WWB’s ‘Book Wise’ Fall 2017 Surprise: Two Inspiring Books Explore Cultural Ideals and Values for a Life of Happiness & Wellness. Special Q&A with Two International Bestselling Authors…

Nov 2, 2017 by

WWB BOOK WISE FALL 17 (2)

Book Wise Category: Non-Fiction/Wellness Wisdom & Inspiration

 

 

Lola-Akinmade-Akerstrom-SMALL

Author Profile: LOLA A. Akerstrom, Author of ‘LAGOM’, The Swedish Secret of Living Well

Having lived on three different continents — Africa, North America, and now Europe — for extended periods of time, Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström is drawn to the complexities and nuances of culture and how they manifest themselves within relationships.

She holds a master’s degree in Information Systems from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Lola worked as a consultant and programmer for over a decade before following her dreams of becoming a travel writer and photographer, exploring various cultures through food, tradition, and lifestyle.

Today, she’s an award-winning writer, speaker, and photographer represented by National Geographic Creative. She regularly contributes to high profile publications such as AFAR, the BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Traveller, to name a few –
She has received photography and writing awards, including recognition from the Society of American Travel Writers and North American Travel Journalists Association. In addition, Lola is the editor of Slow Travel Stockholm, an online magazine dedicated to exploring Sweden’s capital city in depth.

Author Insight: “For me travel is about being an open minded sponge.”

 

HGAuthor Profile

Héctor García  author of ‘Ikigai’ the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade, and of Spain, where he was born. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan, where he developed voice recognition software and the technology needed for Silicon Valley startups to enter the Japanese market. He is the creator of the popular blog kirainet.com and also the author of A Geek in Japan, a #1 bestseller in Japan.

Author Insight: “I enjoy more creating things than consuming them, I’m a dreamer.”

 

 

Laura Connolly, Founder of WWB Opening (aka Lauroly)- It is only when we read books like yours, that we realize how important ‘ideals, values and rituals’ are to a happy society, when they are baked into the culture. Culture is a way of life and a collective mindset. What I enjoyed about both your books, is you manage to distill the little rituals and habits that any person in any culture can adopt. We hope so anyway! The challenge for a big melting pot like the United States, is we have so many cultures within one country, and the only common one we all seem to relate to is our love for success and independence. Starting from this premise, how does a country like the USA adopt ‘wellness mindsets’ like yours when our philosophical pillars are so different? ‘Independence’ as a way of life is very different from an ‘interdependent’ socially connected way of life. How will your prescriptions for happiness and wellness translate to a place like the United States?

Lola: You can tell a lot by a culture based on how it handles stress. I often say that some cultures prioritize fighting stress first so they can be productive while some other cultures try to be productive while working through stress. Sweden (and many Scandinavian countries) fall in the former category while the US falls in the latter category. And what are the sources of stress in our lives? Getting adequate food, shelter, money, healthcare, education, etc, as well as other physiological needs. What happens is, cultural mindsets that prioritize fighting stress first will put structures in place to create as much harmony, order, fair access and organization as possible first, while cultures that fight through stress can create more ingenuity and competitiveness to deal with stress. Both mindsets have their pros and cons. However, Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries) have been consistently ranking in the Top 10 for high quality of life, overall happiness, work-life balance, and other social indices for decades. So there is something we can clearly learn and adopt on some level from their cultural mindsets. This is why it was important for me to tackle the “why” of the lagom mindset on a deeper level in my book, not just “what” a lagom mindset superficially does (i.e., fika recipes, eat cinnamon buns, declutter, etc). A lagom mindset is all about balance and anything that tips that scale heavily to one side or the other (not too much, not too little) can be considered a form of stress so the mindset continually re-calibrates itself (just right) by trimming excess and unnecessary things – be they physical, relationships, or tasks.

