July 26, 2017

Random Acts… Words of sorrow, words of joy

Posted in Books, Entertainment, Health, Women at 1:04 am by dinaheng

My mom died in April. My dad died two months later. The part of me that died with them is just starting to heal.

Each day, Life sends us messages, if we pay attention, the messages offer guidance for how to deal with pain, how to appreciate joyful moments, how to remember that we are not alone.

Sometimes the message comes from a friend who sends flowers, out of the blue. Two arrangements came this week. Or an assignment for work hits you with such synchronicity that you know it’s not a coincidence. My mom died of stomach cancer. I was asked to interview Emmy-nominated actor Ron Cephas Jones, whose character William on NBC’s hit show “This Is Us” died of stomach cancer.

(Here’s a link to that story, if you’re interested… http://www.emmys.org/news/online-originals/celebrating-life .)

The other night, I went to a screening of “Wind River,” a murder mystery starring Jeremy Renner as a wildlife official in Wyoming who’s learned to deal with the death of his teenage daughter, three years earlier. He gives advice to a friend dealing with the death of his daughter, the murder victim, telling him not to block out the pain, because pain is what keeps the memory of loved ones alive.

Today, it is the memories that bring on sadness. I open the weekly advertising circular that comes in the mail, looking at the sales at grocery stores. It reminds me of Mom, who always looked at the circulars, scanning for food items that the family would enjoy, even though she couldn’t swallow solid food anymore.

Whenever we talked on the phone, she would ask, “Have you eaten yet?” To my mom, who once starved in China as a child, the words were the same as saying, “Are you doing okay? I love you.”

Going out to eat lunch was something my dad and I used to do every time I went home for a visit before he became too weak to walk anymore. He’d either want to go to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant, or a fast food place for burgers or roast beef sandwiches. Whenever I drive by a Burger King or Subway, I think of him.

The words he always asked me were, “When are you going to move back home?” In father speak, that meant, “I miss seeing you.”

Last night, I finished reading “The Reluctant Queen” by Sarah Beth Durst (Harper Voyager, $19.99), the latest in a great fantasy series about a world where dangerous spirits and humans coexist only through the magic wielded by its queens.

These are the words of that leapt out of its pages at me…

“I could tell you that time will heal you, but I think that’s a cruel thing to say, because right now, you don’t want time to heal you. You don’t want to forget. Because forgetting means that they’re really gone…

“…I do want you to forget this… the pain that feels as if it’s eating your skin and consuming your soul. I want you instead to remember the moments they made you smile, or cry, the moments they made you feel alive. I want you to honor the ways they shaped who you are and who you will become. For they are a part of you, now and forever.

“… (Your pain) is uniquely yours, and it is all right to feel it fully and deeply for today and for as many days as you need to feel it, until you can feel joy again…”

It’s good to know that Life is always reaching out to us.

 

June 2, 2017

Random Acts… Pick up a book this summer

Posted in Books, Diversity at 5:11 pm by dinaheng

Whether it’s mystery, fantasy, or romance you’re looking for this summer, all of that and more can be found in a good book. Here are a few that caught my eye for summertime reading…

There are few works of fiction that capture the feel of Asian Americans in our nation’s past in a way that makes you want to research and discover what actually happened beneath the surface of historical tomes.

But Beth Cato’s steampunk adventure “Breath of Earth” (Harper Voyager Books, 383 pgs.) gives an interesting glimpse of what life must have been like for the Chinese at the turn of the century, and for any group that has felt discrimination in any time period.

Cato’s story is set in an alternative 1906, where the United States and Japan have become allies with the shared goal of world domination, beginning with the destruction of China. In this fantasy, geomancers can control the energy of the earth to power airships; Reiki doctors can heal with magic, and women are ever subservient to men.

“Breath of Earth” book cover courtesy of Harper Voyager Books.

When a group of powerful geomancer wardens in San Francisco are assassinated, the only ones left to hold a catastrophic earthquake at bay are Ingrid Carmichael, a headstrong secretary whose power far surpasses those of the men she serves, and her mentor, who is gravely injured.

