Showing 171 - 180 of 360 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

The Poisonwood Bible

Kingsolver, Barbara

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Southern Baptist missionary Nathan Price brings his wife Orleanna and his four young daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959, just before its turbulent passage into independence as the state of Zaire. The Prices’ stay in the tiny village of Kilanga occasions escalating conflicts of cultures and values. The differences between the social, religious, and political habits of the United States and Africa are a source of both wonder and strife.

Orleanna and most of her daughters develop bonds with the people of Kilanga whose dimensions are much deeper than they first realize. At the same time, the family finds itself increasingly at odds with each other. All the women are engaged in a passage to personal identity and independence from Nathan: Orleanna, the dutiful minister’s wife; materialistic teenager Rachel; fervent, idealistic Leah, who emulates her father until it’s impossible to continue; her brilliant twin sister Adah, who walks with a limp and perceives the world in palindromes; and adventurous five-year-old Ruth May.

While all the women are changed by Africa, Nathan becomes more and more zealous in his refusal to change. The novel draws Nathan as a man whose identity has been definitively shaped by a World War II trauma that launches him on a downward psychological spiral from which there is no exit.

The novel is broken into seven books, all but the seventh bearing the titles and epigraphs from books of the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha. Within the sections, the story is told as a round robin, with the Price women contributing alternating first-person narrative.

The daughters’ stories begin in 1959 in Africa and record events as they happen, gradually working their way forward to the 1990s. Their mother, in contrast, tells her story retrospectively, writing from Sanderling Island, Georgia, long after her return from Africa. Nathan is the only family member who never narrates.

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film, like Nair’s earlier films (Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala) presents serious social issues for viewers to consider, but the story this time, is set in a happier context. As the title reveals, a wedding is central. Monsoon is added to account for two kinds of turbulence: the weather on the day of the wedding and discomforting family factors such as pedophilia, secret trysts, and class distinctions. For the Punjabi Verma family, it is Father of the Bride with the universal tension, stress, and chaos associated with such happy events, but also with distressing twists that are sorted out or washed away symbolically by the monsoon’s arrival.

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Olive

Craik, Dinah Maria Mulock

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Like Jane Eyre, a novel to which it is often compared, Olive is a female bildungsroman: a young girl's coming of age story. In Craik's novel, however, the heroine is much more physically distinctive than the "plain" Jane Eyre. Olive Rothesay is born prematurely to a young, lovely mother who continues to entertain guests through her pregnancy in an effort to entertain herself during her husband's long absence. When the doctor pronounces the baby "deformed," the dismayed mother hides the truth from her husband until his return a few years later.

Combined with Colonel Rothesay's own secrets, Mrs. Rothesay's deception produces a permanent rift in the marriage. Upon her father's sudden death, Olive is both a moral and financial support to her frail mother, becoming a successful painter under the tutelage of a brilliant but misogynistic artist whose marriage proposal she rejects. When Mrs. Rothesay loses her eyesight, she and Olive develop a substantial bond that repairs the mother's early rejection of her disabled daughter.

After Mrs. Rothesay dies, Olive falls in love with Harold Gwynne, the widower of her best friend Sara. In a sensational subplot, Colonel Rothesay's illegitimate, mixed-race, emotionally troubled daughter briefly threatens Olive's happiness, but Olive finally marries Gwynne, helps him with his crisis of faith, and becomes the adoptive mother of his and Sara's child.

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Cracking India

Sidhwa, Bapsi

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Lenny's development from childhood to adolescence concurs with India's independence from Britain and the partitioning of India into India and Pakistan. The interwoven plots give each other substantial meaning. Partly because Lenny's family are Parsees, a religious and ethnic minority that remained relatively neutral in post-Partition religious conflicts, she has access to people of all ethnicities and religions, both within Lahore and in other locales. More significantly, she has access to a wide variety of viewpoints both pre-and post-Partition through her Ayah, a beautiful woman whose suitors are ethnically and religiously diverse.

