“Let the Doctor Speak”
At the outset, I’d like to express my feeling of sadness for Ms. Sandberg and her children. I wish them happiness and laughter forever. My criticism of her book is mostly about the writing style and some topics she has chosen.
The book starts as a memoir; it’s definitely Ms. Sandberg’s story. She’s the narrator. However, the self-help part of the book is supposed to be written by the co-author, Adam Grant –a psychologist. He’s the one who’s expected to help readers understand their emotions and find the best way to handle their grief. Readers do not hear from him directly. His contribution surfaces when Ms. Sanders refers to, “Adam told me…,” “I heard from Adam…,” “I learned from Adam…,” “One of Adam’s patients…,” “Adam’s research…” On any page he’s mentioned, it feels more like he’s reduced to a footnote. Discussion about handling different stages of grief would have been more effective if at the end of each emotional instance, Adam Grant had a chance to analyze the situation and talk to readers directly. Please let the psychologist speak.
The book also covers various categories of grief. On pages 71-72, Ms. Sandberg admits that while writing Lean In, she had neglected to discuss a huge category of women—single moms. To correct that shortcoming, in Option B, she includes almost every type of grief. Chapter one starts with a rape case. In other chapters, she talks about job loss, addiction, incarceration, divorce, illness, sex trafficking, refugee problems, etc. Readers are used to seeing horrible news about violent crimes, wars, natural catastrophes, etc., but they bought this book to learn how to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Unlike Ms. Joan Didion, who did not connect with every reader in her 2007 book—The Year of Magical Thinking, Ms. Sandberg does connect. When she talks about the sudden death of her husband, she brings tears to your eyes. However, the tears dry up quickly when she jumps to other horrible incidents, like the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the 1972 plane crash in the Andes, and the 2010 incident when coal miners were trapped underground in Chile. It’s not because readers do not care about those horrible occurrences, it just feels as if Ms. Sandberg’s heartbreaking story keeps getting interrupted. Furthermore, those incidents are mentioned in general, and in a hurry. The readers do not know about any individual involved or their personal stories.
Ms. Sandberg is a billionaire and Fortune Magazine has named her as one of the 50 most powerful women in business. Despite her privileged life, readers identify with her pain, because she is the protagonist, and the hero in her book.
Ms. Sandberg uses a lot of statistics, and discusses research done by dozens of people. In her acknowledgment, she thanks 170 people. Many of those names appear page after page throughout the book. The chosen stories, usually discussed in a few lines or paragraphs, conclude with happy endings, but some are not completely finished. For example, what happened to Stephen Thompson’s four siblings? Thompson was a homeless young man with a tragic story (pages 85-86.)
Ms. Sandberg was lucky to have the support of her family and friends. Her mother stayed with her for a month, then, she was replaced by her sister. Her relatives and friends are wealthy enough to fly to be with her any time she needs them.
For a sequel to Option B, Ms. Sandberg and co-author Mark Grant should advice; inter alia, the following categories of widows who were left out.
A widow in her early 80s whose husband died after years of battling with cancer. His estate is insolvent, and after 5 years of being the only caregiver now she is sick, cannot work but has to pay the creditors. The medical bills have depleted all their bank accounts. Her only source of income is a little social security. All his death benefits go to the ex-wife whom he divorced 20 years ago. She will lose their home because she cannot afford the mortgage.
An old widow with no relatives, no friends who has to deal with hostile heirs of the husband—grown children from previous marriage who have sued her. She has to go to court to prove that there are no assets to be inherited.
A young widow—stay at home mom of three whose husband had seasonal construction work with no retirement, no health care, no death benefits.
Young widows who have to raise their children in shelter. The list can go on.
I'm pleased to report that The Judge has sold more than 10,000 during January -March period of 2017. It has got more than 27 amazon reviews and many GoodRead reviews.
My new novel The Judge is available on amazon.com Please visit The Judge's page for more detail.
My ovel Roxana's Revolution Can be ordered on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
Also on KOBO.com
Review of Descent by Tim Johnson
Good writing but not a page-turner
This is an ideal book, written for literary agents and editors, but not for readers. As a reader I had the following problems with the book:
1. In order to show what a good writer he is, Tim Johnson has worked so hard to create a literary thriller. Literary work in any genre should be awarded, but it didn’t work for Descent. Thrillers are like action movies; too many narratives or descriptive passages slow down the pace. The author repeatedly interrupts dialogues to describe something. Watching movies is easier than reading books, but even in a movie, if the director keeps the camera on one object or character for too long for no specific reason, the viewer will get bored.
2. Lengthy pages of unnecessary italics are confusing for the reader and only prove that the author is capable of creating an unconventional writing style. References to the boy, the man, and the girl who had names were annoying.
3. There’s no protagonist in this novel; each player has an equal role. It’s not clear from which character’s point of view the story is told. There are more pages about the sheriff and his men than the missing girl’s mother. On one page the author says a year had passed by without giving the readers a picture of what happened during that year, then on pages 61, 62, and 97 he gives that information via dialogue. So the reader has to connect the dots.
4. Too many cigarette-smoking occasions, including how the cigarette was put off, its ashes, etc.
5. I didn’t find the plot to be very compelling. I put it down several times, and each time went back to it reluctantly after a few weeks. I finally finished it while waiting during three appointments at my dentist’s office.
6. Too many narratives can kill the shocking moments in a thriller. A man with a bullet in his lungs doesn’t have the energy to talk for several pages. The same is true when a surgeon talks to a victim’s family. The first question from a worried father should be, “Is my daughter going to live or die?” The surgeon gives a lecture before talking about the most significant issue.
