Exposing yet another Canadian tragedy

THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS by Joanna Goodman

At this point in history, most of us know about the Native residential schools. Some of us might be aware that there were, in fact, slaves in Canada. Let’s not forget the boatloads of Jews who were sent back to Europe during the Holocaust to meet their fate in the concentration camps. There was also the appropriation of the Dionne Quintuplets who were taken from their parents and made into tourist attractions. I would, however, be willing to bet that few Canadians are aware of the travesty orphans in Quebec orphanages suffered in the 1940s and 50s, something The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman strives to bring to the fore.

In The Home for Unwanted Girls, fifteen-year-old half-English/half-French Maggie gets pregnant by her French boyfriend. When the girl, named Elodie, is born, her parents whisk the baby off to be adopted by a Jewish couple who cannot adopt through the system, but Elodie is sickly at birth, and the couple backs out. The only thing left to do is to give the baby to an orphanage. When Elodie is 11, she meets with a doctor who declares her mentally insane so she can be admitted to the insane asylum to which the facility is about to be converted. Told the other is dead, Elodie and Maggie stumble through life, unable to rise above the circumstance of Elodie’s birth which, in Catholic rural Quebec, is a horrific sin.

Search for the “Duplessis Orphans” to learn the whole story. In a nutshell, the Catholic-run institution found it could make more money housing the mentally ill than orphans, so they had the residents in their orphanages declared mentally insane so they could keep living in their institutions and collecting money for their incarceration. The Duplessis orphans were treated no differently than the other inmates, receiving the same, harsh punishments and no education. The orphans were not removed from the institutions until after 1962. They were eventually issued an apology in 1999 and paid damages in 2006, but the damage for “an estimated two to four thousand children [who] were physically, mentally, and sexually abused” had already been done.” As would be imagined, the orphans found it difficult to integrate back into society after their experiences. The character of Maggie is inspired by Goodman’s mother, who was the daughter of a French Catholic married to an English “seed” man (one who makes a living selling seeds like Maggie’s father in the novel), but the rest of the book is based on Goodman’s research into the Duplessis orphans while giving a “deeper historical context into some of the long-running tensions that still exist between the province’s French and English communities.”

The Home for Unwanted Girls was an incredible read which I was unable to put down and finished in less than a week. Some of the attraction is akin to slowing down to catch a glimpse of the aftermath of an accident—we are so enticed by the devastation that we can’t look away. Elodie’s story while incarcerated, based on an actual, first-person exposition by a Duplessis orphan, propels the story forward, as do Maggie and Gabriel’s will-they-won’t-they relationship. Will Maggie and Gabriel get back together? Will Gabriel ever find out about Elodie’s existence? Will Maggie and Elodie ever be reunited? Read Joanna Goodman’s The Home for Unwanted Girls to find out.

Share This:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The OA” Season Two — WTF?

Warning: this is about “The OA”; spoilers abound.

Brit Marling as Prarie/Nina from “The OA” season two

 In season one of Netflix’s “The OA”, Prairie, a blind girl, is kidnapped by Hap and kept in an underground glass prison cell for seven years. Hap is obsessed with people who have had near death experiences (NDE), and he wants to find out what happens after death. This is no “Flatliners”. Hap regularly kills Prairie and his four other charges—NDE survivors all—by drowning them in a helmet he’s devised before bringing them back to hear about their experiences. When Prairie tries to escape, she regains her sight after Hap hits her over the head in an attempt to kill her.

What the prisoners see after death is a series of “movements” they must do together in order to escape their subterranean prison. I should clarify that the way they escape is by sending their consciousnesses to another dimension.

Weird? You bet. And it only gets weirder.

“The OA” is a story within a story in which Prairie recounts what has happened to five select people in the present, including one of the teachers at Prairie’s school. When an active shooter goes on a rampage at the school, the five repeat the prisoners’ movements to distract the shooter. Season one ends with Prairie being shot in the chest.

Season two opens with Hap killing the prisoners and all of them, including Prairie, waking up in their bodies in an alternate reality. Hap is still keeping them prisoners in a psychiatric institution, Prairie finds out what her life would have been like without her NDE as a child, and Prairie’s love interest, Homer, is a doctor working under Hap. Prairie’s audience of five go on a quest to find out what happened to her and to send the teacher to Prairie’s new dimension.

Season two introduces a house that’s actually a puzzle that people solve using a phone app, a psychic octopus, ghosts from another dimension, the revelation that Nina, Prairie’s alter-ego, is a medium for nature, and that teacher BAA is a medium who can sense what’s happening in the other dimension. Remember how I said that it only gets weirder? Cue brain seeds that grow gardens forming an interdimensional map, and that Hap is Jason Isaacs (the actor that plays him) in another reality who is married to Brit Marling, the actor that plays Prairie (shades of “Being John Malkovich”). The object of the game is to find the rose window that looks into this alternate reality in order to win the game. Oh, and there are dreams. Lots of them, in which many people dream of a tunnel the size of a coffin, two round staircases, a rose window, and Karim, a private investigator hired to find Michelle who is Buck, a transgender teenager that is one of Prairie’s five select people.

I watched all eight episodes over two days and needless to say, I’m still processing. I have a lot of thinking to do and a lot of reading to figure out what I’ve just watched. Just like season one, this season takes a long time building up to the final two episodes which feel rushed. In fact, the whole season feels rushed, like there’s SO much jammed into those eight hours that it will take a lot of unpacking to understand the symbolism behind the giant octopus or how BAA suddenly has psychic powers. There’s no guessing needed to figure out the symbolism of the eyes (Prairie was blind; Nina was not), near drownings (reminiscent of Hap’s torture device) or that the puzzle floor is a huge cross-section of a tree (symbolic of the tree of life).

