Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
Like many families, our clan celebrated Thanksgiving in a very different way this year, which included a “Video Chat” where all my children and grandkids shared what they were thankful for and their hopes for the coming year. As a family of immigrants, our take on what’s coming next is revealing. Culture Watch will include a special announcement about an interview with Global Connections TV about my book “Different Latitudes,” several book reviews and a special movie about the complex relations that can exist between immigrants. I’ll report on my Webinar with the overseas staff of “Esperanca,” and Special Projects will include an update on my next book. The Calendar includes information about my next presentation to a writers’ group and the latest on Partnering for Peace, as well an inspiring Voices of the Day and, as always, What Others Are Saying.
For the first time in 47 years, my wife and I had Thanksgiving dinner alone. We did manage a “pre-Thanksgiving” coffee, cake and birthday celebration with most of our clan (with masks and social distancing) since our youngest grandson was turning one, so we brought the piñata and candy out. Later that evening the adult kids/grandkids participated in a video chat to continue our traditional dialogue on what we were thankful for and our hopes for the coming year.
Four of our grandkids are voting for the first time, and everyone was thankful to see a change in political direction. It occurred to me that many might be surprised at our response to our country’s new direction. In Florida, the Hispanic community bought the “Cuba, Venezuela socialist scare” and helped Trump win the state, and in Texas, many Hispanics voted for Trump out of fear of the “immigrant caravans” reportedly bursting across our borders of that state.
Yet, the “Red” state of Arizona flipped to “Blue,” for the first time since 1996 and elected two Democrat senators, partially due to the growing number of immigrants, younger voters and the impact of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was Sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years, lost the last election but at 88 ran again despite being charged and convicted by a Federal judge for ignoring an order to stop racial profiling. The Sheriff cost Maricopa County taxpayers over 140 million for litigation from individuals illegally arrested for suspicion of being illegal only to be pardoned by President Trump. The Sheriff had investigated former Obama’s birth certificate and claimed it was forged without evidence. The Republican winner, Jerry Sheridan put up large signs entering our neighborhood saying that he would, “stop the mobs from invading homes” in northern Scottsdale.
Our family includes my wife and children who were born in Guatemala, a son-in-law from Peru making for two naturalized citizens. Our preference for the run-offs vacillated between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and one of our traditional “toasts” this year with blue margaritas, included giving thanks for not having to turn off the TV with children in the room when our President talks or having to explain his hateful comments. My daughter-in-law said she showed our granddaughters pictures of our new Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, at their age, as she’d be a new leader. She also mentioned John McCain’s concessions speech, which “reminded us of the power of steady, moral and kind leadership, no matter the differences in policies.” The entire clan gave thanks that our country would finally begin addressing climate change before it was too late for our youngest grandchildren.
Book & Movie Reviews
I initially heard Ayad Akhtar when he was interviewed by PBS, and then came across the words of Bill Moyers about one of the author’s many plays on what was to be Moyers’ last; his plays are “not only history, but prophecy. A Biblical-like account of who’s running America, and how.” Moyers added: “Our times at last have found their voice, and it belongs to a Pakistani American: Ayad Akhtar.” Here is the comment of the interview with caught my attention, “Money is the supreme value in our society (the U.S.). Customers are first—to buy is our “privilege.”
This novel about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, told from the perspective of a Muslim writer, is a must read. The book reflects the power of fiction to explore and understand what’s going on in reality and includes a powerful social commentary. Not surprisingly, Alison Bechdel’s quote is on the page just before the first chapter, “I can only make things up about things that have already happened…”
The author forges a narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear, and where the nation’s unhealed wounds impact the rest of the world. Akhtar’s story unfolds within one family and moves from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerrilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan. In the process, he spares no one — least of all himself.
Thomsen began talking about this book in 1980 and sent some of the manuscript to fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and author, Christopher West Davis, who told him that it was some of his best work, “He was in the zone, in top form, etc. encouraging him to keep it up…” But later on, Thomsen would lament the difficulties of getting it published.
This first edition was created from a photocopy of the original typed manuscript and includes his handwritten notes. The book is over 300 pages, the chapters are untitled, and the index only includes a brief “Editor’s Note,” “Forward,” and “endnotes,” which list where “unreadable texts” were located. Thirty vignettes, dating from his arrival in Ecuador as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1964 include snippets of characters from his previous books, making sense of the beauty and complex world of the Esmeraldas on the coast of Ecuador.
Although those who have read Thomsen’s previous books will recognize more details and insights into characters and circumstances, this book is a standalone publication and includes several spectacular stories like this treatise on creativity and an author’s responsibility when facing human degradation and violence.
When I finished this book earlier this year, I embarked on my next book, “The Moritz Thomsen Reader: His Books, His Letters and His Legacy Told by the Writers Who Knew Him Best.” I’ve already secured the majority of the essays I want to include, and one of the writers, Craig Storti, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco who has published eight books of his own in the field of intercultural communications, invited me for an interview for the newsletter of SIETAR, Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research. The focus of the interview is Moritz Thomsen. I’ll let you know when it’s published and please remember to keep your eyes out for potential publishers for my new book!
My Zoom Webinar with the Overseas Staff of Esperanca
Voices of the Day
Please check out my new Million Mile Walker website, which includes all my articles and book reviews (including the totality of the two presented here) under “Books/Articles” and “Library,” as well as a “Special Message” video, http://www.millionmilewalker.com. The Guatemala documentary website is: https://www.guatemalastory.net/
“Follow” me on the Million Mile Walker Facebook page for the latest on international affairs and literature.