Goodnighting

I’m trying to put Klara to bed.

“Close your eyes and go to sleep already. Good night!” I say in exasperation.

“I’m not goodnighting, mommy. I’m playtiming,” Klara explains brightly.

Book Notes: The Woman on the Windowsill by Sylvia Sellers-García

Disclaimer: I’m writing a professional review of this book, and it’s going to be worded differently because I’m not as good as this author at writing texts that academics and normal people can both enjoy. But the general idea will be the same.

The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts is like the coolest Cold Case Files investigation and a really fun history book at the same time. Sellers-García conducted a meticulous investigation, pored over some fascinating archival materials, and narrated her findings in a way that reads like a page-turner.

One summer day in 1800, a pair of severed female breasts appeared on a windowsill in Guatemala City. Then, other body parts and mutilated female corpses started to appear. There was an investigation, and a pretty careful and sophisticated one for that time and place. Sellers-García traces that investigation and uses archival information to explain what life, death, love, religion, family, burial practices, etc were in colonial Guatemala.

Somehow, Sellers-García finds a way to give enough background to make the book understandable to people who are completely unfamiliar with the history of Guatemala but not so much that people who are in the field would get bored. The book is a fascinating read, and I’m sorry I didn’t know of it before I choose the readings for my Hispanic Civ course next semester. I’d gladly throw out the textbook and use this book for the part of the course that covers late colonial times.

The author also puts just enough of her own reactions to the information she discovers into the book. Often, people who write this kind of books either overshare or talk about their emotional response to what they learn in a stiff, uncomfortable way.

It isn’t only colonial Guatemala that this book helps you understand. In The Woman on the Windowsill, Sellers-García shows how to approach history in a non-judgmental, tactful way that is sorely needed these days.

I’m very excited to have found such a talented academic author.

A Generation Deprived of Education

One thing that doesn’t bother me about lockdowns is that “a generation of kids will be deprived of education.” Whatever it is that schools provide, it’s definitely not education.

There’s a moment in Kai-fu Lee’s book where he talks about seeing a bunch of college students huddled around a street lamp after lights are turned off in their dorm, trying to squeeze in one more hour of learning. I don’t know if the story is true but I know such students exist because I was one of them. I also know that US schools don’t send these kids to college. They teach the worst learning practices possible that are guaranteed to produce a terrible result. So I’m thinking that a break from whatever those schools are doing will let kids discover their natural curiosity, which is already better than what they normally get.

I’m really not worried about kids in all this. On the first day of lockdown I was worried that Klara would hate it because she’d miss her friends. But she’s loving it.

Rhyming Season

For the second day in a row, Klara is speaking in rhyme.

“My pen is running out of ink but I still have enough, I think!” she said while drawing.

It’s hard to figure out what she wants for breakfast or lunch because she chooses things she can put into a rhyme and not the stuff she really wants.

“I think I want to eat some toast because I love the toast the most!”

Even though she really doesn’t.

Political

When the same state officials who sent COVID patients into nursing homes killing thousands of seniors take their elderly relatives out of these facilities, how is one supposed to think this isn’t a political move?

One wants to give the benefit of the doubt but it’s getting very hard.