Blindfold

I was taught that justice wears a blindfold, so as not to be able to distinguish between the colors, and thus make everyone equal in the eyes of the law. I propose we remove the blindfold from the eyes of Lady Justice, so for the first time she can really see what’s happening and check out where the truth lies and the lies hide. That would be a start.

Viva the children of all the colors! Punto!

- Piri Thomas

Radikal Readings: The Bad Girl

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I usually take a day or two to mull over a book to gather my thoughts and opinions once I’m finished with it. However, with The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa, I did most of that while reading it, and I found myself wanting to blurt all my thoughts out before they left me. The reason for that has to do with the fact that this is one of the most confounding books I’ve read in quite a while. I found myself going back and forth whether I liked it or not, and my viewpoints of the characters were constantly changing as well.

The story revolves around Ricardo Somocurcio and the bad girl who he pursues and loves in intervals in politically charged places such as: Peru, Paris, London, Tokyo, and Madrid. I won’t go into more specifics of the plot because those are easily found as Vargas Llosa is a Nobel Prize winning author. Rather I’ll share my views.

The book is fascinating and disturbing, and there’s no denying it’s a page turner whether you agree with it’s premise or not. It challenges your views and thoughts. I found myself reading dozens of reviews when I was halfway through it because I wanted to hear other people’s opinions to compare how I was feeling about it. There were times I couldn’t wait to be done with it, but other times I was compelled to keep reading past the time I normally would.

Most of the time I hated both Ricardo and the bad girl, but never once did I feel empathy towards Ricardo. Like he laments himself, it’s his own fault for being hopelessly in “love” with the bad girl – though it’s more an obsession. And the bad girl while intriguing, is so utterly predictable. Her story line/background is unsurprising, and as horribly as she treats Ricardo, I understood her moves more than Ricardo’s (it almost pains me to write that with how awful she is, which makes the book more confounding). The graphic descriptions of their sexual relationship is also pointless and repetitive. In fact, much of the story is repetitive.

However, I did enjoy the ending, no matter how contrived, even though I could see it coming from a mile away. I also really appreciated the political aspects of each city, although they didn’t fit the narrative at all times. Llosa is a wonderful writer and his descriptions of cities are masterful, especially Miraflores (where he’s from), Paris (where he was an expatriate himself), and Madrid.

So in the end I’m still left confused. Did I like this book, or not? I still really can’t say. However, I’m sure from the write up it’s easy to tell that it got under my skin, and maybe that was really the point of it all along.

Song of the Day: Cloth

As much as I love Common, I’m quite surprised that I haven’t featured any of his music on here. It’s hard to choose from his array of tracks, because so many are so good. He’s one of those artists that I can listen to all day and not get bored of. Which is what brings me to today’s Song of the Day. I like to put my music on shuffle every once in a while to rediscover songs I haven’t listened to in a while. So when a Common track came on, I immediately went to my library and started listening to every track of his I own.

While there’s a lot of tracks I love (I Used to Love H.E.R. is one that comes to mind) I chose Cloth because there’s something so irresistible about the music and Common’s rhymes. From first listen you may not hear it but the song is about Common comparing his relationship with a woman he loves with cloth, and the age-old saying of being “cut from the same cloth.”

I’m so in love with this track that I can never just listen to it only one time. Every time I play it, I have to hit repeat. I hope you enjoy it too.

Radikal Readings: In the Time of the Butterflies

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In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is often used as reading material in schools, but I guess none of my teachers ever got that memo. Seeing as I didn’t get the chance to read it while in school, when I saw the best seller in a bookstore, I had to finally pick it up.

In the Time of the Butterflies is a fictionalized account of the now revered Mirabal sisters who lived under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The sisters became revolutionaries and joined the Movement of the Fourteenth of June political group who planned to overthrow the regime. The sisters were called Las Mariposas or the butterflies.

The book outlines how they are harassed, persecuted, and imprisoned while their family and friends suffer from retaliation by Trujillo’s secret police. It’s presented from the perspective of the only surviving sister, Dedé and from the three other sisters: Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa in different chapters alternating from present to past.

This book is right up my alley – a revolutionary, historical and political novel. I really appreciated  Alvarez’s writing style and her choice of alternating between different perspectives. While I was weary of this being a fictionalized account with Alvarez’s perception of what the sisters’ lives must have been like, the fact that she and her family fled the Trujillo regime when she was ten years old, just months before Las Mariposas were murdered adds authenticity. Her own father had also been a revolutionary and had to escape before being found out.

If you like historical/political fiction, I can’t recommend this book enough.

First book…

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“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Song of the Day: One Minute

I have a confession to make – when I was in my late teens, early twenties, I was totally obsessed with Jay Sean. Not the Jay Sean you’ve most likely heard of – the Cash Money Records guy with big muscles singing club/pop tracks. No, the Jay Sean I fell in love with was a skinny, spiky haired R&B crooner who beat boxed and sang songs that more resembled Musiq Soulchild than Jason Derulo.

That Jay Sean came from the British-Asian underground movement that encompassed names like Apache Indian, Panjabi MC and of course Rishi Rich, Juggy D, and Veronica – who made up the Rishi Rich Project. Rishi Rich in fact produced Jay’s first album and gave his music the Indian/Bhangra fusion touch Rich is so famous for.

It’s this Jay Sean that I interviewed and wrote about numerous times as a journalist and it’s this Jay Sean’s first album that I fell in love with. Me Against Myself was a amazing for a Fijian Indian girl living in the States. An Indian guy singing in English with the fusion of hip hop and Indian/Bhangra music, signed to a major UK record label. It may have been the norm for Indian kids in the UK, but in America, we had nothing like it. The Indian/English fusion was ground breaking and done in just the right way without sounding like a novelty.

Forgetting all that, the music was damn good. I don’t know how many times I blasted Dance With You featuring Juggy D in my car. The English/Punjabi track was so infectious. Not only that, it was such a quality album with Jay Sean battling his two personas at times – the rapper/beatboxer influenced by hip hop versus the R&B crooner. It was also completely honest and introspective with social commentary as well – all things that are missing in this new Jay Sean’s music.

For this song of the day I chose One Minute. For me, this track most encompasses the artist Jay Sean always said he was. An R&B singer inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Musiq Soulchild. One Minute is a smooth track about the ups and downs of love. I often caught myself grooving to the beat without even knowing it, and his voice sounds so silky.

So while I know artists have to change and evolve, this is the Jay Sean I loved, and it’s the one I hope he finds again now that he’s no longer selling his soul with Cash Money Records.

Who Taught You?

“Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much that you don’t want to be around each other?”

- Malcolm X