To clear herself of suspicion, and help her mentor, Ingrid seeks aid from Cy Jennings, a pacifist inventor; Fenris, Jennings’ enigmatic mechanic partner, and Lee, a Chinese friend who is much more than he seems. As the three unravel the mystery behind the assassinations, they discover that the greatest defense against fear is the strength of love and friendship.

When it comes to YA dystopian novels, I tend to pass on most, which offer cookie cutter plots. But Jessica Shirvington caught my eye with her two-part series “Disruption” and now. “Corruption” (HarperCollins, 435 pgs.)

“Corruption” book cover courtesy of HarperCollins.

“Corruption” concludes the story of Maggie Stevens’ hunt for her father and the fight to show the world the lies that M-Corp has woven for its own corporate gain. Now that Maggie has discovered the truth about her father, and has betrayed the love she found in Quentin Mercer, heir to M-Corp’s fortune, she must do whatever it takes to reveal the truth about the insidious company to the world.

With the help of Gus, the world’s best and most sarcastic hacker, Maggie and Quentin discover that nothing is what it seems in the life that both have taken for granted. With parallels to today’s reality — in which business leaders have as much sway over what happens in our democracy as politicians do – “Corruption” shows that greed is usually only stopped by those who have lost it all.

Yet in a world of broken promises, Shirvington’s tale shows that there’s still hope for the future, as long as we have someone worth fighting for in our lives.

“The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers, 386 pgs.) may have been written for those 10 years and older, but the captivating fantasy speaks to the child in all of us, sharing wisdom about life, death, and the stories that shape our everyday lives.

“The Girl Who Drank the Moon” book cover courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers.

The 2017 Newbery Medal winner is a novel about a certain way of life… Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to a witch to keep her from terrorizing their town. The truth of the matter, though, is that the witch rescues the abandoned babies and gives them to loving families elsewhere.

One year, though, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight, turning her into an extraordinary child filled with magic. When Luna turns 13, the magic locked within begins to emerge, as Xan’s magic begins to fade. When the real reason behind the baby offerings is revealed, the people of the Protectorate learn that evil has lurked in their midst all along, and that the only way to end fear is to stop feeding it.

When Luna finally discovers who her mother is, she helps to shatter the town’s misconceptions, and frees the woman who has grieved for her for years. Loving both her mother and Xan, whom she looks upon as her grandmother, Luna teaches all that “My love isn’t divided. It is multiplied.”

“Carmer and Grit” book cover courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers.

Technology and magic come together when a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess unite to battle mechanical creations that threaten the faerie kingdom in “Carmer and Grit – Book One: The Wingsnatchers” by Sarah Jean Horwitz (Algonquin Young Readers, 360 pgs.).

Steampunk for young readers, this tale is the story of what happens when Felix Carmer III, an aspiring inventor and apprentice to Antoine the Amazifier, meets Grit, the stubborn faerie princess who’s unable to fly with one wing, but is determined to do whatever it takes to fight the mysterious menace that is quietly enslaving faeries.

As the two confront a mad scientist whose mechanical inventions are dependent on the magic generated by faeries, Carmer discovers a bravery inside he never knew he had, and Grit learns that shouldering the responsibilities of a princess is way more than pomp and circumstance.

For a summertime escape, check them out.

 

May 10, 2017

Random Acts… When your mother is gone

Posted in Health, Women at 6:36 pm by dinaheng

My mother passed a few weeks ago.

She fought stomach cancer for more than two years, going through radiation treatments and chemotherapy to eek out one more day with her children and grandchildren.

My sisters and I did our best to take care of her, so that she would be able to die at home when the time came. For the last six months, I have been flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Houston to help out, spending more and more time with her until the end. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.

You never really know what it means to lose a parent until it happens to you. If we’re lucky enough to have parents who are still living, we usually take their presence for granted. Mothers and fathers, after all, are supposed to be the ones whose lives revolve around us.

But when we realize that time with the ones we love is truly limited, everything changes. Suddenly, losing income is not as important as losing precious moments with Mom. Losing the “normalcy” of everyday routines doesn’t matter when you’re needed to take her to the emergency room, again and again.

Losing sleep doesn’t matter when your body instinctively wakes up at 4 a.m. to check and see if Mom needs help to go to the bathroom. Losing your appetite means little when you watch your mother become unable to eat anything that’s not thinly pureed or liquid.

