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Pook, Dante, and Wyatt inhabit the social margins of an inner-city school in Oakland. Pook's family has disintegrated from drug trade, Dante needs a heart operation he can't afford as a result of his now-dead mother's addiction to crack cocaine, Wyatt, slowed and ostracized by obesity, provides a frequent refuge for the other two at his mother's rundown dockside café. The three of them are no strangers to the violence of drug-infested neighborhoods, Wyatt manages to smuggle a gun into the schoolyard despite metal detectors, but none of the boys is eager to use weapons. They are "homies," committed to each other's survival, and intensely loyal.
Radgi, a younger, smaller homeless kid, follows them for occasional handouts and eventually is taken into Dante's apartment where his father, a dock worker, is frequently absent. All are threatened repeatedly by "Air Touch," a leader in the local drug trade who deals with smugglers and rich white patrons. Another occasional friend is Kelly, a Korean boy whose father runs a convenience store in the "hood."
The plot follows the fortunes of the boys after they witness the police beating Air Torch, see him toss his gun and briefcase away before being apprehended, and pick up both as they run for home. In the briefcase is a load of cocaine ready for sale. They have to decide whether to sell it to get the money for Dante's operation or pour it down the toilet. They sell the gun with the help of Kelly who, discovered by Air Torch, is killed, along with his father.
Eventually, after some hair-raising close calls, the boys get rid of the drugs, assemble in Dante's apartment, and discover that the petite Radgi, who they thought was bloated from starvation, is a girl, about to have a baby as a result of rape. Pook, who longs to be a doctor and has read a medical book sequestered among his few possessions, helps deliver the child, a "little brutha."
This unusual collection of contemporary art features full color prints of what might be termed comic doctor archetypes. Entitled by specialty, paintings feature doctors in a variety of incongruous settings that constitute fantastic anachronistic commentary on the situation of the doctor relative to different social groups or social expectations.
"The Internist," for instance, is represented as a modern female doctor in a medieval setting, commenting ironically on the various institutional pressures that come to bear upon women in the medical profession and expectations of the internist in particular. "The Pathologist" is featured getting his comeuppance as the doctor who usually has "the last word" in a confrontation with the figure of death--a skeleton straddling a Jungian snake among a horde of rats on the office floor. Each of the paintings is accompanied on the opposite page by a brief, but informative and insightful commentary by Spence.
Lara Ardeche, a glamorous sixteen-year-old, is elected homecoming queen at her Nashville high school, as her mother was years before. She works out daily on gym equipment supplied by her wealthy grandfather. She thinks her family is perfect: her mother and father are youthful and attractive, her younger brother is cute and smart, and she is popular, beautiful, and her father's "princess." Her best friend, Molly, is one of the few offbeat characters in her life; other friends call Molly "the Mouth." Molly is frank, funny, a little fat, and indifferent to the unsubtle slurs of the in-crowd.
Weeks after homecoming, Lara, who has never had a weight problem, begins to gain weight rapidly and inexplicably. Within months her weight soars to 200+ pounds. She is diagnosed with a rare "Axell-Crowne" syndrome, a severe metabolic disorder with no sure cure. Most of her friends abandon her, though Molly stays faithful and Jett, Lara's boyfriend, tries to maintain a relationship.
The family begins to fall apart. The father, it turns out, has been having an affair. They move to Michigan to get a "new start." But the affair continues, kids at the new high school are cruel, and Lara is miserable until she is introduced to a new, motley group of people through her piano teacher who shares her love of music and is about her size.
In a cross-generational, racially mixed jazz club she begins to think differently about who she is and on what basis real relationships survive. By the time her weight begins slowly to fall, she has come to terms with herself and the dysfunctions in her family in a whole new way, and at great cost. She still hopes to be thin again, but not because she any longer kids herself that a fashionably thin body is a key to happiness.
Set in an indefinite time and place that suggest pre-industrial Ireland, this story follows the fortunes of Marnie, eldest sister of a large family of tenant farmers. When the landowner's son takes an interest in her, though she is not drawn to him, she accepts his offer of marriage to help her family and travels with him to his dead grandmother's run-down cottage by the sea, which he claims is worth the whole of the rest of his family's estate.
Only a few days into their marriage, the bridegroom dies from a fall while thatching the roof. Marnie is left to fend for herself in a village of suspicious and superstitious locals where only the priest befriends her. The one other person with whom she has contact is a young boy called "The Raver" by the villagers who believe he is mad.
