[750]: The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner by Sarah Weinman

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner
by Sarah Weinman


Sarah Weinman’s literary investigative piece aims to prove what Nabokov had long since denied: that Lolita was based on a true crime that happened in the 50s. It’s a huge undertaking to say the least. But Ms. Weinman is not new to the business. A journalist and a crime writer by trade, she knows a thing or two about investigation and research. The great deterrence to what she’d set out to do was time and paltry record-keeping.

She was forthcoming at least on the number of times she stumbled during the course of her investigation when she was unable to produce evidence. On the other hand, she was very convincing in her point that Nabokov somehow, someway imitated life when he wrote his novel. Through means of parallelization, Weinman at least made her case.

She also aims to give Sally Horner a voice, to tell her side of the story. She was a mere 11-year-old when she first encountered her abductor, but for whatever reason, Frank LaSalle didn’t take her right away. He waited another year before he came back for Sally. Two years after her abduction, Sally showed no physical trauma. But the psychological implications of her captivity had a lasting, albeit, short effect. Short, because she died in a car accident shortly after.

Sally’s fateful meeting with LaSalle began as a shoplifting prank. Dared to steal a notebook from the store just to try and get into her peer’s good graces, Sally didn’t realize that someone witnessed it all. And before she could even walk out the door, she was grabbed by a man who claimed to be an FBI agent. Threatened to send to her to a reform school as a punishment, LaSalle then told her that if she cooperated with him in some capacity, he would release her on a premise that he’d come back to mete out her punishment.

He sought her out again after months of disappearing. He told her that the ‘government’ wanted her to come with him to Atlantic City but she can’t tell her family the truth. He convinced her to tell them that she was going away with her friend and her family for the weekend. With a mere phone call from Frank pretending to be the friend’s father, Sally’s mother took her to the bus station under the assumption that she would meet up with her friend. It would be two years later before she would see Sally again.

What followed was two years of spent mostly on the road, living the assumed life of a widowed father with his daughter in tow.

As in Lolita, Humbert was undeniably portrayed as a predator of deviant taste. Nabokov didn’t pull any punches or romanticized the kind of monster he was. LaSalle was very much the same. His criminal life involved a number of abduction and sexual relations with children. But Humbert was fictional, and LaSalle was very much real. Weinman drew subtle parallels between the characters and the storyline quite effectively so – which, in my opinion was highly convincing.

Continue Reading

[698]: When We Rise by Cleve Jones

A compelling, inspiring memoir about the beginning of the decades-long fight for LGBTQ equality.


When We Rise
by Cleve Jones

When most of Americans exalted at the news that marriage equality was finally the law of their land, the world joined in the celebration. #LoveWins trended for days after the proclamation. And the religious right stayed in their homes clutching their pearls while they prayed for everybody’s souls.

Now I sit here with worry. Because among all the other disturbing things that are happening in the States right now, there is something else simmering on the stove of this ridiculous administration: the new VP is a huge proponent of conversion therapy for gay people. I wouldn’t put it past them to enact something as heinous as sending kids to a gay camp to cure them of their burgeoning homosexuality. Adding to the worry is the vacant SCOTUS seat which, judging by the cabinet members President Shit For Brains has been installing, will more than likely be filled by another bigot. (I feel like I’ve been angry since November and I’m not even sorry. ) For now, at least, the marriage equality is safe (fingers crossed).

When We Rise is a memoir that needs to be read by everyone. It comes at an anxious, but much-needed time. If the November election has thought us anything, it’s that our marches helps fire up a revolution in our own little way. It doesn’t start as a raging inferno. It begins in small sparks. Cleve Jones’ role in the LGBTQ equality was an accumulation of a lifetime of fighting for recognition spurred on by the beatings he’s gotten as a teenager and his parents’ inability to acknowledge him for what he truly was. Yet despite his parents’ shunning, and the bruises he’s endured, his bitterness was noticeably absent.

He was a man who grew up at an age where sexual promiscuity, gratuitous drug use, and decadence was pertinent. A man who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life other than to make the next buck that will sustain him for the immediate time. He moved from Arizona to San Francisco when his father let him know exactly what he thought of his sexuality. He would travel the world and switch between San Francisco and Europe. So when did his revolution began? I got the impression that everything fell on his lap. Not that it was easy, mind you. You’d care to know that even though San Francisco was the epicenter of it all, none of it was easy.

 The emergence of AIDS in the 80s was when we see him go through griefs for the losses of his friends and lovers. It was during this time when he would be in the biggest fight of his life – literally and figuratively. The number of deaths due to AIDS back then rose to an unfathomable number. Their fight for equal rights stalled all thanks to the prejudice and backlash they’ve gotten because of AIDS. Conservatism and Reagan were in office. And funding for research and cure was not a priority even though it was killing Americans at an inconceivable rate. It would take years and a Democrat in office before America actually paid attention.

