Is the ink is mightier than the byte?

Like many people, I split my reading between paper and e-reader. I know that the words are what matter, not the medium.  At some point, everything will decompose in our ephemeral reading rooms.

In 2010, for an installation in a forested area at the Jardin de la Connaissance in Quebec, artist Rodney LaTourelle and landscape architect Thilo Folkerts collaborated to create Garden of Cognition, a temporary garden space using approximately 40,000 discarded books stacked to form walls, benches,and carpets. 


But, whether I read online or onshelf, in spite of the temporal nature of it all, the ideas remain eternal.

Toni 3/31/15



In this Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 image from video, Kyaw Naing, a slave from Myanmar, looks through the bars of a cell at the compound of a fishing company in Benjina, Indonesia. After working for three years on a Thai trawler, sometimes enduring beatings with the bones of sting ray, he begged his captain to let him return home. “All I did was tell my captain I couldn’t take it anymore, that I wanted to go home,” Naing says. “The next time we docked, I was locked up.” (AP Photo/APTN)


A number of recent media investigations have reported on the underground slave trade on southeast Asian fishing boats. Malaysian and Cambodian men are bought and sold into labor aboard the vessels, which are Thai in origin, forced to work in unsafe conditions, and paid nothing for their labor. The trawlers in question fish Southwest Asian seas, dragging nets for low-value fish that is sold to shrimp producers.


Slavery is illegal, yet it is driving Thailand’s growth – so why are retailers, producers, and governments alike turning a blind eye?  



In The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd takes us back to a time of slavery, the peculiar practice ratified by the Bible, in our own history. It’s historical fiction based on the formative years of Sarah Grimké, a nineteenth century abolitionist and women’s rights activist.

My aim was not to write a thinly fictionalized account of Sarah Grimké’s history, but a thickly imagined story inspired by her life.

The novel covers a lot of territory ~ slavery and its role in our nation’s founding, women’s rights and the true meaning of equality, religion and its role in politics, the power of hope and courage, the complications in familial relationships, the many ways to preserve memories, the value of creativity, and the importance of sharing stories.

owning people was as natural as breathing

The Invention of Wings is based on the real-life Grimkes from pre-war Charleston, South Carolina. It’s the story of Sarah and her slave, Handful. Sarah is wealthy and privileged, but her hopes to become something more than a wife who sews are squashed by her family. As a result of her equal rights/abolitionist convictions, she becomes a pariah.

Women's rights pioneer Sarah Grimké.

Lucretia Mott says to Sarah,

Life is arranged against us, Sarah. And it’s brutally worse for Handful and her mother and sister. We’re all yearning for a wedge of sky, aren’t we? I suspect God plants these yearnings in us so we’ll at least try and change the course of things. We must try, that’s all.

Monk deconstructs the artifice of Sarah’s genteel upbringing in South Carolina and reveals the coarser story of the South and civil rights.  I wonder what kind of woman Sarah would’ve been in today’s world. 

Sarah devises a slogan for herself that I’d like to have engraved on something: “If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.”  Imagine being raised by a mother who says “every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for her own good.”


Sarah is given a slave, Handful, as a birthday present and the two ten-year-old girls grow up together.  Fiercely independent Handful engages in subversive behavior (thinking for herself) and participates in a slave rebellion. This is not a storybook friendship.

Sarah had jimmied herself into my heart but at the same time … she was part of everything that stole my life.

In spite of having her foot mangled because of a torturous punishment, Handful is undeterred.

I have one mind for the master to see. I have another mind for what I know is me.

Handful’s mother, Charlotte, is her guiding light.  She’s a valued family seamstress who, because of her defiant stand, is whipped, chocked, and has her teeth knocked out with a hammer.

 Everything she knew came from living on the scarce side of mercy.

Kidd writes about the work house and torture with the same eloquence that she describes the plush household of the Grimkés. You muck through the mud and dung of Charleston’s yards, walk the sweltering streets, and watch the militia thunder in to quell the slave revolt.


Monk puts you amid the bustle of its harbor and lets you sit in the freezing northern attic with the sisters writing their call-to-arms pamphlets.

The rail in the stable was forbidden ’cause the horses had eyes too precious for lye. Slave eyes were another thing.

BOOK_WINGS_2_35096391(Sue Monk Kidd just happens to be a Florida author.  She lives on an island, the only thing we have in common, off the other coast.)

Growing up in Georgia in the ’50s and ’60s, Kidd said the stories that resonated with her came from the black female domestics in her parents’ and grandparents’ homes. And they weren’t about singing and dancing.

The Old Plantation, circa 1785-1795, attributed to John Rose; watercolour on laid paper; Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia.


In a world beset by modern-day slavery, the novel resonates. It’s about inexpressible pain, emotional shackles, and paving a path to freedom. Define it as bonded labor, or coerced servitude, the fact that still so many humans are worked like livestock is a stain on the world’s conscience.

The 13th Amendment didn’t end slavery. 

How many slaves do you have?

 Find out here.


Sunday bookmarkToni 3/30/15


I live in the open mindedness of not knowing enough about anything.

~Mary Oliver

by Dixon Lanier Merritt

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week.
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

I love learning the secrets of my plumed neighbors. The latest: That pouch suspended from the lower half of the pelican’s long straight bill? It really can hold up to three times more than its stomach. Enough for a week.


One episode of Downton Abbey is my personal pelican pouch.


The fiendish games and sweet scenes Julian Fellows dishes out weekly, the keep-’em-wanting-more shenanigans (like when Mr. Pamuk dies ‘on the job’ so to speak) fuel me from Sunday to Sunday. If you’re a proper obsessed fan ~ one of 25.5 million ~ of the Most Successful Ever British Drama, you’re mourning the end of the series.

I’m already hungering for the 2016 plot-clinching twists. Tom and Lady Rose may be out of the picture, but there must be some oil-on-the-fire sizzling hijinks ahead for Lady Edith and Lady Mary.  Then there are the nonplussing matters of inheritance, wills, and family squabbles, oh my.

Downton Abbey Series 3 Phyllis Logan

I wonder if Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson will marry and leave to run a B&B sooner than later? (Oh, wait, there is no later, only season six.)  Will the distressed and downtrodden Edith marry the pig farmer?


Will Cousin Isobel (ugh, that Lord Merton and his dastardly spawn) and Cousin Violet move in together? Maybe Violet will bob her hair. Oh get over it, she’ll say.


Maybe Spratt and Denker will share a bowl of chicken soup.


embargoed_downton_abbey_ep3_13Will Mr. Moseley marry O’Brien and become B&B couple #2?


I’m used to the idea that nothing good ever happens to the perennially unlucky, wrongfully-convicted, and alternately-jailed Anna and Bates. But they do suffer nobly, don’t they?


More importantly, will Daisy go to Oxford? 


I wish they’d bring back Isis. Whatever was the point of that?


Oh, I’m going to miss those juicy Crawley plotlines.

No more sniping over the duck breast (oh no, the estate’s in peril again, what do you plan to do about it?), exchanging confidences over a glass of sherry, letters, letters, letters. I hoped the sun would never set on Downton Abbey. Hints from Fellowes in his New York Times interview a few weeks ago were marrow-freezingly scary. “Well, you know, Downton is a bumpy path.”

Bumpier, yet, when Robert loses his fortune and it’s my pouch that’s empty.

Toni 3/27/15