Dawn by Elie Wiesel + Holocaust Remembrance day Message

Today is the 27th of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. Today is the day that has been set to remember the Nazi Holocaust. This day was chosen because it is the day the Warsaw ghetto uprising stated. This uprising is one of the main examples of Jewish armed rebellion against the Nazis. I had the chance to travel to Poland a few years ago and got the opportunity to become a witness of these atrocities, so I have become forever responsible for bearing witness. I have also met countless survivors who have made me promise to tell their stories, and I have read countless survivors who make me experience feelings I never even thought possible. One of these survivors is Elie Wiesel. His memoir Night is perhaps the most widespread testimony of the tragedies of the holocaust and one of my all-time favorite non-fiction works.

His novel Dawn however, is not a holocaust novel, at least not directly. Dawn is the story of 18-year-old survivor Elisha who is recruited by a terrorist movement in Palestine to fight the British regime actively, and achieve the creation of the Jewish state. “The Movement”, as it is referred to in the book, was created after the holocaust. Built upon the belief that armed rebellion and active retaliation, is the only way the Jewish people have a chance at survival. They believe that if they do not fight, they are giving their consent to be taken as sheep to the slaughter. In his short novel, Wiesel sets a difficult scenario for main character Elisha. He is to execute a man he does not know, and he must do it at dawn. This man is John Dawson, a British captain who is innocent, but kidnapped and sentenced in retaliation to the capturing and sentencing of David ben-Moshe, a young member of the “The Movement”.

The novel is set on a single night (that preceding the dawn of execution). However, I feel like this novel is a collection of events that led to Elisha being in the position he finds himself in. Elisha is confronting all the ghosts from his past, and is trying to justify to them (as well as to himself) what he is about to do. He is constantly encouraged with “this is war, don’t torture yourself” or “he is the enemy”, and he is trying to internalize this, but it becomes increasingly difficult for him to hate. He wants to hate John Dawson, that way he can justify being the one to end his life, but no matter how hard he tries, he does not hate John Dawson.

This is when I feel I must quote Wiesel, for he perfectly captures in just a few lines of the preface, what the whole book is supposed to trigger. He asks a series of questions, and I want to focus on two:

1)     “Does murder call for murder, despair for revenge?”

2)     “Can hate engender anything but hate?”

I have a history professor who, when talking about WW2, he always stresses his opinion about how he truly wishes that the US would have used the nuclear bomb on the Germans instead of the Japanese. He knows I am Jewish and deeply affected by the subject of the holocaust, so he asks about my opinion on his comment. I always reply the same way. Of course I believe Japan should not have had to ever see what occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but neither should Germany. This is where Wiesel’s questions come to play.

I believe that we must take this day to reflect and understand the main lessons that the holocaust taught us. The holocaust helps us understand the need for tolerance, and so does Wiesel as early as his preface. I do not believe in revenge, at least not traditional revenge. Think about what Hitler and the Nazis wanted: all Jews dead. Traditional revenge would be: murder them back, but what good would that bring? How about a new type of revenge in which we simply survive. If someone has evil intentions, I find no better revenge than preventing their utmost satisfaction and success. So here we are. I am revenge, but my revenge is living. My revenge is kindness and goodness. My revenge is tolerance. My revenge is remembering and speaking up freely for those who cannot defend themselves, and ultimately my revenge is choosing my revenge (I hope that makes sense).

So how about we choose to be kind and accepting, and to give a damn about others?

I find that to be an awesome revenge.

I of course, highly recommend Night and Dawn by Elie Wiesel, if you are looking for some philosophy of peace. After all he did get a Nobel Peace Prize.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I think we should take some wise lyrics of a Lana del Rey song that goes like: “Change is a powerful thing, people are powerful beings”. We must believe in our own power and never surrender to acts of evil. We have to constantly do what we can to help the world become a less bloody, hungry and selfish place. I hope you believe in your power to change and in your own ability to overcome human selfishness. I hope you always choose to stand up for those who cannot, and help those who cannot help themselves. And always remember the holocaust, so it does not happen again.