Regardless, both seasons of “The OA” are worth the watch for literary nerds like me who can’t help but ponder the overall meaning of the story. This is going to take a while. Discuss amongst yourselves until I figure it out.

Any thoughts? Please leave them in the comments below.  

Share This:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An Iconic Dystopia for iconically dystopic times

The Handmaid’s cover I remember.

The Handmaid’s Tale is Margaret Atwood’s iconic dystopic novel from 1985. Though it was published more than three decades ago, it nevertheless functions as a contemporary cautionary tale, warning society of the path it will take if it does not check its values. It remains extremely relevant in the first quarter of the new millennia, with themes surrounding basic civil and human rights regarding freedom of speech, religion, and marginalized populations, including women.

The novel follows the story of Offred, a handmaid assigned to the Commander and his wife. In the Republic of Gilead, fertile women are forced to become handmaids to bear children for sterile upper-class women via monthly, ceremonial copulation. Offred (a name derived from the words “of Fred”, forever branding her the Commander, Fred’s, property) fails to become pregnant and the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, suggests she allow herself to be impregnated by Nick, the Commander’s chauffeur, ostensibly to protect her station as their handmaid. When, on a shopping trip, her companion, Ofglen, introduces Offred to Mayday—an underground organization devoted to overthrowing Giliad—the otherwise unnamed Offred suddenly sees the hope of a better life, and she dreams of being reunited with her husband, Luke, their daughter, and her friend, Moira.

Given the current state of world politics, Atwood’s vision of the future couldn’t be more prescient. Women have lost reproductive rights and self-determination when it comes to their own bodies. Gilead is surrounded by a wall from which the bodies of dissidents are hanged and left on display to serve as warnings. The lines between Church and state are blurred. Secret police (aptly named “eyes”) are everywhere. Gilead is ruled by martial law. Rather than “speculative fiction”, Atwood’s novel reads like a tome sent to warn us against the not to distant future. In spite of Offred’s suffering, the underlying theme of the novel is that no matter how dystopic a person’s situation may seem, people will always move forward by clinging to whatever ray of hope they can find, be it family, personal freedom, or striving for change. Is that not ultimately the definition of human nature?      

Atwood’s writing style—though disjointed at times—sets the tone for Offred’s lamentation of the loss of the world in which she was raised. It is also reflective of Offred’s thoughts as she tries to adapt to her “new normal” way of living. The novel is information-heavy, at least in the beginning, which can be overwhelming, but this soon changes and becomes more compelling as Atwood slowly enlightens the reader to its significance.

While The Handmaid’s Tale may not be considered groundbreaking literature—consider dystopic staples like 1984, Children of Men, and Fahrenheit 451—it is visionary in its scope. Having spawned versions in a gamut of media including film, ballet, theatre, radio, the Hulu television production, and The Testaments, the upcoming sequel novel, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has permeated our popular culture as more than simple speculation. Rather, it should be viewed as a warning for the trajectory of society should those in control in the new millennium continue to trample on the civic and social rights of its citizens.      

Share This:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Wattpad Experiment: Week 2

Last week’s stats: 15 reading, 2 stars, 9 comments, 0 sales

I have to admit: I feel kind of guilty. Due to the constraints of my day job and the editing I do in the evening, I’ve had very little time to do Wattpad justice.

As of today, I have 3 people who are either following me and/or reading my novel, The Revenant: A YA Paranormal Thriller with Zombies. I have been reading and commenting whenever I have the chance. I have seen some really good manuscripts that I am eager to continue reading, and some not so good. I am amazed at some of the professional-quality covers I’m seeing, too. I’m also blown away by the plucky initiative of Wattpad’s clientele. Kudos to each and every one of them for putting themselves out there and writing whatever strikes their fancy.

I finally managed to port the book over to Draft2Digital (still not done and Pronoun’s gone, so most of my books are no longer available as eBooks–did I mention I was suffering serious time crunches?) and upload the new cover to Amazon, but still can’t see the most recent paperback online. I’m Looking forward to the break between semesters to get this on Ingram-Spark, too.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

One is never enough

Given the rate at which others are posting, one chapter a week seems skimpy. I’ve been reading around about Wattpad. According to TechCrunch, Wattpad has over 60,000 monthly users, most of them teens (though the average age is 20) and female, which is the perfect demographic for my writing. Moving forward, I will upload two chapters week. I plan to do one on Saturday and one on Wednesday.

Wattpad is a form of social media

It took some work to build my followers on social media. Even now, some 3 years after I opened my Twitter and Facebook accounts, I only have a few hundred following me on Twitter and maybe about 100 Facebook likes on my author page, and only 80 people who receive my newsletter. To reiterate: it took 3 years to achieve that. Three years of advertising, liking, following, posting, experimenting, giving books away, and the like. Moving forward I need to engage on social media more frequently (maybe instead of religiously reading Flipboard every evening?).

Too much of a good thing

In addition to voting, reading, and following, authors can access discussion forums. The different forums are myriad, as are the threads. There are so many places to visit, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve already begun to dabble, sticking my toe in to test the waters. I suppose, moving forward, I have to slowly move deeper in until I have established a foothold on the site. So far it seems as if there is a whole lot of random posts and not a lot of interaction

Moving forward

I am interested to see if uploading twice a week will make a difference. I will also continue with my experiment until the whole book has been uploaded and report back to you. If you use Wattpad, I want to hear your first impressions. What was the first thing you did on the site? How did you work your way into this massively incredible society?

Read The Revenant: A YA Thriller with Zombies on Wattpad at https://www.wattpad.com/story/134197850-the-revenant

Share This:

Posted in How to, The Revenant, The Wattpad Experiment, Wattpad | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment