Monday, October 29, 2007

Italian food, Catholicism and Family

Francesca's Kitchen by Peter Pezzelli was a nice break from the heavy books I've recently read. The book was a light read which brought to mind fragrant aromas of Italian cooking, going to Confession and the joys of family life.

I have always had a dream of going to Italy (which I hope will come to fruition someday) and maybe even living in Tuscany. The idea of going to a small town market, buying local produce and creating a wickedly delicious meal is something I wish I could do every day. I love the book Under the Tuscan Sun and in some ways Francesca's Kitchen was reminiscent of this book, although it takes place in Rhode Island.

Francesca, is an old Italian Catholic who lives alone. Her husband is dead, her two daughters live far away and her son although near by is a bachelor. She finds herself going through extended periods of loneliness and depression and longs for something to break up the monotony of her days. Eventually she responds to a babysitting ad in the newspaper. Soon every afternoon she babysits Penny and Will. They are the children of Loretta, a young single mom who struggles to balance work, her family and her sanity. Francesca wins her way into the children's hearts through food, tough love and compassion. It is Francesca's Catholic faith, strong will and determination that also help her to once again find joy in her life.

At the back of this book you will find an author's interview as well as some favorite Italian recipes (lasagna, biscotti, etc.). This book will have
your mouth watering the entire time. It is a heart warming story that will make you smile!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is a book I have been meaning to read for a while. I thought for some reason that the book was written years ago when in fact it was recently written in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
This fictional account traces the Greek family history of Callie (Cal) Stephanides, a hermaphrodite who struggles with his sexuality throughout his entire life. The Stephanides gene pool is infiltrated with intermarrying, this is what Cal blames for his condition. Cal's grandparents were brother and sister who migrated to the United States from Turkey and his parents were first cousins. Supposedly, back in Greece some of his ancestors were born with both male and female genitalia, but this was never verified. When Callie is born he is deemed to be female. His doctor fails to recognize that he does in fact also have tell tale signs of male reproductive organs.

Callie leads a relatively normal and happy childhood. At times he feels different and finds women to be more attractive then men. It isn't until the age of 14 when Callie visits a specialist in New York, that he changes his name to Cal and begins to lead a life as a male.

Although parts of this book were a little long I found it incredibly interesting to read about the struggles and hardships of being a hermaphrodite. Many experience shame, depression and feel ostracized. This book, however, is about the importance of finding hope and peace with oneself!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is the World Flat?

I finally finished reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. It was an extremely enlightening and educational read. Unfortunately, I do not read enough non-fiction, but I am trying to expose myself to more in the future.

The main premise of this book is the discussion of globalization and how this phenomenon has essentially leveled the playing field between countries. Outsourcing, economic diversity and the rapid rate of technological advancements (primarily the Internet) have all contributed to what Friedman describes as the "flattening of the world."

Although I do not agree with all of Friedman's opinions or points of view, I did find them compelling. The fact that more and more of American goods are being made overseas (look at all of the toy recalls from China) is a reflection on the current state of affairs in many countries. Interestingly, more and more young adults in India and China are obtaining degrees in engineering, math and science then in the United States. As a result, young adults in the United States are not staying competitive and often are losing their jobs to individuals overseas.

What I found to be eye opening was how much work is actually distributed to places such as Bangalore and New Delhi where call centers abound. The phones are ringing off the hook in places like Bangalore, India to answer questions such as "where is my lost baggage," "how do I hook up my wireless Internet," or "how do I put together this toy." Sometimes it is frustrating for consumers who have trouble understanding the person at the other end, but companies such as Delta Airlines are finding that they are saving millions by outsourcing. Individuals, in India, who are working for the call centers are also often happy to find jobs that offer them decent pay and often benefits.

The advancement of the Internet is another phenomenon which has made it virtually seamless for countries to communicate. In an instant individuals and companies can make contact, participate in virtual meetings and use live web cams to keep up on every day business operations. These advancements were something which were not around 15-20 years ago. Every day more and more web pages are being created and more and more people are becoming "virtually connected." While there are a plethora of pitfalls to technology, overall it has leveled the playing field for many and made access to information more equitable.
The World is Flat is the type of book that I would recommend reading in segments. Each chapter is chalk full of anecdotes and personal stories, which makes the read fun. It is not just a long litany of statistics and facts. Friedman has updated this book a couple of times, so make sure you read the most recent version when you check it out of the library!
Finally, check out Friedman's website at: