Showing 131 - 140 of 360 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

When the Emperor Was Divine

Otsuka, Julie

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel tells the story of a Japanese-American family’s internment during World War II. They are living comfortably in Berkeley, California, when their nightmare begins. Soon after Pearl Harbor the husband/father is arrested by the FBI--taken away in his housecoat and slippers. We learn of this through the narration of the eight-year-old son, his ten-year-old sister, and their mother--who are rounded up several months later and sent to a camp in Utah. The father remains shadowy--a figure of memory, wishful thinking, and censored letters stamped "Detained Alien Enemy Mail." The reason for his arrest is never explained, as if there is no reason to question the man’s loyalty.

After her husband’s arrest, the mother is left to take care of her children and the house. A few months later she must pack up the household belongings, give away the family cat, kill and bury the family dog, tell her daughter to let loose the pet macaw. They are allowed to bring with them--where to they do not know--only what they can carry. They take an endless train ride through the Nevada desert to reach an internment camp in Utah, "a city of tar-paper barracks behind a barbed-wire fence on a dusty alkaline plane high up in the desert" (49).

Here they remain until the war ends, some three and a half years later. They learn to live in one room with a single light bulb; to stand on line for everything; to eat in the mess hall; to avoid rattlesnakes, scorpions, and the sun; and to "never say the Emperor’s name out loud" (52). They are unable to avoid the desert dust that covers and gets into everything. The children attend makeshift classes, play cards, are bored, lonely, and confused. The boy misses and has fantasies about his father, the girl reaches adolescence and becomes cynical, the mother is too depressed to eat or read.

At the end of the war, the three are allowed to go home "with train fare and twenty-five dollars in cash" (117). Their house has been vandalized; neighbors, teachers, and classmates either ignore them or are openly hostile. Finally their father is released from detention in New Mexico, a changed man both in appearance and spirit.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

Born in Vienna, Alma Rosé (1906-1944) was a gifted violinist with an illustrious concert career. Her mother was the sister of composer, Gustav Mahler, and her famous father, Arnold, conducted orchestras. All the family members were non-observant Jews. Alma was talented, beautiful, audacious, and arrogant. After an unhappy early marriage to Czech violinist Vása Príhoda, she established a remarkable orchestra for women that toured Europe.

As the German Third Reich consolidated its power, her only brother, Alfred, fled to the USA. She managed to bring their widowed father to England, but displaced musicians crowded London making work difficult to find. Alma left her father and returned to the continent, living quietly as a boarder in Holland and giving house concerts when and where she could. She took lovers.

Despite the urging of her family and friends, she kept deferring a return to safety in England. In early 1943, she was arrested and transported to Drancy near Paris, thence to Auschwitz six months later. Initially sent to a barrack for sterilization research, she revealed her musical brilliance and was removed to marginally better accommodations and allowed to assemble an orchestra of women players.

The hungry musicians were granted precarious privileges, but Alma became obsessed with their progress and insisted on a grueling schedule of rehearsal and perfection. Some said that she believed that survival depended on the quality of their playing; others recognized that the music, like a drug, took her out of the horror of her surroundings.

In April 1944, she died suddenly of an acute illness thought to have been caused by accidental food poisoning. In a bizarre and possibly unique act of veneration for Auschwitz, her body was laid "in state" before it was burned. Most members of her camp orchestra survived the war.

View full annotation

Summary:

This remarkable collection of short writings, introduced by renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who visited the Sutterwriters (of Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, California) to offer a workshop, provides a broad, compassionate, imaginative window into the life inside and around an urban hospital. Patients, staff, and all interested in healing through writing are invited to come and participate-with an accent on the latter: no one is invited who isn't willing to write.

Chip Spann, the editor, came to Sutter Hospital with a Ph.D. in English, and has the privilege of coordinating this fluid community of writers as part of his work as a staffmember. His conviction, voiced in an engaging introduction, is that literature is a powerful instrument of healing--both the literature we read and the literature we create--and that the experience of literature belongs in community. The individual pieces are accompanied by photographs and short bios of contributors.

View full annotation

The Fisherman's Son

Köepf, Michael

Last Updated: May-22-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel of a commercial fisherman's family centers on the son, Neil Kruger, as he struggles to survive on a life raft after a comber, a huge wave, sinks his boat. The book combines his memories of growing up at Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco--the harsh lessons of the sea, his laconic father Ernie, and a disintegrating family--with the story of the illegal activities that led to this last run and his efforts to live.

Death is ever-present for fishermen. Throughout the book, the intimate killing of fish caught one by one is juxtaposed with the constant threat of human loss due to wind, storm, fog, rock, cold and waves. It is a hard-scrabble existence, as over-fishing, pollution, and price control by a few influential merchants combine to depress the fishing business.

As a boy, Neil is told by his mother not to become a fisherman. But then it is she who commands him to join his father one night. This conflict of loyalties, to the land and the sea, to his mother and his father, to religion with its hope of divine intervention and nature with its insensate brutality, cause a tension in Neil that leads him to reflect on his roles as dutiful son, eldest brother and future fisherman.

Neil's memories contain many traumatic events: the rescue of survivors from a hospital ship sunk in a collision with a tanker, the immigration tales of the tightly knit group of Half Moon Bay fishermen, the attempted rescue of one of these men during a storm, and the misadventure during a fishing escapade with his friends, including a wheelchair bound boy with polio. In addition, Neil recalls his father's worsening debility and subsequent post-operative and post-anesthetic problems. By the end of the book, the time frame of Neil's memories converges with his current crisis and time itself becomes as vast and unknowable as the sea.

