Life-Changing & Inspirational Books

Hamilton: A Husband, a Patriotic Hero, a Betrayer -(December 16th 2022)

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is the story of Elizabeth, the daughter of Captain Philip Schuyler and the wife of Alexander Hamilton. The novel describes the American Revolutionary War occurrence between 1775 and 1783 that was led by Washington, the poor status of the American patriot army, the role of Hamilton in the revolution and formulation of the constitution with James Madison, and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton’s life and the numerous times she has been stabbed in her back by these who were dear to her.

Elizabeth (or Betsy - her nicknames) was a lively girl who loved running in the fields and climbing trees. She also spoke English, Dutch, and Mohawk. In fact, she lived with the Iroquois when she was 13 for quite some time. During the revolution, Eliza talked to the Iroquois to take the American side after joining her dad, La Fayette, and Monroe (who had to leave half way to go to Valley Forge) in their visit to the Indians’ camp. Moreover, she joined her dad to visit the wounded soldiers including Benedict Arnold, the hero of Saratoga Battle, before switching sides and fleeing to the British army! At Home, Eliza and her sisters helped their Dutch mom in cooking and knitting clothes for the soldiers. After marrying Hamilton, Eliza joined Mrs. Washington in knitting to help their unpaid famished soldiers, who used to wear torn clothes and shoes. The story also showed how Eliza’s dad was accused of treason. Yet La Fayette defended him by stating that the enemies of Washington and the American Revolution, who could be conspired with the British, would attack Washington’s allies before taking him down and win the war against the Union formation. Eventually, the martial court stated that Philip Schuyler was innocent.  

This intimate book highlights the story of Eliza with Hamilton, how she met him in 1780, when she was 23, in a ball while visiting her aunt and sister Angelica in Morristown, and how he won her after she bewitched him with her sincerity, liveliness, and love for adventure. He even wrote her intimate letters and romantic sonnets. He also insisted on marrying her the right way and not to elope with her like her sisters! This act made him accepted by her dad, despite that Hamilton worried that Captain Schuyler won't approve him due to his illegitimate origin and poor status! She also thought that she would end up a spinster; yet she fell in love with a brave man who had a gift with words! The story also exhibited that Hamilton suffered from the trauma of his origin; being an illegitimate Creole who fought so hard to make a good reputation. This trauma caused him to have a rift with Washington and probably to betray Eliza! He needed someone to keep telling him that he was enough and needed!

With Hamilton, Eliza had 8 children. Yet she suffered a miscarriage after the couple healed from the yellow fever. Tragically, she also lost her eldest son (Philip I) in a duel when he was 18. The couple also adopted Fanny, the daughter of Hamilton's comrade-in-arm Colonel Antill, when she was a child and whose married sister asked for her 8 years later. This had a heartbreaking effect on their eldest daughter, Angelica, which exacerbated after the shocking news of her brother’s murder She had a mental illness that made her unable to recognize her family! So at about 18, her aunt Angelica arranged for her to be placed in a special home, where her mom visited her.   

This tale depicted Eliza’s strong relationship with 2 of her 7 siblings (Angelica and Peggy); how her life changed after becoming Hamilton’s wife and his vital role in building and protecting the union between the states; Hamilton's betrayal with Mrs. Reynolds, his murder, his relationship with her sister; her role in defending his legacy after Jefferson, Adams, Burr, and Monroe worked on defaming him; and how she fought and succeeded in forcing the court to issue an order against Burr for killing her husband. This mandate spread to several states and so Burr became a fugitive for some time until retuning to NYC and living under a false name.

The Jacobins (Republicans) tried to obliterate Hamilton's work despite his vital role to keep the states united and prevent their revolution after Washington's death! Hamilton also founded the first bank and the newspaper (The Federalist) in the US; established the constitution with Washington and with the help of James Madison; set a tax on whiskey/alcohol trade; supported the trade treaty with the British; and wrote Washington's farewell speech! Earlier in his life Hamilton was an officer in the patriot army, then became Washington’s aid esp. in writing his letters, as well as his delegate for the Congress of Confederation. Further, he tried to convince the government to create a law that liberates slaves and secure their rights esp. the ones who fought with the Americans against the British, and that Blacks were allowed to vote but had no rights! However, the government refused to grant the slave soldiers their freedom because they feared they would join the English side! Not even to James Armistead, the slave spy in the British army who had a major role in winning the revolution! Hamilton also fought to form an organized American army, but Jefferson and his government shunned off his idea. Thus, Eliza blamed the 1812 war onto the policies of Jefferson and the Jacobins due to the absence of an army to protect Americans!

Moreover, being in the government made the Hamilton prepare numerous dinners to invite government men including, Burr and his wife, Monroe, James Madison, and others. This of course required money, but Hamilton’s salary didn’t cover their expenses and so Eliza had to depend on the food shipped to them from her dad, Angelica, and Peggy. This chronicle also revealed their friendship with Madison who didn’t support Hamilton when he was alive, yet he helped Eliza in defending her husband's name and receiving his pension when he was president, 32 years after Hamilton’s death. Additionally, Eliza joined her husband in fighting for the emancipation of slaves. She also established an orphanage (The NY Orphan Asylum Society – The Graham Windham), and a home for the poor widows and their children after her husband’s death.

This fascinating story depicted the emotional side of Hamilton who did his best to make up for his infidelity by moving to a country house in Harlem, and the sadness he felt after losing his unborn baby, and the profound pain he felt upon the loss of his eldest son. He, a soldier who protected the land of the USA couldn't protect his son. He felt paralyzed! This tale too shed light on that Hamilton was an old fashioned man who liked to be obeyed and Eliza, as half Dutch, refused to be driven or ruled by his orders. They had their arguments and quarrels like all married people, but she also was his most trusted friend whom he entrusted with sharing his ideas and how she helped him in forming some statements in the constitution and other pamphlets that aimed at switching the people’s voting for presidency from Burr to Jefferson. To Hamilton, both men were bad but Burr was worst as he was a selfish opportunist who wanted to form a confederate in Virginia, and he and Eliza didn’t trust Virginians!

The authors narrated the numerous betrayals and wounds that Eliza suffered from the people around her; people whom she loved! In addition to her husband, Monroe promised secrecy to Hamilton's affair in order to protect her since at that time if a man had an affair it reflects his wife’s weakness in satisfying his needs! Yet, Monroe exposed her husband's affair by leaking its news to a journalist who was supported by Jefferson. She also was disgusted by Monroe’s betrayal esp. that her dad received him in their house after his injury in Trenton battle in 1776. Monroe, the officer who had a crush on her around the same time she met Hamilton!

Burr also, with whom she and her husband had good friendship as well as with his wife, executed her husband in a duel in 1804, supposedly ordered by Jefferson. on her deathbed, Angelica revealed that she had an affair with Hamilton, at which Eliza stopped fighting for her husband's name! She even doubted herself, her husband's love for her, and who he was in reality! Especially, that she searched into her sister’s letters and Hamilton's clothes, books, and papers. She discovered intimate letters between both of them, as well as between Hamilton and his comrade, John Laurens. She also found other humiliating letter to Laurens stating that Eliza would be a good wife as she is docile and rich even though she wasn’t beautiful except for her black eyes! Eliza also felt some kind of hatred towards Angelica’s husband, John Church as he was the reason behind her son's death since he boasted about his guns, which Philip I Hamilton used in the duel! She also didn't like the way Church refused to pay for her sister's funeral after knowing about her relationship with Hamilton, esp. that Eliza didn't have the means to do so. Surprisingly, she was saved by Kitty Livingston who paid for Angelica’s funeral, despite the political rivalry between the Livingstons and her dad and Hamilton! Kitty was a friend of the Schuyler’s daughters since childhood, but politics between the men severed their friendship!

Eventually, she was filled with sadness and despair after all the betrayals and losses (her unbron baby in 1794, sister Peggy, eldest son, mom, husband, and dad between 1801 and 1804, followed by her daughter's mental illness, and lastly losing her sister Angelica in 1814). The only person who stayed faithful to her was La Fayette. He even visited her after ~20 years of Hamilton's death and paid his condolences. He visited her with his son, who when was a young man was sent to the US, to safety! He was hidden by Hamilton and Eliza during the French revolution as most Americans supported the French in their revolution for freedom, during which La Fayette was imprisoned! General La Fayette talked to Eliza and made her see the other picture of the things; that Hamilton actually loved her because he was a frank man who cannot hide his feelings and can't tell someone he doesn't love that he loves them! Also, he indicated that intimate letters and probably other things happen in wars. It was the norm! So, she decided to be a Schuyler and follow her family's tradition by staying faithful to her husband; "semper fidelis." She compared his good and wrong deeds, and found that his good acts outweighed his wrong decisions and therefore decided to forgive him! So she asked La Fayette to assist her in retrieving Hamilton’s papers from his partner in the law office and all government men with whom he worked in order write a book about Hamilton.

Eliza also revealed how La Fayette wanted to visit Standing Stone and see his Native American friends including the Oneidas esp. Grasshopper and Two Kettles Together, but unfortunately these people were dead and the Oneida tribe had narrowed because of the massacres. In reality, post the American Revolution, the officers feared that the Six Nations (Native American tribes - Iroquois confederacy– Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora) would change directions and fight with the British; this is why the Whites broke their promise in giving them their freedom!

After the Revolutionary War and for about a decade, Philadelphia was the capital of the US until creating the state of Washington DC. So on the 4th of July of 1837, when Eliza was 80, she and Madison's widow (also her friend) Dolly were the only survivors of the establishment of the USA; and therefore were invited to attend the inauguration of Washington's monument, where she was escorted by Lincoln, a government employee then who admired Hamilton and even recited to Eliza some statements from the constitution that he wrote!

In all, this sentimental book portrayed the difficulty of the formation of a united nation that is currently known as the USA, which was based on shedding a lot of blood and abusing African slaves and Native Americans. In addition it contained many names who joined the revolution and places and cities in which battles and riots happened; the yellow fever occurrence; the bribes and rivalries between politicians who either fought for the country or for their own interest; the poor status of Americans esp. the war widows that the country couldn’t support; the bloody fights between the Americans and the British who stayed in the US; and the absence of an American currency that forced the people to use different kinds of currencies depending on the one that the seller used (pounds, shillings…etc.).


Eliza's thoughts after a conversation with Hamilton: "I wish I'd said that he need not prove himself to me or to the world."

Eliza's to Hamilton: "I don't care what anyone else thinks because I love you. I love your mind, the variety of your knowledge, your playful wit, and the excellence of your heart. I love you for reasons that defy any explanation at all."

McHenry to Elizabeth: "My dear lady, you combine the innocence of a dove with the wisdom of a serpent."

La Fayette telling Elizabeth about his wife: "I was so accustomed to all that she was to me that I didn't distinguish her from my own existence. I knew that I loved her and needed her. But it was only in losing her that I finally see the wreck of me that remains."

Elizabeth to her son William upon visiting him about 20 years after leaving her due to discovering his dad's affair with his aunt (Angelica): "The truth is, William, no union is perfect. We stumble. We fall. We hurt the ones we love. But the measure of a man, of a life, of a union of a man and wife or even country isn't in the falling. It's in the rising back again to repair what's broken, to put right what's wrong. Your father and I did that. We always did that. He never stopped trying until the day he died. And neither will I."

Rape-Trauma Syndrome -(November 11th 2022)

In Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat describes the life of Haitians in the second half of 1900, during the presence of the terrorist group Macoutes that was formed by Dictator Duvalier. It is the story of Sophie (who was the result of rape when her mom was a teenager), her childhood in Haiti, and life in NY with her mom (Martine), who couldn’t escape her rape-trauma syndrome.

When she was 12, Sophie's mom asked her to come and live with her in NY. Martine filed for asylum in the US where she studied nursing and worked. It took her years to get the American citizenship, after which she asked for Sophie. Sophie's life in NY was different from that in Croix-des-Rosets, a town that is 12 km away from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Sophie didn’t want to leave her aunt (Atie), and hated her mom for leaving her when she was a baby!   

In NY, Sophie had an uneasy life with her mom who was dating Marc, a Haitian American. She went to school, was forbidden from dating boys, and her mom advised her to study since knowledge is associated with opportunities and responsibility! Sadly, at 18 Sophie loved their neighbor Joseph, an African American who was older than she was by many years. He played the saxophone, and was a member of a band with which he used to go on tours. Martine didn’t like her daughter to go out with Joseph. She wanted someone better and economically stable! At this moment, Martine started conducting a daily virginity-test for Sophie by inserting her pinkie in her vagina to check if it is intact! This traumatized Sophie, who was told that this is what her grandma used to do to her aunt (Atie) and mom (until her rape). When she was a teenager, Martine was pulled into a cane field by a masked Macoute, and raped multiple times! She and with her mom’s help tried to get rid of the fetus but with no avail! Martine became very disturbed and suffered from mental problems and suicidal thoughts, which is why she left to NY - to try getting over her trauma. However, changing places didn’t help as her nightmares kept haunting her, even after Sophie’s arrival. Yet her daughter was a savior as Sophie used to wake her up upon hearing her mom's screams in the dead of the night!  

