The Twisted Circle by Rosaliene Bacchus. Book Review by Ken Puddicombe

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After starting the New Year in a fight with the coronavirus Omicron variant and its after-effects, it was a surprise and joy to read Ken Puddicombe’s review of my novel, The Twisted Circle.

Guyanese born, American domiciled author Rosaliene Bacchus follows up her first book—Under The Tamarind Tree with another set in the only English speaking country of Guyana in South America. While the first is centered on events occurring mainly in the capital Georgetown, The Twisted Circle is set in the North West district, a region of the country bordering Venezuela on the west and sparsely inhabited mainly by the native Amerindian tribes. Both books, however, dwell on the post-independence period of the country, a period of turmoil, racial conflict, and endemic corruption. 

Excerpt from Book Review by Ken Puddicombe, January 23, 2022

You can read the review on Puddicombe’s blog HERE.

Ken Puddicombe is a Guyana-born author of two historical novels Racing With the Rain (2012) and Junta (2014), a collection of short stories Down Independence Boulevard & Other Stories (2017), and a poetry collection Unfathomable & Other Poems. He lives in Toronto, Canada, where he owns and runs a small press.


Face-to-Face with Omicron

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Coronavirus – Pexels Photo Gallery

After more than twenty-one months of managing my pandemic anxiety, I have come face-to-face with the enemy: Omicron. I had lowered my defenses. I counted on my anti-vax son (hereafter called Sonny) who works in home renovations to alert me when exposed to someone infected with the virus. He had done that in December 2020 when his cousin’s wife had contracted the virus. At the time, when he also became sick, he self-isolated in his then newly rented apartment, adjacent to ours. His older brother took care of his meals.

The Omicron variant is different. When Sonny returned home on Thursday, December 30, after completing a two-month home renovation project in Palm Springs, he was unaware of Omicron’s sneak attack. He complained of general muscle pain, not unusual in his line of construction work, and spent the evening resting. He did not mention having a fever. On New Year’s Eve, he and another cousin went to a house party to welcome the New Year with their friends.

On Monday, January 3, the cousin tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day, my firstborn and unvaccinated son, who has been working from home since the lockdown in March 2020, took in with flu symptoms. He decided to isolate in Sonny’s apartment with the hope that I would not get infected. Too late. My head cold and cough started the following day.

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“The Miracle of Morning” by American National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

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American National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman
Photo by Danny Williams

My Poetry Corner January 2022 features the poem “The Miracle of Morning” from the poetry collection Call Us What We Carry: Poems (Penguin Random House, 2021) by African American poet Amanda Gorman, the youngest presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history. Born in 1998 in Los Angeles, California, she has an older brother and a twin sister. They were all raised by their single mother, a sixth grade English teacher at an inner-city public school. Born prematurely, the twins were diagnosed with a speech and auditory impediment. Some words, particularly those with an “r” sound, were hard for Gorman.

In a December 2021 interview, Gorman told Clint Smith of The Atlantic that it wasn’t until she was six or seven years old that she became aware of her speech impediment. “I was in and out of speech therapy for most of my life,” she said. “And what that did for me was force me to look at language, sounds, cadence, pronunciation actually as an access point of healing and recovery, because I was doing the work of learning English time and time again.”

Gorman started writing children’s stories from about age five. Her interest in poetry began in third grade. She found her voice as a young poet through working with WriteGirl, a Los Angeles based non-profit that assists teen girls to discover the power of their voice through writing. At sixteen years old, she became the 2014 Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. The following year, she published her first book of poems, The One for Whom Food is Not Enough (Urban World LA, 2015).

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Thought for Today: New Year, New Vision

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As we begin 2022, OneNature views this moment of crisis as an opportunity to rebuild our society and economy in a way that makes people happier by protecting abundant wildlife and a thriving planet. We believe that the key to a new and better future is shifting away from an economy based on unsustainable and inequitable economic growth toward an economy that values well-being. We argue that wildlife conservation must be central to this vision of wellbeing, because species diversity is crucial to sustaining the natural world as well as less tangible forms of human flourishing. And we aim to put these beliefs into practice in partnership with Indigenous and local communities, using wellbeing to articulate the shared values that ground effective and equitable wildlife conservation practices. Building a new, more sustainable future does not have to mean sacrifice. OneNature believes that our future has the potential to be abundant in what really matters, a thriving natural world with flourishing well-being for all.

Excerpt from the article “Staring the New Year with a new vision” by Beth Allgood, published in One Nature website, January 5, 2022.

Beth Allgood is the founder and president of One Nature Institute, a non-profit organization founded during the 2020 pandemic. With more than 25 years of experience in conservation, animal welfare, and community development, she is a passionate advocate for policies and practices that promote well-being for people, animals, and the planet. Learn more about the mission and work of One Nature Institute at https://onenatureinstitute.org/our_story/

Year 2021: Reflections

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Camellia plant outside my dining room window – Los Angeles – December 2021
Photo by Rosaliene Bacchus

What a year! With the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 still upending our lives, the year 2021 has taught me that, with constant adaptation to ever-changing conditions, I can endure. The coronavirus had already taken over 385,000 American lives when I watched in disbelief the live TV broadcast of the January 6th assault on the US Capitol building. Terrorism had come home to American soil. Future generations may come to regard that day as the meltdown of our global War on Terror.

Nature’s ever-mutating, coronavirus terrorist has thrown our divided forces into disarray. When you cannot see the enemy, you are unaware of any imminent danger of a stealth attack. Underestimating the strength of the enemy can also lead to defeat and possible death. Instead of confronting our common enemy, we have turned on each other. Unable to agree on proven scientific strategies of defense against this formidable foe, we have sustained thousands of casualties within our ranks, especially among our weakest and most vulnerable members.

As the mother of an anti-masker and anti-vaxxer, I have learned to stay afloat amidst the tsunami of distrust, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. A mother’s love should not be conditional. Our adult offspring should be free to make their own choices. To reduce my chances of contracting the virus and suffering from its worst effects, I got both doses of the vaccine and, more recently, the booster shot. I continue to wear my face mask in public indoor spaces and maintain the recommended six-foot distance from others outside my household, where possible. Overcoming my fear of contamination when using the bus is a work in progress.

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More Praise for The Twisted Circle: A Novel

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5.0 out of 5 Stars – A Tangled Web

This captivating novel throws the reader into the backroom dealings of a place of true believers: a convent in Guyana of four decades past. We soon discover that religious faith is not a guarantee of noble character.

Rosaliene Bacchus, a Guyanese native and herself a former nun, knows the tropical and impoverished locale from the inside. Here are souls no different and no more psychologically settled than those of us not privy to what it is like to live within a community of women devoted to God. Sexism, racial prejudice, the Sisters’ unfulfilled dreams, and political unrest further complicate their earnest attempt to serve others and fulfill the tenants of their faith. Nor does the author fence the reader off from the challenges of celibacy.

Rosaliene Bacchus set herself a considerable task. She offers us three principal dramatic settings: the convent, a public school where her protagonist teaches, and the outer world of Catholic Priests, indigenous peoples, and government officials. Once the reader becomes familiar with the many characters, the novel’s action moves swiftly.

I am grateful to the author for an enlightening and enjoyable experience. May she go from strength to strength.

Amazon Review by American Reader Tod Verklärung, posted on December 11, 2021.

“Song of the Earth” – Poem by Brazilian Poet Cora Coralina

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Brazilian Poet Cora Coralina
Photo: Association of the House of Cora Coralina

My Poetry Corner December 2021 features the poem “Song of the Earth” (O Cântico da Terra) from the 1965 debut poetry collection The Alleyways of Goiás and More Stories (Poemas dos Becos de Goiás e Estórias Mais) by one of Brazil’s great twentieth-century poets, known by her pen name, Cora Coralina (1889-1985).

