What is your contradictory read? July is #ContradictoryReader Month.

We all have books that we have read in private, and even worse, we may harbor a secret love for them. These books may have elicited taboo emotions, even though they are apparently contrary reads that don’t quite mesh with what we are traditionally thought to enjoy.  Personally, I have no such shame because I honestly enjoy books from a myriad number of different genres and could never understand how love for one genre strictly defines what you normally enjoy, or something like your gender, political views, or race, or even religious views somehow has a bearing or monopoly over what you read. Meaning if you’re a staunch liberal, you’ll ever read mainly liberal-minded books, and never dare touch books outside that small world you have established for yourself.


*Each time, we pick an ideologically-safe book, we’re keeping our bubble library of books non-challenging, safe, and non-contradictory*

No of us are free from the shackles of a certain strong desire to construct a foolproof, ideologically-safe bubble-style library of acceptable, palatable  books.  We never dare disturb our reading beyond what we normally read, and we may actually start minimizing our reading selections to only certain types of books, either because of implicit social pressure, or even just a certain shred of nagging complacency.

Every reading this has a choice this month to partake in this month-long event, where you will challenge yourself to break your ideological shackles, or emancipate yourself from your genre cloister, and force yourself to read something radically different than what is normally read. Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, etc. with the hashtag #contradictoryreader about a certain contradictory book, different from what you normally read!

My own designated selection will be focused primarily on Women’s Fiction books. As someone that is quite honestly aloof to gendered-type thinking, I have always found the categorizing of books under “Women’s Fiction” to be a very interesting psychological phenomenon. From a marketing stand-point, it is completely sensible to have such a categorization, but when you’re already conditioned to being ignorant as to gender norms (I seriously have trouble fathoming it), the categorization of books by gender can sometimes be a very curious thing. Again, that’s not to say I found that categorization repellent, insulting, blasphemous. No, I just see it as a curiosity, much in the same way I found the staunch “I am liberal, and refuse to read conservative-minded books,” or the conservative counterpart of “I am conservative, and I will not read liberal-minded books.) to be a curiosity. And this type of categorical thinking is becoming rampant, especially with social media.

Through social media, people sometimes uniformly casting aspersions on certain writers for not abiding by some arbitrary prescription for a host of different things, including whether something is “feminist” or not, or whether something is socially-conscious about issues about race or gender. Sometimes, these criticisms, when civilly expressed, are warranted, and can lead to some thoughtful discussion about books. Other times, they inadvertantly lead to a more chastened form of reading, a pattern of reading guided, and compromised by social pressure. And while social media is a boon for progressive, sometimes vital social change, it sometimes leads also to a restriction of democracy, especially when our patterns of expression are uncivil and dogmatic.

As a blog that celebrates liberalized, free  patterns of reading, and deeper, more constructive expressions about what we read (simply put, we love books, and the inherent democratic freedom found through reading), this is a very important month, even though it is above all meant to be extremely fun. I really hope people will join me in selecting several books that they don’t normally read, and what society sometimes implies is something that we may not want to read, either because of our race, our gender, our religion, our political viewpoints.,etc.

So join me all throughout this month, for a few reviews of a #contradictoryread that I recently read and enjoyed. Please feel free in sharing your thoughts on contradictory reads you want to read below in the comment section!

If what you’re reading is making you indignant, unsettled, or uncomfortable, you are reading a #contradictoryread. 

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Review of Felix J. Palma’s “Map of Chaos” & Literary Tea Recommendation

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Release Date: June 30, 2015

Synopsis (Provided by the Publisher, Atria Books):

Award-winning author Félix J. Palma will once again plummet you to the depths of his daring and adventurous imagination with THE MAP OF CHAOS (Atria Books; $27.00; June 30, 2015), the grand finale to the Victorian trilogy The Washington Post called “a big, genre-bending delight.”

When the person he loves most dies under tragic circumstances, the mysterious protagonist of THE MAP OF CHAOS does all he can to speak to her one last time and confess the secret he didn’t dare tell her while she was alive. A session with the most renowned medium of all time seems to offer the only solution, but the experience unleashes terrible forces that bring the world to the brink of disaster. Salvation can only be found in THE MAP OF CHAOS, an obscure book that he is desperate to find. In his search, he is given invaluable help by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, and of course by H.G. Wells, whose Invisible

Man seems to have escaped from the pages of his famous novel to sow terror among mankind. They alone can discover the means to save the world and to find the path that will reunite the lovers separated by death.

Proving once again that he is “a master of ingenious plotting” (Kirkus Reviews), Félix J. Palma brings together a cast of real and imagined literary characters in Victorian-Age London when spiritualism is at its height. THE MAP OF CHAOS is a spellbinding adventure which mixes impossible loves, nonstop action, real ghosts, and fake mediums in an explosive cocktail that is sure to captivate readers all over the world.


Caution: The below book contains intense moments of timey-wimey-ness

REVIEW:

Take every cozy, linear nineteenth century story, and smash it into a wiblbly-wobbly particle accelerator,  and you essentially have this book, fittingly titled Map of Chaos.  Map of Chaos serves as the finale of the story, and my review does not reflect a reader that has read every single volume of the series, so some things may be lacking, or the overall reflection may not be entirely accurate, as a review that reflects someone that has read every single book in this very distinguished, odd-ball trilogy of steampunk books.  Map of Chaose is both the most nebulous and head-scratching of all three novels; it is the nonlinear, allegorical rubix cube of all three books.  The first book was the only one I’ve read thus far, which established itself as strange speculative fiction, mostly odd-ball fusion of scifi/ Steampunk elements,laced with some homages to the adventurous late 19th c./early 20 c. works of Jules Vernes, and of course, H.G.Wells.

Speaking of H.G. Wells, the novel contains some fantastic overtures of H.G. Well’s idealized,  flagrantly grandiose views of the future state of English society; they were very influenced by both Marxist ideals and even some bits of the more positive atheism espoused by lead late 19th cent. philosophers like Nietzche. The book obviously reflects a writer that is extremely well-versed in late 19th. cent./early 20th., almost pre-modernism speculative ficiton. This genre is not really very Victorian, like other genres at the time that were popular in this progressive era of English literature, mostly  because works like Alice in Wonderland (more Victorian in terms of time it was published) has theme that are much more defiant of the strictures of normal Victorian Literature, just like Frankenstein feels estranged from the rest of English Romanticist works for its overall bleakness.

   Map of Chaos is absolutely stunning in scope, and it will not be a very well-loved, popular book because it is just so delightfully unorthodox, so richly entertaining, so confounding in its inscrutable paradoxes that it is even better than Map of Time with trying to transcend generic genre boundaries altogether. It involves discussions of science, metaphysics; all these smaller, fragmented meta-narratives are  tied together with some smaller penny dreadful style stories (there is a really clever one in the beginning, featuring a great discussion on the ironical nature of werewolves), and then further fused with some  large, saga-ish Jules Vernes or H.G. Wells elements.

It is not your typical Steampunk novel with boring, dull automaton wars, thoughtless exaggerated Dickensian personas, etc. This novel riffs those elements to tell a much larger story, a critique so-to-say on whether there are novels that can be stretched beyond time and commonplace genre definitions. Why do we have genre, does a story have to contain a proposed point? I mean, it oddly becomes an existential meditation on why we even have stories to begin with. And this deeper, underlying layer of the novel is slight and subtle, and it appears alongside some very entertaining Dickensenian vignettes that would appeal to fans of the great work Gormenghast (one of my personal favorites) and other eccentric English works, without a genre, like Alice in Wonderland (fantasy, but also serving as political satire).

You could probably read this novel first, but I kinda feel like I missed out on a greater overarching theme by reading the first novel Map of Time first, before reading this ingenious, whimsical last entry in the series first. My biggest complaint is that there are times, when the story slogs, becomes lost in its grandiosity, and even becomes near unreadable. You really have to remain steadfast and patient with this book because it is so multi-layered, so far-reaching/daunting with its scope. I recommend this to more patient readers, who are not looking for something either fast-paced, or generic, or genre-restricted. This is a novel like Gormenghast that will try your patience, feel sometimes very wasteful, or overwritten with its clever verbiage, but in actuality, it will reward the patient reader with some very deep revelations about the creative, philosophical limits of genre, and the nature of storytelling, and oddly, existence itself.
Recommended for fans of eccentric, intelligent  fantasy literature/steampunk novels.

