Make America Read Again

Believe it or not, I averaged reading one book a week while on maternity leave with my youngest child 17 years ago. Always an avid reader from childhood, the pace of feedings and cuddling actually lent itself to my being able to get through as many books as I did. I also had a good baby who slept as long as he was fed and dry.

With the advent of smart phones and Netflix and other streaming apps, my reading habit went by the wayside. And that’s no bueno. As a writer, reading is crucial to my craft. It’s the way one stretches their brain with new perspectives and use of language. But man, it’s just so easy to curl up with your phone to catch the latest episode of whatever I missed from days before.

Alas, I have recommitted to my love of books (memoir, biography, and historical fiction are among my faves). I’ve been really working on shutting off my phone an hour before I sleep and reading, and every time I do that, I notice a significant difference in the depth and overall quality of my sleep. So, I highly recommend that.

During quarantine, books have been a lifeline for many and let’s be bluntly honest: people who read are smarter than people who don’t. We just know more. You want to know more? Read.

With two weeks left before Christmas, I highly recommend gifting books for those on your Christmas list. And here is a list to get you started.

  1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Not only is this a behind-scenes-look at his rise to the presidency, but it’s peppered with stories of his journey as a father and husband. You’ll also learn a ton about the inner workings of American government, which has actually been very interesting to me.

2. Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis

Are you detecting a theme here? This is a fascinating, courageous look at a once-in-a-lifetime type of person. It’s humorous at times, inspiring all the time and honest. Though written in the 90s, many of the issues he grappled with in congress are still issues pressing us today. And that will make you think.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

There is a reason her book tour was a mega block buster event with a Netflix documentary to boot. Michelle Obama’s life thus far is extraordinary, and she still has so much more living to do and her story will inspire you.

4. Becoming by Cindy Crawford

That’s right two books with the same name, but very different. Both Michelle Obama and Cindy Crawford are born and bred Illinois girls, super smart, and legendary in their own rights. Crawford’s book features some of her best-known photos from her modeling days with the back stories behind them. Additionally, she tells the story of her ascent from small town girl to one of the most iconic models of our time. If you have fans of fashion and photography on your list, this is a good one.

5. Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain

If you are a fan of the Great British Baking Show, you will remember Nadiya Hussein’s season and her amazing win. That event catapulted a simple mom and wife from her traditional and somewhat inhibiting life to cooking/baking/presenting superstardom. And, she’s got some of her favorite recipes in it. The book is honest and raw at times, but always hopeful and positive in tone. It’s a great read (and mini cookbook).

While all of these titles can be found on Amazon, this is a great time to support local indie bookstores or even indie bookstores online. They are really hurting right now, and Jeff Bezos has made enough money off this pandemic, don’t you think?

https://www.afar.com/magazine/the-best-independent-bookstores-in-the-united-states

Voted

I darkened the Joe and Kamala bubble as hard as I could without tearing through the ballot.

It’s never meant this much to me before. Never brought my under-control anxiety to the point of needing a smidge more of my Effexor. Every election I’ve voted in has been a reflection of what candidate I felt better about. But I always knew, regardless of the outcome and initial disappointment if my candidate didn’t win, that it would still be alright. Life would still go on as normal for the most part. That there would be ebbs and flows, but at the end of the day, our country’s leadership could still be counted on for the big things.

Even as awful as I felt about Hilary losing to Trump, I thought our nation’s system of checks and balances would keep things in line; the gravity of the job of president of the United States and the sheer volume of people calling this nation home, who were counting on their president to wise up and fly right, would have made the man do so. We were so wrong. So unbelievably wrong.

The Handmaid’s Tale—a preposterous story 10 years ago, feels like an actual possibility now. For the collective soul of a nation that includes people from every faith background, every walk of life, every color and creed—there has to be some united call to move forward, try harder, hope, and work for better days to come.

I’m not naïve. The Democratic Party has its share of problems with its own crew of charlatans and hucksters. But we have do a team on the ticket who can be held accountable, who will listen to advisors and the voice of the people. And we’ve got to still do our parts to follow through when it seems they aren’t delivering the way we need them to.