The mortifying continuous virginity checkup caused Sophie to bring the garlic mortar and crash it between her legs until bleeding. When her mom came back home and conducted the check, she was so angry with Sophie and kicked her out, thinking that she had sex with Joseph and hoping that she would come back tearfully asking for forgiveness. Yet and despite the pain, Sophie walked to Joseph's place who took her to a doctor. A month later, they got married and after about a year, they had Brigitte. After the baby, Sophie couldn’t have sex with her husband. So she decided to go back to Haiti to heal her soul from the virginity-test trauma, which was associated with doubling (thinking of her happy childhood in Haiti) when having sex. She stayed with her aunt and grandma in La Nouvelle Dame Marie, trying to understand her mom and fathom her reasons to conduct the virginity test to her! In the meantime, Sophie was happy to know that her aunt learnt reading. Atie took lessons with her friend Louise, who made enough money, paid to get on a boat, and left to the US dreaming of a better life. Louise's behavior distressed Atie, who thought that Louise was her friend and would never leave her!  

After some time, Sophie's grandma phoned Martine to come and prepare for her funeral and solve her dispute with her daughter. Sophie hasn't talked to her mom since the day she kicked her out. So it was hard for her to talk to Martine - the woman who abandoned her twice. Eventually, Sophie faced and forgave her mom, and decided to go back to her husband. On the plane, Sophie told her mom that she was suffering from post-partum bulimia because of hating her body. Her mom tried convincing her to eat, but Sophie was afraid of purging if she ate! In NY, Joseph was extremely happy to see his wife and daughter, but also upset about Sophie’s sudden trip. After making up with her husband, Sophie visited her therapist and sexual-phobia group to get over her virgin checkup shock. The group consisted of Sophie, Buki (an Ethiopian college student whose grandma forcefully conducted circumcision to her when she was a kid destroying her sexual organs), and Davina (a middle-aged Mexican who was raped by her grandpa for 10 years), who talked about their traumas trying to release the pain. Her therapist on the other hand, highlighted that Sophie suffered from the fear of abandonment. She feared that her husband might leave her if she couldn't fulfill his sexual desires, the same way her mom left her.

In NY, Martine discovered that she was pregnant from her boyfriend. She didn’t want it as in her nightmares, the fetus talked to her with a covered face (similar to her rapist) promising to hurt her. She told Sophie about the pregnancy, who advised her to talk about it with Marc, as it is his child not the rapist! Martine also confessed to Sophie of zoning out during sex to get her mind off her rape trauma, as well as that once Marc woke her up while she was choking him - she was dreaming of strangling her rapist! But Martine refused to talk to Marc and went through with her decision. Sophie thought that her mom would go to a clinic to get rid of the fetus. However shockingly one night, Martine stabbed her belly 17 times, setting her soul free! Marc and Sophie flew to Port-au-Prince to join her family and bury Martine. After the ceremony, Sophie ran into a nearby cane field, attacked the cane stalks, and plucked them to release her pain (and that of her mom) until her hands bled!

In this turn-page book, Danticat (a Haitian American) showed that Haitians speak French and/or Creole because this Caribbean country was a Spanish and French colony for over 3 centuries, until its independence in 1804. She also described Haiti's nature and culture, esp. what is expected from its girls and women. They should be virgins and have 10 fingers in which each finger reflects one of her housewife duties including loving, mothering, nursing, healing, boiling, baking, frying, washing, ironing, and scrubbing.

The tale also highlighted the racism that Haitians were subjected to in the US. For instance, they were implicated of having 'Haitian Body Odor or AIDS' and/or called 'boat people' and 'stinking Haitians'. Moreover, this chronicle underlined the role of the US in controlling Haiti's finances after invading it in 1915. For instance, the US imposed forced labor that caused Haitians to become slaves to the US, which resulted in the death of thousands in 1920s! Further, the author depicted the political unrest and corruption in the country, and the role of Macoutes in terrorizing people. A group of them for example attacked and killed a coal vendor in the street of Croix-des-Rosets due to mistakenly stepping on the foot of a Macoute. She also portrayed why these terrorists were called so by narrating the fictional story of Toton Macoute - a fictional character that kidnaps naughty children, punishes, and eats them at breakfast!  

Finally, the book stressed on the necessity of treating rape trauma or any distress related to sex or sex organs, due to having detrimental effects on physical and mental health. If such issues left untreated, they would result in horrific consequences such as suicide or hurting loved ones. It is also worth noting that the raped girl/woman should have the right to get rid of the fetus safely. This procedure may alleviate the mental effect on the rape survivor, esp. that the formed baby is a reminder of the rape and rapist! This is why it is important to protect abortion rights since they help in protecting a woman's life. Surprisingly, among all the countries that ban abortion, the US is the only developed one in which abortion is not conditional as shown by the Center for Reproductive Rights, whereas Jordan (a developing nation) allows abortion to preserve a life - that of the mother!


Grandma Ifé told Sophie: 'If your soul is linked to someone, somehow you can always feel when something is happening to them'.

A prayer by the sexual phobia group: 'God grant us the courage to change those things we can, the serenity to accept the things that we can't, and the wisdom to know the difference'.

Joseph told Sophie about facing her trauma (virginity checkup) and her mom's ability to move on and get over her nightmares by facing her rapist too (at least by going to the cane field and facing what happened for her once and for all): 'It has to become frighteningly real before it can fade'.

Racism and the Trauma of Ghosting - (October 7th 2022)

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a story about a teenage girl who was physically abused since childhood by her dad after her mom's death. Throughout the tale, the author accentuated racism in 1964, the year the Blacks were given the right to vote, and parental depression and traumas when a spouse leaves his other half without a word and ghost him.

Lily Owens' mom died in 1954, when she was 4 years old. Ten years later and after being ill-treated by her dad, and the imprisonment of her Black nanny Rosaleen, Lily decided to run away. To her, enough was enough! So she left the house bearing in mind to rescue Rosaleen, who was jailed due to insulting 4 white men due to mocking her while being on her way to register to vote. Unfortunately, Rosaleen was admitted into the hospital because of falling. This is what the officer claimed! But actually, the officer allowed the 4 men to attack her while in custody. So Lily sprang to the hospital where Rosaleen's room was guarded by an officer. Hence, she called the nurse at the front desk from the hospital phone, impersonating the officer's wife. She stated that the department called asking him to leave his position as a replacement was on the way, which the officer did! Lily took advantage of the moment, and pulled Rosaleen out of the hospital and fled. They left Sylvan and headed to Tiburon (South Carolina). It was the name written on the back of an image of a Black Lady Mary, which belonged to Lily's mom!

They walked to the highway where a colored man drove most of the distance, and allowed them to take 2 cantaloupes. They spent the night near a creek, and in the morning walked for about 3 miles until reaching Tiburon. Lily bought them lunch from a restaurant, which luckily sold honey jars with the same picture of Black Mary - labeled as Black Madonna Honey! Lily asked about it and found out that it was sold by August Boatwright. So the runaways walked until reaching the pink house of the Boatwrights sisters. Lily asked for August, who received them after inquiring who they were. However, because Lily was afraid of being sent back to her wicked dad, she told the sisters that she was Lily Williams from Spartanburg County. Lily also added that she was an orphan, and on her way with her nanny to VA to live with her aunt! She asked to stay with them until being able to go to VA, and that they can work to pay for their expenses!

Accordingly, August welcomed them! She told Rosaleen to help her younger sister May in housework, and asked Lily to assist her in taking care of the bees and collecting honey. Only June Boatwright didn't like the new comers, esp. Lily, which she made clear to her sister. Lily and Roslaeen spent the summer with the Boatwrights. The former learnt a lot about the life of honeybees and the important role of the queen. In the meantime, she met the bees' helper Zach, a nice Black teenager. They supported each other's dream as she wanted to be a famous writer, and he desired to become a lawyer like Mr. Clayton. Lily and Roslaeen also attended the weekly meetings of Daughters of Mary, who had a statue in the Boatwrights living room, and conduct a religious ritual honoring 'Our Lady of Chains'.

Lily also found out that June didn't trust men because her ex-fiancé didn't show up on their wedding day. This is why she refused to marry Neil despite loving him! Love alone isn't enough as a relationship is based on respect, trust, honest, support, and communication. Moreover, she discovered that May acted weirdly because her late twin sister (April) committed suicide when she was a teenager, due to being bullied at school because of her skin color, which was worsened by her dad's lack of response! From that moment May started to take everything personally, such as seeing the news of Black people (men, women, and children) being attacked or killed. To help May release the pain, her sisters advised her to write every sad emotional feeling on a piece of paper and place it in the garden's wall!

While distributing honey, Zach got captured with some of his Black friends after one of his mates responded to a White man who yelled at them for standing on the sidewalk near his place, by throwing a cola bottle at him! Zach didn't tell on his friends and so he was jailed. Afterward, Lily left the car and walked back home agitated after witnessing such atrocity; esp. that before the incident, Mr. Clayton's secretary criticized her for lowering herself by living with Blacks, which she also was told by the officer upon interrogating her as a witness in Zach's case. Mr. Clayton did his best to help Zach; nevertheless, he was released a week later after a street witness identified the boy who threw the bottle! In the meantime, May coincidentally discovered via a call from Zach's mom about his capture. This had a deep effect on her that wasn't expressed by wailing; instead, she stayed silent before leaving to her wall! August asked to join her due to being dark, but she refused! Tragically, May committed suicide by drowning herself in the nearby river since she couldn't handle the world's animosity, as indicated in her letter that was found a few days later!

Lily's dad (T. Ray) found her after calling his house from Mr. Clayton's office, while she and Zach were distributing honey on the buyers. She wanted to know if he missed her or if he was sorry for treating her badly, but she was wrong as he promised to punish her as soon as he caught her! Sadly, upon her dad's arrival, the house was empty. June was with Neil buying the wedding dress (finally she agreed to marry him and follow May's advice - to live and enjoy life), Rosaleen was cleaning outside, and August was with her bees! He attacked her but she made it to the door! Yet he caught her again threatening to use his pocketknife if she didn't walk out with him! Seeing the devil in her dad's eyes, Lily yelled at him 'Daddy! Daddy!' Saying this word has woken him! He realized that this was his daughter Lily, and not his wife Deborah - the love of his life! Only then Lily understood that he used to treat her badly because she reminded him of her mom, whom he loved deeply and couldn't accept leaving him! He thought he and his love were enough for Deborah! Luckily, August heard the noise and called the Daughters of Mary, who and Rosaleen got into the kitchen and threatened him. Eventually, he resigned and left, leaving Lily in the care of Boatwrights.

In reality, Deborah loved T. Ray but only married him because she got pregnant with Lily! She also couldn't tolerate his life - a veteran peach farmer - despite spoiling and treating her well. So when Lily was 4, the depressed Deborah ran away to Tiburon and stayed with the Boatwrights as August was her nanny when she was a child herself! A few weeks later, she returned to Sylvan to take Lily and leave her husband. However, she was surprised by T. Ray and fought with each other, when suddenly Deborah took her husband's gun. Nonetheless, her husband tried to take it from her but it fell on the floor, which Lily picked and tragically fired, killing her mom. This news shattered Lily, causing her to stay in her room for a few days trying to digest the bad news - neither her mom nor her dad wanted her! In the end, Lily forgave her parents after understanding their behaviors, and that her mom loved her since she came back for her!

This turn-page book adroitly reflected on a historical event, giving Blacks the right to vote in summer 1964 after a long fight lead by MLK. It is when President Johnson signed the new Civil Rights Act, granting freedom and justice to all humans irrespective of color. In addition, the story sheds light on the amount of racism that Blacks exposed to in 1964 which is still happening till this day! The author also drew attention to marriage, which sometimes are built on infatuation and not on compassion, support, communication, understanding, trust … etc. Such relationships end up in depression, divorce, leaving, or worse like committing suicide or murder! Moreover, this tail underscored the traumas that affect the spouse who is abandoned or ghosted by his other half. Unfortunately, in order to cope with the trauma, parents release their anxiety and anger on the children, which scar them forever and negatively shape their behavior and health.

Finally, my favorite quotes:

'We loved them (Black Christians) in the Lord, Brother Gerald said, but they have their own places'.

August once said to Lily 'People can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them, they end up completely different'.

Gibran once said:Gibran said: "Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost."

Gibran once said:Gibran said:

Piracy, Family, and Redemption - (September 9th 2022)

The Tears of Dark Water is a gripping drama by Corban Addison about piracy in the Indian Ocean near Somalia. It is a story about family, guilt, forgiveness, redemption, love, and keeping promises, which also highlights African girls’ circumcision and terrorism by the name of Islam.

At dawn, and after a failing attack on an Indian cargo ship and the death of the pirates' leader Gedef, 7 pirates attacked the Renaissance sailing boat near Seychelles on Nov 9 2011. Instantly, Daniel sent a message via AIS who contacted his dad. Daniel was a lawyer from a rich family whose dad considered him unsuccessful and a coward, because he didn’t follow his steps to join the navy. To prove himself, Daniel ignored his marital responsibilities including raising Quentin, to become successful. Being married to his work has scarred his relationship with Vanessa, an MD who ran a clinic treating the poor and refugees. But she too had unhealed childhood wounds since her mom was an exotic dancer, who never offered her love, and had been in many relationships until marrying Ted. The latter supported Vanessa financially but like her mom, did not provide her with emotional support. It turned out that when she was 8, Vanessa's mom was raped by her drunken dad many times before running away, and only after inviting his friends to try her! So her mom was deprived of love, which is why she couldn't dot it! 