LITERARY TEA RECOMMENDATION:

Teavana’s Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong


Description of the Blend (Taken from the Product Detail Page):

A bountiful harvest of sweetness and spice, this warming oolong is an impeccable accompaniment to crisp autumn days. A balanced swirl of rich pumpkin and flavors of caramel, toffee, butterscotch, and creamy vanilla, this rich and smooth cup is a sublime indulgence for the body and mind any time of day.

Richly sweet and creamy white and dark chocolate meets sweet pumpkin and toffee flavors, an undertone of sweet spice and mocha

First off, it’s not my preferred brand or blend of choice. If you know me, you may know I sorta have this strong prejudice against Teavana tea going on, mainly due to unpleasant stories heard about their aggressive sales tactics utilized in their physical stories (way to ruin tea, for those of us who are more introverted by nature). I don’t cope too well with that type of exceedingly extroverted methodology of sales tactics.

Prejudices aside, I ordered this blend from the Teavana site, and was pleasantly surprised upon sampling at how homey, warm, and even soothing this Oolong blend was. It was actually both flavorful, and it even held this nourishing undertone of toffee and mocha, which I couldn’t help but love. I tried so hard to find something off-putting about this blend, but I seriously couldn’t, even with the knowledge that Teavana teas contain artificial flavoring.

Even if it is out-of-season, it provides your tea sensibilities with some sensory glimpses of Autumn. Best of all, it has a very particular pumpkin oolong flavor that really dominates the tea that I feel, for some strange reason, effectively caused it to be the tea I felt was the most apt blend to pair with the novel Map of Chaos. When you are on a whirlwind of flitting through different frames of stories, or trying to unpack all the metaphysical goodness that is contained in this otherworldly novel,  an out-of season tea, like a fall blend in the summer is very much suited to being paired with this book, as anything unorthodox like a steampunk novel like Map of Chaos is practically begging for an equally unconventional blend of tea to bizarrely complement it.

If any tea can cause me to put aside my prejudices, and even still be a very great blend, even when drunk in the summertime, this makes it a masterful, perfect blend for any novel that also has trouble really fitting anywhere in the scheme of genre. In terms of genre, Map of Time has an assortment of different elements, just as much as this odd, though addictive blend of  tea –Teavana’s Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong-has a bevy of different spices and flavorings that defy standardized recipes for  tea blend concoctions. If you get too hung up on artificial flavoring and aggressive in-store sale tactics, you might miss out on a truly great tea blend.

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Lestat Book Coven Exclusive: Anne Rice answers: “What would a Louis/Lestat wedding be like?”

A LESTAT BOOK COVEN EXCLUSIVE (Click to join the most active Lestat fan club on the internet): To celebrate this momentous day, heralding the landmark Supreme Court decision for the legalization of same sex marriage, we have this COVEN EXCLUSIVE that all of you will love. I am posting this here on my blog, for the sake of all those who may not have Facebook.

I happened to be struck with the strangest idea earlier, in light of today’s remarkable, historic Supreme Court Decision. Being a huge fan of Anne Rice’s work which has always progressively celebrated love in many different forms and incarnations, I dared myself to ask Anne on this day, a special question to be posted here and on the Lestat Book Coven Facebook Group Page, ” What would a Louis and Lestat wedding be like?”

Lo’ and behold, she answered the question:

Just remember, that this comes directly from Anne Rice herself, so please respect the words below, as being the sole property of Anne Rice herself:

“If Lestat and Louis were to marry, it would take place in the private chapel of Lestat’s chateau in France. They would likely both wear their favorite velvet frockcoats— Lestat in red, Louis in black — in the old style, with a lot of white pearl studded lace at the throat and at the cuffs…and they would speak their vows in a reverent whisper, and Marius, in a long
simple burgundy colored velvet robe, would preside. They would exchange gorgeous and priceless emerald rings.

The chapel would be filled with candles, incense, and white roses  and white lilies, and all the closest of the vampire kindred would be invited, and the venerable old ones, including the great Servraine, Gabrielle, Gregory, and Lestat’s body guards, Thorne and Cyril, and other elders.

