Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld

Stick and Stone is a delightful book about two characters who are lonely but who discover the benefit of reaching out. Stone is a "zero" and Stick, a "one". Then they meet Pinecone who begins to bully Stone. And that leads Stick to stand up to Pinecone. Suddenly Stone and Stick do not find themselves alone. Instead they both discover a new friend.But when Stick gets into trouble, can Stone return the favour.

Illustrator Tom Lichtenheld has created delightful, expressive pictures in Stick and Stone using pencil, pencil crayon and watercolor to accompany Ferry's simple story. The message is simple: friendship can be found in unexpected places. As Stone and Stick discover, some of the best adventures happen unexpectedly. This sweet picture book will appeal to parents, educators and librarians but most especially to readers of all ages.

Book Details:
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld
New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt    2015


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DVD: A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom is a film about the forbidden love and marriage between a black man, Seretse Khama and a white woman, Ruth Williams. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Seretse is heir to the kingship of Bechuanaland, a British protectorate in Africa.The film covers the period from 1947 to the late 1950's. Britain was broke after World War II, struggling to keep control of its vast number of "colonies" in Africa and elsewhere and the Cold War was just beginning.

The Bechuanaland Protectorate was established in 1885 by the United Kingdom to protect the area inhabited by the Tswana people from possible incursion by South Africans. The British intended to turn over administration of this area to either Rhodesia or South African but opposition to this by the Tswana people resulted in it remaining under British control until independence in 1966.

Seretse's grandfather, King Khama ruled Bechuanaland from 1975 until his death in 1923. Khama was an intelligent ruler who sought to protect his people's land. Bechuanaland was granted protection by Queen Victoria after King Khama visited Britain to obtain British help. Bechuanaland was threatened with incorporation into Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company. This would mean that Bechuanaland would be controlled by Rhodes, an avid supporter of colonization and who believed the blacks of Africa were a lesser race.

Khama's eldest son, Sekgoma II became the tribal chief in 1923 but only ruled for a year before he too died. The leadership of the tribe passed on to his infant son, Seretse, whose uncle Tshekedi became regent and who raised him. The movie picks up the story with Seretse, now a young man, studying in London. His life is filled with boxing at a club and attending jazz clubs where he dances.

Meanwhile Ruth Williams who has just broken up with her boyfriend is encouraged by her sister, Muriel to accompany her to the Missionary Society dance. At the dance Ruth overhears Seretse with friends discussing his views on imperialism and Africa. Seretse also notices Ruth and they eventually meet and dance. Muriel later informs Ruth that Seretse is from Bechuanaland and is studying law. This intrigues Ruth who looks up the country in an atlas.

The next day a parcel containing a jazz record arrives for Ruth from Seretse who also invites her to a dance. She accepts, they have a good time and learn more about each other. Seretse tells her that his country is one of the poorest in Africa and that they are under the special protection of Britain. At the end of the night, Ruth doesn't allow Seretse to accompany her all the way to her home because her father will not approve. At this point Seretse reveals to Ruth his heritage; that he is to be the future king of Bechuanaland and now that his studies are completed he must return home. Despite this Ruth and Seretse continue to see one another. Eventually Seretse asks Ruth to marry him and she immediately accepts.

Little do Seretse and Ruth realize the implications and the political fallout their marriage will create. Both Seretse's friends and Ruth's family are shocked. Seretse is advised to write his uncle which is he does, while Ruth tells her family and is told by her father that if she marries him, he will never see her again. This greatly upsets Seretse who offers her a chance to change her mind but Ruth is determined.

Unknown to Ruth and Seretse, his Uncle Tshekedi has unleashed a chain of events that leads to a visit by Sir Alistair Canning to Ruth's workplace. Sir Canning, who is the British government's representative in Southern Africa, tells Ruth that "Mr. Khama" is mistaken about marrying who he chooses and that their marriage will have serious repercussions for Bechuanaland's neighbors, particularly South Africa who is putting into practice apartheid.  Ruth doesn't know that apartheid means that "the black must lives separately from the white" but she refuses to back down. Even when she's told that the presidents of South Africa, South Africa West and Rhodesia are demanding that the marriage not take place.

Seretse learns from Sir Canning that it is his uncle who is behind the attempts to prevent his marriage. So Seretse and Ruth marry in a civil ceremony with a few friends and Ruth's sister present. Their marriage makes international news. Seretse and Ruth travel to Bechuanaland where Seretse plans to confront his uncle. What they don't know is that the battle to live their lives as they wish and for the future of Bechuanaland is just beginning.

Discussion

A United Kingdom, directed by Amma Asante, is a beautifully crafted film with stellar performances by David Oyelowo (Seretse) and Rosamund Pike (Ruth). A strong supporting cast of Jack Davenport (Sir Alistair Canning), Laura Carmichael ( Muriel) and Tom Felton (Rufus Lancaster) round out the film. A United Kingdom is based on the book, Colour Bar by Susan Williams which chronicles the love affair and marriage of two people determined to overcome the social conventions and racial prejudices of the post-war world. It was a time when the sun was setting on British colonialism but also when racial intolerance was about to enshrined in law with the enactment of apartheid in South Africa.

The film captures all the difficulties that Seretse and Ruth encountered; from opposition by their families,  interference by British politicians and Seretse's own uncle, racial abuse in the streets, to Seretse's banishment from Bechuanaland and attempts to wrest the kingship of his country from him. Ruth's father admonishes her for "choosing a life of insults and shame" and refuses to see her again after the marriage (although he does eventually reconcile with her), while Seretse's family see Ruth,as a white person synonymous with intolerance and racial prejudice. His family urge him to divorce her which Seretse courageously refuses to do. This sets up a dramatic conflict between Seretse and his beloved Uncle Tshekedi.  It is Seretse who urges his people to work for tolerance and equality, to rid themselves of the apartheid instituted in their own country with white only entrances and other discriminatory policies such as no alcohol served to blacks.

A United Kingdom explores the reasons why Britain, South Africa, and other African countries were against the marriage of a black man to a white woman. The South African government under Prime Minister Malan was in the process of enacting apartheid which called for the total separation of the white and black races. Seretse and Ruth's marriage was in direct opposition to the idea of apartheid.  Although there was support for Seretse from the British public and from some British politicians, the fact was that the United Kingdom could not afford to alienate South Africa which was threatening to leave. The British government was broke after World War II and desperately needed South Africa's gold. It also needed the country's uranium for its own nuclear arsenal as the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West was beginning to ramp up. These political reasons resulted in Britain acting in a shameful way, stripping the people of Bechuanaland of their rightful king.