Quentin was a troubled teenager who would have been imprisoned for delivering drugs at school (a favor to a friend), hadn't been for his grandfather’s influence. However, after sailing from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean with his dad, and meeting the Australian Ariadne, he changed and matured. Post the hijack, Daniel's dad talked to his contacts in the navy and White House. In response, a SEAL team led by captain Redman, and FBI negotiation team was assigned. They met on the Gettysburg ship and worked together with its Captain, Masters. Paul (FBI negotiator) talked with Ismail, the captors' leader, who asked for a ransom in exchange of releasing the hostages. But Paul failed to provide him with the money, so he contacted Vanessa via Daniel’s satellite phone. Ismail asked for $5,000,000 that went down to 1,850,000 after the negotiations.

On the other hand, Ismail's dad (Adan) and other teachers were assassinated in his school in front of their students by the Shabaab Islamic movement; then, took the boys, including Ismail and his brother, forcing them to serve. Yet, Ismail ran away when his brother was killed in front of him to a refugee camp, where he heard about piracy. So he joined Gedef’s team, who appointed Ismail his assistant, due to being a natural leader and speaking English, which angered Gedef's cousin Mas. Ismail's sister (Yasmin) also was abducted by Najiib, the Shabaab's chief and known as Asrael, who married her. They lived in Middle Juba where she was his favorite until his first wife Fatuma became pregnant. Unfortunately, she and her baby girl died because of Najiib’s aunt ignorance, who refused to take Fatuma to the hospital and brought a midwife. She had a difficult delivery due to circumcision that destroyed her feminine organs!

Throughout this time and after receiving a few letters from Daniel, Vanessa's feelings towards him changed esp. after accepting that she too had a part in straining their relationship. Therefore, she liked to work on her marriage, and agreed to Daniel's offer to book a flight and meet them in South Africa. On Nov 14, the money was dropped from a helicopter. While the pirates were busy counting, the navy moved the Gettysburg and another warship, to surround the Renaissance, and a chopper flew towards the beach. This angered the pirates, and so Ismail called Paul asking to return the helo onto the ship, which they did only when he threatened to kill Daniel while talking to Paul on the radio. At this moment, the pirates noticed that the 2 warships got closer to them. This provoked them, resulting in a heated conversation between Mas and Ismail about the latter's ability to make the Americans obey him! Consequently, Ismail tried to calm his mates and talked to Paul to convince him moving the ships, but Captain Redman refused. Instantly, Mas shot Daniel with 3 rounds from his AK-47, and placed his weapon on Ismail’s head threatening to kill him if he didn’t kill the boy. So Ismail obliged shot Quentin near the heart and shoulder, trying not to kill him on the spot! Then the 7 pirates jumped on a boat provided by the navy, which was sabotaged, taking the money with them. Nonetheless, the navy snipers attacked them, killing 2 of the pirates and wounding the rest. The pirates were captured, and Quentin and Daniel were carried to Gettysburg where the navy doctors operated on the former and saved him.

Prior the trial, Megan, a reputable defense attorney and Paul's twin, talked to Ismail to hear his side of the story but with no success; esp. that his mates claimed that he shot Daniel and his son. But Megan was against death penalty. Hence, she looked for the truth and dug in Ismail's past! She travelled to Minneapolis and met his uncle Farah who had a store there, and to Kenya and Somalia where she talked to his uncle Mahamoud and mom (Khadija). Mahamoud who lived in Mogadishu, told Megan what happened to Adan, Ismail's brother, and Khadija (ran away after Adan’s murder to Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and worked as a nurse there). He also stated that Ismail called him when he was in the ocean asking to meet him with 2 SUVs! Khadija however, told Megan that Ismail loved studying and learning from his dad, was loyal to his family, and that she made him promise to take care of his siblings. Knowing all this made Megan suspect that Ismail had familial reasons forcing him into piracy! Nonetheless, Megan had another inner drive to help Ismail. She and Paul suffered from a childhood trauma when their eldest brother (a teenager) shot his dad (a detective) because of regularly bullying him for liking arts, after which he shot himself in front of them and their mom, who lost her mind and died subsequently! Accordingly, the twins had a hard time forgiving their dad! To redeem themselves for not being able to save their brother, they chose jobs that allowed them to save the tormented!

When Megan faced Ismail with the information about his family, he asked her to make a deal with the Secret Services and Justice Department. In exchange of giving them Najiib’s address, they should free his sister, bring her with his mom to the US, and provide them with 3,000,000 dollars, the prize offered to catch Najiib. They agreed but told him that Yasmin should get to Kenya, since the US can't do an operation to save non-Americans. So the American team sent a message to Yasmin's cell phone dictated by Ismail, to which she replied after 2 weeks. They asked her to leave immediately and place her cell in Najiib’s truck. She did so and grabbed some food, a jug of water, and left. She walked for 3 days across the desert and a forest, tolerating the sun's heat and the sudden showers until crossing the borders and collapsing on the ground. Then she was saved by Kenyan soldiers, and brought to Dadaab camp where she united with her mom. Khadija and Yasmin were transferred to Minneapolis, near uncle Farah. They also were angry with Ismail for what he did esp. Yasmin, who discovered that he joined piracy to rescue her.

During the trial that took place on June and July 2012 in Norfolk VA, the truth was revealed. One of the reasons that resulted in Daniel's death was the SEAL's captain decision to not follow Paul’s advice and move the ships. Paul’s suggestion was supported by Captain Masters. But Redman's orders from the White House stressed on not letting pirates get away. In addition, Mas threatened his mates to kill them or their loved ones via his uncle - a high-ranking officer in Somalia - if they didn’t agree to state that Ismail was a member of Shabaab, and he shot both Daniel and Quentin. The trial ended in sentencing Ismail for life, and moved to a correctional institution in Wisconsin, where his sister and mom could visit him.

In the meantime, Vanessa followed her mother-in-law's advice and invited Ariadne after Quentin's survival from the shooting. He was distressed and blamed himself for his dad's death, as he convinced his dad to continue sailing instead of flying to Réunion and paying a local to sail their boat to South Africa! His injuries also resulted in temporary amnesia and neural problems that affected his speaking and motor skills. These injuries and his mood improved over time and with Ariadne's company. Alternatively and throughout the investigation, Paul (was skeptic about relationships due to having a rough divorce) connected with Vanessa esp. when he played on the piano, which encouraged Quentin to play too. Thus after several meetings, they decided to give their relationship a try. They sailed with Quentin and Ariadne in Zanzibar, a trip to memorialize Daniel. After reading his unsent messages, Vanessa wrote Daniel a letter, placed it in a bottle, and threw it in the Indian Ocean. She thanked him for asking her to give their relationship a try (esp. after stating that he had a great part in messing up their marriage), and that she too loved having a second chance with him, maybe in the afterlife!

Piracy, which is hijacking ships and/or kidnapping people to extort money, is not a job! It is an awful act, even if the money obtained is intended to rescue someone else. Yet, this enchanting book portrayed why some Somalis become pirates; being ruled by treacherous dictators, the violent Islamists taking control of the country with the help of the US, and the bad relationships between clans during the civil war who turned on each other to govern Mogadishu, resulting in poverty. Moreover, Addison talked about The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that maintained security and managed crime in the country after the fall of Siad Barre's authoritarian regime in 1991. He also elaborated the other side of the story of Abdi House raid in 1993, which murdered at least 50 clan elders and intellectuals who assisted the UN in disarming General Aideed. In response to Abdi House massacre, Somalis killed American soldiers and dragged them in the streets of Mogadishu! The US also supported Ethiopians in demolishing the ICU, and the emergence of Shabaab Islamic movement that is similar to Taliban! That's why Ismail was skeptic about trusting Americans - to him a cheater will always be a cheater!

Lastly, am sharing with you my favorite quotes:

Quentin’s thoughts: ‘the world … was a wretched place, full of injustice and suffering. People were the problem. They were petty and vain, and desecrated the beauty around them.’

Paul to Ismail talking about 9/11 bombers: ‘They’re parasites. They cloak themselves in religion to empower themselves, but they don’t represent the essence of Islam any more than the Inquisitors and Crusaders represented the essence of Christianity.’

Ismail to Paul: ‘Trust is like fire. When it is repeated, it keeps the body warm in the night. When it is mishandled, it destroys everything in its path. I am here because you violated my trust.’

Farah to Megan: ‘There is a saying in Somalia that a person is like a bush. It looks safe on the outside, but on the inside it's home to snakes and scorpions.’

Megan’s grandpa to her: ‘No matter what happens. Always keep your wits about you. The things that scare us the most in life almost never come true.’

Khadija: ‘I will always love him. But if he owes me an apology, he will have to tell me himself.’

Daniel’s mom talking to Vanessa about Quentin: ‘He needs a new North Star. He needs someone to build him a bridge to the future.’

Vanessa’s assistant (Eritrean) told her about circumcision while treating an African teenager: ‘That’s the way cutting is going to die. One generation at a time.’

Vanessa’s mom to her: ‘You don’t need anybody but yourself.’

Ismail to the jury quoting a line from “Adami” poem for Gaarriye: ‘whatever things may look like, the meaning is always deeper.’

Ismail's dad once told him to 'speak Somali with pride, but English for success.'

Yasmin to Jammad:’… Why do we lock our gate if not to keep out thieves? He (God) gave us minds so we can do them for ourselves.’

Disabled Children and Taboos - (August 5th 2022)

The Garden of Burning Sand is an entrancing novel by Corban Addison who remarkably embraced sexual assault in Zambia, esp. of disabled children. These gifted children are seen as a curse, and usually shunned by their culture and family! This is Kuyeya's story, a 15-year old girl with Down's syndrome who was raped by an invincible man, and the role of CILA team including the Zambian Joseph and the expat American Zoe in capturing the perpetrator.

In summer 2011, Kuyeya was found raped on the side road in Lusaka. Dr. Chulu examined her before being taken to St. Francis Home for Children, where Zoe visited her frequently. Zoe also brought her an iPod filled with songs as music calmed Kuyeya. A psychiatrist also assisted Kuyeya in getting over her trauma, and attending the trial. Kuyeya's mother, Charity was frequently raped by her uncle. She was studying nursing in Livingstone hospital in 1996, and fell in love with Dr. Jan (a White doctor from Zimbabwe). But because of his ego and knowing that his family won't accept such a relationship, he asked Mr. Nyambo - a patient then - to take care of Charity. So she left school and worked as Mr. Nyambo's assistant. The latter however, was obsessed with her and forced himself on her. When she had her baby, Mr. Nyambo thought it was his child. But when his wife knew about Charity and read her diary, in which she wrote about Jan, Kuyeya, and Mr. Nyambo, Charity was thrown out. Then she met Doris and became a prostitute known as Bella, but sadly died by AIDS in 2009. Before this, Bella met Darious Nyambo who was nice to her until discovering that she had been his dad's mistress. He assaulted her stating that she cursed his family! In addition, when Darious found out that he had AIDS, he was advised by nganga (Amos the witch) that he could heal from AIDS and bewitch the witch by sleeping with a virgin! So he kidnapped and raped Charity’s daughter to avenge his family.

Yet the CILA team (Coalition of International Legal Advocates) tried to capture Kuyeya’s rapist. This panel included Mariam the director, officer Joseph, and lawyers Niza, Sarge, and Zoe. They collected evidence and met people from the neighborhood where Kuyeya was found. Witnesses described the car (a Mercedes) and the shape of its driver. They also checked for missing person's report. Eventually, the team identified Darious and Doris. The latter told them Charity's story, and that Darious was violent and raped Doris' daughter! So, the team watched Darious, the son of a rich businessman and whose mom was a well-known judge in the High Court.

At this point, war started between CILA and the Nyambos. For instance, Joseph and Zoe were followed by a violent muscular man on their trip to Livingstone, to trace down Charity's cousins and Dr. Jan! Zoe's house also was attacked at night, leaving behind a venomous snake. This spooky event caused Zoe to stay with the Prentices, her friends who work at the US embassy. Terribly, their electrically wired house was violated too. The attackers assaulted Mr. Prentice and asked about Nyambo's housekeeper! The latter decided to leave her boss' house after persistent persuasion from Zoe, who followed her to the market every Saturday. The housekeeper gave Joseph and Zoe the diary of Charity, and told them about Charity’s relation with Mr. Nyambo and Darious, and about witnessing Darious bringing Kuyeya to his parents' house.

Furthermore, Nyambos' gang attacked CILA offices, killed Amos the witch who was a witness, and stole Kuyeya's DNA sample from the hospital that was taken post her assault. On top of this, the appointed judge was corrupt! Regrettably, these events altered Darious' trial! Yet, after uncovering that the judge had a conflict of interest with the Nyambos, CILA members appealed to the Principal Resident Magistrate, Mubato. The latter therefore designated himself the judge of Kuyeya's case. During the trial, Mubato showed sympathy to the Nyambos and adjourned the verdict to April 2012, after his appointment in the High Court. In reality, Mubato was promised by Mrs. Nyambo to become a member in the High Court if he helped her in avenging her husband's infidelity. So she allowed her son's imprisonment, who was identified by Kuyeya, and the exposal of her husband's affair! This is what a man gets for betraying his wife إن لكيدهن عظيم!

On the other hand, Zoe (29 years) was raped when she was 17 by Clay, a friend and the son of a politician who was supporting her dad. But her dad, Senator Jack, didn't believe nor defend Zoe when she told him. He named it misunderstanding between her and Clay! The traumatizing incident and her dad's lack of response have scarred her soul. Their relationship also worsened when he tried to steer her away from her decision to work on human rights in Africa! Due to the strained relationship, Zoe (was 29) didn't support her dad’s presidential campaign in 2011. She even wrote an emotional article in the New Yorker describing her mom's role in helping the needy, and her dad's beliefs in philanthropy which were changed by politics. Moreover, Zoe participated in the Capitol's hearing that aimed at cutting foreign aid for the poor countries, to alleviate the recession effect on Americans. She voiced the vital role of the developed nations in supporting the underdeveloped via continuing to finance PEPFAR, and provide AIDS treatment in Africa and DNA testing to help catching rapists. After her speech, her brother (Trevor) insisted on telling him, the truth about her statement 'be alone in a vulnerable place.' Accordingly, she told him about the rape and her dad's response, which infuriated Trevor!