Armand in finest burnt gold brocade and lace would be best man for Louis. David Talbot in dark hunter green velvet and white linen would be best man for Lestat. A choir of Vampire boys led by Notker would sing a cantata from Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimmer — the Chorale or first part. (BWV 140)

Then a great ball would take place in the grand or great hall of the chateau: with Notker conducting a vampire orchestra and Antoine playing first violin and occasional solos.Benji would make a speech; so would Gregory; and also Gremt Stryker Knollys. And also Jesse. And others.

After the first dizzying Tchaikovsky waltz and a few other Viennese waltzes, there would be a lot of Greek side by side taverna dancing on the part of the vampires, male and female, to Greek taverna music (electronic mandolins), and then the great arched windows of the ball room would be thrown open and those who could take to the air would go out in pairs and groups to hunt in Marseilles amongst the pimps and the dope peddlers.

(There wouldn’t be too many young ones at the ball, as given their need to hunt, and their inability to defy gravity, they cannot spend long nights in the country; Lestat permits no hunting in Lyon or the neighboring French towns of his old homeland. So they would send their regards from Paris, London, Marseilles, Berlin, Rome, etc. )
It could happen.”

(Anne Rice, June 26,2015: Coven Exclusive)

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Be sure to share this post, with the hashtag #lovewins!!

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Tea Time at Reverie: Tea From Taiwan’s Zhong Shu Hu Oolong Tea

Tea From Taiwan logo

Forgive me if I’ve said it before, but the variety of oolong teas never ceases to amaze me. Vegetal, floral, fruity, roasted – each one has been as unique as a person’s fingerprint. Today we have another oolong offering for you: Zhong Shu Hu Oolong, courtesy of Tea From Taiwan. This particular tea is grown in the Ali Mountain region (Alishan), which is one of Taiwan’s most famous tea-producing regions. Most oolongs from this part of the world are known for their unique “milky” presence in both aroma and taste. However, Tea From Taiwan describes Zhong Shu Hu as sweet and complex. Maybe it’s a little bit of all three qualities? Let’s find out.

The Basics

Zhong Shu Hu Tea From Taiwan

Photo courtesy of Tea From Taiwan

Tea From Taiwan’s Description: “Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea has a sweet taste and refined aroma. Each brewing brings out new flavours and taste sensations. This tea has a complexity that provides continuous nuances with every cup. Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea can be re-brewed several times while maintaining an excellent flavour. We recommend the Gong Fu method of preparation to bring out the best of this excellent tea.”

Ingredients: Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea leaves

Steeping Instructions: Use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz of water. Heat water to below boiling (195 degrees Fahrenheit / 90 degrees Celsius) and steep for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 30 seconds for each subsequent brew.

Multiple Brews?: Yes, about 5 to 8 times

Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf

Caffeine Level: Medium-low

The Experience

Dry Zhong Shu Hu looks like most of the other oolongs we’re reviewed here. The leaves are closely curled into nuggets of dark green with lighter green streaks. Some of the nuggets are huge, about the size of a Jasmine Dragon Pearl as opposed to the typical pea size. The dry aroma is subtle, mostly grass and floral with a trace of milk. This last bit doesn’t surprise me. Oolongs like this one that are grown in Taiwan’s Alishan region are famous for their milky fragrance and creamy texture. I wonder if Zhong Shu Hu will turn out similarly.

For my first steep of Zhong Shu Hu, I brew 1 teaspoon of leaves for about 1 minute. Out comes a pale yellow-green liquor with a fragrance of orchid and grass. The milky traces have already disappeared; I can’t smell them now. Nor do I taste it as I sip the tea. Instead, the initial profile is a mingling of grass and flowers, so light that the flavors are almost imperceptible. That’s OK, though. This is still a pleasant tea. And if Zhong Shu Hu is like other light oolongs such as Wu Ling Oolong, it will work its strongest magic with the second and third brews.

Which means it’s time for another cup! Steep #2 of Zhong Shu Hu infuses for about 90 seconds and evolves quite a bit. The tea takes on more of a true golden yellow color and a slightly nutty, roasted flavor on top of the floral and grass presence. It’s an interesting combination, and one that works surprisingly well. This second brew also introduces a creamy mouthful, though it’s not as rich or buttery as other creamy oolongs.