The British colonial attitude which viewed the black people of Africa as inferior and in need of governing, is superbly portrayed by many characters including Jack Davenport's character, Sir Alistair Canning who tells Seretse after announcing his five year exile, that a tribal council will be set up so people "will have some sort of say in our running of your affairs."


Ruth and Seretse in real life with two of their children.

A United Kingdom is a must-see film for those interested in history, civil rights and the post-war period. Asante manages to balance the struggles of Ruth and Seretse with his portrayal of the beauty of Africa and its people, who value family and tradition and who want the right to govern themselves.

You can watch the movie trailer below:



Friday, August 25, 2017

Factory Girl by Josanne LaValley

Factory Girl brings to light the situation of the minority Uyghur Muslims in an area of northern China called Xinjiang. The Uyghurs have contested this area for centuries, having a history that dates back almost four thousand years. In 1940 the Soviet Union helped the Uyghurs create their own state called East Turkestan. But in 1949, East Turkestan became part of the People's Republic of China. Since that time the Uyghur's culture has been suppressed; their language has been repressed and replaced with Mandarin as a requirement for employment, certain Muslim names are banned. Another way has been to send young Uyghur girls away from their families to work in factories in Chinese cities. Away from their families, these girls are left vulnerable to human trafficking. The story in Factory Girl is fictional but based on personal accounts the author heard while traveling in Hotan, China.

On the last day of school,sixteen-year-old Roshen learns from her teacher that she will be sent to work in a factory in southern China. Roshen asks her teacher to have the local cadre delay his visit to her father until after the wedding of her friend Meryam. On the third day of Meryam's wedding, Roshen is one of four attendants taking her to the house of her new family. Roshen's sister Aygul teases her that she will be next but Roshen knows her future is clouded. She hasn't told her family yet about being sent away.

The next day Roshen is deeply distraught. She hopes to finish school and marry Ahmat. It is the day that Ahmat's mother is to visit Roshen's family, bringing a golden ring and to discuss her possible engagement to Ahmat. But Roshen tells her mother she must tell Ahmat's family today is not a good day to visit. Instead, her family receives the local government cadre and a Chinese man who is to be their new cadre. Although Roshen's father attempts to diplomatically refuse the "honor" of Roshen being chosen to work in a factory, the old cadre is insistent. Their new Chinese cadre tells Roshen's father that the only way she will be allowed to refuse is if he is willing to sell his land. At this Roshen agrees to go. Her father tries to comfort Roshen with the prospect that he might be able to bribe the Chinese cadre but Roshen warns him that they might lose everything.

In the end the bribe does not work and Roshen accepts her fate: she will be gone for a year. Ahmat warns Roshen to be careful, warning her to trust no one. He and Roshen work out a secret language so they can communicate over the internet. Roshen travels with her family to the bus yards at the edge of Hotan. She meets Ushi, the matron in charge of the girls who include those in traditional headscarves and three girls dressed in short skirts without scarves. The girls are crammed into a bus for their journey to the factory. They face a two or three day bus ride before they travel by train.

The nine girls wearing scarves introduce themselves; Roshen meets Zuwida a very young girl, Mikray, Gulnar who likes to embroider, Jemile also very young, Adile, sisters Patime and Letipe and Nurbiya. The three scarfless girl are Hawa, Rayida and Nadia.The group is almost killed in an accident when the bus blows a tire. They travel to Cherchen where they spend the night in a seedy motel.  This is followed by a harrowing drive over the mountains, a trip past an open asbestos mine,  and a lengthy train trip. During the train ride, Zuwida becomes ill, running a fever and feeling nauseous. the Chinese women on the train help Zuwida by making her tea. The girls arrive in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province where they are taken to the Hubei Work Wear Company which is run by the main boss, Mr. Lee.

At the factory, the are taken to dingy rooms with three bunk beds which consist of a slab of plywood. They are told they must speak Mandarin and if caught speaking Uyghur they will be given points that deduct their pay. They are also not allowed to wear their head scarves at any time in the factory.  The room where they will work is huge,  windowless and therefore very stuffy. Cutting, sewing and finishing are the main jobs where coveralls and other clothing are made. Zuwida who is still very ill is made to lie down and when Rosen and the other girls return from their tour of the factory they find she has a pillow, thin mattress.

Roshen is assigned to the cutting section along with Nadia and Jemile. The work is terribly hard, the hours long and the food meagre. Roshen and her friends face an increasingly difficult time, as they are not paid, work double shifts and are abused by the bosses. It eventually becomes apparent to Roshen that the hash working conditions are the least of her problems as she struggles to preserve herself and the other Uyghur girls from a terrible fate.

Discussion

Factory Girl is an eye-opening novel about the abusive conditions the minority Uyghurs face in China. While most people are now aware of the dreadful working conditions in factories in China, India and other Asian countries, it's doubtful many know about the situation of the Muslim Uyghur minority in China. Their struggle to keep their traditional lands and resist the Chinese government's systematic attempt to assimilate the community into Chinese society, destroying their unique culture are not well known. Factory Girl exposes both in this gritty story about a Uyghur girl's struggle to remain true to her culture and beliefs while trying to survive as a virtual slave in a Chinese factory.

LaValley vividly chronicles a litany of abuses the minority Uyghur girls experience; long work hours, little or no pay, skipped meals and bathroom breaks, poor food, beatings, surveillance cameras, and the rape and sex trafficking of girls. It is the latter that Roshen is faced with when she is caught speaking English to two Australian business men who tour the factory. Her punishment is to be offered to one of the Australian men in an attempt to secure a business deal. With the help of another Uyghur girl, Roshen escapes this fate. Not so lucky is the girl who helped her, Hawa who has been made into a prostitute. Her purity ruined, Hawa has lost everything and feels she cannot return home.

LaValley has crafted a resilient, courageous character in Roshen who is determined to stay true to her beliefs despite the degrading conditions and the intense efforts to destroy her body and soul. In fact, Roshen is so determined that she decides to starve herself instead of being forced into prostitution for Mr. Lee. In this way, LaValley shows how desperate the situation can become for some Uyghur girls.