I did my part today and voted with enthusiasm against the sitting president of the United States. I want our country to address its ugliness and do better. I want women to have the empowerment, safety, and opportunities deserved. I want our country to be known for integrity, compassion, and intellect on the world stage. I want this virus eradicated and our people properly defended against it before another quarter of a million are gone from us. I want our leader to be parodied on SNL for silly personality quirks or vocal inflections instead of a truth that has become stranger than fiction. I want all children to be safer, better cared for, better educated. I want healthcare that makes it possible for all Americans to get what they need when they need it. I want our scientists and doctors to be able to deliver the truth without being ridiculed. I want to travel again and enjoy the beauty and culture of other nations of the world. I want this country to work in a way that Black lives matter every single day of all of our lives. I want people who are different from others to feel safe and respected and able to live their lives to the best of their abilities. I want people to love who they love and be free to be committed to them. I want our military to not be treated as expendable and for our vets to be treated like kings and queens. I want empathy and decency to emanate from the White House, not cruelty, indifference, and abject lunacy.

I did what I could and I hope you will as well.

Trollin

Why do people take precious time to be horrible to strangers?

I got my first hate video posted to YouTube a few days ago. It was in response to my post, “Compassion vs. Condemnation.” For any of you who haven’t read it, it talks about the abortion debate.

In my naivete, I’ve felt that this little space of mine on the web doesn’t interact with too many out in the world. I mean, check my stats! But that’s ok. I’m not here for cyber fame. My blog is my little space to let out the many thoughts and ideas I have on many topics. And truthfully, in the middle of the state of affairs in the United States, this is a valve that releases a lot of steam in the pressure cooker of my brain. On that note, if you need to release steam, please find the valve you need. We all have to find ways to process.

But back to the topic. I received a couple of emails last week through the “Contact” page on my blog. I was chastised for my viewpoint, told to repent, and threatened about my job. I replied to this person that it was not that their place to call me to repentance and that I would not be threatened.

A couple of days later, I saw another message. This one had no copy other than a YouTube link. For a second I was excited thinking, “oh, maybe someone has a resource for me to check out on my post from the night before (Desi Dilemmas). So, I clicked on it.

Was I shocked to see an entire almost eight-minute video that included job-related photos, and screen shots of my Twitter account; sections of the “offending” post blown up and out of context, where the creator proceeded to shred me. Of course, curiosity got the best of me and I read the comments. One highlight? I was called a special agent of Satan and an emissary of him. That’s just lovely.

As I processed this; sharing it to my “tribe,” and receiving the exceptional care and wise counsel one receives when they belong to a group of the best people on the planet (find yourself a tribe—however small it is), what struck me most was the creation of the video itself.

How much time did this person spend scouring the internet for anything he could find on me? And when he stumbled upon a poorly worded Twitter post on Bill O’Reilly from 2010 (you read that right), did he cackle with glee to find something he believed would damage my reputation? He had to take some serious time to go through ten years’ worth of Twitter posts, to find every mention of me and every picture available. And the video itself was graphically solid, I have to say. So, to create graphics from my photos, from my blog post, from my Twitter; then to film the diatribe, and then edit and post it, that represents a solid investment of time and resources. And for what?

In the time spent creating a piece of media designed to tear down a total stranger, this guy could have gone out and fed a few hungry people, sent encouraging messages to people who are struggling. Perhaps he could have cleaned up trash from a littered city street or volunteered at an animal shelter. He might have donated a dollar or two to a disaster relief non-profit or even to a legitimate organization that supports his point of view. He could have read books to the blind or sponsored new storybooks for a classroom of first graders. The point is there is a lot of good he could have done for the world in the time he took to make one unkind video.

I’m always blown away by mean comments people make to influencers on social media. Comments I’ve read run the gamut from just annoying to horrific. And I’m always struck with the question why? Why does a person feel the need to say something mean to someone they don’t know? What do they hope to accomplish? If it hurts feelings, those feelings heal pretty quickly. But most often, hate posts and videos don’t accomplish what the creators wish for them to do, so why do it?

I much prefer to like/love posts that make me laugh or want to learn more and scroll right on by the ones that raise my blood pressure.

What would the world be like if there was more scrollin, less trollin?

Oh Canada

This one is for all you lovely Canadians.

Thanks Jim Meyer, for this thoughtful topic suggestion and the questions posed: Why Canada? Why not Canada? What should one wear when visiting Canada?