Hector: I like to thing in terms of individualism(independence) vs collectivistic mindset. As you say U.S culture is very individualistic and that leads everyone to be always in a mindset of continuous competitiveness. Japan is a very collectivist society, there is competition but at group levels. If you try to be individualistic here and stand upon the group you will most probably fail here. You have to be much more careful and mindful about others by default just by being here embedded in the culture. So, how do you implement a wellness mindset in a place like the United States? I believe it all starts with having an awareness of things. It seems easy but is not. One way to gain awareness is by asking ourselves WHY are we doing certain things. Many times we will realize that we are just doing things to show off or to gain the approval of others (for example checking smartphone first time in the morning is a reaction of wanting to know if we have the approval of others on Facebook, Instagram etc.). Once we have the awareness that we are being driven by a very “independent” mindset the next step is to start finding what we really want to do in life, our IKIGAI. This is also not easy, but one of the first steps is to start by eliminating bad habits from your life. A simple one is to not check your smartphone during the first 2 hours of the day. When you start eliminating bad habits, you will naturally tend to start doing more of the things that you really like and love. Your life will start shifting naturally to your IKIGAI--your reason for living.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I found when reading your books, is both cultures value ‘simplicity’ and ‘nature’. It seems in your cultures, you do not separate the home from nature. In other words, your ‘interdependent’ mentality extends to nature as well. Share with us, how this leads to happiness in the home and the community in your culture…

Lola: Indeed. The Swedish love for nature is rather intrinsic and has been cultivated since youth (as early as kindergarten). Kids are bundled up under layers of clothes and left to play for hours outside regardless of weather (barring full blizzards). Many schools follow an active outdoor program. Babies sleep in strollers outdoors. There are several government policies in place (including Allemansrätten – every man’s right) that allows you to fully enjoy nature, camp. pick berries/mushrooms and use any public land as freely as possible. So Swedes see nature as their home and are proactive in terms of cleaning and taking care of it, just like our physical homes.

Hector: Simplicity is key in Japan. When I arrived here with my European mindset I found Japanese shinto shrines so simple that I was not impressed at all (I was used to European cathedrals and churches). But with time I came to appreciate more and more the beauty of Japanese shinto shrines precisely because of how simple they are. I learned that simple does not mean easy. We humans tend to get attached to all kinds of objects or possessions. Training our minds and souls to be happy with as less as possible is not easy, but once done we will feel freedom in our souls. I will use the same analogy with nature. Japanese shinto shrines are almost always surrounded by nature, even when found in cities, the shrines are filled with trees that cover them in green. Japanese know that nature is not part of life, they understand that nature is life.

Lauroly Q- Daily rituals are a big part of both cultures. Which rituals do you think are driven by the cultural values of your country? Can you connect the value with the ritual? Which ones do you think can translate and work in any culture?

Lola: One of the most notable rituals is the daily act of observing fika – which is breaking several times a day (3-4 times even) to enjoy coffee and a sweet treat with colleagues, friends, or family. While on the surface it may seem like just a sweet tradition, it is a form of re-centering to keep that internal lagom scale balanced. Working too much is an antithesis of lagom. Work-life balance is collectively pushed within the Swedish psyche through lagom. Partaking in fika is an act of re-calibration, so you can carry on processing the day from a point of balance and harmony. The tradition of fika is firmly rooted in lagom.

Hector: One big daily ritual in Japan is to bath in hot water. It is done most of the times before going to bed. It has been shown lately that both hot water baths and saunas 3-4 times per week have many benefits to our health. This is just one of the most common rituals, but Japan in general is a ritualistic culture, in which “micro-rituals” embed the life of everyone. For example, before starting any business meeting there is always the same business card interchange ritual with very precise manners that sets the mood of the meeting. It is not about specific rituals that will change your life, it is more about using rituals or micro-rituals to do things daily without having to be stressed to make decisions or be stressed about doing something. Rituals automate many things in our lives and help us to focus on what is important.

Lauroly Closing- I am so honored to share both your books as ‘Book Wise’ picks at World Wise Beauty. Both books are inspiring and together create a healthy cultural cocktail we can all enjoy and digest. I would suggest including each of them in a loved ones stocking for Christmas. Or each can be given on days of Hanukkah!  Here is to a lovely holiday season full of wellness ideals like slowing down and spending time with family and friends. we have to find a way to make this more of a daily experience in our lives.

Lola Closing: Thanks so much Laura. The beauty of observing how other cultures work and what they do exceptionally well is that we can pick and choose which elements of their mindset we can adopt to make our own lives richer in many ways. Lagom doesn’t hold all the answers in life but what it does hold is the mental key to free us from overt and needless consumerism by paring down what we truly need to be focusing on, buying, or maintaining in our lives.

