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Another book read! I’ve discovered two ideal times for me to read a book: first thing  in the morning and the middle of the night. Plus sometimes in between doing other stuff when my eyelids are not so heavy. So here’s my latest review.


I loved this novel. I love Backman’s writing. I love his humor – not the laughing out loud kind, but the every-other-sentence kind that tickles my glee button. I love his knowledge of human nature – superior to Shakespeare’s I’d say, and oh so contemporary. I love his wisdom. How clever to use “almost eight-years-old” Elsa as the precocious observer and processor of that wisdom. Just the age when fairy tale knowledge morphs from magic wonder into adult reality with all it’s fullness and pain. From parenting to war to love of self and others, from fear to hate. The reader lives it all in this gripping adventure story. I try to imagine his process in discovering the characters and mapping out their interactions. However he did it, this is a truly special creation that I will hand on to friends and look forward to discussing in our book group, especially with the help of questions provided at the end.


Having studied so many sources with our group’s exploration of the history and contemporary avoidance and betrayal of racial justice in the history of our United States, this excellent book has much to add. Unlike some reviewers who didn’t like the author’s often poetic style, I found that to be a major draw. It is one thing to allow oneself to be exposed to the truth and quite another to be inspired to compassion instead of reaching into the myriad forms of denial that protect oneself from responsibility. His style did inspire to compassion as he reported the truth with honesty and feeling without a sign of preaching. I liked especially that the author’s beautifully presented straightforwardness did much to avoid encouraging inappropriate guilt that gets in the way of real understanding.

And the book does reveal space for change. I was especially impressed with the alternative tours of Jefferson’s home. Several years ago when I visited there was only one available tour. We were exposed to the fact of Sally Hemmings and her family as well as the burial area where the Hemmings descendents were seeking permission to be included. We even had a brief look at where the slave cabins would have been. We also learned of Jefferson’s purchasing of goods from Europe at a time when they were being boycotted. Certainly an indication that our founding father was not a beacon of perfection. (A man, after all. Not a god delivering messages from heaven.) But the author was on a tour that focused on Jefferson’s intimate connection with slavery. The very fact that tour was offered is a mark of progress, of opening up to truth, as were many of his stops.

The author took us as well to other sites where the truth was being emphasized. I liked his attitude; I liked his choice of places to visit. I liked his mode of presentation. I suspect that many who chose to read it came away not only with deeper knowledge, but also with more emotional commitment.


By definition, banning abortion is condemning a potential person to a life of being unwanted. The reasons are as varied as the individual situation. Poverty, genetic predispositions, lack of a nurturing growth environment post birth, a poor uterine environment for any number of reasons, or other reasons why the birth mother (and/or the father) isn’t able to raise the infant to adulthood. I’m sorry to say this, but if there were really concern for a good life, there’d be all kinds of movement going on now from the “pro-lifers” to make childhood care available to everyone, to provide sufficient financial guarantees to carry that person through a healthy lifetime of need for nurturance, housing, health care, education, attention through thick and thin. Instead there are efforts to cut back on aid programs. Those who push for government control of birthing seem to be the same ones who argue for removal of aid. What is the real motive?

I had an interesting brief discussion recently with a person claiming a “pro-life” position.  I understood him to say something like, “Yes, I understand it can be hard for the mother, but I’m more concerned for the child.” The funny thing is, that’s my main concern too – care for the child. What kind of life will that unwanted child have? I know, you’re going to tell me there’s always adoption. No, there isn’t always adoption. How many potentially adoptive parents are willing to take on a lifetime of caring for a badly limited infant who will require care for a lifetime?  How many understand that the baby is not a blank slate? The newborn has not been removed from an empty box . There has been a nine-month relationship with a primary caretaker. Do you think it’s just nothing to be removed from that place without lifelong grief? Or maybe even that first uterine “home” wasn’t so great to begin with for reasons of maternal health, or even the stress of the situation. Or maybe the grief is even stronger because the birth mother has provided a loving relationship even more stressful to leave. A baby brings along a whole slew of characteristics that may or may not fit well with a secondary environment – a foster or adoptive home — no matter how loving, even if there were enough available.

I’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg here. Whole libraries have been written to help understand human development. What will be the effect of this “pro-life” movement ten, twenty, thirty, etc. years from now on our national need for health care, control of violence, creativity … ?