As I have never lived in Canada, I can’t fully appreciate the day-to-day life of a Canadian. However, I have visited Canada—Toronto to be exact–and hope to make it to Vancouver one fine day when we germy Americans don’t pose a public health threat to the world. Also, Montreal.

Canada impresses me—it’s natural beauty from sea to sea, its leadership (thank you Justin Trudeau), it’s food (Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal? No foodie could go wrong!) and of course, it’s people. It’s diverse and wonderful people. C’est magnifique!

There have indeed been moments over the last several years when I wondered if moving to Canada could be an option, but I just can’t with the permafrost weather of its winters. Canada is after all, way north of us and it does get freakishly cold (or so I’m told). I know North Face and Patagonia exist for Canadians in the dead cold and dark months, but the Mid-Atlantic is already bad during winter and I struggle with that.

Putting climate and all aside, I did a little researching and came across a comprehensive list from someone named Chris McBain who has lived in Canada since 2008. I will call him an expert on this topic. The following comprehensive list is his answer to the question, “What is the point of Canada?”

Light bulb

Margaret Atwood

Chris Hadfield

Steve Nash

Hockey

Insulin

Five-pin bowling

Wonderbra

Artificial pacemaker

Robertson screw

Zipper

Electric Wheelchair

Poutine

Cobalt-60 “Bomb” Cancer Treatment

Java programming language

Bloody Caesar

Canadarm

Standard time

Electron microscope

Snowmobiling

BlackBerry

Radio Voice Transmission

Birch-Bark Canoe

Basketball

Retractable Beer Carton Handle

UV Degradable Plastics

Instant Replay

Goalie mask

Marquis Wheat

Pablum

Lacrosse

Electric Oven

Steam Fog Horn

Walkie-Talkie

Alkaline battery

Paint roller

Electronic Music Synthesizer

Weevac 6

Green Garbage Bag

Snowblower

Self-Propelled Combine Harvester

Instant mashed potatoes

Explosives Vapor Detector

Marine Screw Propeller

Plexiglass

Key Frame Animation

CPR Mannequin (Actar 911)

G-Suit

Ardox Spiral Nail

Automatic Lubricating Cup

Crash-Position Indicator

Caulking gun

Separable Baggage Check

Hawaiian Pizza

Superman

  • Jim Carrey
  • Neil Young
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Seth Rogen
  • Bryan Adams
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Pam Anderson
  • Mike Myers
  • William Shatner
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Dan Aykroyd
  • Kiefer Sutherland
  • Donald Sutherland
  • Michael Bublé
  • Phil Hartman
  • Michael Cera
  • Will Arnett
  • Sandra Oh
  • Tommy Chong
  • Mathew Perry
  • Deadmau5
  • Dwayne Johnson’s dad is Canadian (so is he)
  • Tom Green
  • Elon Musk

Really, what else do you need to know?

Also, to answer the question of what to wear when one is visiting Canada? Ummm, clothes. And shoes. Definitely shoes.

All you beautiful Canadians, what do you love most about your country and of course, what is this list missing?

When the British Left India, They Left Stuff Behind

Have Desis internalized white supremacy?

First off, let’s take care of some preliminary business. What is the definition of the word “Desi?” It is a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad. I honestly don’t know how long the term has been in use, but as an Indian woman, I fall into this category. I was born in Singapore, came to the United States at the age of 2, and have lived in Michigan, New York, California, and Maryland. Some of us born in the United States might also be called “ABCD,” which means American Born Confused Desi. Why might some of us be confused (even those not born here)? Well, this topic kind of gets into that.

Secondly, this is the first in a series I want to do on topics relating to South Asian culture as it pertains to those of us living outside of South Asia. For my non-South-Asian readers, I hope you’ll still read. The topics addressed might not pertain to you exactly, but perhaps you’ll better understand the Desi people in your life better (and I hope you have some Desi people in your life—because like never partaking of a good curry, life without us is bland).

Ok. To the topic at hand. For the sake of discussion, I will be talking about the Desi experience in America. For my Desi friends/relatives in other parts of the world outside of South Asia, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Here’s the super-condensed version of things: India had been occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch, and French in relatively small numbers and specific areas during the age of exploration and the spice trade. Spices and India: like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, and pasta and sauce. Then along came the British around the end of the Mogul Empire on August 24, 1608. Yup, we got dates.

