Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for July, 2008

Great Tales from English History Vol 2

Posted by nliakos on July 27, 2008

by Robert Lacey (Little, Brown 2004)

I picked this off the shelf because Vicki was doing a project on Henry VIII’s six wives for summer school, then got so engrossed that I read the whole thing! This volume covers English history from Chaucer (1387) through Newton (1687). Each chapter is only a few pages long but manages to convey a lot of information in a very interesting way. Lacey succinctly tells the true (so far as is known) stories of Joan of Arc, the Princes in the Tower, the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, the King James Bible and its predecessor, William Tyndale’s translation of Scripture…over 50 chapters in all. Many of the events and people were new to me, but for Lacey’s intended audience of Britishers, the book would clarify and explain much that they would have grown up “knowing” about, but not really (I think of all the misbegotten ideas Americans grow up with concerning our history–Cf Lies My Teacher Told Me). He points out how much of what we think we know about Richard III and others, for example, comes from Shakespeare’s plays, but Shakespeare was after all not a historian but an entertainer (makes me think of JFK). I wish I could remember all the fascinating facts and stories in the book! It has inspired me to read Volume 1.

For EFL/ESL readers interested in English history, this book should be good because the language is not overly difficult and the chapters, as I mentioned, are short.

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From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide

Posted by nliakos on July 27, 2008

by Pam Wright and Pete Wright.  Harbor House Law Press, 2006 (2nd edition).

Pam and Pete Wright are the founders of Wrightslaw, a website devoted to special education, advocacy, and the relevant laws.  They also have a free online newsletter and have written several books to guide parents of children with special needs through the legal intricacies of IDEA and NCLB, including Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, which I own and also recommend, From Emotions to Advocacy, and others, as well as DVDs and other websites.  I wonder when the Wrights have time to do anything else; maybe they don’t.

For me, the most important benefit from reading Special Education Law was actually reading the law for the first time.  The Wrights stress the importance of reading the statutes and regulations for oneself.  This was how I first realized that schools are obligated by law to prepare children with disabilities for independent living (insofar as possible) and employment — not only to educate them in the traditional sense of the three Rs.  I had been led to believe that skills not directly applicable to education (math, reading, writing) were not the responsibility of the school to enhance.  Wrong!

Legal language is difficult to read, but the Wrights explain and clarify, giving plenty of examples.  They use the same strategy in From Emotions to Advocacy (in fact there is quite a bit of overlap between the two books).  In this book, I learned how to collect all the reports, IEPs, medical records etc. that had been languishing in 30 different folders and organize them into a chronological master file.  (They recommend using a large 3-hole binder to keep the documents–I already have three!)  I am now in the process of creating the index for this file.  It has been very educational for me to go back and look at these documents again, and the Wrights point out that in order to be an effective advocate, a parent must become very familiar with the contents of the file, because no one else is ever going to read through all of it!  There are useful chapters in both books about keeping a written record of all communication with the school and how to write effective letters that will serve as solid evidence if there is a dispute or due process hearing.  They assume that school systems may need legal coercion to provide FAPE (a Free Appropriate Public Education, guaranteed by IDEA), so the books are geared toward preparing a strong case.  I hope I will not need to use my Master File for this purpose, but if I ever do, the Wrights’ books and websites will certainly provide excellent guidance in how to proceed!

Posted in Education, Learning Disabilities, Non-fiction | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Butterflies of the Night: Mama-sans, Geisha, Strippers, and the Japanese Men They Serve

Posted by nliakos on July 4, 2008

by Lisa Louis (New York and Tokyo: Tengu Books, 1992)

I read this one right after reading T. R. Reid’s Confucius Lives Next Door.  It was like night and day.  Reid showcases the positive–the Asian social miracle as exemplified by Japanese culture.  Louis describes a dark side of Japanese culture: the mizu shobai, or “water trade”–bars, clubs, teahouses and houses of prostitution.  Louis herself worked for a while as a hostess at several nightclubs in Kyoto and Tokyo, and when she stopped hostessing, she began researching and interviewing both the women who work in the clubs and the men who frequent them.  The result is this book, which is brutally frank about some of the more sordid aspects of the mizu shobai, while also showing that  hostesses are not prostitutes (besides professionals, they may be moonlighting college students, or in the case of Louis, moonlighting English teachers!).  (Geisha, the highest level of female entertainer, are accomplished artists–usually singers, musicians, or dancers.  The chapter on geisha reminded me of Arthur Golden’s controversial novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, which was denounced by Golden’s source as lies, but which in fact, if I remember correctly, included much of what Louis tells about the world of the geisha.)

Parts of the book made me feel sick, but on the whole, I found it very interesting.  It does not flinch from exposing a side of Japanese culture that most Westerners would find extremely alien.  It certainly made an interesting contrast with Confucius Lives Next Door!

A Western reader would do well to remember that prostitution, crime, debasement and abuse of women, and sexism are found all over the world.  The Japanese form of these is strange to us, and presumably Western forms of them are strange to the Japanese.

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