It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it, that the Chinese who enforced the one-child edict are now in need of more people. Where will we be as a result of our similarly communist-like control of birthing?

I do believe that most pro-life folks feel theirs is the loving position. I also believe they have all the right they need to preach pro-life as a choice, including the pro-loving moral obligation to back it up with real support, beyond just supplying a layette. The opposite of “pro-llife” is not “abortion.” The opposite of “pro life” is freedom of choice, religion, moral belief, and understanding of the personal situation.


Recently I posted the following review on Goodreads and I can’t believe I’ve been so busy that I didn’t post it here until today, but that’s the fact. Among other things I’m working on my next — I hope — book with the working title On My Way Out. (If you’re up to critiquing the first 30 or so pages, you know where to find me.)


I listened to The Spider Network (sort of) when I was recovering from a corneal transplant operation which required me to spend 45 minutes out of every hour lying in my back (to help the donor cornea adhere) for three days. I’m not sure how Enrich’s book even made it to my Kindle collection but it was probably the ideal choice for the situation since I was well primed to nod off.  And nod off I did. Too much detail, I think. (As I said, I was nodding.) I admit I didn’t understand how the whole scheme worked (and didn’t really care) though I did understand how the central figure could have been suckered into the process itself, given his position on the autism spectrum. But what I did get was another revelation of my own naivete. I was horrified and disgusted by the culture of greed that was revealed. Maybe if I live another bunch of years I’ll become more inured to it. I remember when I thought banks made money by supporting industries and other investment activities. I guess I wasn’t really surprised at the end when a whole bunch of the perpetrators managed to sell themselves to the jury as a bunch of nice businessmen taken in by one bad guy and then went off to celebrate in a drunken orgy while the person at the center of it all served a jail sentence and the people who suffered most were his wife and child. And I was pretty much awake and paying attention at that point. It’s not a book I would choose again, nor do I have any friends or acquaintances to whom I’d recommend it. But the contents themselves are impressive in the depth of coverage as is the author. I guess I’m just not well suited to being a bottom feeder.


I Just found this article by Scott Olster, Editor at Large at Linked In.

Here’s just one paragraph that says it all, I think.

“This is such a wealthy nation. There’s a study published recently that showed that if the top 1% of income earners just pay the taxes they owed, we could raise an additional $175 billion a year. That’s just about enough to lift everyone out of poverty. So we have the resources.”

See my previous blog on the simple solution to the Social Security problem. Why doesn’t it happen? Obviously there are complex social and moral issues behind the stalemate. Maybe greed? I hope soon to be reviewing David Enrich’s The Spider Network.


Why is the fairest, simplest, and most direct solution to funding social security not proposed? Why is not everyone paying in at the same rate? Why are the very wealthy given special license not to pay?

Try googling this question: “When Do the Rich Stop Paying into Social Security in 2023?”

Effective tax rate

Source: Author’s calculations and Social Security Administration


I just posted the following review on and Goodreads.

25 Meters to God by Tad M. Weiss

A truly emotional and inspiring book. It’s rare to find a story being told even as it occurs, but this is what happens here because it includes “Maggie’s Caring Bridge” entries written as the events were unfolding. It is a beautiful, ultimately joyful story as we are carried through the horror of Maggie’s original accident to the amazing victory of her recovery. I was brought to tears by the support of the community of friends and believers who set their alarms for times in the middle of the night to pray so Maggie’s parents could get refreshing sleep. I was impressed by the breadth of that community with their ability and willingness to provide material bounties as well as friendly personal aide and devotion. Besides, as a practicing psychologist I was delighted to see Tad’s own growth progress as the family made their way through the ordeal. The charm is that he was so honest about it. My prayer would be that every wounded child could have the full parental and financial attention and support Wendy and Tad were able to give to Maggie. And I do recommend that you allow yourself the depths to which this book will carry you.

Posted March 8, 2023 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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Review “OF BOYS AND MEN”   2 comments

I Just posted the following review of Richard V. Reeves “Of Boys and Men” on amazon and Goodreads. Beware the “opposite sex” syndrome.

I’m glad Richard Reeves wrote this book. I’m glad people are reading it. It’s important.

Having lived through the events of the late sixties and seventies as a woman and a professor of the psychology of women, I see him as the Marilyn French (the Women’s Room) or maybe the Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique) of the men’s movement. And I want to say up front I’m very optimistic that the men’s movement will be equally successful. But I want to talk about getting there.