Afterward she left to Zambia since Kuyeya needed a surgery to treat atlantoaxial instability, a neurologic disorder, which may kill her, because of her rape. An MRI diagnosed her, which Zoe worked hard to get since MRI was a luxury that only the White foreigners or the Rich Zambians could have! Dr. Chulu stated that the procedure required an orthopedic that cost ~ $100,000. Zoe had a trust fund from her mom (Catherine) that is regulated by a man (till her 30th birthday) who vetoed most of her donations. So she called her acquaintances, after being turned down by the board of Catherine's foundation and her dad! Her brother and Monica (the executive director of Catherine's foundation) donated $12,000. Gladly, Zoe got the money from a school friend who signed the Giving Pledge. With the help of Dr. Jan, who tried to redeem himself for not assisting Charity or their daughter by finding an orthopedic, the surgery was successful. Zoe also was surprised to find her dad in the hospital, visiting Kuyeya! He couldn't lose Zoe as he already lost her mom! Catherine died in a plane crash when Zoe was 14. Before this, she took Zoe on one of her trips to the Sub-Saharan Africa to run her charity, during which Zoe fell in love with Africa! So Jack followed Zoe to Zambia after wiring $100,000. Except that, the operation needed less than $25,000; hence, she directed the money for other philanthropic acts!

While searching for the truth about Charity and Kuyeya, the relationship between Zoe and Joseph became romantic. They opened up about their traumas, as Zoe told him about her rape. Joseph on the other hand, recounted how his sister was molested and raped by her uncle since she was a kid, and that he couldn't protect her since their uncle was the deputy commissioner of police! Tragically, his sister died when she was a teenager by AIDS that she acquired from her rapist. This is why capturing Darious was important to Joseph! It helped in redeeming himself from the guilt of not saving his sister! Joseph also had AIDS, about which he told Zoe and gave her space to think! But after reading about AIDS and the medication needed, Zoe decided to stay with Joseph. It was an adventure that worth trying! After all this, Zoe got a letter from her mom via Monica. She suggested taking over her charity (Catherine's Foundation) and have the power to waive for actions that the board turns down, to which she agreed!

The novel sheds light on taboos in Africa such as that ARVs are made by the West to kill Africans, and that witchcraft can cure AIDS! Relatives of the deceased also attribute death from AIDS to pneumonia due to cultural stigma. Therefore, it is vital to conduct AIDS awareness campaigns, build DNA labs to convict rapists, and provide psychological education to help victims deal with the trauma; esp. that disabled children cannot fathom or express what happened to them. Moreover, disenfranchisement of children with mental disabilities could happen to any child in the world and not just  Africans. These children therefore, need the help of NGOs, the wealthy people and countries to integrate them into society. Actually my friend assists in developing micro-projects for minors and women in Africa who suffer from conflict, violence, rape, bacterial infections, and AIDS via Fondazione Cariello Corbino and The Utopian Dandelion Project.

This is a story of an upbeat ending! And I love happy endings esp. when justice prevails, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case in life! The author also reflected on the importance of apologizing when hurting others, similar to Zoe who just wanted an apology from her dad for not believing her! In addition, he highlighted the African politicians and dictators who caused the chaos in this green desert (Mwanawasa, Banda, Sata, Hichilema, Idi Amin, Mobutu, Charles Taylor, Al-Gaddafi, and Mugabe), and magnificently depicted the beautiful nature of Zambezi River and Victoria Falls in Zambia, and Johannesburg in South Africa!

Lastly are my favorite quotes:

Zoe's views about politicians' lies 'It is just that the West is more practiced at hiding the ugliness.'

Darious' words to Bella: "Television is god, he said. Those who rule the mind rule the world." I believe this is how Hitler governed.

Catherine's words to Zoe 'When the world gets you down, don't forget to look up;' ' Life is a broken thing. It's what we do with the pieces that define us;' 'Speak the truth, consequences be damned;' and 'Human problems must be met with human compassion.'

Zoe wrote to her dad 'But remember that history will judge you not for the power you wield but for the way you wield to improve the world.'

Zoe thoughts of her dad's words 'Talk to me like you did when you cared what I thought.'

Joseph said to Zoe before the hearing 'You have a voice. You must use it.'

No one is invincible. Rule of Achilles

The chains of the body are often wings to the spirit. Mandela

The love of power is the demon of men. Nietzsche

The race is not to the swift or the strong but to the persistent. Ecclesiastes

To all Women who were murdered by the name of love like Iman Rashid (JO), Nayera Ashraf (EG), Nour Mukadam (PK), and Yerma Lydia (MX), May Your Beautiful Souls Rest in Peace!

To all Women who were murdered by the name of love like Iman Rashid (JO), Nayera Ashraf (EG), Nour Mukadam (PK), and Yerma Lydia (MX), May Your Beautiful Souls Rest in Peace!

Human and Sex Trafficking - (July 8th 2022)

A Walk across the Sun is a tragic novel about human and sex trafficking that starts in India and spreads to Paris, the Mid-Atlantic and South Eastern states of the US. Corban Addison describes the rough journey of Ahalya and Sita, 2 Indian teenage girls who were abducted and sold as sex objects, and their role in emancipating the American Thomas and saving his marriage!

One day, a sudden Tsunami attacked Ahalya (17) and Sita (15) while promenading on the beach near their house in Tamil Nadu, killing their family! They called the Sister of the school who advised to take the bus to Chennai. So the sisters searched for a bus, and noticed the misery of the Indians post the Tsunami! Then unexpectedly, they met their dad's friend who paid a truck driver to take them, as buses weren't working due to the catastrophe! He got off at his destination and left the girls with the driver to be dropped at Chennai. But the driver sold them to Chako, who and his wife fed and sedated them! The next day, they were sold to Vetri, who took them to Mumbai by train and sold them for 65,000 rupees ($838) to Suchir and his bastard son, Prasad. They ran a brothel in Kamathipura, where the girls were kept in a secret room that can only be reached via a hidden switch behind a bookcase!

Ahalya was sold for a night to an old man by 60,000 rupees due to being a virgin! She was dressed like a bride by Sumeera, the brothel's maid who used to be a prostitute! That night she felt so much pain and cried a lot! A week later, she was sold to a teenage boy as his birthday gift by 15,000 rupees since she was used goods! Sadly and without Suchir's knowledge, Ahalya was snatched from her room at night by Prasad forcing himself on her. This cruel behavior was repeated for almost a week! One night, CASE team (non-profit agency that works to stop sex trafficking which Thomas joined), and a patriotic inspector attacked the brothel. One of the CASE team acted like a sex buyer and paid 10,000 rupees for Ahalya! They rescued all the girls except for Sita, who was already sold to Navin by an advance of 100,000 rupees ($1,288)! Ahalya was taken to a convent where Thomas visited her. She made him promise to bring back her sister! Besides, she was pregnant, which made her stronger and hopeful of a better future!

Navin bought poppy powder from Afghanistan before leaving Sita in a locked room! The next day he trained her to swallow a grape after dipping it in coconut oil! Afterwards, he filled the powder into 30 pouches and ordered her to swallow them. Then told her not to eat until getting to Paris and to stay calm to prevent the sacks’ rupture! He also gave her a passport with a new name, stating that she was his pregnant wife, before warning her not to talk to the police! All this time, she didn't know that her sister was rescued! In Paris, Sita was left with auntie and uncle Ji, and their son Shyam (10 years). They owned a restaurant, but she worked as maid! She was treated badly as she only could use the restroom once a day, wasn't allowed to bathe, and slept on the cold kitchen floor (it was winter). Because of these inhuman conditions, she got sick, after which she was allowed to bathe every day and sleep on the couch inside the warm house!

Once, a Ukrainian couple saw Sita in the restaurant and asked for her. She cleaned their house (Tatiana, Dmitri, and his dad Vasily), where she discovered 6 underage Russian girls. These hostages were used for sex like Natalia, who was videotaped while being raped by Dmitri, and who Sita soothed. In the meantime, she found a key chain and decided to run away after midnight when Dmitri took Tatiana and the girls to work. Unfortunately, she fell asleep and woke-up past 3 am; yet, she left the house! Sadly, Dmitri noticed her while driving back! She was dragged back into the house and threatened of being raped like the Russian girls!

When uncle Ji was notified by Navin that the police was looking for them, he told the Ukrainians. In turn, Vasily provided them with false passports and left to NY! At the airport, Alexi picked up Sita and took her to New Jersey. She was kept with other teenagers in a club, and only offered soup and a tiny sack of crackers. She talked to Olga, a Russian girl who was raped in front of her by Alexi's driver. She told Sita her story - she needed to work to support her dad, and met someone who offered her a job as a nanny!

Again, Sita ran away and made it to a nearby motel. But the receptionist called Alexi instead of the police! While in capture, she discovered that many girls were forced to work as lot lizards. These poor girls were fed only an apple, and kept in a filthy cramped room with an access to a soiled restroom! On the way to Harrisburg in PA, she met Elsie. She was an African American who ran away from home after her step-dad molested her, before meeting a guy who promised to get her a modeling job; nevertheless, he raped her and kept her a hostage in his house before selling her! Sita then was sold for $30,000 to Dietrich, and transferred to his mansion in Atlanta ‘Vine City Market.’ He and his wife ran porn agency! The teenage hostages were offered for sex by posting seductive images on a masked website (traced back to Prague)! They sold porn pictures for a $100, offered $1000 for an hour of a photo shoot, and $20,000-40,000 for a night!

On the other side of the story, Thomas was a lawyer who lost his baby girl to SIDS. This depressed him and his wife Priya, causing tensions between them until she left to India. He needed someone to talk to and found an ear from his co-worker Tera, with whom he cheated on his wife! On Christmas Eve, he told his parents about Priya in which his mom was sorry for him however, his dad (a judge) criticized his decisions esp. that he and Priya's dad were against their marriage! On his way to DC to visit his parents, he witnessed the abduction of a teenage girl, Abbey, while eating his sandwich in the botanical garden. The kidnappers were promenading, when a man struck the mom and his mates snatched the girl! He ran after the car but couldn't catch the plate number! Eventually, the mob was captured yet tragically, Abbey was murdered!

Before that, his manager suggested to take some time off after losing an important case - defending a mining company that caused the drowning of schoolchildren by the flooding of black water! So he decided to get an internship that would be paid for by his company. He joined CASE agency that had a slot in India. So he took the chance to talk to his wife, and told her about his mission in India. Days later Priya called about booking a trip to Goa. It was like a second honeymoon for them, until one morning she saw a message form Tera! They had a fight in which Thomas stated that he loved her and that he only slept with Tera after she left, which of course doesn’t justify his actions! He also was sorry about what he did, and that he was vulnerable and needed someone to listen to him, and left!

In a second raid on Suchir's brothel (was bailed out), Navin was captured! While in custody, he was tortured and confessed that Sita was with his uncle in Paris. Surprisingly, the investigation was interrupted and Navin was released! This is due to the corrupted system in India, which explains why rape rate is high and predators don't get behind bars most of the time! So Thomas suggested going to Paris because CASE couldn’t, in addition to wanting to keep his promise to Ahalya! In Paris, he walked in the downtown and asked Indians about Sita after showing them her picture, but with no success. In the evening, Thomas had dinner with a mate in an Indian restaurant, where the waiter (who used to work at uncle Ji's restaurant) wrote on the receipt to meet her the next day! She directed them to the Ukrainians' house! In the meantime, this mafia was watched by the French police. Accordingly, they were attacked the following day. They only found the 6 teenage girls with no trace of Sita or the captures! Later, Thomas talked to the freed Russian teenagers and realized that Sita was taken to the US!

Luckily, he received a message from his friend Porter to come to PA. The team that fights sex trafficking tracked Dietrich via Defoe, a computer genius who acted like a sex customer! After a few months, he was invited to a secure secret website for such service, on which he saw Sita's picture! So Defoe was taken by a special car to Dietrich's mansion, where he went with Sita to a luxurious room. She was warned by Dietrich's wife that if she refused to comply with the man's desires, she would be buried in the backyard! Defoe whispered in Sita's ear that he came to rescue her, when suddenly the police threatened to enter the house! But Dietrich and his assistant attacked the room, during which the latter was injured whereas Defoe was shot in his chest by Dietrich and died! So the snipers got Dietrich to approach the window and shot him in the head! Then the police entered the house and freed Sita. She guided them through the wine cellar to the hidden place that opened by turning a barrel's handle! They found Dietrich's wife with a gun holding numerous teenage girls as hostages, after taping their mouths and tying their hands.

After the rescue mission, Thomas told his dad that after being part of CASE, he didn't want to be on the bench. This made his dad angry! Nonetheless, Thomas emphasized that he cannot be what his dad wanted him to be, adding that his goal was to convince his wife that she was better with him than without him! In the end, Thomas and the police brought Sita back to India, and made up with his wife! Months later, they attended Ahalya's delivery. She had a baby girl who was named Kamalini (little lotus). The expecting couple also announced that they would name their baby girl, Sita! Before the delivery, Ahalya was a witness in the trial of Suchir and his team. She succeeded in putting them in prison except for Navin!