Stay kind and take care,

Love, Knowledge Empress

Books I Read – January-February 2018

Man it’s been a while. University has been hectic, but that’s no excuse.

Pivot Point (and sequel Split Second) by Kasie West

OH MY. This book caught me off guard. My sister showed me this book and said it was probably not going to be my taste but I should give it a shot. I am not usually a big sci-fi nerd, but this book was pretty awesome. Something I must say is that I was surprised the sequel was just as good as the first. Pivot Point was thrilling and full of suspense, and Split Second carried on with the story gracefully.

Background:

Addie (Addison) Coleman is a Divergent (not as in the book Divergent). Her ability is known as Clairvoyant because the Divergent are very uncommon. Essentially when she is faced with a choice, she has the ability to do a “search” and take a look at both outcomes and then she can decide which path is worth taking. Addie lives in a secret compound where everyone, like her, is somehow paranormal (or “psychologically advanced”). People have all kinds of abilities, such as: telekinesis, telepathy, memory erasing, discerning, persuasion…

Suddenly she is faced with a terrible choice. Her parents are getting divorced and she has to choose who she is going to be living with. Her dad, a discerner (human lie detector) is leaving the compound to settle in Dallas, Texas. Her mother, a persuader, is staying in the compound working as a program developer for the bureau. Addie does not know weather she should leave her whole life behind to start over, or simply stay with her mom in the compound and miss her dad like crazy. When she searches it, it becomes even more complicated. Will she fall for Trevor, a Norm Dallas boy? or will she fall for Duke, the dreamy quarterback of the paranormal football team? will she give up the perfect life to save those she cares about? How far will she go for friendship, and how much are her promises worth?

Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino 

I got this book as a birthday present from my best friends, so I had a feeling it would be a good one. It was beyond just “a good one”, this book was beautifully written and fun. Even my sister liked it and she usually doesn’t even start books where the main characters are over 20. I really like the back an forth between the past and present, I didn’t find it to be confusing or even annoying as I find back-and-forth books some times.

Background:

Emiline is brain farting. She’s an introductory level writing instructor at UC San Diego, but hasn’t been able to write anything publishable. Her short stories lack character, and she can’t stop fighting with her boyfriend of 7 years, Trevor. One day her roommate starts buzzing about this incredible novel by a young new author J. Colby. She does not seem to be in the mood to celebrate yet another young author’s success, but she starts to read it reluctantly. Since the first page however, Emiline finds out this book is the story of her very own dark childhood…

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson 

This book was alright. I mean it was fun and sad, but not the most memorable read. As always there is a love triangle, but it is kind of a really messed up one (like dating your dead sister’s boyfriend kind of messed up). However it did have its good parts that were really touching like some of her mourning coping mechanisms.

Background:

Lennie lives with her grandma and her weird uncle Big. The problem is she used to have a sister to add to that equation, who suddenly passed away from premature heart disease. Their mom had left when they were really young, and she never really came back. Mourning her sister is easier with someone who “truly understands” so Lennie starts seeing Toby, her dead sister’s boyfriend (to whom had secretly proposed). The innocent meetings turn out to be not-so-innocent and totally out of hand. She knows it is not okay but she doesn’t know what to do because they are both trying to get over Bailey and as messed up as it is this seemed like the way (cringe, I know).

Then comes the really hot boy at school who just moved back from France and is like this musical genius. He chases Lennie obsessed with hearing her play the clarinet which she refuses to touch. Obviously they like each other but you know that whole complicated love triangle thing.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart 

Weird in so many levels. Its like the author sat down and was like “I feel like writing a weird book that everyone will close and think wtf just happened”. It was entertaining for sure, but I do not think I would recommend this book unless you’re in the mood for something plainly dark and weird.

