The Sunday Salon – Opening Eyes

tssbadge4It’s unseasonably warm for Kansas weather (at least this time of year) and so I’ve decided to take this Sunday Salon outside into the almost balmy 46 degrees (Farenheit, of course). I’m sitting at a decrepit picnic table, sipping some of the milkiest, most honey-laden Earl Grey tea ever (its one of my weaknesses, ton of honey and half-and-half!) and am incredibly grateful for such amicable conditions for this update! So, what to say? I’ll begin by saying that the amount of books rolling through my hands has been absolutely astronomical lately, so some of it will have to wait for another day (most likely tomorrow!). I’ve had over a dozen books roll in through my mailbox thanks to class time, and a recent trip to the library has put even more great literature in to my (temporary) possession!

this-side-of-paradiseI’ll start the bookishness with a review of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, an author who I’ve had very little interaction with before this (The Great Gatsby in my junior year of high school is about the extent) and whom I think I’m definitely going to have to read more of in the future! Amory Blaine, the main character of the novel, is a brilliant boy whose mother, even young in his life, was glamorously insane (no mention is made of any kind of concrete insanity, but she suffers frequently from “breakdowns”) and who teaches Amory to follow in her footsteps. He goes to prep school and eventually becomes a Princeton boy, all the while redefining himself in light of the people he encounters and, perhaps most especially, the books he reads. I know, I know, it sounds like your fairly typical coming of age story, and it quite possibly would be if it weren’t for the way that Fitzgerald tells the story. His word-work is fantastic. And although Amory experiences some things later in the novel (don’t worry, no spoilers here!) that change him a little more radically, he remains throughout the book the kind of boy that I wouldn’t mind meeting in real life! He may be arrogant, a little lazy, and hopelessly aristocratic, he’s still adorable! Overall, I’d have to say that the plot could have done with a little more beefing up, but that’s just kind of what Fitzgerald writes, from what I can tell, and Amory was wonderful enough that I’m not sure I really care all that much! (5 star)

Next up is one of the book for Eva’s World Citizen Challenge, The Natashas: Inside the new Global Sex Trade, a book that is absolutely eye-opening to an issue that, before this, I’d never given much thought to. Everyone knows about the black market – drugs, weapons, and technology that is sold illegally after being trafficked from home countries. This books makes it clear that one of the growing commodities on the black market is, in fact, people. From the back of the book: <!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>

The Natashas have been shipped all over the world. They are the latest “It Girls” in the burgeoning business of sex. They line the streets of the red-light districts in Austria, Italy, Belgium and Holland. They stock the brothels in South Korea, Bosnia and Japan. They work nude in massage parlors in Canada and England. They are locked up as sex slaves in apartments in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Israel, and Greece. They star in peep shows and seedy strip clubs in the United States. To the casual observer, they blend in seamlessly with the women who have chosen to exchange money for sex. In their cheap makeup, sleazy outfits, and stiletto heels, they walk the same walk and talk the same talk. They smile, they wink, they pose and they strut, but they do it because they know what will happen if they don’t.

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the-natashas1This book is a magnificent account of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian women and the like who, every day, are lured away from their lives of poverty with promises of jobs in foreign countries – jobs as nannies, waitresses, dancers, and other various service jobs. Of course, when they arrive in their destination countries they are stripped of their identification, told by their “owners” that they owe huge debts for their passage, and are forced to service dozens of men a night (or risk beatings, torture, and even death) in the efforts to work of their supposed debts. And, perhaps what is most shocking, is the manner in which these men think of the women they are sleeping with. Or, perhaps its not shocking at all, and that’s what makes it so horrifying. Take for instance one of the many men interviewed throughout the book who is in fact a purchaser of women, who says:

Maybe many of them don’t know [that they’re being sold into sexual slavery]. But how stupid do you have to be that you are going to a different country to work as a waitress or dancer in a club? It is really stupidity. It’s dumb. Women know what they are really going for. Sometimes when they realize their mistakes or they’re getting hurt, it’s easy to blame somebody else for being so dumb. I think they should only blame themselves for getting into that.

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Victor Malarek does a wonderful job of mixing his real-life encounters with The Natashas,, his dealings with the higher-ups in the sex trafficking business, as well as historical background about the fall of the Soviet Union and the raising of the Iron Curtain that has so greatly contributed to the current ability for this underground peoples market to operate so freely. Needless to say, I’m fascinated by this book, both because of how well its written and because of just how horrifying these women’s stories are. I’m only about half done, so the full review will be coming shortly, but I can already tell you that I recommend this book whole-heartedly. It’s not only educational, its incredibly eye-opening.

Lastly, I’m going to take this quick moment to share my absolute LOVE of two of my classes this semester: my Shakespeare class, for which we’ve already finished The Merchant of Venice and watched the film starring one Mr. Al Pacino (I’ll post a review of the play tomorrow as well) but which is also taught by Geraldo d. Sousa, a mysteriously Meditteranian Bardolater who speaks with an accent, has a slight gap tooth, and has completely captured my heart! The other class is my Authorworks class, which picks one specific author and focuses entirely on his/her canon. I got lucky this semester because the Authorwork herself is, of course, Jane Austen! First up on the list is Sense and Sensibility, which I couldn’t be more excited to read again, let alone watch the wonderful BBC adaptation, which my library just happened to be carrying! I’m sure you’ll hear plenty about both of these classes in the upcoming months! Until then…enjoy your Sunday and happy reading!



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nymeth
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 21:26:29

    I’ve been getting more and more curious about Fitzgerald lately. I’ve avoided him all my life, but maybe I shouldn’t have.

    And wow, now I want to read The Natashas. You hear about cases like that in the news here from time to time, but that’s of course probably less than 1% of what’s actually going on. I kind of really want to punch that man they cited in the face.

    Your classes do sound exciting!


  2. Heather
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 22:12:58

    Hey, could you email me with your snail mail address so that I can send out Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to you? Thanks!!! (I want to send them out on Tuesday)
    great blog, by the way!!


  3. Eva
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 04:05:28

    I was so pleased to read your thoughts on The Natashas; I haven’t read this book yet, but I took two classes on human trafficking, so I know about the topic. Anyway, I’m glad you’re reviewing this one-the issues needs more attention. 🙂


  4. Matthew
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 05:11:30

    I have never read The Great Gatsby, let alone This Side of Paradise. My high school and college have completely passed Fitzgerald by. But I’m planning to read The Great Gatsby soon.


  5. Citizen Reader
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 16:34:18

    Thank you for bringing my attention to “The Natashas.” I’d never heard of it and think I should read it–although i get the feeling it’ll be one of those I won’t enjoy. You know, I always wonder, how can people (okay, I think “men”) enjoy women who have been trafficked in this way? It seems so sad.


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