This chilling novel raises awareness about the way human/sex trafficking work. Predators take advantage of the victims' situation and lure them into their hive; then treat them like owned objects, who had no right for food, sleep, or sanitation facilities. This is a very complicated process, which cannot be tracked or stopped easily due to corruption and use of advanced technology. To sex traffickers, this is business! In fact, it makes a global annual profit of $99 billion, and $30 billion in the US. Thus as Porter commented, sex trafficking only will stop when men stop buying women! But the people who are still human, can end sexual exploitation by helping NCOSE in calling out on mainstream entities that facilitate or profit from sexual abuse. Because as Ahalya was contemplating before soothing Natalia "… yet her father taught her that failing to act in the face of suffering is inhuman".

The Price of Seeking a Better Life - (June 10th 2022)

American Dirt is a novel by Jeanine Cummins that sheds light on the rough life of Latinas in their own land, forcing them to leave via choosing the death journey. They run away from the cartels violence to the land of the free, where they are not welcome!

This is the story of Lydia, who owned a bookstore, and her 6-year old son Luca. She used to enjoy the company of one of her customers; a gentleman who conversed and drank coffee with her. This man turned out to be Javier, la Lechuza, the leader of Los Jardineros cartel. Unfortunately, her husband Sebastian, a journalist, wrote an article about la Lechuza that shocked his daughter, Marta, causing her to hang herself. This infuriated la Lechuza, and thus ordered to butcher her family while celebrating La Quinceañera of Lydia’s niece. Only Lydia and Luca survived by hiding in his abuela’s bathroom. After the massacre in her mom's house that murdered 16 members of her family, Lydia and Luca ran away to a hotel due to not trusting the corrupted police!

Before dawn, they left the hotel since the receptionist tipped the cartel and took the bus to Chilpancingo to meet Sebastian's friend. Carlos convinced his American wife to let Lydia leave with a group of American missionaries. She refused at first fearing for the missionaries’ lives - from Los Jardineros. Yet, the trip went smoothly to Mexico City. Then, Lydia tried to buy a plane ticket to the US, but was denied because of lacking Luca's birth certificate! So she did like most immigrants, and decided to get on the train 'LaBestia' to the Sonoran Desert. The first time they couldn't jump on it as Lydia was terrified of being crushed beneath it! So they returned to the city and spent the night in 'La Casa del Migrantes' in Huehuetoca. Coincidentally, an ex-member of Los Jardineros (had a sickle tattoo with blood dots) also was hiding in the safe house. Lorenzo was kicked out from this shelter however, after assaulting a refugee girl, which Luca saw!

The following day they left to the train tracks, where they met 2 Honduran teenage girls, Rebecca and Soledad from the Ch'orti tribe. Soledad tried to run away to save her sister form her rapist, Ivan, who was a cartel’s member and thus couldn't be stopped by the corrupt police. The 2 girls advised Lydia about the best location to jump. So they got on La Bestia, on which Lorenzo too was! Luca told his mom about his identity. Nevertheless, Lorenzo convinced Lydia that he left the cartels and desired to start a new life in the US. The teenage girls instructed Lydia to get-off the train to avoid being caught by the police, who make sudden check-ups! They got down in San Miguel de Allende, where they stayed the night in the Cathedral piazza. The next day they jumped on the train and left to Celaya, and stayed the night in Casa del Migrantes. Again, they left it before dawn, trying to get rid of Lorenzo, and got on the train that took the pacific route to Guadalajara!

Tragically, while traveling from Celaya to Culiacán, the train was attacked by a militia. Everybody got off the train and ran away, yet they were all caught! The militia (followers of the police or the cartels) forced every migrant to take off their bags and searched them. The inspection was an excuse to abuse and molest the women! Then they ordered everyone into the back of a truck, except for Soledad and her sister. Lydia tried to save them by asking for 'her daughters'! But the leader promised to return them! The trip in the damp dark truck took several minutes until reaching the camp. There, the chief asked if anyone was Mexican! Those who raised their fingers were asked questions about the city they were from and its mayor…etc., to check if they were truly Mexicans. One of these immigrants lied and so was shot in the head! At this moment, only Lydia had her finger up! She and Luca answered all their questions about Acapulco! In the meantime, the Ecuadorian teenagers came back! Their clothes were torn and stained with blood! The chief invited Lydia and her son to his office and asked for 75,000 pesos ($3761) to buy their freedom. Before leaving, Luca asked his mom to save Rebecca and Soledad! Despite wanting to leave this horrible place, she asked the chief about the destiny of non-Mexicans or these who cannot pay. He answered that they will be sold, and the girls definitely will have a high price because of their beauty. So she paid 150,000 pesos to free the girls, leaving her with only $243!

The 3 women and Luca trotted for they were afraid of the militia to follow and fetch them again! They walked despite the trauma of the girls, esp. Rebecca who was exposed to such violence for the first time in her life! They reached the city, where a doctor found them on the road and offered to help! They refused, as they were afraid of trusting any man after living such a horrible night! Eventually, they agreed to get into his car, and were dropped at a cheap hotel. The room had 2 beds, a toilet and basin where Lydia washed everybody's clothes. At midnight, Rebecca awakened Lydia as Soledad was bleeding. She was pregnant from Ivan and had a miscarriage! In the morning, the doctor picked them up, offering snacks, and drove them to Culiacán. They got on La Bestia and traveled to Nogales, passing by Novalto and Hormosillo. On the train, they met a deformed orphan named Beto. At this point, they finished half of their death journey.

Afterward Soledad called the coyote who took them to an empty 4-room apartment. Lydia then left to the bank to collect her mom's money since she had her card! At the bank, the woman refused to give her the money, unless Lydia provided her mom’s death certificate. So Lydia told the employee her story from the massacre till this moment. Eventually, the employee sympathized with Lydia and gave her the money, explaining that she read about Acapulco’s massacre, and that her nephew was killed by the cartels! Lydia handed the coyote all her money, $10,628. But he rejected it due to being short $372! Gladly, Beto stepped in and paid the difference. The coyote explained that most of the money is paid to the cartels and migrant police to let them pass!

Lydia's surprise was to find Lorenzo among the migrants leaving to el Norte. After having a protein-rich meal, they slept most of the day and left around sunset! The coyote took 14 migrants, who included deportees from the US after Trump became president. This journey required 2.5 days, during which they were exposed to rain and extreme heat during the day, and desert cold at night. They used to camp during the daylight under rocky outcrops or greenery, to avoid the sun's heat or migrant police check-ups! They were also attacked by torrential water while walking in a groove. One of the migrants (a teenage boy) sadly got caught by the torrential water and fractured his leg! So he stayed behind with his uncle and the coyote directed them to walk in the direction of the police route to be picked up and deported. He added that he would guide them again on his next trip, as the amount paid covers 3 trips per migrant! One of the migrants warned about not stopping by Arivaca, the place of the ugly murder of the Flores!

After walking for a while, they rested in a cavern to dry themselves! Unfortunately, at night Rebecca needed to pee and so left the cave. Suddenly Lorenzo followed her trying to rape her! Luckily, she was saved in time by Soledad and the Coyote who threatened him by his gun. Nonetheless, Soledad took the gun and shot Lorenzo! She wanted to shoot him a dozen times, a bullet for each rapist - for Ivan and Sinaloa’s militia! At dawn, they left the cave! Miserably, Beto couldn't walk more due to his asthma and fell. Two of the migrants tried to resuscitate him but with no avail. Finally, and after 53 days of the massacre, they reached the drop-off point, and the Caucasian SUV drivers took them to Denver. Lydia and Luca stayed with the Honduran girls' cousin and his family in Maryland where Luca, Rebecca, and Soledad went to school, and Lydia worked as a cleaning lady. In the garden, they had 18 painted stones, one for each murdered family member, one for Beto, and one for the girl's father who was slain by Ivan!

This dramatic novel depicts in depth one of the main reasons that cause Latinas to leave their homeland and go through all the dangers, seeking a better life for them and their families. A similar description about the hardships that Latinas go through to cross the border and the reasons that cause them to do so, was posted in July 2020, summarizing Stacey Dooley book about inspiring women. Besides, Cummins skillfully highlighted the different perception of Americans to these Latinas, where some help them whereas others attack them! This results from discrimination, which must be uprooted by enlightening people that the only difference between humans is their actions (being a vile or good person), not color, religion, or race that don't reflect the individual's personality. Thus ‘To deny people their human rights, is to challenge their very humanity - Mandela’ and ‘Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts - Margaret Mead.’ Moreover, no one leaves his hometown unless it is the only option to survive, similar to Warsan Shire’s quote "no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark".

Finally, I quoted a statement that Sebastian wrote in the newspaper 'la Lechuza … He was a vicious mass murderer who mistook himself for a gentleman. A thug who fancied himself a poet'. I also like to correct a statement in this novel. The author indicated that the number of journalists who die in Mexico is greater than that in Syria or Iraq, who criticize their weak government that aren’t fighting the cartels. But Iraqis and Syrians would never criticize a leader or a government employee even if they were corrupt! You know why? Because the whole familia/tribe will be wiped out after being tortured! No one will stay alive! No one! That's why journalists are not attacked because they only glorify their leaders and never criticize them!

When there's a will, there's a way!

When there's a will, there's a way!

Changing Places in the Blink of an Eye (Part-2) - (May 13th 2022)

The 2nd part of Ariell Lawhon's novel (I was Anastasia) describes, in a reverse chronological order, the miserable life of Anna Anderson, the Polish woman who claimed to be Tsarevna AnastasiaRomanov.

Anna Anderson is a woman who claimed to be a Romanov survivor. She was married to Jack Manahan (an American history professor) and lived with him in Charlottesville, VA. Her story started in 1918 while working in a munitions factory. One day she received a telegram stating that her fiancé had died in the war in France! This news shook her, causing her to drop the grenade that she was holding and resulted in an explosion. She survived and was assisted by a man and women who removed the shrapnel from her sliced body (on her temple, and from her neck till abdomen, as well as on her thighs and hips)! She had 18 wounds (looked like stabs) and 6 holes that were similar to bullet holes.

After this incident, this poor Polish woman (Franziska Schanzkowskas) stayed in Antonescu Refugee Camp in Bucharest, where she gave birth to a baby boy in January 1919 who was taken from her. She wasn't allowed to keep him because she was an unmarried and penniless lonely woman. A year later, this traumatized woman spent 2 years in Anna Shreiber Boarding House, until losing her job in a sewing factory due to her repeated absence; she used to sleep till the evening due to her inability to sleep at night because of seeing nightmares.

In February 1920, she walked for a few days without food to Netherland's Palace to meet Princess Irene, to provide her with information about the Imperial family. But the guard kicked her out and so she walked until reaching Bendler Bridge, from which she jumped landing in Landweher Canal! In response, the promenaders called the German police. She was rescued and taken to the police station, then to Elizabeth hospital. The doctors ran physical tests, discovering her wounds and that she wasn't a virgin, and so decided that she was a hooker! She refused to explain neither her actions nor wounds, and not even state her name. So she was called Miss unknown. Dr. Winicke indicated that she was sane but frightened and diagnosed her with melancholia, a depressive disorder characterized by emotional episodes of rage. Hence, he recommended transferring her to Dalldorf Asylum in Berlin, to keep her from imprisonment since committing suicide was a crime in Germany! In the asylum, she received many visitors, including her brother Felix Schanzkowska who didn't recognize her. She stayed there for 2 years, until the Baron Kliest found her via her inmate Clara Peuthert, who believed that Franziska was Tatiana Romanov. Yet after meeting her, Maria Kliest commented that she didn't look like Tatiana, so Franziska retorted that she was Anastasia.

She lived with the Baron's family (Russian émigrés who were loyal to the Tsar) in Berlin for about 3 years. She was surprised by their posh life (bathtubs, towels and robes…), esp. that she only had her clothes. She also got a passport with the name 'Anna Anderson' because the German passport office refused to grant her one under the name of Anastasia Romanov. Throughout this time, she met Gleb and Tanya Botkin but didn't recognize them. They gave her the Romanovs photo album and the mail-knife with mother-pearl handle (which Gilliard took from her after reaching Ipatieve house, and later gave it to Gleb). Tanya also took her to an antiques store from where she got chess set of ivory (belonged to the Tsar) and the amulet of St. Anna of Kashin.

In 1925, Anna suffered from tubercular infection causing her admittance into Mommsen Clinic in Germany. While she was feverish, Gilliard interrogated her, on which he based his book 'The False Anastasia'. On the other hand, Gleb wanted to help Anna restore her identity. So in 1927, he hired a lawyer (Edward Fallows) to take Anna's case to the court. He mortgaged her house for her case but lost it, leaving his daughter to pay his debts. Gleb was so loyal to Anna, as he even appointed an investigator to help her case. Unfortunately, the investigator was a double agent as he also worked for Leuchlenberg (a cousin of Anastasia Romanov). For instance, they were invited to a meeting with the investigator in Germany. But they were shocked to also find there Leuchlenberg and the Schanzkowskas to verify her identity!

