Archive for June, 2013


If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

if-you-could-be-mine

I originally picked up this title, from Netgalley as an Advanced Reader’s Copy, because I have been fascinated with Iran and Persian culture for awhile now. I also on the lookout for good GLBTQ teen books, and this story seemed so intriguing. Even teens who are not gay can identify with this book because everyone deals with liking someone who doesn’t seem to like them as much as they like them, or only wants to be good friends. I liked that the author was gay herself and that this book was kind of a “wish I had one of these kinds of books when I was growing up.” This is her first book, and I would love to read more of her work in the future. If anyone is interesting in learning more about her, check out this page.  My only complaint about the book is the ending, as it just seemed to stop as it was getting interesting again. I kinda thought the author should’ve either ended it at the wedding or give more storyline for the main character post-wedding.

Sahar is a young Iranian woman about to head off to university, once she passes the entrance exam. She has been in love with her best friend Nasrin since they were little, and they have been carrying on an almost friends with benefits (no sex) existence for years now. Nasrin is from a very spoiled wealthy family who has picked a man for her to marry, much to the frustration of Sahar, who had always planned on running away with Nasrin. Sahar wants to dislike Reza, Nasrin’s fiance,  because she loves Nasrin, but he’s really a great guy. Ali, Sahar’s cousin, is the total opposite of the reserved and dutiful Sahar. He is an outgoing playboy who has some shady side businesses, and is out and proud (or as much as you can be in the Islamic Republic of Iran without getting in trouble). He invites her to her first openly gay party, where she meets Parveen, a transexual. Sahar comes up with a way to stop the wedding. Will she suceed in her plans? Will Nasrin ever admit her true feelings for Sahar? Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.

Ethiopian Orthodox Art

Mary and Jesus with Archangels (similar to a piece from the exhibition)

Mary and Jesus with Archangels

This past Saturday I was asked to give a talk on Ethiopian Orthodox Church art for an exhibition that has been going on since March at our church. Though I have training in Museum and Gallery Studies, and especially art with my Art History undergraduate degree, I had never actually given an art talk. So it was both nerve-wracking and exciting for me, and I spent about three weeks researching the topic (which was rather complicated and hard to summarize, but everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy it). A parishioner and member of the church committee that I’m a part of called Faith Through the Arts, allowed us to use her pieces for this first exhibit. They consisted of Ethiopian Orthdox Church icons on wood and goatskin that featured brightly colored images of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the Apostles, St Gabriel and St Michael and the Tinity, amongst others. Below is the paper I wrote for the art talk.

Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples

Jesus washing feet of disciples

The History of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Its Icons and Crosses 

Ethiopians became polytheistic starting in the first millennium BCE. Around 960 BCE the Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem and met the famous King Solomon. When she came back to Ethiopia, she bore him a son. Once the son got older, he visited Jerusalem and brought back Levites (who were in charge of religious duties in the city) and supposedly the Ark of the Covenant (which held the 10 Commandments). “A replica of these tablets, known as a Tabot, is placed in the Holy of Holies [what we refer to as the sanctuary] at the heart of each Ethiopian Orthodox church building.”[1]

Christianity became the official religion in the 4th century CE. However, there were Christians there much earlier than that. “In the Acts of the Apostles, [Chapter] VIII: 26-40, we are told of a certain Eunuch, who went with the treasures of Queen Candace of Ethiopia, to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. There he met Philip the Deacon and was baptized by him. Ethiopian tradition asserts that he returned home and evangelized the people. In his Homily on Pentecost, St. John Chrysostom mentions that the Ethiopians were present in the Holy City on the day of Pentecost.”[2]

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was founded after a Christian philosopher and two relatives, Frumentius and his brother from Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon), ran out of supplies and were stranded in the capital city of Axum. Frumentius helped spread Christianity in the city before being appointed the archbishop of the country. He converted the king and it became the state religion. “In fact, the EthiopianChurch exists today as self-governing, though it traditionally shares the same faith with Egypt’s Coptic Church. Until 1955, its Patriarch was a Coptic bishop sent from Alexandria, though that changed in 1959, and ever since then, a native Ethiopian has been the Abuna, or Patriarch. The main way that the Coptic Church is different from mainstream Orthodox Christians is that they believe that Christ has a divine nature in which the human nature is contained versus being two distinct halves.”[3] This belief has also kept them at arm’s length from Catholics and Protestants. “Wishing to stress that Christ has only one, simultaneously human and divine nature, the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia also refers to itself as the Tewahedo (also spelled tewahido), or “Made One / Unity,” Church.”[4]

Christians in Ethiopia have had their faith tested by the Muslims, who controlled Ethiopia from the 7th – 16th centuries. Today Muslims make up 25-40% of the Ethiopian population. They have also tried to protect themselves from other Christians – the Roman Catholic Church tried to bring them into the Western communion with the help of the Jesuits – but failed. The Catholics tried again during the time of Mussolini, but this attempt failed as well.