Roshen and Ahmat's quiet love for one another contrasts with the harsh reality of their lives and adds a sweetness to the story. It is her love for Ahmat that partly motivates Roshen to resist further attempts to degrade her. She understands her experience in the Wubei factory will forever change her but Roshen refuses to allow the changes to be so drastic that like Hawa, she will feel like she can never return home.

Josanne LaValley has traveled to northwest China, to East Turkestan which is now known as Xinjiiang. This area was once populated by mostly Muslim Uyghurs but is now predominantly Han Chinese. The Uyghurs live next to the nearby Taklamakan Desert, outside the city of Hotan. They are very different in the culture, language and appearance from the Chinese people. In this regard they are more similar to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Village life is simple and pastoral where they weave silk rugs, carve wooden bowls, sell farm produce and raise chickens and sheep. Her experiences there moved her to give voice to the situation of the Uyghur people through her writing. My only suggestion is that readers would have greatly benefited from a map showing the location of East Turkestan in relation to the rest of China and a second map tracing in a general way, Roshen’s journey to the factory.

Those interested can learn more about this topic from the following resources:

Globe and Mail article titled "Blame China For The Tragic Uyghur Situation." 

The Radio Free Asia website has much information on recent events in East Turkestan.

Book Details:

Factory Girls by Josanne LaValley
New York: Clarion Books          2017
265 pp.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Women In Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science presents the stories of fifty remarkable women who pushed back against the social conventions and attitudes that limited their participation in science, to achieve their dream. In the past, women faced many restrictions in obtaining a higher education, often refused entry into most scientific disciplines and were usually not allowed to present their research at conventions or publish their work in scientific journals. But where there is a will, there is a way. Despite overwhelming odds and little recognition, many women achieved their dreams and made remarkable contributions that helped improve the lives of people.

Ignotofsky's Women In Science presents some of these women, many of whom will not be known to younger or older readers. Among those profiled are the well known:
  • Kathryn Johnson, physicist and mathematician whose story was told in the recent film, Hidden Figures.
  • Barbara McClintock, ctyogeneticist who discovered that genes could "jump".
  • Rosalind Franklin, chemist and x-ray crystallographer who discovered the shape of DNA.
  • Marie Curie, chemist and physicist who (along with her husband Pierre) discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium and who also discovered radiation.
  • Rachel Carson, marine biologist and conservationist, who wrote Silent Spring and was the impetus for the banning of the pesticide DDT.
  • Ada Lovelace,a mathematician wrote the first recognized computer program
  • Elizabeth Blackwell, became the first woman doctor in America.
The profiles are listed chronologically, based on each woman's birthdate, beginning with Hypatia, a Greek astronomer. Each profile consists of two pages; one page containing a short bio, the other a detailed illustration of the woman scientist done in Ignotofsky's unique style. Ignotofsky's artwork in Women In Science is a testament to her "passion for taking dense information and making it fun and accessible." Ignotofsky who is an honors graduate of the Tyler School of Art's graphic design program believes "that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting." Readers will find that the author-illustrator has made each of the fifty biographies fascinating reading and an inspiration to young women, especially those who are interested in science. Rachel Ignotofsky's website,  provides more information about her work.

At the back of the book there's a detailed section outlining sources including films, websites and books, as well as an index.Women In Science is a must-read for any girl interested in science because it will give her a sense of history, the struggle women before her faced and the courage to follow her dreams, should that dream be to become a scientist.

Book Details:

Women In Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky
Berkeley, California:  Ten Speed Press       2016
127 pp.




Saturday, August 19, 2017

This Impossible Light by Lily Myers

This Impossible Light by slam poetry sensation Lily Myers tackles a slew of issues centered on body image, divorce and loneliness.

Fifteen-year-old Ivy Lewis's world is torn apart when her father leaves her mother. She doesn't know if her father left or her mother made him leave. All she knows is that one Sunday in June they decided things were not working. The novel begins three months after Ivy's father has left and Ivy and her mother are like "planets in constant orbit", never really connecting on any level. Her father moved to a modern condo downtown which Ivy has visited twice, the second time finding a photo of his new girlfriend. Since then, Ivy has not returned, instead meeting him for pizza or seeing a movie together with her brother Sky.

Ivy's mother is unable to cope with the divorce. After her father left, Ivy's mother has pulled away, often drinking or staying in her bedroom. Meanwhile Sky has left home to attend cooking school, leaving Ivy alone with her mother and their empty, silent home. Ivy hopes the beginning of the school year will be her salvation. She's going into grade 10 and loves school because it organizes her day, she can reconnect with her best friend Anna and she starts calculus.Ivy loves math with its unchanging numbers and equations with a solution.
"Numbers never decide one day
they are
         just not working...

Numbers keep their promises."

It's at this time that Ivy notices changes in her body; she's bigger, has breasts, her hips are fuller and she's taller. In contrast, Ivy's mother is bony and fragile. Ivy notes that she's grown two inches over the summer. Ivy doesn't want to be six feet tall like her brother and father. She wants to be small and compact so she can be "curled up, safe."

Ivy's plan is to go to a top school to study organic chemistry and advanced calculus and become an engineer. She refers to herself as Smart Girl who makes responsible choices. At school Ivy meets her best friend Anna who's been away all summer in France, living with her mother and taking French. Ivy and Anna's reunion does not go as Ivy anticipated. Instead she finds Anna has a new friend, Raquel whom she met in France. While Anna and Raquel share stories about their time in France, Ivy feels left out. In calculus class, Ivy, the only sophomore in the junior class meets their new teacher, Ms. Fulton.

As the school days pass, Ivy finds herself reminiscing about how her mother and father were before they split up and how good her family life was. Ignored by her mother who is struggling to cope with the breakup of her marriage and her friend Anna, Ivy turns inward focusing on her body. A sleepover with Anna reinforces how much they've grown apart. While Ivy still loves Wicked, Anna has moved on to boys, smoking and drinking. After the sleepover Anna goes home to an empty house and ends up biking so she can't think about what's happened to her family and to her and Anna. When she returns, Ivy orders a pizza and eats all of it. Disgusted with herself, she goes into the bathroom and makes herself vomit it up.

School continues to go well for Ivy as she does the extra math problems Ms. Fulton assigns. Ms. Fulton recognizing Ivy's ability, offers her a chance to apply to the statewide mathematics competition. Ivy is ecstatic because she feels this is the first step in her plan to get away from home. She researches top engineering programs and begins planning how "Smart Girl" can get out like her brother Sky did.

