Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT “MY FATHER’S HOUSE”   20 comments

I’m thrilled to provide a link to this great article The Bristol Press did about My Father’s House. That’s my home town paper where I grew up in Forestville/Bristol Connecticut. The only problem is they included my full name as author, but the only way to find it is via Mona Gustafson — period. Swedish, you know.

The Bristol Press – Forestville native pens book about what life was like in the city from 1910 through the 1970s

 

WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES, A REVIEW   Leave a comment

Georgia Hunter, We Were the Lucky Ones

I knew when our book club chose this book that it was highly rated, and in the end I agreed. But for much of the book I found it difficult to “feel” the individual characters. Maybe because the story being “reported” was true. By the end, however, I realized that the main character had been given great and empathetic depth, because the main character was the family. I confess I also had difficulty with the style of going back and forth from one character/family member to the other with time passage being the thread. But as an author I couldn’t imagine any other way to do it.

The experiences were cruel, the evil unbelievable and yet real, and the courage and creativity amazing. What held me tightest, however, was the feeling that the book was not just a record of terrible events in the past, but a call to be aware of present dangers. I’ll try to explain what I mean by referring to some of my own history. I was 11 years old – almost twelve — when the United States entered the war in 1941. And what was I doing as it progressed? Sitting on the front lawn with my best friend — eating chocolate, drinking coke, and watching the boys go by. Oh yes, there were other things like flattening empty aluminum cans, drawing the black shades at night, counting ration coupons, watching Time Newsreel at the movies, worrying about my brother and brother-in-law serving overseas. But mostly I was living in a nice, safe world of school, dances, and dates. What a contrast to the experiences of the author’s family! 

Then in 1951, as a recent college graduate, I traveled with the National Student Association on a tour to Europe: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Holland, and Belgium. How very fortunate I was, but that’s not the point. I really liked everyone I met. We walked past bombed out buildings, piles of rubble, stores built up out of nothing on busy corners, cigarettes 60 cents apiece compared to our American 20 cent packs. But I liked the people. And that’s what alerts me. It was good people who let the horrors happen. And how gradually the family in the story realized the danger they were in. How improbable it seems that good neighbors could become the enemy. But they did. And then there was the student guide in Germany who said, “This will come to your country someday.” The caution was there.

In 1955 I was back in Europe, this time visiting one of the extermination camps with its photos of local people “surprised” at what had been going on in their back yard. Good people who saw only what they wanted to see. You don’t need to be a psychologist to know that’s what people do – see what they expect and want to see and don’t let the rest in. 

I’ve been back to Europe a few times since. As is true of anywhere I travel, even in my own back yard, I like the people. They are good people, just like the good people who let the horrors happen that threatened and terrified the family in “We Were the Lucky Ones.” I can’t read that book only as a piece of awful history. I can’t help but see it as a powerful caution.  

I’m glad I read it. The book deserves all the accolades it has received. And I’ll continue to be aware that it was human beings – many of whom went home after their “work” to loving, welcoming families – who perpetrated the evils. To that extent it is contemporary. We are the good ones. Maybe it’s important to think about that. We Were the Lucky Ones is more than history, more than sympathy for what was, more than rejoicing with the surviving family. To me it is a call to vigilance.

Posted July 5, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

Auto Draft   6 comments

 

GRATITUDE

This morning I woke up in a comfortable bed in a pleasant, clean room, all at just the right temperature for my comfort. My first stop was a nice clean bathroom with a toilet that flushed and water that ran in the sink — both hot and cold based on my choice. I plugged my cell phone into the outlet on the wall and electricity came through to power it.

Then I went to the kitchen to fill a pan with water from the sink faucet which ran both hot and cold. I placed the pan on the stove and turned a knob which caused the heat to start. From the refrigerator I took an egg, preserved at just the right temperature and put it in the pot.  Three minutes after it had come to a boil I ran the pot under cold water until I could retrieve the egg and continue cooling it, after which  I removed the shell and placed it in a clean dish to put on the table  along with a small bowl of blueberries that had been preserved in the freezer until removal to the refrigerator yesterday. In my microwave I warmed a cup of coffee and sat down at a comfortable table to eat it.

And that’s this morning’s news. Grateful? Indeed! and sad that a huge percentage of people in the world can’t have the same experience. Am I wrong to wish we were working toward a world where everyone could enjoy such a morning?

