Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela: A Book Review

nelsonI learned  Nelson Mandela’s life   from my high school history because of  the word,  apartheid. (Thanks to  Mahatma Gandhi; he introduced him to us on his cause of Caste  System in India.) However, I just scratched  the surface of him as my teacher did not tell much details about him as if he was not   attached much importance to the subject. ( If I were my teacher, I would have told much more about him.) In fact, I mistook him for a Black-American. Uh-oh! I was still an ignoramus at that time despite the fact that I was enthused about  studying  history.  Few years later, he drew my attention when he was in the news ; he was reported to have passed away. The world was so grieved by  his death  that he was almost  the headlines of all the newspapers and news programs. Only that time did I realize  that he was such a big name in the world. As usual, I desired  to know him more by reading his life. However, I  did  not afford to buy his book then. Eventually, my generous-to-fault student gifted me this book. Of course,  I grinned from ear to ear with joy.  Full of enthusiasm, I started to read it. However, it took me time to finish it and ended up on my study table for a few months. The book is light  because of  Mandela’s prose but steeped in geographical places and  anthropological and  political terminologies only South African can  almost relate to. Nevertheless, I liked it on account of Mandela’s ideologies, experiences, and speeches he delivered before his people.

I enjoyed reading Mandela’s autobiography because of his  light English prose as the indication  that he  had studied well- typical of a  smart student studying  in English speaking countries. For your information, South Africa has many official languages, and English is one of them. Thus, not  the majority of its population uses the language every day. Another impressive thing about writing his autobiography is his capability to  incorporate his   various feelings, be they in positive or negative, into his compelling  narrations. Sometimes, other autobiographers  write with highfalutin, highbrow, and high-flown stories  or  with unfathomably philosophical insights  beyond my understanding (, but still I try to bend my mind to  them until I bash my head against the wall ending up into a library of books or surfing the internet. Ones of  best examples so far are Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Selected Writings and Poems.)   Therefore, reading Mandela’s autobiography can be likened to a  teen-ager’s diary. Everyone  can   take a  fancy for his diary unless you are that a political animal. On the contrary,  his usage of some political, geographical, and anthropological terms which  I am not very  much familiar with undermine the said like-a-teen-ager’s-diary element. You might get tired of  them , saturated with the words you need to absorb in and turn over in your mind. In fact, it has 859 pages, the thickest book   I have read this year. Thus, you have no choice but to turn to Google or to a library of history books if you are a Luddite in order to understand them by heart. That’s why   I  did not lay a finger on it for a few months.  In the end, Mandela’s autobiography, in  my hypothetical suggestion, could still be a critically acclaimed book  for  its two kinds ,A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson  Mandela’s Autobiography: An Abridged Version– expunged  some technical words and A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson  Mandela’s Autobiography: Unabridged Version, same  with this original version.

Reading his speeches is also page-turning. There’s something about his speeches – they were  like causing mass hysteria among South Africans at that time. I tend to read his narrations as fast as I could in order to imaginatively listen to them . As a matter of fact, I tended to search  his speeches on Youtube wondering how he delivered them. I would say that Nelson Mandela, along with Malcolm X ,  has  most moving speeches  I have read so far.

Mandela’s autobiography reminded me of Malcolm X, another Black -American  revolutionary who had somewhat the same cause—racial equality. Malcolm X , based on his  best-selling authorized biography,  also believed that Black-Americans should be equal to White Americans . He demonstrated against   the  culture of discrimination  against his fellow Blacks. The only differences between their causes were: specifically, Mandela   fought against the Apartheid whereas Malcolm X against   general forms of discrimination. Still, both  of their causes  categorically fall to  racial equality.  Besides, there is one surprising thing that  made me jump to my conclusion: Nelson Mandela’s last resort was using violence when he came to the point that diplomatic negotiation did not work at all. In fact, he had been   influenced by the idea of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma  Gandhi  on civil disobedience. After all , he succumbed to  Malcolm X’  slogan , “ By Any Necessary Means.”, which I surmised he had disliked ;rather, admired  Martin Luther King’s , “ I Have a Dream.”I guess I can also conclude as well as you agree  that , sometimes , in any circumstances even  in history,  Malcom X’s slogan worked and is feasible as long as this is the last resort as was  Mandela’s. On the contrary, in the end,  Mandela  had proved that “virtue of patience” in the name of peaceful,  friendly, and sincere ,as he put it, negotiation can work.