7. I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. Actually I didn’t sympathize with any of them, which is surprising to me. My eyes tear up quickly when there’s an emotional scene. There was no emotion, no real fear, sadness or grief. Lack of emotion is present on page 338 when the father tells his son that his missing sister is found. The same is true when the mother is reunited with the missing daughter. The author tells us that the mother has traveled from another city, however, while the readers are anxious to read about and feel the reunion, he wraps things up quickly with a few lines. Caitlin (the missing girl) saw “the full and terrible love of a mother for the child who came from her and was part of her and was full of her and the loss of whom could not be born.” For an author who beautifully describes roads and scenery, this is how the reunion scene between a mother and missing daughter concludes!
An Intellectual Approach to Grief
Review of The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
I liked Ms. Didion’s unique writing style, especially the poetic way she spoke with her sick daughter during her visits at hospital: I’m here, you’re safe. The book is basically about how she handled her husband’s death. Unfortunately, readers cannot identify with the author’s grief. The following are my reasons:
1. She’s shocked that a sudden heart attack at a dinner table could kill her 71-year old husband with an old heart illness. Whereas the immediate concerns of most widows are financial (mortgage payments, debts, kids future education, or getting second jobs) Ms. Didion keeps researching to find out why the husband died. She spends a great deal of time explaining the procedures and tests, making the reader feel like a student listening to a cardiology professor at medical school. For a long period of time the sophisticated author is in denial and feels that the husband will come back to life. So she cannot give away his shoes. If he’s coming back, he has to have his shoes. After the immediate shock wears off, most people accept death especially if the loved one is a 71-year old with history of heart illness.
2. Before and during the grieving period, the author’s daughter, Quintana, is in the hospital battling pneumonia. This would interrupt any mother’s research about the heart attack of a husband, and would force her to consume her energy and every waking moment on seeing her daughter get well. When a loved one dies, and then another loved one gets sick, most people fear that he or she will die too. Ms. Didion leaves Quintana’s care to her husband, and while readers of the book are anxious to hear more about the daughter, she continues her search on the death of her husband and whether she could have prevented it.
3. The writing lacked emotion. Ms. Didion and her friends may be atheist, but there were shocking moments that would have made even an atheist to utter the words, Oh My God! There are no prayers by anybody to God or any other authority for the sick daughter to get well. Tears are mentioned on a few pages, but that doesn’t bring the readers to tears—The only similar pain that the readers can identify with are when the author remembers trips with the departed husband, or finding written notes or pictures.
Failed or Unsuccessful TV Programs
I’ve been very good at predicting which TV shows end up failing, just by watching one or two episodes. The following is my humble opinion on A to Z, About a Boy, Bad Judge, Marry Me, Mulaney, Selfie, Suburgatory, Super Fun Night, Trophy Wife, The Crazy Ones, The Millers, The McCarthys, Welcome to Sweden.
There are some general characteristics that have contributed to the failure or low ratings of most of these shows.
- Believability factor.
- How viewers relate to the characters, meaning not creating likable or real characters. Archie Bunker was a bigot, but he was a loveable character.
- Including shallow portrayals of minority characters. Will and Grace was a successful TV show because the writing was good and the gay characters were real, not cardboard characters.
- Creators/writers who have a tendency to please high school viewers or an audience in their early 20s. This ignores the fact that viewers in this age bracket are busy with social media, watching shows online and going to the movies. In other words, they don’t sit at home just to watch a TV program. The majority of TV audiences are much older and therefore do not enjoy what appeals to the younger generation.
- Producers who love British actors or actresses and assume that everyone else loves them too. Unless you live in New York City, the chances of bumping into a Brit all the time is slim.
A to Z
One cannot create a lawyer character who’s always busy talking to her boyfriend while watching him from her window. Lawyers have depositions to take, courts to go to, meetings to attend, and legal briefs to write. You cannot tell your audience she’s a lawyer, but we only concentrate on her dating.
About a Boy
Again, believability! Someone leaves his career and a girlfriend in New York City and relocates to be near a single mom and her boy.
The titular judge character was so bad that I actually enjoyed it (a good performance by Kate Walsh). But I wonder whether the creator/producer of the show had hired any lawyers or judges as a consultant. Judges are typically serious or stuffy people. Even in a Hollywood court, you have to follow certain rules and procedures. As a judge, you cannot dress up like Madonna in the 80s, go to the bars and sleep with someone who has liaison with your court. There are disciplinary committees overseeing judges’ misconduct. In real life, this judge would not have lasted more than a week on the bench. The show was different from Night Court, which dealt with petty crimes in Manhattan. The judge character in Bad Judge was presiding over real trials. The sex- obsessed prosecutor in Night Court could’ve also faced disciplinary actions, but at least he was not the judge.
People don’t have patience for long-term engagements. Again, cardboard characters created to be politically correct. I also noticed that the main female character and her friends were talking incredibly fast, as if someone was chasing them to finish their lines.
An unsuccessful attempt to imitate Seinfeld; didn’t work. I love to see Nasim Pedrad in another show though.
Even high school kids do not enjoy watching some one else’s texting, cell phone conversations, and selfies.
This could have been a good show if the writers had not created some of the crazier less appealing characters.
Super Fun Night
The story is about lawyers acting silly without much practicing law, just to make the show funny. The degree of insults the overweight lawyer tolerates is also unrealistic.
Viewers understand that a woman in love can accept raising her husband’s three children, but they cannot relate to how and why she is putting up with his two ex-wives, one domineering and the other one pure crazy, on a daily basis.
The Crazy Ones
I was desperately waiting for a Robin Williams show, but this was not the right story. After watching just two shows, I predicted that it would fail. Robin Williams’ magic came from being free to improvise. He could not be scripted or directed. The office setting and the nature of the business also posed problems for this show. Most people change the channel when commercials come on, or push the mute button. Why would they be interested to learn how a commercial is made? If the characters had more interesting storylines, it would have made the audience interested.
Grown up children, ex-wife, ex-husband living together, and constantly getting involved in one another’s affairs.
Too chaotic to deal with.
Welcome to Sweden
I’m repeating what I tweeted a long time ago. This show will return, but if they want to make it successful they have to mix the story with the character’s life in New York City. A successful career man doesn’t just leave a NYC job to follow his Swedish girlfriend. It’s also too difficult to accept that the Swedish family of the girlfriend is always around to interfere with her life with the new boyfriend. It’s more like family life in rural areas of the United States, and not in sophisticated Sweden.
Doctors and Lawyers: How Doctors can get away with Murder
I have heard all the lawyers’ jokes and have laughed at them. With several distinguished awards from bar associations, I assumed that I was a good lawyer, so the ambulance- chaser or shark jokes didn’t bother me. I always wondered though why doctors are not subjects of jokes as much as lawyers are.
I had a great deal of respects for care providers and admired their work until a few years ago when my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. Before that year, as a healthy person I had a limited contact with doctors, and only for simple cold, or for routine annual check ups.
But after my husband’s two surgeries, and endless hospital and doctors’ visits, I believe doctors can get away with murder. The following are some examples of comparing a doctor’s job to a lawyer’s.
I believe brain surgery for a doctor should be as significant as the job of a lawyer defending a murderer case. On the day of my husband’s second surgery, the surgeon didn’t meet with me. Instead, since my husband was not in a position to help them, I was questioned by six or seven people from different departments of the hospital and by nurses who were going to be in the operating room assisting the surgeon. The answers to all their questions were already available in my husband’s file. It was also updated because I was asked to go to the surgery department two days before the surgery, and provide the information. Some of the questions were so basic and obvious that would make you laugh, like age, other illnesses and so forth. For a moment my brain began imagining a lawyer who was about to start a murder trial asking his client: “Do you have any prior criminal record?” or “Have you brought any witnesses to court today?” Had the client reported his lawyer to the state’s Bar Counsel, he/she would have been disbarred in many jurisdictions or at least reprimanded.
Doctors have State Boards, which should function similarly to lawyers’ State Bar Associations. But if you report a complaint about a doctor, you never hear back. The Bar counsel investigates lawyers and has different levels of sanctions for every lawyer violation. The only way doctors are punished is through legal actions; most of them are rich and have good malpractice insurances that pay the awards.
The neurologist who had reviewed my husband’s MRI images and had detected a dark shadow on the left side of his brain told me that she thought it was nothing, and she was going to order another MRI in 6 months. Guess what? Three months after the first MRI, my husband had a seizure because of a tumor in his left side of the brain. I didn’t want o sue this lady. I didn’t even bother to report her to the State Board. Can you imagine what would happen to a lawyer who had lost a murder case because he had failed gathering enough evidence?
The Aftermath of the Paris Attack
I started the New Year with good news. I won a difficult case before the D.C. Court of Appeals which is the highest court in the District of Columbia. Before I could enjoy the taste of my victory, there was the horrible news about the tragedy in Paris. As a lawyer, I advocate freedom of speech wholeheartedly, and believe that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is a fundamental rights bestowed upon U.S. citizens. However, as barbaric and despicable the act of terrorists in Paris was, I’m saddened that this has created another opportunity for the anti Muslim groups to condemn Islam and Muslims.
Islam and Muslims
On January 7, 2014, on a late night show, Bill Maher opined that the majority of Muslims approve the Paris killing. There are 1.8 billion Muslims; how many Muslims does he think make the majority? Don’t get me wrong. I have adored Bill Maher for years, but sadly, the man is super liberal until you talk about Muslims and Islam. The next day, after he saw worldwide condemnations by Muslims, he twitted that it was not enough for the Muslims to condemn the terrorist acts, they should have come out and said that it was Okay to make fun of the Muslim Prophet or draw funny cartoons about him. Does he think that there is a Muslim Pope sitting somewhere like the Christian Pope in Vatican, to give order to all Muslims?
The 1.8 billion Muslims live in 49 different countries. Each country practices different sects of Islam and believes that their branch of Islam and their Muslim scholars are the best. So can a Muslim leader/scholar from Egypt give fatva and assume that every one in other 48 Muslim countries would follow it?
Another problem I have is the way the terms Islam and Muslims have been used by the media. The terrorist groups should be referred to by their real name, their origins and their alliance with their Muslim country. U.k. and many other countries labeled the Irish
Republican Army (IRA) as a terrorist group between 1969 and 1997. No one called the
IRA as the Catholic terrorist group. When terrorists attack in different parts of the United States, the media is not referring to them as a Catholic or Protestant terrorist. Do you
think the innocent Muslim Civilians who are victimized by ISIS on a daily basis consider them as Muslim?
ISIS’s name in Arabic is Da’esh like al-Qaeda. The media’s intentional or unintentional reference to every terrorist attack as Muslim terrorist has created hatred against Muslims and Islam. 15 out of the 19 hijackers responsible for 2001 September the 11th attack were Saudi citizens. You didn’t hear the media calling them the Saudi terrorists.
I wish a few of the terrorists from Guantonama Bay or in some other U.S. Prisons would be brought to court and tried publicly. I also wish that the prosecutor would ask them which verses of the Koran had authorized them to kill innocent people, especially children. I can promise you that none of them could come up with any verse because there’s none. Further questions would’ve proven that these terrorists had never read the Koran even once in its entirety.
Using Words to Create Hatred
Using the wrong term or phrase is a dangerous game. For decades after the Iranian Revolution, the media was referring to Hezbollah as Iranian backed terrorist group, or Iranian-backed Hezbollah. In reality Hezbollah is a political party in Lebanon. Christians and Muslims each have 64 votes in Lebanon’s parliament. Hezbollah has 27 votes; other Muslim parties have the other 27 votes. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if some one called a political party in Europe or U.S a terrorist group?
The media has also created hatred or sustained it for an unpopular country by degrading their leaders. Iran has been referred to as the regime of the mullahs’ many times. A leader should not be ridiculed because of the way he dresses up. Mr. Khatami, the former President of Iran was highly educated and considered a scholar. He certainly didn’t fall into the category of mullahs even if people didn’t like his policy? The majority of the present cabinet members in Iran have ph.Ds or masters degrees from well-known American universities. Do they deserve the derogatory term—the mullahs?
Doesn’t it sound ridiculous if the media kept calling an unpopular senator or congressman as the red-neck Senator from such and such state, or the red-neck congressman so and so. Between 1960 and 1977, Cyprus was ruled by Michail Makarios who was the archbishop of a Greek Orthodox Church wearing his religious robe. No one ridiculed him.
Limitations to Freedom of Speech
There are limitations to freedom of speech in the United States and Many European countries. For example in the United States, the First Amendment does not protect indecent exposure, nudity in public, disorderly conduct, solicitation for sex, and hate speeches.
There are laws in 16 European countries that make Holocaust denial a criminal offense, and rightfully so. French laws criminalize speeches that insult, defame or incite hatred or create discrimination or violence based on one’s religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference. These well- enacted legislations prove that there must be limitation on freedom of speech.
Despite the horrible Paris killing, kudos to French people who proved through their solidarity March that this is still the land of liberte’, egalite’ and fraternite’.
A Poem for January 2015
“Tunnel of Lights”
On a beautiful sunny day,
little white clouds kept running
like playful kids.
The clouds formed a tunnel,
I was pulled into the tunnel of lights,
flying over mountains and oceans.
A force dropped me on a land,
I saw a garden full of roses stretched to eternity.
An intoxicating scent made me feel dizzy.
A hand pushed me to a gate and whispered:
“This is the first heaven.”
I saw beautiful torches of fire,
and the prophet Zoroaster lecturing students,
I bowed and said a prayer.
The wind took me to the second heaven,
I saw the prophet Muhammad giving some booklets
to a group of feminists,
I bowed and said a prayer.
The clouds formed another tunnel
and the wind took me to the third heaven.
I saw Jesus talking to a group of demonstrators
carrying signs which read: “Gay rights,”
I bowed and said a prayer.
The wind took me to the fourth heaven,
I saw Moses mediating two groups of angry people,
I bowed and said a prayer.
The clouds formed another tunnel of lights,
and the wind pushed me through
and put me behind the gate of the seventh heaven.
I saw Abraham with three books on his lap,
I got closer to ask him a question.
He pointed to a garden behind him and said:
“Only the creator can answer that question.”
I bowed and said a prayer.
The dream is over, I am awake now believing
He will tell the world one day,
why we needed different religions.
December Blog--Evants of 2014
For me, there were only two exciting events in 2014. The first was seeing the number of states approving same-sex marriage climb to 37. The second was watching the World Cup, despite the devastating loss by my favorite team Brazil, who also happened to be the host.
In world events, a terrorist group named Boko Haram kidnapped 270 schoolgirls. ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, continued killing civilians brutally, and the usual regional war between Israel and Palestine continued in the Middle East. The July –August war killed 2200 civilians in Gaza, and 66 soldiers and 7 civilians in Israel.
In the good old USA, Colorado legalized marijuana in January. I predicted that general marijuana use would increase in that state and at the time no one else talked about it. The statistics at the end of 2014 showed that one out of every 8 Coloradoans are using marijuana now!!!
Putin showed up almost every day during the Winter Olympics events in Sochi, Russia as if he didn’t have any political or governmental meetings or concerns.
A tragic heartbreaking disappearance of an airline turned CNN into the Missing Malaysian Airline Channel, forgetting everything else happening in the world including terrorist activities, annexation of Crimea to Russia, etc.
We witnessed the sad killing of a young unarmed African American in Ferguson by police. The event opened up the old wounds of racial discrimination, and brought thousands of people to the streets in different cities to protest. The Ferguson tragedy was repeated in New York City when police choked an African American man during the arrest for selling illegal cigarettes. The NYC event caused a crazy emotional reaction by a man from Maryland who first shot his girlfriend, and then, traveled to Brooklyn and killed two police officers while sitting in their cruiser.
In November, many lazy Democrats didn’t bother to vote, so the Republicans grabbed several Senate seats, thus getting control of Congress. They vowed that the first item on their agenda would be to abolish Obamacare.
On December 10, 2014, Malala Yousefzai, the young Pakistani activist who survived Taliban’s attempted assassination, accepted her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, but four days later Amal Alamuddin became Barbara Walter’s most fascinating person in 2014 for her biggest accomplishment—marrying George Clooney!
In September British Royals, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge captivated people during their visit in New York City. It made me wonder why people who love monarchy so much have a republican system. Then I remembered they had to put up with so many Kings and Queens in different industries.
Ebola scared people in 2014 worse than the outbreak of AIDS in the 80s. For the first time health authorities decided to have some traveling restrictions for those coming to U.S. from Ebola inflicted lands.
2014 witnessed the loss of two comedians who made millions of people laugh for decades: Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers.
Call me a dreamer, but I hope and pray that 2015 will bring peace and happiness everywhere in the world.
The follwoing two poems have been selected to be included in NoVA Bards poetry anthology.
“The Bridge Over The Pond”
She sat by the pond, looking at the bridge,
her eyes searched for a house,
a house she lived in many years ago.
The house was still sitting there
on the other side of the pond.
She remembered her little boy
and a strange angry man called husband,
a man who raped her soul
every day and night, over and over.
She remembered those depressing days,
self- imprisoned in her cold sullen room,
counting every moment until the next day.
During the dark nights, she walked over the bridge,
in her silent clamor, she questioned God’s godhood.
She cried and waited for a gleaming star,
she feared for her life and her son’s,
but no one came to her rescue, no one cared.
She remembered some happy moments,
the return of her little boy from school every day,
his laughter when he fed the ducks,
a court order and the angry man’s departure.
