Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The novel centers on the life of Catherine Lawson and begins when she is a child of 9 and is staying with her grandparents to help gather mangos, red cherries and other produce, which was grown on their ten acres of land. I was caught there right at the beginning as I was drawn back into my childhood of picking strawberries, peas, etc., on my grandparents' farm! The difference--I was in Pennsylvania and Catherine was in Trinidad!
Catherine had a few more siblings than myself; however, just as we did, we were assigned tasks and duties to help at home--but there was always time to play! Indeed Catherine, even at that early age, had the ambition and energy and intelligence that both drove her to work for what she wanted in life...and sometimes get her into trouble. I thoroughly enjoyed her twisting words within conversations with her mother, in particular, and then somehow feel quite justified spending the day playing rather than washing the dishes! Of course, as good parents are, Catherine never got away with it--still it was fun to see her try and then good-naturedly accept punishment when she got caught.
It was very clear that Catherine had a loving family life with supportive parents. Her father, in particular, soon recognized his daughter's intelligence and drive for schooling. Even as he supported all of his children, he allowed Catherine to receive extra attention as he recognized her capabilities and desire for a solid education. Indeed, it was very interesting to me to read about the educational system there in Trinidad--it seemed much more strict and structured than here in America! I'll let readers decide whether that was good or bad. I found that it seemed to reinforce educational requirements much more fully than our own. Oftentimes, children like myself who do have the drive and interest in educational activities receive no extra support here in America--this impressed me that I could readily see teachers, parents and other students supporting the entire process!
There was also heartache in Catherine's family and during the time period, her oldest brother was diagnosed as schizophrenic and two other siblings died. "I wanted to be someone even doctors would recognize as important, someone who couldn't be ignored or whose questions couldn't be swept to one side." (p. 80) Yes, poverty was a constant burden and fear for the Lawson family; however, even in these situations, Catherine realized that part of the medical issues for her family was based upon their inability to receive the proper, available care for her brother and sister.
In fact, at one point Catherine feared that she would not be able to finish her education, when a small miracle happened. She was able to travel to the United States--Pennsylvania, in fact, and work to make enough money to meet her needs.
Yes, Catherine's "love life" was also a major part of her story...but, even there, we are able to see that her personal goals were weighed against decisions regarding intimacy and possible marriage. I must admit I enjoyed her somewhat "intended blindness" to the fact that she had many young boys interested in her so that she didn't get rushed into a relationship she wasn't willing to have!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Catherine's story, especially as she closed with, "Over the years, as I had skipped grades, earned top marks and garnered praise from my superiors, I had become overconfident. I was so sure of my intelligence, so confident in the strength of my ambition and my will to succeed, that I had forgotten that I was not the only master of my fate, that there was a greater power that also had guided me and helped me succeed at every step along the way." (p. 183)
This book is exceptionally well written and flows smoothly and quickly through to the end. Read this story--and share it with your children! Help show them that if a young woman from an impoverished family in Trinidad can achieve her dreams...that there are indeed ways for them to reach their own as well!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
By Father Patrick Bascio C.S.Sp
ISBN: 13: 978-0-8283-2152-5
You may have recently read my review of Priest to Mafia Don by Father Patrick Bascio. In the same year, Father Bascio has also published Defeating Islamic Terrorism: The Wahhabi Factor. I don’t think I have read two such different books by the same author and yet, both are excellent in presentation and fascinating in covering their subject.
Father Bascio professionally has acted as Director of the PhD program for American and Allied personnel at the United States Naval War College. During his years as a priest, he became a member of the General Assembly of the United Nations. There, he had the distinction of having been the only priest ever to be a Permanent Delegate to that august body. Through his professional involvement, he gained the knowledge and experience used in writing this book. Normally I wouldn’t include coverage of an author’s credentials within a review, but I believe that those who will consider reading this book will want to know the author’s background. Terrorism has become a household word for most people these days. We need and want to know more! I found that the information presented in this book was very comprehensive, for Father Bascio has much to share with Americans. Please consider reading this book in the near future!
No, I had never heard of the word Wahhabi—just as the author predicted! “Wahhabism is the angry form of Islamism...the soil in which anti-Western and anti-American terrorism grows,” according to Ex-CIA Director, R. James Woolsey. “Never before in history have so many been so fearful of so few because Islamic terrorism plagues a very large section of the world’s population.” (p. 7) As I read, I had to agree with the author that, “there is something wrong with a foreign policy that is so lacking in knowledge of the Wahhabi that the average American citizen, upon hearing the term, has no idea what it means.” (p. 11)
For me, I felt it was important that the author included references to the many atrocities of the past, done in the name of Christianity. Just as at that time, it is important that we realize that the Islamic terrorists are not representatives of all Islamic nations, but rather of those that are of the Wahhabi sect from Saudi Arabia. A key issue, though, is that these terrorists are being funded and children throughout the world are being taught at newly built schools and mosques the basic tenets and principles of Wahhabism through that funding! “Saudi money spending frenzy has resulted in the construction of 1500 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, 202 colleges and nearly 2000 schools spread across the globe.” (p. 53) So, the breadth of exposure and expansion of this group is far above anything seen in the past. “Saudi connections to terrorism continue to appear.” (p. 58)
Indeed, the author notes “Wahhabism’s intimate relationship with the Saudi government presents American officials with a unique dilemma, in that it is the only foreign government that directly uses religion as a cover for its political activities in the United States” (p. 30). This is especially ironic when the United States monitors and mandates a strict separation of church and state for its own citizens. “Regrettably, religiously inspired or pseudo religiously inspired terrorist groups are the fastest growing form of terrorism.” (p. 101)
Bascio hones in on another little-known issue. There is little known about the history of the Central Asian republics’ successful struggle with our enemy or their willingness to help us defeat them. Why is that? Perhaps because “when Uzebekistan, in July, 2005, ordered the eviction of U. S. Military personnel from the Karshi-Khanabad airbase, the dimensions of our loss of face and influence in Central Asia became evident.”
The author discusses each of the countries involved in Central Asia and demonstrates how each of three major countries—Russia, China and the United States—are working to gain a relationship. Russia and China are doing much to increase their interaction while the United States still has not gotten over what happened in the past. Are we able to become humble and recognize our mistakes and approach the Islamic issue with understanding and patience? Because no matter what, the “United States and Central Asian governments share a common enemy – Wahhabism.” (p. 161)
In-depth reviews of specific events, the identification of “Peshawar as the Heartland of Islamic Terrorism,” (P. 145) specific people of influence, such as “Euvgeny Primakov” (p.234), as well as specific recommendations make this book one of the most unbiased, informative books available, in my opinion. There is much to be considered here; there is much to be learned.
The United States has made mistakes in decisions made from time to time. Can we acknowledge and move on to discussing options that will allow us to work with the majority of Islamic people who lives in accordance with the Koran, which speaks out against violence? Perhaps as we learn more through books such as Defeating Islamic Terrorism, we can become better informed and help toward making sound decisions that will indeed defeat the acts of terror now feared by all. The reality of today in America makes this a Must-Read Book!
G. A. Bixler For IP Book Reviewers