Likewise, Mandela was weaned on  communism or Marxism – the political idea that also influenced Malcolm X and  Richard Wright, famous for his books, The Native Son and Black Boy. Did this idea also occur to some revolutionaries  in a place with insurgent atmosphere because of social injustice? So does to some at the present situation?

Before I finished it, Aristotle had taught me his The Republic, a philosophy book  that  also deals with the real meaning of JUSTICE. ( I haven’t written my review of it yet.)   It has the   dialogues   among the Philosophers   debating   over the  scopes  of justice. As a student of his , discombobulated, mulling over  his students’  philosophical explanation, upon reading Mandela’s autobiography, it dawned upon me  that  justice means equality.  In other words, I applied   understanding The Republic by Aristotle  to Mandela’s book. For instance, for Plato and Socrates, justice is fulfilling one’s appropriate role, and consequently giving to the city what is owed.  In a simple way, I want to illustrate  the virtue Nelson Mandela  believed in my life. I want  that life in some aspects  is “FAIR”. That’s why, without malice, without  this air of  pride and pompousness, I  want to  respect  people regardless of their skin color , sex , and race ; I respect in action people with deeply-seated religious beliefs   despite I have this  Richard Dawkins’s –desire to change the world;  I empathize “the destitute”  despite that giving alms is not my principle except for “the needy”, but bringing them to their senses  that capitalism is an evil, that living in this world is consummate “survival of the fittest”.

Mandela applied his rude awakening to equality  to understanding the people he got along with . With this belief, he became a freedom fighter, stalwart, determined, humble with undefeated fighting   spirit. That was Nelson Mandela, and in the end, despite the travails he had gone through, he   made it to his final walk  to FREEDOM.

Obviously, my long review of this book   indicates   my feeling of fulfillment. I am glad that I finished it after a short while. I do not regret   having   laid it  aside on my study table. Just I let the time permit.

Thanks to my student ( Sr. Angela )  for picking  it among the books in a book store,  without the idea that I had longed to read it  ; she had granted my wish. If I were a pantheist, I would exclaim  ,”What a divine intervention!”  ^_^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

Secrets of a Sparrow by Diana Ross: A Book Review

sparrowWhen I was in high school. I watched a contest on TV about contestants who had to lip-synch any famous singers they wanted to parody. The winner chose Diana Ross. I wondered who Diana Ross was  at that time . I just had an idea that she may have looked black with these long soft curls. Then the idea had dwelt upon me for a long time . This is the fact that I am fascinated by Black Americans. For me knowing about the lives of Black Americans is a mystery to me. No doubt I have read some of them such as Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. So I wish to read others’ more.

Since Diana Ross may be a legendary icon, I try to relate to the story by listening to her songs on YouTube, even listening to other singers namedropped I am not familiar with.Besides, I got wind of other legendary singers like Josephine Baker and Marvin Gaye whom I find very interesting. Thus, reading books is indeed beneficial; it leads you the way to other worlds you have not gallivanted around yet.

This book appears to be simple since it is Diana Ross’s memoirs. May be I wish that she had written it at length. She just made it special because of the mushy lines she padded with, which touched me to the bone nonetheless, and for sure readers might feel the same way.So it is inspirational for people who want to make something of them. Also, you can understand what makes Diana Rose to be the way she is, how she always believes that there ain’t such high mountain that people can reach, how perfectionist and passionate she is about her profession, and how smart she turns out to be- not only how she views the world from her own perspectives but also the way she puts her ideas into beautiful sentences. In fact, she loves readings books, too. It is just as well I decided to buy it after having skimmed through the pages.

