Book Review – Mixed – My Life in Black and White

“I hate covert racism. I always hated guessing whether someone is being mean/rude/nervous because they hate my race or because they are having a bad day. As I got older, I noticed that covert racism is like depression: You know it when you feel it, but it’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. It’s like a sixth sense that God has given people of color that white people don’t believe in. We just know.”

In her memoir “Mixed: My Life in Black and White” (2006), Angela Nissel writes of the struggles she faces while growing up biracial. Nissel’s name may be familiar to fans of the NBC comedy series “Scrubs.” She has been a staff writer for the show for four years and is now consulting producer. As a starving artist (a.k.a. freelance writer), Nissel sold some goods on eBay for extra cash. The winning bidder for one of those items was a television executive who had read her first book “The Broke Diaries” (2001), which was about her days as a broke college student. The eBay winner introduced Nissel to a television literary agent who sent copies of “The Broke Diaries” to shows hiring comedy writers. Nissel had numerous job offers, but chose “Scrubs.”

Her knack for sarcastic, quick-witted humor that is a driving force in “Scrubs” is what makes “Mixed” a must read. When Nissel is in the fourth grade, two of her classmates, Jimmy and Michael, call her a zebra. (That isn’t the humorous part.) Nissel’s father finds out and goes to the boys’ houses with Angela. Jimmy’s parents scold their son. However, Michael’s father slams the door in Angela’s father’s face. That father’s dog has been using the Nissels’ yard as a bathroom, so Angela’s father concocts a hilarious scheme involving an Ex-Lax pill. Angela asks her father whether the Ex-Lax will hurt the dog. “‘No, just Michael’s father’s carpets,'” her dad replies.

Later, though, Angela discovers that her father has been cheating on her mother, but even this situation is steeped in humor. “I already knew my parents were having problems and she suspected my father of cheating. (Note to parents: Trying to have cryptic conversations by spelling words out no longer works once your child is reading.) Then later, “Ever since the first argument about my father c-h-e-a-t-i-n-g with w-h-o-r-e-s, my mother had started working a lot….”

The thing about this book is that the comedic moments are also sad ones. And this is Nissel’s strength: She makes you laugh, but she also makes you think. Comments from people about her looks teach her that there is “good” hair and an “ugly” nose. The features people consider pretty are from her white father.

She went to all-black schools, all-white schools, public, private, schools associated with different religions-yet she never fit in. She was never white enough or black enough, so she was the target of merciless teasing. “Being a mixed child, you get used to people staring at you,” she writes. She immediately follows with humor: “I learned that rolling my eyes or sticking out my tongue was the quickest way to get people to avert their gazes.” She learns that being biracial is no easier in the dating world. She notices that of six black male coworkers at a production company, “five had white wives and one was dating an Asian girl.”

The book is filled with Nissel’s struggles, but she doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her; she is explaining how her experiences (good or bad) made her who she is. She makes you care about the people in her life, particularly her mother, who let her daughter change schools and religions-almost as often as she changed her clothes-in an attempt to find herself. Nissel doesn’t censor herself-or anyone else-which makes for brilliant dialogue and unapologetic honesty.

Book Review of "Kabul Beauty School"

If you thought you knew everything there is to know about beauty schools, you haven’t seen anything like this. In “Kabul Beauty School”, author Deborah Rodriguez-Turner with Kristin Ohlson shares one journey you wouldn’t even imagine. It’s not an adventure I would want because I am too afraid to ever leave the United States but a fascinating one to read about from a woman who has guts.

At the age of twenty-six, Deborah divorced her first husband. She had two kids and couldn’t quite put her finger on it but she always seemed to be restless. She tried college. She tried being a correctional officer. She tried partying. She tried religion. Without a religious background, she jumped right in to a Pentecostal church and married a traveling preacher who turned out to be abusive.

Her second marriage tuned out to be a bad situation. Deborah sent her boys to live with her mother and started trying to find the safest way to escape this relationship. She began going on mission trips, convincing her husband that she would be a good helper to him when he traveled. Then, she also got involved with relief efforts of humanitarian agencies and really enjoyed it.

On her first trip by herself to Afghanistan, she felt a little awkward because all the other volunteers were educated medical professionals. To her pleasant surprise, when she was introduced as a hair dresser, everyone was ecstatic because she could help them feel refreshed in the ditsy desert.

When she returned home, she began brainstorming about how she could make a difference in the lives of Middle Eastern Women by opening a beauty school and teaching them to become hairdressers.

Deborah collected product donations, found someone to ship the product and made contacts to actually make the dream happen. Someone put her in contact with a lady who already had started a school and suggested they join forces so she agreed. She just wanted to help.

Deborah’s husband was very controlling and began making threats in attempt to stop her from leaving him. She had her mind made up and left.

Once she opened her school, friends convinced her that if she planned on staying permanently, she would need a husband. She agreed to enter an arranged marriage as the second wife.

Much of the book introduces the reader to the lives of the women at the school. Sadly, she discovered that she couldn’t help everyone because there were so many sad stories and cultural differences beyond her control. She learned to be grateful those the differences she could make. As of the publishing if the book in 2007, she was still married to her Afghan husband and remains living there. The school had many obstacles to overcome but she did make a difference.

I think the main point of the book is that you have something to offer wherever you live.

Book Review of "The Templars"

There are so many stories about Templars, Knights and Masons. Some are fact and some are fiction. You have to know a little about history to sort through them. Barbara Frale is a historian who gives the reader the history background collected from her research.

The warrior-monks were put together to protect Jerusalem from being taken over by the Muslims. There were multiple countries involved. France and England were two of the major ones. They led the crusades for centuries but were eventually defeated. In the end, between kings and the Catholic Church, they were disbanded. It was a sad ending to their history. There was an inquisition and they were killed.

Much of the book was beyond my knowledge and I kept my laptop nearby to lookup time periods I needed background on. It was very interesting.

From what I comprehended, they began as an honorable group of men who in the end were used as scapegoats, pawns and murdered in the end.

Many people interested in these topics are into the whole conspiracy theories that make for movies.

I’m not into all that but do enjoy learning about history. What I got out of it is that I do not want to support death penalties or torture in any circumstance. Throughout history, there has been so much wrong done to innocent people by deceit or fanaticism. Even for heinous crimes, I would rather just incarcerate and rehabilitate than chance unjustly murdering or harming someone who was innocent or who didn’t submit to an idea.

We have seen these scenarios throughout history from the Templars, to witch hunts, to those refusing to convert to religions, to military revenge. I know in my heart that is not what God would want people doing to each other in his name.

I do believe the military is a necessary part of life that will always be needed. One group will always be trying to take over another and countries need to be able to defend themselves. I am thankful that I have never to to experience war and pray I never do. I am thankful that I live in a country with freedom of religion, democracy and in the age of peace. I am thankful I was born after freedom for slaves, rights for women and civil rights equality. I am thankful for all those before I was born who sacrificed their lives for those freedoms.