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What the Zhang Boys Know ~Clifford Garstang

Sunday, September 30th, 2012


I usually savor books of short stories, allowing each one to unfold on different days or similar to the treat of “second dessert” before I go to bed at night.  WHAT THE ZHANG BOYS KNOW, is a Novel in Stories and was a devouring experience.  I read cover-to-cover all in one day as I got hooked into each selection and could not wait to see what the Zhang Boys knew.

Clifford Garstang’s writing has a precision that leaves no detail unfurnished and yet is sparse, it is formal and yet concise; the writing is Danish modern design next to French tassels.  The book is a Global experience though it is all about the residents of a renovated building, transformed into condos at the edge of China town in Washington DC.  12 stories of loss and change are unfolded as separate lives weave into a whole theme.  One story is very painful and forces the other residents’ parallel problems to be seen as more the normal pitfalls of human travel and travail.

I enjoyed how dualism was explored in this book from male and female, ethnic backgrounds and cultural training, to the blond curly and black straight hair – oh and that could be reversed with ease!

One character says,” It occurred to me then, and I only become more firmly convinced as the years go by, that in some ways the world is united by being witness to unspeakable evil.  We seem to be powerless to prevent it from arising, and we do not succeed in stopping it (when we recognize it at all) even by flinging ourselves under its wheels.” “But what we can do, and have done unfailingly through millennia of malevolencies is give voice to the victims.”

In this read, there is a marvelous quirkiness to each of the characters that just wants your attention.  The building is full of artists and eccentrics and just the plain old, plain old good people exploring their journey and moving forward.  Whereas the back alley is abandoned to the detritus of those stuck and honing into a masking of their acute loss of hope and love.  The deserted factory will probably never become a city park.

I liked how the Chinese history and characters interacted with the present reality.

The author has plenty of experience with writing and has all the right degrees to tout his skills; he is also a student of law and foreign affairs and has travelled a great deal.  He knows a great deal about historic loss and political maneuverings which radically change the path of a human life and about how these events can bring a new mix to the pursuit of self and belonging.

As the season of gift giving is approaching in my culture and tradition, I have put this marvelous read on my list for 2 special  20 somethings and 2 friends who love history,  politics in hindsight, and human journeys as much as I do.  What the Zhang Boys Know is art itself.

Is there something you know in your life that would make a wonderful short story?

Clifford Garstang’s Website   (I need to say that I would consider the write up about this book a real spoiler – it tells too much). Blog: Perpetual Folly

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I did receive a copy of this book from Press 53  and TLC online book tours and I thank them very much for this opportunity of enjoyment.

One lucky commenter will receive a copy of this book from the Publisher – We will do a random drawing in the middle of the TLC book tour.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.   Donations also welcome.

Related Reading:
Olive Kitteridge
Walter’s Muse
Hannah Coulter
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Walter Fry

Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for YOU ~Jerome Groopman, MD and Pamela Hartzband,MD

Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Your Medical Mind

Your Medical Mind

What we can learn about Healthcare in the USA is a very personal and important project.  YOUR MEDICAL MIND is another resource in developing more wisdom in making medical systems work for you and yours.

As I was beginning the book, I began thinking that I should tell TLC book tours that I could not give this a positive review because it seemed like the same old, same old information just told from a doctor’s point of view.  Then I decided that there are enough people in the traditional mode with healthcare provided by their employer that there would be a benefit in reading the whole book, and I could speak to that benefit.

Favorite quote:
“Sir William Osler:…when trying to unravel a complex medical diagnosis, you should listen carefully to the patient, because he is telling you the answer.”

I would openly like to say that the people who might benefit most from this book are Physicians as they transition into a world that is making the patient totally responsible for recovery and healing.  After being an advocate for several patients along the way – there are not as many doctors who understand the patients as television would indicate.   Dr. Marcus Welby was truly a fictional character.

My most important takeaways from this book:

  • It was easy to read and a pleasurable read, so the information and message is user friendly
  • The major ways that patients present to the doctor was significant in the details – they used terms like minimalistic approach to maximalistic approaches; believers and doubters; naturalism or technology orientations.  The examples were poignant and believable.
  • How to understand the statistics that a patient is given and how to find more detail about those statistics on the Internet – translators that can assist the patient in finding autonomy within their own healing needs and style.  Tools for making better decisions.
  • The authors had a strong bias against the insurance companies having the largest decision making role.
  • It is important for the patient to learn how to use the internet to assist their outcomes and knowledge base – that excellent communication skills are needed both from the physician and the patient.  This enables the patient to discern what is truly a positive approach to their own healing and recovery.
  • Many people need someone else listening and interpreting for them – an advocate – when the news is something big we often only hear a tiny bit of the diagnosis or recommendation because we emotionally can only absorb so much.  Families need to know and understand what the patient wants for their healing and recovery and how to communicate those decisions.
  • Communication skills and listening skills are getting more limited for all people involved in the medical problem being solved.

The major problem I had with the authors was that they also ignore people who have no medical insurance.  Yes! They casually mention that the number of people who use alternative healing measures is growing but that information is treated as an addendum to traditional medical services.  For many people alternative or ancient medical practices or experiences are all they use.   As insurance companies drop more and more individuals for financial reasons or non-compliant to diagnosis instances, more and more people are working on their own DIY healthcare systems.   I think the book was written before e-patient Dave arrived at the TED lectures.

The book is a valuable resource.   It is helpful in finding a physician one can work with and how to handle the tough decisions from several angles.  It could help you make changes that could add more health and time to your life.   Reading Your Medical Mind is a good healthcare decision.
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Of the styles of healthcare listed here, which is you style and it is the best one for you: minimalistic, maximalistic, believer, doubter, natural or technically in the forefront?  (This question works even if your government pays for your healthcare)   Do you know how to use the Internet to read the statistics and probability or discover new procedures and how to rate them?

I received a copy of the book from TLC book tours and Penguin Press and agreed to review this book.
If you purchase anything from Amazon (except Kindle) from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket

If you liked what you read here you might wish to subscribe by RSS or Email.  You might also wish to explore my other sites:  Biking Architect or Wise Ears.

Related Reading:
Healthcare of the DIY Kind
Joy Medicine
Eat to Live
Female Brain Gone Insane