Hector Closing: Totally agree Laura. We have to slowly shift our awareness from always trying to stand out, be successful and compare ourselves to others to being more present to our friends and family. The more we listen to the people we love, the more they will start also listening back and forgetting a little bit about getting more likes on their social networks. We humans, we are social beings, let’s be together in our lives and not alone and “individualistic”. In a way it can also be something to make us better, since the more love we give the more supported we will feel by the people around us, and the more love we feel, the healthier we will be and the longer we will live. This is what we discovered when visiting Ogimi, the village of the longest living in the world to write our book about IKIGAI. They live in very close communities in which they all support each other. Thank you for featuring us!

read more

WWB Wise Guru Q&A Series: Newly Released Book ‘The Nature Fix’ Presents Cutting Edge Science on How Nature Affects our Health & Well-Being from a World Wise Perspective…

Mar 15, 2017 by

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgWWB Wise Guru: Florence Williams is an American journalist and nonfiction author whose work focuses on the environment, health and science. She is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and a freelance writer for National Geographic, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. The New York Times named it a notable book of 2012.

She was a Scripps Fellow at the Center of Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. She is a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. She serves on the board of nonprofit environmental magazine, High Country News.

WWB Featured Book: ‘The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ explores the science behind our connection to nature and proposes that for optimal well-being, regular doses of nature are not only recommended but required.

 

Lauroly Opening- I am so honored and pleased Florence Williams could join me for a Q&A. Her book is a favorite of mine, and so glad she wrote it. Perhaps it’s a favorite because it speaks to me on a very personal level. Nature has always been my fix, without a doubt. Having said this, I never classified myself as ‘Nature Girl’. I didn’t camp as a kid and I didn’t hike until my 20’s. But being outside and playing in nature was always a big part of my life experience. I can thank my Dad for that. I have this in common with the author! I only saw him on weekends growing up, and every weekend, weather permitted, we were either horseback riding in the woods, walking in the woods, or rowing a boat on a lake next to the woods. Those early experiences and the need to be outdoors has never left me. I like the term Florence used in the book, “drinking the tonic of nature.”I wrote a piece for this very blog on Nature Therapy in 2015 and briefly discussed ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan which she covers quite extensively in the book. Later in my life, traveling for business, I would always make a point to find a Public Garden no matter where I was, so I could reconnect with nature and myself. Reading ‘The Nature Fix’ confirmed what I have had always felt intuitively about nature…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.

Besides my personal connection to the topic of your book, I found it to be the perfect non-fiction book. It is well researched, highly informative and very entertaining as well. I love how she takes us through the research via her own personal travel. Her travel takes us to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Scotland, and we learn a lot about their cultures and wellness philosophies. Florence packed so much into this book, I found myself really challenged about where to start. I remind myself that I do these Q&A’s to recommend books and motivate people to go and read the books. I hope to touch on some of the many important findings in this book…

 

TrulyHerselfSignature22-300x75

 

 


 

 

Lauroly Q- Welcome Florence Williams! So if everyone hasn’t heard yet, nature is good for civilization!  What you set out to do is to find the science to support why nature is so important to our humanity and our everyday well-being. To do that we need to understand our senses and how much of how we function is synced with nature.  It seems to me that when we are out in nature we are fully alive, because many of our senses are engaged in our experience. This explains to me personally why I am generally happier when I am outside. There is an enlightening chapter where you focus on a man in Sweden who experienced a personal tragedy and later came to understand how important nature therapy is to patients with depression. Yet like everything else with humans, the dose of nature varies from human to human.  What do we know so far about nature as therapy? Tell us more…

 

 

 

flopromoBarrOutdoorFlorence Williams: Yes, Lauroly, you are exactly right that it does seem to be the full-sensory experience that awakens our sense of well-being, and that there are many studies that support this idea. But the science is still young, and many of the studies are very small. It’s actually quite difficult for scientists to tease apart exactly which elements of nature are most helpful or which senses are most engaged. I was struck by the studies in Japan, led by Japanese anthropologist Yoshifumi Miyazaki, that measured physiological changes to the nervous system after just 20 minutes of being in the woods. These studies showed a 20-minute stroll on a forest trail can reduce your blood pressure an average 11 percent and lower your cortisol hormones (a measure of stress) by six percent. Perhaps because of the practice of forest bathing in Japan, people there are attuned to using all their senses in the woods – so they’re really paying attention to what they’re smelling and feeling and hearing and seeing. It seems that shortcut to mindfulness really helps us feel calmer and relaxed more quickly when we’re out in nature.
 

Lauroly Q– Glad you started with Japan. We can’t discuss your book without talking about ‘ Shinren Yoku (Forest Bathing)’. What is it about the Japanese culture, that has them embracing Forest Bathing so fervently that it has become part of their national healthcare policy? When you asked Miyazaki why nature is so important to their culture, he had this to say, “In our culture, nature is part of our minds and bodies and philosophy. In our tradition, all things are relative to something else.” Loved his answer. But it is amazing how the Japanese ended up being so far removed from the very thing that defined them isn’t it?

Florence Williams: Japan industrialized very quickly. The cities grew fast and there was intense economic competition for good jobs, good schooling and feeding the corporate culture. People are stressed out there, and they work and study incredibly long hours, effectively removing them from a lot of time in the countryside. But it would be mistake to say that modern life has disconnected them from nature. The Japanese still internalize a close connection to plants, for example, in their practices of bonsai and flower arranging, in their tiny gardens and through their lens of wabi sabi, which celebrates the seasons and simple nature. I think in many ways the Japanese definition of nature is more generous that the western one, which looks at spaces like parks and wilderness areas, rather than integrating elements of the natural world into everyday life and homes. That said, the Japanese do seem to relish getting outside when they can. As a result of Miyazaki’s data, the country has designated 48 “forest therapy” trails where overworked, urban citizens are now urged to go unwind, and it looks like more trails are being created.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I was wondering about while reading about your research in Finland, is related to Vitamin D (sun) and the deprivation they experience in winter. Have any researchers looked at how tree therapy might counteract the negative effects of not having enough sun? This is a good time to tell us about why Cypress Trees seem to have such a positive effect on our senses. As you put it, in the book “we enjoy a neural bath of happy hormones”! Below is a quick video you created to illustrate the beneficial effects of nature…

 

Florence Williams: Trees are certainly magical and wonderful, and hit a lot of our happy buttons, from providing rich visuals, especially fractal patterns (known to promote alpha brainwaves) to creating habitat for birds that in turn relax us with their birdsong. The smell piece is fascinating, as tree aerosols from cypress trees in Japan were found to lower blood pressure and increase Killer T immune cells in humans. That said, even in Finland and even in winter, being outside provides more brightness and full-spectrum light than being inside, and so the light aspect is still important. Full spectrum light is linked to wellbeing, and vitamin D is linked to all sorts of good things, from shaping our retinas to strengthening our bones. The lumens outside is generally 10 times greater than the lumens inside, except of course at night. Even the darkness, though, can help reset our circadian rhythms so we sleep better.

Lauroly Q- As a psychology major I found a lot of the research on education, and brain disorders like ADHD fascinating with respect to nature. Besides the specific special needs of children on the spectrum, your book explores the idea that children in general really need nature and play. I loved the section on Friedrich Frobel and his research. He focused on cultivating curiosity and freedom in childhood. Tell us how ‘kindergarten’ was originally conceptualized, and how nature was at the center of child education…

Florence Williams: Friedrich Froebel, who was born in Germany in 1782, was an educator heavily influenced by Rousseau, who said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature.” Rousseau and Froebel both made a case for allowing young children to explore and learn based on their own curiosity. Froebel believed that an education filled with nature and art could instill a lifelong readiness to learn and also develop empathy and a love for living things. He really invented kindergarten, and it was nature-based from the beginning. Unfortunately, many cultures now consider kindergarten the new first-grade, and are taking children inside to sit at desks and learn their academics. We are not devoting enough time to considering what has been lost in this new model.

Lauroly Closing: I hope we don’t lose that model. Cultures change, but we don’t have to lose the wisdom that has already been acquired, especially when it comes to child development. Thank you Florence for joining me at World Wise Beauty, to discuss your important and wonderful book. I am going to make it my personal duty to share this book with everyone! I know they will love it and your research will resonate for them. I believe we are realizing nature is not a luxury but an absolute essential to our personal wellness, our humanity and our culture. See you out there Florence!

Florence Williams Closing: Thanks so much for your interest, Lauroly. It was so much fun reporting and writing this book, and it’s certainly made me spend more time outside. I will hope it will influence others as well.

 

read more

WWB’s Fall Book Wise Pick: Imbolo Mbue Author of ‘Behold the Dreamers’ Visits World Wise Beauty and Inspires Dreamers Around the World

Oct 12, 2016 by

beholdthedreamerscover

 

BOOK WISE FALL PICK: Behold the Dreamers

CATEGORY: Fiction

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Africa/New York

AUTHOR: Imbolo Mbue

OF NOTE: Book has been optioned for film

Book Wise Pow-Wow: It’s a tough political climate right now in the United States and the immigration topic is a hotbed of conflict between both political parties. Which is why I chose this particular book for our Fall pick. The power of this story takes us out of an  ‘idealogy’ mode and grounds us in real authentic human experience.