Later steeps of Zhong Shu Hu continue the same pattern of “subtlety” and “almost but not quite.” The profile retains its mixture of nutty, floral, and grass flavors, with a hint of sweetness. The texture remains mildly creamy, and its body relatively light. Overall, nothing much changes between these later brews until the flavors began to fade (Steep #5, about 3 minutes). Other reviewers have described Zhong Shu Hu as fruity or buttery, but I didn’t find those qualities with my sample. This was disappointing, since discovering new nuances with each brew is why I love oolongs to begin with.

The Aftertaste

For me, Tea From Taiwan’s Zhong Shu Hu Oolong never quite reached its full potential. It’s pleasant to taste, with a dry aroma reminiscent of milky oolongs and a palatable blend of grass, floral, and roasted flavors. Yet it lacks the complexity of other oolong teas I’ve tried. It’s possible that my sample may have been on the old side, and the tea could have lost some of its dynamism. Maybe I’ll have to try a fresh batch at a later date and compare. Until then, I’d recommend checking out other reviews of Zhong Shu Hu elsewhere before trying it for yourself.

Grade: 7.5 / 10

Recommended For:

  • Tea Drinkers Who: Like milky, green, or lighter oolongs
  • Time of Day and Year: Early afternoons in the spring or summer
  • Possible Book Pairings: I always think of my favorite writer Ursula K. Le Guin when I drink oolong teas. Try Zhong Shu Hu with novels like Tales from Earthsea (fantasy short stories), Changing Planes (science fiction short stories), or Lavinia (mythology retelling).

You can purchase Zhong Shu Hu Oolong directly from Tea From Taiwan here or as part of the Chong Pei sample pack.

*       *      *

In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.

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Siren’s Fury Feature Part 1: Jessica C’s Review of Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber

 

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    Note from Blog Admin: This will serve as the first of two reviews of the second installment of this epic YA fantasy trilogy, written by the talented Mary Weber. The second part, consisting of a second review, will be published this Friday (as myself and Jessica are big fans of this truly excellent YA series)

 


Written by: Jessica C.

Unless you have been living under a rock or just have yet to realize the amazing creative genius that is Mary Weber’s Storm Siren series then you know Siren’s Fury, the next book in the series has recently been released. Like the first book in the series, Siren’s Fury does not leave the reader disappointed. There is so much action and suspense in Siren’s Fury I kept on holding my breath anticipating that Nym was going to turn evil. Does she go evil and side with Draewolf? Well I guess you will just have to read Siren’s Fury and find out for yourself readers.

Welcome to the beginning of the end…

That being said… the storyline for Siren’s Fury is incredible. Not only has Draewolf consumed and taken over the body of Nym’s love, Eogan, but he also steals her Elemental abilities leaving her powerless. Of course, Nym is not one to let such set her back. In fact the loss of her abilities makes her more determined then ever to succeed. Nym does whatever it takes to save those she loves and to defeat Draewolf… even if that means siding with those that have ulterior motives and taking on powers that are not her own.

It was left with the assistance of Myles and Rasha that Nym sneaks aboard an airship and does what she can to save not only Eogan, but practically the world once more. What remains from this point is all that makes Weber such a talented writer. Siren’s Fury possesses that which any fantasy genre fan would wish for. Love, hope, magic, war, and power. But most of all it possesses the underlying tone of all that Nym realizes she needs to hold on and all that makes her who she is. Hope and Compassion.

Maybe power comes in different forms. And maybe we get a choice how we use it.

In Storm Siren Weber focused on the underlying theme of helping those that felt weak, depressed, hopeless, and uncertain to find a strength within. I have found in Siren’s Fury  the theme appears to be realizing that no matter how dark it is this is the best time to find the light and look for the stars. No matter how far it seems that the world has fallen, Siren’s Fury reminds the reader that there is still a time to believe in the better things in life like hope and compassion… no matter how bad things seem to be.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to discover Mary Weber, now is certainly the time to realize just what you have been missing out. Weber writes not only with her heart and soul, but she also writes with a hand extended to those of us that perhaps need a slight reprieve from the harsh nature of the world. Nym is a balm to soothe those of the lost soul kind. She like Weber is nothing more than the unspoken whisper that none of us are ever alone. In that thought alone we should hold to hope.

