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Bonita L. Davis

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Tibet on the Edge of Chan
Tibet on the Edge of Chan
VHS

3.0 out of 5 stars THE END OF A CULTURE, Feb. 8 2002
China's invasion of Tibet in 1959 resulted in the exile of that land's spiritual and political leader, the 14th Dalai Lama and the slow erosion of a unique culture. Tibet On The Edge of Change attempts to highlight Tibetan culture and show its slow demise since the invasion.
As the viewer you are taken to this land where you are given a feel for the topography and the people who inhabit it. You witness a people who practice interdependence on one another for survival, have a reverance for the land, are subsistance farmers (barley and corn the main crops) and have developed a unique form of Buddhism. These practioners of peace created a culture where mutual respect was the norm.
The next view you are given is that of the Chinese impact. Lands that were once heavily forrested are now stripped bare causing erosion problems. China introduced strip mining into the area causing further environmental problems. To make matters worse, China housed a nuclear dump into Tibet which no doubt will evoke more devestation upon the land.
You see a glimpse of Tibetan culture as it attempts to survive under Chinese oppression but it appears as if Tibetan life is barely surviving. Now the Chinese outnumber the Tibetans who have become strangers in their own land.
As a whole this video gives you a wide sweeping view of what is happening in Tibet but it lacks depth. Absent are the voices of the people who are undergoing this oppression. Even though you get an idea of the oppression going on you fail to get the feeling. In fact the Tibetans look and act like happy people content with their lot. The sense of urgency and the importance of this culture doesn't move you. You also don't get a feel of how Tibetan Culture has changed under Chinese rule.
Despite those faults the video is good as a general introduction to Tibet and the impact of China on the country. If used in conjunction with other resources the viewer will receive a better understanding of the problems that Tibet is undergoing.

Conversations with Isabel Allende
Conversations with Isabel Allende
by Isabel Allende
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

5.0 out of 5 stars FASCINATING, Feb. 8 2002
If you are captivated by Allende's novels and moved by her memoir then you will be equally enthralled with this work. Conversations with Isabel Allende is a collection of thirty-four interviews covering the life, work and assessment of Allende as a writer. The interviews are divided into three periods. The first begins in the mid-80's and is predominated by literary interviews given by academics and scholars of Latin American Literature. The second period (late 80's to 1991) consists of interviews that are biographical and focus on the relationship of her works with her life. The third set of interviews (1991-1994) deal with her relationship with her daughter, the impact of the Latin American Boom Writers on her work and how her move to the United States has impacted on her writing.
I was fascinated with this vast array of material which contains something for everyone. Allende deals with the probing questions of critics and academics regarding her style, structure and influences on her work. Her answers are most surprising in that she doesn't see herself as falling into any particular writing tradition. In fact she confesses her ignorance about those in the literary field who analyze and take apart her works for greater understanding.
Another part of the interviews that are intriguing is her sharing with us her life story, anecdotes, and challenges. You see an intimate portrait of her as a mother, journalist, feminist and novelist. Allendes warts as well as her beauty shines through. Her responses to the questions are a story unto themselves and you wonder if they are indeed true.
What is most important about this work is that you see the progression of growth of one of Latin America's most significant female writers. Allende's works are put in a particular context and you as a reader are able to engage her in viewing how she writes, why she writes and the significance it has for women and Latin America. Conversations is a "must have" text in doing any literary or biographical research on this great writer.

