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.

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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.

Personality Map of the U.S.

Ever notice how places seem to have unique personalities?  Or feel like certain areas “seem like home”?  A researcher from Cambridge, Jason Rentfrow, confirmed this with his personality map of the U.S.  Certain personality traits seem to be more common in some areas than others.  Rentfrow asked people all over the U.S. to complete online personality tests.  The tests categorized personalities according to:

  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to Experience

 I’ve had the experience of living in many different places for educational and career reasons.  Some of his findings do match my own findings. An article in the Boston Globe says

Or perhaps, personality is influenced by our surroundings. More emotionally stable people who live in places where neurotic types form the majority may become irritable and stressed because the people around them are getting to them.

Satya and I have experienced this on the East Coast.  While there are many things I love about the East Coast, like the museums of NYC, it is not a very gentle or polite place.  It does tense our shoulders and quicken our pace.  The energy of New York City is palpable and can be intoxicating, but can also leave us exhausted. 

We know we’d like to leave the East Coast to raise a family, but aren’t sure where yet. For educational and career reasons will be most likely be here for at least another year.  Our short list of places so far is CA (either San Diego or Silicon Valley), MN (Twin Cities, or Rochester), WI (Madison), or MA (outside of Boston). 

Here is an article from a Kansas newspaper about Rentfrow’s research.  Hmm, it says that mathematicians and computer scientists would match well with Kansas’ high conscientious ranking.  Maybe we should move to Kansas?  I do have some relatives there.  Here is what else Rentfrow says about Kansas:

In an e-mail from Cambridge, Rentfrow indicated that Kansans are more than dour drones mindful only of structure and rules.

Kansas’ complete profile, he wrote, shows that Kansans are friendly, trusting and kind.

“It’s probably a place where people feel connected with their communities and are able to rely on family and friends,” he wrote. “The low Neuroticism score suggests that people are fairly relaxed, calm, and easygoing. And the low Openness scores suggest that people value tradition, are pragmatic and down-to-earth.”

I’d worry though about Kansas’ low ranking on openness (38 of 50).  Would a mixed couple be accepted there?  Would they accept a half Christian/half Hindu family?  I don’t know. 

Do you think that research like Rentfrow’s is helpful or reinforces stereotypes?  I’m not sure.  Where in the U.S. do you feel most comfortable?  Is where you live a result of happenstance or a conscious choice?  Would you move to a place based on research like this?

Lingayats Targeted for Conversion

To Lingayats, perhaps this is old news.  To those in the U.S. or married to Lingayats this may come as a shock.  I knew I was shocked and angered to discover that Lingayats are being specifically targeted by American Evangelicals for conversion.

 

 Satya is not shocked at all.  He’s heard of Christian missionaries settling near his home. He says that some people are initially tolerant of missionaries, until they discover that the missionaries are trying to convert them.  Then there are reactions such as the missionary being ignored, beat up, or of people converting for material benefits. 

 

Satya has a lot of patience.  This spring we attended Mass with my family and the priest was talking in his homily about the importance of worshipping only one god.  My family all cringed, but Satya was unconcerned.  He’s heard it all before and I guess it rolls off of him pretty easily by now. 

 

We both do not have a problem with Christians-I am Catholic after all, and he has attended Mass with my family a few times.  Satya grew up in a very tolerant and diverse environment-he has Christian and Muslim friends he’s known for years.  He attended a school founded by German missionaries.  It is the conversion part we both have issues with.  To me it is insulting and condescending.  Lingayats are not lost people without a history or culture nor are they immoral.  Satya and my in laws are extremely intelligent, kind, tolerant, and spiritual people. 

 

 My own view is that everyone should be left to their own devices.  The best witness to a religion is being a good person.  If anyone is going to convert in our relationship it will likely be me because I do not agree with the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and I think that Lingayats know better how to live in a multicultural world.  If people ask, then tell them about your religion.  Do not manipulate people or bribe them.

 

Missionaries can destabilize an area and put their believers in danger.  If the missionaries or their followers anger a group of Hindus or Muslims then the Hindus and Muslims could persecute the followers.  The missionaries leave to return to their homelands and the local converts are left to face the wrath of their neighbors.  It also fuels the fire of the Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist groups. 

 

 

 Links

Baptist Press   This article is of Baptists bragging about their success converting Lingayats.

 

Joshua Project   This website shows which groups around the world are being actively targeted by Evangelicals.  Not only is it offensive, some of their information is blatantly wrong and/or condescending.  One of the links they list to learn more about Lingayats is www.everyculture.com

Here is what they say about Lingayats and the arts “Although Lingayats in past centuries were noted for their religious poetry and philosophical writings, today the chief arts are the singing and playing of hymns. There is no marked ability shown in the visual arts.” Who judges that?  How?

And about Medicine, “Lingayat priests (called ayya or swami) are also astrologers and medicine men, often dispensing herbal remedies to sick villagers. This is a useful craft for them to possess, rather than a learned profession.”  This is despite the fact that Satya’s family has numerous doctors and dentists.  The site makes Lingayats sound like a primitive tribe complete with witch doctors rather than a group of people part of the modern world. 

 

 

Here is a website of Indian Christians trying to evangelize Karnataka.  I do have some sympathy for their cause because they are trying to help people few are willing or able to, namely street kids and eunuchs.  Also, these are Indian Christians trying to evangelize other Indians.  Still, I’m uncomfortable.  I don’t think it is a tragedy that the number of Christians is falling in Karnataka.  Christianity won’t solve Karnataka’s challenges.  Neither do I think that Hinduism created those challenges.  This website has false claims such as that thanks to missionaries Kannada is a written language and its people speak English thus allowing them to compete with the rest of the world.  Kannada has been a written language for hundreds of years.  The people of Karnataka know English because India was a British colony.

      

 

 

Blog

 

This blog records acts of persecution against Christians in India.  Although it does do an important job of recording some injustices, I do wonder about the full back story of the incidents.  What was the situation like before the attacks?  Were the Christians providing a peaceful witness by being good people, or were they using questionable tactics to gain converts?  Were they in a location that wanted their presence? How long had the Christians been in the area-hundreds of years, or just a few? There is no excuse for violence, but usually there is a reason.

 

 

Conclusion

So where does this all leave us?  Would more education in U.S. schools about geography, languages, and cultures help?  Will the conversion laws in India be effective while still allowing those who genuinely feel the need to convert, convert?  How do we show tolerance towards those who themselves are intolerant? 

 

 

 

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