That being said, Siren’s Fury is a powerful, moving story of a woman learning to not just discover herself but to accept and believe in herself. Sometimes it is so lovely to see the misfits and the loners save the day

I hope you enjoy the Storm Siren trilogy as much as I have. That being said I cannot wait until the finale! Bravo, Mrs. Weber, Bravo.

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After Perfect: A Daugher’s Memoir Feature Part 2-Review of After Pefect

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About the Book (Synopsis Taken from Product Detail Page, on Simon & Schuster Website):

In the tradition of New York Times bestsellers What Remains by Carole Radziwill and Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey, Christina McDowell’s unflinching memoir is a brutally honest, cautionary tale about one family’s destruction in the wake of the Wall Street implosion.

Christina McDowell was born Christina Prousalis. She had to change her name to be legally extricated from the trail of chaos her father, Tom Prousalis, left in the wake of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment as one of the guilty players sucked into the collateral fallout of Jordan Belfort (the “Wolf of Wall Street”). Christina worshipped her father and the seemingly perfect life they lived…a life she finds out was built on lies. Christina’s family, as is typically the case, had no idea what was going on. Nineteen-year-old Christina drove her father to jail while her mother dissolved in denial…

Review:

Perceptive, Empowering, and Riveting are the three main adjectives that I feel  best underscore the strength of this novel, the power it has to really weave a fairly complex, sometimes distressing story, for the sympathetic reader, but yet effectively deliver something that transcends to much higher thematic depths. A memoir has no necessity to do that, by the nature of the very type of novel a memoir is. It is an interesting term, as it emphasizes the importance of the memory of a certain individual, and how they convey the events contain in that specific memory. Many times, a memoir unravels from a focal point of severe pain and harm, and the collateral, or resulting emotions, are animated in vivid, emotionally-affecting prose.

Christina McDowell, both the narrator and author for After Perfect: A Daughter’s Memoir,writes her story,  with a very tight focus on really describing first the epicenter of  the traumatic economic downfall of her entire family. We get very well-edited fragments of the scene of the court room, where her accused father was on trial for money laundering and selling bogus investments as a disreputable corporate lawyer. Below the surface of this tumultuous drama, Christina offers her various emotional impressions all of this, an ongoing psychological warfare where she is constantly feeling embattled, within her own mind, over the perception of her father as once being a paragon of ethical excellent, and now being someone that is really quite the opposite.

I could really delve into many more specifics about the effectiveness of her writing, but I think highlighting the focus of empowerment of her very moving, sometimes unnerving narrative, without spoiling anything about the plot, strongly emphasizes the once dormant tenacity of Christina, as she goes from living in affluence and great material wealth, to being destitute and bereft, losing both her idealized images of both her mother and father in the process, as if they had undergone a spiritual death of sorts.

In the shadow of Father’s Day, particularly, it makes you wonder how fraught with pain these kind of days are for those who have had complicated, sometimes deeply painful pasts with their fathers, which are certainly instituted by society for very good reasons. Except, these days, in their most cloying extreme, tend to unintentionally enshrine all fathers as being equally noble and deserving of praise and respect, when we know that kind of high standard cannot ever be applicable to any human being. There is no perfected algorithm for the perfect father, as Christina progressively throughout the story is forced, due to certain extenuating circumstances, mature and progress to a more reasonable reality, separate from one that was entirely devoid of honesty and moral rectitude.

It is an odyssey for Christina, one that is told realistically, revealing all the emotional pain that is encapsulated in this life story, for which her father’s grave crimes and their consequent downfall, serves as the sad impetus of it all. After Perfect  can be perfectly summed up then as a survival story, one that anyone that lives story that lucidly, and beautifully evoke the trials and tribulations of the different strands of our life story, in a way that is riveting and genuine for the reader.  In sum, After PerfectA A Daughter’s Memoir  will serve, to the reader, as a sobering reminder of the shadows and complicated paradoxes that lurk beneath the deceptively sleek and immaculate ‘goodness’ that lies on the surface of this said idol.