Together, we went through the ups and downs of remission and the return of cancer. I held her hand as she made moaning sounds, unable to talk about her fears, and watched her struggle to get into the wheelchair when she was too weak to walk anymore. Through it all, she never gave up hope of living… one more day.

The week she died, I left Houston on Wednesday, telling her I would be back in two days. She passed the next day. I guess she couldn’t wait for me to return.

The days have been a blur since then. I cry whenever anything reminds me of her. I am grateful that just as she brought my sisters and me into this world, we were able to help her pass into the next.

This Mother’s Day, a friend — who also recently lost her mom — and I will be having lunch together to celebrate our mothers. I’m sure we’ll both have plenty of memories to laugh and cry about.

That’s what happens when you live life to the fullest.

 

January 23, 2017

Random Acts… Everyone should attend Festival of Human Abilities

Posted in Art, Diversity, Entertainment, Health, Travel at 5:37 pm by dinaheng

Why does an aquarium have an annual festival featuring performances that showcase the creativity of people with disabilities?

“It’s all part of our outreach to many communities,” explains Peter Martineau, marketing events manager for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. “Our mission is about taking care of the animals, the ocean and the ecosystem by getting people engaged to accomplish that mission.”Dinah Eng

So in addition to cultural festivals that celebrate people from diverse racial backgrounds, the Aquarium decided to create an event highlighting the talents of those with disabilities. The great thing about these events is that people from all walks of life attend and learn from each other.

This year, the Aquarium’s 14th Annual Festival of Human Abilities (Jan. 28-29) will feature hip hop wheelchair dancers (Auti Angel, The Rollettes, and Infinite Flow); a sign language choir; Kodi Lee, a singer who is blind and has autism; Dat Nguyen, a guitarist who is blind, and other inspiring performers.

Along with music and dance, the event will include art demonstrations, like the making of mouth-stick art by local artists with disabilities. Diveheart, an organization that takes people with disabilities scuba diving, will do a talk and take divers into an Aquarium exhibit.

Free creative workshop classes, lasting 30 to 45 minutes, will teach participants how to sing in sign language, create wheelchair art, paint a hat, or try hip hop wheelchair dancing. The Aquarium will also give audio tours for guests who are blind.

Auti Angel gives a wheelchair dancing performance at the 13th Annual Aquarium of the Pacific's Festival of Human Abilities. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Auti Angel gives a wheelchair dancing performance at the 13th Annual Aquarium of the Pacific’s Festival of Human Abilities. Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

“We all have challenges in our lives, and whether you have a disability or not, you’ll find yourself inspired by these performances,” Martineau says. “We usually get about 7,000 attendees each day, and one of the most powerful things is the opportunity for people who don’t have disabilities to feel comfortable around those who do.

“The more you can talk to someone and hang out with them, the more you realize that that person’s a human being you can talk to. Everyone at the festival is getting the ocean conservation message, and it’s going to take a diverse world of people to make it happen.”

Admission to the festival costs $29.95 for adults (12 years and older), $26.95 for seniors (62 and older); $17.95 for children 3 to 11; and is free for children ages 3 and younger. Members of the Aquarium are admitted free of charge.

For more information, check out http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/events/info/festival_of_human_abilities/.

 

 

 

January 10, 2017

‘Patriots Day’ brings out the best in us

Posted in Entertainment, Politics at 3:52 am by dinaheng

Only those who have been in the middle of a terrorist attack can truly know the shock, fear and anger that such acts cause. But if you watch CBS Film’s  “Patriots Day,” you’ll come closer to the pain involved, and be inspired by the goodness that can emerge from fear.

The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt, meticulously researched by director and writer Peter Berg (“Deepwater Horizon,” “Lone Survivor”), is a suspenseful account of a true crime that manages to grab you from the start and never let go.

More than entertaining, the film brings a deep understanding of how the attack affected the City of Boston, and how citizens, first responders, and law enforcement officials banded together to catch the terrorists four days after the bombs went off.Dinah Eng

While many of the characters are based on real life people, the central figure of Sgt. Tommy Saunders of the Boston Police Department (played by Mark Wahlberg) is a composite of several actual Boston police officers and first responders. Through his eyes, we see the horror of the event, and the determination of law enforcement to find the perpetrators.