View full annotation

In the Springtime of the Year

Hill, Susan

Last Updated: May-18-2007
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the Springtime of the Year opens with the death of Ben Bryce, a young man in his 20's whom we only get to know posthumously but one who has clearly left his imprint on all who knew him. Dying as a result of a freak accident--an apparently healthy tree suddenly falling on him--Ben, as a friend notes, "had been at one with things" (62). The death, happening so unexpectedly and to such a young man of promise, leaves his small rural English community eerily stunned. "People felt changed, as by war or earthquake or fire, even those who lived closest to death and knew its face" (56). As Moony, the same friend, remarks to himself, "it was no ordinary death" (63). Ruth--his young wife--she is 7 or 8 years younger--begins a grieving process that occupies the rest of the novel, beginning with the news of her husband's death in early March until the last page in December.

Although the attention the author pays to Ruth's grief is extraordinarily close, there are other events external to her grief that occupy her and the reader's gaze. Ben's family is equally devastated but hampered in their effort to perform grief work by an egoistically blinkered and unimaginative, selfish mother who has ruined her grown daughter's life, stultified her husband's, and only failed to affect her two sons, Ben and Jo, by dint of their physical and mental exodus, respectively, from the household. Jo, at fourteen (he was exactly half Ben's age at the time of the accident) is precociously generous, supportive of Ruth, and self-sufficient. Indeed, he is the most wise character in the book.

Ruth's attempt to make sense of her husband's tragic death; the usual small town happenings in the village; and Ruth's eventual emergence from her grief, partly as a result of her helping others suffering these small town hardships--all form a tightly knit story that centers around grief, tragedy, and humans' attempt to impose meaning on life's often unfairly dealt hand.

View full annotation

Dax's Case

Burton, Keith

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

In the fall of 1979, Keith Burton, a free-lance journalist, saw the videotape 0105 in a bioethics seminar at Southern Methodist University (see annotation in this database). The structural centerpiece of this 1974 documentary is the interview of a burn patient, Donald "Dax" Cowart, by psychiatrist Dr. Robert B. White at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Dr. White had been called in to determine the patient’s competency because of his persistent requests to end the painful treatments, to go home, and to die.

Similar to most viewers of Please Let Me Die, Burton was intrigued by the unanswered questions and the uncertain outcome of the case and ultimately contacted Dax Cowart and his mother, Ada Cowart. Burton invited their collaboration on a follow-up videotape to Please Let Me Die, with the intention of providing "a living record of this man’s struggle for release from pain and despair." [see Keith Burton, "A Chronicle: Dax’s Case As It Happened." In Dax’s Case: Essays In Medical Ethics And Human Meaning, ed. Lonnie D. Kliever. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press) 1989: 1].

View full annotation

An Uncertain Grace

Salgado, Sebastiao

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Photography

Genre: Photography

Summary:

This powerful book of black and white photographs contains four sections labeled: I. The End of Manual Labor, 1986-, II. Diverse Images 1974-87, III. Famine in the Sahel, 1984-85, and IV. Latin America, 1977-84. In addition, photographs accompany the prose-poetry opening essay, "Salgado, 17 Times," by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the concluding essay, "The Lyric Documentarian," by former New York Times picture editor Fred Ritchin. This oversize book concludes with a list of captions for the photographs and a detailed two-page biography of Salgado. Essentially the photographs cover Salgado’s impressive work from 1974-89.

Every image is of a person or people. Many are suffering, many are starving, grieving, keening, dying, displaced. Many are children. Many are laboring under impossibly harsh conditions such as the teeming, mud-coated manual laborers of the Brazilian Serra Pelada gold mine. An Ethiopian father anoints the corpse of his famine starved, skin and bone child with oil. An old man, squinting in the sun, leans over to touch the arm of an equally thin and weak man in a Sudanese refugee camp. Rarely, the people are smiling or celebrating.

The photographs are global: Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Cuba, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, Sudan, Thailand, and more. As Galeano notes, "This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling." (p. 7) [156 pp.]

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist, Henry Sugimoto, depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

Dominating this picture are five brown-skinned, black-haired babies clad only in diapers, who are sitting or standing on a white sheet. Remarkably, the babies are featureless, although one appears to be crying. Another is standing, waving a tiny American flag. Looming in the lower left of the picture is an MP (military police), also brown-skinned, but with Caucasian features. He stands guard, not facing the children, and prominently holding a rifle to which a bayonet is attached.

Separating the babies from the MP is the barbed wire fence that stretches along the painting's foreground. In the background is the watch tower often depicted in Sugimoto's paintings, more barbed wire fences that enclose the children, and a menacing dark brown sky.

View full annotation

Jerome Camp

Sugimoto, Henry

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist, Henry Sugimoto, depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

This painting is bleak, almost colorless, with its shades of gray and beige; the sky is cloudy. In the foreground there appears to be a marshy area, with water, wooden boards strewn about, and tall grass at the water's edge. Barracks stretch behind the marsh, on either side of a narrow road, the repetitive monotony reinforced by telegraph poles that line one side of the road. There are no people or animals in sight and the only vegetation detectable, besides marsh grass, is the sketchy outline of tree tops in the distance.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

In the foreground of this painting, her back to the viewer, a woman waves a handkerchief in farewell to her husband, who wears an army uniform. The children wave goodbye with her as their father turns around to wave back. The road on which the soldier walks is flanked by the barbed wire of the camp, and in the distance stands a watch tower. The woman and her children are separated from the husband/father by a sign that seems suspended in front of them and says in large letters, "STOP." A guard soldier with bayonet stands next to the woman and children, facing them and the viewer with a stern expression on his gray-white face.

View full annotation