Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breaking News: I have a job!!!!

OK, it's not a fabulous one. It's part time, phone sales, at night. But still, I'm ecstatic. So, let the shout-outs commence, in no particular order:

To my landlord: I was scared to death to tell you that both my boyfriend and I had lost our jobs. You responded by saying that it was tough for everyone right now and to pay when we could. You know, my credit card people, the utility provider and the bank who financed my car could give a shit about me. So it was nice having one less thing to worry about. Also, for the washer last week, which put an end to about six months worth of stupid washer drama.

To my friends at the Amherst Museum and in ECHF: You hear horror stories about people losing their jobs and all of their professional acquaintances, too. They decide that it's professional suicide to be associated with you. They side with your ex-employer over you, or they just look at you and see their own worst fears and avoid you. You guys did the opposite. You pushed me to get more involved. You kept me informed about job leads. You encouraged me to write for our newsletter, get involved with the annual meeting, and head up the White Glove Brigade. You gave me something meaningful to do. Sometimes, I really had to scrape up the $15 for dinner at the meeting, but it was always, always worth it. You guys are awesome and deserve everything you had and more. I can never thank any of you enough.

To the Girl Scouts of Western New York: Chairing this committee has been harrowing at times, but it, too, got me out of the house and gave me something meaningful to do. When I went to the IMLS conference, I felt a heckuva lot more confident approaching people than I would have if I'd had to tell them I was completely out of the field. I'm looking forward to continuing to try to make an impact.

To all of my WoW friends on Trollbane-US, especially those in the guild Dragoneers and formerly of the guild LastRites: I'll never know much about most of your real lives. I don't even know most of your real first names, but know you by names like Zyggynz, Illuminae, and Medesse. You guys probably don't know, either, that I've been looking for a job for what feels like forever and getting very discouraged at times. It was a comfort to always know that the game, and my friends in the game, were there for me. Sometimes, it was virtually the only form of entertainment I could afford. And sometimes, getting that holiday event achievement or rounding out my tier gear was the only thing I managed to accomplish all week. It always feels good to "hang out" with you guys in the game.

To David Clem, Niki Thomas, Tess Frazier and Kathy Leacock: You guys offered to help me get jobs in your companies/organizations. The fact that all of them wound up not working out, getting put on hold, etc. doesn't diminish the fact that all year, you were the only ones that gave me concrete leads. I'll always appreciate it, and I'll always look for a way to pay you back.

To my aunt: You randomly called me this winter and asked me out to lunch at a time when I felt like the entire world wanted nothing to do with me. It was a great lunch, and really cheered me up. Now that I have a source of income, I'm going to take you to lunch!!!

To the rest of my extended family: Seeing you guys last month for the first time in years really energized me. You know, when you're unemployed, most people hound the shit out of you. Everyone not in your situation seems to have all the answers. You guys weren't like that at all. You let me know that you loved me and wished me the best without any of the implied put-downs. And in the weeks after that wedding, I applied to like twenty jobs, including the one I just got, and you were at least part of the reason.

To my parents: Where to start. For all of the emotional support, all of the financial support, all of the encouragement. For paying for me to come visit you in Florida this winter and not mentioning a word about looking for a job the entire time. For getting me out of the house, for always cheering me up, I can never thank you enough.

To my boyfriend: You were so understanding and encouraging this whole time, even when you were feeling frustrated and discouraged with your own situation. It's been a rocky year. Looking forward to it being better -- together.

Finally, to you, the readers of this blog: Thanks for coming! I hope you've enjoyed reading what I have to say and hanging out in my own little corner of the internet. I know that every day, I have my own "blog rounds". So, if I'm part of yours, thank you for the time you spend with me, on however regular a basis you drop in. It kept me going, too.


"Treating someone like a leper" has become a common metaphor for social isolation. In Alan Brennert's historical novel Molo'kai, readers have a chance to explore the real-life roots of that phrase.

In the late 1800s, leprosy (known today as Hansen's Disease and treatable with a simple course of antibiotics) tore through the populace of Hawaii. Hawaii's geographic isolation makes it unique but fragile. Leprosy was spreading like wildfire, and the government's best solution was isolation. Leprosy victims were arrested like criminals, taken to a medical facility where their disease stood trial, and if convicted, were sent to remote Molo'kai to live out the rest of their lives among others who had leprosy.

This is the fate of young Rachel Kalama, the central character in the novel. Rachel is diagnosed with leprosy at the young age of seven. Her family tried to hide the evidence of her disease, even making her wear shoes to school (which earned her the nickname, "Little Miss Shoe"). But to no avail, as she is taken anyway, first to a glorified infirmiry, and then to the community of Kalaupapa.

When Rachel arrives in Kalaupapa, it has entered into its maturity. In its earliest days, it was poorly planned and disorganized, with leprosy sufferers themselves forced to provide their own food and shelter to the best of their abilities. But now, Father Damien has come and gone, and Kalaupapa has real houses, a hospital, a store, and two children's homes (one for boys, one for girls). Despite the presence of her uncle on the island, Rachel is settled into the girls' home, run by nuns.

What would you do in these circumstances? Probably what anyone would do: rail against them at first. Mourn the loss of your family and home. Make repeated attempts at escape. But ultimately, you'd settle in. You may not ever fully accept your circumstances, but you'd construct a life nonetheless. This is, of course, what Rachel proceeds to do over the course of the novel, which follows her entire life. Along the way, we meet the people of her life: Sister Catherine, the troubled nun; Haleola, Rachel's uncle's girlfriend and an herbalist and believer in native religion; Rachel's father Henry, the only member of her family to keep in touch; Rachel's husband Kenji, who was studying economics when he fell ill; and many more.

The novel does an excellent job of showing the effects of the leprosy policy on ordinary people. It does a less thorough job of making you feel them quite the way that Snow Falling on Cedars did. The novel lays all of Rachel's life bare for the reader, from her earliest years until her death. But somehow, it doesn't quite take us inside. After spending 350 pages with her, she's still hard to characterize. She likes to surf. She dreams of seeing the world. She cares a great deal about the people around her. That's any bright, empathetic Hawaaian, though. Some of the secondary characters, like Sister Catherine and Rachel's friend Leilani, are slightly more vivid. But Rachel just seems like a glass through which to view Molo'kai and the leprosy policy in general.

It's not a bad book, all in all. Brennert has clearly done his research and is able to make the place and time come alive, if not exactly the central character. I understand there's another book on Hawaii by the same author, which I may or may not check out based on this one. I'd say that for me, this is another one which falls into the "just OK" category.