She also had the chance to meet Xenia Leeds in winter 1928 with whom she stayed for 6 months in Oyster Bay, NY, until the arrival of Leuchlenberg. Xenia Leeds was a distant cousin of the Romanovs, who was married to the millionaire William Leeds. She believed that Anna was Anastasia, but not her cousin Dimitri Leuchlenberg. He and his mom (the Dowager Empress, Anastasia's aunt) thought that she was a fraud. While staying with Xenia, Anna was asked to drop her claim and take a settlement (a large amount of money that would support her for the rest of her life) because Anastasia's aunts wanted the money of Romanovs' children (~20 million rubles) for themselves. If the courts identify Anna as Anastasia Romanov, then she would obtain all the money! This financial security would alleviate her fears of being thrown into the street. Yet, Anna refused the aunts' offer and left Xenia's villa.

After that, she met Anni Jennings in 1928 in NY. This wealthy heiress also believed that Anna was Anastasia, until Anna lost her temper upon losing her parrot. At this moment, she concluded that such behavior couldn't come for a Tsarevna! So Anni sent Anna to a psychiatrist (a friend of hers) in Westchester in July 1930. He did an experiment on her via using the Bergonic chair (uses an electric voltage), to help in curing her mental problem. Later she was placed in a psychiatric Sanatorium house in Manhattan for about a year. Anni was able to keep Anna in the psychiatric institution because of her influence and class. After that, she was transferred to another psychiatric institution in Hannover where she stayed till winter 1932, when rescued by Prince Frederick. This German prince was a messenger for his brother in law, who in turn was Anastasia's cousin. He empathized with Anna after listening to the doctor's diagnosis in Hanover, who stated that she was only paranoid and didn't suffer from any mental illness. The prince also believed that she was Anastasia, and thus dedicated his life to prove her identity.

In Hannover, she met with her siblings, the Schanzkowskas 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Only the elder sister suspected that she was Franziska. Nevertheless, they signed on a paper that she was not their sister. The Fuehrer also met her in 1938. He asked her assistance to spread Nazism to Russia, after the court approves her identity, which didn't happen. The sentence of the High Court in Hamburg was that Anna Anderson wasn't Anastasia Romanov due to lack of evidence, esp. after hearing the testimony of an Austrian Prisoner (Hans-Johan Mayer) who happened to be imprisoned in Siberia during the captivity of the Imperial family. The appeal in this judgment revealed the same result in 1970.

Anna left Hannover in 1943 after the bombings attack on the city and went to Winterstein. She stayed there until 1946, upon which she and Prince Frederick took a boat to cross Weser River and reached a Red Cross camp. Then left to Unterlengenhardt where she lived until 1968. She was attacked in her house, drugged and taken to the hospital by some officials after the neighbors and Maria Rasputin (the priest's daughter) complained about her animals (a dog and cats) and their bad smell, as well as accumulating many boxes in her house. Her forced stay in the hospital allowed the officials to clean her house by burning most of her belongings, documents, and animals to get rid of the smell and the parasites! This inhumane behavior of the German officials made Anna leave Germany for good, and go to the US. In Virginia, Gleb introduced her to Jack Manahan and convinced her to marry him (on paper) to become an American resident and stop being a run away! Anna approved reluctantly, because she had a crush on Gleb and was surprised to find him married to an American woman in 1938, to secure his stay in the US.

It is worth noting that Anna stayed in Paris in 1955 and 1968. In the meantime, she was introduced to Ingrid Bergman - a Swedish actress - who played her role in 'Anastasia'. She also met the Figaro reporter Dominique Aucléres, and a film producer - Gilbert Prouteau. He showed her a documentary about the imperial family and then about the soldiers invading the Palace. This upset Anna and thus refused to sign the papers of a film based on her (Anastasia) story!

Anna spent the rest of her life in VA with her husband until dying in 1984 of pneumonia. She spoke several languages including Latin, German, Russian, Polish, and English that she learnt while living in the US. She refused to speak Russian; according to the doctor, this is mainly due to her impaired physical and mental health, resulting from the explosion in the munitions factory. She resembled Anastasia in her body size (being petite) but slightly in her facial features- just by looking at their photos on the web, I noticed some difference in their eyes! Finally, during her travels in 1925 until her last day, Anna carried a bag that contained chess of ivory, the amulet of St. Anna of Kashin, the mail knife with mother-pearl handle, and the Tsar's family photo album.

The Romanovs' mass graves were found in 1991 (only 9 graves were found) and 2007 (the remains of Alexey's and one of his sisters were discovered). A DNA test was done for them and on a piece of Anna Anderson's hair. They didn't match, but Anna's (Franziska's) DNA matched that of a Romanov relative. Probably she was the outcome of an illegitimate relationship of a member of the Imperial family with a peasant!

This dramatic book weaved the stories of both Anastasia Romanov and Anna Anderson/Franziska Schanzkowska, skillfully by describing the life of each of them and the turning events that changed their lives forever. Tsarevna Anastasia became a prisoner, whereas Franziska used her resemblance to the Romanovs and lived the life of nobles - as if they switched roles similar to Twain's story 'The Prince and the Pauper'. This novel also highlighted the historical events associated with the Russian (Feb-Oct 1917) and Bolshevik (Oct 1917) revolutions against the monarchy. These revolutions were the fruit of the Emperors' tyranny and feudal lords' oppression against the Russian people, who were living in mere poverty. About a decade prior to these rebellion acts, the Russians protested against the rulers' injustice but were faced by a bloody attack from the imperial guards, resulting in Sunday Massacre of 1905. This is when Russians and socialist leaders decided that 'enough is enough' or as we say in Arabic 'القشة التي قصمت ظهر البعير'. It was the incident that made the public decides to take the matter in their hands and defend their rights and their children's future to secure a decent life!

Changing Places in the Blink of an Eye (Part 1) - (April 8th 2022)

Ariel Lawhon beautifully weaved I was Anastasia in a sequential order. This historical drama sheds light on the lavish life of Anastasia when her father was the Tsar of Russia, and the Russian and Bolshevik revolutions, which landed them into imprison. This book also described in a reverse chronological order the story of Anna Anderson, the Polish woman who claimed to be Tsarevna Anastasia Romanov.

The book starts with describing the lavish life of the Romanovs, and the luxurious architecture in their palaces and the kind of masterpieces decorating their residence, such as the Cossacks canvas in the reception room of Tsarskoe Selo. It also depicted how the Tsar knew nothing about the suffering of his people. He also did nothing to ease their misery or to protect his soldiers while fighting the Great War, which Russia shouldn't have participated in due to lack of military readiness, causing food shortage in Russia. Adding to that, most of the taxes were spent on the Romanovs prestigious life such as throwing balls, and traveling on their own train or yacht, while the Russian people couldn't even secure their days' sustenance. The Tsar of Russia Nikolai Romanov and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) had four children: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, the mischievous Anastasia (known as Shvybzik), and Alexey.

The Russian revolution broke out in the streets of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in February 1917. The Tsar had no option but to surrender when his train, which was going to Malaya Vishera, was diverted to Pskov where he was met by the revolutionaries and soldiers. Alexander Kerensky (the Minister of Justice), who lead a delegation from the Duma, gave him an abdication statement, which he signed in order to live! Alexandra could not understand her husband's situation. In fact, she believed that he had to defend his son's birthright! She was a guileless German British duchess who only knew giving orders, and never accepted no for an answer. The Tsarina also believed Grigori Rasputin (the incredulous holy man), who seduced her by stating that sleeping with him would help in healing her son from hemophilia! Alexey too was naïve like his mom, such as stating in the early days of the revolt that he didn't approve the revolution! Similarly, he opposed his father's action in signing the abdication letter, stating that he (Alexey) should have a say in his future and birthright! He didn't understand what was going in Russia!

Before the Tsar's return to his Palace, the Tsarina gave Zborovsky (Captain of Imperial Guards) an amulet of St. Anna of Kashin containing a hidden message to be taken to the British, asking their help. Unfortunately, he was stopped on his way out of the palace and the rebels took the amulet from him! In March 1917, Kerensky placed the Tsar's family under home (Tsarksoe Selo - Alexander Palace) arrest. He also told them that they were stripped from their titles and privileges, and had no say in their servants' roles. They were imprisoned because of betraying their people, and prisoners have no rights. Most of the servants fled except for the Cook, Dova (the daughters' maid), Dr. Botkin, Trupp - the Tsar's valet, and professor Gilliard. During their imprisonment, Gleb Botkin (Alexey's friend who had a crush on Anastasia) used to visit them.

Kerensky made the imperial family (except for the Tsarina and Alexey) work in the garden, plowed, planted seeds, and watered the trees and seedlings to know the meaning of work, and to live the life of the Russians. However, he told them that they won't stay in the Palace to eat what their hands have planted. Kerensky also told them that he shot the elephant Sammi, which they had in the Palace's park. He did this because the elephant needed a lot of food, and this cost money, whereas most of the Russians are undernourished and died from hunger.

On the 31st of July 1917, the Imperial family and their servants were transferred on a train to Siberia, specifically to Tobolsk. They were guarded by numerous soldiers lead by Semyon (the monstrous vulgar lieutenant) and Koblinsky (nicknamed by Anastasia and Alexey as Leshy - the devil in one of their stories). Pierre Gilliard also joined them in Tobolsk to continue teaching the Romanovs' children. They traveled for almost 6 days by train to Tyumen, and then got on the 'Rus' steamer for 2 days until reaching Tobolsk. This city had a beautiful lake and Tobol river but has no forests, the opposite of Yekaterinburg, which they were transferred to in spring 1918.

In Tobolsk, they were placed in the governor's house, which was deserted, filled with dirt, and much smaller than their palace. However, with the help and direction from Dova, they cleaned a room to sleep in it, and finished the rest of the house over the following days. They stayed in the first 2 floors, whereas the guards used the third floor. They raised chicken and roosters, eating their eggs and/or meat. They also used to sew their mothers' jewels in the hems of corsets and underwear, hiding them for the bad times when they are freed (or this is what they thought).

In October 1917, the Bolsheviks took control of Russia (the 2nd revolution). They replaced Kerensky by Yakov (evil lieutenant), who reduced their allowance to 600 rubles for each of the Romanov members, and gave nothing to their servants. Their rations also were reduced to only having flour, butter, and sugar. During their time in Tobolsk, Anastasia became friends with one of the guards, Tomas. Her sister Maria was also in a relationship with another guard, Ivan. During the winter holiday, they were visited by Dr. Botkin's children who were not allowed on the Romanovs premises, and only were able to wave to each other across the fence! And when it was time for Alexey and Tanya Botkin to leave, Anastasia asked Dr. Botkin to give Gleb her family photo album (which she took with her, and a mail-knife with mother-pearl handle upon leaving the Palace).

In February 1918, the Red guards took control of Yakovyurovsky, the Romanov's house/garrison in Tobolsk. Because Lenin wanted them dead, the Tsar, his wife, and Maria were transferred to Yekaterinburg in April 1918, which they reached in May, and were imprisoned in Ipatiev house. The army confiscated most of their possessions including the Tsarina's jewels, maps, and coded letters. The rest of the family and their assistants remained in Tobolsk until Alexey's health improved who about a month earlier fell of the stairs and bled a lot!

After the Tsar and his wife left, Semyon relieved Leshy from his duties, who was slightly better (more humane) than his superior! By the end of May, the rest of the Romanovs and their maids left Tobolsk. They got on the 'Rus' steamer, then the train, during which they were guarded by Latvian workers and Hungarian prisoners who hated the Imperial family. Unfortunately, while on the train, the Romanovs were separated from their guardians. At night, Semyon and some of the guards attacked their compartment. He threw Tatiana's dog 'Ortimo' out of the window, and grabbed Tatiana and gave her to the guards, who raped her. He on the other hand, took Olga for himself and left one of the guards (luckily it was Tomas) with Anastasia. Tomas didn't touch Anastasia and kicked out every soldier who attacked the room wanting her! Meanwhile, Alexey was too weak to do anything and drifted into sleep. After a long tragic journey, they reached Yekaterinburg at which Gilliard was relieved from his teaching duties. The girls, Alexey, Dr. Botkin, and their maids joined their parents. The girls told no one, not even their parents, about what happened on the train.

Their life in the new garrison was harsher but they survived! Sadly, one day Semyon caught Maria with Ivan. This angered her dad and mom and her 2 elder sisters, who were disgusted by her. Tatiana and Olga couldn't understand how she can have an affair with the people who are holding them prisoners, and who raped them. But Maria knew nothing about this incident! Ivan and Tomas also were different, yet only Anastasia and Maria understood this! These 2 sisters also believed that love was the only beautiful thing that happened to them since being held captives! Ivan however was sentenced to being hit by all his mates by batons. He bled too much from everywhere, lost some of his teeth, and most of his bones were cracked before being dragged into a cellar and imprisoned. Semyon stated later that Ivan was kicked from the army, but Anastasia believed that he was dead as Semyon hated to leave witnesses! Semyon also took Anastasia's diamond earrings but gambled on them. So Tomas later stole them from the drunken soldier, who won them, and returned them to Anastasia on her 17th birthday.

The White army was approaching to rescue the Romanovs. This scared Yakov and Semyon, so they plot to assassinate them by assigning 11 soldiers - one for each person. Past midnight of July 17, 1918, Tomas approached Anastasia asking her to run away with him after telling her Semyon's plan. She refused as she couldn't leave her family, but asked him to take care of her dog Jimmy. Yakov woke the Romanovs minutes later, who thought that they were going to be freed. Yet they and Dr. Botkin, Dova, the Cook, and Trupp were taken to a cellar. Then he read out the verdict that they were sentenced to death. Subsequently, the 11 drunken soldiers were ordered to shoot the prisoners. So at 2:45 am, the hostages were shot and stabbed. Afterwards, the bodies were carried in trucks and buried in the woods. Anastasia's dog Jimmy was saved by Tomas who ran away during the massacre, and Joy (Alexey's dog) was able to escape too.