Lenny's passionate love of Ayah and the loss of innocence that accompanies their changing relationship through the Partition is an energetic center to the plot. Lenny's relationships with her mother, her powerful godmother, and her sexually invasive cousin are also important to the novel. Lenny's polio forms a significant early narrative thread. Other minor but compelling subplots include Lenny's parents' changing relationship, the murder of a British official, and the child marriage of the much-abused daughter of one of Lenny's family's servants.

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Far and Beyon'

Dow, Unity

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As much about the abusive treatment of women, and the clash of traditional and contemporary mores as it is about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, this beautifully crafted novel tells the story of a nineteen-year-old Mosa (for mosadi--woman) who has already lost two brothers to AIDS. The reader is caught up in the mega-deaths and non-mention of the dreaded acronym, AIDS, as the story unfolds. At their brother’s gravesite Mosa’s one remaining living brother is halted as he shovels in the final loads of earth: "All around him were fresh graves . . . He looked at the not fresh, fresh graves, and noted the dates of birth. Young people who had died prematurely . . . He had known about their long illnesses, their deaths and their funerals." (p. 20)

The author is the first (and only) female judge of the High Court of Botswana and a human rights activist. She is internationally renowned for bringing about the Dow Case, which challenged Botswana nationality laws; she argued successfully for revisions allowing women to pass their nationality on to their children.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Doebin is an island reserve for Aborigines off the coast of north Queensland. In 1930 the superintendent goes insane after his wife dies. He sets fire to his house, kills his children, and wounds others in a bloody rampage that ends in his being shot by an Aboriginal man. Interestingly, this superintendent was a benevolent dictator who actually appeared to care for the Aborigines, whom he considered childlike and treated in a strict paternalistic manner. In return, his charges respected him and called him "Uncle Boss."

The book tells this story from the perspectives of several different characters and reveals how the events of 1930 influenced their lives and bound them together in mysterious ways. We learn of the influence these events had on the subsequent lives of the island's little community: doctor, matron, schoolteacher, boarding house operator, priest, and Manny Cooktown, the man who shot and killed the madman, Captain Brodie.

Time moves on, things change. World War II comes and goes. On Doebin Island, however, Aboriginal people continue to be treated like prisoners. Benign paternalism is replaced by out-and-out hatred during the reigns of a succession of superintendents, who treat their Aboriginal charges as if they were animals.

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Summary:

It is 1938, Germany. A Jewish family--lawyer husband, Walter (Merab Ninidze), wife, Jettel (Juliane K?ler), and young daughter, Regina (Lea Kurka, Karoline Eckertz )-- must leave their homeland. Walter establishes a base as a tenant farmer in the British colony, Kenya, sending for his wife and child later. We see Walter in Kenya, sick with malaria, being nursed by Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), a native Kenyan who serves as a live-in cook. Juxtaposed are scenes of Jettel in Germany--fashionably dressed, socially active, secure in the presence of her parents, and not looking forward to living in Africa.

The remainder of the story takes place in Kenya after Jettel and Regina join Walter, who tries to scratch out a tenant farmer's livelihood on the barren, red earth. Walter is stoic but Jettel is miserable in the strange new country, where she cannot speak the languages (English and Swahili) and desperately misses her family. Her dissatisfaction strains the marriage. Adding to the strain on both Walter and Jettel is their worry over what will happen to their parents, who remained behind in Germany. Regina, however, adapts quickly, in part because she responds to the affectionate welcome offered her by Owuor.

When war breaks out between Germany and Great Britain, the family is interned (still in Kenya)--they are considered to be enemy aliens. Men are separated from women, but the women are housed in a former resort hotel where conditions are not too unpleasant. Jettel pleads with the British administrators to find a position for her husband so that they can leave the camps--after all, she points out, they are Jewish and no friend of Hitler. A young officer overhears her, seizes the opportunity to take advantage of Jettel's vulnerability, and in exchange for her sexual favors, helps the family to leave internment and resume farming in a new location.