She remembered the wrecked ship of her life,
the odd jobs, the long hours, and the piles of bills.
The woman wiped her tears, watched the ducks,
and picked up a lily from the pond.
A hand offered some bread and a voice said:
“Mom, today, you feed the ducks.”
“ The Most Unknown Grain “
There will come a day when the
old ivy in the garden
will stop making love to the stars.
There will come a day when the
clouds will end up covering the truth, and
the sun’s reality will spread everywhere.
There will come a day when the
lava of the mountain’s anger
will burn all green hills.
There will come a day when
my words, like a thousand diamonds,
will crown pages of a book.
There will come a day when the
silk of my passion
will open hearts and minds.
One day, the rain will impregnate
all barren seeds, and the meadow
will be mother to all newborn grains.
One day, the most unknown grain,
flying on the wings of the wind,
will reach the highest summit.
One day, all toppled-bravo saying politicians,
along with their replacements, in front of empty chairs,
will cut ribbons at the openings of all ruined homes.
One day, the chains will be broken,
and the free hands extended towards the sky,
will demand termination of all “ism.”
One day, angry fish will walk out of the water,
and volunteer to go to war,
and my niece’s tearful doll will cry for justice.
Finally, one day, bullets will turn into paper toys,
clowns will wear soldiers’ uniforms, and the war,
like a carnival, will entertain every town in the world.
Women of Impact Gala
Thanks to Joslyn Wolfe, the publisher of Focus on Women Magazine who considered me an accomplished enough women, I was invited to Women of Impact Gala held in a beautiful mansion in Columbia, MD, on October 16, 2014.
Although I believe that Joslyn herself should have been honored that night as one of the award recipients, she gracefully let six extraordinary women shine. I cannot write about those women in a few paragraphs. You should read about their unbelievable lives in the magazine’s website. But what I would like to share with you is my meeting with two amazing women—Loretta Engelhardt, and her daughter-in-law Dorothy. I enjoyed the fascinating conversation I had with the two of them during the trip from Old Town Alexandria, Virginia to Columbia. In August, I wrote on my blog about finding friends after age 40. I thought Pat from Upstate NY whom I met at LaGuardia Airport would be my last new fri I hadn’t met Dorothy and Loretta yet.
Loretta is a gracious woman you want to have as a friend forever. She lives in Arizona, and I already feel jealous of all those friends and family members who have contact with her on a daily basis. She has written a wonderful book titled Choose Grace: Why Now Is The Time. After finishing the book, I heard my voice in my head: “Now you know why God loves some of his creatures more than others.” Loretta is certainly one of those people loved by God. And what’s not to love—a woman who feels blessed and is constantly thankful to her creator.
It’s unusual for adopted children not to resent the biological parents for giving them up, or at least question them: why? Loretta feels that her mother brought her to this world and set her free to have a different life. The fact that Loretta had a wonderful partner is unquestionable. Her husband supported and encouraged her to pursue her education, career, etc. By the same token Loretta did the same for her husband. It makes you wonder whether it was Loretta’s personality that made her husband to be the best.
The book teaches you how to adapt, adjust and live life to the fullest despite unforeseeable challenges. Loretta acknowledges that by letting degrees and licenses to go, she was also letting her ties with many people go. She considers that loss as a freedom to experience new opportunities. No wonder a woman who has a Ph.D. ends up becoming a real estate agent in Sedona, Arizona—maybe the only Ph.D. real estate agent in the entire country. Read the book, it’ll changes your perspectives on life.
Summer 2014 is over. It's sad to say that the only enjoyable part was watching th World
In June, the Islamic State (ISIS) began its aggression in Iraq, and later expanded it
In July, Boko Haram’s militant group abducted 276 teenage girls in Nigeria.
We also witnessed an Israeli-Hamas war, which left 2100 Palestinians and 71 Israeli
In August, we observed another ugly face of racial conflict in Ferguson, Missouri.
An unarmed 18 year-old African American being killed by the police.
In September, we followed the sad news about the disappearance of Hannah Graham—
the 18-year old UVA student, and were heartbroken when the Police found her
Despite the horror and grief attached to the above 2014 events, there was this feeling of relief that they will never happen again. But unfortunately every summer there is another horrible event that happens: the death of innocent helpless babies. Every summer, there are several incidents where neglectful parents leave their babies or infants in their cars and go shopping, running errands, or sometimes even forgetting that they had left the baby in the car. It’s tragic when the police authorities find the babies or infants dead because of 100- degree heat.
I disagree with the prosecutors who bring manslaughter charges against these parents. This is a neglectful killing. If I were a legislator, I would draft a universal bill testing potential parents to determine whether they are fit to raise children. After all, in order to get a driver’s license one has to take some kind of test.
Finding friends after age 40
My uncle and his family moved to Vienna, Austria in 1982 when he was 45 years old. A few years later when I visited him in Vienna, I asked him if he had found some new friends. His response was, “Finding friends is not that easy when you’re over 40. It’s not like in high school or college.”
Last year, I attended a writer’s conference in New York City. While waiting at the airport to catch my delayed flight to Washington D.C. I felt really hungry. I had a very heavy carry on case, my handbag, and the next food spot seemed to be a mile away. Because of the airport security, I couldn’t leave my luggage unattended. So, I looked around to find someone to look after my luggage. There were a dozen young passengers who were busy listening to their music while their fingers flipped through screens on their tablets or phones. There was only one lady in her sixties who was looking out the window as if she were waiting for her plane to arrive. I approached her and introduced myself politely. “I’ve got to have some food. Could you kindly keep an eye on my luggage. I’m not a terrorist; I’m a writer, this is my business card.” I handed her my card. She looked at it and said with a smile, “It’s okay, go and get your food.”