The author’s personal story is one we don’t hear enough about in our public discourse about immigration. IMBOLO MBUE is a native of Limbe, Cameroon ( Central Africa). She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City and genuinely loves her city she calls home. Her book’s characters capture the immigrant experience in a raw and emotionally charged way, and is sure to get you thinking about the American Dream in a much wider context. At World Wise Beauty, we love books that offer worldly perspective, make us feel and think deeply, and perhaps make us just a little bit more wiser after reading. ‘Behold the Dreamers’ delivers it all and will not disappoint you. I am honored to do this interview with Imbolo and hope she is an inspiration to any young girl with a dream, but especially to the young immigrant girl or woman who has a gift and a story to share with the world…

 

 

 

Lauroly Introduction: Welcome Imbolo to World Wise Beauty. You are truly an epitome of a World Wise Beauty! Like the characters in your wonderful book you too are an immigrant and came to America from Limbe, Cameroon. Central Africa is a long way from New York and you only moved here just over ten years ago. You are not only a World Wise Beauty, but also a fine example of an immigrant achieving the American Dream! Since our readers have just been introduced to your book, I don’t want to ask too many questions that will be spoilers. I’m very interested in you and believe so many will be inspired by your story. My first question is a series of three! Did you find the America you conjured in your mind as a young girl in Cameroon? What exceeded your expectations? What disappointed you?

 

imbolombue

Author. Imbolo Mbue ‘Behold the Dreamers’

Imbolo Mbue: Thank you so much for your kind words, Lauroly! World Wise Beauty is a fantastic website and I do appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. Growing up, what I knew of America was mostly based on what I saw on American-imported TV shows. These shows, like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and “Dallas,” generally depicted people living in material comfort, so I got the impression that there was very little poverty in America and that it was a place where with hard work, anyone could succeed. And I can’t blame this on the shows—it was just my way of analyzing the world.

My understanding of America was also shaped by people from my town who’d migrated to America and returned home to visit with very nice clothes and shoes, and an air of affluence that I attributed to the fact that people were just generally well-to-do in America. Of course, when I came here, I learned very quickly that there are millions living in poverty, and that for many in this country, immigrants included, hard work is simply not enough to live their version of the American Dream. And it’s a tough reality to swallow. That notwithstanding, I do believe this country provides tremendous opportunities to immigrants like myself, opportunities many of us would not have gotten in our homelands.

touhy-dzendeho-dzongy-rgb

Czech Edition of ‘Behold the Dreamers’

Lauroly Q- Did your own experience find its way into your character formations? What many reviewers are saying about your book, is you did such a great job of capturing the immigrant experience as well as a multi-dimensional depiction of the American characters in your story too. All your characters come to life and are fully humanized.

 

Imbolo Imbue: Thank you. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m an immigrant, and I’ve spent a lot of my time in this country around immigrants, so I know what it’s like to leave home and confront the challenges of building a new life in a foreign country. Like the Cameroonian main characters in the novel, Jende and Neni Jonga, I’m from Limbe, Cameroon, and I also lived in Harlem, in a similar neighborhood like where the Jongas lived. I know what it’s like to be low-income in this country and struggling to stretch that last dollar as far as you can, like the Jongas sometimes have to do. I think the challenges the Jongas faced have to do not only with being immigrants but also with being working-class, especially in a place like New York City. While the Jongas and I share a similar background, their story was, however, mostly inspired by various immigrants and working-class Americans who I had opportunities to converse with—friends and acquaintances and strangers who I found myself sitting next to in parks and bus stops, all of whom gave me a great gift by telling me their stories.

Lauroly Q– You have been working hard since you arrived in the United States. You hold a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers and a Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. Were you one of those lucky girls who knew you wanted to be a writer from a young age and set your sights on a writing career? Did you receive a lot of support and encouragement from your family back in Cameroon? What shaped the trajectory of your personal success story?

