Love of Home and Books With Stained Pages

This is daydreaming and not really a book review, but I’m now reading Helen Oyeyemi and scanning Naomi Klein’s latest tome now and I just listened to a podcast interview of the Peruvian-born novelist, Daniel Alarcon, in which there was considerable discussion of the violence and corruption in Peru between the early 1980’s and early 1990’s (Shining Path and repressive regimes being the major killers). His parents are physicians who sought opportunity in the US early on before the “troubles.” Alarcon writes (in English) figuratively about Peru – and the US also comes under the umbrella of his allegory.

Back to the books:

First: The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi. With interruptions. It has been slow to get into. It is a library borrowing that has evidence of more than one spill of brownish liquid. Notes are helpful because I do not retain character names and details easily. Never have, but it gets worse as I approach my 70th birthday. It is about two related characters:

1. A young woman living in London named Maja whose father, a university prof,  left Cuba under Fidel Castro, having apparently (it’s complex, and I’m not finished) become tired of the thought police looking over his shoulder. Her mother, a Santero born also in Cuba with a long ancestral lineage from Nigeria’s  Yoruba-centred Santeria religion, frustrates her husband with her altar and devotions that he considers superstitious. Maja likes to sing and her observations are becoming quite wonderful.

2. The second character is a Yoruban goddess, Yemaya (Aya) who lives in a magical “Opposite House” that has one door in Lagos and one in London. I’m currently two thirds through this book and loving it. I can understand the stained pages – evidence of a book that cannot be put down even while eating…  or a cookbook… in both cases loved. Maybe I will seek out similarly abused books deliberately in the future. I’m reminded of a fabulous song that made #1 in 1944 called You Always Hurt The One You Love by the Mills Brothers.

Second: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. This 2014 book I’ve just begun. I’m familiar with many issues in it, so I’m just scanning quickly and highlighting names and key words here and there. Klein’s conscientious footnotes cover almost 60 pages. A great reference for any activist. Continue reading “Love of Home and Books With Stained Pages”

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Oneness Does Not Apply To Borders

Wall of Beynac Castle in the Dordogne, France
Wall of Beynac Castle in the Dordogne, France – a border of sorts…

Very few countries today can say that they are one nation.

So many parts of our world have been screwed up by colonists creating “imaginary” boundaries that make no ethnic, linguistic or historical sense. Africa’s horrors have much to do with that.

Canada’s First Nations have been shamefully hard done by – experiencing a long, drawn out “drip drip drip” of painstaking genocide masquerading as “civilizing” missionary work combined with fraudulent treaties and the outright takeover or pollution of unceded land. Countries that simply exterminated their First Nations or chased them into neighbouring lands  stand out, but I am not sure which process is more cruel.

A Honduran child fleeing horrid local violence who ends up facing foreign persecution enroute northward to “safety” would not consider Central or North American borders imaginary.

Occasionally when one is traveling between culturally close countries with the same language the impression is received that the border is imaginary because the people seem the same and the neighbourhoods are similar. A naive visitor might make this mistake.

I remember a taxi ride in Caracas during the unrest in late 1966. Our small group – a few Canadians headed for a nightclub – was stopped. A policeman shoved a machine gun through the window and suggested, “Passaportes, por favór.” Glad we had ’em with us, like good foreigners.

In southern Ecuador in September, 1967 the group I was traveling with were forced to stay overnight in Huaquillas, a small border town, after entering from Peru. We strolled around the main square after eating supper and I took a photo of a statue dedicated to the Friendship of the People of Ecuador and Peru. Apparently there had been a “falling out” and a policeman took my camera, removing the film. Luckily I got the camera back.

These are minor things beside the very real problems people displaced (by those who disregard borders and land rights) and people-on-arbitrary-lists have, but they point out that borders (even arbitrary ones) exist and are something with which one should not trifle.

Or romanticize.