I personally postponed reading the two books I mentioned because at some level I knew they would change my life. – and indeed they did. Painfully but fruitfully.  That’s why the consciousness raising groups were so important, because the first step had to be women’s recognition of the personal and community damage done by our blind acceptance of the patriarchy. And now the men are arriving at that point. Friedan identified the women’s issue as “The Feminine Mystique.” The identifier that seems to be sticking for the men’s movement is “Toxic Masculinity.” Both phrases summarize the fact that patriarchal assumptions have damaged us. I remember “way back then” hearing a talk by Warren Farrell on the advantages of the women’s movement for men. But that theme was too far ahead of its time. And for good reason. The women were fighting the power that kept them trapped on the “pedestal” while men seemed to have the power. Stepping off the pedestal seemed like a dangerous fall. It’s harder for men, I think, because, as possessors of the patriarchal power, it’s harder to see how damaging is that position at the top. But, as one man close to me said, they are living under the “sword of Damocles.” Just as women learned how destructive is “the feminine mystique” men, I hope, are learning the price they pay for “masculinity” as defined by the patriarchy.

And now I’m ready to talk about my reaction to Reeves’s book. The first part of it is impressive, necessary, and interesting with the factual and data inclusions. The impressive scholarship of the book is represented by the forty-seven some pages of “notes” at the end. But then the author falls into the ‘opposite sex” trap and I got my hackles up. First off, he declares – more than once – that people on the left “blame the victim.” I’m as far to the left on this issue as anyone I know of, and in no way do I blame the victim. My concern is how men have been victimized by the patriarchal culture, just as women were/are. And then, after a quick and subtle bow to the reality of what “significant differences” really means, he goes on to talk in generalized terms about men and women almost as if they are two different breeds. OK. I confess, maybe I’m reading it wrong, but that’s what hit me.  I remember, as a grown woman with a solid academic career, feeling shame and guilt when I read pompous declarations about women being, for example, nurturers. Yes, I have two children whom I have loved for almost sixty-five years, but, truth-be-told, I never felt a longing to “be a mother.” Even now I feel a smidgen of guilt about that. So how are men supposed to feel when told that “men are aggressive” If they aren’t. That’s the kind of thing that feeds the difficulty in assessing who one can be free to be.

No, those of us on the left in this issue do not “blame the victim.” We, or at least I, do look forward to the day when we can all be free to respect ourselves and others without feeling the need to dictate acceptable personality characteristics. Do I dare say I look forward to the day when we can be free to love without bumping up against the gender rules? As a matter of fact, I do believe that is happening. I remember Rosey Greer singing “It’s all right to cry” on the children’s record put together by Marlo Thomas back in the day.

So, as for Of Boys and Men, I’m glad Reeves wrote it. I’m glad people are reading it. I hope others will respond as emotionally and urgently as I did. And I hope they will realize he fell into the “opposite sex” trap when he suggested boys should start school a year later, as if all boys are behind the development of all girls. I hope this will be the beginning of the complex conversations, research, recommendations, and actions needed to refresh our systems to meet the genuine growth needs of all our people. And speaking of “all our people,” how about the men of color who have suffered such a different experience from the traditionally white subjects of psychological studies?

MY FIFTH HOLIDAY WISH   Leave a comment

My fifth wish, following from the 4th, would be recognizing the government’s obligatory provision of appropriate education beginning with professional child care freeing the parent(s) to earn appropriate incomes followed by growth facilitating education at all levels necessary for full utilization of the human potential whose creation has been required by government intervention.

Posted December 29, 2022 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

MY FOURTH HOLIDAY WISH   Leave a comment

My fourth wish is nourished partly by the experience of any caring parent – including me. The truth is the idealized baby in the diaper ads develops rather quickly into a growing individual – and I do mean “individual.” One would hope that same eagerness to promote the birth of a healthy baby would follow through in the concern for the growth of a healthy person. My third holiday wish of 2022, then, is for every person born to have the chance to grow in physical, psychological. moral, and spiritual fullness. Now we’re talking sufficient incomes to maintain constant and safe homes, environments free of illness–causing-and-growth-stunting pollution, opportunities to learn and develop with the potential begun back when the sperm met the ovum. I’d like to think that’s what “pro-lifers” mean, recognizing that invoking government intervention in the beginning calls for government intervention in promoting the life that follows.

Posted December 22, 2022 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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