 

Imbolo Mbue: Oh no! I never considered being a writer as a young girl. I didn’t even know that being a writer was a career choice because I’d never met anyone who was a writer until I moved to New York City in my early 20s. I knew there were people who wrote books, because I read a lot of books, but I never thought about who these people were, and how they came about to write a book. Even after I read Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and became inspired to start writing, it wasn’t so much to become a writer as it was to just enjoy writing the same way I enjoy reading. I’d been writing for 12 years before my first short story was published and then about two years later my novel was published. So it basically took 14 years from the time I first started writing fiction to the time my first novel came out. And in that period, I wrote hundreds of pages that are still sitting my computer.

If I had a publishing goal, perhaps I would have done some things differently—maybe take a few classes or workshops—but then again, I believe it was best for me to take my time to slowly develop. “Behold the Dreamers” took five years for me to complete, from when I first got the inspiration to when I did the final correction, and I think I needed that amount of time. Excellence is every important to me. Simply completing a task is not enough—I want to look at what I’ve done and believe I did an excellent job.

 

voicivenirlesreveurs_imbolombue

French Edition of “Behold The Dreamers’

 

Lauroly Q-  Wow! I am always impressed by the time many brilliant authors like you commit to their book. I’ve read your book is being optioned for a film. Who would you trust to produce and direct the film? It must be so hard to let go of your ‘baby’ and hope the story translates well to film.

 

Imbolo Mbue: Yes, the “baby” is gone! I think this “baby” now belongs to the reader, and every reader is going to have his/her own interpretation. If the book ever becomes a movie, the producers and directors will have their own interpretation, and some of their interpretation might surprise me, but I’ll be too happy seeing these characters come to life that I don’t suppose I’ll think much about it.

 

ziededromers

Dutch Edition off ‘Behold The Dreamers’

Lauroly Closing: What a beautiful attitude to have about releasing your story to the readers and interpreters. Thank you so much for joining me Imbolo. I am thrilled to featured your book as WWB’s Fall ‘Book Wise’ selection and honored to have the opportunity to chat with you here. Wishing you the best with all your future endeavors and continued happiness in America..

 

Imbolo Mbue: Thank you, Lauroly. The honor is all mine!

 

 

read more

From Cameroon to New York, A Story of Indomitable Hope–WWB Selects… ‘BEHOLD THE DREAMERS’ for the Fall 2016 ‘BOOK WISE’ Read

Sep 22, 2016 by

wwbbookwisefall2016

 

“If you’re pro-immigration, there’s something in the novel to support your argument. If you’re anti-immigration, there’s something in there to support your argument, too. My goal was to tell the story completely and leave it up to the reader to interpret it in whichever way fits their worldviews.”

~Imbolo Mbue, Author of ‘Behold the Dreamers’

 

 

beholdthedreamerscover

 

BOOK WISE FALL PICK: Behold the Dreamers

GENRE: Fiction

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Africa/New York

AUTHOR: Imbolo Mbue

OF NOTE: Will be adapted to film

Book Wise Pow-Wow: It’s a tough political climate right now in the United States and the immigration topic is a hotbed of conflict between both political parties. Which is why I chose this particular book for our Fall pick. The power of this story takes us out of an  ‘idealogy’ mode and grounds us in real authentic human experience.

The author’s personal story is one we don’t hear enough about in our public discourse about immigration. IMBOLO MBUE is a native of Limbe, Cameroon ( Central Africa). She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City and genuinely loves her city she calls home. Her book’s characters capture the immigrant experience in a raw and emotionally charged way, and is sure to get you thinking about the American Dream in a much wider context. At World Wise Beauty, we love books that offer worldly perspective, make us feel and think deeply, and perhaps make us just a little bit more wiser after reading. ‘Behold the Dreamers’ delivers it all and will not disappoint you. See below for the Publisher’s overview of ‘Behold the Dreamers’ and come back soon for my Q&A with the author.

 

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW…

fbpromotionbookwiseA compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

read more

WWB Passioneer: Meet ‘The Peregrine Dame’ Who Travels the World Solo But Never is Truly Alone…

Mar 17, 2016 by

Passion Flower/World Wise Beauty Passioneer

 

 The World Wise Beauty ‘Passioneer Series’