Gradually she comes to believe he is not mad, but deaf. She devises hand signs and wins first his trust, then his devotion as she opens a world of communication to one who has been isolated and ostracized his whole life, though the priest has taken care of him. However, upon seeing her effect on the mad boy (whose name Marnie has changed to "Raven") the locals decide that Marnie must be a witch.
They put her to a test for witchcraft, which the priest helps her endure and pass. After that they leave her alone. Eventually the priest, now like a father to both Marnie and Raven, marries them, and they leave with an heirloom ring found in the cottage to begin life again among people who might be able to receive the young couple with their strange hand-speech more open-mindedly.
This fine collection of short memoirs and stories by doctors offers a variety of narratives about memorable moments in medical education and practice that raise and explore practical and ethical issues in medicine. An explicit aim of the editors was to focus on some of the rewards in medical life as well as the struggles it entails--those often being inseparable.
Starting with a section on medicine and poetry which includes memories of William Carlos Williams by two of his well-known students, Robert Coles and John Stone, and a reflection on illness in poetry by Rafael Campo, the collection is then divided into two major sections: "Grand Perspectives" and "Intimate Experiences." The former includes narratives that show the development of practices, conflicts, or learning over time spent in hospitals and clinics, observing the careers of elders in the profession or the parade of patients whose expectations and needs stretch the physician's creative resources. Several, including Perri Klass and David Hilfiker write about particular patients whose cases became personal landmarks.
In the latter section, stories focus on single cases or incidents in the lives of doctors, some humorous, some tragic, some bemusing, all attesting to the chronic ambiguities of the work of healing and to the very human tensions that arise in institutions that both enable and inhibit the compassion all good doctors want to exercise.
This searing play takes place in California's central valley where Mexican immigrants are employed at survival wages to work in fields poisoned by pesticides. Their ramshackle government homes are built over dumps where toxic waste poisons the water. The community has suffered a high incidence of cancer--especially in children--, birth defects, and other illnesses related to long-term intake of toxic substances.
One of the main characters, Cerezita, has only half a body, and often occupies center stage encased in an altar-like contraption where only her head shows. She turns pages, points, and performs other basic functions with tongue and teeth. She is a prophetic figure, willing to see and speak, because seeing and speaking are all she can do, and to name the evils that others prefer to call the will of God.
She seeks and finds intellectual companionship in the local priest who is struggling to find an appropriate way to minister to a parish divided among disillusioned cynics turned alcoholic, pious women who want nothing to do with politics, and the angry young, including one young homosexual who feels driven to leave a loving but uncomprehending family, and reveals to the priest that he has AIDS.
The community has been involved in recent protests that consist of hanging the bodies of recently deceased children on crosses in the fields. This dramatic protest has caused public outrage and attracted media attention. The play culminates in a protest in which Cerezita and the priest are shot down and the young man with AIDS cries out for the community to burn the fields. The curtain falls on burning vineyards.
Liza Winthrop, 17, first meets Annie Kenyon, also 17, at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, where she's gone to work on an assignment. Both Liza and Annie are avid museum browsers. Both love medieval lore and history and both have a flare for the dramatic. They are instantly drawn to each other, and their friendship grows quickly and deeply.
Liza attends an exclusive prep school, Annie a public high school in a working class area where she lives with her Italian immigrant family. Liza is student body president and a much respected leader. As the relationship deepens, both girls begin to realize with some trepidation that there's a dimension to it they didn't expect. Annie realizes before Liza that their attraction is sexual as well as spiritual. Liza finds she has some hard thinking and reading to do about homosexuality.
Their relationship becomes public in a traumatic way when, housesitting for two teachers at Liza's school (who, they discover, are lesbians, though the fact has never been made public) they are discovered by a punitive administrator who dismisses the two teachers and threatens Liza with expulsion. She is reinstated by the board of trustees, but emotional stress with peers and family remain to be worked out.
Ultimately, she finds she can let go of friendships that falter on this issue, and her family supports her, though her parents have to work through their own ambivalence. Annie goes to Berkeley, Liza to MIT, and after some months of silence, they resume contact with hope of reviving a relationship they still cherish, perhaps the more for the lessons it's brought with it.
