in the laughter and some ignored it.  I felt angry and frightened. 

 

On the other hand, the kids here are facing some terrible conditions and a lot of it is a result of racism which created entrenched poverty.  Have any of you seen or worked near the inner cities?  I don’t think anyone can see them and still say that kids in that environment have a fair shot at life.  Are white people responsible?  In some ways, yes for letting these conditions exist, creating policies that perpetuate them, and for speaking divisive rhetoric.  In some ways, no of course white people are not responsible.  As has been said, no white person living today had an African-American slave or created Jim Crow laws.  It depends on how you look at the question.

 

I don’t think that race is the only way to look at things.  Many Hispanic and white kids also face tremendous odds in trying to create better lives for themselves.  I heard a while ago that affirmative action should be based on family income instead of race. Perhaps that is a good, fairer option?

 

 

I’ve also been told by young african-american girls “you have beautiful hair.  I want hair like yours when I grow up”.  Girls here love Barbie and princesses, like young girls do everywhere.  (It is ridiculous that Disney will just be releasing their first movie with an African-American princess this spring)  The library received a bunch of masks for the kids as part of a promotion for the re-release of “Sleeping Beauty”.  There were purple and black dragon masks.  There were also masks with flowing blonde hair.  I admit I felt unsure whether to hand the masks out or not. 

 

 

Satya has had his own share of bad experiences.  When my husband ran into a problem at work last year, he had some horrendous things said to him.  He faced indifference and injustice-the attitude was, “You Indian guys do things like this all the time.  We can send you back.”  This was said to his face by an administrator without any investigation into the situation.  He was believed guilty without due process despite working there for a few years and despite being well known and liked in his department.  One of my African-American co-workers told him “You are a black man now” and told him to expect to face a lot of racism.  Eventually, the problem got straightened out somewhat but not without turning our lives upside down and forcing us to make some quick decisions.

 

 

In other ways, he seems to be in the middle.  The white people think of him as white and the African-Americans think of him as one of them to some extent.  It is confusing though.  Indians are not considered a minority, so there are not any affirmative action benefits.  This is what Satya has said and what his experience is.  Does anyone else know about that?  Or is that only in certain fields?

 

Being called a “white b” or being told “You Indian guys” are not everyday occurrences.  Everyday racism is more in tones of voice, body language, looks, and “feelings”.  It is feeling vaguely threatened when stopping at a gas station.  It is in how people won’t sit next to you on the bus unless it is nearly full.

 

 

I agree with chineseambassador and thatindianbloke that the popular perception in the U.S. is that if you are mixed, you are the ethnicity of the darker parent.  That is what I’ve observed anyway.  Unfair, yes.  Do I like it?  No.  Will this change much and within the next 20 years?  I doubt it.  We will likely live in an area that is mixed so maybe that will help some. 

 

How will we deal with it when the time comes for us to have kids of our own?  I don’t know exactly.  Satya thinks that the best thing is to expose them to a lot of his culture-regular trips to India, learning Kannada, being vegetarian, having a home altar with Hindu gods and saints, exposing them to Hindu mythology, celebrating Indian holidays, watching Kannada and Hindi movies.  He thinks that this will give them a firm identity and confidence.

 

How do I feel about that?  Well, traveling is something I enjoy and I’ve always wanted to go to India. I love languages and am trying to learn some Kannada myself.  I don’t kid myself that I will become fluent, but I do hope to read signs and carry on basic conversations.  I have visions of him and the kids sitting around the dinner table speaking Kannada to each other and me being completely clueless.  I  plan on reading the kids Bible stories like my dad read to me and also some of the Norse mythological stories because they are part of my heritage, what I heard when I went to Swedish summer camp, and are just great stories. 

 

Vegetarian?  Well, I figure it is best for health and for the environment.  To some extent, I do regret that my kids will never taste traditional Swedish Christmas food like lutefisk and korv (homemade sausage made with pig and potato). It does mean some traditions will die.  On the other hand, the Swedes in Sweden rarely eat lutefisk anymore themselves-it was the poor man’s food in 1800s Sweden because it is nearly indestructible.

 

Holidays and home altar?  I like holidays.  We will still celebrate Catholic holidays (St. Nick, Christmas, Easter, etc.) and American holidays.  We will put up a Christmas tree.

The trouble will be trying to celebrate them here because I don’t have a Lingayat background.  Some holidays he is unclear of himself because they are mostly for women or because he hasn’t been back to India in nearly 10 years.  Many of the smaller Lingayat holidays will likely fall by the wayside unless we are in India when they are celebrated. The home altar I think is kind of nice.  Some Catholics have them today.  I grew up with statues of saints, and a crucifix on my bedroom wall.  The home devotional part is comforting and a bit familiar to me. 