Nonetheless, relatives of the Imperial family didn't believe the news such as Princess Irene (the Tsarina's sister), who offered a prize to anyone who had information about the Romanovs. In addition, the news spread that the Tsar left 5 million rubles in a saving account for each of his children, which he'd done in 1914 before the Great War.

Stay tuned to know the story of Anna Anderson in the next post, but before that, here are some of my favorite quotes in this book:

'There is a great deal of difference between mercy and kindness'. The Tsar of Russia talking to his daughter Anastasia in 1917 describing Kerensky's and Yakov's actions towards them.

'There is nothing artistic about rape. Taking a woman by force makes a man no better than the rooster in Tobolsk. It simply makes him an animal'. Anastasia's thoughts on the train to Yekaterinburg.

'This is how the human heart beats, a twisted staccato of love and envy, of anger and relief'. Anastasia's thoughts about her elder sisters towards Maria after being caught with Ivan.

A Woman is No Man - (March 11th 2022)

A Woman is No Man is a heartbreaking novel about discrimination against Arab women, esp. these who live in the US, and the feelings of shame they are fed just because of being born a woman. Despite reading many reports in local newspapers about domestic violence and crimes against women by the name of honor, Etaf Rum craftily made me live the pain of the protagonists while leafing through this real-life events chronicle.

Isra lived in Palestine for 17 years until marrying Adam in 1990, who lived in NY, without seeing him! She thought that by going to the US she might have more freedom than in Palestine, due to believing that it is the land of the free, and women are valued there! In Palestine for instance, she used to help her mom in preparing all the meals for her dad and brothers, wash and iron their clothes, and clean the house. Her dad and brothers also used to whip her whenever she went to read out in the citrus or olive orchards or even in the cemetery. She loved reading because it used to take her mind off her rough life, which is the norm for many girls around the world!

Yet her life in NY with Adam, who ran his dad's deli store, was not different. She was ruled by the strict Arab culture. They lived in the same house with his parents and his single brothers, Omar and Ali, and little sister Sarah. Isra suffered from living in a different culture where she wasn't allowed to go out alone. She also used to get up early and prepare breakfast for Adam, help his mom (Fareeda) in cleaning and cooking, and wait for him till midnight to heat his dinner! Adam also asked her to change by removing her hijab whenever they went out because he feared being judged by non-Arabs! She didn't like this but did it anyway to please him, because she was taught since childhood to obey her husband no matter what!

A year later Isra gave birth to Deya. She and Adam were happy but not Fareeda. She was disappointed and told Isra not to breastfeed in order to get pregnant! Every day she reminded the couple that Adam needed a son! Afterward, Adam started hitting Isra. Probably, she was the only thing he could control and dominate. He was neither able to have boys (vital to Arab men and their moms) nor stand up for himself and face his mom about the amount of stress that she was putting on him at the expense of pampering his brothers. He, as the eldest, had to work more, open a store for his brother Omar and help him run it, as well as assist in paying Ali's college fees. As a result, he returned every night wasted and released his nervousness on the fragile Isra, who was instructed by her mom (who used to be hit by her husband too) and Fareeda that silence and submission are the only solution to preserve a marriage. But It Wasn't!

By 1995, Adam and Isra had 4 girls; Deya, Nora, Layla, and Amal. In addition, Fareeda went to Palestine and got Omar a bride. Nadine, unlike Isra, was chatty, sociable, and defied Fareeda. Nadine also breastfed her sons, played with them, and didn't get pregnant until she felt she could! Isra however was always sad, which once was pointed out to her by the 3-year old Deya. Every night she was beaten without protesting, and burdened by having to bear a boy - the HEIR who will carry the family's name! Sadly, Isra believed this gibberish because it was the norm for her.

Over these years, she became friends with Sarah, who gave Isra hope via bringing her stories. Upon becoming 16, Fareeda started to look for suitors for Sarah. [This never happens in the Arab culture but I believe it was the case for Arabs living abroad, who wanted their children to marry Arabs.] Sarah objected, expressing her desire to go to college. This resulted in being violently hit by her mom! Books taught Sarah and Isra that they deserved a good life, one that is better than the one they were leading. Later Sarah disclosed to Isra her intention to flee, encouraging her to join her, if not for herself then for her daughters! But Isra refused due to lacking money, and fearing to leave her home/family and be on her own in a strange country. So Sarah answered, "You Have To Have a Home First to Be Uprooted from It".

One day, Sarah's friend Hannah got murdered by her husband because of asking for divorce, which is shamed in the Arab culture. Sarah felt anger at this man and refused to marry, whereas Isra believed that Hannah definitely did something wrong. Unfortunately, Arab women are always to blame whether it was for divorce, bearing girls, raising bad children, or being hit by the husband! Little she knew that in winter 1997 she would end up murdered by her drunken husband, who cowardly ended his life by jumping of Brooklyn Bridge. After this tragedy, Omar took Nadine and his 3 sons and left his parents house forever, and Ali too moved out.

But before this calamity, Sarah ran off! She couldn’t face her family about not being a virgin! She was terrified of being murdered or forced into marriage against her will, and thus not getting into college! To cover for the scandal, Fareeda weaved a lie that Sarah got married and moved to Palestine. This devastated Isra since Sarah was her only companion; hence, leaving her with only reading and writing to de-stress! She wrote several letters to her mom in Palestine that she never mailed! Isra had a war inside her due to being inhumanly treated by her monstrous dad and husband! She was worried of being a bad mother, and was depressed because of lacking control over her life, and not spending much time with her daughters except for reading for them. These traumas scarred her soul, causing her sometimes to hate her daughters for being girls!

Isra also was raised believing that love can only be given to her by a man. She didn't know that the most important love was Self-Love. But after Sarah's escape, she realized that she has to teach self-love to her daughters, but didn’t know how esp. that awareness and action are different aspects. However, she ran away twice! The first was after Adam brutally hit her causing an opening in her head that needed >10 stitches, but got scared and called Fareeda! The second (where she made it to the subway) was after Sarah ran away, as she was worried about her daughters and their education! Terribly, this attempt perhaps caused her murder!

In 2008, Fareeda invited suitors for Deya who was 18. She refused to meet them since she wanted to go to college; thus angering her grandparents. Luckily, someday and on her way back home from school with her sisters, Deya saw an Americanized woman leaving an envelope on her grandparents' doorstep. The envelope was for her and contained a business card. The next day she used her classmate's cell phone to call the number. A woman answered asking to meet her. So Deya ditched school, used the subway for the first time, and went to Brooklyn. Surprisingly, the woman was Sarah! She told Deya about her intention to help her decide what she wanted to do in her life, but also not to do like her and escape. Running Away Wasn't The Solution esp. That It Had A Price! She couldn't see her family, and blamed herself for Isra's murder! During several meetings, Sarah described how she ran away, stayed with a friend for a while, worked, got into college, and eventually opened her coffee shop. She also recounted stories about Isra, what happened to her, how she loved her daughters, and enjoyed reading and writing! This made Deya happy because she thought that her mom didn't love her.

Deya was furious with her grandparents for not defending her mom, and lying to her and her sisters all these years by telling them that their parents died in a car accident! She also confronted them about Sarah! So Fareeda apologized for all what she had and hadn't done, which was worthless to Deya! He grandma also confessed about the pressure placed on her for being a woman, causing her to treat Isra the way she was treated. As a new mom, Fareeda was told not to breastfeed her twin girls to be able to get pregnant. But due to shortage of resources, she had to steal goat milk and give it to her babies, resulting in their death. She believed that their jinns haunted her years later by giving Adam 4 girls! Fareeda also gave Deya the letters that Isra wrote to her mom. Deya also told her grandparents that Sarah missed them, to which Fareeda replied of wanting her daughter back! Blissfully, Deya got accepted in NY University! 

This is not the story of all Arab women; it is the story of many of them though! The fault of Isra, Sarah, Deya, and Fareeda was being born a woman. They were taught from the beginning that being a woman is a shame by itself, and giving birth to girls is worse, it is catastrophic (Balwa in Arabic)! This is similar to what Fareeda said once to Isra: "Men huff and puff about all the work they do to support their families. But they don't know…they have no idea what it means to be a woman in this world". It is hard for women in general and even harder for women living in a controlling and closed culture like the Arab society. This culture won't change until its ideologies followed by changing its archaic misogynic laws similar to Dorothy Kenyon's statement; 'Change minds first then change the law!'

Violence against women is so high and perhaps underreported. I read once in a local newspaper about a father torturing his daughter by an electric wire (leading to her death) for failing an undergraduate course, and what was worse was her mom's inability to defend her because of fearing to end up in the street! This story scares me whenever one of my female students fails. Very few students fail (≤2) though, but still I worry that they may be beaten or tortured to death.

The solution resides in woman's education and intellectualism, which empower her by strengthening her self-confidence, thus making her financially secure and independent. Then she would not need anyone since she can take care of herself, and therefore able to leave a bad relationship. In addition, a woman can change her path ONLY if she wants to, and by never failing herself, even if the world failed her. Like Sarah who believed in her right to a good life, and to have the freedom in choosing how to live it, as there is more to life than just marriage!

Autocracy and Falsified News - (February 11th 2022)

Velvet was the Night is a noir book about the political situation in Mexico, particularly in Mexico City. Silvia Moreno-Garcia beautifully schemed the government's attempt to abolish students' protests and stop communism spread in a template of complicated affairs in 1971.

The story revolves around Maite's boring life, a secretary at a lawyer company. She celebrated her 30th birthday with her mom and married sister, who always criticized her life choices. She dreamt of an interesting life like the heroines of romance comics that she read, esp. that she had numerous failed relationships. Maite's life changed when her neighbor Leonora, a college student, knocked on her door asking to watch her cat while being away for the weekend. Maite accepted only after Leonora promised to pay her well, esp. that she needed the money to get her car back from the mechanic. So Maite checked Leonora's apartment, went through her stuff, fed the cat, and took a statue of San Judas Tadeo that was thrown near the trash as a souvenir.

The events got complicated when Leonora didn't return, and her friend Emilio asked Maite about her. She allowed him to check Leonora's apartment. He was looking for the camera that Leonora used a few days earlier during students' protests. Yet they found nothing! Later, Leonora called saying she won't be home soon, and asked Maite to bring her some stuff and meet her at a stationary shop. So Maite waited for hours but Leonora didn't show up! Surprisingly, Rubén, the guy working there was Leonora's ex-boyfriend and knew where Leonora's sister (Candida) lived. Subsequently, Maite went to see Candida and learnt that the 2 sisters were from a rich family and Leonora was funded by her uncle, Leonardo. She also asked for her fees of taking care of the cat, but Candida refused to pay, which irritated Maite

Afterward, Maite met with Rubén and Emilio a few times to ask about Leonora. Rubén, like Leonora, was part of Asterisk anti-government revolutionary group. Emilio however was a rich owner of antiques' store, who acted as being part of Asterisk but actually was an egocentric double agent, who wanted the camera in order to hand it to the government!

On the other hand, El Mago established the Hawks; a group of men in their twenties who can pass as students to penetrate the student body at universities and colleges, to abolish anti-government protests and stop the spread of communism. They consisted of Elvis (from Tepito), El Gazpacho, El Güero, and the Antelope. For instance, during a demonstration at El Monumento a la Revolución, the Hawks attacked protesters by punching them and snatching their cameras or films. Then suddenly a rainfall of bullets started showering the activists and Hawks, injuring El Gazpacho. So Elvis and his teammates transferred him to a hospital. Shockingly, Elvis discovered later that El Mago killed his friend via meeting with an informant, Justo, who also directed him to look for Leonora at Asterisk. Elvis was sad for losing his only friend, esp. that El Güero and the Antelope always bullied him! El Mago however, mentioned nothing about El Gazpacho. Instead, he asked Elvis to lead his group to spy on a priest, Leonora, and Maite, as they needed to find Leonora's films!

Elvis checked the women's apartments but found nothing; yet he admired Maite's collection of music discs and books, and considered dating her upon the end of this mission! Then, the Hawks attacked the priest to know Leonora's whereabouts; however, he knew nothing! Later Elvis entered Asterisk building via Justo’s invitation note. Unluckily, the priest saw him there! So he was captured and brutally hit by Arkady, a KGB agent, before being able to escape! The DFS (Dirección Federal de Seguridad) also was looking for Leonora under the command of Anaya, who wanted to destroy El Mago by getting the films before him. El Mago described DFS agents as thieves who use their position to make money via stealing or smuggling! Anaya visited Maite at her office and interrogated her about Leonora. His men too quarreled with Elvis' team while watching Maite's building, during which El Güero was badly injured. So Elvis advised him to hide, otherwise El Mago would wipe him out since he didn't like to leave traces behind!

Rubén joined Maite to search for Leonora and crashed for a few days on her couch, because he wanted to get Leonora back, whereas Maite wanted her promised wage! They visited a journalist (Lara) who lived in Cuernavaca. Leonora met Lara to publish her story about the Hawks and their chief, who was a military officer trained by the CIA. Lara agreed to publish it under the condition of knowing the name of the leader, but Leonora refused! This military man was none other than her uncle Leonardo, also known as El Mago! Surprisingly, Rubén and Maite found out that Socrates (an Asterisk member) took Leonora to visit this journalist, but told no one about it. Socrates even accused Leonora of being a spy for the DFS, which the Asterisk chief (Jacqui) and other members believed! So they paid Socrates a visit, who confessed that Anaya threatened and forced him to answer for the DFS! Sadly, Socrates was tortured (hung in the bathroom upside down with cigarettes burns covering his naked chest) and murdered by El Mago.