Erskine Caldwell: The Journey from Tobacco Road
Erskine Caldwell: The Journey from Tobacco Road
by Dan B. Miller
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 3.46

4.0 out of 5 stars A REVEALING PORTRAIT, Jan. 27 2002
In the thirties critics acclaimed Erskine Caldwell as one of the most influential writers of his time. His books sold in the millions and his play, Tobacco Road (based on the novel), had an unprecedented record run across the nation. By the time the sixties emerged, Caldwell falls into obscurity, disdained by the critics and forgotten in the canon of southern literature.
Caldwell's Icarus-like rise to fame and descent into obscurity is the catalyst which inspired Dan Miller to explore one of the south's most prolific writers. What was behind the man who was so passionate in his work yet ended up destroying his professional career, his marriages and his relationships with his children.
The Journey from Tobacco Road takes a microscopic look at the forces which shaped and made Caldwell the writer that he is. Born of educated parents who were members of a fundamentalist presbyterian sect, we find a man full of contradictions. His parents had formal education. Their son never graduated from high school (or any school for that matter) and was a poor writer and reader. Their denomination, The Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church, was highly fundamental yet Caldwell's father had a great passion to confront the injustice of poor and Black people. His passion was transferred over to his son who became the extentsion of his cause for justice.
You will come across layers of complexities of Erskine who was controlling in all of his relationships with his wives and daughters. His obsessive need for control extended itself into the lives of his children to the point of abuse. Yet despite these tendancies Caldwell reached the hearts and minds of his readers in his depiction of the southern poor.
Miller has given the reader a revealing portrait of a man who was at the top of his literary popularity only to fall in obscurity. We are shown the elements of why this happened and can see that the same trap is set for writers who become popular but are spurned by the academic literary community. Caldwell's journey is an interesting one as he goes through the school of hard knocks only to rise a winner. Miller's biography is clear and concise. He doesn't put Caldwell on a pedestle but he reminds us this is an author who shouldn't be ignored. You will enjoy this biography.
Miller's concern about Caldwell's obscurity is not to be ignored. Recently I sat on a class in southern literature. When I read the syllabus, I saw the conspicuous absence of Caldwell's name. On approaching the teacher, I asked why and she immediately became embarassed and said she that Caldwell's name had mistakenly been dropped while editing the syllabus. Miller's book is certainly one we need to remind us of the life and contributions of this man of southern literature.

Eva Luna
Eva Luna
by Isabel Allende
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
76 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CAPTIVATING, Jan. 23 2002
This review is from: Eva Luna (Mass Market Paperback)
Conceived on her father's deathbed and almost strangled to death by her umbilical cord, the baby who emerged would become the woman, Eva Luna. Her birth is incredible and her life is even more so as Eva spins for us her story and the story of those who impacted her life.
Isabel Allende captivates the reader by having us take a glimpse of the life and times of Eva Luna, a child whose life is so surreal and incredible to the point where fact and fantasy become one and the same. Eva's voice sweeps us into the dark world of perverts, undesirables and revolutionaries. Through Eva's stories you get a closer look at a society rotten at its core while masquerading as a democracy.
Come with Eva, as a little girl where she plays with a stuffed puma owned by a mad-man who uses Indians for his embalming experiments. Watch as this orphaned girl is "sold" off by her strange godmother who believes in the gods of her ancesteral Africa and the saints of Catholicism. Watch Eva as she grows from childhood to adolescense to an adult who has to confront the reality of love and revolution.
EVA LUNA is a lyric tale whose language draws you immediately into the life of the character and her supporting cast. You feel a deep empathy for this woman and you see through her eyes the contradictions that life has to offer. Allende has given us an exceptional work that explores both the spiritual, political and sensual side of a woman caught up in the stream of chaos in her South American country. Come, let Eva tell you a story, her story and you will find yourself unable to tear yourself away from her amazing tale.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
by Terry McMillan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
85 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars FALLS SHORT, Jan. 20 2002
Viola Price sees the threads of her tight knit family slowly but surely unravelling. As a concerned mother over her adult children even though her marriage has gone sour, she attempts to hold the fragile threads together. Will these threads hold under all of the hurts, jealousies, pain and down right stubborness of this family? Only the characters would know and each tells their own side of the story.
Terry McMillan's masterful style of easedropping takes the reader into the minds, hearts and ambitions of these six family members. We find out their weaknesses and frailties as some of them attempt to makes excuses about why the other is a jerk. The dialogue is exceptional, the story line and elements are great but McMillan falls short in her presentation of the characters.
A Day Late and A Dollar Short is told through the indvidual perspectives of the family members. The problem with them is that they become so transparent and predictable to the point of being a bore. Paris, the oldest, is painted with the typical first born frustrations of being perfect. Lewis, the only son, is the typical can't get-myself-together man who refuses to take responsibility. The middle sibling, a female, goes through her middle-child syndrome problems while the youngest is a space cadet. Yes, they do have problems, serious ones but after dealing with superficial characters you end up saying so what?
McMillan's book is certainly entertaining, engages some serious issues and will raise a few chuckles but its characters lack depth. I highly recommend this book for entertaining reading but don't expect an indepth story of a family struggling to become whole.