But when her friendship with Anna falls apart and her mother slips deeper into depression, Ivy feels her life slipping out of control. Critical of her changing body she begins exercising and restricting her food intake. At first Ivy finds she can keep up her school work, but soon restricting, purging and counting calories consumes her life. It isn't until a serious accident forces Ivy to face her problems that Ivy begins to accept herself and her life.

Discussion

This Impossible Light tells the story of a young girl whose world falls apart after her parents break-up and her journey towards healing and learning to live again. Myers has used free verse to tell Ivy's story, breaking her poetry into five sections titled Unknown Variables, Compression, Limits, Discontinuous Function and Exponential Growth. Each title is a math term, reflective of Ivy's love of mathematics but is also representative of Ivy's life. For example in Unknown Variables her life is changing rapidly; her parents' marriage breaks up and her friend Anna returns from France a very different person. In Limits, Ivy's body finally reaches its limit when she passes out on her bike and crashes.

The first set of poems in This Impossible Light are truly heartbreaking as they chronicle the break-up of Ivy's family when her father leaves and the effect her parents divorce has on her. The loss of her father affects Ivy deeply. She describes her
"Dad making soup on Sunday afternoons
in a huge pot on the stove
belting jazz standards as he stirred."


Her parents separating destroys the family life Ivy loved so much and in several poems Ivy reminisces.
"All of us driving every summer
to the Oregon Coast...

All of us around the coffee table
playing charades.
Me, seven or eight,
running excitedly around the living room."

Post-breakup, Ivy has to deal with her father having a new girlfriend who is described as "redheaded, round-faced, smiling." In the poem "A Few Weeks", Ivy confronts her father, refusing to accept his attempted "explanation" of why he had to leave.

After setting the back story to Ivy's life as it is now, Myers chronicles her spiral into a serious eating disorder and the beginnings of her recovery. When her relationship with her parents breaks down and her friendship with Anna collapses, Ivy turns inward in an attempt to control her life.  At first Ivy identifies herself as a "Smart Girl", someone with goals and high expectations who plans to be an engineer. As a "Smart Girl" she doesn't smoke, flunk a test on purpose, or "stay up all night eating cereal and ice cream." She makes responsible choices like going to bed early, getting A's and exercising. But Ivy wishes that sometimes she could do some of those things. In the poem, "It's Not", Ivy states that this is how she "understands" she's supposed to be because she's always been told she's smart.
"When you're told enough times
the way that you are
it doesn't seem like
you're allowed to be
anything
else."

But soon she becomes critical of herself, noticing that her body has changed; she is getting taller and bigger. Ivy doesn't want to do this, instead she wants to be small and compact - "able to curl up into small shapes like I used to." Myer draws in several of the typical social influences that girls like Ivy are exposed to today; teen girls focused on their bodies (Anna hates how her legs are muscular from soccer), the emphasis on looking beautiful, and the effect of ads for diet pills. Girls who wear perfectly fitting jeans and no frizz hair are seen to be in control. In the poem "When I Pass", Ivy states,
"The skinny bodies say: Keep going, you're almost there.
The round bodies say: This is what happens when you lose control."
It's no wonder Ivy comes to believe she is not good, responsible, careful, strong or healthy."

When Ivy is confronted by the doctor after her accident about her eating habits she struggles to understand that what she's been doing is wrong because she was trying to be good. Wasn't she merely doing what everyone else seems to be doing? Fortunately for Ivy, she is able to tell her mother, who suddenly becomes attentive to her needs, about what has been going on inside her. Ivy's openness about her eating disorder is unusual as most teens with eating disorders take some time to admit they have a problem and to actually own their illness. Ivy is helped by her mother's admission about her own struggle with anorexia and how these thoughts might always be with her. Her mother encourages Ivy to seek help, because "this isn't something you can control on your own."

Although Ivy's swift recovery is a bit misleading, Myers does a good job of showcasing some of the characteristics of eating disorders and how adults can help. In the poems involving Ivy's therapist, Dr. Clarke, "Mom's Words" and "You Know" identify control as a major component of eating disorders.  Dr. Clarke gives Ivy permission to grieve over the loss of her parents, validating her pain. With the support of her mother and her specialists, Ivy begins her path to recovery. Acknowledging her pain over the divorce also leads her to talk to Anna and restart their friendship.

This Impossible Light is a brutally honest portrayal of the effects of divorce on children (and those left behind), and how one girl took her pain out on her own body. Myers, who is a self-described writer, feminist and witch, has given voice to two very important issues many teens have to confront in our post-modern world.

Book Details:

This Impossible Light by Lily Myers
New York: Philomel Books        2017
339 pp.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase Ambrose, star of the football team was the most feared kid at Hiawasse Middle School. Chase along with his buddies Aaron Haikiman and Bear Bratsky terrorized just about everyone in the school and in their town. Their prime target was Joel Weber, a gifted pianist.

 But Chase's life changes drastically when he falls off the roof of his house. The fall results in a separated shoulder,  a severe concussion and acute-retrograde amnesia.  He doesn't remember his mother or father or his older brother Johnny who's a college student home for the summer.  and even can't quite remember his name. The only memory he has is of a little girl.

Chase who's also star of the Hiawasse football team is told by Dr. Cooperman that he is out for the year. When Chase returns home, he meets his father's new wife Corinne and his four-year-old half sister Helene, both of whom seem wary of him. "They look at me like I'm a time bomb about to go off in their faces. What did I ever do to them?" This is Chase's first hint that he's not been a very nice person.

Chase's mother doesn't fill him in on his life before his accident. At school Chase is accosted by Aaron and Bear who are eager for him to return to the football team. Chase also meets with the school principal, Dr. Fitzwallace who urges him to see this as a "chance to rebuild yourself from the ground up, to make a completely fresh start." Chase wonders "What was so wrong about the old me that now I have to be somebody else?" At lunch Brendan Espinoza is terrified when Chase sits down at his table. He is immediately bullied by Chase's friends who force Chase to sit with them.

