Author Archives: Charity

About Charity

Charity loves to discuss theology and write books. You can find out more about her passion projects at www.charitysplace.com.

The Power of Words in Matched

 I’ve read a lot of dystopias; I enjoy reading the authors’ “what if” speculations, and I value the repeated reminder of the power of the individual, the value of the individual. Maybe it helps to empower me? Or value others? The Giver was my first and favorite dystopia. I’ll always treasure the story’s value to not only me as a person but also as a reader. However, Matched by Allie Condie took a perspective on dystopias I hadn’t yet seen in other similar books: It harped on the importance of history, poetry, and just plain old words. Condie used Cassia’s character to remind me of the value of written words by personifying books and using Cassia to show someone starved of the written word.

One of the most interesting things I picked up on while reading through this story was the personification of books. In this society, the officials (government leaders) keep only 100 of pretty much everything—poems, songs, pictures, etc. They burn everything else in incineration tubes, including anything that could be written on. There is no paper. People are supposed to burn napkins. Everyone types on electronic scribes.

Condie describes a scene where Cassia witnesses a book burning—an obvious nod to Fahrenheit 451. The author writes, “[Cassia] stand[s] and watch[es] until all the books are shoved into the incineration tubes, until all the words have been turned into nothing.” The reader can feel the loss Cassia experiences as she witnesses the words disappear. She doesn’t seem to notice the pretty bindings or covers or even the paper turn to ash. She notices something she can’t see—words turning into nothing. Later, Condie writes, “The book’s backs are broken; their bones thin and delicate fall out…Their bones crackle under their boots like leaves…My mother always lamented the waste of leaves the officers picked up because they can be good fertilizer.”

I’ve never thought to compare books to people, but this comparison made me think about how words are our fertilizer. They help us learn, grow, and enjoy life. If we are books, we are filled and fed by words we hear and read. We even center our faiths around words. As Christians, we treasure the Bible, God’s Holy Word. What would we be without words?

A typical YA book, Matched centers on a love triangle among Cassia, Xander, and Ky. Cassia is matched with Xander and, therefore, expected (if not required) to marry him. At first, it thrills her; Xander and Cassia are close friends. Following the match, their friendly love turns into more. However, the night of her match, there is a supposed glitch that causes Cassia’s port to “mistakenly” show Ky as her match. After this moment, despite her developing love of Xander, she grows interested in Ky and develops a crush for him. We see this love grow as Cassia learns more about Ky.

Condie cleverly matches Cassia’s increasing feelings for Ky with Ky’s sharing of words with Cassia. It whets her appetite for words when Ky shows her how to write cursive and gives her stolen napkins with writing on them, telling Cassia of Ky’s past. Continuously and increasingly, we see Cassia long for more time with Ky and his words. The first time we see Cassia grow jealous is when she sees Ky with another girl, drawing in the sand. Her first concern is he is sharing his knowledge of writing, something he only shared with Cassia. Cassia is not jealous of his attention, but thinks, “How can I learn how to write? How can I get more of his words?” with her sitting so near Ky. Her concern is with his sharing something so intimate as written words. She fears that if he’s sharing with someone else, she will no longer learn how to create words—a vital, desperate resource for her.

This idea of words being a vital resource and commodity is furthered when Ky asks Cassia to share more of “her words,” a poem her grandfather secretly shared with her. She refuses, thinking, “He didn’t have any words for me. Why should I give him some of mine?” The words she knows are too precious to give away with nothing in return. Their relationship is only restored when Ky tells Cassia he was only drawing in the dirt, not writing. He did this to keep this other girl getting suspicious of their secret messages and writing. Ky and Cassia continue to trade words with each other, and Cassia feels Ky’s words are “a piece of him.”

The officials who control the society starve Cassia and her world of words. There’s a clear power to them, and when we see Cassia and Ky learn more and more words, we see them grow and flourish beyond the control of this society. I think it no mistake that Condie uses these simultaneous feeding of words and growth in Cassia to show the readers how powerful access to words and books is. This message is something young adults—Condie’s audience—need to hear, and it’s a good message for us adults, too. Words give us knowledge, and as Francis Bacon (and Thomas Jefferson and others) said, “Knowledge is power.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ashley Yarbrough is a writer, mother, teacher, gardener, and many other things. She writes about it all here: https://mamahoodmemoirsblog.wordpress.com. Feel free to take a look!

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Circus, But No Bread: The World of Panem in The Hunger Games

In 1516, Thomas More published Utopia, and the world learned a new word to describe a perfect society. Of course, the converse also had to emerge, so audiences have also enjoyed fictional accounts of when a society becomes the worst version of itself: the dystopia. This narrative is fertile ground for examining many themes. One recent popular and successful example is The Hunger Games trilogy. The world of Panem in The Hunger Games offers a profound commentary on the culture we live in as all good dystopian stories do because of the ways it bears a resemblance to our reality.

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Dystopian, But Not Depressing: Fahrenheit 451

I don’t care much for dystopian fiction. The intentional bleakness, the pervasive misery, the general feeling of “mankind screwed everything up and now the world is a sucking, swirling eddy of despair punctuated only by brief flashes of false hope” —none of that appeals to me. And yet, I love Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 dearly. 

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The Strange Affair of Fairy-Kind

Every morning I bet you wake up and think, “Today I will contemplate the Napoleonic Wars and the many ways they could have been won or lost.” Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Even I, a History Major, admit I never gave old Bonaparte more than a passing glance when I was poring over history books. So I wouldn’t blame you if you retorted, “Heck, I’ve never given over three seconds thought to the old dude” and move on with your day.

