German’s in Nazi Germany

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1394491742000-BOOK-THIEF-MOV-jy-1658I love it when a book brings up historical questions, especially when they are questions I think a lot of people avoid. I read The Book Thief not too long ago and really enjoyed it. It was amazingly written, the perspective was great and something I had never seen before, and the topic it examined is something I think a lot of people still glance over: The role of the German people in Nazi Germany.

A lot of people refer to WWII Germany, and all of it’s citizens with the blanket term of “Nazi’s,” honestly, I used to be one of them. Then I got a couple of history degrees, and I read a lot on the topic, and finally decided that you can’t call them all Nazi’s, even if they were in the Nazi party. It’s really only a term that I think should describe the true believers and zealots in the Third Reich (Every Man Dies Alone is a great book about all this). I think because of the horrendous things that happened under the Third Reich many people want to push all of the blame onto one group of people and try and move on. In doing so though, we are vilifying an entire nation of people many of who were just trying to survive like the rest of the Europeans. Now, in reality, not many people I think can honestly say they were not members of the Nazi party, but as The Book Thief points out, many only joined the party to be able to maintain employment, keep their businesses open, and receive rations and whatnot. We would all like to say that we would never have joined the party on principle, but I am sure many of us would have because the instinct to survive is a powerful one.

What I am getting at though, is just how difficult a situation it was, and what do you all know or think about it?

I can look at it from several different angles and come up with several different reactions.

1 – How anyone could endorse, believe in, or participate in the acts of the Nazi party and military baffles me, on so many levels. Beyond the obvious moral issues of the Holocaust, the whole idea behind Hitler’s German Empire is just crazy to me.

2 – Those who joined the party purely for survival. They get two reactions from me. On one hand I can understand doing what you think it necessary for the survival of your family, and certainly living under the threat of the Nazi’s wold make people sacrifice certain levels of moral obligations. However, I also cannot understand how people can allow such atrocities to take place around them and not stand against it – this is the conundrum though, and the proof of how effective and terrorizing Hitler’s regime was.

I feel like I rambled a bit, but it’s such a broad and in depth questions it’s hard to focus in such a short post – I could easily write a 40 page paper on it! Anyway, questions of morally have always interested me, and fueled my study in topics of American Slavery and Jim Crow – how people can convince themselves to ignore basic moral principles for survival, be it literal or economic or political.

 

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Harry Potter Re-Read: Books 5-7

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HP 5 comboHP book 5 and I have an interesting relationship. There are a lot of great characters and events. But then you have Harry in his teenage angst phase as well, which just isn’t that much fun. We get to know more characters because of the D. A. though and it’s interesting to see how Sirius acts in this book too (very similar Harry actually). So here are my favorite aspects of this book:

– Umbridge is an amazing character – she’s so much fun to hate!

– The D. A. obviously, mainly because it lets us get to know Luna (so lovable), Neville, and Ginny better (and can I take a moment to point out how awesome Ginny is here – she’s such a bad ass.)

– And though Harry is all angsty, I really enjoy that he starts to take some responsibility about his actions (though it’s still usually a little too late.) and he does have some good moments when he’s not being all “I saw Cedric die, I saw Voldemort rise, you don’t know how hard it is to be me.”

– Sirius’ death: though it is super sad. I don’t think Sirius was a great influence for Harry (I think Lupin is the best), he is rash, impulsive, moody, and holds a grudge like no other. I mean he obviously has the right to feel many of these things, but I think his restlessness encourages Harry to do a lot of careless things that get him and his friends into trouble. After Sirius is gone we see Harry become a little more thoughtful and careful about things because he is tired of seeing people he loves killed because of his actions (so it was a hard lesson, but one that Harry needed).

– One of my favorite things though is when we meet Neville’s parents. Finally he has a group of friends who know what he’s dealing with, and because they don’t put him down about it (like his Grandmother) he is able to channel that hurt from having his parents taken from him into his training and becomes pretty good at all the defensive spells! Even Harry admits at one point that it would be worse to have parents alive, who don’t know you, than loose them completely. Oh, Neville.

