Month: April 2013

Let’s Discuss — White Butterfly by Walter Mosley

I kept my silence and Hobbes took his friendly hand back. I was in a hurry to get to my house. I felt bad about turning down the policeman. I felt miserable that young women would die. But there was nothing I could do. I had my own life to attend to–didn’t I? (20)

So what’s new with Easy? Well, he’s living with his adopted son, Jesus, a new wife and baby. They’re one, big, happy family–except not really, or not for long anyways. Easy’s called on once again to help the police find a serial killer of exotic dancers/strippers/women of that variety. But the time Easy spends away from home, enveloped in secrets of the L.A underworld, eventually takes a toll on his family life.

This story is as much about personal transgression as it is criminal wrongdoing. What do I mean by personal transgression? …well it seems Easy married his wife, simply so he can say he has a wife at home. And then there’s his daughter who is named Edna–daringly close to his ex-lover/best friend’s ex-wife’s name, Etta. Now, I’m sure he loves his wife and daughter, but I’m also sure he’s more in love with the idea of having a wife and child at home, in the house he bought all those years ago. It’s an attempt to grasp some normalcy and it ties back in with his struggle over possession in A Red Death.

In the end, we see where creeping around at questionable hours, in questionable places gets him and the family he always wanted. Easy once built up, is stripped down.

Let’s Discuss — Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio

No, Miss Emily had not a clue as to what ailed me. She could stop herself from eating. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help what I did. My urges controlled me. Nevertheless, in Miss Emily’s eyes, we were the same. She was the orphan of Ginseng; I was the orphan of Poplar Holler. If she had her way, she’d used our strangeness to unite us (38)

Icy Sparks is a serious yet playful story of a young girl named, Icy Sparks, whose adolescence is marred by tics and outbursts she cannot control. Icy learns the value of the truth from a young age. She knows how her parents died and how their dispositions may have affected her own. She knows she’s different and feels her difference should be kept a secret. But the longer Icy keeps her secrets, the longer the pressure builds and the greater the outburst. These outbursts drastically affect Icy and her relationship with everyone in the small rural Kentucky community.

Icy is a great character. I can’t decide if she’s rudely honest or honestly rude. Either way it’s charming. I think the author is successful at spotlighting a seriously misunderstood topic in a very humorous and relatable way. The narrative is sprinkled with bits like this:

I stared at Wilma’s stomach, which was puffing out more than usual, and at her mustache, which had become thicker and hardier in the past few weeks, and gagged at her being pregnant and even harder at the thought of her being the Virgin Mary. “Poor baby Jesus,” I whispered. (169)

There are similar interactions between Icy and her best friend and teacher, Emily. Icy spares no feelings about her friend’s obesity. They’re an interesting duo. I’m conflicted because I know Miss Emily loves Icy and wants to elevate her, but I don’t know by how much. I wasn’t always convinced she wanted Icy to do better—they’re outcasts together after all. I’m mostly referring to conversation they had over being ‘touched’. And by ‘touched’, I do mean intimately. It’s one of the more awkward sections of the book, yet completely necessary. Emily’s relationship with Icy works because there are good and bad parts to each person. Everyone has their own demons.

Icy’s resolution, her epiphany at the Revival left me perplexed. The atmosphere is so unlike the rest of the book and admittedly, it threw me off. I think Icy’s character is very likeable, interesting and believable, but to toss God in there when she wasn’t particularly religious was somewhat odd. At the same time, it makes sense because Icy could care less if she attended a Catholic, Baptist, or Methodist church. She really needed that feeling of community and acceptance. Icy was able to jump headfirst into something with no fear or threat of rejection. By singing with several church choirs, she can finally be part of the community that had estranged her since childhood.

Let’s Discuss — The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula LeGuin

The Earth is beautiful, and bright and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel. The rabbit shrieks dying in the green meadows. The mountains clench their great hands full of hidden fire. There are sharks in the sea, and there is cruelty in men’s eyes. And where men worship these things and abase themselves before them, there evil breeds… (118)

The majority of this short book is dedicated to introducing the character, Arha, the High Priestess of The Nameless Ones in the Place of Tombs. She is a living artifact of a somewhat forgotten religion that is less relevant to the kingdom of the Godking that rules. Ged/Sparrowhawk, the protagonist from A Wizard of Earthsea, enters the book much later.

The worship at the Place of Tombs is very dark in nature. It involves frequent human sacrifice and trips into a labyrinth of tombs and treasure, where no light is permitted. Arha learns how religion means different things for different people. For some it is a pathway to power. For others it’s a way of life. And for many it’s something to do because there is nothing else to do. Gradually, Arha forms opinions on the hierarchy she participates in, and one by one divides friend from foe.

Arha inadvertently discovers Ged in the tombs one day. Ged is an outsider, a nonbeliever and heathen wizard. His presence defies everything Arha has been taught–he lights the darkness. Ged shows her there’s more in the world than what’s suppressed in the dark labyrinth.

I didn’t enjoy The Tombs of Atuan as much as A Wizard of Earthsea. I found Ged’s origin story to be more compelling than Arha’s…she comes across very self-righteous, condescending and self-centered. But this is a side-effect of her upbringing. As The Eaten One, she is placed on a pedestal and told the darkness is her domain. Sequestered at the Place, she only knows what the other priestesses have taught her. Yet she is just a girl, young and dumb, with no grasp on how vast and different the world is.

So by the end, Arha still has much to learn about herself, whereas, Ged had matured substantially by the end of his origin story. However, Ged also had the freedom to go on a journey of self-discovery. Thanks to Ged, Arha is just now finding this freedom and perhaps in the third book of the Earthsea Cycle, Arha will experience something more.