Showing 91 - 100 of 221 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

Brigid's Charge

Lamb, Cynthia

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Based on historical records, family archives, and established New Jersey folklore, this story about Deborah Leeds, 18th century midwife and healer, reconstructs the events that led to her being identified as the bearer of the "Jersey devil." An English immigrant brought to Burlington County to marry, "Mother Leeds" worked as herbalist and caregiver in a largely Quaker--and therefore unusually tolerant--community while bearing her own thirteen children. Her extraordinary skill seemed to bespeak not only careful study but powers that some associated with witchcraft.

After 30 years of faithful service, during which time she shared her work with two other women and with her daughter, her position was challenged by a newly arrived Edinburgh-educated physician who undertook to discredit her work and breed distrust among her neighbors by implications of witchcraft. His efforts came to a head when, at the birth of her thirteenth child--who died shortly after birth--he claimed to have seen the child turned to a flying demon, grow scales, and escape into the night. The story is told with great sympathy for the woman's predicament and a lively imagination for the situation of powerful women healers whose mysterious gifts both blessed and threatened their communities.

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Heroes and Saints

Moraga, CherrĂ­e

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

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.

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Jack

Homes, A. (Amy) M.

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jack, who is fifteen, is just getting used to his parents' divorce when his father takes him out on a boat ride one afternoon and stops in the middle of the lake to explain that the new love in his life is a male, and that he is, and has very likely always been, gay. The shock sends Jack through several levels of reaction, from revulsion to hostility to fear of social ostracism, to grief at the alienation he assumes is now inevitable between him and a father he has loved.

In fact, people at school do find out and he finds the word "faggot" painted on his locker. Discovering that a girl in his class has a gay father in the same social circle as his own puts a slightly new light on his predicament, and gradually Jack comes to a place of peace in learning that he can love his dad without either judging or condoning his homosexuality, and can look forward to an adult life of his own in which there will be complex choices of his own to make, as there have been for his parents.

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My Sister's Bones

Hanauer, Cathi

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Something is wrong with Billie Weinstein's older sister, Cassie, now in her first year at Cornell. She has given away all her clothes except an old sweatsuit and blue jeans. She studies obsessively, convinced she's failing despite a stellar academic record. She rescues food and paper products from the garbage, unable to bear seeing anything wasted. And she's losing weight dramatically.

Even though their father is a doctor, it takes the family several months to recognize and acknowledge all the classic symptoms of anorexia and get Cassie to a psychiatric hospital. In the meantime Billie, still in high school, divides her energies between worrying about her sister, coping with an overbearing father, and finding her way in a relationship confused by sexual pressures and ethnic differences.

Her best friend's large, close, messy, jovial Italian family offers her a refuge from her own much less expressive one, but she discovers they have their own stresses, mostly financial, which drive them suddenly out of town in a moment of crisis. So it's a year of loss, transition, and rapid maturing for Billie, who finds, when her sister comes home with an uncertain prognosis, that she can no longer be the "baby," but has assumed a new, more responsible place in the family system and a new authority over her own life, defined in terms that have less to do with her sister, and more with her own desires and purposes.

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Bless Me, Ultima

Anaya, Rudolfo

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this lyrical tale, Ultima, an old curandera or healer, comes to live with the family of a young New Mexican boy who learns from her about the healing powers of the natural environment and the human spirit. Antonio's family respects her wisdom and legendary power, though some in the community believe she is a witch. Antonio finds himself drawn to her and under her tutelage develops an awareness of the primal energies of earth and sky that affect human lives and fate.

He goes with her to gather herbs and to visit the sick and comes to understand a connection between healing powers and knowledge of nature. Though he never receives a rational explanation of how Ultima foresees events, cures illnesses, blesses or curses, or why and when she chooses not to intervene, he learns that the knowledge healing requires is threefold: knowledge of the patient, the healing substance, and one's own limitations. He learns that healing requires making oneself vulnerable to sickness and to the spiritual as well as physical needs of the sick.

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The Law of Similars

Bohjalian, Christopher

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Leland Fowler, a small-town Vermont attorney, is raising his small daughter alone two years after his wife's death in a car accident when he meets Carissa Lake, a homeopath, and falls in love. He originally seeks her services because of low-grade cold symptoms that won't go away. She attempts to keep their relationship purely professional, but finally advises him to see another homeopath so they can pursue a more intimate relationship.

She starts him on a regimen of highly dilute arsenic solution that helps him immediately. In the meantime another patient of Carissa's, a young family man suffering from severe athsma and allergies, has gone into a coma as a result of eating cashews to which he is violently allergic. The man's wife brings legal action against Carissa since it was under her care that Richard, the patient, started taking a homeopathic solution derived from cashews and apparently was motivated to try the cashews themselves by dint of misunderstanding the "law of similars"--that "like cures like"--that is a central homeopathic principle.

Leland's law firm prosecutes after Richard dies, and Leland is forced to keep his relationship to Carissa secret while he himself struggles with his own doubts about homeopathy. To protect Carissa, because he believes her innocent, he helps her doctor her casenotes. Eventually the case is dropped; Carissa leaves town; and Leland is left to ponder the forces that drive medical, legal, and personal decisions.

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Summary:

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.

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Life in the Fat Lane

Bennett, Cherie

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

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.

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The Raging Quiet

Jordan, Sherryl

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

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.

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Annie on My Mind

Garden, Nancy

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

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.

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