I came back hurriedly with a sandwich and a drink. She asked me about my novels and the conference. We talked about 90 minutes before our flight. I learned about her husband’s stroke, and the fact that she had been caring for her paralyzed husband for several years. She learned about my husband’s struggle with cancer, his being cancer free, and his future chemotherapies. Our seats on the plane were located far apart, but when the plane landed, she found me to say goodbye and wish me success with my most recent novel.
As I was pulling my heavy luggage, I saw her running back towards me. She handed me a note with her information, and gave me a lengthy hug.
A few months later her husband passed away. After months of writing letters, e-mails, and phone calls, she is coming to D.C. this month to celebrate my birthday.
My uncle was wrong; some of your best friends arrive after you reach 40.
Writer's Digest sometimes publishes a page called REJECT A HIT where a writer acts as a literary agent or a publisher and rejects a best selling classic. It is very interesting because it shows that if the agent or editor was not moved by the author's idea, voice or story, the novel would not have become a best selling book. I submitted one to the magazine recently, rejecting "To kill a Mockingbird." The magazine agreed that based on the new book by Marja Mills (The mockingbird Next Door) about Harper Lee and her masterpiece, the rejection was timely, but they said they couldn't publish it because they had different project to cover for their December issue. They said,"We missed this boat."
Thanks for taking the time to send us your query, and please pardon the delay in our reply. Because of the amount of magazines and other materials we produce, we often have a bit of a lag in our response, but we assure you it's so we can give each and every idea its due attention.
We have looked at this piece in conjunction with our upcoming editorial calendar, and unfortunately don't think it would be an ideal fit. As you noted, now is a good time to publish the piece. However, we are currently in production on the December 2014 issue. As you can see, we missed this boat. We do thank you again for thinking of us--and, of course, for your patience.
The Writer's Digest editorial team
I believe my piece is funny, so, I'm sharing it with the readers of my blog.
REJECT A HIT
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Spoof-Rejected by Farin Powell 11-11-1959
Dear Mrs. Lee,
I was excited to read your novel because I have a six-year old daughter who acts like Scout. However, after some thoughtful consideration, I had to reject your novel. The following are my reasons:
- Your first pages fail to hook readers, and include back story. For an editor, these are unforgivable crimes.
- You must have pleased everyone you knew in Maycomb, Alabama; half way through the novel, you had introduced 45 different characters.
- Dialog is lengthy, sometimes ten uninterrupted pages. How could people speak for so long?
- You give little or delayed description of your characters. Atticus, your hero, is not described physically until page 103.
- Atticus, although a good lawyer, cannot impress the readers because he is a neglectful parent. Most of the time he doesn’t know where his kids are, even when they’re in court, a short distance away from him watching a horrible rape trial.
- He’s not a priest, why is there no woman in his life?
- Scout narrates the story from a child’s point of view, but suddenly you hear the
voice of a savvy woman who knows about famous Supreme Court decisions,
and psychoanalyzes everyone including the trial judge. I laughed when Scout’s
ten-year-old brother discussed circumstantial evidence, and the sufficiency of the
evidence heard by the jury. Did I miss the chapter where he went to law school?
- Racial inequality or racial injustice is not a new phenomenon. Your novel would’ve been interesting had the jury exonerated the accused—Tom Robinson.
- And finally, you have used the word Nigger more than 40 times. Here in New York, we find the word offensive.
It’s World Cup season again, and as a soccer fan, I can’t help watching as many games as my work schedule allows. As a teenager in Tehran, I saw my two younger brothers playing soccer with their friends in our cul-de-sac every day. I was surprised that they knew the names of every star player in Latin America, Germany, Holland, England and other major teams of the world.
There’s something about soccer that makes every hyphenated American root for the country of their national origin, no matter how many decades they’ve lived in their respective adoptive countries. This is true about European Americans, Latin Americans, or Asian Americans. When the Iranian team defeated the Americans in 1998, Iranian Americans made it into a feast and celebrated it for days. The Iranians also celebrated in Tehran on June 21, 2014 when their team lost against Argentina- one of the world’s famous soccer teams. Someone tweeted that only Iranians celebrate when they lose. But that person probably didn’t get the true reason behind that celebration. Those who celebrated were thanking their players because of their forceful resistance against Argentina for 90 minutes. Messi, Argentina’s star player, scored the only goal a few minutes before the end of the game.
The World Cup also reminds me of a funny Italian movie I saw when I lived in New York City. The actor was the famous Nino Manferedi. He was a bleached-haired Italian immigrant living in the German section of Switzerland. There was a scene where he was watching a soccer game on TV between Italy and Germany with many German Swiss. At the beginning, like the Swiss, he mocked the Italian team. But after a few minutes, he couldn't help revealing his Italian nationality, and started yelling at people in Italian. I still can’t help laughing every time I remember that scene.
During every World Cup, sometimes the internationalist in me roots for the underdog. It was a nice feeling to see U.S. win against Ghana, especially since Ghana had defeated U.S. twice in previous World Cups. But at the end of the day, I thought, “well, the most powerful nation in the world defeated an African country.” I felt the same way when I watched Brazil score four goals against Cameroon (with one goal). Brazil is one of my favorite soccer teams, but I can’t ignore the fact that Cameroon is a little larger than California with a population of 15 million, one third of whom lives below poverty level ($1.25 per day.) On the other hand Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world (after Russia, Canada, China, and the United States.) with a population of 197 million and has the seventh largest economy. One cannot help admiring the team from Costa Rica--a small country with a population of 4, 805,000. The disparity of opportunities available to an American, European or a Brazilian player and those of their counterparts is undeniable.
When someone says, “Happy Memorial Day,” I pause. Every year the media covers stories about young soldiers who have sacrificed or died at young ages. I watch the footage or read about them and fight back tears. What is so happy about remembering how many young lives have perished for wrong reasons? I’m proud to say that all my life, I have refused to shop and take advantage of the Memorial Day sales. It just doesn’t feel right. Memorial Day also reminds me of the world we live in. I can’t believe that in this day and age we still fight wars as if we haven’t learned anything from past centuries of war and bloodshed.