 

 

All in all, racism is here.  We will try to raise our kids to be strong and to be open to others.  We will try to remind ourselves to be the same.

Celebrating Deepavali

Today is the first day of Deepavali (or Diwali).  This is an important holiday for Satya’s family and for many other Indian families.  I don’t know much about it at the moment.  I know it celebrates light and the victory of good vs evil. 

 

Here is what I do know:

 

Accessories:  small votive candles put around yard and home, large lit star for front of the house, new clothes for family.  In India, people set off firecrackers.

 

Preparation:  cleaning house, decorating home, buying new clothes, cooking sweets.

 

Food:  As this is a very holy time of year the vegetarian diet gets stricter.  Eggs are not supposed to be eaten (they aren’t supposed to be eaten anyway, but especially now).

 

What we’ve done:

Satya cooked carrot halwa yesterday and Saturday.  He says this is something that is usually made for Deepavali and other festivals.

 

Similarities to other religions:

The lit star reminds me of how around Christmas Christians often put lit stars on their homes.  The lamps remind me of Hannukah.

 

As you can see, I have much to learn!

 

How will you celebrate the holiday?

Nammura Mandara Hoove; My Second Kannada Movie

We finished another Kannada movie this past weekend, “Nammura Mandara Hoove”.  Satya says the title roughly translates to “Flower in my Native Place”.  He picked out the movie because he wanted me to see what North Karnataka looks like.  Apparently, it was filmed within 20 miles of his mother’s village. 

What is it about:

A young man (Shivaraj Kumar) from the movie/music business travels to North Karnataka to visit a friend and to find local talent.  While there, he falls in love with the same young woman (Prema) his friend (Ramesh) has loved silently for years.  The young woman falls in love with the first young man.  Who has a happy ending?  Who ends up alone?

Songs:

I thought the songs were very beautiful.  In some ways, the songs sound almost Chinese to me.  The songs and dances are very different from those in Bollywood movies-more subdued and with fewer instruments. 

 Reactions:

I thought the story was fairly realistic in some ways like how the love triangle was resolved.  In other ways, I thought that some things were overwrought-why would the tribal girl agree to pretend to have an affair with the movie/music producer?  I would think that in real life if word leaked out that she was having a relationship out of marriage her life would be extremely difficult and her chances of marriage would be ruined. 

 

Again, I am wondering why the physical standards for male Kannada actors are so low.  For Shivaraj I guess it makes sense as his father is the legendary Dr. Raj Kumar.  Ramesh seems to be a fairly successful actor in his own right too.  Ramesh and Shivaraj Kumar definitely are not “hot”, “cute”, or even attractive.  They were both overweight and Shivaraj needed a haircut.  Am I the only one thinking this? 

 

Another thing I’ve noticed with both Bollywood and Kannada films is how “touchy” they are.  Do people in India just touch more in general than Americans?  I don’t mean sexual touching, but friendly, affectionate touching and playful slapping/hitting.  From the movies, this appears to be true.

 

I thought it was interesting how the movie showed a variety of different people.  There was the local North Karnataka man wearing an earring in each ear, part of a gourd on his head for a hat, shirt, and longi.  The young tribal woman wore a dress more like a Polynesian dress: above the ankles, over one shoulder, belt at waist.  She had tattoos on her forehead and chin.  Her hair was bunched in a ponytail on one side of her head.  Unfortunately, the local was in the movie mostly for comedic relief and the tribal girl nearly got used by Shivaraj’s character.

 Overall:

I’d recommend the movie for its scenery and music. I liked how Prema got to yell at them at the end and how she got them to behave like adults finally.  On the other hand, I thought that the movie was slow and the guys immature.  The captions were also a bit off in some places.  5/10

Learning the Kannada Alphabet, Part 3

Yesterday I made good on my promise to renew my efforts to learn Kannada.  I went through the alphabet and now have all my flashcards made for the alphabet.  I think the count is 16 vowels and 34 consonants.  My heart fell when I discovered that all does not end there….there are more combinations that must be memorized-all the combinations of consonants and vowels.  Those are called “kaagunitha”.  I’m trying to look at the bright side though…maybe written Kannada matches up better to spoken Kannada than written and spoken English?

 

Besides memorizing a new alphabet, detecting and reproducing the sounds is tricky too.  For example, there are two “l” sounds that sound very much the same to me.  The example words for those letters are “lathe” and “kalavu”.  For “lathe” the tongue is straight and goes right up to the front of the mouth.  For “kalavu” the “l” is made by curling the tongue at the top of the middle of the mouth.  I am still working on making that “l” sound.

