Akiane and Foreli Kramarik’s Akiane: Her life, her art, her poetry.


Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry by Akiane Kramarik | LibraryThing

Kramarik, A., & Kramarik, F. (2006). Akiane: Her life, her art, her poetry. Nashville, Tenn: W Publishing Group. 9780849900440

Reasons for Reading: I believe I first learned of Akiane Kramarik when she was a guest on Oprah. However, I’m not certain. She made a lasting impression on me when I read Heaven is for Real.  So, when I found HCPL owned Akiane and Foreli Kramarik’s Akiane: Her life, her art, her poetry, I requested a copy.

Summary: Young prodigy Akiane Kramarik’s outstanding body of artwork comes to light in this book. Born to an atheist mother and lapsed Catholic father, Akiane remarkably sought God. Her faith and developing relationship with God brought her family to belief and acceptance. The book tells Akiane’s story, shows her glorious artwork, and shares her poetry.

What I Liked: This book presented Akiane’s artwork beautifully. The paintings nearly leapt off the pages at me. Also, Akiane captures the attention just through this book setting on the coffee table.  

What I Disliked:  As this book came out in 2006, I’m curious to find more recent info on Akiane.

Four Out of Five Pearls

 
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Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader


* A 1001 Books Book

Schlink, B. (1998). The reader. New York: Vintage Books. 9780679781301

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink | WorldCat

I spotted a copy of this slim book on the Friends of Freeman Library bookshelf. Moving quickly, I managed to buy it. Despite what I previously heard about the heavy topics, I rapidly finished this book.

Divided into three parts and told in the first person narrative form, Part I begins in West Germany in 1958 when fifteen year old Michael Berg becomes gravely ill on his way home from school. Thirty-six year old tram conductor Miss Schmitz sees him and plays the Good Samaritan by hosing down his shoes and guiding him down the road. Michael finds his way home, where he convalesces from hepatitis. His father, a philosophy professor, and his mother keep him from leaving home. When he’s well again, Mrs. Berg sends Michael with a bouquet to Miss Schmitz’s door to show his appreciation, discovering he’s drawn to her. Miss Schmitz catches him watching her dress and Michael runs from her place. However, Michael returns to Miss Schmitz’s apartment, helps her with lugging coal, and becomes covered with coal dust. Miss Schmitz insists Michael bathe and when he does, Miss Schmitz seduces him. A love affair ensues as Michael settles into a routine of visiting her apartment – bathing, having sex, and reading. Michael reads aloud to Miss Schmitz, who in turn, reveals her first name to be Hanna. So, Michael reads classics such as The Odyssey and War and Peace to his lover. During their affair, they don’t talk much about their lives and Hanna becomes morose and abusive at times. After a few months of this, Hanna disappears. Michael develops into a sullen heel himself.

In Part II, as a law student in 1965, Michael and his classmates observe a war crimes trial. Former female Schutzstaffel (SS) guards are on trial for the deaths of 300 Jewish prisoners. One of these guards just happens to be Hanna, Michael’s former lover. Even more perplexing is the fact that Hanna, unlike the other women on trial, refuses to defend what she did as an SS guard. Then, Michael understands that Hanna is hiding an even darker secret. Michael faces the dilemma of letting Hanna “hang herself” for the crime or to reveal what would set her free.

Part III holds the conclusion, taking place in the 1990s. Herein, Michael comes to terms with his relationship with Hanna and choices they’ve made. Without spoiling the book, all I’ll say is that he seeks absolution.

What an austere little book! The sparse prose and clipped tone of the work seemed in perfect accord with the Michael Berg’s thoughts. Also, The Reader delves into the psyche of a rich inner world and thought life – read cerebral. Another element worth noting, Michael’s rather miserly when it comes to labeling people. For example, he never offer names for his parents nor his siblings. Then, he doesn’t name the survivors who bring about Hanna’s trial. Simply, Michael bestows names upon few.

Schlink portrays the intimacy of the two German generations – the Nazi participants (willing/unwilling) and the post-War youth who desire to rectify their fore bearers’ mistakes. He shows precisely the grayness that contemporary analysts find polarizing. No matter how much Michael’s generation wants to wipe the slate clean, none of us should forget. Michael even recognizes how his own father, a philosopher who focuses on Kant and Hegel, inadvertently supported the Nazi cause by writing hiker’s guides. They are inseparable.

Another remarkable theme is ignorance versus knowledge. Enlightenment leads not just to better ways to make a living for oneself, it also opens the path to better decisions.