Putin is dying to revive the Soviet Union. The United States is still struggling to pull out of its last two war zones. The Arabs have forgotten that they lived peacefully with the Jews for centuries. And the holocaust survivors vote, promote and lobby for politicians who have no desire for peace in the Middle East. Sorry, I didn’t mean to spoil your Memorial Day Holiday. My sin—I would love to see a long lasting global peace.
For the past five years, I have attended many writers’ conferences; sometimes even five conferences per year, but my most recent one has had an amazing impact on me. I’m talking about the Unicorn Writers’ Conference in Connecticut. It was held from 7:30 Am to 10:30 PM on March the 22nd—a cold day that I was not even sure I could attend. Despite many snowy days in DC area, I was lucky to fly to Hartford the day before and get a taxicab to the conference place in Portland, Conn. The conference took place in the picturesque St. Clements Castle, a place over viewing the Conn. river, used mostly for wedding receptions. The hospitality and the warmth shown by the conference organizer, Jan Kardys and her assistants made me feel I was in sunny Florida, not cold Connecticut. I hope I can make the conference again next year.
Although I had short stories published even before age 19, I always considered myself a lawyer. I heard lawyer jokes and even though I didn’t fit the stereotype, I laughed at them. I was successful whether in my international law practice in Europe or my criminal defense practice in Washington D.C., but I never bragged about any moments of glory in court. If some one didn’t ask me directly about my profession, they wouldn’t hear it from me. But I was surprised at how many of my colleagues would let everyone know that they were lawyers within the first few minutes. Moreover, they would brag about their success even if they had won only one case.
When I started writing full-time, I met a lot of writers at the conferences I attended. I was surprised how a best –selling author could sit next to me at a banquet dinner and not talk even mention his or her success. I assume all the rejection letters that every writer gets turns you into a humble person. Between lawyers and writers, now I know which group I belong to and I feel right at home.
Whenever I come to a deadend, I remember that the Writer of my book has not finished His story yet. so, I stick around to read the next chapter. He might surprise me.
My husband and I are crazy about Robin Williams, but I don’t believe his show “The Crazy Ones” will survive. What a waste of talent! There’s no story, no chemistry among the characters, and no real conflicts involved. Some one should have advised the creator of the show that most people hate commercials, and they push the mute button every time there is a commercial. Some people even got Congressional legislation to reduce the loud sound of commercials (although it’s not being enforced.) Now if that’s the true passion of the TV viewers, why on earth anyone expects them to be interested in watching the making of a commercial?
Two Scenes from Roxana's Revolution discussing hejab from a peasant's point of view in Iran and a Dutch man's in The Haguge
The following excerpts are two scenes discussing the hejab (the madatory veil) from a peasant's point of view in Iran and a Dutch man in The Hague.
felt like Albert Camus’s character—Meursault. He was in prison, yet he still felt like “a free man.” He had a sudden urge of being “on a beach and to walk down to the water.”
She had not been to the Caspian Sea for more than a decade. She craved to walk on the shores. She asked her husband—Afshin to take her to Ramsar—her favorite beach for their honeymoon.
“The water is cold in March. I’ve heard the government has erected a curtain separating men and women,” he said.
“I don’t want to swim. I only want to sit by the water and watch the waves.”
The government had relaxed their rules on checking the marital status or the family connection of men and women in two areas of activities, climbing mountains and skiing. They could not find enough climbers or ski experts to form inspection squads, but they had easily managed to inspect the beaches. Had the technology allowed them, Roxana thought, they would’ve probably erected walls on the mountains, the ski slopes and the sea, to separate men from women.
Ramsar, the most famous resort of the Caspian Sea, sat on the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. The green hills, the palm and orange trees sitting on beds of flowers made it the most charming beach town in Iran.
When she walked to the beach and saw the turquoise water of the sea, she felt she that they walk for a while. Despite Den Haag’s unseasonable heat anwas visiting a friend she hadn’t seen for a long time. She breathed the air, and inhaled the smell of the Caspian Sea, a smell that was different from the beaches of Ocean City or Malibu. This was like a familiar perfume of an old friend.
Despite the golden rays of the sun shining on the water, it was drizzling. She enjoyed the gentle drop of the rain on her face. She felt like a prisoner who had just got released. She was free to watch the waves of the infinite Caspian Sea, the beautiful sea birds and the shadow of the Alborz Mountains all at once.
She felt so serene that she forgot all about Afshin. When she turned to her right, she saw him talking to a local—an old peasant. She walked toward them. Afshin was facing the man; he could not see her approaching. She heard him say to the man, “No one should force my wife to do anything against her will.”
“But this is a Moslem country. We are at war,” the man said. At least put a scarf over her head.”
Roxana killed an Ah. She thought she had left Tehran, the war and the hejab controversy behind. She couldn’t pretend she hadn’t heard the man. Someone had reopened the old wound in her heart. She sighed and looked at the waves, the mountains and the sea birds.
Two years later another man—a Dutch in Holland confronted her husband and asked him why he had made his wife wearing hejab on a hot August day.
They had finished celebrating her birthday and an award she had won, in a nice Chinese restaurant in downtown Den Haag. After they left the restaurant, Afshin suggested d despite her reluctance to walk wearing a hejab, she agreed. They had not walked more than 50 feet away from the restaurant when a young Dutch man who was walking with his girlfriend stopped Afshin. “Excuse me, sir.” He said as he held Afshin’s arm with a friendly smile. “You see how hot it is? Look at my girlfriend. She is wearing a short and a strapless top. Why are you putting your wife under that long dress and big scarf?
Afshin was surprised. He had never been confronted by anyone like that. He struggled explaining that the Islamic tradition dictated the wearing of the hejab for women. The Dutch man suggested that he should break the tradition. Roxana was enjoying this, but Afshin was getting frustrated. At one point, he turned to her and said in Farsi, “Can you help me out here?”