More incidents reveal to Chase that he was just not well liked, but in fact most people were terrified of him. When he first meets his half sister Helene, she is completely terrified of Chase. At school when Chase tries to help a girl, she flees in terror. Students act odd, conversations end when he walks by and people turn away from him as he walks down the hall. From Aaron and Bear, Chase learns they are assigned community service at the Graybeard Motel on Portland Street, helping the elderly residents. They were arrested and assigned community service for planting several cherry bombs in the piano at open house. Aaron and Bear dismiss what happened, telling Chase they do what they want and the adults can't do much. Their conversation leaves Chase doubting his removal from the football team for the season. This leads Chase to confront his mother about not telling him he was assigned community service. When he tries to downplay what happened his mother's account of what happened at the school open house makes Chase feel ashamed.

Meanwhile Brendan Espinoza can't get anyone from the video club to help him make his video. Brendan is a nerd, honor roll student, president of the video club, and Academic Decathlon champ. With Joel Weber gone, Brendan is certain Chase and his friends will target him now. But Chase seems friendly and different. So when he sees Chase in the hallway, Brendan invites Chase to help him shoot his video. Brendan's video of him riding a tricycle through the Shiny Bumper car wash almost gets Chase in trouble again. But Brendan diffuses the situation and Chase acknowledges that it was Brendan's good reputation and not his bad one that saves him. Because they had so much fun together, Brendan invites Chase to join the video club. Shoshanna Weber and the other members of the club are horrified when they hear this. Shoshanna's brother Joel was the victim of Chase and his friends cherry bomb prank. It was the reason he has left Hiawassee to attend another school. But Brendan insists Chase is not the same person as he tells the group, "...He was helpful. He had good ideas. He was even nice. He's different."

Ms. DeLeo tells they club they must accept Chase. At the meeting, they discuss working on entries for the National Video Journalism Contest which will feature profiling a senior citizen. They are also working on producing a video yearbook which includes student interviews and information on school clubs and teams. Chase is assigned to cover the football team. Shoshanna refuses to believe that Chase is a different person. "No. Amnesia can wipe out the details of your past, but it can't change the kind of person you are. "

Chase decides to accompany Aaron and Bear to the Portland Street Assisted Living Residence where they  are assigned to take snacks to the residents. Chase watches as his two buddies eat most of the cookies  on the cart and refer to the residents in disrespectful ways. Chase is upset by how his friends behave and starts to really help, adjusting beds and helping find TV remotes.At the home Chase meets Julius Solway who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his service during the Korean War. Chase finds Julius to be a "cool" guy and begins to develop a relationship with him. His interest in  Julius's medal leads the elderly man to admit he can't find his medal. At a meeting of the video club, Chase suggests to Shoshanna that she video Mr. Solway for her entry in to the video contest.

Chase joins Shoshanna as she interviews Mr. Solway. As time passes, Chase finds himself struggling against being pulled back into his old bullying ways by Aaron and Bear. The choice to be a new person means gaining new friends and losing old ones. And it offers Chase the unexpected opportunity to confront and right a wrong that the old Chase did.

Discussion

Restart is a thoroughly enjoyable account of a thirteen-year-old boy who gets a chance to change his life as a result of an accident. Korman deftly weaves his story using multiple narrators; Chase Ambrose, Shoshanna Weber. Brendan Espinoza, Kimberly Tooley, Aaron Hakimian, and Joel Weber.  Chase's memory is wiped clean, offering him a second chance. The old Chase was a bully who terrorized Joel Weber so much that his family was forced to send him to another school after a terrible prank. That prank resulted in Chase and his friends Aaron and Bear being arrested and assigned community service. But even there Chase and his friends continued their bad behaviour, treating the residents disrespectfully with Chase stealing Mr. Solway's medal. Besides Chase's story, Korman also includes a subplot involving Brendan Espinoza who attempts to attract the interest of Kimberly Tooley who only has eyes for Chase.

following his accident, everything the new Chase uncovers about the old Chase is unsettling. He remembers how he gleefully ripped the head off of his half-sister Helene's teddy bear and when his brother Johnny left for college, Chase remembers the scorn he felt for his brother who's terrified and his mother who is sad. He learns that he seriously hurt Brendan by pushing his head into a drinking fountain, causing him to need three stitches. His friends Aaron and Bear tell Chase that he was the one who chose Joel to bully.

The new Chase is completely different, friendly, kind and helpful. He enjoys his visits to the assisted living center. "But I find the residents kind of interesting. They remember stuff in real life that you can only read about in history books." He is horrified when Bear takes twenty dollars from Mrs. Swanson who "isn't all there" and when Bear refuses to return the money, Chase uses his own money. He helps Shoshanna complete her video project for the competition partly out of interest and partly to repay what he did to her family and he apologizes to both the Weber family and to Brendan.

Chase's transformation from bully to good guy isn't without mistakes. Korman presents his journey as a process that Chase undertakes and that involves conflict and some mistakes. Chase experiences conflict over who he was then and who he is now. He wants to believe there was some good in him. Chase has flashbacks of what he describes as his "wonderful toughness -- punching and shoving kids, kicking their heels out from under them in the halls," Chase also remembers "feeling important and confident and powerful. Maybe some of that came from what a jerk I was, but surely not all of it...I was a somebody in this town." Chase makes mistakes as when he accidentally hurts Joel while trying to stop Aaron and Bear as they vandalize the music room,  and he lies to the principal about what happened, backing up his friends' lie. But he also looks outside of himself to see how what has happened affects those around him, his friends, the teachers and the principal.

Eventually Chase has to choose what he's going to be - the bully or the nice guy, and who he wants as his friends. After the incident with Joel, Chase realizes that he'd rather have the new Chase's life rather than his old one back. This is shown when Aaron and Bear reveal to Chase that he was the one who stole Mr. Solway's medal.  "As I run, hot tears of shame are streaming down my face. Since my accident, I've heard a lot about the person I used to be. Never did I imagine this." His shame and desire to do the right thing overcome the threats of his friends and Chase tries to return the medal. When his attempt results in a brawl, he comes clean, accepting sole responsibility for the theft. Although the consequences maybe be severe, Chase doesn't want to go back to being the person he was before the accident. His father recognizes his attempts to be a better person. "...It takes strength to eat the blame and not rat out Aaron and Bear, especially when they more than deserve it. Or to try to make things right with Solway or even the Weber kid, whether they appreciate it or not. You're strong, all right. And stupid. But everybody has stupid moments. The trick is not to let a few bad moments cost you the game."

Chase recognizes how angry and self-absorbed he was prior to his accident, in contrast to the shame and disgust he now feels. "Back then I had such a high opinion of the great Chase Ambrose that I considered myself untouchable. Now it's the opposite. I hate myself so much that there's no way any judge could hate me more." But Chase is in for a surprise from the very people he spent years tormenting, demonstrating the importance of forgiveness and the need to recognize that people can change.

Mr. Solway, the crotchety resident of the nursing home is a mirror character to Chase. He is disliked by almost everyone there; he's rude and mean. He has his own table in the dining room and his nickname is Mr. Happy Face. He is like Chase before his head injury.  Chase thinks Mr. Solway is the coolest person he's ever met. They are "memory-loss buddies" and this leads Chase to wonder "if I blocked out what a jerk I used to be because I can't face it." As the two become good friends, Mr. Solway undergoes a remarkable transformation, moving about again and showing an interest in life and even making the difficult journey in to the court to speak up for Chase. Like Chase, he's become less self-absorbed and focuses on doing what's right.

Restart is classic Gordon Korman, with a likeable main character and a great cast of supporting characters, particularly the witty Shoshanna Weber and the nerdy Brendan Espinoza. The novel has a strong plot that's well executed with a dash of Korman humour. The novel is chock full of themes; forgiveness, redemption, the meaning of friendship, identity and how change is possible. This reader would have preferred that the story be set in high school and the characters a bit older. Overall, Restart is a spectacular novel and highly recommended. It's nice to see good, solid fiction for younger readers and one that will especially appeal to boys.

Book Details:

Restart by Gordon Korman
New York: Scholastic Press    2017
243 pp.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Flame In the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

"Words are foolish. Promises are useless. Anyone can say anything to get what it is they desire. Believe in actions and actions alone."

Seventeen-year-old Mariko is on her way to the imperial city of Inako. She is travelling to Heian Castle to meet the emperor and his second son, Raiden, her future husband.Mariko is being traded like property to "elevate her father's standing amongst the ruling daimyo class." Mariko has been raised for one purpose - the marry an important man.

As her convoy approaches the Jukai forest, it stops and Mariko is told by Nobutada, her father's most trusted samurai, that the soldiers are reluctant to travel through the forest. Nobutada, not wishing to anger the emperor, decides they will pass through the forest despite the worry that the Black Clan has been seen nearby recently.

However Mariko's convoy is attacked and all the samurai are massacred. Trapped in her litter, her dead maidservant Chiyo on top of her, Mariko overhears the members of the Black Clan arguing about whether she is dead or not. To ensure her death, the Black Clan set fire to the wreckage of the litter. Terrified, Mariko decides to face the enemy and escape from the burning litter. But the Black Clan flee in the face of an attack by the wild beasts of the forest unaware that Mariko has survived.  Mariko escapes being burned alive only to find herself captive of a dirty man who plans to take her to them. However Mariko outwits the man and kills him in self-defense. She steals his filthy clothing, shears off her hair so she can pass herself off as a boy.

Mariko wants to know who wants her dead and why. She also worries her reputation will be sullied if it is discovered she has been lost in the forest with murderers and thieves. After five days of creeping through the forest, Mariko learns the location of the favourite watering hole of the Black Clan. But her encounter with them goes a much different way than expected. When the Black Clan arrives, they are confronted by a giant who agrees to fight the clan's best fighter. Mariko learns that their leader is Takeda Ranmaru, who she remembers is the son of a dishonoured samurai. The clan's best fighter is a tall, lean boy with a scar across his mouth whose name is Okami. When the giant and his men cheat, Mariko warns the Black Clan, saving their leader. After the fight Mariko is taken captive by the clan and taken to their camp deep in the forest. The members of the Black Clan do not know her identity or that she is a seventeen year old girl. But Mariko is determined to learn as much about them as possible and why they wanted to kill her. Then she plans to exact her revenge.

Meanwhile Mariko's brother, Kenshin, known as the Dragon of Kai, leads a group of samurai in the hunt for his sister. They come upon the burned norimono and the bodies of fifteen samurai in the forest. But Kenshin's keen eyes discover that his sister survived the attack and fled into the forest. He also discovers that she killed a man and is now passing herself off as a boy. With this knowledge he returns home and decides to journey to the imperial city of Inako to discover what the emperor's family knows about Mariko's disappearance. But Kenshin, the famed Dragon of Kai makes an astonishing discovery that changes everything.

In the city of Inako, His Imperial Majesty Minamoto Masaru, sovereign of the Empire of Wa, walks through the gardens reminiscing on his childhood friends whom he had to execute in order to consolidate his reign. The death of two friends, Asano Naganori who loved justice and Takeda Shingen who favoured honor weigh on his mind.  His second son, the crown prince of Wa, Minamoto Roku will rule after him; his first son Raiden will not. His mistress, Kanako, the mother of Raiden arrives to tell Masaru that Hattori Mariko, daughter of Hattori Kano is two days overdue and there are rumours that her convoy was ambushed in the Jukai forest. She does not believe the girl has survived the attack.

As Mariko spends time with Black Clan she learns about herself and discovers all is not as it seems in her world. Little does she know that she will be forced to decide what she believes and where her loyalties lie.

Discussion

Flame in the Mist is an engaging historical adventure/fantasy set in feudal Japan which takes its inspiration from the Chinese folktale of Mulan, a famous woman warrior. The story weaves together two main threads and a lesser thread; Mariko with the Black Clan, Kenshin the Dragon of Kai in his search for his sister and events that occur in the Imperial Palace in Inako.

In Flame in the Mist, Hattori Mariko ends up in the Jukai forest with the Black Clan whom she believes has attempted to murder her. Her time with the Black Clan reveals that all is not as it seems and that Mariko's view of the world is naive. Flame in the Mist traces Mariko's evolution in her understanding of the world in which she lives.

When Mariko is first in the camp of the Black Clan she is determined "to know why the Black Clan had taken her to their camp. Who they were exactly. But most of all, she needed to discover why they'd been sent to kill her. And by whom." To accomplish this, Mariko decides to stop being difficult, to follow orders and to earn their trust. Once she has their trust she plans to exact her revenge. But this creates a conflict for Mariko who feels deceit is dishonorable. She wants to follow the way of bushido - code of samurai warriors. "A true warrior would face her enemies without flinching. Not slither about in the shade."

