Reading Russia: The Reindeer People

It took me close to a year to read this book. Not because of anything negative but because I wanted to really absorb it, to get to know it.

The older I get, the more obsessed I’ve become with The North. I want to travel above the Arctic Circle, I want to watch the Northern Lights, and see a polar bear where polar bears live. Not sure why this fascination has become so strong…maybe as the planet gets warmer, the cold feels like powerful magic?

But why try to explain it? Just jump in and learn instead. This book, The Reindeer People: Living With Animals and Spirits in Siberia by Piers Vitebsky, is excellent immersion in a world few of us will ever get to see. You’re introduced to an amazing cast of characters, and it’s easy to develop a deep bond with just about the whole crew, the reindeer, and the natural world that dominates their lives. Highly recommended, and I feel certain you will finish it much faster than I did!

Reindeer Pulling a Sledge
Reindeer Pulling a Sledge (image by Elen Schurova from Moscow, Russia via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Russia: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible

It’s been awhile since I last posted. The Holidays were busy, I traveled quite a bit after the first of the year, and now…there’s a pandemic.

Life is something, huh? There are endless things to say about it all, but this is not the place even though it might be the time. Plus, I’ve been drinking rum for a few hours and I have nothing of real value to offer you.

So, let’s talk about Russia! I had big plans: I was going to read across the wide expanse of Russian literature, from the classics to modern rule-breakers, but I stalled out. As is my style I found my way to some non-fiction titles, because real life is often just as interesting as any novel.

That’s certainly the case with this book: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. Written before The Age of Trump, it now reads as an eerie foretelling of the future we Americans willingly (at least some of us) walked right into. Truth means nothing. Cheap emotions are everything. Everything is for sale.

It’s a bleak story but it is fascinating and, for me, an absolute must-read. Learn about the world you now live in, and maybe find your way through.

The skyline of modern Moscow
The skyline of modern Moscow (Image by Deensel via Wikimedia Commons)

Country #57: Russia

Russia. Russia. Russia.

I’ll be honest…I wasn’t automatically happy to pick this one out of the bunch. I have lots of feelings about the current state of things, in a political sense.

BUT, I’m an American. My country is not an easy entity for non-Americans to process, and I certainly always hope that people don’t judge me by the actions of my government. So the least I can do for my brothers and sisters in Russia is to offer them the same courtesy.

And think about what I would miss if I closed my mind and heart to all things Russian: literature, history, art, FOOD. I can’t do that, no matter how uneasy I am with the world right now…so…here we go.

Reading Barbados: Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire

Such power, words on paper have. They can change you, in an instant; knock you clean off the ground where you’ve felt pretty good standing. You think you know, but you don’t REALLY know.

I’ve encountered quite a few such experiences in my journey with this blog, but the book I read for Barbados…an absolute lightening bolt of knowledge. I honestly feel like everyone, everywhere would benefit from sitting down with it. The title would help, huh? Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart is what I’m telling you about here.

Ms. Stuart draws a portrait of the history of Barbados via her family tree, which includes European immigrants who came to the island by choice, and African captives who most certainly did not. She fleshes out the story of what those different experiences and circumstances wrought in one particular place, and gives the reader a platform to understand how all of it very much affects the world we live in now, particularly in the Western hemisphere.

The culture that surrounded the maintenance of slavery created a toxic intimacy between people who had freedom and people who had no escape; no one was left undamaged. It fundamentally altered the humanity of all it touched, and we’re still grappling with that today. This book is a step towards real understanding, and I genuinely hope you’ll check it out.

A Beach, Barbados
A Beach, Barbados (image by Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK via Wikimedia Commons)