Friday, September 30, 2011

Daughters of Iraq - Revital Shiri-Horowitz

Life, Death, Love, Loss, Growth. In Daughters of Iraq, author Revital Shiri-Horowitz tackles these issues and does it with astonishing grace and skill. Told in the alternating narratives of three different women from the same family, Shiri-Horowitz takes us from Iraq to Israel, from Loss to Living and from merely coping to truly existing.

Noa Rosen has lost her mother and is still reeling from that loss. A twenty-something student in Israel, she is seeking meaning and understanding. When she is given the diary that her mother kept during her illness she discovers that there was much about her mother that she never knew.

Violet Rosen has come to the end of her life. As she struggles with leaving her beloved husband and children behind, she finds a way to share her story with them after she’s gone. Through the pages of her diary we learn of her immigration from Iraq to Israel. The diary is a Godsend for her daughter, Noa, after her loss, but it is also healing to Violet.

Farida Sasson is also dealing with loss. She is a widow and is having a hard time coping with an emptiness that has enveloped her since her children have left home and her husband has passed away. She finds strength in her family and in food and she loves to indulge in both. When she sees her niece struggling to cope with life after her sister’s death, she decides she is ready to give her the diary. Through the pages of this diary she hopes that Noa will also learn the importance of family.

I greatly enjoyed Daughters of Iraq. I was very impressed with the author’s ability to alternate voice and completely jump around between time periods and locations with ease. The pace of the book was wonderful and I found it hard to put down. I found the story to be very touching. The pages of Violet’s diary were especially memorable to me. I found myself turning pages faster and faster during her stories of a privileged existence in Iraq to a much more challenging life in Israel. I was deeply moved by the descriptions of her withering body and her coming to terms with it. I also found this book to be educational. While it is a novel, it is based in historical fact and much of this history I never gave much consideration to. I would strongly recommend this book and I’m very glad that I read it.

Q&A with Revital Shiri-Horowitz 

Pages of Gold: I'm very interested in how you came up with the plot for this story.   Is it any reflection on your personal story or the story or someone you know?
Revital: Thanks for asking that question, Heidi! The reason I started writing this book was out of anger. I was a student at the time at Tel-Aviv University, studying for my Masters degree in Hebrew Literature. As the daughter of Iraqi-Jewish immigrants to Israel, I was so tired of hearing about Jewish women from Arab countries who were and still are being placed on a lower rung of the ladder in Israeli society. At that time I thought that the story of these Iraqi-Jewish women immigrants went unspoken. The women in my family have the right to be heard. The women in my family were strong and powerful. They saved their children’s' lives once or twice. They weren't afraid of what people would have thought about them and just did the right thing to survive. I thought that someone should tell their story. Since I had no one in mind that was able to do so, I wrote their story myself... 
My novel, Daughters of Iraq, is based on my family's story. Everything that had to do with Iraq is true. So are all the traditions and holiday celebrations and recipes I share in the book. I did have to build a story that would be attractive, human and touching, so I used fictional characters and built them around the facts on my family's emigration story from Iraq to Israel in the 1950s, and also on my life as a university student. 

Pages of Gold: What are your thoughts on the book being published in both Hebrew and English?  
Revital: Daughters of Iraq was written in Hebrew and published in Israel in 2007. I managed to find a wonderful translator named Shira Atik, and then I gave the book to an editor, who did a fantastic job. The book was self-published in English in the beginning of April 2011.  

Pages of Gold: Where can we learn more about you? 
Revital: What would you like to know? I was born and raised in Israel. As a kid, I wrote poetry and short stories, and wrote in my journal up until I met my husband. I never imagined that one day I’d be a published author in multiple languages, and in so many countries, and even continents. Wow! 
I earned a BA in Hebrew Literature and Geography from Tel Aviv University, an MA in Geography from Haifa University and an MA in Hebrew Literature from Tel Aviv University. 
I was an assistant professor of Geography in Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities, and have been an editor for Hebrew-language books.  
Currently based in Seattle, Washington, and in Israel, I'm the mother of four boys, married to Amnon for twenty years, write poetry, keep a blog in “Haaretz,” an Israeli newspaper, and run a blog in English at, a site in English and Hebrew at and am a member of and 
I love hearing from my readers and enjoy giving presentations to readers groups and book clubs and other groups. And yes, I am working on a second novel. 

GIVEAWAY of Daughters of Iraq!

Please comment below on what creative act you took perhaps out of anger or frustration... and enter to win a copy of Daughters of Iraq. 

In one week, Revital will pick one winner of this book!

Available in any ebook format or as a paper copy. Also available in English or in Hebrew. Let us know the format and language when we contact you about winning. We will ship a copy anywhere in the world!

For the Giveaway Grand Prize: Everyone who comments is eligible to win a lovely book by Mama Nazima, Jewish Iraqi Cuisine ( Revital will pick a lucky winner at the end of November 2011. She will ship the book anywhere in the world. Good luck! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BANNED BOOKS WEEK, September 24 - October 1

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. The annual event was started in 1982 by the Director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom and librarian, Judith Krug.

Banned Books Week was established by Krug to celebrate the freedom to read and write what one chooses. Since 1982, more than 11,000 books have been challenged in schools, libraries and bookstores. According to the American Library Association, there were 343 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2010.

And Tango Makes Three - by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group
Brave New World - by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
Crank - by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
The Hunger Games (Series) - by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group
Lush - by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group
What My Mother Doesn't Know - by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America - by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint
Revolutionary Voices - edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit
Twilight (Series) - by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

How many of these titles have you read? How many do you own? Are these titles in your local library? If not, why not?

Click HERE for more information about Banned Books Week.
Sources:1. and 2.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nowhere Hair - by Sue Glader

Having cancer must be terrifying. Having to explain all of the effects that go along with treating cancer to your children must be terrifying as well. Sue Glader, a breast cancer survivor, has made that task much, much easier with this picture book geared toward children aged 3-10. The story, told in rhyme, helps the daughter of a hip mom undergoing treatment for her cancer to understand why her mom has lost her hair. Nowhere Hair uses delightful illustrations to help convey to children the important messages that cancer isn’t their fault and that it’s what’s inside that counts. Sensitive, sweet, and at times silly, this book truly touched me. I very highly recommend it.

Nowhere Hair is recommended by the Livestrong Foundation, has the blessings of the Lymphoma and Leukemia Foundation and is offered by and used in 93 cancer centers around the country and in Canada to date.

Book Trailer for Nowhere Hair

Monday, September 19, 2011

125 Follower Giveaway of TWO great books!

Thanks to all my great supporters out there who have followed my blog, I am all set to do my first official giveaway! I will be giving away the following books:
Just click here to enter. Good Luck!
Contest begins on 9/20/11 at 12:00 am and ends on 10/4/11 at 12:00 am.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Young Wife - by Pam Lewis

Minke is just fifteen years old when she is hired to care for Elisabeth van Aisma, a wealthy woman who is dying. The arrangement is made between her parents, who live in a small town in the Netherlands, and Elisabeth's husband Sander. Once naive Minke meets Sander her life will never be the same.

After Elisabeth's death, Sander proposes marriage to Minke. Despite their age difference and the questionable circumstances of Elisabeth's death, Minke agrees. Very shortly thereafter, the two set sail for Comodoro Rivadavia. Although she loves Sander, Minke learns eventually that her husband has many secrets. These secrets ultimately tear her life apart, causing her to lose her first-born son Zef in a mysterious kidnapping and uproot their lives.

I don't want to reveal any spoilers and the plot contains a lot of twists and turns which will keep you guessing at which characters can be trusted and where the story will take you. I couldn't stop turning the pages, wanting to find out what happens next.

