A discerning historical journey that could use more context.

A DAOIST JOURNEY INTO CHINA

A Westerner recalls his journey into China’s interior in the late ’80s.

Schwartz’s 1987 journey into China’s interior balances “a China of the mind against the stirrings of a culture hungry for modernization.” It’s clear from the outset that his trip is no vacation. In addition to partaking in the calming meditative practice of zazen, he documents the political and economic discord of a nation in transition, while also exploring his own psyche on the 10,000-mile unescorted trek. The excursion, pursued with academic vigor, is a culmination of his early fascination with China. His intense studies also provide a reprieve from strained relations with his father and struggles with sexuality. He achieves varying degrees of success with his objectives: spending a night in a Chinese monastery, ascending a Buddhist holy mountain and a pilgrimage to Lhasa, Tibet, all against a backdrop of dao (the way), te (innate power) and wu wei (effortlessness). In his earnest writing, Schwartz describes people who have often lost their connection to history in favor of consumerism. The lamentation is mostly detached as he insightfully recognizes sociological and cultural constructs, such as an escaped pet bird symbolizing flight from oppression. Refreshingly, Schwartz doesn’t sermonize; readers will be presented with frustrating travel minutiae—he fibs to obtain a better train ticket and gets annoyed with temporary travel companions—rather than arcane lessons in philosophy or religion. The detailed descriptions of frustrating ticket purchases help illuminate the difficulty in reaching the ultimate destination, geographically and psychologically, yet some details, such as the items on food menus, aren’t as intriguing. Other times, Schwartz’s account is (perhaps unintentionally) humorous when it diverges into seemingly mundane observations, as with the amusing anecdote of Schwartz helping robed monks sweep while he wears his Tang Dynasty T-shirt. (The monks recognize that they’ve got “a live one.”) The 25-year-old account could have benefitted from comparisons to China today. As it stands, the scant one-page afterword is hardly sufficient for giving this journey a broader perspective. Still, the astute religious survey and portrait of Chinese–Tibetan relations will make the book useful for historians, travelers, natives and cultural explorers.

A discerning historical journey that could use more context.

Pub Date: April 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470094898

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2012

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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