While many acts of acts of heroism occur in the film, the unexpected hero is Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), a Chinese immigrant and tech entrepreneur who, after being kidnapped by the terrorists, risks his life to call 911 and report their whereabouts.

Meng, and other real life survivors like Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea) and Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) — both of whom lost legs in the bombing – are shining examples of the spirit of those whose lives were forever changed by the incident.

For even after losing so much personally, they continue to face the future without malice in their hearts. Listen to these words from the real life people who are portrayed in the film:

* “I think that day…the bombers took lives and limbs, they took some of our sense of security,” Former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick says. “But they took a lot less than they intended. And they gave us back some things they didn’t intend…they gave us a stronger sense of community, a common cause. And I think we’ve seen that in some other examples, in other cities around the world.”

* “When we see the news that another attack has happened, in Brussels, in Islamabad, Nice… Orlando, San Bernardino, Paris,” survivor Patrick Downes says, “I think it’s important we think of these people around the world, not as victims of violence, but ambassadors for peace.”

* “This has been the absolute worst and lowest time in our lives, as well as the best,” survivor Jessica Kensky says. “After being the recipient of such incredible care and kindness, the very least I can do is get out of bed and try again, and try and make this world a little bit better for someone else.”

To try again… to make the world better for others, and ourselves… this is what “Patriots Day” is about.

 

 

 

 

January 3, 2017

Random Acts… Past and present connect in new tales

Posted in Books, Politics, Women at 10:09 pm by dinaheng

Everything in life is connected. The things we do today affect what happens tomorrow. The things we did yesterday affect what happens today.

Two authors explore that concept in different, intriguing ways in their latest novels.Dinah Eng

James Rollins, whose adventures often combine historical mystery and scientific exploration, has penned a thriller about an ancient plague that could wipe out the modern world in “The Seventh Plague” (William Morrow, on sale now).

In the book, which features characters from Rollins’ Sigma Force series, the leader of a British archaeological expedition stumbles out of the Sudanese desert, two years after vanishing with his research team. He dies before he can share what happened to him, and reveal who had begun to mummify his body – while he was still alive.

When the medical team who performs the archaeologist’s autopsy dies from an unknown illness, Painter Crowe, the director of Sigma Force, summons his team to investigate. Helping the team is the archaeologist’s only daughter, Jane McCabe, who discovers a connection between what is happening in the present and a historical mystery involving the travels of Mark Twain, the research of Nikola Tesla and the fate of explorer Henry Morgan Stanley.

"The Seventh Plague" by James Rollins. Book cover courtesy of William Morrow.

“The Seventh Plague” by James Rollins. Book cover courtesy of William Morrow.

Rollins explores the question of whether a virus could have caused the Biblical plagues, and whether today’s society is really ready to deal with global pandemics. Noting in the book that the Zika virus originated in a monkey in Uganda, the organism in the book is in the same family of viruses, causing birth defects and death, but only in male children.

The author, whose parents recently passed away from complications secondary to Alzheimer’s, dedicated the book to them. One of the main characters in the book, Commander Gray Pierce, grapples with the challenge of caring for a father whose Alzheimer’s has worsened throughout the series, and clearly reflects an experience felt by all who have aging parents.

When it comes to understanding the complexity of scientific issues, Rollins does a great job of using facts to keep readers guessing as his plot unfolds. Whether humanity is truly ready to face the crises that climate change and potential pandemics will bring is anybody’s guess.

Facing crises of faith and magical battles is at the center of “Heartstone” by Elle Katharine White (Harper Voyager, on sale Jan. 17, 2017), an absorbing reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice.”

In this tale, White weaves an historical fantasy with characters who live in a world where gryphons and direwolves battle dragonriders and wyverns. The heroine, a headstrong Aliza Bentaine, is as resourceful and brave as Austen’s Lizzy Bennet, facing both the demons that threaten the kingdom and her fears about falling in love with the haughty dragonrider, Alastair Daired (known as Mr. Darcy in Austen’s world).

"Heartstone" by Elle Katharine White. Book cover courtesy of Harper Voyager.