 I am so thrilled to feature my next WWB Passioneer Rachel Parsons, who is founder and executive Producer of ‘The Peregrine Dame’. Have you caught her travel series on Public Television yet? You can find it on most PBS member-stations and Create TV. Hopefully we’ll see more of her nation-wide soon. If ever there was a woman who embodied the title of Passioneer, it is most definitely Rachel. When a friend brought her to my attention the first thing I thought is “oh she is a female Anthony Bourdain without the food focus’! I mean this to be a great complement, as I think Anthony is a fine journalist and an engaging storyteller. What makes him special to me, is his focus on culture, and willingness to understand the complexity of the cultures he explores. Food is just the conduit for him to learn more about cultures and people different from him. Okay well enough about Anthony, this is also what I find outstanding about Rachel Parsons too! In fact to illustrate my statement, I will share a blog post of hers entitled “Why Travel Will Save Our Species (if we do it right) so you can get a sense of her ‘beautiful mind’ before you watch her engaging persona in her series. I think you should follow Rachel, because even if you are not planning on globe-trotting any time soon, you will be inspired by her sense of adventure,competence, intelligence and courage. So let’s get to know our exciting Passioneer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauroly Q-  Welcome Rachel! How did you decide you would take your passion for travel and create your own travel show? More specifically, was it a passion for travel, or a passion for culture that inspired your enterprise?  I think there are two different kinds of travelers. There are your traditional tourists and then there are your wanderers in search of meaning and connection. But wait before you answer that, I wanted to share the meaning of your brand name ‘The Peregrine Dame’ for our readers because ‘Peregrine’ has different meanings but the more recent meaning sheds light on your inner spirit!

 

PEREGRINE: The current meaning of “peregrine” has wandered a bit from its earlier meanings. The word originally meant “foreign,” as did its Latin predecessor peregrinus. But even before “peregrine” appeared on its own in English, it was part of the name of that well-known bird of prey, the peregrine falcon. The bird’s appellation derives from “falco peregrinus” – literally, “pilgrim falcon” in Medieval Latin. Peregrine falcons typically nest in high places, such as on cliff ledges or, in modern times, city skyscrapers. Because of the nests’ inaccessibility, medieval falconers who wanted young peregrine falcons to train had capture them on their first flights or migratory “pilgrimages.” That practice led to a new sense of “peregrine” (“engaged in or traveling on a pilgrimage”), which was later broadened to “wandering.”

 

Rachel Parsons: Neither. It was my intense interest in fighting the ignorance and xenophobia I encountered here in the United States. When I came home from my first trip abroad alone, before the show was an idea, I told people what I’d done and I had a lot of responses along the lines of “That sounds dangerous, weren’t you afraid?” Interestingly, I got more of that kind of response from men than women. I suppose then that it was my passion for changing my own culture that was part of the impetus. The other factor was that I worked in scripted television and film for many years in different capacities, and I got tired of telling fictional stories and stories I didn’t care about. I wanted to work in documentary-style television but had no contacts in that area of the business, so I made my own project. It became important to me to show a wider American audience that the world is not nearly as scary as mainstream media would have us believe. That it’s all right to go out alone, your experience will be richer for it.

Lauroly Q-  You just made me think of another broad minded Passioneer, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her quote ‘to reach out eagerly without fear for newer richer experience’ speaks to your passionate project. Here is another ‘passioneer’ trait you have. I read in one of your Facebook posts that you only pick places to travel you genuinely like and have a real curiosity about. What attracts you to certain places and cultures? Did you start out with a bucket list or has it unfolded a little more serendipitously?

Rachel Parsons: I’ve never had a bucket list. For the purposes of filming a series, sometimes locations come down to what’s efficient for the shooting schedule. But broadly, I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to many different cultures in the U.S., and certain things certainly draw me to certain places. I only wanted to go film in Buenos Aires, in the first season, because I’d been studying Argentine tango at home, and I was very interested in Eva Peron’s life. I wanted to go dance. Some news stories definitely affected my desire to go to at least two of the locations for the second season which was filmed in Southeast Asia. I wanted to see the rebuilding efforts in Tacloban, Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction, with my own eyes. I also wanted to know what people in Myanmar were anticipating in the run-up to their first (mostly) fair general election in the past 25 years. My personal interests always spur the overall plan. When you’re new to travel, particularly solo travel, you have to go to places that really excite you. Otherwise, you’ll lose enthusiasm early on and that’s a killer. The thing is the more you go, more places you never even thought of start to become attractive.

 

Lauroly Q- When you travel and immerse yourself into a culture, do you feel changed by your experiences? I  would imagine as a journalist you maintain a certain amount of objectivity, but what makes the world traveler different from a tourist?

