Russian Women Prove It's Hip To Be A Babushka : NPR

Just listen to these voices!

Russian Women Prove It's Hip To Be A Babushka : NPR

And be sure to watch the YouTube video of these "babushki" — all of them in their 70s or 80s — performing for Eurovision.

I just read Ludmilla Petrusheskaya's latest collection of stories, which I described in my Goodreads review (of the Spanish translation) as "crime and punishment, with magic." Her characters include several бабушки (plural of бабушкa, "babushka"), mostly much sadder exemplars than these, but recognizably related. It's great to see these long-suffering widows enjoying themselves so hugely.

Happy birthday, USA!

On the Fourth of July, the family packs for the beach and fun in the sun, and the kids get to stay up late to watch the humongous fireworks! That was then — these days we live on the beach, but in a different country. Lots of sun, lots of good things to eat (but rarely wieners), and fireworks mainly when there's a big sports victory — not tonight.

A foreigner who wants to understand the USA will have to spend a lot of time observing and talking to people in many different parts of it — as did de Tocqueville; the country is even more complex than when he visited it, so vast and so varied, and contains such multitudes of people from the most diverse parts of the globe, that almost anything anybody says about it is true about some part, somewhere, some of the time. The image of the USA is generally good today in Spain, but even our Spanish friends who know something about the country are perplexed by its contradictions.

And no American can really understand our country without knowing other cultures and countries, how the USA is like and how it is different from other places. Check out this article in last Sunday's El País on Americans in Spain and Spaniards living in America, by Spanish novelist (and New York City resident) Antonio Muñoz Molina: Desde este lado, desde el otro lado. (Sorry — I couldn't find an English-language version on the web.)

Anyway, I'm feeling especially patriotic whenever I see some action by my fellow citizens that I can be proud of. And here's one that fill me with patriotic pride: US Boat to Gaza (YouTube video). It reminds me that one our our chief national values is, and always has been, solidarity with the oppressed of other lands — even when our compatriots have been involved in the oppression. We are a land of contradictions, and one of the greatest things our country does is protect the right of all of us to protest against all the terrible things our country (or its government) does. In fact, the USA practically invented that right — it's in the Declaration of Independence that we are celebrating today:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends ["Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…
So happy birthday, USA! With all our contradictions, may we forever keep up our struggles for justice, life, liberty and the free pursuit of all the different ways we understand happiness.


Someone Wot Writes...

A Gift for the Sultan is currently featured on Shalini Boland's blog,

Someone Wot Writes...

Shalini does a good job. The site is attractive and her questions are just the sorts of things readers will want to know. Check out her site for this and other new books.

(She is also giving you a chance at a drawing for her new vampire novel, Hidden. I'll bet the young Christian princess in A Gift for the Sultan would like it.)