However as she spends time in the Black Clan camp, Mariko learns about the tragedy that has touched Ranmaru and Okami; that both were sons of honorable samurai who were betrayed by the emperor and then murdered to consolidate his reign. A series of experiences force Mariko's to face what is really happening in the world around her. The first of these occurs in the tea house in Hanami, where the maiko, an apprentice geiko, forces Mariko to consider how fortunate her situation has been.

The second event that really changes Mariko's thinking is the attack on her father's estate. After witnessing Okami give money to an elderly woman in Inako for poor children, Mariko suspects that the Black Clan take money from the wealthy to give to the poor. This is confirmed when the Black Clan decide to attack Mariko's family estate in retaliation for her brother's actions.

Just before the attack on Hattori Kano's granary, as Mariko and the Black Clan are riding through the fields, Mariko begins to really look at the people at work. She realizes she has no memories of the workers ever smiling in her father's fields. She watches a family share a meal even though there is not enough food for everyone. Mariko realizes she has seen only what she wants to see, despite priding herself "on being the girl who saw things no one else saw. Who noticed the world not as it was, but as it should be." Mariko remembers the smiles of her father's workers as "wan" and "aged" and that her father saw them as being ungrateful. She understands the Black Clan want to redistribute her family's wealth "back into the hands of those who worked the fields. Tilled the soil. Reaped the harvest." This new understanding creates immense conflict within Mariko; she loves Okami and the ideals of the Black Clan appeal to her, but the Black Clan is attacking the very people she loves - her family.

By the time she sets out to find the Black Clan to warn them of Kenshin's impending attack Mariko has no doubts about her life. "Mariko had lived a life of wealth and privilege. A life spent blissfully unaware of the suffering around her. A life she herself had never fully appreciated. Her mother did not give without expecting something in return. Her father only ever took." Even Kenshin was without honor - he had massacred an old man and his grandchildren in the forest and tortured Ren. She realizes "how small her world had been. What it meant to be truly challenged."

Renee Ahdieh has crafted another strong female character in Mariko. Determined to learn who tried to murder her, Mariko finds she must confront her fears of being discovered to be a girl, of the jubokko tree and of the Black Clan.She must also confront the reality of her family's injustice towards the poor and the workers and that her father is concerned more with power.

Author Renee Ahdieh wanted the character Mariko to embrace her femininity, to see it as a source of strength.This comes out near the end of the novel when Mariko is recovering from the raid at the tea house. Okami's sister, Yumi questions Mariko as to whether she has ever fought back. When Mariko denies ever having fought back, Yumi calls her out: "Because, Hattori Mariko, you are not one to conform to any man's expectations. Is that not --in a way-- a manner of fighting back?" Yumi encourages her to embrace her power as a woman in their world. "There is such strength in being a woman. But it is strength you must choose for yourself. No one can choose it for you. We can bend the wind to our ear if we would only try." At great risk Mariko travel to the Jukai forest to warn the Black Clan about her brother's impending attack. Later on she gives herself up in the hopes of saving Takeda Ranmaru and when he is taken captive she again sacrifices herself by asking to be taken to the imperial palace rather than home with her brother.

Flame in the Mist explores many other themes including those of friendship, revenge, forgiveness and the meaning of honor. Like her other duology, The Wrath and the Dawn, Ahdieh incorporates the enemies-to-lovers trope and it works reasonably well as the tension between Okami and Mariko is maintained well into the novel. Ironically neither character knows the true identity of the other. And although when they first meet their values are much different, by the end of the novel, Mariko, her eyes open to the reality of life, begins to share the ideals that Okami holds. Ahdieh also sets the stage for the next novel which will likely be set at least partly in the Imperial palace at Inako. There is a subplot involving intrigue at the palace as the Empress Genmei and the Imperial consort Kanako appear to be working against one another.

Flame in the Mist is another excellent piece of fiction by Renee Ahdieh and is highly recommended. Readers who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of both fantasy and romance will be aptly rewarded.


**spoiler alert**

This is a summary of the backstory for the second novel that is due out next year.

The end of the novel ties together many lose ends but leaves new questions. Takeda Shingen, Asano Naganori and the Emperor grew up together as boys. Takeda Shingen valued honor, Asano Naganori valued justice and the boy who was to be emperor valued ambition. Takeda Shingen who was the last shogun, was executed for treason by his friend Asano Naganori. The novel begins ten years in the past when Shingen's son, Takeda Ranmaru witnesses the death of his father by seppuku. Mariko was the little girl who saw the distraught Takeda Ranmaru after his father's execution. Realizing his mistake, Asano tried to enact justice but himself was executed by being hung upside down in Yedo Bay.  The story is now set ten years later when Mariko is being sent to the Imperial palace to marry the son of the Emperor. The Black Clan is made up of its leader Takeda Ranmaru and Okami who Mariko comes to believe is Asano Tsuneoki. However Takeda Ranmaru and Asano Tsuneoki have switched places. In fact, Okami whom she loves is actually Takeda Ranmaru. Asano Tsuneoki switched places to save Takeda Ranmaru's life as a way to pay off the debt of his father murdering Ranmaru's father years ago. This is revealed when the false Takeda Ranmaur has no idea of the weapon, the Furinkazan which is a special sword, Raiden offers him.
Mariko offers herself up in exchange for the freedom of the Black Clan, but Takeda Ranmaru also insists on being taken. Mariko insists on being taken to Inako to begin her life in the Imperial court. The novel ends with Her Imperial Majesty Yamoto Genmei, Empress of Wa murdering the Emperor by poisoning him and drowning him in a pond.
Also Amaya, the woman who loves Kenshin is alive and is in the care of Kanako, the emperor's consort and the mother of Raiden who was betrothed to Mariko. Kanako sends her Raiden to find Hattori Kenshin.


Book Details:

Flame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh
New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons     2017
392 pp.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

DVD: The Promise

The Promise is a fictional account of the systematic extermination of the Armenian Christian population undertaken by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. This event has become known as the Armenian Genocide. The movie, directed by George Kelly was made partly to bring attention to this war crime which has never been acknowledged by many Western countries nor by Turkey.

The story begins on the eve of World War I in 1914, in the vast Ottoman Turk Empire. The story is narrated by Michael Boghosian whose family have been apothecaries in the village of Siroun, Southern Turkey for two hundred years. They have served both Christians and Muslims.