            The language spoken in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is Ge’ez, which is a Semitic language, like Hebrew and Arabic. Unlike these two though, it is written left to right instead of right to left. Few people outside of clergy understand Ge’ez and nowadays, most services are conducted in Amharic, the official language of modern Ethiopia.Today the Ethiopian Church is unique among Orthodox communities in several respects, including the use of drumming and liturgical dance and the continuance of Jewish practices such as circumcision, the observance of dietary restrictions, and the keeping of the Sabbath.”[5] The church came to America officially in 1959 after the Abuna of Ethiopia was officially recognized as the Patriarch of the Church, but has since drifted away from the MotherChurch in Africa.

            Icons have long been a tradition in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as they are an important visual representation of the scriptures. Painting of books and manuscripts started as early as the 6th Century CE, though mass production of icons didn’t start until the 15th century, after a change in church liturgy occured. There were icons produced prior to that, but none have survived. The most productive time for Ethiopian Orthodox icons was the 17th and 18th centuries. “Thematically, Ethiopian iconography was strongly influenced by Byzantine models; later Ethiopian art also reveals the influence of Western religious painting. Nonetheless, the vibrancy and simplicity of Ethiopian iconography mark out a distinctive style in the history of Christian art.”[6] Like in Western churches, patrons paid for commissions to create the icons and donated them to the churches. “Stored with other sacred objects, icons were displayed on holy days and in public processionals. [This is also the case with the Tabots, the replicas of the 10 Commandments, which each church has in their sanctuary.] With the donors’ hopes of obtaining divine intercession, images of Mary, the Mother of God, are understandably the dominant theme.”[7] Large icons were created to be used in church processions, while smaller ones were created to be carried around by individuals such as the ones in Glenna’s collection.

            Each icon is painted on either paneled wood or goat skin. They have a base layer of white paint called gesso, which is put down before any actual image painting starts. Originally the paints came from natural sources, such as minerals, plants and clay. Later on, because of their extensive trade with European countries, the artists used manufactured paints.

Although Ethiopian and Byzantine iconography is very similar there are some differences. The Ethiopian icons use a wider variety of bright colors, there is no use of gold in the backgrounds, there is rarely any text and the saints and other holy figures frequently have painted rather than golden halos. They also tend to depict the Trinity, which is not encouraged in the ByzantineChurch. “Among the more favored subjects of Ethiopian iconography are the Flight from Egypt (as a reminder that Africa sheltered the Holy Family); St. George, the patron of Ethiopia, who is often seen close to Mary; Mary and the Christ Child flanked by angels; St. Michael the Archangel; the Nine Saints, who are often depicted in a circle; various events from the lives of Mary and Jesus; and Ethiopian saints, especially Takla Haymanot from the 13th century.”[8]

            Ethiopian Orthodox crosses follow four basic styles: Axumite (from the ancient capital city of Axum), Lalibella, the Star of King David and Gondor. “However within these basic four styles, there are hundreds of design variations for the main types of crosses, i.e. the large Processional Crosses used for church service, the Hand Crosses held by Priests and used for blessing the laypeople, the small ‘Cross Toppers’ for the church prayer sticks or rods used by Hermit Monks (called Batawe, who travel the country in constant prayer). There are also Pendant Crosses worn by the faithful.”[9]


[1] Taken 6/20/13 from Betsy Porter at: http://www.betsyporter.com/Ethiopia.html,

[2]Selassie, Sergew Hable and Tamerat, Tadesse. “The Church of Ethiopia: A Panorama of History and Spiritual Life” Addis Ababa: Dec 1970. A publication of the EOTC. Taken 6/7/13 from: http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/ethiopian/prechristian.html

[3] Taken 6/7/13 from the Imperial Family of Ethiopia at: http://www.imperialethiopia.org/religions.htm

[5] Taken 6/14/13 from Michael S. Allen of the The Pluralism Project at: http://pluralism.org/affiliates/student/allen/Oriental Orthodox/Ethiopian/EthiopianLangAndCulture.html, 2005.

[6] Taken 6/14/13 from Michael S. Allen of The Pluralism Project at: http://pluralism.org/affiliates/student/allen/Oriental-Orthodox/Ethiopian/EthiopianIconography.html, 2005.

[7] Taken 6/14/13 from Bryna Freyer, National Museum of African Art at: http://www.nmafa.si.edu/exhibits/icons/faith.html, 2003.

[9] Taken 6/20/13 from Emahoy Hannah Miriam Whyte of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Info at: http://www.ethiopianorthodoxchurch.info/PhotosOfCrosses.html, 2008.

As at least 50% of the YA books I read per year are through audiobooks, this is great news! I hope others can enjoy this as well.

Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship’s Curse by Lynn Viehl

I love steampunk books, so when I saw this in the Teen/Young Adult section, I had to give it a try. I will say that I don’t agree with their classification. I think a lot of people try to put all steampunk as a teen-only genre, and I heartily disagree with that.  I love that she got help from one of my favorite steampunk writers, Gail Carriger, while writing it. One of the first things I will say about this book is the author has superb world-building skills. The book is set in an alternate history version of the US, called Toriana or more appropriately “The Provincial Union of Victoriana,” and set in the middle to late 19th century in Rumsen, basically the equivalent of San Francisco in our world. In this history, the US has lost the Revolutionary War and are still British subjects. The author has gone so far as to create a whole dictionary in the back of the book to interpret words used in the book, a mixture of English slang and made-up terminology. Most of the stuff I could figure out living in Scotland and having an English spouse. In addition to the alternate history, add various kinds of mages and magic users and steam-powered carriages and mechs. It makes for one very interesting world. Then of course we have our main character Charmian Kittredge, Kit for short, who makes a living debunking magic frauds. That’s where the story opens up, on Kit getting another client, this one a nob from up on the Hill (where the most wealthy in Rumsen live). Lady Walsh is convinced that someone has cursed her and wants Kit to investigate, but when she does she gets dragged into a lot more than she wanted. For one, she has to deal with the slimy Lord Dredmore, a death mage who does not take kindly to her intrusion onto the Hill. She ends up meeting a ghost, which causes her to find out about her own family history. Will Kit be able to unmask the truth behind Lady Walsh’s curse? Will she finally figure out who her family is? To find it, read Part 1 of this exciting series! I personally can’t wait to read the second part, though I’m not sure I can wait till December. 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I was given this book as an Advanced Reader’s Copy e-book by Netgalley and but it has not influenced how I reviewed this book.

June Life Update

Things have been really crazy lately. I’ve been really busy with work and haven’t had a whole lot of free time. This is especially true last week and this week so far. I hope everyone had a fantastic Father’s Day! My husband, son and I had lunch with my parents to celebrate. My hubby finally decided that he wanted a custom license plate for his gift, so we’re just waiting for the tag to come in before we can do anything. I finally got invitations for my son’s birthday party, but will probably get decorations closer to the day. The party is on July 14 but his birthday is the 15th. I can’t believe my big boy is going to be 2 years old!

I am horrible at remembering things, so I use Google Calendar to keep track of things for me, and it sends me email reminders. Usually I have one event a week but this week, I’ve got three. So feeling a bit overwhelmed. I decided to volunteer for a program at Phoenix Public Library called Talk Time, which is very similar to another program I did for two years in Columbia called Let’s Speak English (LSE), which allows ESL speakers to practice their English in a non-classroom setting. It is supposed to be more comfortable and make the students more at ease with conversing in English. I have several friends who I met through LSE and before when I was in school in Scotland that English is not their first language and I know how difficult it can be to do if you are not confident in your abilities or have been made fun of for the lack of English or many other reasons. I got to sit in on a Talk Time session last week and was surprised and pleased that so many people came. The previous week (which was the first one) only had 6 people, but the second one had 20+. I never had that many with LSE, it had a max of maybe 10 people. As we live in the Phoenix area, there are a lot of Mexican immigrants and this meetup was no exception, but there were also people from Korea, India, Colombia, Panama and Nicaragua as well. The big difference between Talk Time and LSE, aside from the numbers, is what I would be doing with the program. With LSE, I was one of many volunteers who partnered up with one or two internationals and talked in English. With Talk Time, I would be leading the session by myself. I met with the coordinator, who was very excited about my joining the program, especially as I could actually commit to 6+ months. So I am now completing 3 online courses in Adult Education, which I’m trying to finish by tomorrow (maybe more like by Wed or the end of the week, depending on how tired I am). I’m excited about volunteering again and yes, I hope this will add to my library experience so I can eventually get a good job in a system somewhere.

I also have to finish creating an art talk, before Saturday, which I’m making for one of the committees I’m a part of at my church. We have an art exhibition opening for the current exhibit of Ethiopian Orthodox Church art, a bit late, but better late than never. I’m going to give a bit of history on the church and on the icons/art in the exhibition. I’ve honestly never done one of these, so I’m a little nervous about boring people. I’ve discovered that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is incredibly old and complex, so it makes summarizing fun (not!). However, I am learning a bunch I didn’t know, so that’s always a bonus. I will post the speech/paper after I have given the talk.

I’m also finally getting my car tinted. I would never have thought about doing this prior to living in Arizona, as I think it’s a bit pretentious. However, with having a little one and trying to protect him from the sun as much as I can, it is now essential. Plus it is a dark colored car and we have no garage so it just gets hotter and hotter sitting outside and it will up the value of the car if we ever sell it.

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