See No Stranger

See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love
Valarie Kaur
Narrated by the author
Random House Audio (June 16, 2020)
$22.05 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I had not heard of Valarie Kaur until she gave a brief message on All Saints’ Day at a virtual service presented by the the Episcopal National Cathedral. (The service was entitled Holding on to Hope. Valarie’s remarks begin just after the 48 minute mark.) It was shortly afterwards that I saw mention of this book. And a long book it is. The print edition is 375 pages, and the audiobook is over thirteen hours.

It is also a challenging book. Valarie is a Sikh by birth and upbringing. (I’ve always heard it pronounced “seek” but she pronounces it with a short i: sĭk.) She opens the book with a chapter on wonder, but quickly shifts to the prejudice and bullying she faced growing up in the rural Central Valley of California. She also describes the struggles her Sikh father and grandfather faced.

Kaur discusses her life as an activist, and her documentation on video of the hate crimes that Sikhs and other people of color faced after 9/11. She talks about her college and post-graduate career, originally wanting to be an academic, but ultimately choosing the law to further her activism. She writes about how a Sikh medical student (and later doctor) with whom she was in love refused to accept her activism. And she tells us about her life with a Muslim who supported her in her filmmaking and activism, the man she eventually married.

Valarie is honest and unblinking in her description of her personal life and her own body. Some of the material in this book is deserving of an NC-17 rating, both in her description of her own sexuality and health and in the description of violence instigated against non-white people. I chose the audiobook version of the book because Kaur reads it herself. Not only does her emotion come through, but she does a beautiful job of singing the Sikh shabads, the religious chants and prayers. Of course the NC-17 portions were hard to listen to, and I couldn’t skim over them as I could with a print or Kindle edition. Overall, though, I was more than happy that I chose the audio version in order to hear Valarie tell her life story in her own voice.

Bottom line: this is an important book in documenting the ongoing fight for social justice.

Murphy Brown

Terry and I have been enjoying the reboot of Murphy Brown as we were both big fans of the original series. It’s great fun for us left-liberal types.

Murphy BrownThe first episode was so funny from beginning to end that I had tears in my eyes. The appearance by Hillary Clinton (more than a cameo, really) was priceless. The second episode was a funny story about Murphy, banned from the current White House, finding a way to crash a press briefing. But it had a serious side in that her actions derailed her son, a reporter at a rival network, from being able to ask his planned question. Episode three was a balanced look at the #metoo movement with some funny moments. Last week’s episode in advance of today’s mid-terms was most appropriate and very well done.

I don’t know that we’re going to get more than the initial thirteen episodes as the ratings have been less than stellar, but Terry and I are enjoying it while we have it.

Secular Music Friday: Abraham, Martin and John

This week I am remembering that it’s been fifty years since the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I wrote about this on Wednesday. That brought to mind Dion’s classic song. Robert isn’t included in the title, but he is remembered in tear-inducing final words of the song.

quoteHas anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

We must continue to carry the flame.

Secular Music Friday: Change of Heart

This Holy Near song is from 1993 and the video is from 2012, but both are as appropriate as ever today. There is an inspiring message of hope here.

a thought for today

A thought on this day of sadness, depression, and despair:

quote“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

That is the truth. It is the best we can do for now.

Thanks to my good friend Tahoe Mom for the reminder of this passage.

a big heart on Super Tuesday

I always knew that my friend the Boston Pobble has a big heart. I first met her through her blog, Pobble Thoughts, which, sadly, she has discontinued. She lived an itinerant life for many years, but recently settled in her beloved Boston with her husband, the helicopter pilot Lithus.

You would not expect the terms “big heart” and “Super Tuesday” to go together, but they very much did this year in Boston. Pobble was the agent for what happened. Pobble’s mother, who blogs under the name Tahoe Mom, tells the story.

It is 30 seconds before the polls are to close. Pobble goes outside to see if there are any stragglers who need to come in. There is one couple. They are new US citizens from a war-torn African country. They know it is important that they vote. They want to vote. And they are not sure for what they are voting. Pobble says, “I need you both inside that door right now.” They go while the clerk is calling “30 seconds – we have 30 seconds.” Pobble, walking behind them, waves to the policeman to let them in. They walk through the door and the officer closes it behind them, takes down the “vote here” sign and locks the door. Pobble sits them down and explains she now has time to answer their questions.

