Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Kashmir Shawl ~ May 2015

The Kashmir Shawl ~ by Rosie Thomas, 2011, fiction (India)
It is the eve of 1941 and World War II is engulfing the globe. Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Britain to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India, but when he leaves her in the exotic lakeside of Srinagar to take on a complicated mission elsewhere, she discovers a new world.  Here, in the heart of Kashmir, the British dance, flirt, and gossip against the backdrop of war and Nerys soon becomes caught up in a dangerous liaison.  By the time she is reunited with her husband, she is a very different woman.

Years later, Nerys's granddaughter Mair Ellis clears out her dead father's house and finds an exquisite shawl — a kaleidoscope of silvery blues and greens.  Wrapped in the folds of this delicate object is a lock of a child's curly hair.  With nothing else to go on, Mair decides to trace her roots back to Kashmir, embarking on a quest that will change her own life forever.
Kashmir is in the news today!  Accusing al-Jazeera of "cartographic aggression," India has taken that news channel off the air.  "India says maps used by the channel are incorrect, as they show the region of Kashmir as divided between Pakistan, India, and China.  Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan in its entirety but has effectively been divided since 1948."

Click on map to enlarge it
Although I thought I was reading about India in this novel, I was confused enough that I looked up "Kashmir" to find out whether it's part of Pakistan or India or what.  That's when I discovered today's article showing that both countries claim that area, even now.  (And apparently, so does China.)  This book, then, is giving us background for the still-volatile place that is Kashmir.  I also found this helpful map, showing Srinagar near the top of India.

Author's web site
Novel's opening lines
Party with the characters (at Essencia Island)
Answer a question or two (or make up your own) in the comments:
1.  Which character could you relate to best?
2.  Were there any other especially interesting characters?
3.  Was the book different from what you expected?
4.  Was location important to the story?
5.  Was the time period important to the story?
6.  Would you recommend this book?
7.  What did you like most about the book?
8.  What did you like least?
9.  Did you like the way the book ended?

If the video quits working, view it on YouTube:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chapter 5 ~ Why ask why? ~ Socrates Café

The quote at the beginning of this chapter is simply "?" — and it's signed Anonymous.  Questions, lots of questions, so let me share a few we can discuss.
  • "Is it possible to be too curious?" I ask out loud.  (I don't know, but he asked the same question three times in this chapter, pages 195, 198, and 199).
  • "Is it possible to be too curious?" I again ask the Philosophers Club members.
  • "Is it possible to be too curious?"
What do you think?  Is it?  One youngster said:  "But I can't help it. ... I feel like I have to try to answer it.  I'm too curious!"
  1. "We need to start asking:  Is this really the best way to ask this question?  Or are there other ways, ways that might lead to more fruitful answers?" (p. 194).
  2. "Does anyone have the right to be ignorant?" (p. 200).
  3. "Is all education a process of making someone less ignorant?" (p. 202).
  4. "Is it possible to envision a society in which the gap between rich and poor is much less dramatic than it is now?  Are you responsible for the well-being of your fellow humans?" (p. 209).
"Implicit within the 'Socratic virtues' is this injunction:  You can only attain human excellence if you also strive to make it possible for your fellow humans to do so too" (p. 210).

What will you remember about this book?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chapter 4 ~ What's it all about? ~ Socrates Café

The author starts this chapter at a senior center, so here's a photo of two feisty seniors who eat at my table at our senior living facility.  I asked them before sharing, but you can see they were having fun on St. Patrick's Day.  So what's a self?
"I don't think a self is something that can be defined, but can only be revealed.  Our self is who we are, what we say, what we do.  Our self is a perspective, an approach, a disposition, not a thing.  It is a work in progress," said one of the Socrates Café participants (p. 154).
It's also "something he [Socrates] couldn't escape from, even if he's wanted to" (p. 155).  Sometimes, a person "discovered who he was by first discovering who he most definitely was not" (p. 157).  At the end of that session, a student said, "If we'd had discussions like this at my university, I'd soon have a Ph.D. in philosophy" (p. 155).
Does it seem to you that philosophy professors tend "to treat philosophy like a museum piece that only they, the experts, could discuss with authority" (p. 158)?
A few more questions this chapter raises:
  • Can "good" be a what?
  • Can "handsome" be a what?
  • What about "words"?  Someone said words are "our articulated thoughts" (p. 184).
  • Another said, "Becoming is just as much a what as being is" (p. 185).  Do you agree?
  • "Is a unicorn a what?" (p. 187).
As one person said, "I'm starting to wonder if I have any idea what's what" (p. 187).

"I am and always have been one of those natures who must be guided by reflective questioning."
— Socrates (quoted on page 143)