Background:

As bad as I try to explain this book, the best I can actually do is copy and paste the description from good reads, so here goes:

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

(GoodReads)

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens 

The cover was sort of cute, but this was definitely an impulse purchase. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary if I’m honest. It was kind of generic, but at the same time it had it’s little Knick-knacks. I liked this book, but I can’t decide if I like it more than the points it gave to my bookstore membership card. Kidding, it was really not bad, I might even say it’s a good book. I finished it quickly and its not very long, but yeah I’ll stop rambling and get to the description.

Background:

Scared from the car accident that killed one of her best friends, Sadie Kingston is avoiding the world. Well especially her other two best friends who were in the car that caused Trent’s death, and gave Sadie her new face. Sadie begins to fall for Max, who is Trent’s little brother and another victim of the car accident. Max has an impaired ability to talk now, but he and Sadie share more than just grief, or do they?

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Okay. So. A List of Cages by Robin Roe. It’s been maybe a few months since I read it, but it is memorable enough to still write a review about it. It is a different book from all the ones I reviewed here. If you are looking for romance don’t read this book, but if you are looking for something beautiful where you might learn something, then definitely give this book a go. Although it has it’s flaws, I personally recommend it.

Background:

After Julian’s parents passed away when he was 9, he got placed in foster care with a social worker and her son Adam Blake. Not long after they started living together, Julian’s uncle claims custody of him. Flash forward to five years later Julian starts high school where Adam is a senior, and their paths cross again. Adam has ADHD, but is popular as hell. Julian is severely damaged, and bullied as hell (especially for reading books meant for kindergarteners).

Adam makes it his mission to know why Julian acts so weird, why he is so psychosocially impaired, and why his clothes look like they stopped fitting him 3 years ago. This a beautiful story of friendship, violence, and mental illness.

That’s all for now folks. 

This are the books I chose to review from the past two months where I’ve been MIA. I hope you enjoyed this reviews and are considering some of the ones I recommend. I have another review coming up soon, as well as other things I’ve been wanting to write about. I just have to find the time…

Leave me a comment down below letting me know what you think, and if you have read any books I should be reading. As always contact me if you would like to borrow any of these books and I hope you find yourself reading a new post here soon!

Love, Knowledge Empress

 

 

 

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone – Review

one, two, three. Mental health is really important to me.

Very recently I read Turtles All the Way Down, a masterpiece by John Green  (Review available in the book section) where he gave me a little look into the mind of a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It was a really special experience that left me thirsty for more, so I found Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.

The way Tamara captivates the life of popular girl Samantha McAllister, who has been diagnosed with Pure-O OCD when she was eleven, gave me insight not only on Pure-O OCD but also on the way we approach mental illness in our society (in this case in a high school context). I for one would like stigmas surrounding mental health to disappear so I think the more people that get their hands on this book, the more progress we will see.

Seeking help when you have a mental health issue is something really important, I cannot stress this enough, and I thing this book shows just how important it is. The thing is, in Sam’s case she was part of a stable and supportive family that had the means to afford therapy. This is not the case for a lot of people struggling with mental illness. In fact a lot of the times disorders like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can come after a traumatic experience that can be associated with the loss of a loved one, abuse whether verbal, physical or sexual, among other adverse experiences. Nevertheless it is important to know that there is always going to be someone who cares so you should reach out and ask for help, it takes a lot of bravery to admit that you might need it, but this type of courage can be really beneficial and healing.

If you know of anyone who needs help please encourage them always and make sure they know you are always there to help them. Be open to talk about mental health and help eliminate the stigmas. Don’t undermine mental health, because it is just as important as physical health, but don’t fear individuals who are struggling (HELP THEM!). Remember to be kind, be open and be conscious.

I absolutely one hundred per-cent recommend this incredible book, and am totally open to lending it to you (if you live in my area contact me). Please if you have read this book leave a comment letting me know what you thought about it or what book I should get next!