“Heartstone” by Elle Katharine White. Book cover courtesy of Harper Voyager.

Despite its connection to “Pride and Prejudice,” this story stands on its own with a well-crafted plot, passionate characters who come to life, and themes exploring class lines and what true love entails.

When Anjey, Aliza’s sister, falls in love with Cedric Brysney, a dragonrider and Alastair’s friend, the two seem destined for each other. But when duty calls, Cedric must leave, and the separation tests the faith each has in the other. Little do they suspect that someone is scheming to break them apart.

When Aliza is called to help an aunt and uncle who live near the Daired estate, she investigates why Cedric has not replied to any of Anjey’s letters. The answer to this romantic mystery unfolds as an even greater threat to humanity surfaces. (There are monsters aplenty in this realm).

As in all things, past connections bring present crises to the fore in this tale, which affirms the power of love to heal all wounds. For those who love classic romance and stories set in magical settings, “Heartstone” is a tale worth reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 16, 2016

Random Acts… Finding “My Christmas Love” a Joy

Posted in Entertainment, Movies, Relationships, Television, Women at 3:22 am by dinaheng

When it comes to holiday movies, Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas is a sure bet for films that convey the nostalgia and true meaning of the season.

This weekend, a sweet tale about a children’s book author who’s always searching for – and never finding — the perfect love, unfolds in “My Christmas Love,” which airs Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. Eastern.Dinah Eng

In the movie, author Cynthia Manning (played by Meredith Hagner) returns to her family home for her sister’s wedding, and invites her illustrator and best friend Liam Pollak (Bobby Campo) to join her for the holidays.

When a series of presents, reflecting each day in “The 12 Days of Christmas,” is delivered to her father’s doorstep, Cynthia is convinced that one of her former boyfriends is behind the deed.

Jeff Fisher, the director of the film, was hooked by the premise.

“I love romantic comedies,” Fisher says. “If you go on a journey with someone in the film, and they find love and happiness, you’re along for the ride. Romantic comedies make people happier when they leave the theater, their TV or their phone.”

Fisher, who has produced reality TV shows (“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, “Flip It to Win It” and others), says “My Christmas Love” is a return to the genres he loves best – romantic comedies and musicals.

Bobby Campo and  Meredith Hagner star in "My Christmas Love."  Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

Bobby Campo and Meredith Hagner star in “My Christmas Love.” Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

“My first short films were in those genres,” Fisher says. “To pay those films off, I got some reality TV jobs, then my first movies (“Killer Movie” and “Killer Reality”) were off issues from the reality TV shows.”

“My Christmas Love” is probably as far from horror and reality TV shows as audiences can get. The importance of celebrating Christmas with family is central to the plot, as Cynthia’s dad, Tom Manning (Gregory Harrison), is a new widower who must be encouraged to get out into the community to enjoy the spirit of the holidays again.

As Cynthia searches for her “true love,” her father reminds her that life’s answers are often right in front of our noses.

“I liked Cynthia’s Nancy Drew personality, looking for who sent the presents,” Fisher says, “and I loved the twist of who’s behind the gifts.”

The film, he says, was shot in various cities in Utah, which offered a good tax incentive to the filmmakers.

Shooting the film in Utah, however, may be the reason why the film lacks diverse casting. The only minority face in the movie belongs to actress Yolanda Wood, who had a brief speaking role in the beginning of the film playing Sandra, the hostess of a café that Cynthia often patronizes.

“There can always be more diversity in films,” Fisher says. “I don’t know how diverse Salt Lake City is, since a lot of our supporting actors came from there.”

Regardless, love is a universal language, and the holidays are meant to be celebrated. To see whether Cynthia finds her true love, tune into “My Christmas Love.”

November 10, 2016

HE is now “The Queen of Blood”

Posted in Books, Diversity, Politics, Women at 6:27 pm by dinaheng

Everything has a spirit… from the land that is parched by drought to the sea that rises like a tsunami when angry. In human beings, the spirit that has driven Americans through this presidential election has been fear and loathing.

