Book Review: West with the Night by Beryl Markham

April 29, 2008

West with the Night, a memoir by Beryl Markham, is one of my all time favorite books to read. Both for the glimpse it gives into life in Africa during the early decades of the 20th century, and for the descriptions of life for a bush pilot.

As a child growing up with her father in Africa, Markham faced down lions and wild boar. As an adult she trained race horses before learning to fly airplanes and becoming a bush pilot. Eventually she became the first pilot, female or male, to fly west with the night and cross the Atlantic ocean solo from Europe to North America. Marham bring the African bush to life with stories of boar hunts and elephant hunts. Of horse races and airplane flights over desert terrain. And she tells her story beautifully. There are other famous characters here as well. If you’re familiar with Bror Blixen and Denys Finch-Hatton, who appeared in Out of Africa, you’ll find more about both of them in this book.

Markham lived a courageous life in a time when girls were only supposed to wear dresses and play with dolls and flying airplanes was a man’s job. Her account of the early part of her life is fascinating and provides a good example for older girls. I recommend West with the Night for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and older.

Book Review: Sold by Patricia McCormick

April 24, 2008

I just finished reading Sold by Patricia McCormick. The story is about a Nepalese girl—13-year-old Lakshmi—who leaves home thinking she will be working to support her desperately poor family. In reality she has been sold into the sexual slave trade and is taken far away from anything that is relevant to her. A fictional tale of a very real event, Sold is an important book that sheds light on how easily girls can be lured away from their families and into situations from which it is difficult for them to escape.

To research her story, McCormick traveled to the countries of India and Nepal, and she interviewed the women living in Calcutta’s red-light district, as well as girls who had been rescued from sexual slavery. As the mother of two daughters, I think it’s important for them to know that cases like these are not isolated, and sexual slavery occurs all over the world, even in the U.S.

Sold has recently been released in paperback, and I believe it would make for a very interesting discussion with a mother-daughter book club. The scenes of Lakshmi’s life before she leaves home are bittersweet as well as enlightening about what life is like for the people who live in the villages of Nepal. And Lakshmi is as innocent as you might expect any girl her age to be. Her voice rings true throughout the book; she’s a very real character.

A non-fiction book I recently read on this topic called Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone makes a great companion to Sold. Batstone tells of organizations in many different countries that are fighting this horrific practice, and gives ideas for what each of us can do to help support them.

Shakespeare’s Birthday

April 22, 2008

Tomorrow, April 23, is considered the officially recognized birthday of William Shakespeare. My daughter, Madeleine, loves to watch his plays as well as act in them when she gets a chance to do that at school. I’ve always been surprised at and a little bit in awe of her early love of Shakespeare. My own theory is that she was exposed to his works when she was young, at a time when a lot of what adults said didn’t make sense to her. So she learned to appreciate the overall story without focusing so much on understanding every single word that was spoken.

I wish I could say the same is true for me. The first Shakespeare play I saw was Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was in high school and my class traveled to see the production at a local university. That play is certainly one of the most accessible of Shakespeare’s works, but I still struggle with it. And I read as much background as I can about a play before I attend any production so I’ll know the general story line.

We haven’t chosen Shakespeare for any of our mother-daughter book club meetings, but I think it would be great to read one of his plays and then attend a theater production together as a group. I’d love to hear from someone who has done this and how it went.

Happy 444th birthday William Shakespeare.

Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

April 17, 2008

My daughter Catherine can’t get enough of this super simple pie that’s easy to prepare for a mother-daughter book club meeting. Catherine loves just about everything with peanut butter, but she’s not alone. Every time I make this recipe the pie disappears so fast I think I should have made two.

Peanut Butter Pie

  • 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 tblsp. milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • about 1/2 cup (or slightly more) peanut butter
  • 1 tub (8 oz.)  Cool Whip, thawed

Blend all ingredients together and spoon into a graham cracker crust. Refrigerate. You can purchase a pre-prepared graham cracker crust, but making one is easy too. I make a chocolate graham cracker crust.

Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 6 tblsp. melted butter

Mix all ingredients together and press into a pie tin. It will be loose and crumbly, so refrigerate until cold before spooning the pie filling in. You can bake it at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, but my family prefers it unbaked.

It’s that simple. I got the recipe from my mom, and she also finds that the pie is gobbled up quickly every time she makes it. Enjoy!

Book Review: Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson

April 15, 2008

Songs for a Teenage Nomad

Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson tells the story of Callie Smith, a teen girl who’s been moving from town to town with her mother for as long as she can remember. As far as Callie is concerned, the story seldom changes – her mom meets someone new, falls in love, they move in together, life is normal for a while, and all too quickly normal ends and they are packed up and on their way again. As she starts high school in a new town, Callie dares to make friends and has hope that this time things will be different.

As the story unfolds, Callie realizes her mom is keeping a secret about their past and Callie’s father, and the mystery becomes a great part of the story. A thread running throughout the narrative is the song journal that Callie keeps. It’s like having a soundtrack of her life, and I found myself thinking about the songs that would go in my own song journal, and what the soundtrack of my life would be.

Songs for a Teenage Nomad explores many issues that are of interest to teenage girls and their moms – when is it okay for parents to withhold information they think is harmful to their children? What obligations does a child have to a potentially abusive parent? There’s a lot to discuss in this well written book. To read reviews by other readers, click here.

Trading Spaces

April 11, 2008

This is not a mother/daughter book club post; I’m passing along some information that came to me by the producers of Trading Spaces, which appears on The Learning Channel. It seems they’re searching for women to apply to be on the show. Here are the details:

Trading Spaces and Paige Davis are looking for
homeowners with rooms that need a redo and
relationships in need of serious repair.
Do you have a rival who you’d like to trade
spaces with in the hopes of resolving your
issues? Do you have a problem that you want
to try to resolve through patience, power tools
& fun?
The format is the same; 2 rooms, 2 days, $1000
dollars per room, and all your favorite
designers. But this season, the stakes are even
Contact Trading Spaces Casting:
Ask for Nina or Rachel

The World that Made New Orleans

April 10, 2008

I attended an author’s talk last night at Portland State University. I almost didn’t go, because I’m usually cooking, helping with homework and generally tired at night. But I’m glad I made the effort. Ned Sublette talked about his new book, The World that Made New Orleans. Sublette, who is a musician as well as an author of history, sprinkled his conversation with current tales of New Orleans as well as the historical facts the book concentrates on (the period from founding through 1812). I was fascinated listening to him talk about the Africans slaves and free people of color and their music. As New Orleans has become less of a major hub for commerce in the United States and more what some consider a theme park for tourists, it’s easy for people to forget about the crucial role it has played in the ongoing history of our country.

I bought a copy of the book and can’t wait to start reading it.