Then, there’s the intertextuality – the complex relationship between a text and other texts taken as basic to the creation or interpretation of the text (Merriam Webster 2011). Michael’s literary selection came from Enlightenment Era.

Lastly, there’s the prevailing theme of humanity. Part III sees to a purposefulness in Michael that Part II seems to lack. Here, the titular Reader becomes enlightened and compassionate.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – Nicole Atkins – Together We Are Both Alone – Live Troubadour

Places : Germany, Poland, The United States

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Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex


Eugenides, J. (2002). Middlesex. New York: Picador. 9780312422158

I actually read this book in Summer 2007 whilst between semesters in grad school. It was Oprah’s pick at the time and I read it at warp speed. Unfortunately, I never reviewed the book. Seeing a copy of Middlesex for sale by the Friends of Freeman (HCPL), I bought it. I took a more leisurely pace began rereading it after Christmas 2010.

Cal Stephanides, a forty-one year old who identifies himself as a man, climbs his gnarly family tree. He possesses a recessive gene, 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, which made him appear female at the time of his birth. Believing him to be a girl, his parents named their “daughter” Calliope and called her “Callie”. After learning about the syndrome as an adolescent, Calliope changes his name to the masculine name, Cal. Taking on his Greek-American genealogy, Cal tells the story of a dirty little secret of his grandparents, Desdemona and Lefty, which shapes Calliope into Cal.

Upon hearing Oprah selected a book about hermaphrodite, I didn’t imagine myself reading this book. Yet, summer doldrums beset me and I stayed up several nights in a row reading Middlesex. The language Eugenides implements relates this story in a beautifully visual way. He crammed so much between the covers. Throughout, I learned more of the Smyrna fire, Prohibition-Era Detroit, the Nation of Islam, and the Pleasant Valley of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Eugenides encapsulates much of the contemporary life of Cal in Foreign Service Berlin as well. I enjoyed the mysteries he creates in his brother Chapter Eleven and catalyst The Obscure Object. I laughed at Desdemona’s work for the Nation of Islam and Aunt Lina’s droll tones. Above all else, I considered the sex versus gender argument in a fresh light.

Four and a Half Out of Five Pearls

Song: “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha & the Vandellas

Places: Mt. Olympus, Smyrna, Turkey, Greece, New York City, Detroit, San Francisco, Germany

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With Middlesex being The Detroit Novel, I must link the following Super Bowl Ad:

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Marie Arana’s Lima Nights


Arana, M. (2009). Lima nights: A novel. New York: Dial Press. 978-0-385-34258-2

I happened to read part of a short book review in O Magazine on Lima Nights. My interest piqued by what I read and the author’s name (similar to that of a friend) led to seeking out the book at my local library branch. Fortunately, I found the book on the new fiction shelf.

Carlos Bluhm, an upper-class man of German descent, lives in Lima, Peru in 1986. By all outward appearances, Bluhm leads a charmed life. He’s married to the refined Sophie, also German, and has two sons. He and his best friends have a strong bond. Life seems goods. When visiting a tango bar in a bad part of town, he meets the young, indigenous Maria Fernandez. This sixteen year old chola turns Bluhm’s world upside down. Bluhm and Maria fall into an illicit affair which alters both their realities. Alternating between the views of Bluhm and Maria in 1986 and 2006, the reader sees how their lives unravel and knit together.

The unsatisfactory plot finds salvation in Arana’s style. Her clinical, psychological understanding of the characters as well as her clearly detailed scenes transform the pages into film. Also, Arana’s straightforward way of describing character prejudices between Caucasian and Pre-Columbian races transcends. Ultimately, she tells a story of doing the right thing. The complexity of Bluhm and Maria, in particular, amaze. These characters are multifaceted and breathing! Bluhm is described by a friend as the most lacking in racism. Yet, Bluhm knows otherwise. He knows better than to pursue a relationship with Maria but goes forth. When the time comes to take responsibility, he actually does.

However, this plot made me unhappy. Why? I saw a lot of wounded souls in this book and very little happiness. While only around 250 pages, this was no light read. I’m willing to give Arana another chance but this was not my favorite book.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Word Bank: bandoneón, butifarras, ceviche, chifa, Cholafraulein, habitués, hacienda, hosta lilies, jitneymestiza, Mutti, Peugeot, Pilsener, pisco, Riesling, Schätze, schnapps, Shining Path, spaetzle, telenovela, Teuton, vidente

Music:

Places: Lima, Peru; Germany; Switzerland; Amazon Rainforest

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