 

 

Posted July 4, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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Review of “The Gratitude Project.”   2 comments

The Gratitude Project by Jeremy Adam Smith
The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good
by

Jeremy Adam Smith (Goodreads Author) (Editor),
Kira Newman (Editor),
Jason Marsh (Editor),
131442731

Mona Gustafson Affinito‘s review

Jun 15, 2021  ·  edit
liked it


I’m glad this book was written, but I confess I didn’t finish reading it. Given my interest in forgiveness, I’m grateful that related topics like gratitude, thankfulness, resilience, and optimism are being given scientific scrutiny. It’s not the kind of publication that one is likely to read from cover to cover, however, but rather a “pick-up” series of articles, each of which could stand alone. To tell the truth, given the current state of our world, I find it very hopeful that these topics are getting the attention they deserve.

As for rating it, it didn’t seem appropriate even to do so, but given the pressure I chose a rating of 3 as a book to “read.” As a book to “consult” it deserves more.

Posted June 15, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

WHY BOTHER   4 comments

FYI. The list price for My Father’s House is $18.99. My royalty after everyone gets their slice is $0.45. (Unless, of course, it’s purchased directly from me.)

My son points out that’s about the percentage the farmer gets who produces the food in the first place. Food for thought — pun recognized.

Still I write — because I want to. And I want people to read what I write. What better reason? (And yes, reviews are worth at least as much as money.)

Posted June 7, 2021 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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I just reviewed Elizabeth Warren’s book, Persist   2 comments

No doubt there will be those who refuse to read Warren’s book believing that they already know what she will say and that they won’t like it. What a shame to miss out on this well-wrought memoir of a woman who has experienced so many of life’s contingencies. From impediments to education for reason of financial difficulties to creating a successful plan to accomplish the goal; from refusal of a place at the legal table for reason of gender to loss of a teaching job for reason of pregnancy. From almost making it to the presidential nomination to following through on plans through her position in the Senate.  From recognizing (p. 167) that “You can’t fix a problem you can’t see,” through seeing the problem, proposing a plan, and acting on it.

If you are old enough to remember the days when you could be denied access to a job because of being a woman, or be removed from a teaching job so students won’t have to witness the “show” of your pregnancy, then you’ll get some of the “I’ve been there” feeling. Or maybe you’re young enough that you never had to imagine such a situation.  Either way, you will be exposed to situations you will not experience. And one page will draw you on in fascination to the next. In other words, If this were a novel rather than a memoir there would be raves for a fascinating story .

Memorial Day, 1930   8 comments

I don’t remember this, given that I was less than a year old, but here’s the Memorial Day story that was removed from My Father’s House to reduce the size of the book. In those days it was called Decoration Day. It was also the time of green growth for the new house at 187 Stafford AVenue.

As winter departed, Carl watched the weather. Bu mid-May the temperature ranged from lows in the 40s to highs in the 90s. Rain was not as frequent as he would have liked. Natural rainfall is better for young grass seed like that planted the previous fall, but on dryer days the water hose kept the potential lawn moist. Everyone had a turn at the daily task of holding a finger against the stream to create a lightly broadcast spray. By Decoration Day on Saturday, May 30, 1930, marking the beginning of the first summer at 187, the lawns both front and back were rewarding the effort with green shoots thickening like an adolescent boy’s growing beard.

Jennie prepared a warm picnic lunch that would become a Decoration Day tradition: Meatloaf and escalloped potatoes. This year she made apple pie for dessert. But there was deep sadness as those who had given their lives were memorialized. Grieving Swannie’s death, Carl and Jennie found happiness in the knowledge that Mona was lucky, being born at a time when peace, at least, was guaranteed.

Like a prisoner set free, Carl celebrated the summer by exchanging his suit and tie for work clothes as soon as he got home from work. After the meal he headed to the garden, not recognizing the fall of darkness until it wrapped itself around him like a thick blanket.

“You seem like you’re praying when you’re working out there,” Jennie commented.

“It is prayer.” Carl never worked the soil without remembering the barrenness of Torsäs.

Rising from bulbs pressed into the soil in the fall, there were the beginnings of multicolored tulips, yellow daffodils, and delicate white irises with leaves revealing gentle lavender veins. A burst of low-lying deep purple crocuses began to form a delicate wall along the tidy ridge separating the developing green grass from the lawn’s periphery.

In the future there would be geraniums and zinnias, and dreams of phlox to come up in the next spring season. The shadier areas anticipated a multicolored array of impatiens.

From the nearby woods Carl and Harvey brought home small cedars forming a future partial wall marking the end of the property. For this first summer, marigolds would form a protective defense around the trees.

By July an automatic sprinkler replaced the individual finger to disperse water widely and delicately. All that was now required was judicious movement of the hose every half-hour or so. Truth be told, the whole family appreciated the days when a long, gentle spring rain came.

 

 

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.

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