HP 6 comboI think book 6 has become my favorite of the series, tied with book 4! I had forgotten a lot about what happened in this book, and it’s so cool to see J.K Rowling’s intricacies at work. All of the memories about Voldemort explain so much and really set us up for book 7 well. What made this one reach the top of my HP book list:

– Harry is finally completely right about his obsessive accusations, he has good instincts and his hunches usually prove to be true, but I appreciate that his target is not just Snape in this book. Yes, Draco is a Death Eater; you got it right for once!

– Harry and Ginny! Finally! I mentioned in book 5 that Ginny is a bad ass, well we see it even more here. She’s a great balance to Harry. She’s smart, but not as overpowering as Hermione (who can really get on my nerves sometimes); she has that Weasley sense of humor that Harry often needs to find reprieve; and she’s such a strong person. I don’t think you can be involved with Harry if you aren’t strong and independent (stupid Cho). The only downside is that they are only together for about a month before Harry has to go save the world, but like I said, Ginny is awesome, so instead of moping she does what she can to fight back too. The romance in general is done really well by Rowling, it’s there, and it’s a big part of Harry’s thoughts as he moves forward, but we never forget that there are bigger things than teen love going on.

– Snape. We all know I don’t love the guy, and never will, but having Harry use his old potions book I think is a really awesome way to introduce another side of Snape that we don’t see through Harry’s perspective (we saw a little with his Occlumeny lessons in book 5). Someone extremely smart, curious, but also balancing on the edge of falling in with a dangerous group, which of course he does.

HP 7 ComboThis is such an awesome finale. Everything is wrapped up in a nice little package and I am not left feeling slightly empty – like with Mockingjay. My favorite element though is how much Harry has grown from the end of book 6 – and the series in general, he’s so much more confident in himself, and even in his moments of weakness he is able to recognize them. I think this is a common trend in this book for everyone though, everyone is grown up. Here are the moments that really stick with me:

– Last visit to the Burrow. First I like the balance of the wedding with their departure to hunt the horcruxes. We see that there are still people trying to fight Voldemort though simple acts of love like getting married and starting families, show a resilience and refusal to let their worlds crumble. Harry and Ginny get a better goodbye, and I think knowing that Ginny still has feelings for him is something that helps keep his spirits up while hunting, which he certainly needs at times. And the preparations that Ron and Hermione have gone to protect their families shows how dire the situation is, how much they believe in Harry, and how strong each of them are.

– All of their adventures are fun, but what I like most about their traveling around to find them is what we learn about the outside world. I think this is also one of the great skills of Rowling, being able to integrate the two worlds in a cohesive way – running into Dean and Ted Tonks, the connection to Aberforth, learning about Dumbledore’s past through the book, sanctuary at Shell Cottage . . . the list can go on and on.

– Neville! I think it’s so great that he has finally come into his own in this book. I also think that we see a glimpse of what kind of leader he would have he have had been as “the chosen one,” and I think he would have defeated Voldemort too.

– Epilogue, I have to admit, I did cry again when I finished this, in probably about the last 3 chapters actually. I really like how it sums up their lives though, and how the characters are still the same. Harry still shirks away from fame (the fact that his kids don’t know why people stare at him), Hermione is ridiculous but in the best way, Ron is all laughs, and Ginny is a force. I have to say though, I hate that harry named his kid Albus Severus. I am one of those who is still not a huge fan of Snape though. I mean he admits in the Pensive that he has never cared for Harry, he was more than willing for Voldemort to kill James and Harry and just wanted Lily – I’m sorry but if you truly love someone I would think you would want them to be happy, and having her husband and son murdered while she survived certainly would not have made Lily happy – I refuse to budge on this topic, and I would never have named a kid after him. I will give Snape credit for sticking around and helping though, he was brave yes, but worthy of Harry naming his son after – I don’t think so.

I am sad to set Harry down, and I will certainly have a Harry Potter hangover. I will probably make this a more usual re-read, every four years or so maybe. Until then, I am sure I will be able to find other books to help fill my need for fiction, though Harry will always have a special place just for himself – and Rowling will always dazzle me with her incredibly nuanced, yet simple writing.