Born in the small town of Goiás Velho, then the capital of Brazil’s Center-West State of Goiás, Cora Coralina (named Ana Lins dos Guimarães Peixoto) was the third of four daughters. Her father, a High Court judge, died shortly after her birth. In her poem, “My Childhood (Freudian),” she writes:

I was sad, nervous and ugly.
Yellow, with a pale face.
Limp legs, falling down carelessly.
Those who saw me like that – said:
“This girl is the living image
of the old sick father.”
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Guyana: Dolling Up for the Year-End Festivities

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Photo by Inga Seliverstova on Pexels.com

December was the most hectic month for my stay-at-home working Mom. As a sought-after dressmaker among middle-class women in the capital, Georgetown, Mom had little time for Christmas shopping, home decoration, and preparation of our traditional Christmas dinner specialties. Guyanese love to party. The Christmas and year-end festivities meant parties galore: office parties, nightclub parties, and house parties. The greatest fete of all was the Old Year’s Night Ball to welcome in the New Year with a bang.

As early as October, to ensure that their dresses were done on time, Mom’s clients who had several functions to attend would start bringing in their dress materials. For the Old Year’s Night Ball, no expense was spared when choosing the best imported fabrics. Clients could select designs from fashion magazines—JC Penney, McCall’s, Sears, and Vogue—Mom made available. A few clients brought clippings of photos from women’s magazines featuring the rich and famous. At the time, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jacqueline Kennedy were the rave. I enjoyed a front seat view of the woman’s world of dolling up for parties and other social events to attract a mate or to hold onto your man or husband.

I was a thirteen-year-old teenager in high school when Mom began sewing for three attractive working-class women of Portuguese descent. All in their twenties, the three friends worked in the office wing of Bookers Guiana General Store. To protect their identity, I’ll call them Catherine, Marcella, and Yvette. Catherine was the most beautiful with hair and features to rival those of the French actress Catherine Deneuve. Yvette had muscular shoulders and arms from playing tennis at a competitive level. Marcella was a dark-haired beauty like the American actress Rita Morena in West Side Story (1961).

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More Praise for The Twisted Circle: A Novel

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There is no betrayal quite like religious betrayal, and there is no circadian cycle quite like this twisted circle. What makes [The Twisted Circle] more poignant is knowing the author draws from some of her own experience having been in a religious Catholic community for seven years. The novel is written in a fast pace that carries the reader along places, encounters, and historical events around the 70’s and 80’s in Guyana where the author was born. Read more at “The Books of 2021.”

R.H. (RUSTY) FOERGER is a Canadian award-winning retired fire office and former lay pastor, teacher, missionary, and mentor for over 33 years. He blogs at "More Enigma Than Dogma."

“A Report to the Academy: The Modern Caribbean” – Poem by Trinidadian Poet Raymond Ramcharitar

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Front Cover of the Poetry Collection Modern, Age, &c by Raymond Ramcharitar [Photo of Sculpture by Winslow Craig]

My Poetry Corner November 2021 features Part 1 from the four-part, long poem “A Report to the Academy: The Modern Caribbean” from the poetry collection, Modern, Age, &c, by the Caribbean journalist, poet, and cultural critic Raymond Ramcharitar. Born in Trinidad, he studied at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Economics (1991), Masters in Literature in English (2002), and Doctorate in Cultural History (2007).

After completing his doctorate, Ramcharitar received three overseas fellowships: Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Warwick University, UK (2008); Visiting Scholar at New College, University of Toronto, Canada (2010); and Poetry Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA (2011). He currently lives in Trinidad where he is a communications consultant for the ANSA McAL Group of Companies.

In speaking of his third poetry collection, Modern, Age, &c (Peepal Tree Press, UK, 2020), the poet said that he balanced the book among three themes: political (Modern), personal (Age), and the whimsical (&c). The tone varies from sardonic, to satiric, to lyrical.

Modern is about the malaise: the diseases of our time: depression, anxiety, isolation—The broader themes of loss, disintegration,” the poet said. As he recently turned fifty, Age is his way to examine the shredding of the social contract. “I started to look back to find the threads that hold me together, as a parent, a man,” he said. “And try to find where everything changed: the plan for utopia, or progress, when did it become a tweet, or post on Facebook or Instagram?”

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