Since this book was first published in 1993, I am sure that somehow I would understand any talks on her life whenever she makes a headline on TV or newspapers, I would just exclaim, “Ah, it’s Diana Ross- the wonderful singer.”

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

Bulosan: An Introduction With Selections by Carlos Bulosan: A Book Review

IMG_20130110_034754Carlos Bulosan caught my interest when I found out  his autobiography, America is in the Heart, in a National Book Store branch. This  book won the National Book Award in the Philippines. It was deserving of the award because  it is a novel  that the Philippines should treasure until the next generations. It is the epitome of the revolutionary books that  made a big difference in society such as Richard Wright’s Native Son, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by  Harriet Beecher. It is pregnant with heart-breaking stories  to which you might relate starting from his early childhood  until how  he managed to survive  in America. Besides, Bulosan’s writing skills  especially in  such a novel is an example of the cliché a diamond  in the rough that you would make yourself stare into the space and  finally ask how he did it ! He had never been educated before he went to America at his early teens. He was the archetype of a person who had changed  a great deal out of self-discipline and dogged determination , his willingness to transform himself into someone new. He could not have done it without his bitter, heart-breaking, abominable, gruesome , and miserable life in the USA as an immigrant who had   also dreamed of American life. Thereafter, in awe, with my jaws dropped as though I had wanted to do a somersault , bursting with excitement that I was eager to share it with my acquaintances ( but alas, most of my friends  do not have the same batty interest except my friends on Goodreads.), I said in a whisper that I would doubtless  rate it 5 out of 5 stars. 5 stars is equivalent to 100 %. In adjectives,  amazing, excellent, superb,  and impressive.

Automatically, I included his other works on my list that I would love to read more. Fortunately, I got the chance to buy  it  at  a reduced price ( 10 pesos ) when the National Book Store near my house was selling some local books on sale . In the end, it did not let me down. In fact, after reading in this book his some short stories, poems, essays, and correspondence, I  admire Mr. Bulosan more- he was an exceptional  writer.  I wish he had been brought into the world later than in the 1950’s; he could be paralleled with  the apogees  of the contemporary writers such as F. Sionil Jose , Nick Joaquin, Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario, et al. Then, I would be a Bulosonian. (laughs)

E. San Juan, Jr. , the director of the Philippines Cultural Studies Center, compiled the selections of Bulosan’s  stories, poems, essays, and correspondence. He may be an avid Bulosonian too. ^^

Most of Bulosan’s selections are the reflections on his pent-up anger and frustration for the hellish life not only did he lead   but also among his countrymen in the Philippines and abroad notably in the USA under the American colonialism. In his some short stories , the themes have something to do with how to make life better in America. In Be American, for example, Consorcio , uneducated , made a lot of effort to achieve his aspirations by working his butt off  at any cost. He even desired  to educate himself. Likewise, in The Romance of Magno Rubio, Magno , the protagonist , symbolizes himself as how he is enamored of  his white correspondent believing that she loves him and  no sooner will marry him than he gives her all things she needs . However, in the long run, both the main protagonists would realize that to be an “ Americano” as Consorcio put  it is a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’. In fact,  in The Times of Our Lives  paints the portrait of  how  the Filipino community  was  not united  in protecting their labor rights.  Some were  practical considering that they were intellectuals and  influential. ( This part could have been a lampoon at that time. ) In this case , there was an instance that a hard-up Filipino would be at the end of his tether  just the like of Cesar Terso in The Thief . In order to finish his medical studies, he stole money ; then, paid  it back by helping the destitute Filipino when he became rich , but he was suspicious of being into  illegal business  .

Bulosan also expressed in his As Long as the Grass Shall Grow  his desires to be educated  so that he could get ahead of life . Just the same, Filipinos were subject to discrimination, as a matter of course. In Homecoming, on the other hand, the last part among the short stories, is bizarre but heart-breaking. Bulosan expressed how his brother Marciano was so hapless to meet his family back from America after many years that he could not bear with the effect of his downright failure. Gee!

Among the short stories, I won’t forget about the letter his brother  had sent to his father which he kept many years  because  no one in their family then was not able to read nor understand English.

While reading all the short stories, the only voice  I could feel was Bulosan’s . I believe that he projected all the pains he had harbored on those characters, much more on the tones of the sentences.

Bulosan’s poems and essays  are also impressive .Every line  is peppered with anger, pity, hunger, pains, fear, desire- and hopes, love, determination.

His correspondence motivated me to continue my habit before: to write  a diary again. I have got an idea of what writing styles I should do. ( I hope so. I wish I had 48 hours a day. )

If you want to read it, I recommend that you first read his America is in the Heart. Eventually, you will understand why most of Bulosan’s stories, poems, and essays are so heart-rending that you might end up finding him a bad-ass  “ socialist” and “ idealist”. Bulosan went through a life paralleled with the life of  people living in a hell-hole slum such as the modernly filthy scenes in Baseco, Tondo , in Payatas or as the  ones you see in some poor places  in India, especially the life as an immigrant in America where at that time Filipinos were almost treated like Black Americans. On this account, in the end, Bulosan was like a dormant Krakatau volcano on the brink of exterminating the face of America and its adjacent ally, the Philippines,  by  letting the  lava of his literary pieces  wreak havoc on their fields of  consciousness. And somehow they did.

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Gaydar by Danton Remoto: A Book Review

gaydarThe word   GAYDAR  is the blend  of “gay” and “radar”. Radar as  you   learned from your  science book  is a scientific method of finding position of things such as missiles   by sending out radio waves.  In other words, figuratively speaking, GAYDAR as defined in the book  is  the innate ability to spot another gay man no matter how hard he tries to hide his being gay. In this way, a gaydar associating with straight-acting men or paminta in Filipino after  drawing off his radio waves will  break the news under his breath  that  a very Adonis  man women slobber over   turns out to be  part of  the confederation. Yaaayy!

My  university  gay friend   introduced me to Danton Remoto’s Ladlad : An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing.   The book is a collection of  different stories and poems written by different gay writers including his own oeuvres. In fact, some were written  in Filipino. Most of the articles are erotic in language, so  my reaction then since it was my first time to read such genre was some kinda prudish  pursing my lips and arching my brows. I thought that reading such  book is balderdash;  it’s raunchy. So I did not like reading it much, especially I had no any ideas of his literary styles.  But over time, I realized why Remoto , along with his award-winning  co-author J. Neil C. Garcia, published  such LAMBDA-Literary- Award-winning piece . Danton Remoto then was an active LGBT advocate.  Thus, I had a rude awakening as though I had  come out of my made-in-narra  closet.

This  is a compilation  of  Danton Remoto’s  personal essays which were published in  The Philippine Star  from 1997 and 1999. He wrote about his  growing up  as a student abroad , with his family  and friends , and  his advocacy for the LGBT community. In effect,  all of his essays are seethed in the same theme: life of being  a gay in the Philippines.  Also, he  even wrote  about the  dilemmas   such as the political circus and irresponsible journalism with which he had faced  when he was still an advocate of LGBT.

I appreciated Danton Remoto’s writing styles now. As one of his commentators  put before, he writes with substance. Most of his articles cling to reality, which knock the day light  out of an idealistic reader, notably the clerics for an example.  He associates his ideas with the social issues  in metaphorical forms-typical of  Philippine writing. You can relate to what he is trying to drive at such as mentioning some  Philippine culture to justify his   conspicuous advocacy. In addition, I am envious of   his beautiful prose and clarity of writing.  He really knows his stuff which   must have given   him a credible name  in the modern Philippine literature.