Now that Donald Trump has won the contest, the true test of leadership begins.Dinah Eng

I couldn’t help but think of our presidential candidates as I read Sarah Beth Durst’s insightful fantasy, “The Queen of Blood” (Harper Voyager, 350 pp). In Durst’s novel, the realm of Renthia is ruled by queens who must prove that they can control the spirits that inhabit the world around them.

While we live in a nation that has yet to elect a female president, all those who hold the office get there by convincing voters that they are the best candidate to control the forces that determine our economy, our nation’s defense, and our foreign policy. Of course, no one can control anything except the way we behave toward others.

The heroine in Book One of this saga is Daleina, a young woman whose village was destroyed by rampaging spirits when she was a child. Determined to prevent the carnage from happening to others, Daleina trains to become a potential heir to the throne of Aratay, learning to use magic to bend the spirits to her will.

The spirits in this world are easily understood. The spirits of the trees want to grow. The spirits of the air want to fly. Whatever the element, plant or animal, its wish is to fulfill its natural inclination and purpose. At the same time, the spirits want to kill human beings.

Courtesy of Harper Voyager.

Courtesy of Harper Voyager.

So it is that Trump has used great showmanship to persuade a society that worships celebrities and tawdry gossip to choose him for our leader.

America has voted for change, and we must be grateful that change is always possible in a democracy. Let us hope that Trump ends up doing more to bring us together than his campaign rhetoric did.

For too long, partisanship has divided us. It took a shocking election wake up call for those long in power to hear the deep-seated anger of those who feel powerless and in pain.

What people in pain don’t always realize, though, is that change for change’s sake is never enough. When Trump supporters see that he will not fulfill the campaign promises that were only designed to win protest votes, will they grow even angrier? Will those who voted against him stretch the partisan divide even more?

Or will we all come to understand that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s message that we are stronger together really is the only way to make America great again?

In “The Queen of Blood,” Daleina is not the smartest or strongest potential heir, but she is a young woman who, above all else, wants to do the right thing. It is only after many spirits and humans are slaughtered that she rises to take the throne.

None of us really know what is in Donald Trump’s heart. We can only hope that the Office of the President of the United States challenges him to be better than anyone imagines.

In Renthia, each queen is chosen by the spirits when the previous queen dies, and must keep the world thriving with natural forces while taking care of the needs of the people.

Clinton’s concession speech showed the kind of leader she is, gracious and inspiring, even in defeat.

Trump must now show what kind of spirit truly lies within him.

 

September 19, 2016

Tales of terrorism all too real

Posted in Books, Politics at 4:40 pm by dinaheng

If you’ve never been the target of a terrorist attack, you probably have no idea how thin the veil of safety is that separates your sense of normalcy from constant fear and death.

Stories about ISIS and Al Queda attacks in different parts of the world dominate the news, but most of us really don’t think much about the politics and poverty behind the tragedies that occur daily. Until, perhaps, the attacks hit home on U.S. soil, like the New York and New Jersey bombings this last weekend.Dinah Eng

Read Daniel Silva’s “The Black Widow” (Harper, $27.99), and you’ll begin to realize that whatever happens across the world is bound to find its way to our doorstep.

Silva, a best-selling author of spy novels, fills his books with history, politics, and a look at what really happens behind the scenes of terrorism in the news. “The Black Widow” is an entertaining and intelligent primer on the chaos roiling the Middle East.

We join master spy Gabriel Allon, who’s about to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, as he leads the fight against a man named Saladin, whose terrorist network hides in the shadows of the Internet.

Photo courtesy of Harper.

Photo courtesy of Harper.

To penetrate that network, Allon recruits a brave Israeli physician to pose as a vindictive “black widow” who’s ready to die for ISIS. The operative’s travels from Paris to Greece to a training camp in Palmyra to Washington, D.C. reveal how vulnerable, disenfranchised people are recruited for extremist causes.

The trail of terror is told with details of the failures of Western Europe security forces, the lure of jihad, and the path to attacks on U.S. soil. Silva’s narrative is a page-turner of moral issues and geopolitical conundrums that bring home how connected we all are, whether we want to see it or not.

If Silva’s spy novels seem too close to home, the fantasy and folklore in the Jackaby novels by William Ritter will distract, yet teach, important life lessons. The supernatural mysteries, which feature the sleuthing adventures of paranormal detective R.F. Jackaby, as told by his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook, are intriguing tales of life in a 19th Century New England town called New Fiddleham.

