Monday, October 16, 2017

Blood Brothers: A Review and Audio CD giveaway

The forward of Blood Brothers makes clear Elias Chacour’s purpose in telling his personal story to author David Hazard: he wanted to show an unappreciated side of the Arab-Israeli conflict. First published in 1984, Chacour’s dedication to portray both Palestinian and Jewish prejudices is evident throughout the biography. Another theme is Chacour’s question, “What does it mean to love our enemies and be a peacemaker?” (Note: I listened to this book courtesy of Tantor Media. As a result, quotes might not be exact.)

Beginning with his childhood in the hills of Galilee, Chacour’s faith and life’s work is grounded in his mother’s Bible stories and his father’s recounting the history of the Melkite church. Chacour pictured Jesus walking and working in the hills of Galilee—perhaps even in his own village of Bir’im since after all, the Mount of Beatitudes, was close to their home. He was attracted to Jesus’ fiery nature and the way in which He helped the poor. His father taught him two things: “We should love and respect our Galilean soil. Second, our lives are bonded together with the Jews--our blood brothers from Father Abraham.”
Mount of Beatitudes as
seen from Capernaum.
Even when the Zionist soldiers invaded and took their village, Chacour’s father said, “We do not use violence, even if someone hurts us… The Jews have been hurt by being exiled. They have lived in poverty and fear. They’re afraid. They’re weak because they’ve lost peace within.” Chacour was 8 in 1947 when Palestine was portioned and the armed Zionist solders frightened him. One million Palestinians who had lived there since Christ became refugees and targets of “purification.”  In a moment of painful irony, three years after they were expelled from their village they were hired back to care for their own, beloved olive trees. The army, the Haganah, not the government, ruled Israel. 
By Fred Csasznik - Benny Morris, "Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem." ISBN 0 521 33028 9. 1987., Public Domain,

After the Zionists bombed their village, Chacour was sent away to schools in Haifa and Nazareth. He felt a growing hopelessness and questioned his faith. How could there be peace like Jesus talked about in the Beatitudes? Eventually he was sent to a seminary in Paris to study for the priesthood. In explaining himself to others he attempted to counter public opinion. “We were not terrorists, we were terrorized.” During a visit to Germany he realized the similarity between Hitler’s persecution of the Jews and the persecution against his own people. He hurt for the Jewish people and recognized their need for a homeland but wondered why the persecuted had become persecutors. As he studied the roots of Zionism, he uncovered the political maneuverings behind Israel becoming the Jewish homeland.

His search for a life ministry took Chacour to the small village of Ibillin. He realized that the community was divided between Christian and Arab and that the only answer was forgiveness. He thought about Jesus as the peacemaker and wondered how he could emulate Him. As his work to promote peace grew in notoriety, he was a frequent advocate for bridge building between different people groups. The community center he started in Ibillin grew into a K-12 school of 2,750 of Muslims, Christians, and Druze. Today, Chacour is retired under the charges of sexual harassment and mismanagement

Clearly narrated by Jonathan Davis, Blood Brothers--a book for adults and serious-minded teens--provides political and sociological insights into a country that has passed through many hands. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t provide the spiritual solution that is most necessary. 

As a Jewish Christian, I found his Palestinian perspective to be interesting. From childhood, I was taught that Israel was the Promised Land that belonged to the Jews and had never seen Zionism from another angle. Hearing about how Arabs were forced out of their homeland was an eye-opener. Although I applaud Chacour’s wok to build bridges and seek forgiveness between people groups, I found that his work stopped short of the greatest need—forgiveness of sin with God. 

Chacour often quoted Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt 4:9). But he never mentioned what else Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 4:4) Most Biblical scholars agree: Jesus was teaching about our need to mourn our sin. Although Chacour said we must “remember the gospel of Christ” he never once mentioned that the gospel can be summarized with, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Romans 10: 9, Acts 16:31).

Chacour said he was looking for peace. I’d submit that the only lasting, true peace comes when we find peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5: 1. 

