What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]

I’ve been on a bit of an alternate-history kick recently, which has led me to believe that it is possibly one of the most challenging genres an author might tackle. Call it the Butterfly Effect or Domino Effect or just plain Jenga, but changing a single event in history causes a cascade of changes, and if the author misses even one of those, the book loses its believability.

23208397Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is an alternate reality in the present day where slavery was never outlawed in the USA, and is still practiced in four major states. It is a horrifying thought and an important topic in light of current race-relations in the USA and much of the world.

World-building is important in alternative-history fiction, but must be subtle. If the world is different to the way we know it, the reader must be able to understand why that is. Winters did this fairly well, in referring to trading sanctions which, for example, result in CDs not yet reaching American markets. Continue reading “What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]”

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The Translation of Love [Book Review]

30362775During the American occupation, the citizens of Japan were encouraged to apply directly to General MacArthur – “if you have a problem, write a letter, this is what democracy means” – and so write they did. MacArthur received over 500,000 letters, letters of entreaty, rage, gratitude, complaint, even adoration.

Twelve-year-old Fumi Tanaka has a problem – her beautiful and beloved older sister, Sumiko, has disappeared. Determined to find her, Fumi enlists the help of her new classmate Aya, forcibly repatriated with her father from Canada after the war. Together, they write to MacArthur and deliver their letter into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese-American GI whose job it is to translate the endless letters.

Before reading The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake, I had no idea about post-war Japan’s American occupation. I had even traveled to Japan, so I don’t know how I missed the enormity of the changes that occurred in Japan during the period of occupation. Continue reading “The Translation of Love [Book Review]”

Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]

learn through fictionLast year I made an infographic for Black Dove, White Raven, and although it hardly interested as many readers as I had hoped, it was something I immensely enjoyed doing. So I am thrilled to share a new infographic, this time about Fiji and the novel I read, Kalyana by Rajni Mala Khelawan.

Spanning the early 1960s to more or less the present day, Kalyana tells the story of a young Indo-Fijian girl – her parents’ only daughter, and just a little spoiled. Continue reading “Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]”

Books To Read If You’re In The Mood For A Saga

I’ve been trying to find the right name for this particular kind of book, and the best I can come up with is “saga” – you know, those books that usually span a few generations, or at least several different stages of a character’s life. They are usually historical fiction, but I find that what distinguishes them is really that the majority of books we read (in my completely anecdotal experience) take a brief look at a brief period, full of action and emotions, in a character’s life. Saga’s are sometimes less action-packed, but they weave a tapestry of a community, a family, or a personality.

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So uh – if that makes any sense to you, and you like it, here are some recommendations (in so particular order).

1. Skin by Ilka Tampke

OKAY I CANNOT STOP RAVING ABOUT THIS BOOK. (It was in last week’s TTT too.) This is one that chronicles a single character’s life. You could probably also call it an epic because Ailia is a FREAKING BEAST. Continue reading “Books To Read If You’re In The Mood For A Saga”

Sometimes I Don’t Want To Know

a4c50964f550a70443d53e51fe887a82I didn’t want to know that the man with the compound skull fracture had fallen into a sewer drain while being chased by the police because he was the man that had been scamming poor people out of their grant money for months.

I didn’t want to know that the man with the gangrenous arm had been bitten two weeks ago, by a girl he was trying to rape.

I understand the importance of a good clinical history. But right now, while I’m saving their lives, can I not simply know that he fell in a ditch? Or that he suffered a human bite?

I don’t want to know WHY these things happened to them. Not right now in any case. Tell me later, when they have pulled through the worst. Tell me then, if you must.

Is this wrong? Continue reading “Sometimes I Don’t Want To Know”

Learning Through Fiction | Ethiopia in “Black Dove, White Raven” [+Infographic]

I’ve decided to start a new sort-of series (that will obviously be completely irregular) about things I learn from books. Fictional books! I love learning new things, and that’s not only limited to topics in my chosen profession. One of the reasons I love reading is that it opens my eyes to so many things I never knew, or points of view I had not considered. 

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Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein – this was the book I just could not wait to buy. After Code Name Verity smashed my heart to smithereens and ground it underfoot, I had to have more (well, the book was really good). Continue reading “Learning Through Fiction | Ethiopia in “Black Dove, White Raven” [+Infographic]”

Go Set A Watchman Read in a Parallel Universe

* A review of Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, as imagined in a world where To Kill A Mockingbird never existed; and therefore GSaW did not become an instant bestseller based purely upon its history. Disclaimer: there may be some spoilers if you have not read any of the recent hubbub about GSaW. Also, if you mistake my creative license as reality then I’m not even going to respond.

 * * *

Continue reading “Go Set A Watchman Read in a Parallel Universe”

How To Run A Clinic Without A Voice

When I was asked by Figure 1 which one piece of medical equipment I valued above all others, I said “my hearing”. We were taught from the very beginning that a good history was our first step to an accurate diagnosis, and I have always valued a physician who LISTENS: to their patients, their students, their allies, and their contemporaries.

Remember the game we always played? – “If you had to lose one sense, which would it be?”

I thought of my dad, who is blind: when he applied to do an honours degree in Psychology, his application was denied based on the fact that he would not be able to see his client’s faces (ridiculous, really. That was nearly 30 years ago). It had me thinking: what about a blind physician? We have many blind physiotherapists, but surely doctors must SEE… a quick Google search proved me wrong.

Blind doctor Albert A. Nast holding his ear to the back of a 3 month old instead of using a stethoscope.
Blind doctor Albert A. Nast holding his ear to the back of a 3 month old instead of using a stethoscope. Image: Time Life. Click for link.

Continue reading “How To Run A Clinic Without A Voice”

Jonas Salk, A Life | Thinking About Biographies

6f6a9089fd7b52816ba9baf6e1b1c61dIf you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you will have seen this image (alongside) about Jonas Salk refusing to patent his Polio vaccine. For the longest time that was one of the only real thing I knew about Jonas Salk – that, and the column of differences between the “Salk” and “Sabine” vaccines that we had to study during MS1.

In Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs’ complete biography of Jonas Salk, she exposes more than this uni-dimensional view of the man who made one of the twentieth century’s most important contributions to healthcare. Continue reading “Jonas Salk, A Life | Thinking About Biographies”

Top Ten Diverse Books

This is going to be my favourite Top Ten Tuesday! Right in line with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, here is a list of my favourite books that celebrate diversity (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled MC,  neurotypical character, LGBTQ etc etc.).

It’s kind of sad how few books are truly diverse. When I was going through my books, I noticed that although a lot of books had diverse characters, many of them were fairly flat and seemed to be little more than tokens. I mean, it’s kind of like movies having the token female scientist and then thinking they’re sorted for diversity. Uhm, no. Not that this is at all a groundbreaking realisation, so moving on to the books: Continue reading “Top Ten Diverse Books”