REVIEW OF “THE HATE YOU GIVE,” BY ANGIE THOMAS   1 comment

This book is the perfect capstone for the intensive work our local racial equity Zoom group has been doing for almost a year exploring the history, sociology, social psychology, morality, simple humanity and systems behind the Black Lives Matter movement. As so often is the case, fiction conveys the truth more effectively than a plethora of facts: the complexity of the issue, especially as it plays out currently; the personal identity struggles in effectively living in two worlds; the identification of structural restraints; the role of violence; the ways that love plays out; and so much more. But don’t be scared away by my rather academic focus here. The fact is this book is superbly entertaining and gripping. I was especially impressed with the writing style which leaves me with no surprise that it became a movie. The smooth-flowing attention to descriptive detail is perfect for a movie script. But so carefully done that all the reader experiences is a sense of being deeply “in” the scene. Surprisingly, though there are many pages in The Hate You Give, it is a relatively quick read, maybe because it is so riveting. Obviously I found this to be worthy of six-stars if such an option were available. 

Review of Celeste Ng, “Little Fires Everywhere.”   Leave a comment

This novel certainly doesn’t need another review to add to the 47,255 already entered on amazon. So I choose to make a few more personal comments evoked by this gripping and lovely book. First off, the last couple of novels I read and reviewed introduced me to lives very unlike the one I have led. This one, on the other hand, helped me settle in to the more familiar – the protected life of one who had no real experience with people of other races or economic standing. In the process I was lost in a well-told story that drew me into long reading sessions when I should have been doing something else.

I even broke a booklovers rule, having earmarked two pages with thoughts that provoked me. On page 269 (paperback), “She’ll be raised in a home that truly doesn’t see race. That doesn’t care, not one infinitesimal bit, what she looks like. What could be better than that?” No, I won’t go into a rant, but I will mention my friend’s comment – my friend who adopted and raised two little boys, not without some major problems. “Babies are not life savers to be handed out to those who want something sweet.” What does it really mean to love someone?

Finally at the end on page six of A conversation with Celeste Ng: “Now we’re starting to be aware of the problems with not ‘seeing race’; ignoring race means ignoring longstanding problems and history, as well as ignoring important aspects of a person’s identity. I hope readers, encountering that allegedly race-blind mindset in these pages will reflect on the ways our views have changed – and on the ways they haven’t changed as much as they might need to.”  

Love, individuality, freedom, cultural constraint, creativity, sex. – life. All there in this one six star story.

THIS IS THE BIO I POSTED YESTERDAY ON GOODREADS   1 comment

On the day I was born the stock market crashed hitting the wealthy top percent very hard. That was October 28, 1929; the news didn’t reach the papers until the next day. On October 27 the front page had assured readers that all would be well. All had not been well for a long time for folks at the bottom of the ladder and lessons at the top were learned the hard way. I was among the very fortunate. My parents brought me home to a brand-new house with two older siblings and a mortgage. Fortunately my father remained employed and we kept the house – the same house whose photo is on the cover of my newly published book, My Father’s House: Remembering my Swedish-American family. If you want to learn about my family and the historic times in which we lived, that’s the place to do it.

Intellect, learning, religion, and the English language fed discussions around our dinner table where the family gathered every night to enjoy food for the soul as well as for the healthy body. I guess that’s what lay behind my career path. Academic degrees — BA (Connecticut College for Women), MA and PhD (Boston University) — fueled a long teaching career from Johnson Teacher’s College in Johnson, Vermont, to the University of Vermont to Psychology Professorship and Department Chair at Southern Connecticut State University.

In the years before I retired from SCSU (in 1986) I was involved in the teaching of a new course – the Psychology of Women – cobbled together in the early 70s from various readings because it was too new a topic to have a textbook. Together with women faculty from the History, Political Science, and English departments we established a new women’s studies minor. And I did talks around town on “A Healthy Woman is a Crazy Person,” often challenged that if we women had our way it would ruin marriage. And there was once a whole group who walked out on one of my talks because I said, “Abortion is a women’s issue.” People were sensitive. And Oh! what changes have come about since: women reporters in all places on all issues, women pharmacists, women anchors on the evening news, women pilots, women firefighters, police, even captains. 

Maybe that work did destroy marriages. My twenty-year marriage ended in 1976, having produced a son and a daughter with whom I exchange happiness, and two grandchildren, one of each traditional sex. 

It’s probably no surprise that my retirement from teaching morphed into an active private practice which was reduced mightily when I chose Minnesota for my new home in 1995. I refused then to have anything to do with managed care – not the best decision financially. But I did get the opportunity to teach again – at the Adler Graduate School. That pretty much ended when I totaled my car in 2015, a story you can find on my web site: https://www.forgivenessoptions.com.

Before leaving Connecticut I had developed a new interest – the Psychology of Forgiveness. In 1999, four years after arriving in Minnesota When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time were the tangible results. That’s when I learned that one doesn’t make money writing books.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. When I was thirteen I decided I would become a Lutheran minister. That’s the only time I remember my supportive parents ever laughing at me. That’s when I learned I was the wrong body type – female, you know.  But by 2009 my three interests – women, forgiveness, and religion – had come together with the publication of Mrs. Job. Unfortunately people tended to read “Job” as if it referred to a paying occupation, and besides, I had left the PhD after my name. As a consequence, it appeared to be a self-help book for married women seeking work, or something like that. 

Then a new publisher came along wanting to produce it with some new bells and whistles and a different title. So they had me take Mrs. Job off the market while I worked with their editor and we planned on a new title and cover. Sadly, after over a year, they ran out of money. So I self-published the slightly modified book (with no PhD after my name) giving it the title “Figs and Pomegranates and Special Cheeses.” Then, as you might expect, some people thought it was a cookbook. If you’re interested in where the title comes from, it’s on p.50: “Love changes over time. I guess you could say at first it is like feasting on figs and pomegranates and special cheeses, and later it is like enjoying the evening potage. The thrill may not be so great later on, but each day it fills the empty hole that would be hunger if you did not have each other.”

I’ve learned a few lessons in the authoring process. (1) It’s the rare writer who makes money at the craft – or maybe I’m the rare writer who doesn’t. (2) Writing is a pleasure when you own the topic. (3) The best of all worlds is when all one’s interests fall into place. Which brings me to the question why I spent years researching and writing My Father’s House: Remembering My Swedish-American Family. Maybe the best answer lies in the author’s name, Mona Gustafson – Swedish, you know. A way of recapturing the person who has carried an Italian name since 1955. 

And another recent product of the COVID-19 quarantine, This Sucks! I Want to Live, published as a memorial to my friend Nick Spooner who died too young as a result of two glial blastomas. Goodreads hesitated to let me include that book on my site since I had listed Nick as the author and myself as editor. The core of the book is his entries in Facebook from the time of his diagnosis until his final entry less than two months later – the source of the books title. And why did I put it together? I just plain wanted to do it in memory of a man who worked so hard and long to build a good and admirable person only to be snatched away too soon.

I’m not sure what comes next, but I am aware that, given what I’ve learned in my recent studies of racial equity, I would teach a course in personality or developmental psychology differently now. I can see that what the textbooks, and therefore I, used to present was the psychology of middle class, white, European-sourced men (and, after the 1970s) women. Maybe some small book is in the making. I’m open to suggestions.

Sun Sailor News, April 9, 2021   5 comments

Of course I like this article. I think you will too if you’re willing to work your way around the FB ads. And I want to remind you — which doesn’t come out clearly in the article — that when you look for My Father’s House the authors name ends in Gustafson — as in Mona Gustafson.

Once you get to the site you may have to scroll down to get to the article.

https://www.hometownsource.com/sun_sailor/community/excelsior_southlake/excelsior-author-publishes-two-books-amid-the-covid-19-pandemic/article_e61c7464-9669-11eb-a78d-8b5b0827f958.html

Posted April 10, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

HAPPY BIRTHDAY THELMA   Leave a comment

My sister — Thelma Gustafson Wyland — always admitted she was like a little girl when her birthday came around, loving the attention and the feeling she was special. If she were still alive she’d be celebrating her 99th. As it was, she made it to 94. So this is my way of honoring her in memory on her special day.

Posted March 28, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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STARTING WITH GOODREADS I’M WORKING ON MY SOCIAL NETWORK CONNECTIONS   2 comments

Here’s the description of myself that I have posted on Goodreads

I have traversed, largely overlapping, from psychology professor to private practitioner to author. Most recently I spent the time in COVID quarantine completing two books. “My Father’s House: Remembering My Swedish American Family” is the result of years of research, writing, and editing. It’s published over my maiden name, Mona Gustafson — Swedish, you know. The cover on the book is a photo of the house, but the book contains so much more. The interaction between an American Family and the developments, crises, and victories of American history between 1910 and and 1976 — the year of my father’s death. A brief postscript lets the reader know what’s happened to the major characters up to publication time, including me, my marriage, two children, and grandchildren.

Mona Gustafson Affinito — my usual author name — is the creator and editor of “This Sucks!: I Want to Live,” by Nick Spooner, his Facebook entries from the time he was diagnosed with a brain tumor to “This Sucks!” — the last entry before his much-too-early death. Not so much a sad story as the revelation of his strength and humanity as he struggles with accepting impending death while facing the issues of daily living . My purpose in producing this short little book was to honor the person who constructed a clever, giving, and caring man out of a life of severe difficulties and challenges.

Both books are published by Calumet Wisdom Editions and available at amazon or from your local bookseller.

Posted March 14, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

My Small Reparations Contribution   6 comments

These days I prefer short messages — abstracts rather than long detailed essays, so I’ll try to say this as simply as possible. If people still think they have no responsibility for the system that has pressed people of color down, then they haven’t taken the time to examine history — or even realize how we have been living it. I confess I didn’t “get” it when I was part of a very large class of Master’s candidates at Boston University in 1951-52 where the size was made up mostly of men there on the GI bill — white men, because black vets were denied access to the advantages. That’s just one small piece in a history of red-lining, lynching, destruction of successful black communities … . Okay. I said I’d keep it simple. So here’s the simple statement. I do believe people of color deserve reparations for the factors that have prevented their gathering family wealth. And I’ll look for ways to support systemic change in that direction.

But right now I want to do something in my individual small way of supporting what has carried me through my life — academia. Realizing that black colleges don’t get the large endowments that support traditional white colleges I’ve decided to donate to the United Negro College Fund the same [very small] contribution I make to my own Connecticut College. Maybe if other people were to support my move with their own small contributions we could make it into something worth while. So here’s the address:

United Negro College Fund

1805 7th Street NW

Washington, DC 20001

800-331-2244

United Negro College Fund Home Page

 

 

 

Posted February 22, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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WHY DIDN’T THE DEMOCRATS GO ALL THE WAY?   6 comments

What I don’t understand. If the Democrats (whoever they were) were so clever as to magically manipulate so many voting machines in some mysterious way despite all the approved oversight by both parties and legal opinions that the election was fair, why didn’t they go all the way to supply Biden/Harris with a strong House and Senate?

Posted February 8, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

NICK SPOONER’S POSTHUMOUS BOOK   Leave a comment

I just posted the following on Nick Spooner’s Facebook page.

Remembering Nick Spooner. Gone too soon, he should have been a writer. But now see his posthumously published book based on his own words as presented on Facebook. Look on amazon.com for “This Sucks! I Want to Live” by Nick Spooner. Or order it from your local bookstore. https://www.amazon.co.uk/This-Sucks-I-Want-Live/dp/1950743357/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=This+sucks%21+I+want+to+live&qid=1610220075&s=books&sr=1-1

EVOKING MEMORIES OF MY OWN UPBRINGING   3 comments

I enjoyed reading this book aloud with my friend whose vision is limited by Macular degeneration. It evoked many memories of my own upbringing as I recognized similar personalities in my family, bringing back happy and sad events and circumstances. Doesn’t every family have them! 

I appreciated Mona’s on-going descriptions of what was taking place in world events starting with WW !, immigration, the Great Depression (I heard a lot about that from my own grandparents and parents!), re-building the Nation, Pearl Harbor, WW II, The Korean Conflict, crystal sets, radio, air flights, etc During the reading of this book I found myself looking back at so many past memories of my life and being grateful for the wonderful, loving family into which I was born.

I wondered whether the author’s selection of psychology as her life career reflected her upbringing and family’s trials and tribulations? It was so sad and frustrating to see Jennie’s decline even as we witnessed her husband’s sustained adoration and love of his wife during these difficult times.

This was not a particularly uplifting book but an honest and comprehensive description of a loving, ambitious and talented immigrant who conquered the many challenges presented him in order to become the successful, respected and loved man that he was. His love for God, his community and his family is evident.

Congratulations to Mona for publication of this story that has obviously been a “work in progress” for many years. It is a wonderful and complete tale of “My Father’s House.” As for the author’s style, I enjoyed reading the minute details and highly descriptive passages. Some readers, however, might not appreciate this style.

This review can be found on my web site

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