Let’s talk about mental health!

Love,

Knowledge Empress

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Review

And the Mountains Echoed is Khaled Hosseini’s third novel, and it just happens to be that it is the third novel of his that I read. I am happy. I usually get disappointed at authors that fail to write any good books after their first, and they just become bestsellers because the author has a good reputation. Khaled Hosseini only gets better and better. I will not say this is my favorite book of his, because I feel very strongly about his second novel (A Thousand Splendid Suns, leave me a comment if you wish for me to review it), but this is definitely a read that was worth my time.

And the Mountains Echoed is a story about fraternal love. It is set in Afghanistan, yet a lot of the stories in this novel take place elsewhere. It is a mix of cultures, beliefs and backgrounds, and as a reader who seeks to learn about different cultures, this was a very satisfying book to read. This novel does include quite a number of characters, but I didn’t find it a hard read to keep up with.

Background (might contain spoilers):

Story starts in Afghanistan in 1952, in the tiny fictional village of Shadbagh. Saboor’s family has known loss. Giving birth to his second child, a daughter Pari, Saboor’s wife passed away. When he remarries to Parwana, they lose their first child Omar, shortly after he is born because of the winter and their inability to afford proper winter clothes. When Iqbal (Saboor and Parwana’s second child) is born, Saboor is determined to work as hard as possible and do anything in his power to get his family the proper equipment to survive the coming winter, but is he perhaps going too far by selling Pari off to the Wahdatis a rich couple in Kabul who cannot have any children of their own? Was it really okay to cut a finger in order to save the whole hand, if it implied leaving her older brother Abdullah (the one who truly cared for her) heartbroken forever?

Some Characters (there are far too many):

Nabi: Grew up in Shadbagh next to his twin sisters Parwana and Masooma. Becomes Saboor’s brother in law when his sister Parwana marries him. Nabi decides to leave Shadbagh and goes to Kabul, where he becomes the Wahdatis’ driver, cook and housekeeper. Nabi grows close to Mr. Wahdati, and Nila who he is in love with from the minute he meets her.

Abdullah: He is Saboor’s older son, and Pari’s protector. Abdullah is a kid who knows how to love truly and he goes to great extents for those he loves the most

Nila Wahdati: Very attractive Afghan-French woman. She is a poet who has no discretion when it comes to writing about her affairs, despite the society she lives in she remains a feminist, unreligious, and outspoken woman.

Markos Varvaris: Born in the small Greek Island of Tinos. His father dies before he is born. He has a very cold mother who fears becoming a burden, and he has dreams of traveling the world and taking pictures. He ends up becoming a surgeon and moving to Kabul to help out in 2002.

 What I Learned:

  • Jealousy can lead you to do some pretty nasty mistakes.
  • Family is family no matter what (you’ll see what I mean).

So yeah I absolutely recommend this book and all others by this author, do let me know if you wish to have his other books reviewed, I will do my best with all the university paper writing and exam taking, also stay tuned for more books reviews and what I have to write about confirmation bias.

One more thing! there are only about 7 days left to support my water campaign for water.org and change lives so go donate!

Love,

Knowledge Empress

 

 

 

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green – Review

okay. where to start?

I always liked John Green’s books, they were all easy to read, smart, and to some extent meaningful to me. I especially enjoyed An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, but nothing ever could have prepared me for what in my opinion is John Green’s best book ever.

Turtles All The Way Down is honest, from beginning to end it is a literary masterpiece for YA. Turtles All The Way Down finds a way to portray Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in such a way that even when it is impossible to put yourself in someone else’s place and brain, it is the best attempt. This book is more than just entertaining, and a one-sitting read, it is perhaps one of the most important books I have ever read. It takes a few hours but its a book you just know you will cherish in your mind forever, and if you forget you will read it again.