I’m giving away my copy of this audio book. Please leave a comment by October 20 if you’d like to be included in the drawing. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Shared WIP Blog Tag- Part I

Congratulations to Linda Phillips who won the audio CD of "Indigo Girl" from last week's blog.

Recently I have met several young writers and bloggers.  One of them who goes by the pen name of Julian Daventry, asked for volunteers to be part of her Shared-WIP four-part tag. Each blogger answers four sets of ten questions that will be geared to four different aspects of their current WIP – the story itself, the characters, the storyworld, and general writing.  You'll find links to the other blogs at the bottom of this post; I hope you'll check them out.

My long time blog followers will know answers to some of the questions, but hang in there--there are some surprises too! 

What is the title, genre, and current status of your WIP?

Half-Truths is historical middle grade (after years of flip-flopping between YA and MG. Here's my post about this recent decision.). I just passed the mid-point of what I hope is the last draft--of at least ten (to be honest, I've lost track of how many times I started over!)
What makes your story unique?

Although there are other friendship books between a white girl and a black girl, no others take place in a southern city just before the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to integrate the schools. 
Titled "Isolation." 1960's, Michigan

Where did the title come from?

Generational secrets (i.e., half-truths) that influence the present fascinate me. 

Pictures like these from Pinterest inform my story.

How long have you been working on your WIP?

Ten years. (not counting a few years spent on a picture book and early chapter book that laid the ground work for Half-Truths. Yes, a picture book. Really.)

Some of the books I've read while researching and writing. 

What do you think people will enjoy most about your WIP?

I'm hoping they'll enjoy the girls' friendship and what Kate and Lillian learn from one another. I also hope they'll become more aware of their own half-truths (We all have them!).

Describe your WIP in ten short phrases.

Segregation; Charlotte, NC; civil rights; passing; family secrets; rambunctious goat; debutantes; journalism; unexpected friendship; Korean War. 

Provide a snippet (long or brief) of a favorite scene.

Dear Katie,
Sorry for not writing sooner. Lola Mae told me you were waiting on me to write.
Ever since Daddy folded the Shaw’s place into ours, we’ve had more tobacco to pick than you can shake a stick at. Them sorry coloreds were all standing around boo-hooing when the sheriff served them papers. Hey, it’s not our fault that they didn’t pay their taxes.
I put the letter down and stare out the window. Mr. Davis didn’t buy the Shaw’s property.
He stole it. 
My eyes blur as I continue reading. With all the cutting and drying we gotta do, I’d just as soon as not finish school. That would be fine by Daddy, but Mama won’t hear of it. I just got me a few more years ’til I’m sixteen. Then she can’t say nothin’ more about it. 
I really gotta run. Don’t worry about not being my dance partner no more. Ain’t nobody gonna ever shag like you, baby.
Baby? I crumple up Mack’s letter and throw it into the trashcan. What did I ever see in him? The big oaf!

It would serve him right if he flunks out of school.

What is the hardest thing to write with this story?  What is the easiest?

Hard: Getting the African American story right.
Easy: Writing off the page. (I write Kate's poems in long-hand first. These seem to come out easier.)

A line where the tension builds.

"My anger balloons bigger than my questions about the mysterious object. No one should be forced to dig up their ancestors."

Explain the plot in one line.

In 1952, fourteen-year-old Kate Dinsmore's world is shaken when she discovers that the Negro teenager working in her grandmother's house is her second cousin.

Please visit SarahIvieLisa, JulianJemFaithLila and Evangeline to see their answers to these questions. You'll be impressed with these young writers enthusiastic dedication to story creation!

Stay tuned for Part II in a few weeks.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Indigo Girl: An Audio CD Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Connie Saunders for winning REFUGEE. I haven't added it up, but I believe Connie gets the prize for winning the most books off my blog. Her secret? She always shares my posts on Twitter!