India was rich in natural resources and the British declared her the new jewel in the crown. They stayed until the late 1940s at which point a non-imposing man who never carried a gun led a movement that resulted in a quick pip pip back to Britannia. India became an independent republic at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. My father, born in 1948, has only known India as an independent nation.

In the beginning, British men in India were encouraged to take Indian wives and concubines. So, if you ran 23 and Me tests on many Indians alive today you have a decent chance of finding a percentage of European blood in us. I have 3% of it because I suspected as much and 23 and Me proved me right.

With the British Empire in charge of pretty much every aspect of India for that many years, and in an oppressive fashion, white supremacy was the rule of law. Three hundred and thirty-nine years is a long time so guess what—Indians to survive—learned to play the game and in doing so, internalized tenets of white supremacy as it applied to them. Skin color and caste, deference to white people (to an extent), adoption of Christianity, and so forth.

Concerning skin color, many Indians have a severe problem in their embracing standards of beauty more akin to European standards—light skin, straight hair, sharp features. Just watch Bollywood movies. Caste or class is very much entrenched in British society and it is still a guiding principle in many echelons of Hindu society especially with regards to marriage.

When some Indians converted to Christianity (propagated not just by British colonialists, but by the white missionaries who came from all sorts of denominations), many changed their names from those of Hindu origin to Anglicized ones. Gone to the first meeting with someone named, for example, Thomas Matthew, and been completely surprised by the brown man standing before you? There’s your explanation.

But the Christianity that came to India with white missionaries sadly carried with it elements of white supremacy. For example, leadership at Christian institutions of learning or denominational administration was always held by white people, with Indian nationals in roles of service to them. Thankfully, that is not the modus operandi anymore, but it was for a very long time.

I had a very high-esteemed colleague who served as a teaching missionary at a Christian university. He and his wife were appalled, he said, when after-church potlucks they were invited to were open only to white faculty, excluding Indian colleagues. He is a good, good man, and he and his wife refused to attend unless their Indian colleagues were invited as well, thus breaking down a segregationist wall with sheer backbone.

The Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, which came about as a result of the civil rights movement (THANK YOU TO OUR BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS), made it possible for highly educated Indians with selective and specialized skills to obtain visas for further education and/or immigrate to the United States.

South Asians arrived in the country—even with meager means—already on a much higher educational and professional trajectory than African Americans who had lived in this country for hundreds of years.

While our parents and many of us still experienced discrimination and racism on various levels, we were still in a completely different place than the black community. Quite often South Asian immigrants were extolled for their “model minority” status as newcomers who stayed in their lanes, while still contributing to the wealth and prosperity of the United States. And some of us bought into it and bought into the notion that aligning ourselves with white people over anyone else will serve us best in the end.

Speaking on the second and third-generation South Asian Americans, how many of us were directly or indirectly told to never bring home a black boyfriend or girlfriend? How many of us were given conditional parameters of acceptability with regards to race to work within? What I mean by that is, have any of us been told “classy” people outside our race were ok, but “unclassy” people were not. We knew what that meant. The Cosby Show was classy (in the 80s), Run DMC was not.

All the while, many of our parents told us to stay out of the sun lest we get dark or darker; hang out with “certain types of people,” white friends being on the top of that list; listen to country music please, not that hip/hop “rubbish,” etc. To be fair, many of us were blessed with families who did better than others in this regard, recognizing that in the world of white supremacy, brown and black are the same thing, and thus we need to stand in solidarity. But there were those, then and now, who buy into the nonsense that somehow brown is more valued on a color palette than black.

This summer, when I made a personal commitment to speak out on behalf of black lives and tried to share my viewpoints with family members who were proud of being coconuts (white on the inside, brown on the outside), there was pushback. And I’m sure anytime the topic of race and standing up for black lives comes up in a Desi household, there might be pushback.

All I have to say to that is keep pushing back to the push back as best as you can. If the last four years have taught us anything—especially with the pretty-close-to-endorsement of white supremacists by the president, all our lives are in danger.

To loosely paraphrase Mandisa, we all bleed the same, and if there’s a fight, we all have to fight for each other.