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After Perfect: A Daugher’s Memoir Feature Part 1: ‘Republished’ Interview with Christina Mcdowell

Amazon/Barnes & Nobles/ Goodreads

About the Book (Synopsis Taken from Product Detail Page, on Simon & Schuster Website):

In the tradition of New York Times bestsellers What Remains by Carole Radziwill and Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey, Christina McDowell’s unflinching memoir is a brutally honest, cautionary tale about one family’s destruction in the wake of the Wall Street implosion.

Christina McDowell was born Christina Prousalis. She had to change her name to be legally extricated from the trail of chaos her father, Tom Prousalis, left in the wake of his arrest and subsequent imprisonment as one of the guilty players sucked into the collateral fallout of Jordan Belfort (the “Wolf of Wall Street”). Christina worshipped her father and the seemingly perfect life they lived…a life she finds out was built on lies. Christina’s family, as is typically the case, had no idea what was going on. Nineteen-year-old Christina drove her father to jail while her mother dissolved in denial…

Important Disclosure: This interview was not conducted by myself, and is being republished here with the express permission of Wunderkind PR. It is very informative,interesting, and provides a great overview, as to the themes brought up in Christina McDowell’s After Perfect: A Daughter’s Memoir.

*A CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTINA MCDOWELL*

Author of AFTER PERFECT (Gallery Books; June 2, 2015)

  1. Do you perceive yourself as a victim following your father’s actions and incarceration?  

I think there is a difference between having been a victim and acting as a victim today. I was absolutely a victim of my father’s actions. And having been at the time, still a teenager when he was incarcerated, I do consider myself a victim of our broken criminal justice system. So it was doubly hard in that respect. Even though I was legally an adult at the time he surrendered, no one was there to explain anything about prison or legal proceedings or tell me what my rights were—if any—of seeing my father, or having contact with my father. No one seems to take into consideration the children of the incarcerated. On any given day there are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison in this country. They are the silent victims of the justice system and now more than ever we need to do everything we can to help them and rid them of the stigma and shame that does not belong to them. I do not consider myself a victim today. There is nothing empowering about being a victim. I practice forgiveness on a daily basis. Being a victim means giving my power away. It took a long time for me to understand that and to find a way to forgive my father. But it set me free.

  1. Do you have any advice for people who have been victimized? How can someone go from a victim to a survivor?

I can only speak from my own experience. I went through a range of feelings: denial, rage, sadness, guilt, and depression. Eventually once I passed through all of those feelings with the help of a strong support network, I started to have hope again. I wasn’t numbing the pain by being self-destructive. I participated in a victim’s workshop; a form of restorative justice, which is an approach to justice that focuses on transformation through dialogue with both victim and offender with the intention of creating a pathway to forgiveness. It is brave to be able to forgive, especially for those victims who have experienced horrific crimes. To have the courage and willingness to forgive, in my opinion, makes someone a real survivor.

  1. What is your response to people who feel less sympathetic to your misfortunes?

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I’m sure my story will resonate with some people and not with others. My socioeconomic background doesn’t make my pain any less real, or my experience with betrayal and loss any less valid. Of course, I hope the take away here is that it is not about money, but about family values, love, forgiveness and the most important: accountability— being responsible for our own actions and the choices that we make. We’re powerless over the cards we’re dealt. But it is up to us, what we do with them.

  1. Have you spoken to your father recently?  Has he reached out to you since his response to your open letter?

No.

  1. After everything you’ve been through — from the fancy cars, a big house and expensive clothes, to working paycheck to paycheck and being homeless, what does privilege, accountability and greed mean to you.

 

Privilege, to me can mean many things. I am privileged in that I grew up with affluence, I have resources, access to people, places and things someone else from a less fortunate background might not have. People usually associate privilege with money but it’s much more than that. Accountability, for me means taking responsibility for my actions and the choices that I made and continue to make. I was powerless over the cards I was dealt, but it’s up to me how I choose to move forward. Greed to me is when someone accumulates and seeks wealth far beyond their needs. I read a study that once a person reaches a certain annual income—maybe around 60k or 70k— anything beyond that— their happiness in relation to money and status and power becomes irrelevant. But as for my own life, before my father was arrested, I don’t think I understood what greed was because I had no perception of it, you cannot see the thing you are inside of— I certainly understand what it means today.