While staying with Maite, Rubén told her about the rebellions and guerillas in Guerrero, where he was from, and that the government's enemies are placed in Palacio de Lecumberri - a political prison (1900 -1976). He also was imprisoned twice for printing and distributing political leaflets! While they were having sex, San Judas Tadeo statue fell and broke revealing the film canisters! At this moment, the two of them left hurriedly to Asterisk after calling Jacqui to bring a photography specialist, not knowing that the phone was tapped by the DFS. Jacqui asked Emilio! The two guys fought before Elvis, the Antelope, and Anaya's men attacked them! This resulted in a chaotic shooting and punching at which Emilio grabbed Maite and ran away to his house! Emilio called José Fernandez, an editor at El Universal. But Leonardo was the one who came, took the canisters from Maite's purse, exposed the films to light, and hit her savagely. Maite was shocked to know that Leonora's uncle was behind all this tragedy, and by the docile and coward Emilio who didn't do anything to help her! Gladly, Elvis and Arkady survived the attack at Asterisk and drove to Emilio's villa. Elvis told El Mago that he should leave Maite alone; then confronted him about killing El Gazpacho and attacking his niece (Leonora)! But El Mago snickered! In response, Elvis jumped on El Mago and placed his screwdriver in his eyes and left!

The next day, the newspaper wrote that Colonel Leonardo died peacefully in his bed and would have a grand funeral! This is how governments cover their dirty tracks by releasing false reports, glorifying their killers and cleaners, who assist the leader in clenching his fist over his people! Reading this news, made Leonora come out from her den! On the other hand, Maite was worried about Rubén whom she searched for and found at the hospital. She hoped they could be something! Yet she was surprised by Leonora, and saddened to learn that she reconciled with Rubén! But because life has a weird way in connecting people together, one day she met Elvis on the bus! He told her his real name, Ermenegildo, and asked her out before getting off and walking to a nearby café. Maite got off at the next stop carrying her groceries, contemplating whether to accept the killer's invitation or just go up to her apartment!

In late sixties, the Mexican regime kept publishing fake news in newspapers stating that students and demonstrators spread riots by shooting at and violently attacking the police, causing the government to retaliate! This is probably what is practiced currently in Kazakhstan! This also occurred in Tlatelolco massacre in 1968, when the military opened fire on Mexicans protesting against holding the Summer Olympics in Mexico City! After this horrible incident, the Hawks were assembled under the direction of president Echeverría and Mexico City's regent Alfonso Martínez Domínguez. This non-military group aimed to extinguish protests. They infamously resulted in Corpus Christi massacre (El Halconazo) on June 10, 1971! After that, the Hawks were dismantled, and Brigada Blanca repressive group was formed in 1976 instead. They ignited the dirty war (Guerra Sucia) via kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Mexicans! The government also banned rock music in the 1970s. They fined rock singers and concerts' organizers and attendees! They even trialed cafés that played music and their clients! This is because they considered this music genre immoral! Yet, El Tri band defied this law, and wrote and sang anti-government rock music. This is followed by other few bands until hard rock and heavy blues were accepted by the 1980s.

I think all regimes lie or falsify reports to achieve their hidden intentions. Similar to what happened in 2003 upon the American invasion to Iraq, when Blair administration lied to the public about going into war on false pretenses! In fact, the British and American secret services spied on the UN diplomats in order to bully them to vote in favor of the war. This scheme was exposed by Katharine Gun. The 2 governments wanted to invade Iraq with specific intentions; steal its petrol, and ensure sustainability of their ammunition factories!

Finally, this tale highlighted that people sometimes make bad decisions, but this doesn't mean they are bad people! This is similar to Elvis who joined the Hawks thinking he was doing good, esp. that he respected El Mago and considered him an idol. But everything changed when he discovered his leader's evil reality, at which he decided to change his life because it is never late to fix one's self!

Religion, Taboo Love, and Displacement - (January 14th 2022)

The Island of Missing Trees is a captivating novel narrated by a Ficus carica. It sheds light on the Cyprus war in 1974 that divided the island into a Northern Turkish and Southern Greek lands! By reading Elif Shafak's love story that ignited between the Greek Christian Kostas and the Turkish Muslim Defne, I traveled in time to another epoch. I lived the hurt that the soldiers, rebellions, politicians, and sometimes friends or neighbors inflicted on nature and islanders. I also sensed the bitter feelings that the homeless, immigrants, runaways, and displaced go through trying to forget the past, settle in a new place, and the difficulty to adapt to a different culture.

A few months before the war, Defne (18) and Kostas (17) used to meet at night in Nicosia's (capital of Cyprus) alleys and the Fig Tree Tavern, away from the preying eyes! This restaurant had a huge fig tree (bystander of untold stories) in its center and owned by gay sweethearts - Yusuf (Turkish) and Yiorgos (Greek). At that time, falling in love was wrong, and so the 2 couples were in danger since both relationships were taboos! After discovering Kostas' love affair, his mom decided sending him to live with her brother in London. She was afraid of losing him because she lost her eldest son in the war, and didn't know the whereabouts of the other! Kostas couldn't change his mom's mind nor find Defne to talk to her. So he left her a letter with Yusuf and Yiorgos expressing his sadness to leave her, and vowing his love and loyalty! Defne was shocked, hurt, angry, and miserable after reading the letter! What made it worse was discovering that she was pregnant! Hence, being alone and helpless and fearing her parents' response (considered dishonor), Defne tried to end the pregnancy but with no avail!

She visited then a British doctor - many Brits stayed in Cyprus after its independence in 1960. Dr. Robinson felt sorry for her. Yet following the new rules, he had to close his clinic! Their only choice therefore was conducting the abortion at the Fig Tree Tavern. Unfortunately, at the same time some rioters attacked and vandalized the place. So Yusuf and Yiorgos retaliated but were brutally hit and taken away! No one knew what happened to them until about 30 years later when workers' mistake broke a well's wall, uncovering 2 skeletons chained together! The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) with which Defne was working, confirmed their identity. The CMP also found a pocket watch with Y & Y carved on its cover, containing a line from Cavafy poem: 'ARRIVING THERE IS WHAT YOU ARE DESTINED FOR, BUT DO NOT HURRY THE JOURNEY AT ALL'. This was a Christmas gift from Yusuf to Yiorgus! Sadly, these inseparable lovers were separated to be buried in a Turkish and Greek cemetery, respectively!

Eventually, Defne told her parents that she was pregnant with Yusuf's baby, as she was terrified of saying it belonged to a Greek man! Her dad stopped talking to her, and her mom and sister (Mereym) were angry with her! She had the baby who was adopted by Dr. Robinson and his wife, and named Yusuf Yiorgos Robinson. Tragically, this beautiful baby died from malaria at about 18 months of age. Kostas on the other hand, kept sending Defne letters from London, which she didn't answer! He became a botanist, and flew to Nicosia in 2000s for work where he was able to locate Defne through a friend, David. While having dinner with David and another CMP worker, Defne got tipsy and told Kostas that he left her! He answered back that he didn't and that she was the one who didn't answer back his letters!

Surprisingly one morning, Defne visited Kostas! He told her about the effect of leaving both her and Cyprus on him. He stated that 'THE ONES WHO STAYED DEALT TWICE WITH THE WOUNDS AND THEN THE SCARS AND THAT MUST BE EXTREMELY PAINFUL. BUT FOR US … RUNAWAYS… WE NEVER HAVE A CHANCE TO HEAL, THE WOUNDS ALWAYS REMAIN OPEN'. Defne however talked about her lost baby! He was upset for not knowing, and felt sad for Defne who had to go through this agony alone, without him beside her! Then they visited the baby's grave, and walked around in the island until reaching an old castle, where he proposed using an ammonite fossil! Defne accepted and said that 'TRIBAL HATREDS DON'T DIE … THEY JUST ADD NEW LAYERS TO HARDENED SHELLS' - mimicking the fossil! Afterwards, Defne told her parents the truth about her lost baby and her decision to marry Kostas, and left to London with him! At this point, they disowned her, and Meryem was forced to promise not to talk or visit her sister ever as long as her parents were alive!

Before leaving, Kostas took a cut from the Tavern's fig tree! They settled in London, planted the fig cut, and had a baby girl, Ada. Defne started drawing, and joined the CMP in London visiting its Cypriots! Nevertheless, this job caused her to go back to drinking and fall into depression, due to her inability to get over the scars of the past or detach from the island. Kostas tried to help her except that she kept shutting him off until passing away, probably by an overdose of antidepressants while Kostas was on a work trip out of the country in 2010s! This devastated the teenage Ada, who didn’t talk much to her dad, and he didn't know how to reach her. He had difficulties in breaking through someone! Ada even refused to discuss with him what happened at school - she screamed in the middle of history class! This shuttered Ada particularly that the students mocked her and her friends avoided her! On top of this, one of her classmates posted a video of this incident on YouTube! Despite receiving a huge amount of bullying comments on her video, she got supportive comments and videos entitled 'can you hear me now' where people recorded themselves screaming! This movement reflected the absence of people who listen to or understand us that may result in closing oneself off, resembling what happened to Kostas in 1974. He became an introvert after feeling that people including his mom were not accepting his opinions about sensitive topics such as religion, gay people, or cooking songbirds. This was the moment he became interested in animals and plants, esp. that some kids bullied him calling him a weirdo. But I think that some introverts turn into extroverts when being in the right company!

During winter break and before Hera storm, Kostas buried the fig tree to protect it from the blizzard! Concurrently, Meryem paid them a visit. Ada didn't accept her aunt, telling her that she couldn't welcome anyone who were absent for the past 15 years and didn't even attend her sister's funeral! Meryem understood her feelings, and spent a few days with them cooking delicious Turkish food. She also told Ada some stories about Defne, her relationship with her dad, and about Cyprus. Ada was eager to know everything, in contrary to her father who didn't like talking about the past esp. that Defne made him promise not to tell Ada anything about Cyprus! In the end, Ada accepted Meryem who returned to Nicosia; Ada's relationship with her dad became better and her first day of the spring semester went well; and Kostas unearthed his fig tree!

Turkey invaded Cyprus on 20 July 1974, after the Cypriot coup d'état on 15 July 1974 and the collapse of the Greek military junta that was replaced by a civilian government. The Turkish army took over the northern part of the island followed by declaring ceasefire, and placement of a UN peacekeeping army on the line portioning the island. This resulted in the death of over 500 Cypriots and displacement of almost 50,000 Turkish Cypriots and 200,000 Greek Cypriots, similar to what happened in India and Korea! Some of the victims were like Kostas' deaf grandpa, who was shot due to not hearing the police's commands to stop while walking past curfew time! These islanders were forced to leave their homes, and move from south to north and vice versa thinking that they would go back after this misery! Kostas' mom for instance left her house, belongings, memories, and trees (esp. the carob tree that she used to make carob juice and sell it to restaurants) dreaming of the return day! Partitioning Cyprus is reflected in the motto of a Lebanese writer (cannot remember his name and exact words), from the moment a person is born, he is given a name, religion, and nationality that he has to defend until he dies!

This novel beautifully stressed on the stupidity of wars, which are ignited for irrational reasons, and ONLY result in the destruction of our universe - its human, animals, and tees. This is portrayed in David's response to Kostas' question about the religion of the remains of some islander: 'WHEN YOU HOLD A SKULL IN YOUR HANDS, CAN YOU TELL IF IT'S CHRISTIAN OR MUSLIM? ALL THAT BLOODSHED, FOR WHAT? STUPID, STUPID WARS.' The author also underlined other atrocities imposed onto humanity by corrupted leaders namely, the mass graves beneath Pinochet Lake in Chile and Aranda de Duero in Spain!

In addition to Cyprus war, this book took me onto a historical journey in Cyprus, describing the diverse ethnicities that invaded it and the kind of trees and animals that lived in it. Yet this partition endangered the island's ecosystem by killing birds, cutting trees, and planting seedlings that were not naturally present in Cyprus! This novel also touched on numerous vital topics in particular climate change that is damaging our universe; the side effects of asbestos on miners and their spouses who died from lung cancer (depicted in what happened to Kostas' mom and dad); the people who leave their homeland desiring to live their life on their own terms without being judged for their choices, religion, beliefs, opinions, behaviors, dressing- or life-style like Defne; and cherishing places. I can understand Kostas' attachment to the Fig Tree Tavern as I love Mozart's café in Austin Tx. It is where I used to de-stress from grad school by reading while having coffee or ice cream, which I visit every time I am in ATX!

Finally and like always, Shafak highlighted some feminine topics including the different lifestyles of teenage girls based on their culture and location (e.g.; marrying and having children by reaching 12-18 instead of enjoying their teens), and gender norms (how a girl should behave, talk, dress, and sit - described 'ayip' in Turkish resonating with 'ayeb' in Arabic). However, no one tells a boy how he should behave - sitting with legs wide apart (V-shaped) is improper because it invades others' space! In fact, Ada commented on Meryem's such beliefs that '… I THINK YOU'VE EXPECTING TOO MUCH FROM WOMEN. YOU WANT THEM TO SACRIFICE THEMSELVES FOR THE HAPPINESS OF OTHERS, TRY TO ACCOMMODATE EVERYONE, AND CONFORM TO BEAUTY STANDARDS THAT AREN'T BASED IN REALITY. THAT'S UNFAIR.'