Some writers are like crusaders . They  put their  talent for writing  , although  such skill can be learned, to good  use ,  especially to  making a big difference in society. For instance, black writers   in the past just the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe,  Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, not to mention one of my favorite contemporary writers, Toni Morison  , et al used their writing skills as their  weapons to express their suppressible  and dormant desires to  revolt against the culture of  racial  discrimination.  In terms of  crusade against putrid perception about homosexuality, the only one popped into my mind was Oscar Wilde. Alas, he ended up in jail, for the society at that time was too vast to engulf him.  As the history serves and  since I have not been familiar with  famous Philippine writers yet, Danton Remoto , along with J. Neil C. Garcia , is the only openly gay writer who has the audacity  to do so  using his  flamboyantly decorated  saber of writing.

A salute to you, Professor Danton Remoto! ^^

Rating : 5/ 5 stars

America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan: A Book Review

america_prevIn the midst of reading or right after you  ( Filipinos) have read it, you may conclude that Carlos Bulosan ‘s personal accounts of his childhood experiences as well as his abject misery in America appear to be OVER EXAGERRATED , or far from the reality. I thought so, for I was not aware of the real situations among OFW’s. But you may come to the deeper realization that Carlos Bulosan must have had personal reasons: This book could serve as an eye-opener not only to the Filipino immigrants but also to the others elsewhere as well.

It almost pulled at my heartstrings. Poor Allos! If his autobiographies as well as his other works had been published while he was going through the grinding poverty, teeth-gnashing cruelty and stoical discrimination in America, I might have said, “ I didn’t know.” I wish the government of the Philippines had said it herself, or so did America. However, they turned their backs on or deaf to the reality, for I guess they must have been busy preparing for the WWII.

Carlos Bulosan bears a little resemblance to Richard Wright, one of my favorite authors. Like R. Wright, Carlos Bulosan also dreamed of freedom from the unjust socio-political system. H e also dreamed of being educated by reading omnivorously since his parents bent on sending him to school. He also went through difficulties in surviving the fittest. However, unlike R. Wright who had a chance to be known among the literati, Carlos Bulosan never did. Poor Carlos! If it had not been the poverty, he could have been educated as well as gained a name in the Philippine literature. He could have become a doctor as what he wanted to be when he was still young. He would not have held onto the edge of a knife by leaving the Philippines for the “American dream.” Alas, he ended up as poor and TB-stricken.

Honestly, after having read it, I became more nationalistic and chauvinistic; I love my native land more. When I got into the deeper part of the story, I can’t deny the fact that I was furious at Americans, felt like putting the blame on them why my countrymen as well as other Asians suffered a lot, not even before but until now. Well, I can’t blame them, for they may be the avatars and archetypes of stereotypes. Their history fashioned their hegemonic attitude. After all, I thought – since I am not much well-read about the world history- that Black Americans were not the only center of cruelty and discrimination. There are such things elsewhere after all.

I remembered two things while I was reading it:

(a) My childhood. I also lived in a province. I knew how it is like to live in a remote rural place. I have experienced what Carlos Bulosan did: toiling land with a carabao, selling vegetables and fish, walking to a far distance, bar exchange, and so on.
(b) My parents. My parents both lived in their own provinces; their attitudes are provincial. Although they are not educated, they use their common sense to live with dignity, to sacrifice for our sakes. ^^

I think this book should be highly recommended not only to OFW’s, but also to students.This book should never be forgotten, for it reflects in the dark society in the past.

Rating : 5/ 5 stars

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison : A Book Review

invisible manI  started to read  it in December last year,  but eventually  I found it   too cumbersome and hefty  to absorb since my mind was still saturated with personal concerns at that time, so it wound up  unfinished on my study table , collecting dust  , biding its time to be read  until its leaves are turning crispy. Then , I realized that  it is about time I  cleared out my currently-reading shelf to work up more appetite for  the other to-read books. It is a burden on my part   to put a heap of  unfinished books aside, or it looks like  as though I had a Mahabharata list of currently-reading books.