How To Write Science Fiction
How To Write Science Fiction
by Matthew Costello
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars AN INTRODUCTORY PRIMER, Jan. 20 2002
Pragmatic, informative, and to the point are the best adjectives to use in describing the contents of this how-to-book of writing science fiction. Matthew Costello doesn't go into literary theory about the genre nor does he lead the reader on an endless quest of defining science fiction. What you get is solid guidance on how to write, sell, and market a science fiction story that is believable.
Step by step the reader is shown the basic building blocks of creating a good story. After providing you with those essential elements, the author tells you the basic components of developing the science, worlds and characters in the piece. He also examines the classic works of science fiction's masters (Asimov, Silverberg, Card) to acquaint the reader with the various styles contained within the genre.
After you have followed the steps then the next mountain to climb is that of marketing your work. Costello is very clear in letting you know that writing is a business. If you are to succeed in the business you need to know your market, know how to write a proposal and studying your field.
I enjoyed reading this book about a genre that appears to be more intimidating than others when it comes to writing. Costello breaks the myth that you must be a science major or science nerd in order to be able to write a clear and concise work that is believable.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to explore the possibility of writing science fiction. It provides the catalyst to make you want to experiment in writing in the field. The book is not a detailed work which covers every aspect of writing in the genre. Use it as an introductory primer and you will get satisfaction out of beginning your first story of science fiction.

Nostradamus
Nostradamus
10 used & new from CDN$ 1.54

3.0 out of 5 stars THE SEER OF CATASTROPHE, Jan. 15 2002
This review is from: Nostradamus (Audio CD)
Join in with scholars and writers who discuss a man's visions that unfolded in the future. Nostradamus is a name well known for his fatal prophecies but little is known about him. Biography takes us through a journey of this man's life and the impact that his words had on future generations.
You will be surprised to find that Michael Notre Dame was the descendent of forced Jewish converts. He grew up learning about astrology, magic and the sources of Kabballah. All of these teachings lead him to become a reknowned medieval physician. The question then arises, what happened to him that he was able to foretell future catastrophes? Biography does an adequate job in its attempt in answering this question.
Throughout the film you are shown the prophecies that he had foretold four centuries prior to their happening. Nostradamus was also under a cloud of suspicion but through his patronage with royalty, he was able to escape the cross examinations of the inquisitors.
This film is informative about a person whose name is well known but whose life and work are a mystery. Should we believe that his prophecies came true or are they a result of our imagination? All of the scholars interviewed says Nostradamus was highly accurate. It would have been good to have another point of view regarding his life and work for us to make a sound judgement. Overall this is a fairly good video to entice you to learn more about this man.

Richard Wright: The Life and Times
Richard Wright: The Life and Times
by Hazel Rowley
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 4.39