I learned about this book on one of John Green’s VlogBrothers videos I stumbled upon, where he admits to suffering for OCD himself. As you read this book you can tell that it is true, for I don’t believe it is possible to portray so well what people with ODC go through if not by suffering from the disorder firsthand. I have to say I am happy he wrote this book, not only because I got to benefit from it, but also Green is such a big deal in the YA literary world, and this book (OH THIS BOOK!) will raise SO much awareness. It will help people sympathize more with people suffering mental health disorder, and it will help errase the stigma surrounding mental illness. Young people suffering will also benefit greatly, as they will see they are not alone, and there is hope and there is help out there.

I will not give background on this book but I will briefly describe some of the characters

Aza Holmes (Holmesy) – Aza is 16, goes to public school in Indianapolis and struggles with OCD. She is the narrator of the story, and you get to experience her thoughts, mental loops and struggles. Also you get to see her personality, which she looks for constantly to remind herself she is not fictional.

Daisy – she is Aza’s best friend. She is a lively, quirky character who is addicted to writing Star Wars fan fiction. Daisy works at Chuck E. Cheeses after school, and dreams of being able to afford university. She comes from a very low income family and lives with her sister Elena and parents.

David  Pickett – Eldest son of Russell Pickett, a real estate billionaire who disappeared just hours before police came to look for him, he is orphan of mother and left taking care of his youngest brother Noah. He has a great interest in astrology, and like me, in blogging.

Tua the Tuatara – weird reptiles I didn’t know about, but you totally should learn about: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuatara

I want to write so much about this book including a huge list of things I learned, but it is such a good book I want people to read it so I won’t spoil it. I am totally open to discussing the book with you if you have already read it, and if you live in the Panama City area contact me (in the contact session) if you want to borrow the book. Also, if you are interested in swapping books in the area or you have a recommendation for me (any genre) please let me know! Shoutout to Avi Elkeslassy for reading all my posts and getting me a signed copy, thank you so much!

Anyways, read this book, I hope you enjoy it and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think (feel free to disagree too!)

Stay tuned for upcoming reviews on:

  • And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
  • The Blessing of a Skinned Knee – Wendy Mogel
  • Being Mortal – Atul Gawande

Love ya’ll,

Knowledge Empress

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Review

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind” – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Wonder is a beautiful bestselling novel (and a movie in the near future) about 10-year-old August Pullman who was born with a previously unknown type of mandibulofacial dysostosis caused by an autosomal mutation in the TCOF1 gene, which is located in chromosome 5. August has had 27 surgeries on his face since the day he was born but he still looks what most people would call “deformed” (but I don’t like that word now).

In Wonder, R.J Palacio skillfully narrates the story of how a boy who looks different is placed in a Middle School for the very first time and how other kids react. I usually don’t like books where the characters are way younger than me because I feel like I passed that stage, and usually everything they talk about is hard to identify with and could seem superficial, but I have to say Wonder was very different. In Wonder even the chapters narrated from 10-year-old August are consuming and so easy to read. I like that despite the difficulties, the characters are very good-humored and have like good personalities that will have you rooting for them. Of course there are the bullies and everything but that just makes it more real.

I like how it portrays human reaction to people who are different, I like how it portrays what it is like to be the parents of a child who is different, and even more interestingly: the sibling. In an earlier post about my semester in Israel, I write about how I volunteered in a place where we took care and gave attention to kids that have a brother or sister battling cancer. I write how important I think it is since sometimes the parents aren’t able to give them that attention. When I met Olivia “Via” Pullman I understood it even better. It was delightful to read about how she perceived things from the sibling part of the story. I also love how it shows what a difference the education a person gets at home can make in the way they behave towards others.

