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The Gift of Books

Update: The raffle is over and we raised over $2k!! Thank you so much for your support!

My love for books should come as no surprise to any of you who know me and/or read this blog. This love for books runs through my blood. As a result, it should really come as no surprise to you that my family is currently raising money to give the gift of books.

Our Alexander Family reunion will be in Union Island (where my grandfather was born) in August of 2010, and we would like to donate at least $1,000 worth of books to the library, which at present has a very limited collection.

In order to accomplish this goal we are selling $5.00 raffle tickets for a 19'' TV! I hope that you will help to make our goal possible. The date of the reunion is fast approaching so the drawing will be held on April 3, 2010.

So what are you waiting for? It only takes 5 minutes! Here's what you do:

  1. Click the orange "Donate" button at the top of this page.

  2. Enter your donation amount. $5.00 per ticket and $20 for five tickets. However, feel free to donate any additional amount if you heart desires!

  3. Either log into your existing paypal account or click continue under "Don't have a PayPal account?"

  4. Continue toward checkout. BUT... be sure to use the "Add special instructions to seller" section to tell me how many tickets you are purchasing as well as a phone number to reach you if you win!
Your support is much appreciated, and I look forward to sharing stories and photos of how your donation made a difference!

A little about Union Island
  • Southernmost island of the Grenadines belonging to the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Situated 90 kilometers southwest of Barbados and the islands of Carriacou
  • The mainland of Grenada can be seen to the south
  • Located 40 miles from St. Vincent.
  • About 3 miles in length and half that in width
  • High, rocky, and dry and is largely covered in thorny scrubs
  • Dotted with cacti and free roaming goats.
  • Home to approximately 3,000 residents and Clifton and Ashton are the two principal towns
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Review: By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

“By the River Piedra I sat down and wept. There is a legend that everything falls into the waters of this river – leaves, insects, the feathers of bird – is transformed into the rocks that make the riverbed. If only I could tear out my heart and hurl it into the current, then my pain and longing would be over, and I could finally forget.”
And so the novel starts out. The most beautiful opening paragraph I’ve ever read in my life. And unless you are heartless or have never been in love, I don’t know how this wouldn’t at least rank somewhere on your list of most beautiful passages.

By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept was written by Paulo Coelho. He is best known for writing The Alchemist which just so happens to be my least favorite of the three books I’ve read by him. My introduction to Coehlo was The Zahir which was, like the other two I read, a beautiful story of love. Neither of those however prepared me for the beauty I would find in that very first paragraph of the novel.

It then continues:

By the River Piedra I sat down and wept. The winter air chills the tears on my cheeks, and my tears fall into the cold waters that course past me. Somewhere this river joins another, then another, until – far from my heart and sight – all of them merge with the sea."
A couple pages later the protagonist, Pilar, takes us back to the beginning to tell the story of how she ended up weeping for this young man. They seemed to have always loved each other, even as childhood friends. However, they grew up and took separate paths in life. He chose to leave their small town to learn about the world (a theme present in both The Alchemist and The Zahir) while she chose to take the prescribed path of enrolling in a nearby university. They kept in touch throughout his travels, and one day he invited Pilar to hear him give a lecture in Madrid.

The story is a whirlwind from here. Pilar struggles to accept and embrace her feelings for him. He struggles to reconcile his love for the seminary, the gifts he has been given and the love he has held onto for so many years. While the beauty of their love story as it unfolds kept me wanting more, I found myself disappointed, especially toward the end when I didn’t feel the same intensity of emotions as I did with the opening paragraphs.

Like the other Coelho books I’ve read, By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept carries a spiritual theme, as he touches quite a bit on the mystical nature of God. In this particular piece, he focuses on the young man’s belief in a feminine God that grants him the power to heal. For some this may be an appealing aspect of Coehlo’s writings, but it tends to throw me off. It gives me some of the same vibes that the Celestine Prophecy gave me, which is more eerie than anything else.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book. I have two more books by Coelho that I want to read, one of them comes with high praise from Miss Melissa. And if you know me, you’ll know that there are VERY few authors from whom I’ve read more than one book. I must really like this guy.
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C'est Mon Anniversaire!

It all started three years ago, today. Mostly because I was bored. Also because I was in a new country, reading lots of books, missing my boyfriend and looking for an open ear - or in this case, interested eyes. And my travel blog about my experiences in France was not enough to keep me entertained.

And here we are! Woohoo. I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading. Who am I kidding, I write on this thing knowing that I might be the only one reading. So let me rephrase that: I’ll keep writing as long as I keep thinking.