When We Rise is a great book to read if you ever need a starting point to understanding the fight that they’ve long since waged. It’s interesting to see the birth of the revolution that wasn’t well received in the State of California at first. Surprising, considering that California is the cradle of progressive government in the country.  Mr. Jones highlighted the many struggles and triumphs that the movement has gone through over the years. The men and women who helped brought forth an awareness to their cause that eventually paved the way for the progress that the American LGBTQ community experiences nowadays. It was great to learn that Nancy Pelosi has been such a long time supporter of equality for the LGBTQ.

Cleve Jones’ memoir chronicles the never-ending fight that the community faces. Along the way, he’ll meet countless of valiant people willing to fight alongside with him. He imparts a message that couldn’t come at a better time than now. That it takes more than one march to fight for your rights, against the injustices of the world, and for what you believe in.

Continue Reading

[692]: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

A personal and political account of what it’s like to grow up in South Africa.


Born A Crime
by Trevor Noah

It is sometimes weird to see him at the desk where Jon Stewart used to slay conservative politicians and pundits alike. In all honesty, I’ve never really acclimated to seeing him there. I’m a big fan of Jon Stewart. He is the one who got me interested in American politics after all. Satire or not, The Daily Show was even more educational than any other cable news on air.

When I learned that Stewart was quitting and was being replaced by this unknown comedian, I was saddened. Because I knew things will never be the same. I’m not gonna lie, I have not watched a single episode of the show ever since he left. Aside from snippets shown on their Facebook page, I’ve never actually sat through a full episode. So when the opportunity to read and review this book came my way, I had to grab the chance. Because I wanted to know a little about this man. I wanted to know how a South African comedian charmed his way into the annals of a sometimes entertaining, more often frustrating American political satire arena.

During the presidential election campaign, he’s become more prominent because he assumed Jon Stewart’s role with great gusto. He was funny and candid; harsh and honest. But as I observed him during the few moments that I’ve seen his shtick, there’s still a bit of him that’s a little uncomfortable. Like, he couldn’t fully play the role of a man commenting on the absurdities of the American politics and life. Like he doesn’t belong.

 I’ve never seen his comedic act before hosting The Daily Show, but it is more or less in this book where he recounts the tales of growing up during and after apartheid. And the stories are funny, sometimes bleak, and in turns, alarming. He tells us that because he was born out of wedlock and a “half-white”, “half-black”, he didn’t really find acceptance.

The only way he could spend time with his Swiss-national father was away from the scrutiny of the public. And because he’s light-skinned, they sometimes resorted to pretending his mother was his nanny. His world was inside the gates of their home because his grandmother feared he would get abducted. He spent most of his time alone but he claimed he was never lonely. He read a lot of books and was perfectly comfortable being in the company of himself. Language, he learned early on, was the key to hiding the fact that he didn’t belong in either white or black community. Because if he could speak a variety of languages, kids could respect him.

If you spoke to me in Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu. If you spoke to me in Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana. Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.”

His mother was, by all accounts, the constant figure in his life that made him the man that he is. A woman who never lost faith in her God no matter the odds. The woman who took her kids to three churches on Sundays, whom at one point, threw Trevor off the bus, then jumped with his brother in her arms, to get away from an inevitable rape, and worst, death. She was a woman with conviction who knew what she wanted even if it meant a lifetime of ridicule and persecution because she’d “born a crime”, a half-white child whose Swiss-German father could never really own him. And amidst poverty, hardship, and violence, raised Trevor and his brother with the same dreams and hopes as any loving mother would do.

“For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man,”

he writes in his dedication. It is true that without his mother and her defiant spirit, he’d never be where he is right now. One of the biggest South African exports, a boy who grew up in small towns and one who was always looking for a place to belong.

Continue Reading

[648]: Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump by Aaron James


Double Day Canada | May 3rd, 2016 | 3 out of 5 Stars


 DISCLAIMER:

All right, then. Just so you know, this might be a bit ranty. I’m going to try my best to be objective and try to stick to the point of the book. Also, if you’re a fan of this orange dimwit, you might want to skip reading this rant review. Because I can’t promise you that my feelings will not get in the way of delivering you a fair review.

“We are not asking whether Trump is, in fact, an asshole. On this much, there seems to be a broad consensus.”

In this essay, Aaron James aims to classify just how big of an asshole Donald Trump is. You can say that he is a bit of an expert. He studied assholes of different sorts in his previous work, after all. Mostly, he wanted to study how he is still managing to gain the votes of the right-wing America regardless of the foul garbage that comes out of his pie hole.

“Indeed, to many of his supporters, this may be his primary selling point.”

If there is such a thing as a charming asshole, Donald Trump is it – at least, to his supporters. They take his blatant disregard for TRUTH and pass them off of courage to speak what they are thinking. As if a racist bigot would be the answer to the  political reform America so badly needed. To his supporters, the truth doesn’t matter. You can cite facts, statistics, and educated findings till the cows come home; you can tell them that Trump doesn’t have any concrete policies – domestic or foreign –  to speak of but instead uses words that paint himself in egotistical grandeur, and still you will not be able to convince them otherwise. There is something about him that calls to their inner racist – which makes America a very scary place at the moment, to be honest.