  1. What is your current relationship to your family since writing the book?

Somewhat distant. More so on my end. I needed to create that space in order to write it.

  1. After being homeless and in huge financial debt, what do you consider “home” now and what is your relationship to money?

I consider home a place where I feel the most safe: mentally, emotionally and spiritually—with people that I love and people who love me in return. Home right now is my cozy 400 square foot apartment with my Havanese, Zelda Fitzgerald, my books, typewriters, candles— a place where I have fostered creativity and real love.

My relationship with money is getting better. I’ve been told that I exhibit signs of someone who was raised during the great depression. I am in constant fear of losing what I have, though I don’t have much; I’m not sitting on a fortune that no one knows about. Yet with what I do have I am afraid, sometimes, of spending. But that only leads to living in self-depravation, which isn’t healthy either. I suppose it’s ironic that I am encouraged to go out and spend more money, loosen up a little. I’m working on that, but I think given my history, I’ll always be a little frugal. I do believe in striving to live an abundant life. There is no shame in having money as long as you are contributing to the world—doing what you can to give back. I do believe there are moral and ethical boundary lines between living an abundant life and living a greedy life though.

8   How do you feel about current rising incarceration rates in the United States?

As of 2014, the incarceration rates are slowly declining, however, we are still responsible for the largest prison population in the world. I have known about our mass incarceration crisis for years having first been exposed to it visiting my father in prison. I was so traumatized and shocked by it that I began to research the system on my own just out of curiosity. The things—the statistics I discovered were horrifying. As a result of my own curiosity and getting involved in prison reform, I landed a job working on a documentary about the mass incarceration crisis. I spent a year investigating the system and only now, because of Eric Holder’s willingness to talk about it, because of the protesting, and the riots, people are just starting to wake up. But this is not new news, and those who have been touched by the criminal justice system also know that this is not new news.

  1. Can you tell us about InsideOUT Writers and the work you do with them?

InsideOUT Writers is an organization that seeks to reduce the juvenile recidivism rate for currently and formerly incarcerated youth using writing as the catalyst for personal transformation. I am one of their teachers. I’ll bring in poetry, essays, lyrics and music, we sit in a circle and we talk about what we read, then based on what we find, I have them write on a topic we discussed. We have classes in all of the juvenile detention facilities in the Los Angeles area; Central, Los Podrinos, Barry J Nidorf, and we’ve also started teaching classes at four state prisons. Our hope is to expand all throughout the California prison system.

  1. Does sharing your story with and hearing from other children affected by incarceration help you heal and have a cathartic benefit?

Yes, definitely. There’s an amazing new organization called POPS (Pain of the Prison System) starting at Venice High School for kids with parents or family members in prison. I have gone as a guest a few times and it is powerful to be able to come together and share stories. It’s that commonality of pain that can be very comforting. And it’s comforting to know that there is a support network out there.

  1. With shows like Orange Is The New Black growing in popularity, how do you feel about media representations of incarcerated people? And do you feel they raise awareness or are damaging to the families of those incarcerated individuals?

I don’t watch Orange Is The New Black so I can’t comment there. However, I read the book and really enjoyed it, and think that Piper Kerman is doing a wonderful job at bringing awareness to the atrocities in our prisons.  Usually the media sensationalizes everything. Everything feels like it is meant to scare the public. I have traveled to prisons and spoken with inmates, I’ve interviewed inmates and I think that what is missing from the media is their humanity. Inmates are not all psychopaths who don’t have a conscience. They are vulnerable human beings, mostly whom were victims themselves – victims of violence or sexual and emotional abuse before they committed their crime. So the media certainly doesn’t help the family and children of those incarcerated. It only adds to the stigma of what it means to be close to prison embedding shame on a family member or child that isn’t theirs to bear.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for allowing me to share the above interview! Be on the lookout for an in-depth review of the novel, when Part 2 of this comprehensive feature for this fantastic book is published this coming Monday.

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