When the war ends, Walter looks for an opportunity to return to Germany and to work in his profession (law). He is idealistic, believing he has a responsibility to help build a decent society in Germany while Jettel, on the other hand, has grown to like their life in Kenya and deeply distrusts the country that rejected them and murdered their parents.

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The Heart of Redness

Mda, Zakes

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the mid-19th Century, a teenage prophetess named Nongqawuse preached salvation for the Xhosa people. If the people would slaughter all of their cattle and burn all of their crops, the spirits of their ancestors would rise and drive their oppressors (the English colonizers) into the sea. The ancestors would also resurrect the cattle and restore the crops. A large percentage of the Xhosa ("Believers") adopted this new religion, destroyed their livelihood, and initiated many years of disease and starvation. The Xhosa nation might well have been wiped out, but for the fact that some of the people ("Unbelievers") rejected these prophecies and did not destroy their crops and cattle.

These historical events serve as the cornerstone of The Heart of Redness, which presents two intertwined fictional narratives: one that occurs in the time of Nongqawuse and a second narrative that takes place in Qolorha, a Xhosa village in present-day South Africa. In the novel the conflict between Believers and Unbelievers has persisted through the "Middle Generations" and continues to the present. Believers claim that the prophecies of Nongqawuse would have come true, if only all of the Xhosa people had destroyed their farms and cattle. The ancestors failed to return because of the unbelief of a portion of the people.

Unbelievers argue that the folly of the original Believers led to decades of suffering and a strengthening of the English colonizers. This traditional conflict is reflected today in their attitudes toward economic development. Developers want to build a large casino and resort complex near the village. Unbelievers support the proposal because it will bring jobs and money to the region. Believers are dead set against the proposal because it will destroy their way of life.

Meanwhile, Camagu, who has a Ph.D. in economic development and who returned from exile in 1994 to help build the new South Africa, has moldered for years in Johannesburg, unable to find a job appropriate to his skills. When he meets a young woman who says she is returning home to Qolorha, he spontaneously follows her there. Camagu decides to remain in the village and, against his will, becomes embroiled in the battle between Believers and Unbelievers, as well as love affairs with two women, one from each side of the conflict.

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Ladysmith

Foden, Giles

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The time is November 1899 through February 1900; the place is Ladysmith, a small railroad town in British Natal near its border with the Boer Republics. The Boers have surprised the world with an initial series of Samson-and-Goliath victories over the British army and have now laid siege to Ladysmith. As they shell the town from surrounding hills, people die, disease is rampant, structures collapse, starvation looms, and yet the British muddle through with an improvised cricket match whenever possible.

The setting of this novel is historically accurate, and a number of historical figures appear as characters; for example, the Boers arrest a young reporter named Winston Churchill as he struggles to reach the besieged town, and an Indian lawyer-turned-medical volunteer named Mohandas K. Gandhi becomes more and more committed to his philosophy of active nonviolence.

The core of the novel is a fictionalized version of a love story that the author found in the letters of his great-grandfather, who was a British soldier at Ladysmith. Bella, the Irish hotelkeeper’s daughter, falls in love, first, with a British soldier; and later with a Portuguese barber, thus defying convention and rebelling against her father. The unlikely couple escapes in a balloon.

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The Cartographer's Tongue

Rich, Susan

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of poems that ranges widely through both the geographical and spiritual worlds. Susan Rich began her career as a human rights activist and Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. She has also worked in South Africa, Bosnia, Gaza, and as a program coordinator for Amnesty, International. Her poems are lyrics of empathy, discontent, and hope, unified by her "Cartographer's Tongue."

From an international medical and health perspective, some of the best of these poems are "Haiti," "The Woman with a Hole in the Middle of Her Face," "In the Language of Maps," "The Toughest Job," "The Beggars," "Sarajevo," "La Verbena Cemetery," "Whatever Happened to the Bodies," and "The Scent of Gasoline."

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