Courtesy of Algonquin, Workman Publishing.

Courtesy of Algonquin, Workman Publishing.

“Ghostly Echoes” (Algonquin, $17.95), the third book in the Jackaby series, explores the murder of Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghost who lingers in Jackaby’s house on Auger Lane. Jenny, who has become a dear friend to Abigail and Jackaby, learns that a great evil was responsible for her death, and even though she no longer exists on the Earth plane, she is far from powerless.

There’s romance for Abigail with Charlie Barker, a shape-shifting police officer; a trip to Annwyn, the land of the dead; and encounters with a vampire and a nixie (otherwise known as an evil water nymph).

Jackaby, who has the Sight, long ago learned to ignore the world’s skepticism, for he knows that the things we do not see are often more important than the things we do. He tells Abigail that we all make our own luck in life, and that real power lies in “finding something to believe in.”

Both Silva’s spy novel and Ritter’s fantasy explore the nature of fear and the choices that determine the kind of human beings we want to be. Terror and darkness exist in both genres, as they do in real life. Thankfully, so are the heroes who fight for the Light.

 

June 27, 2016

Random Acts… Brexit and the “Free State of Jones”

Posted in Business, Diversity, Employment, Entertainment, Movies, Politics at 8:06 pm by dinaheng

Life can sometimes seem like a never-ending cycle of unresolved conflicts.

Great Britain surprised the world last week by voting to leave the European Union. The campaigns of the presumptive GOP and Democratic nominees in the U.S. Presidential election mirror the conflicting sides of the Brexit debate. A new movie about the Civil War – STX Entertainment’s “Free State of Jones” — reflects the intractable partisan politics of today’s Democrats and Republicans.

It all comes back to the power of fear versus the power of love.Dinah Eng

Fear of losing cheap labor (in the form of slaves) tore this country apart in the early 1860s. Fear of losing jobs to immigrants is a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign and Brexit’s “leave” campaign today.

What we need is more Newton Knights in the world. Knight (played by Matthew McConaughey) in “Free State of Jones,” was a little-known figure in Civil War history whose contribution to this country proves that every action we take ripples through time.

Knight, a Mississippi farmer, led an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves in breaking away from the Confederacy to form the region’s first mixed-race community. Refusing to fight a “rich man’s war,” Knight became a Confederate deserter, hiding in the swamps of rural Mississippi and inspiring a ragtag army to fight injustice and prejudice.

After the Civil War ended, Knight advocated for the right of freed slaves to vote in Jones County, Miss. and fought the Klu Klux Klan. He fathered five children in a common-law marriage to Rachel, a former slave, and while they could not legally marry, he deeded his 160-acre farm to her, making her one of the few African-American women to own land in the South.

Knight also fathered children by his first wife, Serena, who left him during the Civil War. After the war, Serena returned to the Knight farm, where both wives and their families lived.

Eighty five years later, Knight’s great-grandson Davis Knight, who looks Caucasian, was indicted for violating Mississippi law by marrying Junie Lee Spradley, a white woman. While Davis Knight was convicted of miscegenation in 1948, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the verdict.

Prejudice and economic inequality seem to go hand in hand in humanity’s history. No one knows what will happen when Britain formally leaves the EU. Since last week’s referendum, Scotland is considering the possibility of leaving Great Britain to stay in the EU.

Republicans who can’t stand Trump’s rhetoric will no doubt look for ways to oust him at the GOP convention, or break away to form a new party of their own.

Politically, we can always move from one party to another, or leave a block of countries to stand independently. What people seem to forget is that no matter where we go, if fear is the driving force, we will just end up under another label, afraid of something else.

Brexit’s “leave” faction won the referendum because the positive reasons for remaining in the EU got lost amid the shouts of fear against other cultures, a view held mostly by an older generation that feels left out and left behind in a global society. The same dynamic has driven Trump’s rise in the United States.

Today’s Republicans and Democrats have an opportunity to defeat the prejudice that divides us. We must realize, though, that the only way to end any partisan divide is to face our fears, build bridges, and let the power of love heal our wounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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