Micheal wanted to study medicine at the Imperial School of Medicine in Constantinople but could not afford the fees. He became engaged to Maral and it was decided that he would use the money from her dowry to go to medical school and then return to Siroun to marry her.

At the engagement party, Maral's father Harut gives Michael four hundred gold coins and tells him to make them proud. Michael's father, Vartan gives him a letter for his Uncle Mesrob who lives in Constantinople. Michael tells Maral that he will do the three years of medical studies in two years.

Michael travels to Constantinople where he meets Mesrob, his wife Lena and their two daughters, Yeva and Tamar. He also meets Ana Khesarian, daughter of a famous violinist who is tutor to the Boghosian children. At medical school, Michael meets a Turk, Emre Ogan who is not really interested in medicine but had to choose between it and the military. That Emre is not suited for the medical profession is shown when he faints during a dissection.

Ana and Chris Myers
After class one day Michael meets Ana while she is teaching Yeva and Tamar. He finds her delightful. At a club, Ana introduces Michael and Emre to her friend and lover, Christopher Myers, who immediately recognizes Emre as a playboy who frequents opium dens.Emre tells Michael and Ana that he and Chris know one another from Paris when his father was Deputy Consul and that Chris is a renowned reporter for Associated Press. Chris warns that war is coming to Turkey. At the end of the evening Emre begs them to come to his birthday party that Sunday at Ciragan Palace.

At the party, German warships fire a salute, scaring many who are in attendance. Chris confronts the Germans in attendance, resulting in Emre's father stating that Turkey has every right to have a strong navy to protect its borders. Chris counters that the Turks want to expand their borders and declare war on the infidels - the British, French and Russians. When the German's break out in singing the national anthem, Chris reminds Michael, that  the Armenians are the resident "infidels" and will be the first to be attacked.

Michael attempts to register for a medical school exemption.
On October 29, 1914, Turkey enters World War I on the side of Germany. Immediately all men are enlisted. At the medical school, Michael learns he will not be given a medical school exemption and he is assigned to the third military division while Emre, a Turk is given one. Emre saves Michael by bribing the official to produce the exemption. But this bribe has not gone unnoticed. At the same time Chris sets out to investigate what is happening in Konya. Before he leaves, Chris tells Ana he will get obtain an American visa for her but she refuses his help.

Meanwhile Emre is confronted by his father who questions him about the exemption given to Michael Boghosian. Dr. Nazim does not accept Emre's explanation that Michael is a friend, telling him the Armenians are a tumour on the nation that must be removed.  Michael returns to Mesrob's home where he is made an offer by his uncle to buy him out of his betrothal to Ana. Michael refuses stating he has made a promise that he intends to honour.

Chris's investigations reveal that Armenian villages are being burned to the ground and men are being hanged. He also discovers hundreds of people being marched into the desert and witnesses a woman being shot in front of a small child. Meanwhile in Constantinople, things begin deteriorating. After returning from a concert at the cathedral Ana and Michael barely escape from raging Turks who destroy Armenian shops and beat Armenian citizens in the streets. At this time, Mesrob is arrested, leaving Lena alone with their daughters.

During this night, Michael and Ana become intimately involved. The next day they visit Lena and learn that Mesrob has been taken to Sikedji Prison where he is being investigated for treason. Michael takes the remaining gold from his dowry and he and Emre attempt to bribe the Turks at the prison to release Mesrob. Instead, they take his gold and Michael is arrested while Emre is forced by his father to enlist in the military.

What Chris has feared has come to pass - the Armenians are being slaughtered by the Turks, who are determined to rid themselves of infidels. Determined to reveal to the world what is happening Chris contacts American Ambassador Morgenthau. Chris becomes determined to save the woman he loves and as many of the Armenians as possible. He will barely escape with his own life while most of those he has come to love will not be so fortunate.


Discussion

The Promise is a moving tribute to the 1.5 million Armenian Christians who were systematically murdered during World War I by the Turk government. Although there had been previous massacres, for example the Hamidian massacres in the late 1800's by Sultan Abdul Hamid II, international pressure had been brought to bear to stop these massacres. This was not the case in 1915. Instead, western governments dallied when confronted by what was happening, at the expense of millions of lives.

Wonderful performances are given by Oscar Isaac who plays Michael Boghosian, as well as Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale who portray Ana Khesarian and Chris Myers respectively. A strong cast of secondary characters,  Marta (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Emre Ogan ( Marwan Kenzari ) and Faruk Pasha (Tamer Hassan) round out the cast.

French helping Armenians onto French warship at Musa Dagh.
Breathtaking cinematography provides a film of stark contrasts. There is the incredible beauty of the Turkish countryside juxtaposed with the horrors of the genocide. Scenes of Armenian Christians being marched into the desert, of whole villages of Armenian Christians shot and bayoneted, of the rounding up and brutalization of Armenian men, of the work camps, and of rail cars packed with Armenian women and children are in sharp contrast to the picturesque villages and the peaceful forests. The happy lives of the Armenians as they live peacefully with their Muslim neighbours and the beautiful Christian service with Father Komitas is in contrast to the Muslim crowd rampaging through the Constantinople destroying businesses, beating and arresting Armenians. 

The movie's final scenes portray the attack on over four thousand Armenians at Musa Dagh and their rescue by the French. Chris, Michael, Yeva and Ana  are among those making their way to the shore along with other survivors. In fact, on September 12, 1915, the French Navy rescued more than four thousand trapped and unarmed Armenians from Musa Dagh mountain.

The obfuscation of Turkish officials when questioned is very effectively portrayed, particularly in the scene where Ambassador Morgenthau confronts Turkish officials. Not all Turks are portrayed badly; Emre Ogan loses his life for helping save the life of his friend Chris Myers and the Deputy Consul warns Pastor Merrill at the American mission that Faruk Pasha will spare no one and they should leave at once.

Unfortunately, the development of a love triangle involving Michael, Chris and Ana detracts from the main focus of the film. The Armenian Genocide is such a significant human story it doesn't require a plot device like a love triangle to engage viewers. Where the film succeeds is in portraying the humanity of the Armenians who love, marry and have children while the world around them goes to hell. Overall though, The Promise mostly succeeds in portraying a significant event of the 20th century and one in which the term "genocide" was first used to describe the systematic killing of a race of people. It is hoped that more films will be made to educate people on a genocide the much of the world still refuse to acknowledge.