Weekly Wishes #1

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Weekly-Wishes-Button1I saw this on a friend of mine’s travel blog, and I’m stealing it. I think it will probably become my Monday thing, since Monday’s are a bit all over the place still and looking for some structure. Anyway, started by The Nectar Collective, this acts as a way to share goals with fellow bloggers, and hopefully, for me, provide more incentive to accomplish them!

So here are my three goals for this week:

1.) Outline the rest of my book. My writing is hitting a low point, mainly because I am a bit wary about proceeding. I’m excited about what’s coming next, but I don’t have much of a plan and the plan I came up with at the start of this journey won’t really work anymore since my characters have turned out a bit differently than I had planned – but all in a good way I hope.

2.) Get to at least 53,000 words in this last week of Camp NaNoWriMo. My goal was 60,000, which I have no aspirations about hitting any longer. But as I am just shy of 50,000 I think I can manage it a bit more before time runs out.

3.) Make an awesome cake for the Harry Potter birthday party my two friends and I are having Thursday. Yes, it’s super nerdy of us, but really it’s just an excuse for us to get together and drink on a weeknight and talk about books. And one of them is getting back from spending her summer on the mainland, so it will be great to see her again, and there will be cake! Here is what I am attempting, Treacle Tart just seemed too laborious, and not conclusive to Hawaii humidity and heat levels

Next week, I’ll let y’all know if I managed to accomplish all of these goals, and lay out three more.

What’s on the Bookshelf

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I have gone on another book buying splurge! Here is what’s coming up next for me after I finish Harry Potter, and wait for a bunch of pre-orders to be released.

Shadow and Bone Shiver

landry parkfrozen

But first, I am going to finish the Discovery of Witches series!

The Book of Life

Then I think I am going to tackle Shadow and Bone, I read the sample and really liked it. What do you all think of these upcoming reads, have you read any of them?

What Came First?

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Multiracial Hands Making a CircleA common question that comes up in race studies, or in my case African-American and slavery studies, is the question of race and slavery. It boils down to: What came first, racism or slavery?

Now, this isn’t a straightforward answer, religion, economics, and cultural traits all weigh in on this. As this forum isn’t meant to be a lecture space though I am going to go ahead and say, some label of inferiority always precluded slavery – and it didn’t take much to then associate inferiority with racism. Obviously, once slavery became rooted in the United States (or it’s colonies prior to the revolution) racism became an essential aspect of the system.

So I’m putting it out to you, what do you think came first? I know, it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg questions – but it sure makes for good discussion.

It has been foretold!

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imagesThe other day after my delicious meal at Panda Express, my fortune cookie told me that I would gain fame and fortune – obviously that means I am going to become a successful writer, right?

Well, I am using the encouragement from my cookie to try and push myself through these last couple weeks of Camp NaNo. I am about 80% done (I wish I had a little side bar so everyone could see, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to do it!), but it’s starting to feel like pulling teeth to sit down and write. I know I’m just a bit burned out, but my daily word count has steadily dropped over the last week. I’m in the last phase before all of the excitement really starts in my story, and I think I am both looking forward to getting to that part and scared to tackle it. I’m pushing myself though, and hopefully next week will be able to tell you all that I had a blast writing the climax of the story and finished early!

I wouldn’t hold my breath though.

And I will certainly need some more time after Camp NaNo ends to finish my story, but have already planned about a week hiatus from writing to let my brain reset a bit. Some of my fellow cabin members have already reached their word count (whoop’s for – permashift  and vdavenport!) and that gives  me encouragement that I can do it too! How are all of your writing projects going, or are you devoting time to something else?