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The Giver: The Value of Memories

The Giver will forever (at least, foreseeably) be my favorite dystopian novel. It was the novel that caused my 11-12-year-old self fall in love with reading. The power of the individual to take down an entire society led by adults appealed to my rebellious spirit. It was relatable to me that adults would rob youths of their freedoms under the guise of protecting them (I felt so oppressed… looking back, I have no idea why!). In this book, these adults do it to other adults and even themselves, so ignorant to what they are actually doing, and the author masterfully presents the problematic nature of this “protection.” Through this perceived protection, there is a clear clash of the themes of taking and giving.

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Asking Deep, Irreverent Questions: Good Omens

Once, a friend paid me a compliment. He said, “You are the most devout ‘irreverent’ person I have ever met.” Okay, maybe it wasn’t a compliment. It was a perplexed, worried statement. I thanked him anyway. As a girl who loves to approach life with humor, even the “serious bits,” as author Terry Pratchett would call them, it’s no surprise I would love the series Good Omens.

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Dystopian & Fantasy [Summer 2019]

You may notice a similar theme in the books and films featured in this issue of Femnista. When evil societies want to destroy its humanity’s soul, they attack books first. Books. The fount of all knowledge, wisdom, stories that teach. Books also feature heavily into the one alternate history submission in this issue, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The secondary title character is a famous hoarder of books, possessive of their knowledge, and denying of them to wizards and common folk alike. Their knowledge, he believes, should only be for experienced, learned men. In other words, himself! It’s this greed for books that inevitably drives a wedge between him and another wizard of his time, Jonathan Strange.

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Cleopatra

Cleopatra is one of the most iconic women in history. Historians have chronicled her exploits for over 2000 years. She’s considered the quintessential “dangerous woman.” Despite being known as a sex symbol, Cleopatra was a powerful monarch feared and respected in the Ancient World. Her complex life makes her one of my favorite historical figures. Continue reading

Anne Frank: An Inspirational Life

On December 30th, 1998, I turned twelve years old. Like every twelve-year-old, I had a party. Family and friends came over to celebrate and showered me with presents. One stood out among the others and continues to stand out to this day. My aunt’s gift was a girl’s diary. I peeled back the wrapping paper, read the title aloud, and looked to her for an explanation. I had never heard of Anne Frank. It interested me, though, since I was a bookworm.

The following day, I found an inscription inside. Veronica: Anne Frank was just a year older than you when she began this diary. It became her personal refuge when she and her family were forced into hiding from the Nazis. She died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 15 and was probably buried in a mass grave, but her thoughts live on. This book has meant a great deal to me since I first read it at age 12. I hope it does to you, as well.—Aunt Barbara.

This intrigued me. Who was Anne? Why was her diary published? Who were the Nazis? I read. Though I liked the girl the diary entries introduced me to, it confused me. Why was she persecuted for being Jewish? What was going on in Europe during the 1940s? At that time in my life, I knew next to nothing about WWII. This was sad since my grandfather had been in the Airborne and fought in the ETO.

annefrank002Through added research, I soon learned Anne Frank was a girl after my own heart. A deep, abiding love for her developed. Born in Germany, she and her family fled the Fatherland when the Nazis came to power. As Jews, the Nazis would have targeted and killed them if they remained. Anne, her parents, and sister Margot settled in the Netherlands. They lived carefree lives until Germany invaded in 1940. This time the Frank family could not escape. They made plans to go into hiding. Her father, Otto, worked with his friends and employees to prepare for his family’s “disappearance” and their subsequent stay in his office building’s attic. The Frank’s would hide with another family and one other.

On Anne’s thirteenth birthday, she received a gift that changed her life: a diary. In it she recorded all her thoughts and feelings. It became a witness of the suffering she and the other Jews experienced under the thumbs of the Nazis. When it was time for her family to go into hiding, Anne brought her diary with her. For two years, the Frank’s, the van Pel’s family, and Fritz Pfeffer hid in the annex. They hoped one day the war would end and they could be free. Under their noses, Anne blossomed into a wise, strong, independent girl. On hearing a radio broadcast asking for people to save their diaries and letters for post-war publication, she rewrote her diary. Anne intended to publish it someday.

The fateful day came when the Nazis arrested Anne, her family, and friends and sent them to Auschwitz. Only Otto survived. On learning of his daughters’ deaths, one of the helpers gave him Anne’s diary. He published it and spent the rest of his life sharing her story.

They say there is a book that changes your life forever. For me, that was The Diary of Anne Frank. It has influenced me as much as the Bible. My life has never been the same since I met Anne Frank. I’ve spent years studying the Holocaust and have written almost as many years writing about it. Anne taught me to persevere, to believe in the good of humanity, to never give up my faith. In 2015, I fulfilled my dream of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Anne, her family and friends, and over a million others perished. Maybe someday I will visit the Frank family’s hiding place. No matter how much studying I do on the Holocaust, I know the next time I open Anne Frank’s diary, I will fall in love with her all over again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Veronica Leigh has been published in several anthologies and her work has appeared on GoWorldTravel.com and the Artist Unleashed, and she has published a couple of fictional stories. She makes her home in Indiana with her family and her furbabies. To learn more about her, visit her blog.

Theodore Roosevelt—Force of Nature

Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt… one of the more famous American personalities in history. While I knew about him on a peripheral level for years, I felt no connection to this complex, interesting man until I watched a little CBS show titled Blue Bloods. It centers on three generations of a family who are or were all involved in law enforcement roles in New York City. The sole person in the middle generation, Frank Reagan, holds the position of Police Commissioner. You could say he views Teddy Roosevelt as somewhat of a role model. He more than once draws inspiration from his life and the lessons he passed down by example. And boy, did Teddy ever live. Continue reading