5.0 out of 5 stars THE OUTSIDER, Jan. 11 2002
Many biographies have been written about Richard Wright but this remarkable book gives you a fresh perspective on this man who turned the publishing world upside down with his book Native Son. Unlike the other books written about him, The Life and Times focuses on the personal life of Wright and how over the years he developed as a writer.
Rowley takes us to his home state of Mississippi where we meet Richard Wright as a boy. Raised in a fundamentalist religious family in the midst of poverty, Wright was a true outsider who was not understood by his family or friends. His migration to the north (Chicago) unfolds a new world for him where his writing abilities are recognized and nurtured.
You see a Richard Wright who embraces individualism and won't allow the Communist Party or any other organization to dictate to him how to write. As time goes on Wright takes the step of permanently leaving the United States by going to France. It is there that he finds a freedom never felt before in America.
I enjoyed this book and was surprised about many facts concerning his personal life and writing career. Wright's psychological development and philosophical stances are intriguing. At times he is an outspoken voice against racism but ends up making compromises in his work and personal life. Towards the end of his life, Wright becomes suspicious of those around him. He alienates himself from his family and friends.
Rowley shows us the complexities and humanity of a man who went from poverty to fame and then on a downward spiral into spiritual poverty. What was it that made this man tick? The author does an outstanding job in answering that question and putting him in perspective of his day and time. This is an outstanding book that deserves to be in the libraries of every reader.

Terry McMillan: The Unauthorized Biography
Terry McMillan: The Unauthorized Biography
by Diane Patrick
Edition: Paperback
7 used & new from CDN$ 2.98

2.0 out of 5 stars A POOR BIOGRAPHY, Jan. 11 2002
Terry McMillan's name is immediately recognized in popular literature. Many fans and readers are curious about the life of this woman who created a new genre (urban romance) and opened the eyes of publishing companies that Black people do read books.
Unfortunately this "Unauthorized Biography" of the author falls very short in telling us about Ms McMillan's life and what developed her as an author.
What you get is a compilation of stories regarding Terry McMillan but nothing substantial about her life and art. In fact the vast majority of the book talks about the publishing industry, other Black authors, the latest gossip and other trite subjects that have nothing to do what so ever in dealing with the life of Terry McMillan. What is shared is information that has already been known. This biography doesn't tell us anything new. If only it would talk about Terry then it would hold your attention.
Most of Patrick's biographical information is from the books (Mamma, How Stella Got Her Grove Back,etc.) that she finds are autobiographical in nature to McMillan's life. Novels are not facts and Ms Patrick should have taken the time to do some full scale research. Her excuses about McMillan being uncooperative doesn't hold water if you are truly dedicated and serious about doing justice to a major author.
If you are looking for a definitive biography of McMillan leave this book on the shelf. If you want to be slightly entertained and not interested in the facts and development of this great writer by all means this is the book for you.

The Sweet Hell Inside: A Family History
The Sweet Hell Inside: A Family History
by Edward Ball
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 2.62

4.0 out of 5 stars THE BLACK SIDE OF THE FAMILY, Dec 30 2001
Edward Ball intrigued us with the story of his family and their slave owning heritage. Now he presents us with the story of the Black side of his family. In this account our attention is focused on the children of William Harleston (Ball's ancestoral uncle and slave owner) and his slave paramour Kate Wilson. The progeny of the above liason resulted in the beginnings of a Black middle-class dynasty in the early twentieth century.
Edwin Harleston, the son of William and Kate, managed to run a lucrative funeral business, nurture an artist son and maintained his own mistress like his father. As the patriarch of the family, Harleston's progeny impacted on the life and culture of Black America. Ball has you witness the triumphs, hardships and struggles of a family rejected by their white brethren only to surpass them against the odds.
Ball gives us an excellent look at the rise of the social and racial stratefication of the Black middle-class in their own communities. We get an inside view of the Black elite of light skinned Blacks who carve out their own society. You witness their foibles, eccentric natures and dedication to the race through the study of one family.
If the book has its faults the main one would be Ball's getting bogged down in the historical context of the story to the point where we lose sight of the characters. Edwina Harleston Whitlock, who is the main informant, shares her story with her cousin Ball but somehow her voice gets muted. Despite that problem Ball gives a good account of the family.
White readers will be intrigued by the complexities of Black social life in early twentieth century america. Black readers will find the story interesting but not remarkable for there are "Harlestons" in every Black community. Try the book and open your eyes to a great story.

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