I love finding a book which make a setting so real to me that I look it up on a map. Couple that with a Southern young woman who impacted history and a book written with captivating, beautiful language, and I’m hooked. (Caveat: I listened to this as an audio book courtesy of Blackstone Audio so quotations might not be 100% accurate.)


INDIGO GIRL by Natasha Boyd is the story of 16-year-old Eliza Lucas, who lived outside of Charles Town (Charleston), SC in 1739. A British subject, she spent her formative years in Antigua where her father was governor. He moved his family to South Carolina only to decide that he needed to return to Antigua to ensure his political career. With her older brother studying in England, Eliza’s father turns over the responsibility of running the planation to Eliza. 

Eliza is smart, unconventional, and botanical. During a time when young women were groomed for marriage and nothing else, Eliza refuses to be boxed into conventional expectations. Despite her mother’s disapproval and the ridicule of her father’s overseer and neighboring planters, Eliza is determined to not allow her father’s debts to ruin their family.

As the manager of her father’s three tracts of land, Eliza is also in charge of their slaves. Eliza is predisposed not to treat them harshly but her understanding of their situation matures. Early in the book she thanks Quash, the black man who oversees the slaves. Then she thinks, “It's odd to be thanking someone who has no choice."

She dreams of being able to afford to pay her workers rather than be dependent on enslaved workers. This radical thought comes when a suitor confesses he wants to enslave Native Americans to work for him; she realizes he could never be her life companion. She feels small and powerless when her closest friend says Negroes are uneducated savages. 

Her best friend in Antigua was a Negro named Ben. She taught him how to read and he passed along a love for plants that he learned from his grandmother. When Eliza decides that the plantation needs a cash crop to keep the family afloat, she picks indigo, a plant she saw in Antigua. But growing, harvesting, and converting indigo into a dye is a complicated process that no other coastal South Carolina planter has had success with. Eliza’s first crops fail and she desperately needs help. She knows Ben has the expertise she needs, but how is she going to find him?

Her father sends her a man to help her and to her shock and surprise, the man brings Ben too. Now a grown man with the promise of freedom dangling over his head, Ben remains aloof from Eliza. She’s crushed, confused, and stuck between childhood and womanhood. She wants to run back to be a child with her best friend. But she can’t. He is an educated slave who longs to be free.

Ben challenges her in ways no one else can. “Why have you not taught your slaves to read and write?”  “Why do you want indigo?” She’s angered at the blurring between master and slave and then realizes that if her indigo is successful it will be because of Ben’s knowledge. She’ll get rich but he’ll get nothing—not even his longed for freedom. Along the way Eliza learns of The Negro Act but faced with Ben’s challenge, she decides to teach the slave children how to read the Bible—something even her mother can’t object to.

Eliza’s dilemmas drive the book. By managing her father’s estate, she is seen as not very marriage-able. Without a husband, she feels as if she is chattel like her slaves. She bemoans her rashness when she speaks her mind to men--like to her father’s employee who tells her she is too intelligent to be a woman. Yet her need to ensure the indigo’s success to secure her family’s financial future and be a source of revenue for her if she never marries--as well as the nation’s need for a stable export--propels her forward. 

A comprehensive author’s note shows the author’s inspiration for this well-researched book, including what was fact and what was fiction. Boyd’s desire to bring this forgotten pre-revolutionary figure to light is admirable and makes this a great book for both teens and adults. Beautifully narrated by Saskia Maaleveld, this audio book will captivate your imagination and keep you company for many hours. 


Leave me a comment by October 5 for a chance to win this audio book. Share this on social media or start following my blog and I'll put your name in twice--just make sure you tell me what you do or tag me. You can find me on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. PLEASE leave your email address if I don't have it!

Author Signing and Article

Celebrate Indigo Girl's book birthday tomorrow by meeting Natasha at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC on October 5. Check out Natasha's schedule for a signing near you--including Charlotte, Savannah, and Charleston.

And one last tidbit: Natasha writes about the compulsion she felt to write Indigo Girl here