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The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays Paperback – May 15, 2012
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". . . Chalk Circle is a truly important book." --Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize Winner and recipient of the Tu Do Chinh Kien Award
The Chalk Circle at turns can amuse, bemuse, and challenge readers to redefine the spaces they occupy in society. --The Los Angeles Review
[The essayists'] amalgamated vision is educational and resonant. --World Literature Today, July/August 2013
The book carries a variety of stark, honest, and well-rendered first person narratives.--ForeWord Reviews, June 2012
This collection of essays . . . can lead to a greater understanding of and appreciation for our global community. --Dr. Zaline M. Roy-Campbell, Coordinator of the Program in Teaching English Language Learners, Syracuse University
The range of cultural diversity and personal complexity packed into this slim, beautiful volume is staggering and far outstrips any other collection out there.--Faith Adiele, editor of Coming of Age Around the World: A Multicultural Anthology
I'll be honest: anthologies are not what I head for when I enter a bookshop. My gripe is that the tales are too short, and that just as you are getting into the swing of a story, it ends. This collection of real-life snapshots, on the other hand, is different.--Kate Allison, The Displaced Nation, May 2012
From the Author
Essays by: Samuel Autman, Shanti Elke Bannwart, M. Garrett Bauman, Simmons B. Buntin, Jeff Fearnside, Betty Jo Goddard, Katrina Grigg-Saito, Kelly Hayes-Raitt, Kamela Jordan, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, Li Miao Lovett, Bonnie J. Morris, Mary Elizabeth Parker, Emma Sartwell, Christine Stark, Sarah Stoner, Lyzette Wanzer, Toshi Washizu, Gretchen Brown Wright.
Includes extensive, in-depth discussion questions for book clubs and instructors; fun, challenging "NET assignments" for high school and college students; and an introduction by acclaimed writer David Mura.
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Top customer reviews
Masih has organized the essays well into complimentary groupings and each has a brief biography of its author. There is also a selection of guided discussion questions at the end of the book, including an internet task for further investigation. I definitely plan to re-read this book in the future so that I can enjoy those essays that I truly loved and more deeply ponder those that made me think and question the hardest.
Some of the essayists are relatively new to the States or have parents from another culture. They straddle the fence of their new and their old culture. They deal expectations for and from both backgrounds. In his introduction David Mura (first generation Japanese American) states, "....as with many Americans, I grew up thinking of race mostly in terms of a dialog between whites and blacks." I inherited that same outlook. I was taken aback when, in my early twenties, I moved to Los Angeles and was told I was `being a white girl'. This was said to me by a Hispanic man who I'd met through my best friend (her parents were South American). What an eye opener. It started me on a path of learning about many different outlooks and how those outlooks had been formed. What a heady experience it was and continues to be! Granted much of my exploration has/is centered on food but, let's face it, food can be a fun entry drug to multi-culturalism. Pass the plates.
I'd like to highlight a few personally favorite essays in Masih's collection. Samuel Autman (`A Dash of Pepper in the Snow') was a young journalist when he accepted a newspaper position in Utah. There he often found himself as the only African American in any group. One day he was asked by a white waitress to pass the salt, when he did she thanked him by saying, "That's mighty white of you". Of course Autman was taken aback. Why would someone say such a racist thing? I'm ashamed to say I grew up in the Midwest hearing just such things....and worse. After several other odd encounters Autman passes through his own exploration of personal growth and realizes that the people saying such things aren't necessarily consciously racist. They were merely ignorant. They hadn't taken the time to look behind such words and so continued to mimic them. I loved that he was able to come to peace and forgiveness in these situations. I'm not sure I'd have been so magnanimous.
Betty Jo Goddard's essay is entitled `Connections'. She lives alone in isolated Alaska often not seeing or talking to anyone for days. I don't want to over romantisize her lifestyle but I was struck by how at peace she was in her choice to being a modern day "hermit". I bet there are more than a few people who long for such a life but are not brave enough to live it.
`Tightrope Across the Abyss' is one of Shanti Elke Bannwart's contributions. In it she writes of her New Mexico neighbor who turns out to be Bettina Goerring the grand niece of Herman Gorring. Herman was Hitler's right hand in helping exterminate millions of Jews and others during World War II. Thankfully Bettina allows Bannwart to talk to her about living with her family legacy. Bettina has lived a haunted life doubting herself and her heritage, worrying that some of her uncle lives on in her. Bettina and her brother, separately, decide to sterilize themselves fearing their blood is tainted. She reaches out to Holocaust survivor Ruth Rich and together they make a movie of their encounter. Miraculously the two come to peace. In part I was shocked that people are still dealing with the Nazi fallout on such a personal level. Thinking more deeply I felt a debt of gratitude that there are those who are still grappling with these issues and reminding people (like me) who might be in jeopardy of forgetting or assuming it can't ever happen again.
I will definitely be using this for future classes and recommend it for others.
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