“Can you trust an asshole?”

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from the current electoral race, is that America should be pleased for doing you a solid. For this, I agree with James. Because ever since he came out of his hole, a legion of hateful citizens has come out of the woodwork. Nowadays, social media sites have become the battleground for the ignorant Populi who supports him,  the lucid right who thinks GOP can do better, and the liberal. Since the spread of the orange disease, I’ve had to unfriend a few people on Facebook. I cannot believe I’ve been interacting with people who carry that much hate against whoever Trump was targeting on any given day. Some would disagree with me for unfriending people just because they support Trump. But my stance is, I cannot have you spewing that garbage on my timeline. So yes, in some ways, I’m pleased that he exposed the ugliness that most of us have hidden over the years. And I live in Canada! I can only imagine how fraught things have been for you in America.

I’ve been reading books practically all my life. I’ve loved more than I despised. I find that the deciding factor for my reading experience is how fondly I enjoy reading about the character. And it was tough to write an unbiased opinion if you have the satan incarnate himself as the topic. As I was writing this drivel, the Senate rejected the gun reform that will prevent suspected terrorists from buying high-powered weapons.  And I’m livid. Therefore, my thoughts are all over the place. But mostly, I want to shake every single one of his supporters and yell at them in the face: for the love of your country, wake the fuck up. This blatant hatred is not what you need right now. Vote out those that are in the NRA’s pockets. I know I shouldn’t care. I know I’m not an American. But I’m a citizen of the world. I can’t help but feel for the victims of these senseless killings.

In retrospect, I think you should read another person’s review of this book. Because while Aaron James may have reached a conclusion to the kind of asshole Trump is, my opinion remains unchanged. Trump is, and always will be an asshole who do not belong in the White House.

Continue Reading

Waiting on Wednesday [11]: Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump by Aaron James

assholes


Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016

That Donald Trump is an asshole is a fact widely agreed upon even by his supporters, who actually like that about him. But his startling political rise makes the question of just what sort of asshole he is, and how his assholedom may help to explain his success, one not just of philosophical interest but of almost existential urgency.
Enter the philosopher Aaron James, author of the foundational text in the burgeoning field of Asshole Studies: the bestselling “Assholes: A Theory.” In this brisk and trenchant inquiry into the phenomenon that is Donald Trump, James places the man firmly in the typology of the asshole (takes every advantage, entrenched sense of entitlement, immune to criticism); considers whether, in the Hobbesian world we seem to inhabit, he might not somehow be a force for good i.e., the Stronger Asshole; and offers a suggestion for how the bonds of our social contract, spectacularly broken by Trump s (and Ted Cruz s) disdain for democratic civility, might in time be repaired.
You will never think about Donald Trump the same way after reading this book. And, like it or not, think about him we must.”


Because I will take advantage of the chance to go on a political rant.

Because this man has it coming.

Continue Reading

[508]: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

DSC00041

GOODREADS SUMMARY | Anchor | Paperback, 65pp. | February 3rd, 2015 | Non-fiction | 5 stars


This is not so much as a review, but a narrative of  what being a feminist means to me.

Truth be told, I’ve never been one to admit publicly that I am a feminist. Shameful, I know. But up until a couple of years ago, my impression of the word held a negative connotation. Whenever I hear of the feminist movement, I always have a vision of a group of women burning their bras and aggression manifested towards men in general. Would you believe me if I said that my voracious appetite for US politics finally brought into light what being a feminist really means? That the endless debates about fair pay is the catalyst to an eye-opening that’s been a long time coming?

If you must now, I have a liberal stand when it comes to social and economic views of the world. Having liberal beliefs make the most sense to me. I’m not partial to being constricted to conservative policies.  And from what I can surmised, the denial that there is no such thing as a pay gap between sexes is popular among conservatives (along with global warming deniers).  But, I digress.

We’ve come a long way from those times when a man earning less than a woman makes them less of a man. Far from those days when a woman is forced to stay at home to take care of the children. There are women who chose to bear children through non-conventional methods. They raise them as a single parent by choice. And yet even with these strides, women still bear the negativity that comes from raising children in a non-traditional familial structure. Some may even have to deal with ridicule. Still, the fact that we are more accepting to the reality that women CAN raise a family on their own shows how far we’ve come.

This is Ndiche’s speech at TEDxEuston in December of 2012. Can I be frank and say that had it not been to Beyoncè’s song, FLAWLESS, I’d never known of this speech. But who really cares where one finds their moment of realization or awakening? Ndiche’s speech about the meaning of feminism eloquently and succinctly erases all the negative connotations associated with the word. She explains all the bad sexist habits we’ve developed and continually nurture over the years.

This slight book is an eye-opener; an education for every man, woman, and child (it’s never too early to start). As parents, I can only hope to set an example. That my children’s capabilities should never be dictated by their sexes. But we’re also trying to be careful. Because feminism is never about competition between sexes. It’s not about girls besting boys.  It is a belief that we are all equally capable.

Continue Reading