Search

DoodleScribbles

Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

Tag

women empowerment

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Genre: Historical Fiction/Religion/Feminism
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood—the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah—the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

What I Liked:

  1. Diamant’s writing. Poetic and lyrical were my reactions when I read the first few pages of the book. I love the tone of voice Diamant used for the main character Dinah. Her prose is very visual and animated. It felt like listening to a spoken word poetry.
  2. A breath of fresh air. I’m not a keen Bible reader. I am one of those who only knew Dinah as a name mentioned in the Bible. That is why I find it refreshing to read a fictional first-person narrative about her version of her life. Through the eyes of Dinah, we get an insight, if only re-imagined, of biblical times. We get to learn about their cultures, practices and way of life.
  3. The curiosities in the Red Tent. In the book, women we’re treated by men as subordinate — submissive, used, cursed — a scene still recognizable in today’s world. However, their resilience shines within the boundaries of the red tent, where I would say most of the interesting scenes happen. It is where women go during their periods (although I find it a little weird that all the women in the story has a synced cycle). In the red tent, the lives of women are kept alive through storytelling and memories. In the red tent, secrets, conversations and feelings are shared. In the red tent, you get a sense of how powerful women can be. Blood signifies both life and death, beginning and end, pain and pleasure, tears and joy. Such interesting things to ponder.

What I didn’t like: The book, in general, takes a feminist slant so I understand that the POVs are focused mostly on women. However, there were slightly biased depictions of men. Some lack character development, while others seem like trifling characters.

Favorite quotes:

“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.”

“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.”

“Of all life’s pleasures, only love owes no debt to death.”

“I could not get my fill of looking.
There should be a song for women to sing at this moment (giving birth) or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment.”

“Death is no enemy, but the foundation of gratitude, sympathy, and art.”

“It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”

Final Thoughts: Captivating. Rich. Beautifully and poignantly penned. It may only be a fictionalized version but every page brims with life.

I’m glad that this novel did not end with forgiveness of sins and starting all over because some sins are far too great to be forgiven, more so forgotten. But not forgiving others does not necessarily means living every day with anger. This is what Dinah showed me. It is choosing to walk away from the bad and move forward. And, sometimes, the closure we seek cannot be found in others but within ourselves.

My reading heart is full.

Have you read The Red Tent? Did you like it as much as I did?

Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Genre: Fiction
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Humbert Humbert — scholar, aesthete and romantic — has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

What I liked:

1. The plot. The ingenious way Nabokov toys with the reader’s mind. You get a self-confessed madman — a scheming pedophile who has a taste for young girls. And not just any other younglings at that. Humbert Humbert did not find Lolita sexually attractive because of her beauty and wit (which are almost non-existent), but because she is a nymphet. An ideal combination of childishness and preadolescence.

As Humbert presents the story of his affair with Lolita in first person, this is where Nabokov’s brilliance as a writer shows. Humbert comes across as an intellectual and romantic, detached and fixated. He is both ashamed and proud of the steps he takes to gratify his passion (or obsession). The moral and emotional conflicts that Humbert goes through are so human that he could trick you into thinking that, perhaps, what he has done is excusable. While I personally was wary of Humbert most of the time, there was one instant that I had to rethink ─ is this really love in a very weird form? But then, when you see through his manipulation, you get pentapod monster (his own words) not a man.

2. No pornographic sex. I know Lolita has been frequently described as an erotica but some people tend to overlook its beautiful prose. Nabokov writes about sex in the language of metaphors and figures of speech. While contemporary novels are filled with explicit descriptions of sexual acts, Lolita introduces a one-of-a-kind orgasm through Humbert.

“I entered a plane of being where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What had begun as a delicious distension of my innermost roots became a glowing tingle which now had reached that state of absolute security, confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life.”

3. It gives you glimpse of a predator’s mind. If we look at the sexualization of women then and now, not much has changed. Lolita shows a clear picture of the schemes that are often used by abusers. When those accused of sexual crime defend themselves, they often say “she wanted it” or “she started it.” They consciously or unconsciously misinterpret a laughter, soft voice or tensed hands as gestures of consent.

Reading the book is a tough journey (for me especially as an ISFP) but a good one. It’s the kind of read where I had to constantly remind myself not to draw hasty conclusions because of my principles, politics, personal reservations and emotions. I had to look beyond the romanticism and be critical at how the characters are portrayed. At how pedophilia is being normalized. At how women are being objectified.

What I didn’t like: Nabokov did a splendid job. Too good that his work still reflects the plight women continue to face up to this day. There are still many who romanticize Humbert’s depravity and many who blame Lolita for being naïve. The world is still filled with enablers and complicit to the crime.

Favorite quotes:

“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”

“We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.”

“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”

“Life is just one small piece of light between two eternal darknesses.”

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

“I shall be dumped where the weed decays, And the rest is rust and stardust”

“We all have such fateful objects — it may be a recurrent landscape in one case, a number in another — carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of specific significance for us: here shall John always stumble; there shall Jane’s heart always break.”

Final Thoughts: If age is just a number, what makes Humbert and Lolita’s relationship seem wrong? Would you see through lust if it was clothed in love? How would you draw the line between the two? There were a lot of irony and moral conflict to digest in this book. Kudos to Nabokov (again) for a thought-provoking read. But like what I said when I finished it last May, I don’t agree with the featured comment on the cover from Vanity Fair. It was far from being convincing or a love story to begin with. No, no. It was calculated rape.