What I learned:

  • Every day you have three choices, you either choose to be kind to others and make this world a better place, you choose to ignore those who need your kindness the most and you let your indifference help tear this world apart, or you choose to make a shameless contribution to the destruction of mankind by being mean. In my experience you (and the rest of the world) will be better off if you choose kindness.
  • I learned some more about genetic syndromes. When we think of genetic syndromes, Down usually comes up because it’s the most common. In the case of August Pullman, his syndrome doesn’t have any influence in the functioning of his brain and we observe how he thrives academically. I am bothered by the misconception that people like him are “special needs” people. I think all humans are created equal to God’s eyes and just because of the way a person was born looking like, or because of an extra chromosome that delays or partly blocks the development of one’s brain, we have no right to limit them and believe that they cannot achieve great things.
  • There is always more than one part to the same story. Because whether we want it or not we all perceive the world in a different way, so the same event can look completely different to everyone who experiences it.
  • Everybody makes mistakes and forgiveness is one of the most difficult but important things any of us can do as humans. that being said we have to be careful with our word because they have more impact than we might think.

“Always be a little kinder than necessary” – J.M. Barrie

So I absolutely recommend you read this book whenever you have the time and watch out for the movie starring Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts (U.S Premier is Nov 17th, 2017) I promise you will not regret it, it is one of those stories that will stay with you long after you read it.

Love, Knowledge Empress

 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova – Review

Not long ago I wrote a post about Alzheimer’s disease. I discussed how it was a tragic loss of self, and I included some information about the Alzheimer’s Association. However, after having finished this beautiful novel by Lisa Genova today, I have a better image of what it is like for someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, particularly early-onset. A few years ago I saw the movie for this book where Alice was portrayed by the talented Julianne Moore, and I was very touched, however when I read this book I got a completely different feeling.

This is not just a book about illness. When I saw it in my bookshelf knowing what it was about I thought “oh yeah that’s the book about Alzheimer’s”, and while is it pretty much the theme, I understood after reading it that it is also a book about family and about love. It is a book about awareness, and it is a book about understanding. When you see a person with a physical handicap, or someone who you can visually tell is fighting cancer, we see someone who is brave, someone who is a hero. For some reason when a person suffers with mental illness or with a cognitive disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia in general, the word people tend to use is “crazy”, their fight is undermined and they are thought to be frustrating and hard to cope with.  Alzheimer’s is a very serious incurable and quickly progressive disease and the people who are diagnosed with it have an unimaginable internal fight. A fight to remember. To remember the people they love and that they love them, to remember their name and who they are, their accomplishments, their struggles, or even where they live.

 Background:

Dr. Alice Howland has been a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard for over twenty years, she is an world-renowned expert in linguistics and a published author or many articles and a book. She is a mother of three and has an equally smart and successful husband. She is proud of the life she has built. A little after her fiftieth birthday she starts noticing symptoms of forgetfulness that she disregards as simply menopausal, but after that comes a diagnosis that will change her life and that of everyone around her forever.

What I learned:

  • Give importance to the present. we often dwell on the past or think about the future, but we fail horribly in embracing the moment. “My yesterdays are dissapearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live for every moment. Some tomorrow soon I will forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it tomorrow doesn’t mean I didn’t live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that does not mean today didn’t matter” Unlike Alice we will probably remember today so we might as well make today worthwile.
  • It is important to build a life we are proud of, but our career and our work shouldn’t keep us from realizing what is the most important part of life. It is family and it is love. We need to have people in our life that love us unconditionaly and will always put us first, and we need to make sure to always put them first and love them unconditionally in return. At the end of the day when we don’t have a career anymore, the relationships we build are what will bring us utmost and true happiness.
  • Lastly I learnt that I should always do my best not to limit people who have either physical or mental handicaps. They are the ones suffering and we are the ones with the responibily to empower them. Also never undermine the pain or suffering of another person, don’t look away and fear them, and whatever happens do not judge.

I really recommend this book and I hope you all decide to read it as some point. If you really don’t read I recommend you at least watch the movie which I believe is currently on Netflix. And whatever you do don’t forget to cherish your today and to love unconditionally.

Love, Knowledge Empress