Rachel Parsons: I have definitely been changed by my experiences. I am a less cynical, more accepting human than I was. And I began life as a very cynical human. Being on the other side of the world alone has made me realize that I have to extend trust to total strangers. I was fortunate to be a self-reliant sort already, but traveling has made me rely on people I don’t know in a way that has elevated my opinion of humanity. Travelers generally reach out to and trust others more. We’re not naïve, or gullible, I think we’re the opposite, actually, but for me, it’s been transforming. Unless you’re reporting on the business of travel, there is no objectivity in travel journalism. It’s all subjective. I’ve studied journalism and anthropology, both disciplines that train objectivity into people.

So yes, I look at aspects of some cultures in a more objective way and try to really understand the root cause. Like being in a massively overpopulated country where people cut in lines all the time. My knee-jerk American POV is that it’s rude and I get irritated. But seeing overpopulation firsthand makes me understand that it’s not rude in that society, it’s a survival mechanism. No one would get anything done in any reasonable amount of time if everyone let everyone else go first. That’s a gross simplification, but it illustrates the cultural perception issue. And yes, it’s the tourist who will piss and moan about being cut in front of, and the seasoned traveler that will understand the behavior in its context. Still doesn’t mean I love it, but I get it and it’s the understanding that develops tolerance and that’s the point of travel, for me.

 

LaurolyQ- What world culture has made the biggest impression on you? Is there one culture that has imparted wisdom meaningful to you?

 

Rachel Parsons: The thing that has made the biggest impression on me has been the deep similarities between all the cultures I’ve experienced. They’ve all given me something, but the striking thing I’ve taken away from going around the world a couple times now is that we are all much more alike than we are different. And people will say, “Yeah, right,” but it’s true. Most of the time, people in vastly different cultures want the same basic things: if they have family, it’s to be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones; to live in safety; to be able to do something fulfilling with their time; to be healthy. We focus so much on the differences, but they are negligible compared to what ordinary people actually want. I guess the short answer then is that THE world culture has made the biggest impression.

 

Lauroly Q– What a great answer! I feel my own international travel definitely contributed to a wider world view and a less ‘myopic’ perspective as well. In some sense our experiences and the people we meet along the way do shape us don’t they?

 

Rachel Parsons: Yes. I think in most senses our experience and the people we meet shape us. Even trivial interaction. If someone is rude to us for two seconds in the morning getting on the subway, for many of us, half our day is spent agitated and angry. That’s the negative influence shaping our mood, our outlook. On the positive side, I’ve been incredibly lucky to be touched by overwhelmingly positive experiences and people in every aspect of my life, but especially traveling. I know bad things can happen, but I’ve had a wonderful run with people all over the world being kind and open and welcoming and curious. It has challenged and shaped my world view, for sure. For the better, in my case.

 

Lauroly Q- So true and wise Rachel. Our daily interactions do add up and matter. That’s why I think manners and civility matters so much. Okay now for a more practical question. For the many women who may be thinking of traveling solo, what are your top 3 best tips for them to take seriously before they embark on a trip?

 

Rachel Parsons: Trust instinct, not imagination. Instinct is instant and accurate, imagination is that monster that will convince you that all the terrible things out there will get you. That’s what creates the fear that prevents people from doing what they want to do. I studied a street-based mixed martial art for many years. If it’s something that will make you feel more secure, go take some self-defense classes. My rule of thumb is that I am no more nor less aware of my surroundings when traveling than when I am at home. I live in L.A., so a higher level of awareness is appropriate when I’m home.

Listen to locals when you get to a city, not to the Americans that have only heard that a place is dangerous but never been there. Lastly, remember that for most of us, we live in the most dangerous country we will ever visit. Unless a person is really keen to visit a war zone, there is a higher rate of violent crime in most of our American cities than in many of the places I’ve traveled. I say this with respect for people who have had bad experiences and I know I have a higher tolerance for risk than some, but the best tip is to use your common sense.

 

Lauroly Closing-Thank you so much for wandering over to World Wise Beauty Rachel! You are a true World Wise Beauty and I hope you come back and visit often! I will be looking out for your public television series and I hope others with a passion for travel and culture follow The Peregrine Dame. I know there are wonderful outtakes and extras to catch right now on your site. Your work is worldly, wise and very PASSIONATE!

Rachel Parsons: Thank you! I’m happy to be a part of the community, it’s been a kick! The second season of The Peregrine Dame will come to public television stations nationwide later this year. Follow me on Facebook for updates!

 

 

 

 

read more