History has  proven that living in a suppressing  nation where you  have no absolute  freedom , where its  atmosphere restrains  your desires from expressing  your thoughts and feelings, where you are not valued, where you are degraded and debased  as if  you were the  disgusting “invisible”  dregs of humanity, brings about revolution in any manners. Some well-known leaders have stood up  by  means of the iconic Mahatma Gandhi ‘s  principles of civil disobedience or “by any necessary means”  immortalized  by the late  black activist Malcolm X.  In a subliminal or passive way, some   have  channeled  their pent-up  grievances through writing books such as   novels which  could in effect change a particular cause  , and this  is at what Ralph Ellison  must have aimed .

Ralph Ellison is not far different from Richard Wright, the author of the Native Son that astounded me to the bone. Both of them   have in common with   their ulterior  motive  why they wrote a novel about African life: to revolt. The only thing they have big difference is the  instrumental style  they used in  putting  their suppressed feelings into a novel. Richard Wright , on the one hand, wrote a suspense novel which you could feel the psychology of  racism.Consequently, the novel is heart-breaking, appalling, and sympathetic. You could feel the  psychologically  adverse effects of    slavery, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. On the other hand, although  Ralph Ellison used the style of R. Wright,  he  attached more importance to  allegories  or  literary devices; he used some situations and materials   in elaborating his suppressed grievances, as appeals to reasons, appeals to emotion, and  appeals to authority.   Thus, reading it was like as though you get  into two dimensions of semantics , and yet you could get at the real climax of the story: You read  the literal passages ; at the same time, they have figurative meanings. That is why I was impressed by this book- it is steeped in awakening passages; every page is worth reading, indeed.

Since R. Ellison grew out of a culture of bigotry and  availed of   his talent in writing to produce this , which he believed could have changed the  incorruptible stereotypes of white Americans about blacks  as well as awakened his fellow blacks to the reality about  divisive dilemma coming into existence among them. In this book, he simply   attached to the very simple dialogues and passages with what the “ real” problems  he  insisted on are the crucial to the desired equality. Ellison wanted to imply figuratively that there  are two groups of  blacks that prevail: one is that believe in the principle of practicality and gentle and gradual  process of raising awareness whereas the second one is consist of the people who believe in the urgent revolution in a manner of  public demonstration .

While reading it, the character,  Brother Jack reminded me of  Martin Luther King Jr. while in the half persona of  the unnamed protagonist and Ras the Exhorter , of Malcolm X. As far as I remember from the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X, King and Malcolm had  unresolved misunderstanding then, for  they had different opinions of means of  revolution against racism. For  King’s, he could get rid of  the  ulcer of society by means of  religion  using his immortal slogan I HAVE A DREAM; Malcolm X’s “ By Necessary Means.” In the other case, I could interpret that the main protagonist could be the persona of Richard Wright. Why not? Ralph Ellison was then close to him. Besides, I learned that Richard Wright once became a spokesperson of  a Communist party  based on his autobiographical novel Black  . Gee,  having read a great deal  of  books  about blacks is now causing me to  have mental bubbles of  analyses.

It is understood that this book  was written as  a revolutionary book   against freedom and equality just the likes of  what I have read :  UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher , A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E. M. Forrester, THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud, A NATIVE SON by Richard Wright, and our very own NOLI ME TANGERE ( TOUCH ME NOT )  by Jose Rizal.( I hope you give it a try. )

This is  included on 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well  as on TIME’s BEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME since 1923. I should not give it any sheer shadow of doubt because it is absolutely deserving- deserving of any special literary awards, of   your time to read it, of  being part in American studies, and of your 5 stars. ^^