Minke is an endearing character who you will want to root for. When we are first introduced to her she is quite naive, but she has great spirit and a quiet strength which develops even more as she moves from one adventure to the next. As we read of Minke's adventures, from Amsterdam to Comodoro Rivadavia to New York City, we are there with her - breathing in the crisp sea air on the Frisia as it crosses the ocean, feeling the ground shake beneath our feet as the gauchos gallop across the pampas, fearing the watchers at Ellis Island will turn you away and your long journey will have been for naught. I found A Young Wife to be a very enjoyable read, one that I could barely put down. This is a book that I definitely recommend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science - by Lucia Greenhouse

Lucia Greenhouse tells her story of being raised in Christian Science and how it impacted her life and the life of her family. One of three children raised in an affluent family, Lucia was not allowed to receive immunizations, antibiotics, or even to take pain relievers such as Tylenol because it went against her religious beliefs. When Lucia reached her teenage years, as is common with so many of us, she began to seriously question her religion and have doubts. She struggled with her father’s strict adherence to Christian Science and his dictating all of their lives. She decided Christian Science was not for her, despite the fact that her father had become a practitioner and her mother a “nurse” in the religion. The divide between her and her parents grew as she became more and more frustrated with Christian Science.

In 1985, Lucia realizes her mother is sick. Because of the tenets of their faith, her mother and father decide not to seek the help of medical professionals but to rely on Christian Science to heal her. They completely refuse the concept of going to a hospital. Her illness worsens. Eventually she is taken to a Christian Science nursing home called Tenacre. Lucia and her sister and brother are increasingly concerned for her welfare. Lucia’s father tells them not to inform other members of the family who are not Christian Science members as they would not be supportive. The siblings fear the worst for their mother, but also fear the wrath of their father. Their mother continues to becoming increasingly ill.

What would you do if your faith required you to shun medical treatment when you knew your parent, child, or spouse would likely get better if he/she received it?

I found this book to be incredibly frustrating. I wanted to scream at the author, the father, the mother, her siblings and family members – “DO SOMETHING!” “HELP HER!” I was frustrated by the fact that the author seemed to recognize that her mother was likely dying and that she could possibly (probably?) be saved with traditional medicine, yet was too afraid to do anything to about it. I wanted somebody, anybody, to rescue this poor woman before it was too late.

The book was well written, but it did tend to be a bit whiny and it could have been shorter. I think a short story would have sufficed, perhaps without quite so much complaining.

Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Interstates - by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Sometimes change is hard. Sometimes people believe that things don’t need to change because things are just fine the way they are!

Just Fine the Way They Are tells the story of how the dirt roads in the 1800’s became the U.S. highway system of today. Beautiful illustrations are provided by Richard Walz. Wooldridge includes a timeline in the back of the book that highlights relevant points such as the construction of the National Road in 1811 and Henry Ford’s first Model T in 1908. Also included is a list of Web Sites which are all currently active and quite relevant to the book as well as a list of Places to Visit (such as national railroad museums).

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to parents, teachers and young independent readers. I think it would be an appropriate read-aloud book for younger children who have an interest in trains, automobiles, etc. For independent readers, I believe 7-12 would be the perfect ages for this book. I think it would be a great learning tool in the classroom as well. It is a perfect blend of information and humor mixed with lively illustrations.

Friday, September 2, 2011

SAVE ME - by Lisa Scottoline

The Premise:
Rose decides to volunteer in her daughter's cafeteria as a "lunch mom" when she learns that Melly is being bullied.  Melly, a Harry Potter fan and gifted student, carries the burden of a birthmark on her face.  This birthmark makes Melly an obvious target in the third grade - an age where kids seem to naturally hone in on any little difference they may find.  When Rose catches Amanda and her close friends harassing her daughter, she decides to give her a stern talking to.  In a moment, all of her decisions up to that moment are called in to question when all of their lives hang in the balance as a result.

My Thoughts:
I loved the idea of this book.  As the parent of an elementary student with medical issues, I am very aware of the issue of bullying in schools.  When I began reading this story I initially was captivated and couldn't put the book down.  For the first 100 pages of so, I was thrilled with Save Me.  However, the magic didn't last.  The story Scottoline tries to weave becomes a tangled, far-fetched mess when Rose goes into Nancy Drew mode and the twists and turns become so frequent that I literally had to force myself to finish the book.

Bottom Line:  
Interesting and promising premise, but ultimately a disappointing read.