I am not who I thought

Indigenous Peoples Day seems as good a day as any for this particular post.

Ask me who are you? Where does your family come from?

Me answering at age 7: “I’m a real mutt. I’m British, and German, and Cherokee, and Scottish, and Irish and just all mixed up!” Yeah – I was sort of an ignorant dope back then. But I learned a bit. Maybe.

Me answering at say age 27: “My family is primarily from Great Britain – especially Wales but also Scotland and Scots-Irish, with some German and Sioux mixed in for good measure.”  Somewhere between ages 7 and 27, I learned my family history did not include the Trail of Tears, but rather our mysterious ancestor, for whom we have only a name, was part of the Plains people.

Me at age (lets just blur this out because I like denial) “Let’s take a DNA test and find out for sure. That would be cool.”

So I did. After seeing all those commercials of people  discovering their heritage, taking fun vacations, or buying new hats, or learning new dance moves, I wanted to know what adventures could be found in my spit. This seemed particularly important, after a third or fourth or some cousin did one that had a surprising result and led my family to question what we had been told about one of our forebears.

My results are in. Ancestry will not invite me to make a commercial. I am boring. My ethnicity is overwhelmingly Great British. My German shows up as a “low confidence region” of Western Europe and clocks in at 2%.  My “Native American” DNA heritage clocks in as zero, which is the same percent as European Jewish, Russian, Middle East, African, Chinese, and pretty much everything else.

In the commercials, people are delighted to discover new backgrounds. I did find one. The test came back a high confidence of an 8% heritage from Italy/Greece. One of those Roman soldiers must have gotten bored whilst invading England in the first century. Those kinds of trysts happened, so it’s not much of a surprise. Unlike the commercial-people, my DNA test shut doors of possibility.

2017 is the first year that Indigenous Peoples Day is not part of my personal genetic heritage. Most years, I had given thought to that bit of my past and wished I knew more about the indigenous part of my heritage. I wondered where “my people” had come from, what sort of housing they slept in, and what sort of beadwork the matriarch created. I bemoaned not knowing that part of myself and had wondered if I would have a richer, fuller life if I could connect with the indigenous part of my heritage. As it turns out, there is nothing to know – only a hollow where my curiosity once lay.

I’m embarrassed for the times I have misrepresented myself out of ignorance, and I hope my transgressions will be forgiven. I can only hope that what was once empathy stemming from vague sense of being part of the indigenous story will transfer in empathy for fellow human beings who have a rich heritage that all Americans should acknowledge and respect.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should probably look up a good recipe for bubble and squeak, whatever that is.



For the love of bookmarks

I’ve been experimenting with ebooks lately.  I don’t have a dedicated e-reading device, just an app for my i-Touch, but it is enough to give me a taste of the e-reading experience and to teach me something about myself.

I really like bookmarks.

The e-reading app lets me turn down the corner of virtual pages.  The ability to stop mid-chapter and not lose my place is handy, but the folded corner is no bookmark. I don’t fold down the pages of my physical books.  I will use anything at hand — a gum wrapper,a business card, a leaf, or a twig– in lieu of damaging the book by folding the page.

Besides, bookmarks bring me joy.  I recently gave my daughter the Garfield bookmark I treasured at her age.  I held back a tear as I recycled the beautiful gold foil trimmed rose my mother gave me when I first started reading chapter books.  It fell apart from years of use.  Han Solo accompanies me on Sci-fi journeys and my “Meg Cabot’s got your back” goes well with comedy.  I love promotional bookmarks from authors.  The clever pitches get me excited to read what ever book is being advertised next.  Sometimes, these pitches and a cute picture propel me to finish my current book faster so I can get started on the one touted by the bookmark.

I love finding other people’s bookmarks tucked inside books from the library and second-hand books.  I wonder who left their library receipt. More than once, I’ve been compelled to check out the other books printed on a stranger’s bookmark, I mean receipt.  I’ve run across hand written notes, credit card receipts, bank receipts, post cards, grocery lists and the occasional bookmark.  When I drop off books for my library’s book sale, I try to pass on promotional bookmarks where appropriate.  My own sort of recommendation.  “If you like Melissa Marr, you’ll love Memories of Murder by Lara Nance.”

I know I’ll get a dedicated e-reader soon, but I’m not ready to give up paper books yet.  I’m not ready for a world without bookmarks.

Review: The Iron King/ The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Young Adult literature is an exciting place to be. As J. K. Rowling proved in Harry Potter, Young Adult isn’t just kid stuff. I adored the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and, yes, I’ll admit it, even the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.  When I heard the buzz around Julie Kagawa‘s The Iron King, I had to check it out.

I’ll be blunt. I like Kagawa’s books about the Iron Fey and I’ll seek out the next installments. The fairies occupying Kagawa’s world are vicious, petty and vain creatures, far removed from the Disneyfied version of happy creatures making flower necklaces. They draw more inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, the infamous Puck is a major character in Kagawa’s books. The descriptions of the worlds the fairies occupy are at times opulent, at times vague, but done in a way that makes sense given the first person point of view.  Our narrator, Meghan Chase doesn’t have time to consider the curtains when she’s running for her life from fairies with shiny, sharp teeth.  So far, the series balances action with moments of reflection that say more about our human world than the one occupied by mythological creatures.

But, and if one is going to muse on something like this, there better be a but, I find myself troubled by the over all message that seems to be emerging.  Although neither the Summer nor the Winter Fey emerge as particularly heroic, the Iron Fey represent the villainous forces our heroine and her rag-tag team of outsiders must defeat. The Summer and Winter Fey draw their magic from human imagination, creativity and lust. The Iron Fey, developing from technology, destroy the forces the rest of the Fey hold  dear.

The anti-technology message in The Iron King and The Iron Daughter rings loud and clear. We’ve heard similar arguments before – TV rots the mind, video games destroy our capacity to think.  I finished the second book the day after Steve Jobs’ death was announced. He, to me, is a prime example of how technology and creativity are not mutually exclusive.  Consider the explosion of e-media. Looking at Rube Goldberg Machines on You-Tube with my children a few months ago showed people using their creativity to create a ‘buzz-worthy’ video. We spent nearly an hour watching them, then spent longer trying to create our own. I’m a firm believer that technology can enhance, not destroy, creativity.

I wonder how many people are reading Kagawa’s series on an e-reader? Do they pick up the same uncomfortable message I do? There are several more books in the series. I intend to read on.  In that way Kagawa succeeded.  I have to continue to find out if my fears are substantiated.