Happy Birthday C’est La Vie!
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Do you know what time it is!?

Girl Scout cookie time! I live for this time of the year. Ok.. maybe that's a slight exaggeration but you get the idea. This time of the year could seriously compete with Christmas for "The most wonderful time of the year," in my life at least.

My personal favorite? They come in a purple box of goodness. The Girls Scouts call them Samoas. I personally don't care what they are called. In my opinion, they don't need a name to be eaten.

I've already done my Antie duties and order three boxes from my nieces. However they live in NJ so I'm guessing that will be my stash for post-sales cravings. In the meantime I will be camping out in front of my local shopping center, eagerly anticipating the day the girls begin selling them.

What's your fave Girl Scout cookie?
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Review: Women, Race & Class

A few months ago I started on a quest to educate myself about feminism, especially as it relates to black women. As a result, my GoodReads queue has become filled with books on beauty, books written by authors like Alice Walker and even couple books on hip-hop feminism. I've recently been introduced to authors like Bell Hooks, and I'm constantly learning of others to add to my list. As with my general fascination with learning, the more I read the more I realize I don't know and want to find out.

[Insert fascination with Angela Davis' books.] Need I say more about why I chose to start with this particular one?

Written in 1983, Women, Race & Class takes a serious look at the intersection of feminism and racism in America. In this collection of writings, Angela Davis touches on a range of topics that point to the struggles of the Black woman fighting to fight for equality in a movement that fails to include her.

It starts with a telling and often gruesome discussion on the female slave, detailing the laborious expectations on the field coupled with her complex role in the home (slave quarters). She even goes into the brutal punishments regularly inflicted - from the abuse experienced by pregnant women to the brutal rapes at the hands of white men. This, for me, was the hardest part of the book to read because of the raw brutality illustrated.

The subsequent essays delve into the history of the women’s movement and the influence of African-Americans, most notably the likes of Fredrick Douglas, Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells. As the book progresses Davis articulates the various issues that were used to ostracize black women from the overall women’s rights movement since the late nineteenth century. Whether it was excluding black women to gain support from the South for women’s suffrage or ignoring issues of forced sterilizations when it came to reproductive rights, there has always been an unfortunate division in the movement that ultimately and consistently left the needs of Black women unaddressed.

With Women, Race & Class, Davis brings these issues – and more – to light with the message of unity for the benefit of everyone in the fight for equality. It's definitely a must read, especially for young black women like myself.

A favorite quote:
Evidence of the accumulated strengths Black women have forged through work, work and more work can be discovered in the contributions of the many outstanding female leaders who have emerged within the Black community. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida Wells and Rosa Parks are not exceptional Black women as much as they are epitomes of Black womanhood.
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10th Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

I only learned about this day two days ago, but couldn't pass on the opportunity to learn more and spread awareness. According to the CDC, it's a day for "national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative designed to increase the awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment among Blacks in the United States."
Some statistics for you to share with others today:
  • AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25–34 years
  • At the end of 2006 there were an estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV infection, of which almost half (46%) were black/African American
  • Blacks with AIDS often don’t live as long as people of other races and ethnic groups with AIDS. This is due to the barriers mentioned above
  • Rate of AIDS diagnosis for Black women is approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women
  • Black teens (ages 13–19) represent only 15 percent of all teenagers in the United States but are 68% of new AIDS cases among teens

To get more information, check out the Center for Disease Control and the Black Aids Day websites. If you do only ONE thing today, spread awareness.

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Fave Commercial Fridays: Staples

This one had me crackin UP the other day. Enjoy.

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Black History Month: Ain't I a Woman?

And here we have it ladies and gentlemen. This is the month dedicated to the celebration of the contributions black people have made to this country. You know the story... it started off as Negro History Week in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson. What was originally the second week in February eventually became a whole month.

Fast forward, and here we are.

Black History month for me this year will be no different than other months of the year except for the fact that I will sporadically share some of my fave things about black women I'm learning about along the way.
Let's start off with Sojourner Truth's speech in 1851 at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio. In Women, Race & Class (which I'm currently reading), Angela Davis tells the story of Sojourner Truth's impact on the women's rights movement. In response to the absurd arguments about why it was ridiculous for women to want the right to vote (i.e. we aren't able to walk over puddles or get into carriages without the help of a man) she presented her response:

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

I don't know why this isn't something that I was taught in school growing up. It's too late to go back now, so I'm sharing it with you. Happy Black History month.
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