“I’m sorry. You’re on your own.”
She couldn’t help remembering her honeymoon in Ramsar, where a local man asked Afshin why he wouldn’t impose hejab on his wife. She would’ve liked to see the man from Ramsar and the Dutchman from The Hague debate the issue.
After hearing the Dutchman’s lecture for a few minutes, Afshin finally walked away.
“So, what happened to the brilliant legal mind who just won The Hague Academy’s Award? Couldn’t you just come up with an argument justifying the hejab?”
“There’s no justification for the hejab.”
A Scene from Roxana’s Revolution
A few weeks ago, a reader brought to my attention a scene from Roxana’s Revolution and compared it to a scene from Lean In written by Ms. Cheryl Sandberg, the COO of facebook.
The scene from Ms. Sandberg’s book is about the time that she was pregnant, and late for a meeting because she couldn’t find a parking space. She complains to her boss to provide special parking spaces for pregnant women, which he immediately does.
The scene from Roxana’s Revolution describes Roxana’s day. She’s pregnant and has to wear a raincoat- like hejab made of a thick fabric. It’s during the Holy month of Ramadan, which has fallen on the hottest month in Tehran—August. She is hungry and thirsty and because of Ramadan, she cannot eat or drink in public. She has had a whole day of work as an in- house counsel in her firm, then, in the evening, she has to go to Tehran University school of Law and teach 300 students in a classroom with no air-condition. During the break, she rushes to the women’s room, takes her scarf off while water is dripping from every strand of her hair. She splashes some water over her face, cups her hands, takes some water and drinks. When she turns around, she sees a young woman cloaked in black chador—the traditional Moslem woman’s garb that covers her body head to toe watching her.
Which professional woman has a tougher life, Ms. Sandberg in the United States, or Roxana in revolutionary Iran? I’d like to hear your comments. Thanks.
“An ambitious novel of an Iranian woman’s personal and professional struggles during a time of war and unrest…Powell does a good job of capturing the intense emotions of a very dramatic time…a captivating plot with a well-developed protagonist.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Roxana’s Revolution, a gripping story of individuals caught in events both inexplicable and out of control. We see the characters pulled between desire for something better for their beloved homeland and the growing knowledge that even worse is waiting for them, their friends, and their families. Eventually reality overwhelms, as it always does, even the most fervent hopes.
Hello and welcome to my website. My name is Farin Powell, and I would like to talk to you about my most recent novel—Roxana’s Revolution.
Although the story starts with a political event—the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979, it’s not a political story. It’s the struggle of a career woman who tries to balance her professional life with her personal life under harsh revolutionary rules in Iran, and under Saddam Hussein’s nightly bombing of Tehran.
I lived in New York City during the hostage crisis. When the media frenzy worsened and anti-Iranian sentiments surged everywhere in U.S., I decided to leave New York City and return to my hometown—Tehran.
Roxana’s Revolution is a fiction based on real events: hostage crisis, Iranian Revolution, and Saddam’s brutal war against Iran. Some of Roxana’s experience however is what I had experienced during those difficult years. Tolstoy once said, “ Art is not a handicraft, it is transmission of feeling that artist has experienced.” I believe the same is true when writers transfer their emotions to their characters.
For my bio and more info on Roxana’s Revolution see my website, www.farinpowell.com and listen to some of my radio interviews.
Kirkus Reviews: Two Weddings,
A tale of motherly manipulation in which unanswered prayers on earth mirror the unanswered questions that remain,even in heaven...Powell's debut novel, the story of two couples searching for love and forgiveness, begins, ironically , with two funearals...The dialogue displays an easy humor and despite the hardship faced, an inspirational tone. Although Powell's description of heaven is quirky, her book reminds readers to appreciate the "piece of Heaven on earth" that 'we all take for granted."
I participated in the Writer's Digest Self-Published book Award in 2012. My novel Two Weddings got 20 points out of 25, and the following is the Judge's comment.
"The writing shines with this author's passion for understanding the ways of the heart, and displays a real compassion for the human experience...The cast of characters encountered are, individually and collectively, certainly strong enough to carry the narrative, which consistently prompts the readers interest in wanting to know what will happen next."
"The absorbing novel turns into a page-turner when..." this is a part of the good review Two Weddings has received from
"The Mindquest Review of Books."
I wrote the poem below when I was writing Roxana's Revolution. It reflects the life of Roxana.
"A Woman With A Suitcase"
There is a mourning dove
that follows me from
one town to another
one country to another
one continent to another.
Whether I arrive in a big house,
or a small apartment,
the bird always finds me.
It hides among thick branches
of a tall tree by my window,
I can’t see the bird,
but I know that it can see me.
The moment I unpack my suitcase,
the bird starts cooing.
I imagine this is a male bird,
trying to protect me.
He has no fear of borders,
he needs no passport, no visa.
He flies any time I fly,
he makes my Home his Home,
until I choose
I keep wondering, does he know
about my mother’s death?
my stormy divorce, or
Is he mourning the loss of a loved one?
or the life of a woman with a suitcase?
I have unpacked now.
I take a deep breath,
feeling happy that
the bird is there.
He is always there,
until I choose
I had one of the most wonderful book club reading experiences on January 20,2012 with the sophisticated readers you see in the photo. They liked the Two weddings a lot.
I was interviewed by Harambee Radio on Monday, November 14,2011. I'm grateful to my interviewer, Ms. Morgan who dedicated one hour of her show discussing my book, Two Weddings. Please click here to listen to the interview.
My books, A Piece of Heaven, Two Weddings and Roxana's Revolution are now available at amazon.com, Kobo book and Barnes&Noble book store in Seven corners and 8 public Fairfax libraries.
6260 Seven Corners Center
Falls Church, VA 22044