With some 70 characters and a wide array of events spanning 500 years and several continents, the plot of this novel is less a linear plot than an elaborate web of events. Peopled with addicts, alcoholics, corrupt judges and politicians, unscrupulous and greedy land speculators, and a host of other unsavory characters, the novel also tells the story of resistance to Euro-American oppression and a growing effort of indigenous people and their allies to retake the land and ultimately to become agents of its healing. Woven throughout the novel are folk stories of the past, pronouncements on the present and predictions of a dire future for the offspring of the European conquerors.
Spatially, Tucson, Arizona functions as a focal point, with much of the action radiating away from, or towards, the city. Arizona is about to go belly-up from the effects of a declining economy and devastating drought and growing civil unrest in Mexico. As the prophecies have foretold, the narrator reminds readers, the inexorable movement of the people is North, and while it may take 500 or 5000 years, the indigenous and their allies will reclaim the diseased and corrupted land (and presumably become instruments of its healing).
Into this milieu Silko inserts a host of characters who work as part of the resistance. Among them are twin sisters Lecha (a demerol-addicted psychic who helps police locate the bodies of murder victims and has a lucrative profession as a talk show guest) and Zeta (who has made a fortune running drugs and guns across the North and South American borders with the help of Lecha’s son and his sometime lover Paulie); twin brothers, Tacho (a chauffeur for the wealthy Menardo who also functions as a spy for the indigenous resistance movement), and El Feo (who heads that movement in the far South of Mexico). Both brothers commune with spirit macaws for advice.
There is an "army of the Homeless" who plan to retake "stolen" goods and land from the wealthy. The Barefoot Hopi organizes incarcerated prisoners for an uprising against the U.S. Government. Many of these and other characters converge at novel’s end at the International Holistic Healer’s Convention where "German root doctors" and "Celtic leech handlers" join with "new-age spiritualists" and the Green Vengeance eco-warriors.
A middle class African-American widow, Avey Marshall, has set off on a cruise with two of her friends from work on the "Bianca Pride," and becomes ill shortly after they have set sail. Avey disembarks in Grenada after experiencing disequilibrium, nausea, disturbing nightmares, and a feeling of being "clogged and swollen." Thus begins a journey of reclamation and healing of a past that has been largely forgotten or erased in her efforts to escape the poverty of her younger years and obtain the American dream of financial security and a white-defined respectability.
The novel is divided into four parts: Avey's growing distress on board the cruise ship, the intensification of nightmares and "visits" from her long-dead and very Afro-centric Great Aunt Cuney, and her decision to leave the cruise ship. The second section takes place in her hotel room where Avey confronts her rage and grief, not only over the death of her husband, but the utter waste in his drive for material success and the ensuing loss of their joy in each other and their heritage.
In the third section, Avey, getting lost on a walk, meets Lebert Joseph who convinces her to accompany him on the "Carriacou Excursion," an annual island festival honoring the long-time ancestors. Avey travels by small boat to Carriacou, becoming violently ill, and is cared for by a group of women on the boat, encouraging her in this "cleansing." This journey and her illness prompt Avey to think about the middle passage of slaves and the horrors they endured in countless journeys much worse than hers.
Once on the island, in the fourth section of the book, Avey is bathed and nursed back to health by Lebert Joseph's daughter, Rosalie Parvay. Finally, Avey joins the celebration (the "Big Drum"), witnessing and finally joining the important "Beg Pardon" and nation dances. This section brings the novel full circle as Avey experiences reconciliation with her past, her heritage, and herself.
The novel twines several plots together: the love story of Emilia Sauri and Daniel Cuenca; the Mexican Revolution; Emilia's medical practice; the love story of Emilia and Dr. Zavalza.
Emilia Sauri is the daughter of upper-class Mexican parents and is raised in relatively idyllic surroundings. Her father is a pharmacist and she learns his craft through a long apprenticeship with him. Emilia's long-time childhood friend, Daniel Cuenca, becomes her lover as they grow older and their love grows in passion while Daniel's involvement in popular struggle increases.
The Mexican Revolution is brewing and the Sauri's and Cuenca's lives are intertwined and involved in the struggle in various ways. When a wounded fighter is brought to the Sauri's, Emilia takes care of him, her "first patient," and thus begins her thirst for practicing medicine. She studies with Daniel's father, the indomitable Dr. Cuenca ("I leave but one bequest to my children: paralysis of the spine before the tyrant").
Drawn more and more into the struggle, Emilia joins Daniel on the front and practices medicine with the most desperate cases, along with the myriad poor people she meets along the way. Emilia also practices medicine with Dr. Zavalza, and finally marries him, although she never stops loving Daniel.