Have you read Lolita? Did you like it as much as I did?

Quick Notes: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Genre: Modern Classic/Dystopia
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Quick Notes: “Are there any questions?”

To some, this might just be an ordinary statement of inquiry. But to those who have read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, these four words carry too much weight.

Originally published in 1985, Atwood’s dystopian novel takes readers to the fictional Republic of Gilead. It follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to a high-ranking commander and his wife. In an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only for their capability to procreate. They are held prisoners — stripped off their past and future. They are forbidden to read, write, or interact with the outside world. They are meant only to bear children for their assigned commander and failure to do so warrants death.

The story ends with Professor Pieixoto’s final line, “Are there any questions?” To me this seems like a rhetorical question asked not to get an answer but instead to emphasize a point. It forces us to question our role as witnesses — both of Offred’s tale and of our own history of oppression.

Do we forget and stay silent? Do we remain neutral and indifferent? Do we stand up and fight?

The Handmaid’s Tale, told in simplistic prose, is a clarion call for upholding women’s rights to take control over our own bodies, choices and lives. With the current political climate, this book is definitely a must-read.


This post first appeared in Writers Quote Wednesday: Are there any questions?

Her name spells resilience

Free stock image: Unsplash

she can be the phoenix
rising from the ashes
the knees uncurling
to stand again
the heart— all beaten
slowly mending
give her a crown of thorns
she’ll be pain’s forebearer

MS

We paid the price for a bite

Photo by Giovanni Calia on Pexels.com

We paid the price for a bite
Rejected, cursed, forever blamed
When a predator creeps on an eerie night
Our voice is drowned with shame

Even sunlit fields bare witness
To starving lips that taste of lust
Every place we go, awake or asleep
Cross our legs, hide our breasts — we must

Bodies pried open in plain sight
With jokes, punchlines, lecherous gaze
And the lawman denies our every right
Hope is a meteor that never stays

What use is vox populi
When to power and money it fades?
Do I have strength within me
To bathe them in blood orange stain?


Written for MLMM’s Photo Challenge #322 and Wordle #197.

This one is a sequel to the poem I wrote last March, A Woman’s Bite. I need not go far to see the worsening plight of women when it comes to abuse, sexism and misogyny. I live in a country where those who have sworn to serve and protect the people blame women’s choice of clothes for sex crimes. We have a broadcaster who thinks the way women dress could led to inviting the beast. We have a lawyer who would bitch-slap a woman for having a mind of her own. And just when you thought nothing could go worse, we have a president who have a long list of sexist and demeaning remarks.

SUKDANAN [A Visayan spoken word poem]

Subo pamalandongon nga ang pagtan-aw sa mga kabayhanan karon sama sa usa ka value meal. Usa ka mabaw ng sukdanan nga giuyonan sa katilingban. Nila, niya, nimo.
Pero dili ako.

Wala koy mga legs ug thighs nga magpanghinam ka og paak, aduna koy duha ka bagtak nga gipagahi na sa panahon. Mga tuhod nga dili na daling mangurog. Mga tiil nga nanggamot– usa ka timailhan nga dili ko daling mamiya. Pero andam sad mudagan palayo sa mga way pulos.

Wala koy breast nga imong gipangita kay, sa tinood lang, ang akong atubangan mura ra sad og nagtalikod. Ug kanang white meat? Ayaw nalang jud. Kay sa pila ka adlaw nga pagbabad sa ilawom sa kainit sa adlaw, mapa-bukid man o dagat, dugay ra kong nasunog. Sorry na, dili sad ko ka-afford ug gluta. Apan aduna koy dakong kasingkasing. Andam maghigugma sa isigkatawo. Kanila, kaniya, kanimo. Puno sa kalipay ug kasakit sa mga kaagi pero nagpabiling naay lugar para sa mga bag-ong higayon, sa mga bag-ong hagikhik.

Ug bisan paborito ni nako kaayo, wala sad koy wings nga ikadalit. Adunay koy mga braso nga bisan dili kaayo kusgan pwede ra masaligan. Aduna koy mga kamot nga andam mugunit, musuporta, mutabang taliwala sa kahayahay ug kalisod. Mga kamot nga niagi nag samad ug paso gikan sa mga sayop. Mga kamot nga gikubal na sa kakugi sa pagsuwat, sa pagtrabaho.

Maong ayaw ko isama sa usa ka value meal. Dili ko chicken. Ug dili sad ko chicks. Kay ang bili sa usa ka babaye dili ra taman sa makita sa mga mata.

Ang kada usa ka babaye adunay bili ug walay sukdanang gikinahanglan.


As we march into a new month, we are reminded of a very important celebration. That is, Women’s Month. It is a time for commemorating the history of women’s impact to the world, raising awareness of issues women are facing worldwide, and uplifting women’s dignity. And though this should not only be a month-long celebration but a daily one, we are given a special chance honor the women of the past, present and future every March.

I wrote this Visayan spoken word poem for last year’s International Women’s Day. I did not publish it on this blog because I was planning to have it translated to English. But language really does have magic. No matter how grammatically correct we interpret it with another tongue, the feeling and conviction won’t be the same. In the end, I gave up. I just hope we have a way of understanding each other beyond words…

Here’s to all beautiful women out there. Stand tall!

Up ↑