Harry Potter re-read – Books 1-4

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I haven’t read the Harry Potter series since the last book came out. With the constant re-play of the movies on TV I never really felt like sitting down to read them again, it was a bit of a HP overload. But, as new series have taken over in the past few years, I felt that itch to go back to HP, the first big series that I was ever into, and a story where I literally grew up with the characters. I remember reading the first ones with my mom when I was in elementary school, and as the characters were only a couple of years older than me, it was really cool to experience the things that they had and have a source of reference. This trip down memory lane has been fantastic so far! I had forgotten a lot more than I had thought and they are just such great books. Also, I found cool pictures with one of the other illustrations to compare!

HP1HP 2 combo

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the first two books, the movie do them pretty good justice, so I didn’t really feel like anything spectacular was happening in their re-reads. I did love getting back into J.K. Rowling’s writing though, and meeting all the characters for the first time again, it’s so cool to see them grow throughout the books. And I have to say – I like the left illustrations more than the ones that I got growing up. As things go, these two were relatively docile, but as my husband reminded me, they were written for younger kids with the intention of the story getting darker as its readers grew up. We get the gist of the story behind Voldemort, introduced to all the key players, and go on some adventures where Harry can show that his natural instincts to survive, protect others, and just find trouble – and all are pretty damn good. All sorts of fun, but nothing that really makes us worry for the Wizarding world too much just yet.

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So the third book is my mom’s favorite, because it doesn’t really deal with Voldemort all that much. Well, that was why I didn’t like it when I was growing up. However, with this re-read I liked it a lot more!  We get to meet Lupin (who I love) and Sirius (who I like, but he treats Harry more like a brother than a father figure most of the time – but that’s what Lupin is for I guess), and see some more color from Snape (who I will never like – I don’t care how “brave” or whatever he is, he’s still a douche). And let’s just elaborate on my Snape tirade now, I know a lot of people love him because in the end he did it all for Lily because he still loves here. That’s great, that’s sweet, but he still thoroughly dislikes Harry, is a jerk to poor Neville for something that was never his fault and he knew nothing about, is awful to Hermione (I mean the comments when Draco hit her with the teeth growing charm – seriously?), and I’m sure wouldn’t really have been all that torn up if Harry did end up dying. I mean come one, she married someone else because you were a little superior git (reading these and skyping my English friend has me on a British slag streak), get over it! Maybe you shouldn’t have been on Voldemort’s side to begin with because that was just a terrible ideology to boot!

Anyway, the patronus, the reveal of scabbers, meeting Sirius = fun!

HP 4 combo

Ok, this was my favorite book of the series growing up. And it was pretty awesome. Here we are in the throws of puberty, Ron is all jealous of Hermione and Harry, Harry is having a personal dilemma because everyone thinks he’s a fame-seeker, Hermione with her S.P.E.W. obsession, double agents –  It’s just great.

I feel like this is the book when we really see the characters beginning to develop into their adult characters. They are taking on more responsibility, getting involved in life altering experiences, and starting to understand the repercussions for some of their actions. There is way too much that happens in this book to talk about all of it, but here are my favorite elements:

– I love the labyrinth, Harry gets to show how intuitive he is and his natural skills with magic – he doesn’t usually get much credit in the smarts department. There are some fun fights, and obviously it takes him to Voldemort’s rise and Cedric’s death, which are life altering events for Harry and really mark the moment of him “growing up.”

– Hermione and S.P.E.W – though I don’t agree with her tactics, I think it’s a great illustration of her as a person at this stage in her life. She wants so much to do good, she’s got a great heart, but she’s so stubborn and such a know-it-all that she refuses to accept that the elves are happy, because she can’t understand their situation. I think this is a problem I personally face, so I fell like Hermione and I are kindred spirits starting in this book.

– Ron and Harry’s reconciliation. We all know Ron suffers from jealousy like no other having Harry as his best friend, but this is the fist time we see it out in full force, and it gets pretty nasty. But what I like about it is how they forgive each other. Ron knows he was being a prat and goes to apologize, but Harry also knows that making him full out apologize would just make him feel inferior again. They are such great friends and they are so different from each other, but I love how well they understand each other and truly care about each other.

Obviously there is loads of other awesome stuff. But if we were really going to go through all of these books in that amount of detail this would be much longer. What are your favorite things about these books?