She explains that this the election where they vote on who they will vote for in November. All is well and Lithus hands them their ballots. The husband said, “She is blind. She cannot vote.”  Whatever the reason, neither were expecting her to be able to vote. When Pobble said, “of course you can vote,” the big smiles began. Pobble sends the man with his ballot to the voting booth. She calls over the officer as a representative of the law and another clerk to witness. She tells the woman that there is a law officer standing there to witness that Pobble is marking the ballot as the woman says. She read the ballot to the woman, the woman told her whom to mark and Pobble said to the officer, “Do you witness that I am marking this ballot for __________.” He replied, “I witness that you are marking this ballot for ___________.” Both husband and wife were beaming. Not only had they mattered, their vote had mattered and had been taken seriously in their new country. Pobble and I both agree that it is for stories like these that the poll watchers are there. We were given a Constitutional right to a free and honest election and there are people who care enough about that process that they give a day to lay aside their politics to make sure we all – old citizens, new citizens, all races and genders – all of us, get to mark our ballots or pull the levers for the candidate of our choice.

Thank you, Pobble. Thank you for doing your part in making the world a better place. And thank you Tahoe Mom for sharing this story with the world.

writers going nuts

Way back in 2008 when John McCain selected his running mate those of us who a) followed (and still follow) politics, and b) whose political leanings were (and are) to the left of McCain’s were both Palinscratching our heads and somewhat alarmed. Yes, there was a bit of begrudging appreciation that he selected a woman, but, really, that woman? The inexperienced governor of Alaska who was virtually unable to put together a coherent sentence? She would be next in line for the presidency were McCain to have won?

Now, eight years later, the remaining five contenders for the top spot on the Republican ticket present an apparition even more frightening than the woman whom Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live spoofed as having said, “I can see Russia from my house.”

There is Trump, first and foremost. What is there say? To quote Terry’s response these days in such situations, “Rēally?” Ted Cruz, so it appears, doesn’t think individuals with celiac disease should be in the military, or if they are, based on his comments regarding gluten-free MRE rations, apparently they are not entitled to diets to keep them healthy. Marco Rubio in 2013 said that if his own immigration bill contained something that gave gay couples immigration rights he would have opposed it. Ben Carson said the pyramids in Egypt were used to store grain.


Crazy enough that I got a big laugh at the Tweet below that my friend Annalee reposted on Facebook. Whether it’s The West Wing, True Blood, or Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s easy to relate. As I commented on Annalee’s repost, “I don’t have a better explanation.”


how I learned to stop worrying and love the election cycle

It had been seeming very important to me that Hillary win the Democratic nomination, thinking that she had the best chance of beating whoever the Republican nominee might end up being. Turns out that’s not so. At least not on this day before Clinton & Sandersthe New Hampshire primary. A passing mention on CNN sent me over to my primary source for polls: Real Clear Politics.

Nationally, as of last Friday, both Clinton and Sanders had a lead over Trump, but Sanders held a larger lead. Clinton is tied with Cruz and trails Rubio. Sanders is ahead of Cruz and tied with Rubio.

Given that, my perspective right now: Let the primaries and conventions play themselves out, and then support like hell whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be.

There is too much at stake here. If nothing else, two words: Supreme Court.

That’s the bottom line.

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell. Creative Commons license: Clinton, Sanders. Sanders image cropped.

Molly Ivins

I really, really miss Molly Ivins. I wish she were around to provide her always refreshing perspective of the current theatrics in Washington and the presidential race. Thanks to Ann Fontaine on Facebook for this quote.

quoteSo keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.

—Molly Ivins 1944-2007


avoiding news overdose

I have been an NPR listener since my college days in the 1970s. I don’t know how I managed during my year in Laredo, 1977-78, but other than that I have always had an NPR station to listen to.

I have to admit to taking a break during the Bush II years. It simply made me ill to listen to his voice or to discussion of this policies. For those eight years I listened to sports talk radio, which made little sense because the only sport I like is baseball. There’s only a couple of months in the middle of summer when the talk is pretty much exclusively baseball. Basketball goes well into June, and football talk starts early in August. But that’s what I did.

As soon as Obama was elected I was back to NPR. Given my current routine it’s easy to spend a lot of time listening to NPR. I don’t generally catch Morning Edition, because by the time I get past breakfast and the local television news, walking Tasha, and then my own walk or yard work it’s over. But after morning edition is Here and Now, and I can get that from 9:00 to 11:00 on one station or from 11:00 to 1:00 on another. I normally skip the mid-afternoon shows, but All Things Considered starts as early as 3:00 and goes as late as 7:00. That’s a lot of ATC given that it’s a two-hour program.

I want to stay informed. That’s just being a good citizen and a thoughtful person. But I can overdo it as well. Taking time out to listen to music is not a bad idea.

And. I have all these NPR podcasts programmed into my Internet radio. I have topic-based podcasts on the subjects of author interviews, book reviews, food, popular culture, and religion. And I have program-based podcasts for shows like Fresh Air, Science Friday, Soundcheck, Leonard Lopate, and Studio 360. I need to listen to more of those.

Now that’s a good idea.