 

I’m a little optimistic because that things are starting to make sense.  For example, many syllables have hard and soft versions ( “soft dha” and “hard Dha”).  They are the same character except for a dot at the bottom of the character.  Some words are very telling of the culture too.  The word for “cow” and “wealth” are the same except one is hard and one is soft.  I guess it points again to how beloved and sacred cows are to Kannadigas.  (There is also a compliment for a person that says, “tame as a cow”)

 

I think I will skip ahead to the lessons on phrases though.  I think it helps to see how the letters fit together.  Satya will become important for this part though because some of the phrases are laughable to him and his family because they are overly formal.  Already, with the alphabet lesson there are some words that are completely unfamilar to him and some words that are pronounced much differently.  My plan again is to rely on flash cards.  I’ll have the phrase written on one side in Kannada and then on the back will have it transcribed to English with the translation. 

 

Besides flashcards, listening to Kannada songs, and watching Kannada movies what other language learning techniques are there?  I suppose after I master some phrases Satya and I can do practice conversations.

 

My main motivation now is learning as much as possible before we get to India.  I do not want to just smile dumbly at his elderly aunts.  Another question…what kinds of phrases will be most useful in talking to elderly aunts from Karnataka or is it universal (“how are you?” “isn’t the weather nice?” “you have a beautiful house”?)?

Om Shanti Om

This weekend Satya and I watched “Om Shanti Om”.  We both really enjoyed the movie-the bright colors, the music, the suspense, the humor, and twist at the end.  It is an unusual movie-I think it is the first one I’ve ever seen about reincarnation.  I thought the fire scene where Om and Shanti die was very intense-I covered my eyes for that part of the movie.

 

The movie stretches credulity in parts.  Besides the reincarnation part, there is the transformation of Om #2.  When we first see Om #2 he is a successful Bollywood star, shallow, with an inflated ego.  Once he realizes his mission and meets his old friend and mother, he is suddenly transformed into a more mature character.  I didn’t think that was very believable.  On the other hand, the story, music, and humor swept me along so I didn’t have much time to complain.

 

I can’t say it had much to do with Karnataka or South India.  We just watched it for fun.  The movie did show some South Indian stereotypes. The Shanti look-alike comes from Bangalore and is ultra-modern with her carefree, irreverent attitude blowing bubblegum bubbles in everyone’s faces.  One of the song numbers poked some fun at old historical South Indian movies-the man with the bare chest, very stylized hair, two earrings and the girl wearing pants and doing different arm and leg movements.  Satya thought the cheoreography to that dance number was extremely inaccurate and too much Bollywood. 

 

We heard about the movie from watching the weekly Bollywood show on public television.  It is the one where viewers can request their favorite songs from popular movies.  We saw some of the songs, liked the music and the bright colors and then checked NetFlix to see if the movie was available and ordered it. 

 

If you are looking for an entertaining movie with humor, great song, and bright colors be sure to try “Om Shanti Om”!

Malgudi Days

I took Ashwini’s suggestion and watched “Malgudi days” (through NetFlix).  Earlier, I  had checked out the book “Malgudi Days” from my local library.  So far, I highly recommend both the book and tv show.  Malgudi Days focuses on a small village in South India named Malgudi circa 1935.  Both the book and show are made up of short stories about everyday people-the mailman, a young boy, a local shepherd, a miserly grandfather.  For Satya, “Malgudi Days” reminds him of his mother’s village.  He also remembers watching “Malgudi Days” in school.  For Westerners, the closest thing might be the James Herriot books and tv show-universal, everyday stories about a specific region and time.

 

The stories are not very sugar-coated or like a glossy Bollywood movie.  Some stories are funny or cute like the story of young Swami and the thief.  Some are sad like the story of the dog and the blind, elderly beggar.  One episode poked fun at wealthy American tourists.  Some pose great dilemmas-should the postman deliver a letter and thus possibly destroy a young girl’s chance at a good marriage?  Another was a ghost story…was the mechanic possessed by the ghost of the elderly temple caretaker?  (I thought that was one of the best ghost stories I’ve seen-enthralling because of the storytelling and not any over the top gore or effects.)

 

One aspect I thought was a little strange was that in the show, nearly everybody spoke in English.  Only the old man with the two goats spoke in Hindi which made sense as the whole point of the story was that he couldn’t understand the American tourist and the American tourist couldn’t understand him.  Was this because the author of “Malgudi Days” R.K. Narayan wrote in English?  Was the remake in English too? 

 

We’ve gotten through the first disc of episodes and have gotten through half of the second disc.  I’m looking forward to more great stories and heartily recommend “Malgudi Days”!